Our Lady Saint Mary
J. G. H. Barry

Part 1 out of 6

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J. G. H. BARRY, D.D.


Would that it might happen to me that I should be called a
fool by the unbelieving, in that I have believed such
things as these.








The two papers in Part I have been published in the American Church
Magazine. Of Part II Chapter 1 has been published separately; Chapters
2, 4, 7, 9 and 12 have been published in the Holy Cross Magazine. The
rest of the volume is here published for the first time.

I would emphasise the fact that the contents of Part II is a series of
sermons which were prepared as such, and were preached in the Church of
S. Mary the Virgin, New York City, for the most part in the Winter of
1921-22. In preparing them for publication in this volume no attempt has
been made to alter their sermon character. It is not a theological
treatise on the Blessed Virgin that I have attempted, but a devotional
presentation of her life.

I have added to the text as originally prepared certain prayers and
poems. The object of the selection of the prayers, almost exclusively
from the Liturgies of the Catholic Church, is to illustrate the
prevalence of the address of devotion to our Lady throughout
Christendom. The poems are selected with much the same thought, and have
been mostly gathered from mediaeval sources, and so far as possible,
from British. I have no special knowledge of devotional poetry, but
have selected such poems as I have from time to time copied into my note
books. This fact has made it impossible for me to give credit for them
to the extent that I should have liked. I trust that any one who is
entitled to credit will accept this apology.

Much of the difficulty felt by Anglicans at expressions commonly found
in prayers and hymns addressed to our Lady is due to prevalent
unfamiliarity with the devotional language of the Catholic Church
throughout the ages. Those whose background of thought is the theology
of the Catholic Church, not in any one period, but in the whole extent
of its life, will have no difficulty in such language because the
limitations which are implied in it will be clear to them. To others, I
can only say that it is fair to assume that the great saints of the
Church of God in all times and in all places did not habitually use
language which was idolatrous, and our limitations are much more likely
to be at fault than their meaning. It is not true in any degree that the
teaching of Catholics as to the place of the Virgin intrudes on the
prerogative of our Lord. It is, as matter of fact Catholics, and not
those who oppose the Catholic Religion who are upholding that
prerogative. This has been excellently expressed by a modern French
theologian. "We are established in the friendship of God, in the divine
adoption, in the heavenly inheritance, solely in virtue of the covenent
by which our souls are bound to the Son of God, and by which the goods,
the merits, and the rights of the Son of God are communicated to our
souls, as in the natural order, the property of the husband becomes the
property of the wife. Surely, one can say nothing more than we say here,
and assuredly the sects opposed to the Church have never said more:
indeed, they are far to-day from saying so much to maintain intact this
truth, that Jesus Christ is our sole Redeemer, and to give that truth
the entire extent that belongs to it."









O God, who causes us to rejoice in recalling the joys of the
conception, the nativity, the annunciation, the visitation, the
purification, and the assumption of the blessed and glorious virgin
Mary; grant to us so worthily to devote ourselves to her praise and
service, that we may be conscious of her presence and assistance in all
our necessities and straits, and especially in the hour of death, and
that after death we may be found worthy, through her and in her, to
rejoice in heaven with thee. Through &c.


The dream of the Middle Ages was of one Christian society of which the
Church should be the embodiment of the spiritual, and the State of the
temporal interests. As there is one humanity united to God in Incarnate
God, all its interests should be capable of unification in institutions
which should be based on that which is essential in humanity, and not on
that which is accidental: men should be united because they are human
and Christian, and not divided because of diversity of blood or color or
language. The dream proved impossible of realization, and the struggle
for human unity went to pieces on the rocks of the rapidly developing
nationalism of the later Middle Ages.

The Reformation was the triumph of nationalism and the defeat of
Catholic idealism. It resulted in a shattered Christendom in which the
interests of local and homogeneous groups became supreme over the purely
human interests. In state and Church alike patriotism has tended more
and more to become dominant over the interests that are supralocal and
universal. The last few years have seen an intensification of localism.
We have seen bitter scorn heaped on the few who have labored for
internationalism in thought and feeling. We have seen the attempt of
labor at internationalism utterly break down under the pressure of
patriotic motive. We are finding that the same concentration on
immediate and local interests is an insuperable bar to the realization
of an ideal of internationalism which would effectively deal with
questions arising between nations and put an end to war. The Church
failed to establish a spiritual internationalism; the indications are
that it will be long before humanitarian idealists will be able to
effect a union among nations still infected with patriotic motive, such
as shall bring about a subordination of local and immediate interests to
the interests of humanity as such. That the general interests are also
in the end the local interests is still far from the vision of
the patriot.

What the growth of nationalities with its consequent rise of
international jealousies and hostilities has effected in civil society,
has been brought about in matters spiritual by the divisions of
Christendom. The various bodies into which Christendom has been split up
are infected with the same sort of localism as infects the state. They
dwell with pride upon their own peculiarities, and treat with suspicion
if not with contempt the peculiarities of other bodies. The effort to
induce the members of any body of Christians to appreciate what belongs
to others, or to try to construe Christianity in terms of a true
Catholicity, is almost hopeless. All attempts at the restoration of the
visible unity of the Church have been wrecked, and seem destined for
long to be wrecked, on the rocks of local pride and local interests. The
motives which in secular affairs lead a man to put, not only his body
and his goods, as he ought, at the disposal of his country; but also
induce him to surrender his mind to the prevailing party and shout, "My
country, right or wrong," in matters ecclesiastical lead him to cry, "My
Church, right or wrong." It is only by transcending this localism that
we can hope for progress in Church or State--can hope to conquer the
wars and fightings among our members that make peace impossible.

This infection of localism is not peculiar to any body of Christians.
The Oriental Churches have been largely state-bound for centuries, and,
in addition, have been mentally immobile. The Roman Church with its
claims to exclusive ownership of the Christian Religion has lost the
vision it once had and subordinated the Catholic interests of the Church
to the local interests of the Papacy. The fragments of Protestantism are
too small any longer to claim the universalism claimed by the East and
West, and perforce acknowledge their partial character; but it is only
to indulge in a more acute patriotism, and assertion of rights of
division, and the supremacy of the local over the general. The Churches
of the Anglican Rite are less bound, perhaps, than others. They are
restless under the limitations of localism and are haunted by a vision
of an unrealized Catholicity; but they are torn by internal divisions
and find their attempts at movement in any direction thwarted by the
pull of opposing parties.

One result of the mental attitude generated by the conditions indicated
above is that any attempt to deal with subjects other than those which
are authorized because they are customary, or tolerated because they
are familiar, is liable to be greeted with cries of reproach and
accusations of disloyalty. Such and such teachings we are told, without
much effort at proof, are contrary to the teachings of the Anglican
Church, or are not in harmony with that teaching, or are illegitimate
attempts to bring in doctrines or practices which were definitely
rejected by our fathers at the Reformation. Those who are implicated in
such attempts are told that they are disturbers of the peace of the
Church and are invited to go elsewhere.

As one who is not guiltless of such attempts, and as one who is becoming
accustomed to be charged with novelty in teaching, and disloyalty in
practice to that which is undoubtedly and historically Anglican, I have
been compelled to ask myself, "What is loyalty to the Anglican Church?
Is there, in fact, some peculiar and limited form of Christianity to
which I owe allegiance?" I had got accustomed to think of myself as a
Catholic Christian whose lot was cast in a certain province of the
Catholic Church which was administratively separated from other parts of
that Church. This I felt--this separation--to be unfortunate; but I was
not responsible for it, and would be glad to do anything that I could to
end it. I had not thought that this administrative separation from other
provinces of the Catholic Church meant that I was pledged to a different
religion; I had not thought of there being an Anglican Religion. I have
all my life, in intention and as far as I know, accepted the whole
Catholic Faith of which it is said in a Creed accepted by the Anglican
Church that "except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved." I do
not intend to believe any other Faith than that, and I intend to believe
all of that; and I have not thought of myself as other than a loyal
Anglican in so doing.

But criticism has led me to go back over the whole question and ask
whether there is any indication anywhere in the approved documents of
the Anglican Communion of an intention at all to depart from the Faith
of Christendom as it was held by the whole Catholic Church, East and
West, at the time when an administrative separation from Rome was
effected. Was a new faith at any time introduced? Has there at any time
been any official action of the Anglican Church to limit my acceptance
of the historic Faith? That many Anglican writers have denied many
articles of the Catholic Faith I of course knew to be true. That some
Anglican writer could be found who had denied every article of the
Catholic Faith I thought quite possible. But I was not interested in the
beliefs or practices of individuals. I am not at all interested in what
opinions may or may not have been held by Cranmer at various stages of
his career, or what opinions may be unearthed from the writings of Bale
by experts in immoral literature; I am interested solely in the official
utterances of the Anglican Communion.

In following out this line of investigation I have spent many weeks in
the reading of many dreary documents: but fortunately documents are not
important in proportion to the element of excitement they contain. I
have read the documents contained in the collection of Gee and Hardy
entitled "Documents Illustrative of English Church History." I have read
the "Formularies of Faith Put Forth by Authority during the Reign of
Henry VIII." I have read Cardwell's "Synodalia." And I have also read
"Certain Sermons or Homilies Appointed to be read in Churches at the
time of Queen Elizabeth of Famous Memory." I doubt whether any other
extant human being has read them.

And the upshot of the whole matter is that in none of these documents
have I found any expressed intention to depart from the Faith of the
Catholic Church of the past as that Faith had been set forth by
authority. No doubt in the Homilies there are things said which cannot
be reconciled with the Faith of Catholic Christendom. But the Homilies
are of no binding authority, and I have included them in my
investigation only because I wanted their point of view. That is
harmonious with the rest of the authoritative documents--the intention
is to hold the Faith: unfortunately the knowledge of some of the writers
was not as pure as their intention.

The point that I am concerned with is this: there is no intention
anywhere shown in the authoritative documents of the Anglican Church to
effect a change in religion, or to break with the religion which had
been from the beginning taught and practised in England. The Reformation
did not mean the introduction of a new religion, but was simply a
declaration of governmental independence. I will quote somewhat at
length from the documents for the purpose of showing that there is no
indication of an intention to set up a new Church.

One or two quotations from pre-reformation documents will make clear the
customary phraseology in England during the Middle Ages. King John's
Ecclesiastical Charter of 1214 uses the terms "Church of England" and
"English Church." The Magna Charta of 1215 grants that the "Church of
England shall be free and have her rights intact, and her liberties
uninjured." The Articuli Cleri of 1316 speak of the "English Church."
The Second Statute of Provisors of 1390 uses the title "The Holy Church
of England." "The English Church" is the form used in the Act "De
Haeretico Comburendo" of 1401, as it is also in "the Remonstrance against
the Legatine Powers of Cardinal Beaufort" of 1428[1].

[Footnote 1: Documents in Gee & Hardy.]

These quotations will suffice to show the customary way of speaking of
the Church in England. If this customary way of speaking went on during
and after the Reformation the inference is that there had no change
taken place in the way of men's thinking about the Church; that they
were unconscious of having created a new or a different Church. We know
that the Protestant bodies on the Continent and the later Protestant
bodies in England did change their way of thinking about the Church from
that of their fathers and consequently their way of speaking of it. But
the formal documents of the Church of England show no change. "The
Answer of the Ordinaries" of 1532 appeals as authoritative to the
"determination of Scripture and Holy Church," and to the determination
of "Christ's Catholic Church." The "Conditional Restraint of Annates" of
1532 protests that the English "as well spiritual as temporal, be as
obedient, devout, catholic, and humble children of God and Holy Church,
as any people be within any realm christened." In the Act for "The
Restraint of Appeals" of 1533, which is the act embodying the legal
principle of the English Reformation, it is the "English Church" which
acts. The statement in the "Act Forbidding Papal Dispensations and the
Payment of Peter's Pence" of 1534 is entirely explicit as to the
intention of the English authorities. It declares that nothing in this
Act "shall be hereafter interpreted or expounded that your grace, your
nobles and subjects intend, by the same, to decline or vary from the
congregation of Christ's Church in any things concerning the very
articles of the Catholic Faith of Christendom[2]."

[Footnote 2: Gee & Hardy.]

These documents date from the reign of Henry VIII. In the same reign
another series of authoritative documents was put forth which contains
the same teaching as to the Church. "The Institution of a Christian Man"
set forth in 1536, in the article on the Church has this: "I believe
assuredly--that there is and hath been from the beginning of the world,
and so shall endure and continue forever, one certain number, society,
communion, or company of the elect and faithful people of God.... And I
believe assuredly that this congregation ... is, in very deed the city
of heavenly Jerusalem ... the holy catholic church, the temple or
habitacle of God, the pure and undefiled espouse of Christ, the very
mystical body of Christ," "The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any
Christian Man" of 1543 in treating of the faith declares that "all those
things which were taught by the apostles, and have been by an whole
universal consent of the church of Christ ever sith that time taught
continually, ought to be received, accepted, and kept, as a perfect
doctrine apostolic." It is further taught in the same document in the
eighth article, that on "The Holy Catholic Church," that the Church is
"catholic, that is to say, not limited to any one place or region of the
world, but is in every place universally through the world where it
pleaseth God to call people to him in the profession of Christ's name
and faith, be it in Europe, Africa, or Asia. And all these churches in
divers countries severally called, although for the knowledge of the one
from the other among them they have divers additions of names, and for
their most necessary government, as they be distinct in places, so they
have distinct ministers and divers heads in earth, governors and rulers,
yet be all these holy churches but one holy church catholic, invited and
called by one God the Father to enjoy the benefit of redemption wrought
by our Lord and Saviour Jesu Christ, and governed by one Holy Spirit,
which teacheth this foresaid one truth of God's holy word in one faith
and baptism[3]."

[Footnote 3: Formularies of Faith in the Reign of Henry VIII.]

With the accession of Edward VI. the Protestant element in the
Reformation gained increased influence. Our question is, Did it succeed
in imprinting a new theory of the nature and authority of the Church on
the formal and authoritative utterances of the Church in England? The
first "Act of Uniformity" of 1549 contains the now familiar appeal to
Scripture and to the primitive Church, and the Book set forth is called
"The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, and
other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, after the Use of the Church of
England." The "Second Act of Uniformity," 1552, uses the same language
about the Church of England and the primitive Church. Passing on to the
reign of Elizabeth, in the "Injunctions" of 1559 there is set forth "a
form of bidding the prayers," which begins: "Ye shall pray for Christ's
Holy Catholic Church, that is for the whole congregation of Christian
people dispersed throughout the whole world, and especially for the
Church of England and Ireland." In the "Act of Supremacy" of the same
year it is provided that an opinion shall "be ordered, or adjudged to be
heresy, by the authority of the canonical Scriptures, or by the first
four general Councils, or any of them, or by any other general Council
wherein the same was declared heresy by the express and plain words of
the said canonical Scriptures." This test of doctrine is repeated in
Canon VI of the Canons of 1571. "Preachers shall ... see to it that
they teach nothing in the way of a sermon ... save what is agreeable to
the teaching of the Old or New Testament, and what the Catholic fathers
and ancient bishops have collected from this self-same doctrine[4]."

[Footnote 4: Documents in Gee & Hardy.]

It is hardly worth while to spend much time on the Homilies. I will
simply note that they continue the appeal to the primitive Church which
is asserted to have been holy, godly, pure and uncorrupt; and to the
"old holy fathers and most ancient learned doctors" which are quoted as
authoritative against later innovations. They still speak of the Church
of England as continuous with the past. I do not find that they treat
the contemporary reformers as of authority or quote them as against the
traditional teaching of the Church.

We will go on to one more stage, that is, to the Canons of 1604 which
represent the mind of the Church of England at the time of the accession
of James I. They declare that "whosoever shall hereafter affirm, That
the Church of England, by law established under the King's majesty, is
not a true and an apostolical church, teaching and maintaining the
doctrine of the apostles; let him be excommunicated." (III) They appeal
to the "Ancient fathers of the Church, led by the example of the
apostles." (XXXI) In treating of the use of the sign of the Cross in
baptism they assert that its use follows the "rules of Scripture and the
practice of the primitive Church." And further, "This use of the sign of
the Cross in baptism was held in the primitive Church, as well by the
Greeks as the Latins, with one consent and great applause." And replying
to the argument from abuse the canon goes on: "But the abuse of a thing
doth not take away the lawful use of it. Nay, so far was it from the
purpose of the Church of England to forsake and reject the Churches of
Italy, France, Spain, Germany, or any such like Churches, in all things
that they held and practised, that, as the Apology of the Church of
England confesseth, it doth with reverence retain those ceremonies,
which do neither endanger the Church of God, nor offend the minds of
sober men." (XXX)

It appears clear from a study of the passages quoted and of many others
of kindred nature that the Anglican Church did not start out upon its
separate career with any intention of becoming a sect; it did not
complain of the corruption of the existing religion and declare its
purpose to show to the world what true and pure religion is. It did not
put forward as the basis of its action the existing corruption of
doctrine, but the corruption of administration. Its claim was a claim to
manage its own local affairs, and was put into execution when the
Convocation of Canterbury voted in the negative on the question
submitted to it, viz., "Whether the Roman pontiff has any greater
jurisdiction bestowed on him by God in Holy Scripture in this realm of
England, than any other foreign bishop?"

The attitude indicated is one that has been characteristic of the
Anglican Church ever since. It has always been restless in the presence
of a divided Christendom; the sin of the broken unity has always haunted
it. It never has taken the smug attitude of sectarianism, a placid
self-satisfaction with its own perfection. It has felt the constant pull
of the Catholic ideal and has been inspired by it to make effort after
effort for the union of Christendom. It has never lost the sense that it
was in itself not complete but a part of a greater whole. It has never
seen in the existing shattered state of the Christian Church anything
but the evidences of sin. Its appeal has constantly been, not to its own
sufficiency for the determination of all questions, but to the
Scriptures as interpreted by the undivided Church. If it has at times
been prone to overstress the authority of some ideal and undefined
primitive Church, it was because it thought that there and there only
could the Catholic Church be found speaking in its ideal unity.

This the attitude of the Anglican Church of the past is its attitude
to-day. The Lambeth Conference of 1920 gave voice to it:

"The Conference urges on every branch of the Anglican
Communion that it should prepare its members for taking their
part in the universal fellowship of the re-united Church, by
setting before them the loyalty which they owe to the
universal Church, and the charity and understanding which are
required of the members of so inclusive a society."

Commenting upon this utterance of the Lambeth Conference the three
bishops who are the joint authors of "Lambeth and Reunion" say:

The bishops at Lambeth "beg for loyalty to the universal
Church. The doctrinal standards of the undivided Church must
not be ignored. Nor must modern developments, consistent with
the past, be ruled out merely because they are modern. Men
must hold strongly what they have received; but they must
forsake the policy of denying one another's positive
presentment of truth. That only must be forbidden which the
universal fellowship cannot conceivably accept within any one
of its groups[5]."

[Footnote 5: Lambeth and Rennion. By the bishops of Peterborough,
Zanzibar and Hereford.]

The bishops just quoted add: "We rejoice indeed at this new mind of the
Lambeth Conference." Whether it is a new mind in Lambeth Conferences we
need not consider; it is certainly no new mind in the Anglican Church,
but is precisely its characteristic attitude of not claiming perfection
or finality for itself, but of looking beyond itself to Catholic
Christendom, and longing for the time when reunion of the churches which
now make up its "broken unity" will enable it to speak with the same
voice of authority with which it did in its primitive and
undivided state.

In attempting to decide what as a priest of the Anglican Communion one
may or may not teach or practice, one is bound to have regard, not to
what is asserted by anyone, even by any bishop, to be "disloyal" or
"unanglican," but to the principles expressed or implied in the
utterances of the Church itself. From those utterances as I have
reviewed them, it appears to me that a number of general principles may
be deduced for the guidance of conduct.

I. The Churches of the Anglican Communion are bound by the entire body
of Catholic dogma formulated and accepted universally in the
pre-Reformation Church.

The Anglican documents, to be sure, speak constantly of the "Primitive
Church," but they do not anywhere define what they mean by that; and
frequently, by their appeal to the "undivided Church," and to "general
Councils," they seem to include in their undefined term much more than
is commonly understood. In any case, the Church has no special authority
because it is _primitive_: its authority results not from its being
primitive but from its being _Church_. The only point of the Anglican
appeal would be the universal acceptance of a given doctrine. Such
universal acceptance must be taken as proof of its primitiveness, that
is, of its being contained, explicitly or implicitly, in the original
deposit of faith. The Anglican Church was content with the summing up of
this Faith in the Three Creeds, and attempted to formulate no new Greed
of her own--the XXXIX Articles are not strictly a Creed: they are not
articles of Faith but of Religion. But the very history of the Creeds
implies that they are not final, that is, complete, but that they are a
summing up of the Catholic Religion to date. There are truths which the
circumstances of the Church in the Conciliar period had not brought into
prominence which later events compelled the Church to express its mind
upon. Such a truth is that of the Real Presence of our Lord in the
Sacrament of the Altar. This truth had attained explicit acceptance
throughout the Church before the Reformation, sufficiently witnessed by
the liturgies in use. It is also embodied in the Anglican liturgy. If
anyone thinks the language of the Anglican Church doubtful on this
point, the principles enunciated by the Church compel interpretation in
accord with the mind of the universal Church. There are other truths
which are binding on us on the same basis of universal consent, but I am
not seeking to apply the principle in every case but only to
illustrate it.

II. There is another class of truths or doctrines widely held in
Christendom, which yet cannot be classed as dogmas of the faith. Such a
doctrine is that of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin
Mary. This doctrine has been made of faith in the Roman communion, but
has not yet ecumenical acceptance, and therefore may be doubted without
sin by members of the Greek or Anglican Churches. What we need to avoid,
as the Lambeth Conference has reminded us, is a purely insular and
provincial attitude in relation to doctrines which have not been
formally set forth by Anglican authority. The Anglican Church has tried
its best to impress upon us that there is no such thing as an Anglican
Religion; there is but one Religion--the Religion of God's Catholic
Church. What we are to seek to know is not the mind "of the Anglican
reformers," or the mind "of the Caroline divines," but the mind of the
Catholic Church. Wherever we shall find that mind expressed, though in
terms unfamiliar to us, we are bound to treat it with respect. We are to
seek to know the truth that the truth may make us free--from all pride
and prejudice, as well as from heresy and blasphemy. And we shall best
come at this mind in its widest meaning by the study of the writings of
the saints of all ages and of all parts of the Church. It may fairly be
inferred that those who have attained great perfection in the Catholic
life have achieved it by the application of Catholic truth to every
day living.

III. The members of the Anglican Church have the same freedom as other
Catholics in the matter of theological speculation. What was done at the
Reformation was not final in the sense that we are never to believe or
to teach anything that is not found in Anglican formularies. The fact
that a certain doctrine like that of the Invocation of Saints was
omitted from the Anglican formularies is not fatal to its practice. The
grounds of its omission in practice may or may not have been well
judged. But the theory of it was never denied, it is indeed contained in
the Creeds themselves, and change in circumstances may justify its
revival in practice.

Moreover, the theology of the Christian Church is not a body of static
doctrine, but is the expression of the ceaseless meditation of the
saints upon the truths revealed to us by God. To suppose that any age
whatever has exhausted the meaning of the Revealed Truth would be
absurd. It is inexhaustible. So long as the mind of the Church is
pondering it, it brings out from it things old and new. Among ourselves
it is perhaps at present more desirable that we should bring out the old
things than seek to find the new. The historic circumstances of the
Anglican Church have been such as to lead to the practical disuse of
much that is of great spiritual value in the treasury of the Church. It
is largely in the attempt to bring into use the riches that have been
abandoned that some are to-day incurring the charge of disloyalty--a
charge that they are not careful to answer, if they may be permitted to
minister to a larger spiritual life in the Church they love.

At the same time the development of doctrine is a real mode of
enrichment of the theology of the Church. The devout mind pondering
divine truth will ever penetrate deeper into its meaning. Thus it was
that in the course of centuries the Church arrived at a complete
statement of the doctrine of our Lord's person. And what it could
rightly do in the supreme case, it surely can rightly do in cases of
lesser moment. We need not be afraid of this movement of thought, for
the mind of the united Church may be trusted not to sanction any error.
Our Lord has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against
the Church. We can trust Him to fulfil His promise. He has also promised
us that the Holy Spirit shall lead us into all the truth. Can He trust
us not to thwart the work of the Spirit by a provincial attitude as of
those who already in the utterances of the Anglican formularies claim to
possess all truth?

IV. There is one other inference to be drawn from what I conceive to be
the Anglican position, and that is one that relates, not primarily to
doctrine but to practice. For many years now the Anglican Churches have
been greatly disturbed by varieties of practice, though it is difficult
to see why varieties of practice should be in themselves disturbing.
But without going into that matter, which would carry us far afield, I
would simply state that the principle already laid down in regard to
doctrine seems to apply here in the matter of practice: that is, the
Anglican has the right to use any practice which has not been explicitly
forbidden by the authorities of the local Church. The Churches of the
Anglican Communion have never set forth any competent guide for the
conduct of worship, and by refraining from so doing have left the matter
in the hands of those who have to conduct services and provide for the
spiritual needs of those over whom they have been given cure of souls.
There is nothing more absurd than to assume that nothing rightly can be
done in these matters except what has been directed by authority; that
no services can be held but such as have formal authorization; that no
ceremonies can be introduced but such as the custom of the time since
the Reformation has made familiar to many.

In such matters authority naturally and necessarily goes along with the
cure of souls; the priest of the parish must perforce provide for the
spiritual needs of his parish. If he finds those needs satisfied with
the rendering of Morning and Evening Prayer--well and good; but those
who do not find the needs of their parish so satisfied must seek to
satisfy them by the providing of other spiritual means. And in seeking
thus to provide for the spiritual growth of souls committed to his care,
the priest, on the principles of the Anglican formularies, is justified
and entitled to make use of the means in use throughout Catholic
Christendom. He is quite justified in calling his people together for a
prayer meeting, if in his judgment that will be for their spiritual
good; or if his judgment is different, he is equally justified in
inviting them to join him in saying the rosary. He may incite to greater
devotion by a shortened form of Evening Prayer or by popular Vespers. I
do not think that there is anything in the Christian Religion or in the
formularies of the Anglican Church that forbids him to have moving
pictures or special musical services. Nor is there any reason why, if it
be in his judgment promotive of holiness, he should not provide for his
parish such services as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. There can
be no legitimate criticism of a service on the ground of its

It is a common reproach against the Anglican Communion that is "does not
know its own mind." It would be much truer to say that there are many
members of it who have been at no pains to ascertain whether it have a
mind or what that mind is: who have been content to confound the mind of
the Church with the mind of the party to which they are attached by the
accident of birth or of preference. I do not for a moment contend that
the party (to use an ugly but necessary word) to which I am attached
stands, in all things, in perfect alignment with the Anglican
Formularies. There are circumstances in which it appears to me to be
necessary to appeal from Anglican action to the mind of that larger
Body, the whole Church of Christ throughout the world, to which the
Anglican Church points me as its own final authority. In so doing I do
not feel that I am disloyal, but that I am actually doing what
authority tells me to do. These are cases in point. I do not believe
that a local Church can suppress and permanently disuse sacraments of
the universal Church. The Anglican Church by its suppression of the
sacraments of Unction and by its almost universal disuse for centuries
of the sacrament of Penance, compelled those who would be loyal to the
Catholic Church to which it appealed to act on their own initiative in
the revival of the use of those sacraments. I do not believe that the
local Church has the right or the power to forbid or permanently disuse
customs which are of universal currency in the Catholic Church. I do not
believe that it has the right to neglect and fail to enforce the
Catholic custom of fasting, and especially of fasting before communion.
I do not believe that any Christian who is informed on these things has
the right to neglect them on the ground that the Anglican Church has not
enforced them. On the basis of its own declarations the ecumenical
overrides the local; and if it be said, "What is a priest, that he
should undertake to set the practice of his Church right?" the answer is
that he is a man having cure of souls for whose progress in holiness he
is responsible before God, and if those who claim authority in such
matters will not act, he must act, though it be at the risk of his
immortal soul.

These things seem to be true with the truth of self-evidence. And
because they seem to be true, I have not hesitated to preach, and now to
print, the sermons on the life and words of our Lady contained in this
volume. I am told by many that such teaching is dangerous, but I am not
told by any of any danger that is intelligible to me. That such
devotions to our Lady as are here commended trench on the prerogative of
God, and exalt our Lady above the place of a creature is sufficiently
answered by the fact that the very act of asking the prayers of Blessed
Mary is an assertion of her creaturehood--one does not ask the prayers
of God. And when it is said that devotion to her takes away from
devotion to her Son, one has only to ask in reply, who as a matter of
fact have maintained and do maintain unflinchingly the divinity of our
Lord? Certainly the denials of the divinity of our Lord are found where
there is also a denial that any honor is due or may rightly be given to
His Blessed Mother; and where that Mother receives the highest honor,
there we never for a moment doubt that the full Godhead of Jesus will be
unflinchingly and unhesitatingly maintained.

Wherefore in praise, the worthiest that I may,
Jesu! of thee, and the white Lily-flower
Which did thee bear, and is a Maid for aye,
To tell a story I will use my power;
Not that I may increase her honour's dower,
For she herself is honour, and the root
Of goodness, next her Son, our soul's best boot.

O Mother Maid! O Maid and Mother free!
O bush unburnt; burning in Moses' sight!
That down didst ravish from the Deity,
Through humbleness, the spirit that did alight
Upon thy heart, whence, through that glory's might,
Conceived was the Father's sapience,
Help me to tell it in thy reverence.

Lady! thy goodness, thy magnificance,
Thy virtue, and thy great humility,
Surpass all science and all utterance;
For sometimes, Lady, ere men pray to thee
Thou goest before in thy benignity,
The light to us vouchsafing of thy prayer,
To be our guide unto thy Son so dear.

My knowledge is so weak, O blissful Queen!
To tell abroad thy mighty worthiness,
That I the weight of it may not sustain;
But as a child of twelve months old or less,
Even so fare I; and therefore, I thee pray,
Guide thou my song which I of thee shall say.

Chaucer. The Prioress' Tale. Version by Wordsworth.




O Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all holy thoughts do come; who hast
taught thy servants to honour thy glorious mother; mercifully grant us
so to celebrate her on earth with the solemn sacrifice of praise and
with due devotion, that by her intercession we may be found worthy to
reign in joy in heaven. Who livest &c.


There are thoughts and actions which so enter the daily conduct of our
lives that we take them for granted and never pause to analyse them. If
perchance something occurs to make us ask what these thoughts and
actions truly and deeply mean we are surprised to find that we have, in
fact, no adequate understanding of them. We have a feeling about them
and we are quite sure that this feeling is a good and right one. We have
ends that we are seeking and we are satisfied that the ends are in all
ways desirable. But suddenly confronted with the question why,
unexpectedly asked to explain, to justify ourselves, we find ourselves
dumb. We cannot find adequate exposition for what we nevertheless know
that we are justified in. It is so with much that we admire; we have
never tried to justify our admiration, have never thought that it needed
an explanation; and then, unexpectedly, we find ourselves challenged, we
find our taste criticised, and in our efforts at self-defence we blunder
and stumble and hesitate about what we still feel that we are quite
right in holding fast.

It is common things that we thus take for granted; it is daily
activities that we thus assume need no explanation. For us who
habitually gather to the services of the Church there is no more
taken-for-granted act than worship. Worship is a part of our daily
experience. At certain times each day we offer to God stated and formal
acts of worship. Many times a day most likely we pause and for a moment
lift our thought to our blessed Lord for a brief communion with Him. It
is a part of our settled experience thus to draw strength from the
inexhaustible source which at all times is at our disposal. We know how
the tasks of the day are lightened and our strength to meet them renewed
by these momentary invasions of the supernatural. There are also special
times in each week when we meet with other members of the One Body of
Christ in the offering of the unbloody Sacrifice. We know that in that
act heaven and earth join, and that not only our brethren who are
kneeling beside us are uniting with us in the offering of the Sacrifice,
not only are we one with all those other members of the Body who on this
same morning are kneeling at the numberless altars of Christendom, but
that all those who are in Christ are with us partakers of the same
Sacrifice, and that in its offering we are joined with all the holy
dead, and by our partaking of Christ are brought close to one another.
We therefore lovingly take their names upon our lips, and enkindle their
memory in our hearts; and find that death, which we had thought of as a
separation, has but broken the barriers to the deepest and most blessed
communion, and that we are now, as never before, united to those whom we
find in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then comes the unexpected challenge: "what does all this mean: these
repeated and diverse acts that you are accustomed to speak of and to
think of as acts of worship? What, ultimately, do you mean by worship,
and can there possibly be found any common feature in these so diverse
acts which can justify you in regarding them as essentially one? This
act which is in truth presenting yourself before the majesty of God in
humble adoration, in the guise of a suppliant child depending upon the
love of the Father for the supply of the daily needs; or this other act
which is of such deepest mystery that we approach any attempted
statement of it with awe, which is in fact the representation of the
sacrifice of Calvary; and then these invocations by which we ask the
loving co-operation of our fellow members of Christ that they may
associate themselves with us in the work of prayer and mutual
intercession--how can all these acts be brought together under a common
rubric, how can they all be designated as worship? What in fact is it
that you mean by worship?"

So are we challenged. So are we thrown back, and in the end thrown back
most beneficially, to the analysis of our acts. Worship, we tell
ourselves, is _worth_-ship; it is the attribution of worth or honor to
whom these are properly due. "Honour to whom honour is due," we hear the
Apostle saying. Worship is therefore not an absolute value but a varying
value, the content of any act of which will be determined by the nature
of the object toward which it is directed. It is greatly like love in
this respect; its nature is always the same, but its present value is
determined by the object to which it is directed. We are to love the
Lord our God, and we are also to love our neighbour; the nature of the
love is in each case the same; and yet we are not to love our neighbour
with the limitless self-surrender with which we love God. The love of
God is the passionate giving of ourselves to Him with all our heart and
with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength. The
love of the neighbour is measured and restrained, having in view his
good that we are seeking, the promotion of his salvation as our fellow
member in the Body of Christ. In the same way worship will take its
colour, its significance, its tone, its intensity, not from some
abstract conception, but from the end it seeks. This is made plain, too,
when we look at our Bibles and Prayer Books for the actual use of the
word. There we find much of the worship of God: but we also find a
limited use of the word. "Then shalt thou have worship in the presence
of them that sit at meat with thee." (S. Luke, XIV, 10.) And in the
marriage service of the English Prayer Book we read: "With this ring I
thee wed, and with my body I thee worship." The same limited content of
the word is found in the old title of respect--"Your Worship."

But so thoroughly has the word worship become associated with our
approach to God, that we still, many of us, no doubt, feel the shock of
the unaccustomed when we hear the worship of the Blessed Virgin or of
the saints spoken of. It does not help us much to fall back on the Latin
word, _Cultus_, for we understand that the meaning is the same.

We are helped, I think, if we substitute the parallel word honour for
worship in the places of its use. We meet in the Church to honour God,
and we offer the Blessed Sacrifice as the act of supreme honour which is
due to Him alone; but in connection with the supreme honour offered to
God we also honour the saints of God by the observance of their
anniversaries with special services including the Holy Sacrifice. The
word honour does not sound so ill to ears unaccustomed to a certain type
of Catholic expression as the word worship: but the meaning is

Let us go on then to the analysis of the notion of worship. In the
writings of theologians we find an analysis of the notion of worship
into three degrees. There is, first of all, that supreme degree of
worship which is called _latria_ and which is the worship due to God
alone. If we ask what essentially it is that differentiates _latria_
from all other degrees of worship or honour we find that it is the
element of sacrifice that it contains. Sacrifice is the supreme act of
self-surrender to another, of utter self-immolation, and it can have no
other legitimate object than God Himself. The central notion of
sacrifice is the surrender of self. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant
were of value because they were the representatives of the nation and of
the individuals who offered them; because of the self-identification of
nation or individual with the thing offered, which must therefore be in
some sense the offerer's, must, so to say, _contain him_: must be that
in which he merges himself. So the one Sacrifice of the New Covenant
gets its essential value in that it is the surrender of the Son to the
will of the Father. "I am come to do Thy will, O God." Christ's
sacrifice is self-sacrifice: the voluntary surrender of the whole life
to the divine purpose.

And when we actually worship God, worship Him with the worship of
_latria_, our act must be of the same essential nature; it must be an
act of sacrifice, of self-giving; the offering of ourselves to the will
of the Father. So it is in our participation in the offering of the
Blessed Sacrifice. The full meaning of our joining in that act is that
we are uniting ourselves with our Lord's offering of Himself, and as
members of His Body share in the sacrifice of the Body which is the
supreme act of worship. And our other acts of worship lay hold on and
proceed from this which is the ground of their efficacy. All our
subordinate acts of worship, so to call them, have their character and
vitality as Christian acts of the worship of God because of the relation
of the worshipper to God as a member of the Body of His Son. They are
offered through the Son and derive their potency from their association
with Him and His sacrifice. They reach God through the sacrifice of the
One Mediator.

Worship, then, in this complete sense, is due to God alone; and it is
separated by a whole heaven from any worship, that is, honour, which can
be offered to any creature, however exalted. No instructed person would
for a moment imagine that the prayers which we address to the saints are
in any degree such worship as is offered to God; but in as much as those
who are unfamiliar with the forms of the Catholic Religion in its
devotional expression may easily be led astray, it seems needful to
stress this fact of the difference between simple petition and such
acts and prayers as involve the highest degree of worship.

One of the chief sources of confusion in this matter is the failure to
distinguish between the nature of the act of worship, which is
determined by the person to whom it is directed, and the mere adjuncts
of the act. But an act of _latria_ is not constituted such by the fact
that it is aided in its expression by such circumstances as banners,
lights, incense and so on. These are quite appropriate to any act of
honour, and have been customarily so used in relation to human beings.
There was a certain hesitation in the Church for some time in the matter
of incense which under the older Covenant had been especially
appropriated to God, because in the experience of the early Church it
was demanded, and necessarily refused, as an acknowledgment of the
divinity of the Emperor. But with the passing of the pagan empire
incense as the universal symbol of prayer came into use in all manner of
services wherein intercession was a part.

Such adjuncts therefore are not foreign to those subordinate acts of
worship or honour which are technically known as _dulia. Dulia_--this
word means service--is such honour as may be rightly rendered to
creatures without at all encroaching upon the majesty of God. It is
_that_ degree of worship that we have in mind when we speak of the
worship of the saints. That _dulia_ of the saints is expressed when we
ask for the intercession of this or that saint, and is not essentially
different from the asking for the prayers of any other human beings. We
commonly ask for one another's prayers and feel that in doing so we are
exercising our brotherhood in the Body of Christ in calling into action
its mutual love and sympathy. We should be beyond measure astonished if
we were told that such requests for the prayers of our brethren were
encroachments upon the honour of God and the sin of idolatry! But if in
this case our surprise is justified, it is difficult to see how the case
is at all altered by the fact that the fellow members of the Body whose
prayers we are asking happen to be _dead_, that is, as we believe and
imply in our request for their intercession, have passed into a new and
closer relation to our Blessed Lord. Nor, again, does the case seem to
be at all altered, if the brother whose prayers we ask has been dead a
long time, and has, by the common consent of Catholic Christendom, been
received into the number of the saints. The ways in which the human mind
works under the influence of prejudice are always interesting. There are
many devout persons who feel that it is a valuable element in their
religion to have the privilege of following the Kalendar of the Church
and to keep the saints' days therein indicated by attendance at divine
service; who yet would be horrified if it were suggested that a prayer
should be offered to the saint whose day is being observed, and that the
saint should be made the object of an act of worship. But what
essentially _is_ the keeping of a saint's day, with a celebration of the
Holy Communion with special collect, epistle and gospel, but an act of
worship _(dulia)_ of the saint? The nature of the act would be in no way
changed if in addition to our accustomed collects there were added one
which plainly asked for the prayers of the saint in whose honour we are
keeping the feast.

In the worship of the Church of God a place apart is assigned to the
honour to be paid to the blessed Mother of our Lord. As the highest of
all creatures, as highly favoured above all, as she whom God chose to be
the Mother of His Son, the devout thought of generations of Christians
has felt that their recognition of her relation to God in the
Incarnation called for a special degree of honour rightly to express it.
The thought of the faithful lingers about all that was in any degree
associated with the coming of God in the flesh: so great was the
deliverance thereby wrought for man that man's gratitude ever seeks new
means of expression and ever finds the means inadequate to his love.
Many of the expressions that are found in devotional writers associated
with the cultus of the Blessed Virgin Mary are an outcome of this
attitude of mind. To those who are unused to them they seem exaggerated;
in the vast mass of the devotional writings of Catholic Christendom
there is no difficulty in finding expressions which _are_ exaggerated;
but it is well to remember when thinking of this that the exaggeration
is the exaggeration of love. The tendency of love _is_ to exaggerate the
forms of its expression. It is, however, we feel on reflection, an error
to judge by the exaggeration rather than by the love. It is perhaps well
to ask ourselves whether we are saved from exaggeration by greater
sanity or by lesser love.

But exaggeration apart, this feeling of the unique position of the
blessed Mother in relation to the Incarnate Son, as calling forth a
special honour for her is embodied in the designation of the honour to
be rendered her as _hyperdulia_--a specially devoted service. It is
hardly necessary after what has been said to point out that even here in
the highest honour rendered to any saint there is no passing of the
infinite gulf which separates Creator from creature, any infringement
upon the honour of God. No Catholic could dream that blessed Mary would
be in any wise honoured by the attribution to her of what belongs to her
Son. These are no doubt commonplaces, but it is better to be commonplace
than to be misunderstood. The intercession that is asked of the blessed
Mother is the intercession of one who by God's election is more closely
associated with God than any other human being is or can be. Her power
of prayer is felt to proceed from the depth of her sanctity; from, in
other words, the perfection of her relation to her blessed Son Who is
the only Mediator and the Saviour of us all.

Let me say in conclusion that this giving of honour to our Lord, and to
all His saints as united to Him, and the celebration of their days
according to the Church's year, and the asking of the help of their
intercession in all the needs of our lives, is not simply a thing to be
tolerated in those who are inclined to it, is not simply a privilege
which we are entitled to if we care for it, but is a duty which all
Christians ought to fulfil because otherwise they are failing to make
real to them a very important article of the Christian Creed. The
Communion of Saints, like all other articles of the Creed, needs to be
put into active use, and will be when we believe it as distinguished
from assent to it. When we believe that all who live unto God in the
Body of His dear Son are inspired with active love one toward another,
we shall ourselves feel the impulse of that love, and be compelled both
to seek an outlet for it toward all other members of the Body, and also
will equally feel compelled to seek our own share in the action of that
love by asking for the prayers of the saints for ourselves and for all
in whom we are interested. Then will we find in the "worship of the
saints" one great means whereby we can worship the God of the saints by
the devout recognition of the greatness of His work in them, May God be
praised and glorified in all His saints.

O Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,
Lowly, and higher than all creatures raised,
Term by eternal council fixed upon,
Thou art she who didst ennoble man,
That even He who had created him
To be Himself His creature disdained not.
Within thy womb rekindled was the love,
By virtue of whose heat this flower thus
Is blossoming in the eternal peace.
Here thou art unto us a noon-day torch
Of charity, and among mortal men
Below, thou art a living fount of hope.
Lady, thou art so great and so prevailest,
That who seeks grace without recourse to thee,
Would have his wish fly upward without wings.
Thy loving-kindness succors not alone
Him who is seeking it, but many times
Freely anticipates the very prayer.
In thee is mercy, pity is in thee,
In thee magnificence, whatever good
Is in created being joins in thee.

Dante, Par. XXXIII, 1-21. (Trans. H. Johnson.)




Mary, of whom was born Jesus.

S. Matt. I. 16.

My Maker and Redeemer, Christ the Lord, O Immaculate, coming forth from
thy womb, having taken my nature upon him, hath delivered Adam from the
primal curse; wherefore, to thee, Immaculate, the Mother of God and
Virgin in very sooth, we cry aloud unceasingly the Ave of the Angel,
"Hail, O Lady, protection and shelter and salvation of our souls!"


The silences of the Holy Scriptures have always provoked speculation as
to what is left untold. The devout imagination has played about the
hints we receive and woven them into stories which far outrun any true
implication of the facts. Thus has much legendary matter gathered about
the childhood of our Lord, containing the stories, not always very
edifying according to our taste, which are set down in the Apocryphal
Gospels. The same eagerness to know more than we are told has produced
the developed legend of the childhood of our Lady. We can of course
place no reliance on most of the statements that are there made; perhaps
the most that we can lay hold of is the fact that S. Mary's father was
Joachim and her mother Anna. The rest may be left to silence.

But if the facts of the external life of Mary of Nazareth cannot be
hoped for, certain general truths evidently follow from God's plan for
her and from her relation to our Blessed Lord. There are certain
inferences from her vocation which are irresistible and which the
theologians of the Church did not fail to make as they thought of her
function in relation to the Incarnation. We know that the work of
Redemption by which it was God's purpose to lead back a sinful world to
Himself was a purpose that worked from the very beginning of man's fatal
separation from the source of his life and happiness. The essential
meaning of Holy Scripture is that it is a history of the origin of God's
purpose and of His bringing it to a successful issue in the mission of
our Lord. In the Scriptures we are permitted to see the unfolding of the
divine purpose and the preparation of the instruments by which the
purpose is to be effected. We see the divine will struggling with the
human will, and in appearance baffled again and again by the selfishness
and the stupidity of man. We see too that the divine will is in the long
run successful in securing a point of action in humanity, in winning the
allegiance of men of good will to co-operation with the purpose of God.
We see spiritual ideals assimilated, and sympathy with the work of God
generated, until we feel that that work has gained a firm and enduring
ground in humanity from which it can act. God is able to consummate His
purpose, and men begin to understand in some measure the nature of the
future deliverance and to look forward to the coming of One Who should
be the embodiment of the divine action and the Representative of God
Himself with a completeness which no previous messenger of God had
ever attained.

It we would understand the Old Testament we must find that its intimate
note is preparation, just as the intimate note of the New Testament is
accomplishment. God is working to a foreseen end, and is working as fast
as men will consent to co-operate and become the instruments of His
purpose. The purpose is not one that can be achieved by the exercise of
power; it is a purpose of love and can be effected only through
co-operating love. And as we watch the final unfolding of that purpose
in the Incarnation of God, we more and more become conscious of the
preparation of all the instruments of the purpose which are working in
harmony for the revelation of the meaning of God.

Of all the instruments of this divine purpose, one figure has
preeminently fascinated the devout imagination because of her unique
beauty, and has been the object of profound speculation because of the
intimacy of her relation to God,--Mary of Nazareth. The vocabulary of
love and reverence has exhausted itself in the attempt to express our
estimate of her. The literature of Mariology is immense. And no one who
has at all entered into the meaning of the Incarnation, of what is
involved in eternal God taking human flesh, can wonder at this. Here at
the crisis of the divine redeeming action, when the crowning mystery
which angels desire to look into is being accomplished, we find the
figure of a village maiden of Israel as the surprising instrument of the
advent of God. We wonder: and we instinctively feel, that as all the
other steps and instruments in God's redemption of man had from the
beginning been carefully prepared, so shall we find preparation here. We
understand that as God could not come in the flesh at any time, but only
when the "fulness of time" had come; so He could not come of any woman,
but only of such an one as He had prepared to be the instrument of His

It is involved in the very intimacy of the relation which exists
between our Lord and His blessed Mother that she should be unique in the
human race. We feel that we are right in saying that the Incarnation
which waited for the preparation of the world socially and spiritually,
must also be thought of as waiting for the coming of the woman who would
so completely surrender herself to the divine will that in her obedience
could be founded the antidote to the disobedience which was founded in
Eve. The race waited for the coming of the new mother who should be the
instrument in the abolishing of the evil of which the first mother was
the instrument. And from the very beginning of the thought of the Church
about blessed Mary there was no doubt that it was implied in her office
in bearing the God-Man that she should be without sin--sinless in the
sense of never having in any least degree consented to evil the thought
of the Church has ever held her to be. It was held incredible that she
who by God's election bore in the sanctuary of her womb during the
months of her child-bearing Him who was Lord and Creator and was come to
save the world from all the stain and penalty of sin should herself be a
sinner. Without actual sin, therefore, was Mary held to be from the time
that the thought of the Church was turned upon her relation to our
Blessed Lord[6].

[Footnote 6: It is true that a few writers among the Fathers see in
blessed Mary traces of venial sin; who think of her intervention at Cana
as presumptuous &c. But such notices are not of sufficient frequency or
importance to break the general tradition.]

For some time this seemed enough. It was not felt that any further
thought about her sinlessness was needed. But as the uniqueness of Mary
forced itself more and more upon the brooding thought of theologians and
saints they were compelled to face the fact that her freedom from actual
sin was not a full appreciation of her purity, was not an exhaustive
treatment of her relation to our Lord. The doctrine of the nature of sin
itself had been becoming clearer to the minds of Christian thinkers. All
men are conceived and born in sin, it was seen. After S. Paul's
teaching, the problem of _sin_ was not the problem of sins but the
problem of sinfulness. The matter could not be left with the statement
that all men do sin; the reason of their sinning must be traced out. And
it was traced out, under S. Paul's guidance, to a ground of sin in
nature itself, to a defect in man as he is born into the world. He does
not become a sinner when he commits his first sin: he is born a sinner.
In other words, the problem of man's sinfulness is the problem of
original sin.

What then do we mean by original sin? Briefly, we mean this. At his
creation man was not only created innocent, but he was created in union
with God, a union which conferred on him many supernatural gifts, gifts,
that is, which were not a part of his nature, but were in the way of an
addition to his nature. "By created nature man is endowed with moral
sense, and is thus made responsible for righteousness; but he is unequal
to its fulfilment. The all-righteous Creator could be trusted to
complete His work. He endowed primitive man with superadded gifts of
grace, especially the supernatural gift, _donum supernaturale_, of the
Holy Spirit[7]."

[Footnote 7: Hall, Dogmatic Theology, V, 263.]

Our purpose does not require us further to particularize these gifts and
our time does not permit it. We are concerned with this: the effect of
man's sin was, what the effect of sin always is, to separate man from
God. To sin, man has to put his will in opposition to the will of God.
This our first parents did; and the result of their act was the
destruction of their union with God and the loss of their supernatural
endowments. They lapsed into a state of nature, only it was a state in
which they had forfeited what had been conferred upon them at their
creation. This state of man, with only his natural endowments, is the
state into which all men, the descendants of Adam, have been born. This
is the state of original sin. "Original sin means in Catholic theology a
state inherited from our first human parents in which we are deprived of
the supernatural grace and original righteousness with which they were
endowed before they sinned, and are naturally prone to sin." (Hall,
Dogmatic Theology, Vol. V, p. 281.) We can state the same fact
otherwise, and more simply for our present purposes, by saying that by
sin was forfeited the grace of union or sanctifying grace; and when we
say that a child is born in sin we mean that it is born out of union
with God, or without the supernatural gift of sanctifying grace. You
will note here no implication of original sin as an active poison handed
on from generation to generation. It will be important to remember this

When, therefore, the thought of the Church began to follow out what was
involved in its belief in the actual sinlessness of blessed Mary, in its
holding to the fact that her relation to God was of such a close and
indeed unique character that her actual sinfulness would be
incomprehensible; it was at length compelled to ask, What, in that case
are we to think of original sin? If the first Eve was created in
innocence and endowed with supernatural gifts, are we to think that she
whom the Fathers of the Church from the earliest times have constantly
called the second Eve, she whom God chose to be the Mother of His Son,
should be less endowed? Is it a fact any more conceivable that the
virgin Mother of God should be born in original sin than that she should
be the victim of actual sin? If by the special grace of God she was kept
from sin from the time that she was able to know good and evil, is it
not probable that the freedom from sin goes further back than that, and
is a freedom from original as well as from actual sin? What is the
meaning of the Angelic Salutation, "Hail, thou that art _full of
grace_," unless it refer to a superadded grace, to such _donum
supernaturale_ as the first Eve received? There is indeed no precedent
to guide in the case: the prophet Jeremiah and S. John Baptist had been
preserved from sin from the womb, but this did not involve freedom from
original sin. Still the fact that there was no precedent was not in
anywise fatal; the point of the situation was just that there was no
precedent for the relation to God into which Blessed Mary had been
called. It was precisely this uniqueness of vocation which was leading
theological thought to the conclusion of the uniqueness of her
privilege: and this uniqueness of privilege seemed to call for nothing
less than an exemption from sin in any and all forms. So a belief in the
Immaculate Conception grew up despite a good deal of opposition while
its implications were being thought out, but was found more and more
congenial to the mind of the Church. She whose wonderful title for
centuries had been Mother of God could never at any moment of her
existence have been separate from God. She must, so it was felt, have
been united to God from the very first moment of her existence.

But what does this exemption from the common lot of men actually mean? I
think that the simplest way of getting at it is to ask ourselves what it
is that happens to a child at baptism. Every human child that is born
into the world is born in original sin, that is, is born out of union
with God, without sanctifying grace. It is then brought to the font and
by baptism regenerated, born again, put in a relation to God that we
describe as union, made a partaker of the divine nature. This varying
description of the effect of baptism means that the soul of the child
has become a partaker of sanctifying grace, the grace of union with God.
Original sin, we say, is forgiven: that is, the soul is placed in the
relation to God that it would have had had sin not come into existence,
save that there remains a certain weakness of nature due to its sinful
heredity. This that happens to children when they are baptised is what
is held to have happened to Blessed Mary at her creation. Her soul
instead of being restored to God by grace after her birth, was by God's
special grace or favour created in union with Him, and in that union
always continued. The uniqueness of S. Mary's privilege was that she
never had to be restored to union with God because from the moment of
her existence she had been one with Him. This would have been the common
lot of all men if sin had not come into the world.

In view of much criticism of this belief it is perhaps necessary to
emphasize the fact that a belief in Mary's exemption from original sin
does not imply a belief that she was exempt from the need of redemption.
She is a creature of God, only the highest of His creatures: and like
all human beings she needed to be redeemed by the Blood of Christ. The
privileges which are our Lord's Mother's, are her's through the foreseen
merits of her Son--she, as all others, is redeemed by the sacrifice and
death of Christ. There is in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception
no shadow of encroachment on the doctrine of universal redemption in
Christ; there is simply the belief that for the merits of the Son the
Mother was spared any moment of separation from the Father.

It will, of course, be said that this doctrine is but the relatively
late and newly formulated doctrine of the Latin Church and is of no
obligation elsewhere; that we are in no wise bound to receive it. In
regard to which there are one or two things to be said. That we are not
formally bound to believe a doctrine is not at all the same thing as to
say that we are formally bound not to believe it. I am afraid that the
latter is a not uncommon attitude. There is no obligation upon us to
disbelieve the Immaculate Conception of blessed Mary; there is an
obligation upon us to understand it and to appreciate its meaning and
value. We must remember that a doctrine that is not embodied in our
Creed may nevertheless have the authority of the Church back of it. The
doctrine of the Real Presence is not stated in the Creed; yet it is and
always has been the teaching of the Church everywhere in all its
liturgies. Though any particular statement of the Real Presence is not
binding, the fact itself is binding on all Christians, and may not
be doubted.

In much the same way it will be found that theological doctrines of
relatively late creedal formulation yet have behind the formulation a
long history of actual acceptance in the teaching of the Church. They
are theologically certain long before they are embodied in authoritative
formulae. What the individual Christian has to do is to try to
assimilate the meaning of theological teaching and to find a place for
it in his devotional practice and experience. His best attitude is not
one of doubt and scepticism, but of meditation and experiment. It is
through this latter attitude that each one is helping to form the mind
of the Church, and aiding its progressive appreciation of
revealed truth.

I do not see how any one who has entered into the meaning of the
Incarnation can feel otherwise than that the uniqueness of the event
carries with it the uniqueness of the instrument. It can of course be
said that truth is not a matter of feeling but of revelation. But is it
not true that God reveals Himself in many ways, and that our feelings as
well as our intellects are involved in our perception of the truth
revealed? Do we not often feel that something must be true far in
advance of our ability to prove it so? And in truths of a certain order
is there not an intuitive perception, a perception growing out of a
sense of fitness, of congruity, which outruns the slow advance of the
intellect? Love and sympathy often far outrun intellectual process. This
is not to say that feeling is all; that a sense of fitness and
conformity is a sufficient basis of doctrine. There is always need of
the verification of the conclusions of the affections by the intellect;
and the intellect in the last resort will have to be the
determining factor.

And I think it can be said without hesitation that the intellectual work
of theological students has quite justified the course that the
affections of Christendom have taken in their spontaneous appreciation
of Mary, the Ever-Virgin Mother of Our Lord. What the heart of
Christendom has discovered, the mind of Christendom has justified. But
here more than in any other doctrinal development it is love that has
led the way, often with an eagerness, an _elan_, with which theology has
found it difficult to keep up.

And as we to-day try to appreciate the place of Blessed Mary in the life
of the Church of God must we not feel it to be our misfortune that our
past has been so wrapped in clouds of controversy that we have been
unable to see her meaning at all clearly? Must we not feel deep sadness
at the thought that the very mention of Mary's name, so often stirs, not
love and gratitude, but the spirit of suspicion and dislike? We no doubt
have passed beyond such feelings, but the traces of their evil work
through the centuries still persist. They persist in certain feelings of
reserve and hesitation when we find that our convictions are leading us
to the adoption of the attitude toward her which is the common attitude
of all Catholicity, both East and West. When we feel that the time has
actually come to abandon the narrowness and barrenness of devotional
practice which is a part of our tradition, we nevertheless feel as
though we were launching out on strange seas and that our next sight of
land might be of strange regions where we should not feel at home. If
such be our instinctive attitude, it is well to remember that progress,
spiritual as well as other, is conquest of the (to us) new; but that the
acquisition of the new does not necessarily mean the abandonment of the
old. We shall in fact lose nothing of our hold on the unique work of our
Lord because we recognise that His Blessed Mother's association with it
implies a certain preparation on her part, a certain uniqueness of
privilege. There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the
Man Christ Jesus; and all who come to God, come through Him. But they
come also in the unity of the Body of many members and of many offices.
And the office of her who in God's providence was called to be the
Mother of the Incarnate is surely as unique as is her vocation. She
surely is entitled to receive from us the deep affection of our hearts
and the highest honour that may be given to any creature.


Here are five letters in this blessed name,
Which, changed, a five-fold mystery design,
The M the Myrtle, A the Almonds claim,
R Rose, I Ivy, E sweet Eglantine.

These form thy garland, when of Myrtle green
The gladdest ground to all the numbered five,
Is so implexed fine and laid in, between,
As love here studied to keep grace alive.

Thy second string is the sweet Almond bloom
Mounted high upon Selines' crest:
As it alone (and only it) had room,
To knit thy crown, and glorify the rest.

The third is from the garden culled, the Rose,
The eye of flowers, worthy for her scent,
To top the fairest lily now, that grows
With wonder on the thorny regiment.

The fourth is the humble Ivy intersert
But lowly laid, as on the earth asleep,
Preserved in her antique bed of vert,
No faiths more firm or flat, then, where't doth creep.

But that, which sums all, is the Eglantine,
Which of the field is cleped the sweetest briar,
Inflamed with ardour to that mystic shine,
In Moses' bush unwasted in the fire.

Thus love, and hope, and burning charity,
(Divinest graces) are so intermixt
With odorous sweets and soft humility,
As if they adored the head, whereon they are fixed.




And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art
highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou
among women.

S. Luke, I. 28

Oh God, whose will it was that thy Word should take flesh, at the
message of the Angel, in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, grant to
us thy suppliants that, we who believe her to be truly the Mother of
God, may be assisted by her intercession with thee. Through &c.


When we attempt to reconstruct imaginatively any scene of Holy
Scripture it is almost inevitable that we see it through the eyes of
some great artist of the past. The Crucifixion comes to us as Duerer or
Guido Reni saw it; the Presentation or the Visitation presents itself to
us in terms of the imagination of Raphael; we see the Nativity as a
composition of Corregio. So the Annunciation rises before us when we
close our eyes and attempt to make "the composition of place" in a
familiar grouping of the actors: a startled maiden who has arisen
hurriedly from work or prayer, looking with wonder at the apparition of
an angel who has all the eagerness of one who has come hastily upon an
urgent mission. The surroundings differ, but artists of the Renaissance
like to think of a sumptuous background as a worthy setting for so
great an event.

We keep close to the meaning of Scripture if we set the Annunciation in
a room in a cottage of a Palestinian working man. And I like to think of
S. Mary at her accustomed work when Gabriel appeared, not with a rush of
wings, but as a silent and hardly felt presence standing before her whom
the Lord has chosen to be the instrument of His coming. Wonder there
would have been, the kind of awe-struck wonder with which the
supernatural always fills men; and yet only for a moment, for how could
she who was daily living so close to God fear the messenger of God? The
thought of angels and divine messengers would be wholly familiar to her.
They had been the frequent agents of God in many a crisis of her
people's history, and appeared again and again in the story of her
ancestors on whose details she had often meditated. Yet in her humility
she could but think it strange that an angel should have any message to
bear to her.

It is a striking enough scene, as the artists have felt when they tried
to put it before us. But no artist has ever been able to go below the
surface and by any hint lead us to an appreciation of the vast
implications of the moment. This moment of the Annunciation is in fact
the central moment of the world's history. No moment before or since has
equalled it in its unspeakable wonder, in its revelation of the meaning
of God. Not the moment of the creation when all the Sons of God sang
together at the vision of the unfolding purpose of God; not the morning
of the Resurrection when the empty tomb told of the accomplished
overthrow of death and hell. This is the moment toward which all
preceding time had moved, and to which all succeeding ages will look
back--the moment of the Incarnation of God.

It is well to ask ourselves at this point what the Incarnation means,
because our estimate of Blessed Mary as the chosen instrument of God's
grace will be influenced by our estimate of that which she was chosen to
do. One feels the failure to grasp her position in the work of our
redemption often displays a weak hold upon that which is the very heart
of God's work--the fact of God made man. The moment of the Annunciation
is the moment of the Incarnation: God in His infinite love for mankind
is sending forth His Son to be born of a woman in the likeness of our
flesh. God the Son, the second Person of the ever adorable Trinity, is
entering the womb of this maiden, there to wrap Himself in her flesh and
to pass through the common course of a human child's development till He
shall reach the hour of the Nativity. When we try to grasp the reach of
the divine Love, its depth, its self-forgetfulness, we must stand in the
cottage in Nazareth and hear the angelic salutation. And then surely our
own hearts cannot fail to respond to the revelation of the divine love;
and something of our love that goes out to our hidden Lord, goes out too
to the maiden-mother who so willingly became God's instrument in His
work for our redemption. In imagination I see S. Gabriel kneeling before
her who has become a living Tabernacle of God Most High, and repeating
his "Hail, thou that art highly favoured," with the deepest reverence.

"Hail, thou that art full of grace." We linger over this Ave of S.
Gabriel, and often it rises to our lips. Perhaps it is with S. Luke's
narrative, almost naked in its simplicity, in our hands as we try once
more to push our thought deep into the meaning of the scene, that we may
understand a little better what has resulted in our experience from the
Incarnation of God, and our thought turns to S. Mary whom God chose and
brought so near to Himself. Perhaps it is when, with chaplet in hand,
we try to imagine S. Mary's feelings at this first of the Joyful
Mysteries when the meaning of her vocation comes clearly before her.
Hail! thou that art full of grace, of the Living Grace, the very
Presence of the divinity itself. The plummet of our thought fails always
to reach the depth of that mystery of Mary's Child. It was indeed
centuries before the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
thought out and fully stated the meaning of this Child; it was centuries
before it fully grasped the meaning of Mary herself in her relation to
her divine Son: and after all the centuries of Spirit-guided statement
and saintly meditation it still remains that many fail to understand and
to make energetic in life the fact of the Incarnation of God in the womb
of the Virgin Mary.

And what was S. Mary's own attitude toward the announcement of the
Angel? Her first instinctive word--the word called out by her imperfect
grasp of the meaning of the message of S. Gabriel, is: How can this be
seeing I know not a man? Are we to infer from these words, as many have
inferred, that in her secret thoughts S. Mary had resolved always to
remain a virgin, that she had so offered herself to God in the virgin
state? Possibly when we remember that such was God's will for her it is
not going too far to assume that she had been prompted thus to meet and
offer herself to the divine will. Be that as it may there is an obvious
and instantaneous assumption that the child-bearing which is predicted
to her lies outside the normal and accustomed way of marriage. She
clearly does not think that the archangel's words look to her
approaching union with S. Joseph, even if the nominal nature of that
marriage were not agreed upon. It is clear that her instantaneous
feeling is that as the message is supernatural in character, so will its
fulfilment be, and the wondering _how_ arises to her lips.

The answer to the how is that what is worked in her is by the power of
the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of
the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which
shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

As so often in the dealing of God with us, that which is put forward as
an explanation actually deepens the mystery. It was no abatement of
Mary's wonder, nor did it really put away her _how_ when she was told
that the Holy Ghost should come upon her and that the child should be
the Son of the Highest. And yet this was the only answer to such a
question that was possible. Our questions may be met in two ways: either
by a detailed explanation, or by the answer that the only explanation is
God--that what we are concerned with is a direct working of God outside
the accustomed order of nature and therefore outside the reach of our
understanding. Such acts have no doubt their laws, but they are not the
laws in terms of which we are wont to think.

The question of S. Mary was not a question which implied doubt. It is
therefore the proper question with which to approach all God's works.
There is a stress with which such questions may be asked which implies
on our part unbelief or at least hesitation in belief. It is a not
uncommon accent to hear to-day in questions as to divine mysteries. Our
recitation of the creed is not rarely invaded by restlessness, shadows
of doubt, which perhaps we brush aside, or perhaps let linger in our
minds with the feeling that it is safer for our religion not to follow
these out. I am afraid that there are not a few who still adhere to the
Church who do so with the feeling that it is better for them to go on
repeating words that they have become used to rather than to raise
questions as to their actual truth; who feel that the faith of the
Church rests on foundations which in the course of the centuries have
been badly shaken, but that it is safer not to disturb them lest they
incontinently fall to pieces.

In other words there is a wide-spread feeling that such stories as this
of the Annunciation and of the Virgin birth of our Lord are fables. When
we ask, why is there such a feeling? the only answer is that the modern
man has become suspicious of the supernatural. Has there anything been
found in the way of evidence, we ask, which reflects upon the truth of
the story in S. Luke? No, we are told; the story stands where it always
did, its evidence is what it always was. What has changed is not the
story or the evidence for it but the human attitude toward that and all
such stories. The modern mind does not attempt to disprove them, it just
disapproves of them, and therefore declines to believe them. It sets
them aside as belonging to an order of ideas with which it no longer
has any sympathy.

It is no doubt true that we reach many of our conclusions, especially
those which govern our practical attitude towards life, from the ground
of certain hardly recognised presuppositions, rather than from the basis
of thought out principles. The thought of to-day is pervaded by the
denial of the supernatural. It insists that all that we know or can know
is the natural world about us. It rules out the possibility of any
invasions of the natural order and declines to accept such on any
evidence whatsoever. All that one has time to say now of such an
attitude is that it makes all religion impossible, and sets aside as
untrustworthy all the deepest experiences of the human soul. If I were
going to argue against this attitude (as I am not able to now) I should
simply oppose to it the past experience of the race as embodied in its
best religious thought. I should stress the fact that what is noblest
and best in the past of humanity is wholly meaningless unless humanity's
supposition of a life beyond this life, and of the existence of
spiritual powers and beings to whom we are related, holds good. No
nation has ever conducted its life on the basis of pure materialism,
save in those last stages of its decadence which preluded its downfall.

But without going so far as to reject the supernatural and reject the
truth of the immediate intervention of God in life, there are multitudes
of men and women whose whole life never moves beyond the natural order.
They have no materialistic theory; if you ask them, they think that
they are, in some sense not very well defined, Christians. But they have
no Christian interests, no spiritual activities of any sort. For all
practical purposes God and the spiritual order do not exist for them.
They are not for the most part what any one would call bad people;
though there seems no intelligible meaning of the word in which they can
be called _good_. The best that one can say of them is that they have a
certain usefulness in the present social order though they are not
missed when they fall out of it. They can be replaced in the social
machine much as a lost or broken part can in an engine. And just as the
part of an engine which has become useless where it is, can have no
possible usefulness elsewhere, so we are unable to imagine them as
capable of adaptation to any other place than that which they have
filled here. Perhaps that is what we mean by hell--incapacity to adapt
oneself to the life of the future.

All this implies a temper of mind and soul that has rendered itself
incapable of vision. For just as our ordinary vision of the beauty of
this world depends not only on the existence of the world but on a
certain capacity in us to see it, so that the beauty of the world does
not at all exist for the man whose optic nerve is paralysed; so the
meaning and beauty, nay, the very existence of the supernatural order
depends for us upon a capacity in us which we may call the capacity of
vision. The sceptic waves aside our stories of supernatural happenings
with the brusque statement, "Nobody to-day sees angels. They only appear
in an atmosphere of primitive or mediaeval superstition, not in the
broad intellectual light of the twentieth century." But it may be that
the fact (if it be a fact) that nobody sees angels in the twentieth
century is due to some other cause than the non-existence of the angels.
After all, in any century you see what you are prepared to see, what in
other words, you are looking for. It is a common enough phenomenon that
the man who lives in the country misses most of the beauty of it. In his
search for the potato bug he misses the sunset, and disposes of the
primrose on the river's brim as a common weed. It is true that in order
to see we need something beside eyes, and to hear we need something
beside ears. When on an occasion the Father spoke from heaven to the Son
many heard the sound, and some said, "It thundered"; others got so far
as to say, "An Angel spake to him."

Let us then in the presence of narratives of supernatural happenings ask
our _how_ with a good deal of reverence and a good deal of modesty, not
as implying a sceptical doubt on our part, but as a wish that we may be
admitted deeper into the meaning of the event. Scepticism simply closes
the door through which we might pass to fuller knowledge. The
questioning of faith holds the door open. To those who have not closed
the door upon the supernatural it is evident that it is permeated with
forces and influences which are not material in their origin or their
effects; that God acts upon the world now as He has ever acted upon it.
If we cannot believe this I do not see that we can believe in God at all
in any intelligible sense. There is to me one attitude toward the
supernatural that is even more hopeless than the attitude of
materialistic scepticism which says, "Miracles do not happen"; and that
is the attitude which says, "Miracles happened in Bible times, but have
never happened since." As the one attitude seems to imply that God made
the world, but after He had made it left it to go on by itself and no
more expresses any interest in it; so the other implies that after God
put the Christian religion in the world He left that to go on by itself
and no longer pays any attention to it. Either to me is wholly
unintelligible and inconceivable.

And what is worse, is wholly out of touch with the revelation of God
made in Holy Scripture. That displays God working in and through the
material universe, and it displays God working in and through the spirit
of man; and it in no place implies that either the material world or the
human order is so perfect as to need no further divine action.
Revelation implies the constant presence and action of God in nature and
in the Church; it implies that both have a forward look and are not ends
in themselves but are moving on toward some ultimate perfection. "The
whole creation groaneth and travaileth ... waiting for the adoption,
that is, the redemption of our body." We look for a new heaven and a new
earth; and human society looks to a perfect consummation in the
fellowship of the saints in light.

Looking out on life from the spiritual point of vantage, we may
hopefully ask our _how_, and there will be an answer. To blessed Mary S.
Gabriel replied: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of
the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which
shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."--An answer that
was full of light and of deepest mystery. The immediate question--the
mode of her conception--was cleared up; it would be through the direct
action of God the Holy Spirit: but the nature of the Child to be born is
filled with mystery. We can imagine S. Mary in the days to come finding
her child-bearing quite intelligible in comparison with the mystery that
brooded over His nature.

This is the common fact in our dealing with God. We express it when we
say that we never get beyond the need of faith. We pray that one thing
may be made clear, and the result of the clearing is the deepened sense
of the mystery of the things beyond, just as any increase in the power
of the telescope clears up certain questions which had been puzzling the
astronomers only to carry their vision into vaster depths of space,
opening new questions to tantalize the imagination. We find it so
always. The solution of any question of our spiritual lives does not
lead as perhaps we thought it would lead to there being no longer any
questions to perplex us and to draw on our time and our energy; rather
such solution puts us in the presence of new and, it may well be, deeper
and more perplexing questions. "Are there no limits to the demands of
God upon us," we sometimes despairingly ask? And the answer is, "No:
there are no limits because the end of the road that we are travelling
is in infinity." The limit that is set to our perfecting is the
perfection of God, and if we grow through all the years of eternity we
shall still have attained only a relative perfection.

So the successful passing of one test cannot be expected to relieve us
from all tests in the future. It is the dream of the child that manhood
will set it free; and he reaches manhood only to find that it imposes
obligations which are so pressing that he reverses his dream and speaks
of his childhood as the time of his true freedom. The meeting of
spiritual tests is but the proving of spiritual capacity to meet other
tests. To our Lady it might well seem that the acceptance of the
conditions of the Incarnation was the severest test that God could
assign her; that in the light of the promise she could look on to joy.
But the future concealed a sword which should pierce her very heart. The
promise contained no doubt wonderful things--this wonder of God's
blessing that she was now experiencing in the coming of the Holy Ghost,
in the very embrace of God Himself: this is but the first of the Joyful
Mysteries which were God's great gifts to her. But her life was not to
be a succession of Joyful Mysteries, ultimately crowned with the
Mysteries of Glory. There were the Sorrowful Mysteries as well. They
were as true, and shall we not say, as necessary, as valuable, a part of
her spiritual training as the others. She, our Mother, was now near God,
with a nearness that was possible for no other human being, and it is
one of the traditional sayings of our Lord: "He that is near Me is near
fire." And fire burns as well as warms and lights. She is wonderful, the
Virgin of Nazareth, in this moment when she becomes Mother of God: and
we share in the rapture of the moment when in the fulness of her joy she
hardly notices S. Gabriel's departure: but we feel, too, a great pity
for her as we think of the coming days. So we kneel to her who is our
Mother, as well as Mother of God, and say our _Ave_, and ask her
priceless intercession.

Gabriel, that angel bright,
Brighter than the sun is light,
From heaven to earth he took his flight,

In Nazareth, that great city,
Before a maiden he kneeled on knee,
And said, "Mary, God is with thee,

"Hail Mary, full of grace,
God is with thee, and ever was;
He hath in thee chosen a place.

Mary was afraid of that sight,
That came to her with so great light,
Then said the angel that was so bright,

"Be not aghast of least nor most,
In thee is conceived of the Holy Ghost,
To save the souls that were for-lost.

Fifteenth Century.




And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according
to thy word.

S. Luke I. 38

O God, who through the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary didst bestow
on mankind the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee,
that we may experience her intercession for us through whom we were made
worthy to receive the author of life, even Jesus Christ thy Son
our Lord.


S. Mary's momentary hesitation had been due to the surprise that she
felt at the nature of the angelic message and the difficulty that there
was in relating it to her state of life. That she, a virgin, should bear
a son was vastly perplexing; but the answer of S. Gabriel speedily
cleared away the difficulty: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and
the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee."

Blessed Mary had no difficulty about the supernatural; she was not
afflicted with the modern disease that there are no things in heaven and
earth save such as are contained in our philosophy. She was not of those
who "cannot believe what they do not understand," It was enough for her
that a message had come from God: and no matter how little she was able
to understand the mode of God's proposed action within her, she was
willing to offer herself to be the instrument of the will of God. No
doubt that was an habitual attitude and not one taken up on the spur of
the moment. It is indeed very rarely that what seem spontaneous actions
are really such; and S. Mary's first word was nearer spontaneity than
the second. Her exclamation in answer to the angelic _Ave_ was the
natural expression of her surprise at so unexpected a message: its
variance from all her thought about her life was the thing that struck
her; and therefore her instinctive, "How can this be?"

In this second word we have a quite different attitude. Here is
revealed to us the profound and perfect humility of the Blessed Virgin.
This answer comes from the experience of her whole life. It is of such
utterances that we say that they are revealing. What we at any time say,
does in fact reveal what we are--what we have come to be through the
experience of our past life. And no doubt it is these instinctive
utterances which are called out by some unexpected occurrence that
reveal more of us than our weighed and guarded words. Back of every word
we utter is a life we have lived. We have been spending years in
preparing for that word. Perhaps when the time comes to speak it, it is
not the word we thought we were going to speak, it was not the prelude
to the action we thought that we were going to perform; it reveals a
character other than the character that we thought we had. How often the
Gospel brings that before us! We see the young Ruler come running with
his brave and perfectly sincere words about inheriting eternal life; and
then we see him going away when the testing of our Lord demonstrated
that he only partly meant what he said. It was not S. Peter's brave
words, "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee," that
revealed the truth about the Apostle; but the words that were called out
by the accusation that he was of the company of Jesus: "Then began he to
curse and swear, saying, I know not the man." We have no doubt that he
knows himself better when he catches the eye of the Master turned upon
him and goes and weeps bitterly. And it is true, is it not, that it is
through words called out and thoughts stirred by the unexpected that we
often get new insight into our real state. A sudden temptation reveals a
hidden weakness, and we go away shamed and crushed, saying, "I did not
suppose that I was capable of that."

But, thank God, the revelation is sometimes the other way; the testing
uncovers unexpected strength. Of many a man, after some strong trial, we
say, "I did not know that he had so much courage, or so much patience."
The quiet unassuming exterior was the mask of an heroic will of which
very likely not even the possessor suspected the true quality. The
annals of martyrdom are full of these revelations of unsuspected
strength. Here in the case of Blessed Mary the quality revealed is that
of humility so perfect that it dreams not of revolt from the most
searching trial. It reveals the character of our Mother better than
pages of description can do. What we see in response to the bewildering
messages brought by S. Gabriel is the instinctive movement of the soul
toward God. There is utter absence of any thought of self or of how she
may be affected by the purpose of God; it is enough that that purpose is
made plain.

It seems well to insist on this instinctive movement of the soul in
Blessed Mary because it is one item of the evidence that the Catholic
Church has to offer for its belief in her sinlesssness. Any momentary
rebellion, no matter how soon recovered from, or how sincerely
regretted, against the will of God, would be evidence of the existence
of sin. But where sin is not, where there is an unstained soul, there
the knowledge of the will of God will send one running to its
acceptance; there will be active acceptance and not just submission to
God's will. Submission implies a certain effort to place ourselves in
line with the will of God; it often seems to imply that we are accepting
it because we cannot do anything else. But with Blessed Mary there is a
glad going forth to meet God; the word "Behold" springs out to meet the
will of God half-way. It is as though she had been holding herself
ready, expectant, in the certainty of the coming of some message, and
now she offers herself without the shadow of hesitation, as to a purpose
which was a welcome vocation: "Behold the Handmaid of the Lord; be it
unto me according to thy word." How wonderful is the humility of

And humility--we must stress this--is not a virtue of youth; it is not
one of the virtues which ripen quickly, but is of slow development and
delayed maturity. Modesty we should expect in a maiden, and lack of
self-assertion; and perhaps obedience of a sort. But those do not
constitute the virtue of humility. We are humble when we have lost self;
and Mary's wondering answer reveals the fact that she is not thinking of
herself at all, but only of the nature of the divine purpose. That that
purpose being known she should at all resist it would seem to her a
thing incredible, for all her life she had had no other motive of
action. Her will had never been separated from the will of God.

This state of union which was hers by divine election and privilege, we
achieve, if we achieve it at all, by virtue of great spiritual
discipline. We are, to be sure, brought into union with God through the
sacraments, but the union so achieved is, if one may so express it, an
unstable union; it is union that we have to maintain by daily spiritual
action and which suffers many a weakening through our infidelity, even
if it escape the disaster of mortal sin. We sway to and fro in our
struggle to attain the equilibrium of perfection which belonged to
Blessed Mary by virtue of the first embrace of God which had freed her
from sin. Our tragedy is that we have almost universally lost the first
engagements of the Spiritual Combat before we have at all understood
that there is any combat. The circumstances of life of child and youth
are such that we become familiar with sin before we have the
intelligence to understand the need of resisting, even if we are
fortunate enough to have such an education as to awaken a sense of sin
as opposition to God. There is nothing more appalling than the tragedy
of life thus defiled and broken and put at a disadvantage before it even
understands the ideals that should govern its course. When the vision of
perfection comes and we face life as the field where we are to acquire
eternal values, we face it with a poisoned imagination and a depleted
strength. Our battle is not only to maintain what we have, but to win
back what we have lost.

Under such conditions there is much consolation in learning that we do
not fight alone but have the constant help and sympathy of those who are
endued with the strength of perfect purity. Their likeness to us in
that they have lived the life of the flesh assures us of their
understanding, and it assures us too of their active co-operation. We
cannot understand the saints standing outside human life and from the
vantage point of their achievement looking on as indolent spectators.
The spectacle offorded by the Church Militant must call out the active
intercession of all the saints; but especially do we look for helpful
sympathy from her who is our all-pure Mother, whose very purity gives
her intercession unmeasured power. She is not removed from us through
her spotlessness, but by virtue of her clearer understanding of the
meaning of sin and of separation from God that it brings her, she is
ready to fly to the help of all sinners by her ceaseless intercession.

The difficulty of our spiritual lives rises chiefly out of the clash of
wills. A disordered nature, a tainted inheritance, a corrupt environment
conspire to make the life of grace tremendously difficult. It is only in
a very limited sense that we can be said to be free, and there is no
possibility at all of overcoming the handicap of sin, except firm and
careful reliance on the grace of God. That grace, no doubt, is always at
our disposal as far as we will use it. Grace moves us, but it does not
compel us; and we are free always to reject the offer of God. We have
only to open our eyes upon the world about us to see how rarely is the
grace of God accepted in any effective way. Even in convinced Christians
the attempt to live the divided life is the commonest thing possible. It
sometimes seems as though the prevalent conception of the Christian
life were that it is sufficient to offer God a certain limited
allegiance and that the remainder of the life will be thereby ransomed
and placed at our disposal to use as we will. We find the theory well
worked out in the current attitude of Christians toward the observance
of the Lord's Day. It appears to be held that an attendance at Mass or
Matins is a sufficient recognition of the interests of religion and that
the rest of the day may be regarded, not as the Lord's Day, but as
man's--as a day of unlimited amusement and self-indulgence. The notion
of consecration is abandoned. The only possible outcome of such theories
of life is what we already experience, spiritual lawlessness and moral
degradation. I suppose that it will only be through social disaster that
society will come (as usual, too late) to any comprehension that the
will of God is what it is because it is only by following the road that
it indicates that human life can reach a successful development. God's
laws are not arbitrary inflictions; they are the expression of the
highest wisdom in the guidance of human life.

Our elementary duty therefore as sane persons is to find what is the
will of God in any given circumstances; there should be no action until
there has been an effort to ascertain that will. It were as sensible to
set about building a house without ascertaining what strength of
foundation would be needful, or without knowing the sort of material we
were going to use. One has heard of a house being built in which it
turned out that there was a room with no doorway, or floor to which no
stair led up; but we do not commend such exploits as the last word in
architecture, nor would we commend a farmer who planted his crops
without attention to the nature of the soil. There are certain
elementary principles of common sense which we pretty uniformly hold to
in every matter with the exception of religion; that seems to be held to
be a separate department of human activity with laws of its own, and in
which the principles which govern life elsewhere do not hold. We do not
profess this theory, of course, but we commonly act upon it, while we
still profess to respect the will of God. It is strange too that after
having habitually neglected that will, we are greatly disappointed, not
to say indignant, when after a life of disobedience and scorn of God's
thought for us we do not find ourselves in possession of the fruits of
righteousness. If it were not so tragic it would be amusing to hear men
declaim against the justice of a God whose existence they have
habitually disregarded.

But, it is often said, it is not by any means easy to find out God's
will. You talk about it as though it were as easy to know God's will as
it is to know the multiplication table. Well, at least it can be said
that one does not get to know the multiplication table without effort!
What objections as to the obscurity of the will of God will seem to mean
is that it does take effort to ascertain it. I do not know of any reason
for regarding that as unjust. If the will of God is what religion
maintains that it is, of primary importance to our lives, we might well
be glad that it is ascertainable at all, at the expense of
whatever effort.

An Almighty God has implanted within every human heart the knowledge
that His will exists and is important; that is, He has endowed every man
with a conscience which is the certainty of the difference between right
and wrong, and the conviction that we are responsible for our conduct to
some power outside ourselves; that we are not at liberty to conduct life
on any lines we will. Having so much certainty, it surely becomes us to
set about ascertaining the nature of the power and the details of the
will. The very nature of conscience, as a sense of obligation, rather
than a source of information, should create a desire for a knowledge of
what God's will is in detail, that is, what is the content of the notion
of right and wrong.

And while it is true that such content can only be ascertained by work,
it is not true that the work is a specially difficult one. The
Revelation of God's mind made through Holy Scripture and through the
life of His Incarnate Son is an open book that any one can study; and to
any objection that such study has led chiefly to difference of opinion
and darkness rather than light, the answer is that such disaster follows
for the most part only when the guidance of the Catholic Church is
repudiated; when, that is, we pursue a course in this study which we
should not pursue in relation to any other. If we were studying geology
we should not regard it as the best course to scorn all that preceding
students have done, and betake our unprepared selves to field work! But
that is the "Bible and the Bible only" theory of spiritual knowledge. If
we want to know the meaning of the Biblical teaching, we must make use
of the helps which the experience of the Church has richly provided.

But the nature of the divine will and the particulars of our obligation
are not merely, perhaps one ought to say, not chiefly, to be assimilated
through our brains. The best preparation for the doing of the will of
God and the progressive entering into His mind, is an obedient life.
Purity of character will carry us farther on this path than cleverness
of brains. Our Lord's own rule is: _He that doeth the will shall know of
the doctrine._ In other words, we understand the mind of God and attain
to the illumination of the conscience, through sympathetic response to
the will so far as we have seen it. And each new response, in its turn,
carries us to a deeper and clearer understanding of the will. That is to
say, our conscience, by habitual response to God's will, so far as it
knows it, is so illumined as to be able to make trustworthy judgments on
new material submitted to it.

This is, of course, to be otherwise described as the working of God the
Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit that dwelleth in us and directs us to
right judgments if we will listen. Our danger is that self-will
constantly crops up and complicates the case by representing that the
line suggested by the Holy Spirit is not in reality in accord with our
interests. This opposition between the seeming interests suggested by
self-will, which indeed often contribute to our immediate gratification,
and our true interests as indicated by the monitions of the Holy
Spirit, constitutes the real struggle of the life during the period of
probation. The will of God in every circumstance is usually plain
enough; but it is silenced by the clamour of the passions and desires
demanding immediate gratification: and we are all more or less children
in our insistence on the immediate and our incapacity to wait. But I
must insist again that it is not knowledge that is wanting but sympathy
with the course that knowledge directs. We pursuade ourselves that we do
not know, when the real trouble is that we know only too well. One feels
that much that is put forward as inability to understand religion is at
bottom merely disinclination to obey it.

Not that there is not room for genuine perplexity. Often it happens that
we are not at all certain in this or that detail of conduct. In that
case it is well to consider whether it is necessary to act before we can
attain certainty through study or advice. But if act we must, we can at
least act with honesty, not making our will the accomplice of our
passions or interests.

I do not believe that there are many cases in which we shall go wrong if
we make use of all the means at our disposal. A diligent doing of the
will of God does undoubtedly bring light on unknown problems and


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