Our Lady Saint Mary
J. G. H. Barry

Part 6 out of 6

end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and
become the servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the
end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God
is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Any adequate self-examination, therefore, bears not only on our sins,
our failures, but on our accomplishment. A tree is known by its fruits;
and fruits are things which are evident to all men. If indeed the work
of the Spirit in us is love, joy, peace and the rest of the fruits,
these qualities cannot be hid. Certainly they cannot be hid from
ourselves. They are the evidence to us of precisely where we stand in
the way of spiritual accomplishment. And we must remember that they are
supernatural qualities, and not be deceived by the existence in us of a
set of human counterfeits. Love is not good-natured tolerance; joy is
not superficial gaiety, peace is not clever dodging of difficulties. The
fruits of the Spirit are not of easy growth, but come only at the end of
a long period of cultivation, of energetic striving. But like all the
gifts of God they do come if we want them to come. "If ye abide in me,
and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be
done unto you." But when we ask our Lord for gifts we must remember that
the giving is not a mechanical giving. What our Lord gives is the Might
of the Spirit to effect what we desire. If a man ask of God a good
harvest the prayer is answered if there be given the conditions under
which a good harvest can be produced; it will not be produced without
the appropriate human labour. And when we ask of God the Fruits of the
Spirit the prayer is granted if the conditions are given under which
this Fruit may be brought forth. But neither here may we expect Fruit
without appropriate action on our part. God gives, but He gives to those
who want.


others do of grace bereave, When, in their mother's womb, they life
receive, God, as his sole-borne Daughter, loved thee: To match thee like
thy birth's nobility, He thee his Spirit for thy Spouse did leave, Of
whom thou didst his only Son conceive; And so was linked to all the
Trinity. Cease, then, O queens, who earthly crowns do wear, To glory in
the pomp of worldly, things: If men such respect unto you bear Which
daughters, wives and mothers are of kings; What honour should unto that
Queen be done Who had your God for Father, Spouse and Son?


Sovereign of Queens, if vain ambition move My heart to seek an earthly
prince's grace, Show me thy Son in his imperial place, Whose servants
reign our kings and queens above: And, if alluring passions I do prove
By pleasing sighs--show me thy lovely face, Whose beams the angels'
beauty do deface, And even inflame the seraphins with love. So by
ambition I shall humble be, When, in the presence of the highest King, I
serve all his, that he may honour me; And love, my heart to chaste
desires shall bring, When fairest Queen looks on me from her throne, And
jealous, bids me love but her alone.


Why should I any love, O Queen, but thee, If favor past a thankful love
should breed? Thy womb did bear, thy breast my Saviour feed, And thou
didst never cease to succour me. If love do follow worth and dignity,
Thou all in thy perfections dost exceed; If love be led by hope of
future meed, What pleasure more than thee in heaven to see? An earthly
sight doth only please the eye, And breeds desire, but doth not satisfy:
Thy sight gives us possession of all joy; And with such full delights
each sense shall fill, As heart shall wish but for to see thee still,
And ever seeing, ever shall enjoy.


Sweet Queen, although thy beauty raise up me From sight of baser
beauties here below, Yet, let me not rest there; but, higher go To him,
who took his shape from God and thee. And if thy form in him more fair I
see, What pleasure from his deity shall flow, By whose fair beams his
beauty shineth so, When I shall it behold eternally? Then, shall my love
of pleasure have his fill, When beauty's self, in whom all pleasure is,
Shall my enamoured soul embrace and kiss, And shall new loves and new
delights distill, Which from my soul shall gush into my heart, And
through my body flow to every part.





And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

S. John XIX, 27.

But now we unite to praise thee, O Pure and Immaculate One, blessed
Virgin and sinless Mother of thy great Son and the God of all. O
perfectly spotless and altogether holy, thou art the hope of despairing
sinners. We bless thee as most full of grace, who didst give birth to
Christ, God and Man. And we fall down before thee. We all invoke thee
and implore thy help. Deliver us, O Virgin, holy and undefiled, from
every pressing strait and from all temptations of the Evil One. Be thou
our peacemaker in the hour of death and judgment. Do thou save us from
the future unquenchable fire and from the outer darkness. Do thou render
us worthy of the glory of thy Son, O Virgin and Mother, most sweet
and clement.


There is no scene in the whole range of Scripture narrative which is
more full of pathos than this scene of the Cross. Two agonies meet: the
agony of the nailing, the lifting, the dying; and the agony that looks
on in silent helplessness. But while our Lord's physical agony was in
some sort swallowed up in the intensity of the love which was the motive
for enduring it, overpassed in the vision of the need of those for whom
He was dying, S. Mary's agony was the pain of a love concentrated upon
the Sufferer Who hangs dying before her eyes. If there be anything that
can lighten the pain of such love it is that it feels itself answered,
that its object is conscious of it and is helped by it. And S. Mary had
that consolation: the love poured to her from the Cross, and revealed
itself when the suffering Son turned His eyes upon her agony and,
understanding what her desolation would be, committed her to His beloved
disciple: "Behold thy Mother; behold thy son." These two great loves
which had been our Lord's human consolation were thus committed to one
another. And when the darkness fell, and death relieved the agony, and
the Sacred Body had been cared for, then the mother found refuge with S.
John: "and from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."

From the day of Pentecost on, S. Mary is no more heard of in the history
of the Church. As so often, the Scriptures are silent and decline to
answer our interested questions. They go on with the essentails of their
story, the founding of the Church of God, and leave other things aside.
So we do not know any of the last years of the life of Blessed Mary.
Where did she live? How long did she live? The traditions, in any case
of quite an untrustworthy nature, are contradictory. Jerusalem and
Ephesus contend for the honour of our Lady's residence. Jerusalem must
have been the site of that "home" to which S. John took her after the
crucifixion. Did she remain there, or did she follow S. John, and at
length come to live with him in Ephesus? Ephesus puts forward the claim,
and we feel that it would be well founded in the nature of the relation
between these two, if S. Mary lived until the settlement of the last of
the apostles in the Asian city. Our Lord's committal of His Mother to
the beloved disciple implies their personal association as long as S.
Mary lived: if till S. John was settled in Ephesus, then we may be sure
that she was there. She would be with S. John as long as she lived, but
can we think of her as living long? Would not a great love draw her to
another world and the presence of her triumphant Son?

Let us, however think, as one tradition bids us, of our Lady as living
some time with S. John at Ephesus. We can understand the situation
because it is so much like our own. These Asia Minor cities of the
imperial period were curiously like the great centers of population in
the Western world of to-day--London, Paris, New York, Chicago. There was
the same over-crowding of population, the same intense commercial
activity, the same almost insane thirst for amusement and excitement,
the same degeneracy of moral fibre. The sins that sapped the life of
Ephesus are the same that degrade contemporary life. In some ways
Ephesus was, possibly, more frankly corrupt; but on the other hand it
had no daily press to advertise and promote sin and social corruption.
There is more of Christianity and of Christian influence in the modern
city, but even here there is a curious resemblance between the two. The
Christian Religion had but recently been introduced into Ephesus, but
already it had precisely that touch of ineffectiveness that seems to us
so modern. The message of the risen Lord to the angel of the Church in
Ephesus is: "Nevertheless I have this against thee, that thou hast left
thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and
repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly,
and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."

The things that hearten us are sometimes strange; but I suppose that
there is a feeling of encouragement in our present day distress and
spiritual ineffectiveness in the thought that even under S. John the
Church in Ephesus was not wholly ideal. The conditions which baffle us,
baffled him. The converts who were so promising and enthusiastic
declined in zeal and fell back under the spell of worldliness. Zeal is a
quality which is maintained with great difficulty, and the pull of the
world, whether social or business, is steadily exercised. Converts in
Ephesus, like converts in New York, felt that their friends were right
who declared that they were quite unnecessarily strict, and that in
order to serve Christ it was not necessary to turn their backs
absolutely on Diana.

As one tries to reconstruct the situation in Ephesus, one feels that our
Lady would have had no prominence in the Church in the way of an
actively exercised influence. One thinks of her as living in retirement,
as not even talking very much. If she lived long she would be an object
of increasing interest and even of awe to the new converts, and an
object of growing love to all those who were admitted to any sort of
fellowship with her. But one cannot imagine a crowd about her, inquiring
into her experiences and her memories of her divine Son. Once she told
of her experience, for it was necessary that the Church should know of
the circumstances of the coming of the Son of God into the world, but
beyond that necessary communication of her experience we cannot think of
her as speaking of her sacred memories. Silence and meditation, longing
and waiting, would have filled the years till the hour of her release.

But in the quiet hours spent with S. John it would be different. Between
the Blessed Virgin and S. John there was perfect understanding and
perfect sympathy, and we love to think of the hours that they would have
spent together in deep spiritual intercourse. Those hours would not be
hours of reminiscence merely; they would rather be hours in which these
two would attempt with the aid of the Spirit Who ruled in them so fully
to enter deeper and ever deeper into the meaning of Incarnate God.
Jesus would be the continual object of their thought and their love, and
meditation upon His words and acts would lead them to an ever increasing
appreciation of their depth and meaning.

We have all felt, in reading the pages of S. John, how vast is the
difference both in attitude toward his subject and in his understanding
of it from that of the other Evangelists. The earlier Evangelists seem
deliberately to keep all feeling out of their story, to tell the life of
our Lord in the most meagre outline, confining themselves to the
essential facts. Anything like interpretation they decline. In S. John
all this is changed. The Jesus whom he presents is the same Jesus, but
seen through what different eyes! The same life is presented, but with
what changes in selection of material! The Gospel of S. John seems
almost a series of mediations upon selected facts of an already familiar
life rather than an attempt to tell a life-story. And so indeed we think
of it. When S. John wrote, the life of our Lord as a series of events
was already before the Church. The Church had the synoptic Gospels, and
it had a still living tradition to inform it. What it needed, and what
the Holy Spirit led S. John to give it, was some glimpse of the inner
meaning of the Incarnation, some unfolding of the spiritual depths of
the teaching of Jesus.

We know how it is that different people listening to the same words get
different impressions and carry away with them quite different meanings.
We hear what we are able to hear. And S. John was able to hear what the
other disciples of our Lord seem not to have heard. What dwelt in his
memory and was worked up in his meditations and was at length
transmitted to us, was the meaning of such incidents as the interview
with Nicodemus, and the talk with the woman of Samaria, the discourse on
the Holy Eucharist and the great High-priestly prayer. Men have felt the
contrast between S. John and the other Evangelists so intensely that
they have said that this is another Christ who is presented by S. John,
and the influences which have shaped the author of the Fourth Gospel are
quite other than those which shaped the men of the inner circle of
Jesus. But no: it is the instinctive, or rather the Spirit-guided,
selection of the material afforded by those years of association with
Jesus for the purpose of transmitting to the Church a spiritual depth
and beauty, a spiritual significance in our Lord's teaching, that the
earlier Gospel had hardly touched.

Which perhaps they could not touch because when they wrote there was not
yet in the Church the spiritual experience which could fully interpret
our Lord. Through the life of union with the risen Jesus and all the
spiritual experience, all the illumined intelligence that that life
brought, S. John was enabled to understand and interpret as he did.
Writing far on toward the end of the first century he was writing out of
the personal experience of Christian living of many years, which brought
with it year by year an increased power of spiritual vision opening to
him the depth and wonder of the fact of God made man. It is to an
experience of our Lord that he appeals as the basis of his teaching.
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have
seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have
handled, of the Word of life: (for the life was manifested, and we have
seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which
was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have
seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship
with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and His Son Jesus
Christ." And as we read on in S. John's Epistles we cannot fail to see
how deeply the years of meditation have influenced his understanding of
our Lord and His teaching, and how much his past experience of our Lord
has been illumined by the experience of the risen Jesus which has
followed. At no time, we are certain, has S. John been out of touch with
his Master.

And can we for a moment think that the years of intercourse with our
Lady meant nothing in the spiritual development of S. John? On the
contrary, may we not think that much of the spiritual richness which is
the outstanding feature of his writings was the outcome of his
association with the blessed Mother? No one has ever shown the
sympathetic understanding of our Lord, has been so well able
convincingly to interpret Him, as the beloved disciple. I myself have no
doubt that much of his understanding came by way of S. Mary. Her
interpretative insight would have been deeper than any one else's, not
only because of her long association with Jesus, but because of her
sinlessness. No two lives ever touched so closely; and there was not
between them the bar that so blocks our spiritual understanding and
clouds our spiritual vision, the bar of sin. I suppose it is almost
impossible for us to appreciate the effect of sin in clouding vision and
dulling sympathy. Our every day familiarity with venial sin, our easy
tolerance of it, the adjustment of our lives to habits that involve it,
have resulted in a lack of spiritual sensitiveness. Much of the meaning
of our Lord's life and words passes over us just because of this dimness
of vision, this insensitiveness to suggestion. And therefore we find it
difficult to imagine what would be the understanding, the insight, the
response to our Lord, of one between whom and Him there was no shadow of
sin. And such an one was the blessed Mother. With unclouded vision she
looked into the face of her Son. As His life expanded she followed with
perfect sympathy; indeed, sometimes, as at Cana, her understanding of
what He was made her precipitate in concluding as to His necessary
action. When He became a public teacher and unfolded largely in parable
His doctrine, it was her sinless soul which would see clearest and
deepest, and with the most ready response. And therefore I am sure that
we cannot go astray in thinking that S. John's relation to S. Mary was
not simply that of a guardian of her from the pressure of the world, but
was indeed that of a son who listened and learned from the experience of
his Mother. No doubt S. John himself was of a very subtle spiritual
understanding; notwithstanding that, and notwithstanding his exceptional
opportunities of learning, we may still believe that there are many
touches in his Gospel which are the result of his association with his
Lord's Mother.

Is it not possible for us to have our share in that pure insight of
blessed Mary? When we try to think out the lines of our own spiritual
development and the influences that have contributed to shape it, do we
not find that the presence or absence of devotion to our Lady has been a
factor of considerable importance? Devotion to her injected an element
into our religion which is of vast moment, an element of sympathy, of
gentleness, of purity. You can if you like, in condemnatory accents,
call that element sentimentalism, although it is not that but the
exercise of those gentler elements of our nature without whose exercise
our nature functions one-sidedly. You may call it the feminine element,
if you like; you will still be indicating the same order of activity.
Surely, an all around spiritual development will bring out the feminine
as well as the masculine qualities. And it seems to be historically true
that those systems of religion which represent a revolt against the
cultus of our Lady and carefully exclude all traces of it from their
worship, show as a consequence of this exclusion a hardness and a
barrenness which makes their human appeal quite one-sided. And when
those same systems have realised their limitations and their lack of
human appeal, and have tried to supply what is lacking, they have again
failed, because instead of reverting to historical Christianity they
have taken the road of humanitarianism, basing themselves on our Lord's
human life and consequent brotherhood with us, rather than upon His
supernatural Personality as operative through His mystical Body. Stress
is laid upon charitable helpfulness rather than upon the power of grace.
The modern man tries to reform life rather than to regenerate it.

And, I repeat, I cannot help associating with a repudiation of the
cultus of the saints, and especially of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a
consequent failure to understand the Christian life as a supernatural
creation. If one leaves out of account the greater part of the Kingdom
of Heaven, all the multitudes of the redeemed, and their activities, and
fastens one's attention exclusively upon that small part of the Kingdom
which is the Church on earth, one can hardly fail to miss the
significance of the earthly Church itself. Religion understood in this
limited way may well drift more and more toward Deism and
Humanitarianism, and further and further from any supernatural
implications. This is no theory; it is what has happened. It was the
course of Protestantism from the Reformation to the eighteenth century;
and, after a partial revival of supernaturalism, is once more the rapid
course of Protestantism to-day. Protestantism has lost or is fast losing
any grip on the Trinity or the Incarnation: to it God is more and more a
barren unity, and Jesus a good man. And this largely because all
interest in the world of the Redeemed has been abandoned and all
intercourse with the inhabitants of that world denied.

It is therefore of the last importance that we, infected as we are with
Protestantism, should stress the revival of the cultus of the saints,
and should insist upon our right and privilege to pay due honour to the
Mother of God and ask our share in her prayers. We must do all we can to
make her known to our brethren. We need her sympathy, her aid,
her example.

Above all, the example of her spotless purity. It is notorious that one
of the most marked features of our time is the virulent assault on
purity. We had long emphasised a certain quality of conduct which we
called modesty; it was, perhaps, largely a convention, but it was one of
those protective conventions which are valuable as preservative of
qualities we prize. It was protective of purity; and however artificial
it was, in some respects, it existed because we felt that purity was a
thing too precious to be exposed to unnecessary risk. Well, modesty is
gone now, whether in conduct or convention. One hears discussed at
dinner-tables and in the presence of young girls matters which our
mothers would have blushed to mention at all. The quality of modesty is
declared Puritanical and hypocritical. "Hypocritical virtue" is a phrase
one frequently meets; and we seem fast going on to the time when all
virtue will be regarded as hypocrisy. Customary standards are falling
all about us, overthrown in the name of personal liberty.

And by liberty, one gathers, is meant freedom to do as one pleases, and
especially as one sexually pleases. The assault is pushed hardest just
now against the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony and the morals of
that sacrament as they have been developed by the Christian Church.
Protestantism long ago assented to the overthrow of Christian standards
in the marriage relation and has aided the sexual anarchy with which we
are faced to-day. To-day the chief attack is on the purity of marriage
in the interests, ostensibly, of humanity. A vigorous campaign in favour
of what is called birth-control is being carried on, and is being
supported in quarters which are professedly Christian. There are many
grounds for opposing the movement, social, humanitarian and other. We
are here concerned with it only as it is an attack on purity. From the
Christian point of view the marriage relation has for its end the
procreation of children for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God. If
circumstances are such, through reasons of health or economy, that
children seem undesirable, the remedy is plain, self control. The theory
that human beings have no more control over their appetites than beasts,
while it has much to support it in contemporary life, cannot be admitted
from the point of view of religion. Self-control is always possible, and
is constantly exercised by many men and women who choose to be guided by
principle rather than by passion. And in any case the Christian Religion
can become no partner, not even a silent one, in a conspiracy to murder,
or in the sort of compromise that turns marriage into a licensed sodomy.
If indeed the economic status of the modern world is such that the
average couple cannot support a family, then the Christian Church may
well aid in the bringing about of an economic revolution; but it can
hardly aid in the destruction of its own ideals of purity.

What is ultimately at stake in the modern world is the whole conception
of purity as a quality that is desirable. This attitude has become
possible among us for one reason because we have consented to the
suppression of ideals of life which were calculated to sustain it. To
sustain any moral or spiritual conception there must be maintained
certain appropriate ideals which, while out of the reach of the average
man, create and sustain in him an admiration and respect for the ideal
standard. So the standard of purity presented in Mary and protected by
the belief in her Immaculate Conception and her assumption, has the
effect, not only of commending the life of chastity in the sense of the
vows of religion, but also in the broad sense of the restraint and
discipline of appetite whether within or without the marriage relation.
It impresses upon us the truth that purity is not only a human quality
but a divinely created virtue, the result of the infusion of sanctifying
grace into the soul. Is it not largely because the young are taught
(when they are taught anything at all in the premises) that purity is a
matter of the _will_, that they so often fail? If they were taught the
nature of the _virtue_ and were led to rely more on the indwelling might
of the Holy Spirit would they not have better success? And if there were
held constantly before their eyes the example of the saints and
especially of Blessed Mary ever-virgin, would not they have an increased
sense of the value of purity?

The life and example of S. Mary are an inestimable treasure of the
Church of God, and her removal from the world has only enhanced that
value. To-day her meaning is clearer to us than ever. The spirit-guided
mind of the Church has through the centuries been meditating on the
meaning of her office as Mother of God. The words in which she accepts
her vocation, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, implying, as they do, an
active co-operation with the divine purpose, a voluntary association of
herself with it, imply, too, the perpetual continuance of that
association, and contain in germ all Catholic teaching in regard to her
office. She passed from this world silently, and to the world unknown;
but to the Church of God she ever remains of all human beings the
greatest spiritual force in the Kingdom of God.

Weep, living things, of life the Mother dies;
The world doth lose the sum of all her bliss,
The Queen of earth, the Empress of the skies;
By Mary's death mankind an orphan is.
Let Nature weep, yea, let all graces moan,
Their glory, grace and gifts die all in one.

It was no death to her, but to her woe,
By which her joys began, her griefs did end;
Death was to her a friend, to us a foe,
Life of whose lives did on her life depend:
Not prey of death, but praise to death she was.
Whose ugly shape seemed glorious in her face.

Her face a heaven; two planets were her eyes,
Whose gracious light did make our clearest day;
But one such heaven there was, and lo, it dies,
Death's dark eclipse hath dimmed every, ray:
Sun, hide thy light, thy beams untimely shine;
True light since we have lost, we crave not thine.
Robert Southwell, 1560-1595




Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with
me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast
given me.

S. John XVII, 24.

Hail! Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail! Our life, our
sweetness, our hope, all hail. To thee we cry, poor exiled
children of Eve. To thee we send up our cries, weeping and
mourning in this vale of tears. Turn, then, Most gracious
Advocate, thy merciful eyes upon us, and now, after this our
exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O
gracious, O merciful, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Anthem from the breviary. Attributed
to Hermann Contractus, 1013-54.

There is nothing more wonderful or beautiful, nothing that brings to us
a more perfect revelation of our Lord's mind, than this prayer which is
recorded for us by S. John. There is in it a complete unfolding of that
sympathy and love which we feel to underlie and explain our Lord's
mission. As we come to know what God is only when we see Him revealed in
Jesus; when we enter into our Lord's saying, "He that hath seen me, hath
seen the Father," so in the revelation of Jesus we understand God's
attitude toward us. In Jesus the love of God shows itself, not as an
abstract quality, a philosophical conception, but as a burning,
passionate eagerness to rescue, an outgoing of God to individual souls.
There is a deep personal affection displayed in this final scene in the
Upper Chamber. This is our Lord's real parting from His disciples. He
will see them again, but under conditions of strain and tragedy, or
under such changed circumstances that they cannot well enter into the
old intimacy. But here there is no bar to the expression of love. Here
He gives them the final evidence of His utter union with them in the
humility of the foot-washing. Here He marvellously imparts Himself in
the Breaking of the Bread, wherein is consummated His personal union
with them. This is the demonstration, if one were needed, that having
loved His own, He loved them unto the uttermost.

It is inconceivable that passionate love such as this should ever end.
It is a personal relation which must endure while personality endures.
It is really the demands of love which more than anything else outside
revelation are the evidence of immortality. We are certain that the love
of God which in its fulness has been made known in Christ cannot be
annihilated by death. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love;
therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." Love such as that
must draw men, not only in this world, but in all worlds. If it can draw
men out of sin to God, it must create an enduring bond. If it can draw
God to men, it must be the revelation of a permanent attitude of God to
man. It is a love that goes out beyond the world, that love of which S.
Paul says: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor
angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things
to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Our instinctive thought of the Judgment seems to be of it as
condemnation, or, at best, as acquittal. But why not think of it as
consummation? Why not think of it as setting the seal of God's approval
upon our accomplishment of His will and purpose for us? The final
Judgment is surely that,--the entrance of those who are saved into the
full joy of their Lord. There once more will our humanity be complete
because it is the whole man, not the soul only, but the soul clothed
with the body of the resurrection, once more clothed upon with its
"house from heaven," which is filled with the joy of the Beatific
Vision. The thought of the particular judgment may fill us with dread;
but if we are able to look beyond that to the general Judgment at the
last day, we shall think only of our perfect bliss in the enjoyment
of God.

The belief in the Assumption of our Lady is a belief that in her case
that which is the inheritance of all the saints, that they shall rise
again with their bodies and be admitted to the Vision of God, has been
anticipated. In her, that which we all look forward to and dream of for
ourselves, has been attained. She to-day is in God's presence in her
entire humanity, clothed with her body of glory.

This teaching, one finds, still causes some searching of hearts among
us, and is thought to raise many questions difficult to answer. And it
may be admitted at the outset that it is not a truth taught in Holy
Scripture but a truth arrived at by the mind of the Church after
centuries of thought. Unless we can think of the Church as a divine
organism with a continuous life from the day of Pentecost until now, as
being the home of the Holy Spirit, and as being continuously guided by
Him into all the truth; unless we can accept in their full sense our
Lord's promises that He will be with the Church until the end of the
world, we shall not find it possible to accept the assumption as a fact,
but shall decline to believe that, and not only that but, if we are
consistent, many another belief of the Christian Church. But if we have
an adequate understanding of what is implied in the continuity of the
Church as the organ of the present action of the Holy Spirit, we shall
not find that the fact that a given doctrine is not explicitly contained
in Holy Scripture is any bar to its acceptance. We shall have learned
that the revelation of God in Christ, and our relation to God in Christ,
are facts of such tremendous import and inexhaustible content that it
would be absurd to suppose that all their meaning had been understood
and explicitly stated in the first generation of the Christian Church.

We shall not, then, find it any bar to the acceptance of belief in the
assumption of our Lady that its formal statement came, as is said,
"late." We simply want to know that when it came it came as the outcome
of the mature thought of the Church, the Body of Christ, the Fulness of
Him that filleth all in all.

It is to be noted that the assumption is not a wholly isolated fact.
There are several cases of assumption in the Old Testament though of a
slightly different character in that they were assumptions directly from
life without any interval of death. Such were the assumptions of Enoch
and Elijah. Moses, too, it has been constantly believed, was assumed
into heaven,--in his case after death and with his resurrection body. A
case which is more strangely like what is believed to have taken place
in the experience of blessed Mary is that closely connected with our
Lord's resurrection and recorded by S. Matthew. "And the graves were
opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of
the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and
appeared unto many." Although it is not asserted that these were assumed
into heaven, it seems impossible to avoid the inference; and if "many
saints which slept" were raised from the dead and assumed into the
heavenly world, there can be no _a priori_ difficulty in believing the
same thing to have taken place in the Blessed Mother of God. Nay if such
a thing as an assumption is at all possible for any human being one
would naturally conclude from the very relation of S. Mary to our Lord
that the possibility would be realised in her.

And there were elements in her case which were lacking in all the other
cases which suggest a certain fitness, if not inevitability, in her
assumption. She was conceived without sin,--never had any breath of sin
tainted her. Was it then possible that she should be holden by death?
Surely, in any case, it was impossible that her holy body should see
corruption: we cannot think of the dissolution of that body which had no
part in sin. If ever an assumption were possible, here it was
inevitable--so the thought of the Church shaped itself. The compelling
motives of the belief were theological rather than historical. The germ
out of consideration of which was evolved the belief in the assumption
was the relation of Blessed Mary to her Son. That unique relation might
be expected to carry with it unique consequences, and among these the
consequence that the body which was bound by no sin should be reunited
to the soul which had needed no purgation, but had passed at once to the
presence of its God and its Redeemer who was likewise Son. It is well to
stress the fact that the assumption is not only a fact but a doctrine.
Fact, of course, it was or there could be no doctrine; but the truth of
the fact is certified by the growing conviction in the mind of the
Church of the inevitability of the doctrine.

What is implied in the word assumption is that the body of the Mother of
our Lord was after her death and burial raised to heaven by the power of
God. It differed therefore essentially from the ascension of our Lord
which was accomplished by His Own inherent power. When this assumption
took place we have no means of knowing. We do not certainly know where
S. Mary lived, nor where and when she died. Jerusalem and Ephesus
contend in tradition for the privilege of having sheltered her last days
and reverently carried her body to its burial. There is no way of
deciding between these two claims, although the fact that our Lord
confided His Mother to S. John throws some little weight into the scale
of Ephesus. And yet S. Mary may have died before S. John settled in
Ephesus. We can only say that history gives us no reliable information
on the matter.

In the silence of Scripture we naturally turn to the other writings of
the early Church for light and guidance on the matter; but there, too,
there is little help. There is, to be sure, a group of Apocryphal
writings which have a good deal to say about the life of S. Mary, where
the Scriptures and tradition are silent. Among other things these
Apocryphal writings have a good deal to say, and some very beautiful
stories to tell, of S. Mary's last days, of her burial and assumption.
Are we to think of these stories as containing any grain of truth? If
they do, it is now impossible to sift it from the chaff. These stories
are generally rejected as a basis of knowledge. And there has been, and
still is in some quarters, a conviction that the belief of the Church in
the assumption rests on nothing better or more stable than these
Apocryphal stories; that the authors of these Apocrypha were inventing
their stories out of nothing, and that in an uncritical age their
legends came to be taken as history. Thus was a belief in the assumption
foisted upon the Church, having no slightest ground in fact. The human
tendency to fill in the silences of Scripture has resulted in many
legends, that of the assumption among them.

There is a good deal to be said for this position, yet I do not feel
that it is convincing. That the incidents of the life of the Blessed
Virgin Mary as narrated in the Apocrypha are historical, of course
cannot be maintained. But neither is it at all probable that such
stories grew up out of nothing: indeed, their existence implies that
there were certain facts widely accepted in the Christian community that
served as their starting point. While the Apocryphal stories of the life
of our Lady cannot be accepted as history, they do presuppose certain
beliefs as universally, or at least widely, held. Thus one may reject
all the details of the story of the death and burial and assumption of
our Lady, and yet feel that the story is evidence of a belief in the
assumption among those for whom the story was written. What was new to
them was not the fact of the assumption but the detailed incidents with
which the Apocrypha embroidered it. I feel no doubt that these
Apocryphal stories are not the source of belief in the assumption, but
are our earliest witness to the existence of the belief. They actually
presuppose its existence in the Church as the necessary condition of
their own existence.

Another fact that tells in the same direction is the absence of any
physical relics of our Lady. At a time when great stress was laid upon
relics, and there was little scruple in inventing them, if the authentic
ones were not forthcoming, there were no relics produced which were
alleged to be the physical relics of S. Mary. Why was this? Surely,
unless there were some inhibiting circumstances, relics, real or forged,
would have been produced. The only probable explanation is that the
inhibiting circumstance was the established belief in the assumption. If
the assumption were a fact, there would be no physical relics; if it
were an established belief, there would be no fraud possible. Add to
this that various relics of our Lady were alleged to exist; but they
were not relics of her body.

Again: by the seventh century the celebration of the feast of the
assumption had spread throughout the whole church. This universal
establishment of the feast implies a preceding history of considerable
length, going well back into the past. The feast was kept in many
places, and under a variety of names which seem to imply, not mere
copying, but independent development. It is alleged, to be sure, that
the names by which the feast was called do not imply belief in the
assumption. The feast is called "the Sleeping," "the Repose," "the
Passage" of the Virgin, as well as by the Western title, the assumption.
But a study of the liturgies and of the sermons preached in honour of
the feast will convince any one that the underlying tradition was that
of our Lady's assumption.

These quite separate and yet converging lines of evidence seem to me to
show convincingly what was the wide-spread belief of the early Christian
community as to the destiny of Blessed Mary. They imply a tradition
going well back into the past, so far back, that in view of the
theological expression of the mind of the Church they may well be
regarded as apostolic. Our personal belief in the assumption will still
rest primarily upon its theological expression in the mind of the
Church, but having attained certainty as to the doctrine, which is of
course at the same time certainty as to the fact, we shall have no
difficulty in finding in the above sketched lines of historical
development the evidence of the primitive character of the belief.

It may not be amiss to give a few characteristic quotations as
indicating the mind of the Church in this matter.

S. Modestus, patriarch of Jerusalem (d. 614), preaching on the Falling
Asleep of the Mother of God, said:--

"The Lord of heaven and earth has to-day consecrated the human
tabernacle in which He Himself, according to the flesh, was received,
that it may enjoy with Him forever the gift of incorruptibility. O
blessed sleep of the glorious, ever-virgin Mother of God, who has not
known the corruption of the grave; for Christ, our all-powerful Saviour,
has kept intact that flesh which gave Him His flesh.... Hail, most holy
Mother of God: Jesus has willed to have you in His Kingdom with your
body clothed in incorruptibility.... The most glorious Mother of Christ
our Lord and Saviour, Who gave life and immortality, is raised by her
Son, and forever possesses incorruptibility with Him Who called her from
the tomb."

S. Andrew, Archbishop of Crete (d. 676), also preaching on the Falling
Asleep of the Mother of God, says:--"It is a wholly new sight, and one
that surpasses the reason, that of a woman purer than the heavens
entering heaven with her body. As she was born without corruption, so
after death her flesh is restored to life."

In one of his sermons at the same feast, S. Germanus of Constantinople
(d. 733), speaks thus:--"It was impossible that the tomb should hold the
body which had been the living temple of the Son of God. How should your
flesh be reduced to dust and ashes who, by the Son born of you, have
delivered the human race from the corruption of death?"

Preaching on the same festival, S. John Damascene (d. 760) said:--"Your
flesh has known no corruption. Your immaculate body, which knew no
stain, was not left in the tomb. You remained virgin in your
child-bearing; and in your death your body was not reduced to dust but
has been placed in a better and celestial state."

There are one or two practical consequences of this doctrine concerning
which, perhaps, it may be well to say a few words. The first is as the
result of such devotions to our Lady as are implied in, or have in fact
followed, a belief in her assumption. It is objected to them that even
granting the truth of the fact of the assumption, still the stress laid
on the fact and the devotions to our Lady which are held to be
appropriate to it, are unhealthy in their nature, and do, in fact, tend
to obscure the worship of our Lord: that where devotions to our Lady are
fostered, there devotion to our Lord declines. That therefore instead of
trying to advance the cultus of our Lady, we should do much better to
hold to the sanity and reserve which has characterised the Anglican
Church since the Reformation.

These and the like arguments seem to me to hang in the air and to be
quite divorced from facts. They imply a state of things which does not
exist. The assertion that where devotion to our Lady prevails devotion
to our Lord declines is as far as possible from being true. Where to-day
is the Deity of our Lord defended most ardently and devotion to Him most
wide spread? Is it in Churches where devotion to our Lady is suppressed?
On the contrary, do you not know with absolute certainty, that in any
church where you find devotion to our Lady encouraged, there will you
find the Deity of our Lord maintained? Has the Anglican "sanity and
reserve" in regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary saved the Anglican Church
from the inroads of unitarianism and rationalism? Is it not precisely in
those circles where the very virginity of our Lady is denied that the
divinity of our Lord is denied also? No, devotion to Mary is far indeed
from detracting from the honour due to Mary's Son.

And we cannot insist too much or too often that the doctrines of the
Christian Church form a closely woven system such that none, even the
seemingly least important, can be denied without injuring the whole. No
article of Christian belief expresses an independent truth, but always a
truth depending upon other truths, and in its turn lending others its
support. To deny any truth that the mind of the Church has expressed is
equivalent to the removal of an organ from a living body.

And to-day we feel more than ever the need of the doctrine of the
assumption. One of the bitterest attacks on the Christian Faith which is
being made to-day, emanating principally from within the Christian
community, and even from within the Christian ministry, is that which is
being made on the truth of the resurrection of the body, whether the
resurrection of our Lord, or our own resurrection. In place of the
Christian doctrine believed and preached from the beginning, we are
asked to lapse back into heathenism and a doctrine of immortality. Not
many seem to realise the vastness of the difference that is made in our
outlook to the future by a belief in the resurrection of the body as
distinguished from immortality. But the character of the religions
resulting from these two contrary beliefs is absolutely different. It
needs only to study them as they actually exist to be convinced of
this fact.

And it is precisely the doctrine of the assumption of our Lady which
contributes strong support to the Christian doctrine of the resurrection
of the body. It teaches us that in her case the vision and hope of
mankind at large has been anticipated and accomplished. The resurrection
of our Lord is found, in fact, to extend (if one may so express it) to
the members of His mystical body; and the promise which is fulfilled in
Blessed Mary, is that hope of a joyful resurrection which is thus
confirmed to us all. In its stress upon the assumption the mind of the
Christian Church has not been led astray, has not been betrayed into
fostering superstitions, but has been led by the Spirit of Christ which
He promised it to the development of a truth not only revealing the
present place of His glorious Mother in the Kingdom of her Son, but
encouraging and heartening us in our following of the heavenly way.

Whoe is shee that assends so high
Next the heavenlye Kinge,
Round about whome angells flie
And her prayses singe?

Who is shee that adorned with light,
Makes the sunne her robe,
At whose feete the queene of night
Layes her changing globe?

To that crowne direct thine eye,
Which her heade attyres;
There thou mayst her name discrie
Wrytt in starry fires.

This is shee, in whose pure wombe
Heaven's Prince remained;
Therefore, in noe earthly tombe
Cann shee be contayned.

Heaven shee was, which held that fire
Whence the world tooke light,
And to heaven doth now aspire,
Fflames with fflames to unite.

Shee that did so clearly shyne
When our day begunne,
See, howe bright her beames decline
Nowe shee sytts with the sunne.

Sir John Beaumont, 1582-1628.




And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed
with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head
a crown of twelve stars.

Rev. XII, I.

To-day the Angel Gabriel brought the palm and the crown to
the triumphant Virgin. To-day he introduced to the Lord of
all, her, who was the Temple of the Most High, and the
dwelling of the Holy Spirit.


The heaven which S. John the Evangelist shows us is the continuation of
the earthly Church. As we read his pages we feel that entrance there
would be a real home-coming for the earnest Christian. We are familiar
enough with presentations of heaven which seem to us to be so detached
from Christian reality as to lack any human appeal. We think of
philosophic presentations of the future with entire indifference. It is
possible, we say, that they may be true; but they are utterly
uninteresting. It is not so in the visions of S. John. Here we have a
heaven which is humanly interesting because it is continous with the
present life, and its interests are the interests that it has been the
object of our religion to foster. The qualities of character which the
Christian religion has urged upon our attention are presented as finding
their clear field of development in the world to come. There, too, are
unveiled the objects of our adoration, the ever-blessed Three who yet
are but one. Love which has striven for development under the conditions
and limitations of our earthly life, which has tried to see God and has
gone out to seek Him in the dimness of revelation, now sees and is
satisfied. Whom now we see in a mirror, enigmatically, we shall then see
face to face.

And it is a heaven thronged with saints, with men and women who have
gone through the same experiences as those to which we are subjected,
and have come forth purified and triumphant. We sometimes in
discouragement think of life as continuous struggle. It is perhaps
natural and inevitable that we should thus concentrate attention upon
the present, but if we lift our eyes so as to clear them from the mists
of the present we see that it is far from a hopeless struggle, but
rather the necessary discipline from which we emerge triumphant. Those
saints whom we see rejoicing about the throne of God, those who go out
to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, passed through the struggle
of persecution to their triumphant attainment of the Vision. It is our
eternal temptation to expect to triumph here; but it is only in a very
limited sense that this can be true: our triumph is indeed here, but the
enjoyment of it and all that is implied in it is elsewhere. Here even
our most complete achievement is conditioned by the limitations of
earth: there the limitations are done away and life expands in

So we look eagerly through the door that is opened in heaven as those
who are looking into their future home. That is what we all are striving
for--presumably. We are consciously selecting out of life precisely
those elements, are centering on those interests, which have eternal
significance and are imperishable values. As we travel along the Pilgrim
Way it is with hearts uplifted and stimulated by the Vision of the end.
We advance as seeing Him Who is invisible. We live by hope, knowing that
we shall attain no enduring satisfaction until we pass through the gates
into the City, and mingle with the throng of worshippers who sing the
song of Moses and of the Lamb. Therefore our life is always
forward-looking and optimistic: because we are sure of the end, we wait
for it with patience and endurance, thankful for all the experience of
the Way. As the years flow by we do not look back on them with regret as
the unrenewable experiences of a vanished youth, but we think of them as
the bearers of experiences by which we have profited, and of goods which
we have safely garnered, waiting the time when their stored values can
be fully realised.

Over all the saints whom the Church has seen rejoicing in the heavenly
life, rises the form of Mary, Mother of God. S. John's vision of the
"great sign in heaven" in its primary meaning has, no doubt, reference
to the Church itself; but the form of its symbolism would be impossible
if there were not a secondary reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It
is the thought of her and of her office as Mother of the Redeemer that
has determined the form of the vision. The details are too clear to
permit of doubt, and such has been the constant mind of Catholic

And how else than as Queen of the heavenly host should we expect her to
be represented? What does the Church teaching as to sanctity imply?

It implies the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision. The normal Christian
life begins in the sacramental act by which the regenerate child is made
one with God, being made a partaker of the divine nature, and develops
through sacramental experience and constant response to the will of God
to that spiritual capacity which is the medium of the Beatific Vision
and which we call sanctity or purity. "The pure in heart shall see God."

But the teaching of the Church also implies that there is a marvellous
diversity in the sanctity of the members of the Body of Christ. Each
saint retains his personal characteristics, and his sanctity is not the
refashioning of his character in a common mould but the perfecting of
his character on its own lines. We sometimes hear it said that the
Christian conception of heaven is monotonous, but that is very far from
being the fact. It is only those conceptions of heaven which have
excluded the communion of saints, and have thought of heaven as the
solitary communion of the soul with God; which have in other words,
excluded the notion of human society from heaven, which have appeared
monotonous. As we read any series of the lives of the saints, and
realise that it is these men and women and multitudes of others like
them, that make up the society of heaven, we get rid of any other notion
than that of endless diversity. And thus studying individual saints we
come to understand that not only is the sanctity of them diverse in
experience but different in degree. All men have not the same capacity
for sanctity, we infer; all cannot develop to the same level of
attainment. We may perhaps say that while all partake of God, all do not
reflect God in the same way or in the same degree.

But if there be a hierachy of saints it is impossible that we should
think of any other at its head than Blessed Mary. Whatsoever diversity
there may be in the attainments of the saints, there is one saint who
is pre-eminent in all things, who,--because in her case there has never
been any moment in which she was separate from God, when the bond of
union was so much as strained,--is the completest embodiment of the
grace of God. That is, I think, essentially what is meant by the
Coronation of our Lady,--that her supremacy in sanctity makes her the
head of the heirarchy of saints, that in her the possibilities of the
life of union have been developed to the highest degree through her
unstained purity and unfailing response to the divine will.

It is of the last importance, if the Catholic conceptions are to be
influential in our lives, that we should gain such a hold on the life of
heaven, the life that the saints, with Saint Mary at their head, are
leading to-day, as shall make it a present reality to us, not a picture
in some sort of dreamland. Our lives are shaped by their ideals; and
although we may never attain to our ideals here, yet we shall never
attain them anywhere unless we shape them here. Heaven must be grasped
as the issue of a certain sort of life, as the necessary consequence of
the application of Christian principles to daily living. It is wholly
bad to conceive it as a vague future into which we shall be ushered at
death, if only we are "good"; it must be understood as a state we win to
by the use of the means placed at our disposal for the purpose. Those
attain to heaven in the future who are interested in heaven in
the present.

And a study of the means is wholly possible for us because we have at
hand in great detail the lives of those whom the Church, by raising
them to her altars, has guaranteed to us as having achieved sanctity and
been admitted to the Beatific Vision. They achieved sanctity here--that
is, in the past. They achieved it under an infinite variety of
circumstanies,--that is the encouragement. They now enjoy the fruits of
it in the world of heaven,--that is the promise.

And nowhere can we better turn for the purpose of our study than to the
life of Blessed Mary. There is the consummate flower of sainthood; and
therefore it it best there that we can study its meaning. And for two
principal reasons can we best study it there. In the first place because
of its completeness: nowhere else are all the elements of sanctity so
well developed. And in the second place because of the riches of the
material for understanding Blessed Mary that is placed at our disposal
by the labour of many generations of saints and doctors. All that devout
meditation can do to understand the sanctity of Blessed Mary has
been done.

Our limit is necessarily reduced, our selection partial and our
accomplishment fragmentary. We cannot however miss our way if we follow
in the steps of Holy Revelation in making love the central quality. S.
Mary's greatness is ultimately the greatness of her love. It began as a
love of the will of God. She appears as utterly selfless, as having
devoted herself to the will of God as He shall manifest that will. And
therefore when the time comes she makes the great sacrifice that is
asked of her without hesitation and without effort: "Behold, the
handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." And all her
life henceforth is loving response to what is unfolded as the content of
the accepted revelation. That is a noteworthy thing that I fancy is
often missed. It is not uncommon for one to accept a vocation as a
whole, and then subsequently, as it unfolds, shrink from this or that
detail of it. But in the case of S. Mary the acceptance of the vocation
meant the acceptance of _God_, and there was no holding back from the
result of that.

That must be our guide in the pursuit of the heavenly life: we must
understand that we are not called to accept this or that belief or
practice, but are called to accept God--God speaking to us through the
revelation He has entrusted to His Catholic Church. We do not, when we
make our act of acceptance, know all or very much of what God is going
to mean; but whatever God turns out to mean in experience, there can be
no holding back. The note of a true acceptance of vocation is precisely
this limitless surrender, a surrender without reservation. S. Mary could
by no means understand what was to be asked of her: she only knew it was
God Who asked it. She could not foresee the years of the ministry when
her Son would not have where to lay His head, followed by the anxiety of
Holy Week and the watch by the Cross on Good Friday; but as these things
came she could understand them as involved in her vocation, in her
acceptance of God.

And cannot we get the same attitude toward life? In the acceptance of
the Christian Religion what we have accepted is God. We have
acknowledged the supremacy of a will outside ourselves. We say, "we are
not our own, we are bought with a price," the price of the Precious
Blood. But if our acceptance is a reality and not a theory it will turn
out to involve much more than we imagined at the first. The frequent and
pathetic failures of those who have made profession of Christianity is
largely accounted for by this,--that the demands of the Christian
Religion on life turn out to be more searching and far-reaching than was
supposed would be the case. Religion turns out to be not one interest to
be adjusted to the other interests of life, but to be a demand that all
life and action shall be controlled by supernatural motive. Those who
would willingly give a part, find it impossible to surrender the whole.
The world is full of Young Rulers who are willing "to contribute
liberally to the support of religion," but shrink from the demand that
they "sell all." "I seek not yours, but you," S. Paul writes to the
Corinthians; and that is also the seeking of God--"Not yours but you."
And because the limit of our willingness is reached in contribution and
does not extend to sacrifice, we fail.

But Blessed Mary did not fail because there was no limit to her
willingness to sacrifice. Her will to sacrifice had the same limitless
quality as her love; and because of the limitless quality of her
self-giving her growth in the life of union was unlimited, or limited
only by the limitations of creaturehood. When therefore we think of her
to-day as Queen of Saints we are not thinking of an arbitrarily
conferred position; we are thinking of a position which comes to her
because she is what she is. She through the unstinting sacrifice of her
love came into more intimate relations with God than is possible for any
other, and through that relation came to know more of the mind of God
than any other. The power of her intercession is the power of her
understanding, of her sympathy with the thoughts of God. When we come to
her with our request for her intercession we feel that we are sure of
her sympathy and her understanding. Her experience of human life, we
think, was not very wide: can she whose life was passed under such
narrow conditions understand the complex needs of the modern man or
woman? It is true that her actual experience of human life was not very
wide; but her experience of God is very wide indeed, and she is able to
understand our experience better than we can understand it ourselves
because of her understanding of God's mind and will. It is seeing life
through God's eyes that reveals the truth about it.

Hence the blunder and the tragedy of those who seek to know life by
experience, when they mean experience gained by participation in life's
evil as well as in its good. They succeed in soiling life rather than in
understanding it; for participation in evil effectually prevents our
understandings of good. It is on the face of things that the farther a
man goes into sin, the less is righteousness intelligible to him. Our
Lord's rule "He that doeth the will shall know of the doctrine" is not
an arbitrary maxim, but embodies the deepest psychological truth. There
is but one path to full understanding, and that is the path of
sympathy. And therefore are we sure of our Lady's understanding and
come to her unhesitatingly for the help of her intercession. She
understands our case because she sees it revealed in the mind of
her Son.

It cannot be questioned that much of the weakness of religion to-day is
due to the fact that Christian ideals make but faint appeal. By many
they are frankly repudiated as impossible of attainment in a world such
as this, and as weakening to human character so far as they are
attained. Christians, of course, are unable to take this point of view,
and, therefore, they treat the ideals with respect, but continue to
govern their lives by motives which are not harmonious with them. It is
tacitly assumed on all sides that a consistent pursuit of Christians
ideals will assure failure in social or business life. This, of course,
is tantamount to a confession that social and business life are
unchristian, and raises the same sort of grave questions as to the duty
of a Christian as were raised in the early days of the Church under the
heathen empire. With that, however, we may not concern ourselves now. We
are merely concerned to note and to emphasise the fact that, whatever
may be true of society or business, our religion is lamentably
ineffective because of its failure to emphasise the ideals of sanctity
and to present those ideals as the ideals of _all_ Christian life, not
as the ideals of a select few. While religious teachers asquiesce in the
present set of compromises as an adequate expression of Christian
character, we may expect a decline in the Church as a spiritual force,
whatever may be true of it as a social force.

If Christian ideals are to resume their appeal to the membership of the
Church as a whole it is requisite that they be studied by the clergy and
intelligently presented. But little is to be hoped in this direction so
long as our theological training ignores religion and concentrates its
attention on something that it takes for scholarship. The raw material
that is sent by our parishes to the seminaries to be educated for Holy
Orders is commonly turned out of the seminary with less religion that it
entered. The outlook for the presentation of Christian ideals is not
hopeful. We seem destined to drift on indefinitely in our habitual

All the more is it necessary that we should lift our eyes to the heavens
where humility and meekness, where sacrifice and obdience, are, in the
person of Blessed Mary, crowned as the most perfect expression of
sanctity, as the qualities that raise man nearest God. And what consoles
us in the present depressing circumstances of the Church is that we are
permitted to look through S. John's eyes into the world of heaven, and
there see "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations,
and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, before the throne and before the
Lamb, clothed with white robes, and with palms in their hands." Somehow,
we feel, under whatever distressing and discouraging circumstances, the
work of God in the regeneration of souls goes on. No doubt it is a work
that is largely hidden from our eyes, from those eyes which are blinded
to the reality of spiritual things. Humility and meekness are the
qualities of a hidden life; they do not flaunt themselves before men's
eyes. But in their silence and obscurity great souls are growing up,
growing to the spiritual status of the saints of God. In our estimate of
values we shall do well to lay to heart the utterances of WISDOM: "Then
shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such
as have afflicted him, and made no account of his labours. When they see
it, they shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at
the strangeness of his salvation, so far beyond all that they had looked
for. And they repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit shall say
among themselves, This is he, whom we had sometime in derision, and a
proverb of reproach: we fools accounted his life madness, and his end
without honour: how is he numbered among the children of God, and his
lot is among the saints! Verily we went astray from the way of truth,
and the light of righteousness shined not unto us, and the sun of
righteousness rose not upon us."

When we have attained to the point of view as to life's value which is
expressed in the ideal of sanctity then we shall know how to estimate at
their true worth the constant criticisms which are directed against
those ideals and those who seek them. The saints, we are told, were no
doubt estimable men and women, but they were weak, and for the purpose
of the world's work, useless. But is this true, to keep to a specific
example, of the Blessed Virgin Mary? What is there about her life that
suggests weakness? And what can be the meaning of calling such a life
useless to the world? Take but one aspect of it. It has for centuries
furnished an ideal of womanhood. It is contended that the women who
have taken Blessed Mary for their ideal have shown themselves weak and
useless?--that those women are stronger in character and of more value
to the world who have thrown over the ideals of sanctity and built their
lives upon the social ideals prevalent at present? I no not care to
attempt any characterisation of the feminine ideal which is commended to
us at present; it is sufficient to say that it is difficult to
understand how it can be considered socially valuable; still less how it
can be considered an advance on the character qualities which
distinguish the Christian ideal of sanctity.

In the midst of the present confusion of values it is for us of vast
significance that we have in this matter the mind of Christ. There need
be no confusion in our minds. What Christ commended has proved to be
practical of accomplishment, the evidence of which is the great
multitude which no man can number who to-day sing about the throne of
God and of the Lamb. What God approves is evidenced by the Coronation of
the Blessed Mother over all the multitudes of the saints of God. Blessed
Mary is the embodied thought of God for humanity, the realised ideal of
a human life. He that is mighty hath magnified her, till she shines
resplendent in spiritual qualities over all the hosts of the elect.

But though so highly exalted she is not thereby removed to an
inaccessible distance. She who is privileged to bear the incredible
title, MOTHER OF GOD is our Mother as well. Upon the Cross our Lord
said to us in the person of His beloved Disciple, "Behold thy Mother";
and it is a mother's love that we find flowing to us from the heart of
Mary. Have we been cold to her, and inappreciative of her love? Have we
felt that we have no need of her in the conduct of our lives? If so,
what we have been doing is to isolate ourselves from the divinely
provided fount of human sympathy which ever flows from our star-crowned
Mother. Is life so rich in sources of help and sympathy and love that we
can afford to over-pass the eagerness of God's saints to help us, the
willingness of the very Mother of God to intercede? Is not the life that
shuts out from itself the society of heaven pitifully impoverished?

Too many of us are like the man who owned the field wherein was the
buried treasure. Limitless aid is at our disposal, but on condition that
we want it and will seek it. Let us try to understand what it is to have
at our disposal the love and sympathy of the saints of God,--that they
are not remote inhabitants of a distant sphere whose present interests
have led to forgetfulness of what they once were, whose present joy is
so intense as to make them self-centred, but that their very attainment
of perfection implies the perfection of their love and the completeness
of their sympathy. The perfection of God's saints and their attainment
of the end of their course in the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision, has
but made them more sensitive of our needs and more eager to help.

The spiritual wisdom and power of the Mother of God is at our disposal
to-day. To the feebleness of our prayers may be added the spiritual
wisdom and strength of her intercession. He Whose will it is that we
should pray for one another, wills too that the prayers of His Blessed
Mother should be at the disposal of all who call upon her. Let us take
the fact of the intercession of the Queen of Saints seriously as a
source of power ever open to us.

Thou who art God's Mother and also ours, thou who lookst constantly into
the Face of the Son, thou who art the fullest manifestation of the love
of the Blessed Trinity, thou Mary, our Mother, pray for us now and in
the hour of our death.

All hail, O Virgin crowned with stars
and moon under thy feet,
Obtain us pardon of our sins
of Christ, our Saviour sweet;
For though thou art Mother of any God,
yet thy humility
Disdaineth not this simple wretch
that flies for help to thee.
Thou knowest thou art more dear to me
than any can express,
And that I do congratulate
With joy thy happiness.
Thou who art the Queen of Heaven and Earth
thy helping hand me lend,
That I may love and praise my God
and have a happy end.
And though my sins me terrify,
yet hoping still in thee,
I find my soul refreshed much
when to thee I do flee;
For thou most willingly to God
petitions dost present,
And dost obtain much grace for us
in this our banishment.
The honour and the glorious praise
by all be given to thee,
Which Jesus thy beloved Son,
ordained eternally;
For thee whom he exalts in heaven
above the angels all,
And whom we find a Patroness
when unto thee we call.
O Mater Dei, memento mei. Amen.

Dame Gertrude More, O.S.B.
Ob. 1633.


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