|"Come my elect, and I will place in you my throne.|
And thus in Sion I have been established, and I rested in the sanctified city."
November 21st, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
At Jerusalem, the Presentation in the Temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. (Roman Martyrology)
As the Blessed Virgin, the true Ark of the Covenant, enters the Temple at the age of three, the heavens rejoice and earth is glad – for the long awaited promise of the Messiah is soon to be fulfilled. Let us enter into a period of contemplation together with our Lady in this season of Advent, may we prepare with her for the coming of Christ our God.
And yet, we ponder, why was it that God chose Our Lady?
God loves some more than others
In this short article, I wish to elaborate upon a point made in an earlier article regarding whether (and why) God loves some more than others. It is certainly difficult for the modern man (infected as he is by modernist sentimentality) to understand that God is not obliged to love all equally – indeed, we have lost a true understanding of love, and so we settle for fuzzy sentiment (and inequality upsets our sentiments).
However, we must recognize that God does not love us after the manner in which a father loves his children (though there is a type of analogy, the dissimilarity is much greater). For, a father loves his son on account of something in the son – namely, humans love other men on account of some good pre-existent in the other. The father loves his son because he is his son – it is not the love of the father which makes the son to be his son, but it is the sonship of the son which makes the father to love his son (even in the case of adoption, we must affirm that there is a pre-existent good in the child which leads the father to love him).
With God, however, things are quite different. God does not love us on account of some good within us – we speak now of the absolute love of God. Rather, God’s love itself makes us to be good, and puts good things within us (especially, sanctifying grace). God does not love us because we are good, but we are good because God loves us. Further, God does not love us because we are lovable, but his love makes us to be loveable. Finally, we must admit that we would not even exist unless God created us out of love – and therefore, we affirm that God’s love precedes (causally) even the good of our existence; we only exist because God chose to love us.
Now, as we said earlier in the discussion of the parable of the talents, it is clear that God loves some more than others – insofar as he gives greater graces to some, and calls some to higher degrees of holiness than others. God loves all men more than rocks, but he loves some men more than others.
While this may make us uncomfortable, it is clearly the case that God loves some more than others when we consider ourselves in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary: She most certainly received greater graces and was called to a higher degree of perfection and holiness than any others. No matter how much we co-operate with God’s grace, we will never (and we could never) attain to the level of holiness and exaltation which has been granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the elect daughter, the most beloved creature, the tabernacle of the Most High.
God loves Mary more than any other (excepting, of course, his own Son) – but we ask, Why?
Not for any of her merits
Our Lady could not have been chosen for any merits of her own. The apostolic constitution of Bl. Pius IX, Inefabilis Deus, which defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, states that Mary was conceived immaculate on account of the foreseen merits of Christ – the document makes no reference whatsoever to our Lady’s merits.
This is extremely important to recall: Mary did not merit her immaculate conception, such would be impossible (metaphysically and theologically). Rather, Our Lady received this special and unique grace by virtue of the merits which Christ would gain through his suffering and death.
Now, the Immaculate Conception – understood within the mystery of the Divine Maternity – is a clear example of the fact that God loves some more than others.
This grace, given to Our Lady, has raised her so far above all the others saints that none can possibly match her in holiness and in grace – if this is not preferential love, nothing is! She has been chosen as Queen of the angels, the Ark of the Covent; she has been sanctified in her conception and protected from every stain of sin. And she did not merit this (absolutely), but it was the free gift of God who chose her as his beloved daughter.
Not because of her special role
Some will claim that our Lady was loved more on account of the special role which she played in the mysteries of our salvation – such a thought is untenable. How could we claim that God’s love was determined by his plan of salvation? Did the plan of salvation precede (causally) the love of God? Was it is plan that made him love us, or did he plan our salvation on account of his tender mercies?
Surely, the love of God comes before the plan of salvation! It’s not that God loves us because he saves us, but he saves us because he loves us! So too with our Lady – it is his special love for her (which is greater than the love he has for any other of the saints) which made him to choose her for the unique role in salvation history as the Mother of God.
It is not because Mary is Mother of God that the Almighty loves her, it is because he loves her that she is the Mother of God.
Not even because she is the Mother of Jesus
Ordinary men love their mothers on account of the fact that they are their mothers. With Christ, however, things are different. It is not that Jesus loved Mary because she was his mother, but rather it was his divine love for her that made her to be his mother.
Here, we consider a beautiful word from St. Thomas Aquinas: “There is this difference between Christ and other men, that, whereas they are born subject to the restrictions of time, Christ, as Lord and Maker of all time, chose a time in which to be born, just has he chose a mother and a birthplace.” (ST III, q.35, a.8)
It was his love as God, which led the Eternal Word to choose Mary as his mother – most certainly, the Maternity of our Lady is no cause of the divine love, but rather God’s love is the cause of her Maternity.
Simply because of his love
In the final analysis, we must admit that God gave our Lady these special graces simply on account of his merciful love. It is not her merits, nor is it through any necessary plan, but solely on account of his ineffable will that God loves Mary more.
Mary is the most easily recognized example of predestination – for she is the special vessel of divine election and love. Neither can any accuse God of being “arbitrary” in choosing Mary from among all women – for there is a great logic in the plan of salvation. While it is true that we cannot understand the source of divine mercy and love, we see that all which proceeds from that love is ordered most wonderfully. The faith is eminently reasonable, even if the central mysteries of the faith (those relating most directly to the Trinity and the divine will) are beyond our comprehension.
Indeed, what we must admit is that the will of God is not arbitrary but is so eminently logical as to be the source and foundation of all logic. It is not so much that God’s mercy and love is shrouded in darkness, as that the brilliance of God’s reason is so bright as to blind our senses. We are the ones in darkness, and we are only slowly becoming accustomed to true light. Part of this process of adjusting somewhat to the divine clarity will be to recognize that God’s ways are not our ways, and that he loves some more than others because of the graciousness of his holy will.
A sequence in honor of this feast
The following prose was used in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in certain churches, for the commemoration of our feast:
The Wisdom of God with inscrutable providence, disposeth all things rightly: Joachim and Anne are united in wedlock, but their union is sterile.
With all the heart's affection they together bind themselves by inviolable vow to the Lord: that if He deign to give them offspring, they without delay will consecrate it to Him for ever in the temple.
A bright Angel appears, and tells them their prayers are heard, and by the grace of the most high King, a daughter shall be given them, full of grace.
Holy even in her conception, she is born in a wondrous manner, yet in a way more wondrous still will she give birth, remaining a virgin, to the Son of the most high Father, when He comes to, freely, cancel the guilt of the world.
She is born then, that blessed Virgin, and at the age of three years is presented in the temple; swift and erect, adorned with her beautiful robe, she ascends the fifteen steps, beneath her parents' gaze.
The temple shines with a new glory, when this august Virgin is presented; there she is taught by God, is visited by the Angels from heaven, and rejoices with them.
When the chief priest bids the maidens of adult age prepare for marriage, the Virgin at first refuses; for her parents have devoted her to God, and she herself has vowed to remain a virgin.
God, being consulted, answers that the virgin shall take him for her spouse whom a miraculous flower shall designate; Joseph thus chosen weds the maiden and leads her to his home.
Then Gabriel is sent to her, telling her how she is to become a mother; but the prudent Virgin stands silent, pondering over the strangeness of the message.
But when he explains how this shall be, she believes him; and thus by the Holy Spirit the Word is conceived, and He whom no space can contain is concealed in the Virgin's bosom.
O peerless maiden, how dost thou surpass all praise in thy dazzling glory! Protect us now, that in our fatherland we may enjoy thy fruit, whereby thou art so honored. Amen.
O Mary, conceived without sin, Pray for us who have recourse to thee!