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I must not close my review of the Catholic doctrine concerning the Blessed Virgin, without directly speaking of her intercessory power, though I have incidentally made mention of it already. It is the immediate result of two truths, neither of which you dispute;—first, that it is good and useful, as the Council of Trent says, suppliantly to invoke the Saints and to have recourse to their prayers; and secondly, that the Blessed Mary is singularly dear to her Son and singularly exalted in sanctity and glory. However, at the risk of becoming didactic, I will state somewhat more fully the grounds on which it rests.

To a candid pagan it must have been one of the most remarkable points of Christianity, on its first appearance, that the observance of prayer formed so vital a part of its organization; and that, though its members were scattered all over the world, and its rulers and subjects had so little opportunity of correlative action, yet they, one and all, found the solace of a spiritual intercourse and a real bond of union, in the practice of mutual intercession. Prayer indeed is the very essence of all religion; but in the heathen religions it was either public or personal; it was a state ordinance, or a selfish expedient for the attainment of certain tangible, temporal goods. Very different from this was its exercise among Christians, who were thereby knit together in one body, different, as they were, in races, ranks, and habits, distant from each other in country, and helpless amid hostile populations. Yet it proved sufficient for its purpose. {69} Christians could not correspond; they could not combine; but they could pray one for another. Even their public prayers partook of this character of intercession; for to pray for the welfare of the whole Church was in fact a prayer for all the classes of men and all the individuals of which it was composed. It was in prayer that the Church was founded. For ten days all the Apostles persevered with one mind in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. Then again at Pentecost they were all with one mind in one place; and the converts then made are said to have persevered in prayer. And when, after a while, St. Peter was seized and put in prison with a view to his being put to death, prayer was made without ceasing by the Church of God for him; and, when the Angel released him, he took refuge in a house where many were gathered together in prayer.

We are so accustomed to these passages as hardly to be able to do justice to their singular significance; and they are followed up by various passages of the Apostolic Epistles. St. Paul enjoins his brethren to pray with all prayer and supplication at all times in the Spirit, with all instance and supplication for all saints, to pray in every place, to make supplication, prayers, intercessions, giving of thanks, for all men. And in his own person he ceases not to give thanks for them, commemorating them in his prayers, and always in all his prayers making supplication for them all with joy.

Now, was this spiritual bond to cease with life? or {70} had Christians similar duties to their brethren departed? From the witness of the early ages of the Church, it appears that they had; and you, and those who agree with you, would be the last to deny that they were then in the practice of praying, as for the living, so for those also who had passed into the intermediate state between earth and heaven. Did the sacred communion extend further still, on to the inhabitants of heaven itself? Here too you agree with us, for you have adopted in your Volume the words of the Council of Trent which I have quoted above. But now we are brought to a higher order of thought.

It would be preposterous to pray for those who are already in glory; but at least they can pray for us, and we can ask their prayers, and in the Apocalypse at least Angels are introduced both sending us their blessing and offering up our prayers before the Divine Presence. We read there of an angel who came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which is before the Throne of God. On this occasion, surely the Angel performed the part of a great Intercessor or Mediator above for the children of the Church Militant below. Again, in the beginning of the same book, the sacred writer goes so far as to speak of grace and peace coming to us, not only from the Almighty, but from the seven Spirits that are before His throne, thus associating the Eternal with the ministers of His mercies; and this carries us on to the remarkable passage of St. Justin, one of the earliest Fathers, who, in his Apology, {71} says, To Him (God), and His Son who came from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good Angels who follow and resemble Him, and the Prophetic Spirit, we pay veneration and homage. Further, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul introduces, not only Angels, but the spirits of the just into the sacred communion: Ye have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Testament. What can be meant by having come to the spirits of the just, unless in some way or other, they do us good, whether by blessing or by aiding us? that is, in a word, to speak correctly, by praying for us, for it is surely by prayer that the creature above is able to bless and aid the creature below.

Intercession thus being a first principle of the Churchs life, next it is certain again, that the vital force of that intercession, as an availing power, is, (according to the will of God), sanctity. This seems to be suggested by a passage of St. Paul, in which the Supreme Intercessor is said to be the Spirit:the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us; He maketh intercession for the saints according to God. And, indeed, the truth thus implied, is expressly brought out for us in other parts of Scripture, in the form both of doctrine and of example. The words of the man born blind speak the common-sense of nature:—if any man be a worshipper of God, him He heareth. And Apostles confirm them:—the prayer of a just man availeth much, and whatever we ask, we receive, because we keep his commandments. {72} Then, as for examples, we read of the Almightys revealing to Abraham and Moses beforehand, His purposes of wrath, in order that they by their intercessions might avert its execution. To the friends of Job it was said, My servant Job shall pray for you; his face I will accept. Elias by his prayer shut and opened the heavens. Elsewhere we read of Jeremias, Moses, and Samuel; and of Noe, Daniel, and Job, as being great mediators between God and His people. One instance is given us, which testifies the continuance of this high office beyond this life. Lazarus, in the parable, is seen in Abrahams bosom. It is usual to pass over this striking passage with the remark that it is a Jewish mode of speech; whereas, Jewish belief or not, it is recognized and sanctioned by our Lord Himself. What do Catholics teach about the Blessed Virgin more wonderful than this? If Abraham, not yet ascended on high, had charge of Lazarus, what offence is it to affirm the like of her, who was not merely as Abraham, the friend, but was the very Mother of God?

It may be added, that, though, if sanctity was wanting, it availed nothing for influence with our Lord, to be one of His company, still, as the Gospel shows, He on various occasions actually did allow those who were near Him, to be the channels of introducing supplicants to Him or of gaining miracles from Him, as in the instance of the miracle of the loaves; and if on one occasion, He seems to repel His Mother, when she told Him that wine was wanting for the guests at the marriage feast, it is obvious to remark on it, that, by saying that she was then separated from Him (What have I to do {73} with thee?) because His hour was not yet come, He implied, that when that hour was come, such separation would be at an end. Moreover, in fact He did at her intercession work the miracle to which her words pointed.

I consider it impossible then, for those who believe the Church to be one vast body in heaven and on earth, in which every holy creature of God has his place, and of which prayer is the life, when once they recognize the sanctity and dignity of the Blessed Virgin, not to perceive immediately, that her office above is one of perpetual intercession for the faithful militant, and that our very relation to her must be that of clients to a patron, and that, in the eternal enmity which exists between the woman and the serpent, while the serpents strength lies in being the Tempter, the weapon of the Second Eve and Mother of God is prayer.

As then these ideas of her sanctity and dignity gradually penetrated the mind of Christendom, so did that of her intercessory power follow close upon them and with them. From the earliest times that mediation is symbolized in those representations of her with up-lifted hands, which, whether in plaster or in glass, are still extant in Rome,—that Church, as St. Irenæus says, with which every Church, that is, the faithful from every side, must agree, because of its more powerful principality; into which, as Tertullian adds, the Apostles poured out, together with their blood, their whole doctrine. As far indeed as existing documents are concerned, I know of no instance to my purpose earlier than A.D. 234, but it is a very remarkable one; {74} and, though it has been often quoted in the controversy, an argument is not weaker for frequent use.

St. Gregory Nyssen , then, a native of Cappadocia in the fourth century, relates that his namesake, Bishop of Neo-Cæsarea in Pontus, surnamed Thaumaturgus, in the century preceding, shortly before he was called to the priesthood, received in a vision a Creed, which is still extant, from the Blessed Mary at the hands of St. John. The account runs thus:—He was deeply pondering theological doctrine, which the heretics of the day depraved. In such thoughts, says his namesake of Nyssa, he was passing the night, when one appeared, as if in human form, aged in appearance, saintly in the fashion of his garments, and very venerable both in grace of countenance and general mien. Amazed at the sight, he started from his bed, and asked who it was, and why he came; but, on the other calming the perturbation of his mind with his gentle voice, and saying he had appeared to him by divine command on account of his doubts, in order that the truth of the orthodox faith might be revealed to him, he took courage at the word, and regarded him with a mixture of joy and fright. Then, on his stretching his hand straight forward and pointing with his fingers at something on one side, he followed with his eyes the extended hand, and saw another appearance opposite to the former, in shape of a woman, but more than human ... When his eyes could not bear the apparition, he heard them conversing together on the subject of his doubts; and {75} thereby not only gained a true knowledge of the faith, but learned their names, as they addressed each other by their respective appellations. And thus he is said to have heard the person in womans shape bid John the Evangelist disclose to the young man the mystery of godliness; and he answered that he was ready to comply in this matter with the wish of the Mother of the Lord, and enunciated a formulary, well-turned and complete, and so vanished. He, on the other hand, immediately committed to writing that divine teaching of his mystagogue, and henceforth preached in the Church according to that form, and bequeathed to posterity, as an inheritance, that heavenly teaching, by means of which his people are instructed down to this day, being preserved from all heretical evil. He proceeds to rehearse the Creed thus given, There is One God, Father of a Living Word, &c. Bull, after quoting it in his work on the Nicene Faith, alludes to this history of its origin, and adds, No one should think it incredible that such a providence should befall a man whose whole life was conspicuous for revelations and miracles, as all ecclesiastical writers who have mentioned him (and who has not?) witness with one voice.

Here our Lady is represented as rescuing a holy soul from intellectual error. This leads me to a further reflection. You seem, in one place of your Volume, to object to the Antiphon, in which it is said of her, All heresies thou hast destroyed alone. Surely the truth of it is verified in this age, as in former times, and especially by the doctrine concerning her, on which I {76} have been dwelling. She is the great exemplar of prayer in a generation, which emphatically denies the power of prayer in toto, which determines that fatal laws govern the universe, that there cannot be any direct communication between earth and heaven, that God cannot visit His own earth, and that man cannot influence His providence.








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