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How did Mary become the Rosa Mystica, the choice, delicate, perfect flower of God’s spiritual creation? It was by being born, nurtured, and sheltered in the mystical garden or Paradise of God. Scripture makes use of the figure of a garden when it would speak of heaven and its blessed inhabitants. A garden is a spot of ground set apart for trees and plants, all good, all various, for things that are sweet to the taste, or fragrant in scent, or beautiful to look upon, or useful for nourishment. Accordingly in its spiritual sense it means the home of blessed spirits and holy souls dwelling there together, souls with both the flowers and the fruits upon them, which by the careful husbandry of God they have come to bear, flowers and fruits of grace, flowers more beautiful and more fragrant than those of any garden, fruits more delicious and exquisite than can be matured by earthly husbandman.

All that God has made speaks of its Maker; the mountains speak of his eternity, the sun of his immensity, and the winds of his almightiness. In like manner flowers and fruits speak of his sanctity, his love, and his providence; and such as are flowers and fruits, such must be the place where they are found. That is to say, since they are found in a garden, therefore a garden has also excellences which speak of God, because it is their home. For instance, it would be out of place if we found beautiful flowers on the mountain crag, or rich fruit in the sandy desert. As then by flowers and fruits are meant, in a mystical sense, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, so by a garden is meant mystically a place of spiritual repose, stillness, peace, refreshment, and delight. […]

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Why is she so called?—she who never had any blow, or wound, or other injury to her consecrated person. How can she be exalted over those whose bodies suffered the most ruthless violence and the keenest torments for our Lord’s sake? She is, indeed, Queen of all Saints, of those who “walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy”; but how of those “who were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held”?

To answer this question, it must be recollected that the pains of the soul may be as fierce as those of the body. Bad men who are now in hell, and the elect of God who are in purgatory, are suffering only in their souls, for their bodies are still in the dust; yet how severe is that suffering! And perhaps most people who have lived long can bear witness in their own persons to a sharpness of distress which was like a sword cutting them, to a weight and force of sorrow which seemed to throw them down, though bodily pain there was none.

What an overwhelming horror it must have been for the Blessed Mary to witness the Passion and the Crucifixion of her Son! Her anguish was, as holy Simeon had announced to her, at the time of her Son’s presentation in the Temple, a sword piercing her soul. If our Lord himself could not bear the prospect of what was before him, and was covered at the thought of it with a bloody sweat, his soul thus acting upon his body, does not this show how great mental pain can be? And would it have been a thing to wonder at if Mary’s head and heart had given way as she stood under his cross?

Thus is she most truly the Queen of Martyrs.

This article was excerpted from Meditations and Devotions, pp. 47-48, as found in Mystical Rose, ed. Joseph Regina, Scepter, 1996.

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Mary has been made more glorious in her person than in her office; her purity is a higher gift than her relationship to God. This is what is implied in Christ’s answer to the woman in the crowd who cried out, when he was preaching, “Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the breasts which thou hast sucked.” He replied by pointing out to his disciples a higher blessedness; “Yea, rather blessed,” he said, “are they who hear the word of God and keep it…”

Protestants take these words in disparagement of our Lady’s greatness, but they really tell the other way. For consider them; he lays down a principle that it is more blessed to keep his commandments than to be his Mother, but who even of Protestants will say that she did not keep his commandments? She kept them surely, and our Lord does but say that such obedience was in a higher line of privilege than her being his Mother. She was more blessed in her detachment from creatures, in her devotion to God, in her virginal purity, in her fullness of grace, than in her maternity. This is the constant teaching of the holy Fathers: “More blessed was Mary,” says St. Augustine, “in receiving Christ’s faith, than in conceiving Christ’s flesh.” And St. Chrysostom declares that she would not have been blessed, though she had borne him in the body, had she not heard the word of God and kept it.

This of course is an impossible case; for she was made holy that she might be made his Mother, and the two blessednesses cannot be divided. She who was chosen to supply flesh and blood to the Eternal Word was first filled with grace in soul and body. Still, she had a double blessedness, of office and of qualification for it, and the latter was the greater. And it is on this account that the angel calls her blessed. “Full of grace,” he says, “blessed among women”; and St. Elizabeth also, when she cries out, “Blessed thou that has believed.” Nay, she herself bears a like testimony, when the Angel announced to her the favor which was coming on her.

Though all Jewish women in each successive age had been hoping to be mother of the Christ, so that marriage was honorable among them, celibacy a reproach, she alone had put aside the desire and the thought of so great a dignity. She alone, who was to bear the Christ, all but refused to bear him. He stooped to her, she turned from him. And why?—because she had been inspired, the first of womankind, to dedicate her virginity to God, and she did not welcome a privilege which seemed to involve a forfeiture of her vow. “How shall this be,” she asked, “seeing I am separate from man?” Nor, till the angel told her that the conception would be miraculous and from the Holy Ghost, did she put aside her “trouble” of mind, recognize him securely as God’s messenger, and bow her head in awe and thankfulness to God’s condescension.

Mary then is a specimen, and more than a specimen, in the purity of her soul and body, of what man was before his fall and what he would have been, had he risen to his full perfection. It would have been hard, it would have been a victory for the Evil One, if the whole race had passed away, without one instance occurring to show what the Creator had intended it to be in its original state. Adam, you know, was created in the image and after the likeness of God. His frail and imperfect nature, stamped with a divine seal, was supported and exalted by an indwelling of divine grace. Impetuous passion did not exist in him, except as a latent element and a possible evil; ignorance was dissipated by the clear light of the Spirit; and reason, sovereign over every motion of his soul, was simply subjected to the will of God. Nay, even his body was preserved from every wayward appetite and affection and was promised immortality instead of dissolution.

Thus he was in a supernatural state; and, had he not sinned, he would have advanced in merit and grace and in God’s favor year after year, till he passed from Paradise to heaven. But he fell; and his descendants were born in his likeness; and the world grew worse instead of better, and judgment after judgment cut off generations of sinners in vain, and improvement was hopeless, “because man was flesh,” and “the thoughts of his heart were bent upon evil at all times.”

But a remedy had been determined in heaven; a Redeemer was at hand; God was about to do a great work, and he purposed to do it suitably; “where sin abounded, grace was to abound more.” Kings of the earth, when they have sons born to them, forthwith scatter some large bounty, or raise some high memorial; they honor the day, or the place, or the heralds of the auspicious event, with some corresponding mark of favor; nor did the coming of Emmanuel innovate on the world’s established custom. It was a season of grace and prodigy, and these were to be exhibited in a special manner in the person of his Mother. The course of ages was to be reversed; the tradition of evil was to be broken; a gate of light was to be opened amid the darkness, for the coming of the Just; a Virgin conceived and bore him. It was fitting, for his honor and glory, that she who was the instrument of his bodily presence, should first be a miracle of his grace; it was fitting that she should triumph, where Eve had failed, and should “bruise the serpent’s head” by the spotlessness of her sanctity. In some respects, indeed, the curse was not reversed; Mary came into a fallen world and resigned herself to its laws. She, as also the Son she bore, was exposed to pain of soul and body. She was subjected to death, but she was not put under the power of sin.

As grace was infused into Adam from the first moment of his creation, so that he never had experience of his natural poverty till sin reduced him to it; so was grace given from the first in still ampler measure to Mary, and she never incurred, in fact, Adam’s deprivation. She began where others end, whether in knowledge or in love. She was from the first clothed in sanctity, sealed for perseverance, luminous and glorious in God’s sight, and incessantly employed in meritorious acts, which continued till her last breath. Hers was emphatically “the path of the just, which, as the shining light, goeth forward and increaseth even to the perfect day.” And sinlessness in thought, word, and deed, in small things as well as great, in venial matter as well as grievous, is surely but the natural and obvious sequel of such a beginning. If Adam might have kept himself from sin in his first state, much more shall we expect immaculate perfection in Mary.

This article was excerpted from Discourses to Mixed Congregations, pp. 350-54, as found in Mystical Rose, ed. Joseph Regina, Scepter, 1996.

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Mary holds, as the Fathers teach us, that office in our restoration which Eve held in our fall. Now, in the first place, what were Eve’s endowments to enable her to enter upon her trial? She could not have stood against the wiles of the devil, though she was innocent and sinless, without the grant of a large grace. And this she had—a heavenly gift, which was over and above and additional to that nature of hers, which she received from Adam; a gift which had been given to Adam also before her, at the very time (as it is commonly held) of his original formation.

This is Anglican doctrine, as well as Catholic; it is the doctrine of Bishop Bull. He has written a dissertation on the point. He speaks of the doctrine which “many of the Schoolmen affirm, that Adam was created in grace that is, received a principle of grace and divine life from his very creation, or in the moment of the infusion of his soul, of which,” he says, “for my own part I have little doubt.” Again, he says, “It is abundantly manifest from the many testimonies alleged, that the ancient doctors of the Church did, with general consent, acknowledge that our first parents, in the state of integrity, had in them something more than nature, that is, were endowed with the divine principle of the Spirit, ordered to a supernatural felicity.”

Now, taking this for granted, because I know that you and those who agree with you maintain it as well as we do, have you any intention to deny that Mary was as fully endowed as Eve? Is it any violent inference that she, who was to cooperate in the redemption of the world, was at least not less endowed with power from on high than she who, given as a helpmate to her husband, did in the event but cooperate with him for its ruin?

If Eve was raised above human nature by that indwelling moral gift which we call grace, is it rash to say that Mary had even a greater grace? And this consideration gives significance to the angel’s salutation of her as “full of grace”—an interpretation of the original word which is undoubtedly the right one, as soon as we resist the common Protestant assumption that grace is a mere external approbation or acceptance, answering to the word “favor,” whereas it is, as the Fathers teach, a real inward condition or superadded quality of soul. And if Eve had this supernatural inward gift given her from the first moment of her personal existence, is it possible to deny that Mary too had this gift from the very first moment of her personal existence? I do not know how to resist this inference. Well, this is simply and literally the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. I say the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is in its substance this, and nothing more or less than this (putting aside the question of degrees of grace). And it really does seem to me bound up in the doctrine of the Fathers that Mary is the Second Eve.

It is indeed to me a most strange phenomenon that so many learned and devout men stumble at this doctrine. I can only account for it by supposing that in matter of fact they do not know what we mean by the Immaculate Conception; and your volume (may I say it?) bears out my suspicion. It is a great consolation to have reason for thinking so—reason for believing that in some sort the persons in question are in the position of those great saints of former times, who are said to have hesitated about the doctrine, when they would not have hesitated at all if the word “conception” had been explained in that sense in which now it is universally received.

I do not see how anyone who holds with Bishop Bull the Catholic doctrine of the supernatural endowments of our first parents, has fair reason for doubting our doctrine about the Blessed Virgin. It has no reference whatever to her parents, but simply to her own person. It does but affirm that, together with the nature which she inherited from her parents, that is, her own nature, she had a superadded fullness of grace and that from the first moment of her existence.

Suppose Eve had stood the trial and not lost her first grace, and suppose she had eventually had children. Those children, from the first moment of their existence, would, through divine bounty, have received the same privilege that she had always had since she was taken from Adam’s side; that is, they would have received what may be called an immaculate conception. They would then have been conceived in grace, as in fact they are conceived in sin. What is there difficult in this doctrine? What is there unnatural? Mary may be called, as it were, a daughter of Eve unfallen. You believe with us that St. John the Baptist had grace given to him three months before his birth, at the time that the Blessed Virgin visited his mother. And accordingly he was not immaculately conceived, because he was alive before grace came to him; but our Lady’s case only differs from his in this respect, that to her the grace of God came, not just three months before her birth, but from the first moment of her being, as it had been given to Eve.

But it may be said: How does this enable us to say that she was conceived without original sin? If Anglicans knew what we mean by original sin, they would not ask the question. Our doctrine of original sin is not the same as the Protestant doctrine. “Original sin,” with us, cannot be called sin in the mere ordinary sense of the word “sin.” It is a term denoting Adam’s sin as transferred to us, or the state to which Adam’s sin reduces his children. But by Protestants it seems to be understood as sin, in much the same sense as actual sin. We, with the Fathers, think of it as something negative, Protestants as something positive. Protestants hold that it is a disease, a radical change of nature, an active poison internally corrupting the soul, infecting its primary elements, and disorganizing it. And they fancy that we ascribe a different nature from ours to the Blessed Virgin, different from that of her parents, and from that of fallen Adam. We hold nothing of the kind; we consider that in Adam she died, as all others do; that she was included, together with the whole race, in Adam’s sentence; that she incurred his debt, as we do. But for the sake of him who was to redeem her and us upon the cross, to her the debt was remitted by anticipation. On her the sentence was not carried out, except indeed as regards her natural death, for she died when her time came, as others do.

All this we teach, but we deny that she had original sin. For by original sin we mean, as I have already said, something negative, that is, the deprivation of that supernatural unmerited grace which Adam and Eve had on their first formation—deprivation and the consequences of deprivation. Mary could not merit, any more than they, the restoration of that grace; but it was restored to her by God’s free bounty, from the very first moment of her existence, and thereby, in fact, she never came under the original curse, which consisted in the loss of it. And she had this special privilege in order to fit her to become the Mother of her and our Redeemer, to fit her mentally, spiritually for it. So that, by the aid of the first grace, she might so grow in grace, that, when the angel came and her Lord was at hand, she might be “full of grace,” prepared as far as a creature could be prepared to receive him into her bosom.

I have drawn the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as an immediate inference, from the primitive doctrine that Mary is the Second Eve. The argument seems to me conclusive, and, if it has not been universally taken as such, this has come to pass because there has not been a clear understanding among Catholics what exactly was meant by the “Immaculate Conception.” To many it seemed to imply that the Blessed Virgin did not die in Adam, that she did not come under the penalty of the fall, that she was not redeemed, that she was conceived in some way inconsistent with the verse in the “Miserere” Psalm.

I cannot believe that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception would have ever been opposed if controversy had in earlier days so clarified the subject as to make it plain to all that the doctrine meant nothing else than that in fact, in her case, the general sentence on mankind was not carried out; and that (this exemption was granted) by means of the indwelling in her of divine grace from the first moment of her being (and this is all the decree of 1854 has declared). An instinctive sentiment has led Christians jealously to put the Blessed Mary aside when sin comes into discussion. This is expressed in the well-known words of St. Augustine, All have sinned “except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, for the honor of the Lord, I wish no question to be raised at all, when we are treating of sins.” These words, whatever St. Augustine’s actual occasion of using them, certainly, in the spirit which they breathe, are well adapted to convey the notion that, though her parents had no privilege beyond other parents, she did not personally have any part in sin whatever.

This article was excerpted from “Letter to Rev. E. B. Pusey” in Difficulties of Anglicans, London, 1920, Vol. II, pp. 44-50, as found in Mystical Rose, ed. Joseph Regina, Scepter, 1996.

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We begin a new series dedicated to the Marian writings of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, often referred to as the greatest Catholic thinker of the nineteenth century. The series begins with the following commentary on the nature of Catholic belief concerning the Mother of Jesus. – Ed.

I begin by making a distinction which will help to remove some of the difficulty of my undertaking, as it presents itself to ordinary enquirers—the distinction between faith and devotion. I fully grant that devotion towards the Blessed Virgin has increased among Catholics with the progress of the centuries; but I do not agree that the Church’s teaching concerning her has undergone a growth, for I believe that it has been in substance one and the same from the beginning.

By “faith” I mean the Creed and assent to the Creed; by “devotion” I mean such religious honors as belong to the objects of our faith, and the payment of those honors. Faith and devotion are as distinct in fact as they are in idea. We cannot, indeed, be devout without faith, but we may believe without feeling devotion. Of this phenomenon everyone has experience both in himself and in others, and we bear witness to it as often as we speak of realizing a truth or not realizing it. It may be illustrated, with more or less exactness, by matters which come before us in the world. For instance, a great author, or public man, may be acknowledged as such for a period of years; yet there may be an increase, an ebb and flow, in his popularity. And if he takes a lasting place in the minds of his countrymen, he may gradually grow into it, or suddenly be raised to it. […]

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