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God the Father communicated to His Son the divine nature. Mary gave Him a human nature, subject to pain and death, in which to redeem us. The eminent dignity of the divine maternity is revealed in a new light if we consider that it is the reason why the fullness of grace was given to Mary, that it is the measure and end of that fullness, and that it is superior to it. The reason why Mary was given a fullness of grace from the first instant was that she might be enabled to conceive the Man-God in holiness, by uttering her fiat with the utmost generosity on the day of the Annunciation in spite of the sufferings which she knew had been foretold of the Messiah; it was given her, too, that she might bring forth her child while remaining a virgin, that she might surround Him with the most motherly and most holy devotion; it was given her, finally, that she might unite herself to Him in closest conformity of will, as only a most holy mother can, during His hidden life, His apostolic life, and His suffering life—that she might utter her second fiat most heroically at the foot of the Cross, with Him, by Him, and in Him.

Since a mother is bound both by a law of nature and an express precept to love her son, and he to love her, Mary and Jesus love each other mutually; and since the maternity in question here is supernatural the love must be of the same order. But this means that it is a sanctifying love, since by the fact that God loves a soul He makes it lovable and sanctifies it. It is clear that it was for the reason we have given and for none other that Mary was given an initial plenitude of grace followed by a consummated plenitude in glory.

The same reason or end was the measure of her grace and glory: therefore it surpassed them. Admittedly it is not possible to deduce from the divine maternity each and every one of the privileges received by Mary, 25 but all derive ultimately from it. If, finally, she was predestined from all eternity to the highest degree of glory after Jesus, the reason is that she was predestined first of all to be His most worthy mother, and to retain that title during eternity after having enjoyed it in time. The saints who contemplate in Heaven the sublime degree of glory, so far surpassing that of the angels, in which Mary is enthroned, know that the reason why she was predestined to it is that she might be and might remain for eternity the most worthy Mother of God: Mater Creatoris, Mater Salvatoris, Virgo Dei Genetrix.

Such was the teaching of St. Albert the Great on more than one occasion. We refer in a note to one of their most recent tributes. A last consideration, which will be found in the works of many theologians, can be adduced in favor of our thesis. It is because she is Mother of God rather than because she is full of grace that Mary is entitled to the cult of hyperdulia, a cult superior to that due to the saints highest in grace and glory. In other words, hyperdulia is due to Mary not because she is the greatest of the saints but because of her divine maternity.

It would not have been her due had she been raised to her present degree of glory without having been predestined to be Mother of God. This is the express teaching of St. All the others follow as something which pertains to Mary as Mother of God: Sancta Virgo Virginum, Mater divinae gratiae, Mater purissima, Mater castissima, Mater inviolata, Mater intemerata, Mater amabalis, Mater admirabilis, Mater boni consilii, etc. It follows from what has been said thus far that, simpliciter loquendo, purely and simply, the divine maternity, even considered in isolation, is superior to the plenitude of grace, consummated no less than initial.

The ultimate reason for this assertion is that by its term the divine maternity belongs to a higher order, that of the hypostatic union. Thus the rational soul which, considered even in isolation, pertains to the order of substance, is superior to its faculties of intellect and will: it is their end, for they proceed from it as accidents and properties in order that it may have the power of knowing and willing. It is now clear why Mary was predestined first to be Mother of God before being predestined to the highest degree of glory after Jesus. The dignity of a relation is to be judged more by its term than by anything else; but the divine maternity is something relative to the Person of the Word made Flesh.

In much the same way the mother of a king is nearer to him than the most able of his lawyers. However, under a certain respect—secundum quid, as theologians say—sanctifying grace and the beatific vision are more perfect than the divine maternity. As regards sanctifying grace, it makes its bearer holy in the formal sense of the term, whereas the divine maternity, being only a relation to the Word made flesh, does not sanctify in that way.

It is evident that the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ, considered absolutely, surpasses the beatific vision, even though the latter includes a perfection in the order of knowledge not found in the former. In a similar way, and with all due reservations, the divine maternity, if considered absolutely or simpliciter, surpasses the plenitude of grace and glory, even though this latter is more perfect in a secondary way, or secundum quid.

For the divine maternity, being but a real relation to the Incarnate Word, is not enough of itself to sanctify Mary. But it called out for, or demanded, the fullness of grace which was granted her to raise her to the level of her singular mission. She could not have been predestined to be any other kind of mother to the Saviour than a worthy one.

All Mariology is dominated by it just as all Christology is dominated by the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Since Mary pertains by the term of her maternity to the hypostatic order, it follows that she is higher than the angels; higher also than the priesthood, which participates in that of Christ. But none the less, her dignity is higher than that of the priest and of the bishop, since it is of the hypostatic order.

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The Victim offered on the Cross, and whom the priest offers on the altar, was given us by Mary. The Principal Offerer of our Masses was given us by her. She was more closely associated with Him at the foot of the Cross than anyone else—more than even the stigmatics and the martyrs. Thus, had Mary received the priestly ordination but it did not form part of her mission , she would have received something less than what is implied in her title of Mother of God.

Mary was chosen to be not the minister of the Saviour but His associate and helper in the work of redemption. It was by way of preparation for the divine maternity that Mary was the Immaculate Conception, preserved from the stain of original sin by the future merits of her Son. He redeemed her as perfectly as was possible; not by healing her, but by preserving her from the original stain before it touched her soul for even an instant. It was because of her maternity that Mary received the initial fullness of grace which ceased not to increase till it reached its consummated plenitude.

And because of the same maternity she was exempt from all personal fault, even venial—and from all imperfection, for she never failed in promptitude to obey the divine inspirations even when they came to her by way of simple counsels. She contributed therefore to His knowledge: not, of course, to His beatific or infused knowledge, but to the progressive formation of His acquired knowledge, which knowledge lit up the acquired prudence in accordance with which He performed acts proportioned to His age during His infancy and hidden life.

In this way the Word made flesh was subject to Mary in most profound sentiments of respect and love. How, then, could we fail to have the same sentiments in regard to the Mother of Our God? Grignon de Montfort says ch. It is she who nourished and supported Him, who brought Him up and then sacrificed Him for us. Such is the first reason for the cult of hyperdulia which we owe her.

It explains why the voice of tradition, and especially the Council of Ephesus and Constantinople, insisted, before everything else concerning Mary, on the fact that she was the Mother of God, thereby affirming afresh against Nestorianism that Jesus was God. It is quite clear to them that had we, for our part, been in a position to do so, we should have given our mother every gift at our disposal. That is why St. Thomas is content to state quite simply Ilia, q.

It prepares us to receive eternal life as a heritage and as a reward of the merits of which it is itself the principle. It is even the germ of eternal life, the semen gloriae as Tradition terms it, since by it we are disposed in advance for the face to face vision and the beatific love of God.

Habitual grace is received into the very essence of the soul as a supernatural graft which elevates and deifies its vitality. From it there flows into the faculties the infused virtues, theological and moral, and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, all of which supernatural organism constitutes a sort of second nature of such a kind as to enable us to perform con-naturally the supernatural and meritorious acts of the infused virtues and the seven gifts. We have, too, by habitual grace the Blessed Trinity dwelling within us as in a temple where They are known and loved, even as it were experimentally.

This new life of grace, virtues and gifts, is none other than eternal life begun on earth, since habitual grace and charity will outlive the passage of time. Grace—call it, if you will, a participation in the divine nature—was no less gratuitous for the angels than for us. Augustine says De Civ. Dei, XII, c. The angels, and man also, could have been created in a purely natural condition, lacking the divine graft whence issues a new life.

It is a participation in the divine nature or in the inner life of God, which makes the soul to enter into the kingdom of God, a kingdom far surpassing all the kingdoms of nature—mineral, vegetable, animal, human, and even angelic. So elevated is grace that St. Mary, of course, had received from the Most High natural gifts of body and soul in wonderful perfection. Judged even from the natural level, the soul of Jesus united in itself all that there is of beauty and nobility in the souls of the great poets and artists, of men of genius and of men of generosity. In an analogous way the soul of Mary was a divine masterpiece because of the natural perfection of her intelligence and will and sensibility.

There is no shadow of doubt that she was more gifted than anyone who has ever struck us as remarkable for penetration and sureness of mind, for strength of will, for equilibrium or harmony of higher and lower faculties. Since she had been preserved from original sin and its baneful effects, concupiscence and darkness of understanding, her body did not weigh down her mind but rather served it.

Albert the Great loves to recall, the Fathers of the Church say that Mary, viewed even naturally, had the grace of Rebecca, the beauty of Rachel, and the gentle majesty of Esther. They add that her chaste beauty never held the gaze for its own sake alone, but always lifted souls up to God. The more perfect these gifts of nature in Mary, the more elevated they make her grace appear, for it surpasses them immeasurably. When speaking of fullness of grace it is well to note that it exists in three different degrees in Our Lord, in Mary, and in the just.

Thomas explains this a number of times. There is, first of all, the absolute fullness of grace which is peculiar to Jesus, the Saviour of mankind. Taking into consideration only the ordinary power of God, there can be no greater grace than this. It is the eminent and inexhaustible source of all the grace which all men have received since the Fall, or will receive till the end of time.

It is the source also of the beatitude of the elect, for Jesus has merited all the effects of our predestination. There is finally the fullness of sufficiency which is common to all the just and which makes them capable of performing those meritorious acts—they normally become more perfect in the course of years—which lead them to eternal life. These three fullnesses have been well compared to an inexhaustible spring, to the stream or river which flows from it, and to the different canals fed by the river, which irrigate and make fertile the whole region they traverse—that is to say, the whole Church, universal in time and space.

And then finally it rises once more to God, the Ocean of peace, in the form of merits, prayers, and sacrifices. To continue the image: the fullness of the spring has not increased; that of the river, on the contrary, which flows from it has increased. Or, to speak in plain terms, the absolute fullness of Our Saviour knew no increase, for it was sovereignly perfect from the first instant of His conception by reason of the personal union with the Word.

For that reason theologians usually speak of, 1st—her initial fullness or plenitude; 2nd—the fullness of her second sanctification at the instant of the conception of the Saviour; 3rd—the final fullness at the instant of her entry into glory , its extent, and its superabundance.

The initial fullness of grace in Mary presents two aspects. One is negative, at least in its formulation: her preservation from original sin. The other is positive: her conception, absolutely pure and holy by reason of the perfection of her initial sanctifying grace in which were rooted the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. This definition contains three especially important points: 1st—It affirms that the Blessed Virgin was preserved from all stain of original sin from the first instant of her conception. The conception meant is that known as passive or consummated—that in which her soul was created and united to her body—for it is then only that one can speak of a human person, whereas the definition bears on a privilege granted to the person of Mary.

The definition states also that the Immaculate Conception is a special privilege and an altogether singular grace, the work of divine omnipotence. What are we to understand by original sin from which Mary has been preserved? The Church has not defined its intrinsic nature, but she has taught us something about it by telling us its effects: the divine hatred or malediction, a stain on the soul, a state of non-justice or spiritual death, servitude under the empire of Satan, subjection to the law of concupiscence, subjection to suffering and to bodily death in so far as they are the penalty of the common sin.

It follows therefore that Mary was not preserved free from every stain of original sin otherwise than by receiving sanctifying grace into her soul from the first instant of her conception. Thus she was conceived in that state of justice and holiness which is the effect of the divine friendship as opposed to the divine malediction, and in consequence she was withdrawn from the slavery of the devil and subjection to the law of concupiscence. She was withdrawn too from subjection to the law of suffering and death, considered as penalties of the sin of our nature, 41 even though both Jesus and Mary knew suffering and death in so far as they are consequences of our nature in came passibili and endured them for our salvation.

Hence the opinion held by some 13th-century theologians—that Mary was immaculate in the sense of not needing to be redeemed, and that her first grace was independent of the future merits of her Son—may no longer be admitted. According to the Bull Ineffabilis Deus, Mary was redeemed by the merits of her Son in a most perfect way, by a redemption which did not free her from a stain already contracted, but which preserved her from contracting one.

Even in human affairs we look on one as more a saviour if he wards off a blow than if he merely heals the wound it inflicts. The idea of a preservative redemption reminds us that Mary, being a child of Adam and proceeding from him by way of natural generation, should have incurred the hereditary taint, and would have incurred it in fact had not God decided from all eternity to grant her the unique privilege of an immaculate conception in dependence on the future merits of her Son.

Jesus was not redeemed by the merits of another, not even by His own. He was preserved from original sin and from all sin for two reasons: first because of the personal or hypostatic union of His humanity to the Word in the very instant in which His sacred soul was created, since it could not be that sin should ever be attributed to the Word made flesh; secondly, since His conception was virginal and due to the operation of the Holy Ghost, so that Jesus did not descend from Adam by way of natural generation.

The privilege of the Immaculate Conception is revealed as it were implicitly or confusedly in the book of Genesis in the words spoken by God to the serpent, and thereby to Satan Gen. However there is no essential difference of meaning between the two readings since the woman is to be associated with the victory of Him Who will be the great representative of her posterity in their conflict with Satan throughout the ages. Taken by themselves these words are certainly not sufficient to prove that the Immaculate Conception is revealed. But the Fathers of the Church, in their comparison of Eve and Mary, have seen in them an allusion to it, and it is on that account that the text is cited by Pius IX.

To the naturalist exegete the text means no more than the instinctive revulsion man experiences towards the serpent. But to the Jewish and Christian tradition it means much more. The Christian tradition sees in that promise—it has been termed the protoevangelium —the first sketch of the Messiah and His victory over the spirit of evil.

For Jesus is pre-eminently the posterity of the woman in conflict with the posterity of the serpent. But if Jesus is termed the posterity of the woman, that is not because of His remote connection with Eve, who was able to pass on to her descendants only a fallen and wounded nature, deprived of the divine life. Rather is it because of His connection with Mary, in whose womb He took a stainless humanity.

It is only between Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, that enmity ultimately exists. The Immaculate Conception is contained therefore in the promise of Genesis as the oak is contained in the acorn. A person who had never seen an oak could never guess the value of the acorn, nor its final stage of development. But we who have seen the oak know for what the acorn is destined, and that it does not yield an elm nor a poplar. The same law of evolution obtains in the order of progressive divine revelation. Elisabeth under divine inspiration Luke Pius IX does not state that these words are sufficient by themselves to prove that the Immaculate Conception is revealed; for that, the exegetic tradition of the Fathers must be invoked.

This tradition becomes explicit with St. Ephrem the Syrian d. Proclus who was a successor of St. John Chrysostom in the chair of Constantinople — and Theodore, bishop of Ancyra. Later we find it in the teaching of St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem — , Andrew of Crete d. John Damascene d. These different testimonies will be found at length in the article Marie of the Diet. On the contrary, the Blessed Virgin would not have received complete fullness of grace had her soul been even for an instant in the condition of spiritual death which follows on original sin, had she been even for an instant deprived of grace, turned away from God, a daughter of wrath, in slavery to the devil.

If Mary had contracted original sin her fullness of grace would have been diminished in this sense that it would not have extended to the whole of her life. Thus, Our Holy Mother the Church, reading the words of the angelic salutation in the light of Tradition and with the assistance of the Holy Ghost, saw revealed implicitly in it the privilege of the Immaculate Conception. The privilege is revealed in the text not as an effect is in a cause which could exist without it, but as a part is in a whole; the part is actually contained in the whole at least by way of implicit statement.

Tradition itself affirms the truth of the Immaculate Conception more and more explicitly in the course of time. Justin 50 , St.


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Irenaeus, 51 Tertullian, 52 contrast Eve, the cause of death, and Mary, the cause of life and salvation. It is presented as perfect and without restriction; thus, Mary must always have been greater than Eve, and most particularly at the first moment of her life. The Fathers often say that Mary is stainless, that she has always been blessed by God in honour of her Son, that she is intemerata, intacta, impolluta, intaminata, illibata, altogether without spot.

Comparing Mary and Eve, St. In You there is no fault, and in Your Mother there is no stain. All other children of God are far from such beauty. In much the same way St. Augustine meant his words to be understood in the sense of the Immaculate Conception, 58 Many other texts of the Fathers will be found in the works of Passaglia, 59 Palmieri 60 and Le Bachelet. It should not be forgotten that the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated in the Church, especially in the Greek Church, since the 7th and 8th centuries.

The same Feast is found in Sicily in the 9th, in Ireland in the loth, and almost everywhere in Europe in the 12th century. The Lateran Council, held in the year Denz. The Council of Trent Denz. In Baius is condemned for having taught the contrary Denz. In Alexander VII affirmed the privilege, saying that almost all Catholics held it, though it had not yet been defined Denz. Finally, on December 8th, , we have the promulgation of the solemn definition Denz. It must be admitted that in the 12th and 13th centuries certain great doctors, as, for example, St. Bernard, 62 St. Anselm, 63 Peter Lombard, 64 Hugh of St.

Victor, 65 St. Albert the Great, 66 St. Bonaventure 67 and St. Thomas Aquinas appear to have been disinclined to admit the privilege. The principal argument ex convenientia, or from becomingness, for the Immaculate Conception, is an elaboration of the one which St. Thomas Ilia, q. Hence it is reasonable to believe that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before birth. But this argument ex convenientia needs to be expanded before it will prove the Immaculate Conception.

Thomas and many other theologians put forward: Christ is the universal Redeemer of all men without exception Rom. Duns Scotus answers this objection 69 by referring to the idea of a redemption which is preservative, not liberative. He shows how reasonable this idea is, and in some places at least does not link it up with his peculiar doctrine concerning the motive of the Incarnation, so that it can be admitted independently of what one thinks about the second matter.

It is becoming that a perfect Redeemer should make use of a sovereign mode of redemption, at least in regard to the person of His Mother who was to be associated more closely with Him than anyone else in the work of salvation. But the sovereign mode of redemption is not that which liberates from a stain already contracted, but that which preserves from all stain, just as he who wards off a blow from another saves him more than if he were simply to heal a wound that has been inflicted.

Hence it was most becoming that the perfect Redeemer should, by His merits, preserve His Mother from original sin and all actual sin. This argument can be found in embryo in Eadmer. The Bull Ineffabilis gives this argument, in a somewhat different form, along with others. For example, it states that the honor and dishonor alike of parents affect their children, and that it was not becoming that the perfect Redeemer should have a mother who was conceived in sin.

Also, just as the Word proceeds eternally from a most holy Father, it was becoming that He should be born on earth of a mother to whom the splendor of sanctity had never been lacking. If it be objected that Christ alone is immaculate, it is easy to answer: Christ alone is immaculate of Himself, and by the double title of His Hypostatic Union and His virginal conception; Mary is immaculate through the merits of her Son. The consequences of the Immaculate Conception have been developed by the great spiritual writers.

Mary has been preserved from the two baneful fruits of original sin, concupiscence and darkness of understanding. There could be no disordered movement of her sensitive nature, no escape of her sensibility from the previous control of reason and will. Similarly, Mary was never subject to error or illusion.

Her judgment was always enlightened and correct. If she did not understand a thing fully she suspended her judgment upon it, and thus avoided the precipitation which might have been the cause of error. All theologians realise that nature spoke more eloquently to her of the Creator than to the greatest poets. She had, too, an eminent and wonderfully simple knowledge of what the Scriptures said of the Messiah, the Incarnation, and the Redemption. Thus she was fully exempt from concupiscence and error. But why did the Immaculate Conception not make Mary immune from pain and death since they too were consequences of original sin?

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It should be noted that the pain and death which Jesus and Mary knew were not consequences of original sin as they are for us. For Jesus and Mary they were consequences of but human nature, which, of itself, and like the animal nature in general, is subject to pain and death of the body: it was only because of a special privilege that Adam had been exempt from them in the state of innocence. As for Jesus, He was conceived virginally in passible flesh in order to redeem us by dying, and when the time came He accepted suffering and death, its consummation, freely for love of us.

Mary, for her part, accepted suffering and death voluntarily in imitation of Him and to unite herself to Him; she was one with Him in His expiation and in His work of redemption. There is one wonderful thing, one delight of contemplatives, which we should not overlook. It is that the privilege of the Immaculate Conception and the fullness of grace did not withdraw Mary from pain, but rather made her all the more sensitive to suffer from contact with sin, the greatest of evils. Precisely because she was so pure, precisely because her heart was consumed by the love of God, Mary suffered pains to which our imperfection makes us insensible.

We suffer if our self-love is wounded, or our pride, or our susceptibilities. Mary, however, suffered from sin, and that in the measure of her love of God Whom sin offends, and her love of Her Son Whom sin crucifies; she suffered in the measure of her love of us, whom sin wounds and kills. Not one of them did she squander. All passed through her hands in union with those of her Son, thus to be offered up for our salvation. As certain commentators have suggested, three periods may be distinguished in St. In the first—that of —, the beginning of his theological career—he supports the privilege, probably because of the liturgical tradition which favored it, as well as because of his pious admiration for the perfect holiness of the Mother of God.

It is in this period that he wrote I Sent.

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During the second period St. He, of course, held that all men without exception are redeemed by one Saviour. Hence we find him proposing the question thus in Ilia, q. This latter called today the consummated passive conception was thought to be about a month later in time than the initial conception.

The holy doctor mentions certain arguments at the beginning of the article which favor the Immaculate Conception—even taking conception to be that which precedes animation. But this may not be admitted, since Christ is Head of all men. Even had he written after the definition of St. Thomas could have said that Mary was not sanctified before animation.

Unfortunately he did not distinguish sufficiently the debt from actually incurring the stain.

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Regarding the question of the exact moment at which Mary was sanctified in the womb of her mother, St. Thomas does not make any definite pronouncement. He states that it followed close on animation— cito post are his words in Quodl. VI, a. Thomas does not consider in the Summa if Mary was sanctified in the very instant of animation. Bonaventure had put himself that question and had answered it in the negative. It is possible that St.

This is the explanation proposed by Fr. Mandonnet, O. P, Diet. Freres Precheurs, col. P, Tractatus Dogmatici, t. II, ed. The texts we have considered so far do not therefore imply any contradiction of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. They could even be retained if the idea of preservative redemption were introduced. There is however one text which cannot be so easily explained away. In III Sent. Ill, q. Christ alone among men has the privilege of not needing redemption. However, one could have expected to find in the text itself the explicit distinction between the debt and the fact of incurring the stain.

In the final period of his career, when writing the Exposito super salutatione angelica —which is certainly authentic 72 —in or , St. Rossi, C. Thomae Aquinatis Expositio salutationis angelieae, Introductio et textus. Divus Thomas PL , , pp. He gives photographs of the principal manuscripts in an appendix. Let us hope that the same conscientious work will be performed on the other opuscula of St. In spite of the objection raised by Fr. Synave 75 the text appears to be authentic.

If it is, then St. Thomas returned towards the end of his life—moved, we may believe, by his love of the Mother of God—to the position he had adopted when he affirmed the Immaculate Conception in his Commentary on the Sentences. Nor is the text we are considering the only indication of such a return. Such an evolution of doctrine is not rare among theologians. At first they propose a thesis which they accept from tradition without seeing all its difficulties. Later reflection leads them to adopt a more reserved attitude.

Finally they return to their first position, realising that God is more bounteous in His gifts than we can understand and that we should not set limits to Him without good reason. In the case of St. Thomas, we have seen that the reasons he invoked against the privilege are not conclusive, and that they even support it when considered in the light of the idea of preservative redemption. Mary however avoided all sin, even the least grave. Though a minor lack of generosity is not a venial sin, but simply a lesser good, or an imperfection, not even so slight a shortcoming was found in Mary.

She never elicited an imperfect remissus act of charity, that is to say, one that fell short in intensity of the degree in which she possessed the virtue. Paul says of the Apostles 2 Cor. Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. Mary had therefore impeccantia the term is parallel to inerrantia or freedom from sin, and even impeccability.

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In her case it was a matter of preservation from every sin through a special privilege. It includes also confirmation in grace, which when granted to a saint is had normally through an increase of charity, especially that proper to the state of transforming union, and an increase of actual efficacious graces which preserve the soul de facto from sin and move it to ever more meritorious acts.

Thus Mary enjoyed a special assistance of Divine Providence. This assistance—more effective than even that which belonged to the state of innocence—preserved all her faculties from faults, and kept her soul in a state of the most complete generosity. Just as confirmation in grace is an effect of the predestination of the saints, so this preservative assistance granted to Mary was an effect of her peculiar predestination. Far from diminishing her liberty or free will, the effect of this preservation from sin was to confer on her full liberty in the order of moral goodness, with no inclination to evil just as her mind never tended to error.

And among these, if the works of the natural order are so perfect—the majesty of the ocean and the high mountains, the structure of the eye and ear, the human mind and the mind of the angels—how perfect must not the works of the supernatural order be, among which so remarkable a place is held by the soul of Mary which was adorned with every choice gift from the first moment of her existence?


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The problem 82 has been taken from its proper context by the casuists. It is one which concerns interior souls, advanced in the spiritual life, and careful to avoid every more or less venial sin. Those who consider the problem in relation to less advanced souls run the risk of taking for imperfection what is really a venial sin.

At one time the problem was closely associated with another one: is it possible to commit no more than a simple imperfection by resisting a religious vocation? The answer ordinarily given to this question is that though the religious vocation does not oblige under pain of sin, sin is always involved in rejecting it for the reason that religion is a way of life that embraces the whole of life, and the other ways of life, being less safe than it, are never chosen in preference to it except through some inordinate attachment to the things of this world, as is seen in the example of the rich man in the Gospel.

Thus, the rejection of a vocation involves an inordinate attachment which is forbidden by divine precept and not only a lack of generosity. To see the problem of an imperfection as distinct from a venial sin in its proper perspective, it must be viewed in its relation to very generous souls, and still more in relation to the impeccability of Christ and the sinlessness of Mary. Here we may ask: Was there any voluntary imperfection in the lives of Jesus and Mary? The question is obviously a most delicate one.

The answer usually given to this problem is that there was never any imperfection, however slightly voluntary, in the lives of Jesus and Mary, for they never failed in their prompt obedience to every divine inspiration given by way of counsel. But if there had been any lack of promptitude, it would have been a mere lack of generosity, not a moral disorder in the strict sense of the term, as is an inordinate attachment to the things of this world.

As regards interior souls, it may be said that as long as they have not taken the vow of always doing the most perfect thing, they are not bound under pain of venial sin to act always with the maximum of generosity possible to them at any given instant. Denis affirms De caelestia hierarchia that the angels, who are nearer to God than man is, participate more in His favors. The Blessed Virgin Mary, being nearer to Christ than any other human being, since it is from her that He received His humanity, receives from Him therefore a fullness of grace, surpassing that of all other creatures.

But Mary received grace from the very first instant in a degree far excelling theirs, and received as well the privilege of being preserved from every fault—even venial—a privilege we find accorded to no other saint. In his Expositio super salutatione angelica St. Though the angels do not manifest special respect for men, being their superiors by nature and living in holy intimacy with God, yet the Archangel Gabriel when saluting Mary, showed himself full of veneration for her. He understood that she was far above him through her fullness of grace, her intimacy with God, and her perfect purity.

She had received fullness of grace under three respects. First, so as to avoid every sin, however slight, and to practice all the virtues in an eminent degree. Secondly, so as to overflow from her soul upon her body and prepare her to receive the Incarnate Son of God. Thirdly, so as to overflow upon all men 88 and to aid them in the practice of all the virtues.

Further, she surpassed the angels in her holy familiarity with the Most High. He is about to become your Son, whereas I am but His servant. Finally, she surpassed the angels in purity, even though they are pure spirits, for she was both pure in herself and the source of purity to others. She will conceive the Son of God without loss to her virginity, she will bear Him in holy recollection, she will bring Him forth in joy, she will be preserved from the corruption of the tomb and will be associated by her Assumption with the Ascension of the Saviour.

Already she is blessed among women, for she alone, with and through her Son, will lift the curse which descended on the human race, and will bring us blessings by opening the gates of Heaven. That is why she is called the Star of the Sea, guiding Christians to the harbour of eternity. From this point of view, the fruit of the womb of Mary will be thrice blessed.

Eve desired the forbidden fruit, so as to have the knowledge of good and evil, and thereby to become independent and free from the yoke of obedience. Mary, on the contrary, found all things in the blessed fruit of her womb. In Him she found God, and she will lead us to find God in Him. By yielding to the temptation, Eve sought joy and found sadness.

Mary, on the contrary, found joy and salvation for herself and us in her Divine Son. Mary is blessed herself, and still more blessed in her Son, Who has brought all men blessing and salvation. The preceding is a synopsis of what St. He has in mind most of all the fullness of the Annunciation day. But what he says is applicable also to her initial fullness, just as what is said of the stream is applicable also to its source.

The question is usually understood not of the final and consummated grace of Heaven, but of the grace which is final in the sense that it immediately preceded entry into glory. This is the teaching, for example, of St. Today, all textbooks of Mariology are unanimous in considering this teaching certain. The principal argument in favor of this teaching is arrived at from a consideration of the divine maternity, which is the reason for all the privileges conferred on Mary.

But even the consummated grace of the other saints is not a worthy preparation for the divine maternity, for it pertains to the hypostatic order. Hence the first grace of Mary surpasses the consummated grace of the other saints. The same conclusion is reached by considering the uncreated love of God for the Blessed Virgin.

Since grace is the effect of the active love of God which makes us pleasing in His eyes as adoptive children, the more a person is loved by God the more grace he receives. But Mary, since she was to be the Mother of God, was more loved by Him in the first instant of her being than any angel or saint. Hence she received from the first instant a greater gift of grace than any of them, however favored. A number of theologians, both ancient and modern, have answered this question in the negative.

Vega, Contenson, St. Janssens, Merkelbach and others, is at least probable. For it there is, first of all, the argument from authority. Quapropter illam longe ante omnes angelicos Spiritus, cunctosque Sanctos coelestium omnium charismatum copia de thesauro Divinitatis deprompta ita mirifice cumulavit, ut.

A little further on in the same Bull, we are told that, according to the Fathers, Mary is higher by grace than the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and the whole Heavenly Host omni exercitu angelorum —that is to say, all united. And in the case of Mary, this latter was proportionate to her dignity as Mother of God, a dignity for which she had been prepared from the very first instant of existence.

To the argument from the authority of the Bull Ineffabilis, two theological reasons can be added. But, at the same time, it may be well to clarify the question still more. But the final consummated grace of all the saints together is not proportionate to the divine maternity, since it belongs to an inferior order. Hence the final consummated grace of all the saints united is less than the first grace received by Mary. This argument—even though not admitted by all theologians—seems to be quite conclusive. The argument therefore retains its force.

It is that Mary could obtain by her merits and prayers—even on earth, and from the time when she could first merit and pray—more than all the saints together, for they obtain nothing except through her universal mediation. Mary is, as it were, the aqueduct which brings us grace; in the mystical body she is, as it were, the neck which joins the members with the Head. In short, from the time she could merit and pray, Mary could obtain more without the saints than they could without her.

But merit corresponds in degree to charity and sanctifying grace. Hence Mary received from the beginning of her life a degree of grace superior to that which the saints and angels united had attained to before their entry into Heaven. There are other indirect confirmations, or more or less close analogies. For example, a precious stone—a diamond—is worth more than a number of other stones united; a saint like the Cure of Ars could do more by his prayers and merits than all his parishioners together; a founder of an order like St. Benedict surpasses all his first companions by the grace he has received, for without him they could not have made the foundation whereas, had they failed him, he could have enlisted others to take their place; the intellect of an archangel surpasses that of all inferior angels united; the intellectual worth of St.

Thomas is greater than that of all his contemporaries; the power of a king is greater, not only than that of his prime minister, but also that of his ministers combined. They taught, for example, at the end of the treatises on grace and charity that whereas a ten-franc piece is worth no more than ten one-franc pieces, the charity signified by the ten talents of the parable is worth more than ten charities of one talent.

He wishes to prevent the growth of their charity, knowing that one man of great charity will do much more than many whose charity is at a lower, lukewarm level. The first grace she received was already a worthy preparation for her divine maternity and her exceptional glory which is inferior only to that of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nor should we forget that she suffered proportionately as He did, for she was called to be a victim with Him so as to be victorious with and by Him. One more point before concluding. The classics in the literature of every country mean much more to us when we take them up in mature age, than they did when we first read them at the age of fifteen or twenty years; and the same is true of the works of the great theologians, of St. Augustine and St. This thought alone is enough to make one begin by affirming the richness of her initial grace. Perhaps the next thing will be, to wonder if the affirmation has not been too hasty, if a probability has not been made into a certainty.

But last of all, there will come a return to the first position; not now because it is beautiful, but because careful study has shown that it is true; not because it has a merely theoretical becomingness but because its becomingness acted as a motive in determining the choice that God actually made of it. Even from before St. Furthermore, the infused virtues and the gifts are linked up with charity which makes their acts meritorious, and they keep pace with it in their growth as do the five fingers of the hand with one another.

But normally all seven exist in every soul in the state of grace in a degree proportionate to its charity—the charity itself being proportionate to the sanctifying grace of the soul. From these principles, which are commonly accepted in treatises on the virtues in general and the gifts, it is usually deduced that Mary had the infused theological and moral virtues and the gifts from the first instant of her conception, and that they flowed from and were proportionate to her initial fullness of grace. Mary—destined even then to be Mother of God and men—could not have been less perfect than Eve was at her creation.

Even if she did not receive in her body the privileges of impassibility and immortality, she must have had in her soul all that pertained spiritually to the state of original justice—all, and more, even, since her initial fullness of grace surpassed the grace of all the saints together. Her virtues in their initial state must, therefore, have surpassed the heroic virtues of the greatest saints.

Her hope was unconquerable, proof against presumption and despair alike. Her charity was most ardent. The only difficulty in this matter is that of the exercise of the infused virtues, already so perfect, and the gifts. Their exercise demands the use of reason and of free will. We must, therefore, ask if Mary had the use of her rational faculties from the first instant.

All theologians admit that the holy soul of Christ had the use of intellect and will from the beginning. Jesus is the Head in the order of grace, and therefore He enjoyed from the first instant, as a consequence of the personal union of His humanity to the Word, the glory He was to give to the elect. He had also infused knowledge similar to that of the angels, but in a much more perfect degree than it has been found in some of the saints—in those, for example, who had the gift of understanding and speaking languages they had never learned. It was only the knowledge which He acquired by experience and reflection which developed.

Jesus, the sovereign priest, judge, and king of the universe, offered Himself for us, says St. Paul, from the moment of His entry into the world and knew everything in the past, present and future, that could be submitted to His judgement. It would appear that there is no reason to assert that she had the beatific vision here on earth, especially from the first instant of her conception.

For our part, we may say, first of all, that it is at least very probable, according to the teaching of the majority of theologians, that Mary had the use of her free will through her infused knowledge from the first instant of her conception, at least in a passing manner. Such is the teaching of St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Bernardine of Sienna, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus, Suarez, Vega, Contenson, Justin de Miechow, and most modern theologians.

Terrien goes so far as to say that he found only two opponents of the doctrine: Gerson and Muratori. The following are the reasons that can be adduced in favor of the privilege:. John the Baptist. Irenaeus, St. Ambrose, St. Leo the Great, and St. Gregory the Great have noted that the joy of St. John the Baptist before his birth was not merely of the sense order, but was elicited by the coming of the Saviour, Whose precursor he was.

The church too sings in her liturgy, in the hymn for Vespers of St. Suae regenerationis cognovit auctorem: You have recognised your kind and the author of your regeneration. Mary did not, of course, know then that she would be one day the Mother of God, but none the less she would accept all that the Lord asked and would yet ask of her. Such inactivity would appear opposed to the sweet and generous dispositions of Divine Providence in favor of the Mother of the Saviour.

But unless she had the use of her free will through infused knowledge, the virtues and gifts which she possessed in so high a degree would have remained inactive for a considerable part of her life that is, the beginning. They admit too that she had the use of this infused knowledge on certain occasions, such as the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension; also that she had the use of it for the purpose of acquiring a more perfect knowledge of the divine perfections and of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.

There is all the more reason for admitting that Mary had this privilege when we recall that infused knowledge was given to the apostles on the first Pentecost when they received the gift of tongues, and that the great St. Teresa, after arriving at the Seventh Mansion, had frequent intellectual visions of the Trinity such as can only be explained by infused ideas. Even those theologians who are most conservative in their views do not hesitate to admit this much of Mary.

According to St. Merkelbach and other theologians assert that there is no convincing argument in proof of that thesis. For if it be conceded that she had it in the first instant, it follows that she would become less perfect when deprived of it. But it does not appear becoming that so holy a creature should fall in any way without guilt on her part, all the more so since her dignity demanded that she should progress continuously and that her merit should be unbroken. It has been objected that St. Thomas regards the privilege as peculiar to Christ.

Mary cannot lay any such claim to the privilege. But it appears altogether becoming that the future Mother of God should have been granted it as a special and most appropriate favor. Besides, St. Besides, as we have said, almost all theologians admit that she had the privilege at least transitorily from the first instant. If so, it is hard to see why it should ever have been withdrawn, interrupting her merit and progress, and leaving the initial plenitude, as it were, unproductive and sterile—all of which is opposed to the sweet and strong way in which Providence cared for Mary.

Such was the initial fullness of grace which accompanied the Immaculate Conception, and such were its first consequences. The method which we have adopted in this book is first to treat principles, bringing out their force and their sublimity, and then to apply them to the Mother of God. Hence we begin this article by recalling that spiritual progress is, most of all, progress in charity, the virtue which inspires, animates, and renders meritorious the other virtues. In the sections that follow we shall see why and how charity developed in Mary, and examine the stages of its growth.

Why is it that charity grew in Mary up to the time of her death? This divine precept, which takes precedence over all other precepts and counsels, obliges all Christians to tend towards the perfection of charity and the other virtues in the manner appropriate to their condition of life—some in the married state, others in the priestly or the religious state.

Not all are obliged to the practice of the three evangelical counsels. But all are obliged to strive to acquire their spirit, which is one of detachment from self and the things of this world in view of closer union with God. Of Our Blessed Lord alone can it be said that He never grew in grace or charity, for He alone received the complete fullness of them both at His conception in consequence of the hypostatic union.

Thus, the Second Council of Constantinople declares that Jesus did not develop spiritually through progress in good works, even though He followed the normal sequence in performing the acts of virtue peculiar to each period of life. Mary, however, was continually growing in grace all through her life. What was still more, her growth was an accelerated one, in accordance with the principle formulated by St.

The reason is that a natural or connatural movement always becomes more rapid the nearer it approaches its term the end which attracts it.