In the Heart of God: Mary's Relations with the Divinity

Chapter 6 of Mother of God by Fr. Cyril Bernard Papali O.C.D.

Read the other chapters here.

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke I, 35.)


          “God said: Be light made, and light was made.”[1] The work of creation was as simple as that. But when it came to the Incarnation, God proceeds in an altogether different way. The Adorable Trinity is involved in it in a most intimate manner, and each of the Divine Persons pours out the infinite treasures of His wisdom, love and power in this great act. And in the midst of this Divine furnace there stands like an incandescent filament the Immaculate Virgin Mary. The whole Divinity is focussed on her. The Holy Ghost descends upon her, the Power of the Most High overshadows her, the Son of God becomes one flesh and blood with her. She is drawn into the very heart of the Blessed Trinity to take part in the greatest of all the great works of God. Two marvels of power and loving condescension are then wrought: a Divine Person descends to the level of creatures and becomes one of them; a simple creature is raised to the society of the Adorable Trinity and rendered almost like a fourth person of It. Henceforth she belongs to the order of the Hypostatic Union, which is next to the order of the Holy Trinity, and infinitely above all creaturely order whether natural or supernatural. This is the meaning of the “reaching the very confines of the Divinity”, and no other creature has done it or can ever do it.

          The relationship with God which this elevation has placed her in is such as might have seemed impossible, and even blasphemous to assert of a creature, if God had not really effected it. The Church loves to address her as the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son, the Spouse of God the Holy Ghost. It will not do to argue that these human relations have no reality with God. By Incarnation He has deigned to enter into the human order of things, and all these relations are now quite real and meaningful. Her intimacy therefore with the Three Divine Persons is something incomparable and inconceivable. “Unlike other ransomed creatures,” wrote Scheeben, “who are merely adoptive children, Mary possesses such a relation to God that the participation in His possessions, His life and bliss, is, in her, based on the most perfect and substantial admission into the family of God. In other words, between God and her there exist a necessitudo which brings with it the absolute community of possessions and life. In her case this relationship seems the more complete, as the seed of the Word of truth, from which the children of God are born, is implanted in her. Through the assuming of her flesh the personal Word Himself entered into organic relation to her and by virtue of this relation, made her in a unique way the mirror and image of God.”[2] St. Bernard explains the ascending order in which creatures are related to God: “He exists in His creatures in different ways: in those that are endowed with reason, in one way; in irrational creatures , in another; and of those creatures that are rational, He exists in the good in a different way from that in which He is in the bad. His irrational creatures have no means of apprehending or possessing Him. All rational creatures indeed may apprehend Him by knowledge, but only the good by love. Only in the good does He so exist as to be with them as well as in them; with them, by a certain harmony and agreement of will; and as long as men so submit their wills to justice, as that there is no dissent between God’s will and theirs, they join themselves to God in a very special way; and in this way God is with all the saints. But He is with Mary in a yet more special manner, for in her there was so great an agreement and union with God that not her will only, but her very flesh was to be united with Him.”[3] Hers was not merely a poetic and imaginary relationship with God, it was real and true. It was not merely a moral bond but also a physical one; not only of the spiritual order, but even of the very flesh and blood. She entered into blood relationship with God – that is the nearest approach to truth that our language can bear. The Saints have used the word “consanguinity” to describe her relation to God, as also great theologians like Vazques, Vega and Canisius. St. Thomas Aquinas has said in his Summa: “Hyperdulia is the greatest species of veneration, for the greatest reverence is due to one who has affinity with God.”[4]

          God the Father has communicated to her, in a limited sense, His eternal parenthood, so that she has become in time the true Mother of His Eternal Son. This communication of parenthood necessarily implies a corresponding communication of dignity, excellence, grace and glory. So that the Mother of the Second Person is really very like His Divine Father. If all parenthood according to St. Paul, is named after the Fatherhood of God, and derives a special dignity and perfection therefrom, what must we say of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin which has not merely a semblance of God’s Fatherhood, but is as it were a counterpart of it, with one common object with it? Hear what St. Bernard has to say: “From the substance of God and of the Blessed Virgin one Christ was made, Who was not all from God nor all from the Virgin, and yet was wholly His and wholly hers, without being two Sons but one, the Son of each.”[5] Thus the Second Person is the link between Mary and God the Father. It does not make her one with God, but it does ensure that she and God can never be apart. It does not put her on a par with God, but it certainly brings he into parallel lines with Him, however low. For, as the Athanasian Creed teaches us: “He is God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before ages; and He is Man, of the substance of the mother, born in time.” Between the Divine Father and the human mother of the Incarnate Word, therefore, there must be some sort of a proportion, the sort of proportion that there is between the Divinity and the Humanity of Christ. And this proportion was brought about when, as the Angel announced, the power of the Most High overshadowed her. This overshadowing and overwhelming Almightiness of God drew her into the heart of the Divinity and made her in a manner divine, for the honour of God the Father demands that the Mother of His Son be like Him in some way. As some humourist of a saint has remarked, God could not communicate to her His Divinity, so He communicated to her Himself. With her Divine Son she is heir to all the riches of God and Mistress of His Kingdom.

          She is the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, the Church loves to style her so. All the love and intimacy and inseparable union that is conveyed by this word is verified between her and the Holy Ghost in a more sublime, far more real sense. Every soul in grace is a temple of the Holy Ghost. How much more so the Blessed Virgin who was full of grace from the very beginning? It was therefore to her who was already the living temple and sanctuary of the Holy Ghost, full of His abiding presence, that the Angel announces: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee.” What are we to understand by it but that He was coming upon her in a far different capacity to transform her from His Sanctuary to His very self-made-visible? The moment Mary gave her consent the Holy Ghost came upon her. She has been so thoroughly taken over by Him that she has become one life and spirit with Him.

          Every supernatural movement is an impulse of the Holy Ghost. The Apostle warns us that we cannot so much as invoke the Name of Jesus without the Holy Ghost doing it in us, and that whenever we pray it is really the Holy Ghost that prays in us with unspeakable sighs. Now in most creatures supernatural acts are comparatively few and feeble. In Mary alone we find the whole being and every movement completely and intensely supernaturalized. She was therefore the only creature who was fully controlled by the Holy Ghost and in whom He could display His marvels freely. She was the visible manifestation of all His gifts and graces. Henceforward she appears almost like an embodiment of the Holy Ghost, one might say almost like an incarnation. So much so that the great mariologist Scheeben has written: “Mary is the organ of the Holy Ghost who works in her in the same way that Christ’s Humanity is the instrument of the Logos.”[6]

          St. Paul rejoiced that the grace of God was not fruitless in him. The Holy Ghost was much more fruitful in the Blessed Virgin. We are all indebted to Him for whatever good we do. But in a way the Holy Ghost has deigned to make Himself indebted to Mary for all the marvels that He does. He decreed to take an instrument and a partner for all His works, and Mary’s voluntary submission gave Him what He wanted. It was in her and through her that He wrought the greatest of all His marvels, the formation of the Sacred Humanity of Christ and Its union with the Divine Word. In it she had not merely a passive part but a very positive and active partnership. We repeat in the Apostles’ Creed: “Conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” From that day she became the unique and universal instrument and organ of the Holy Ghost, for the rest of the economy of grace is merely the complement and continuation of the Incarnation. The Holy Ghost came upon her, and He came to stay. He worked His marvels in her, and He continues to do so. If His greatest work was done through her, His lesser works will not be done without her. The title of spouse has given her a claim to all His treasures. In fact she holds the key to all of them. She is the Mediatrix and dispenser of all graces, as we shall see better in a later chapter.

          Her relations to the Man-God are the most stupendous of all. If her relations to the other two Persons of the Blessed Trinity are already not merely relations of a creature, relations of subjection and dependence, but are also in a way relations of equality, claims and rights, here they become almost those of authority and power. Her relations to the Divine Son are more intimate than anything that can be thought of, so that when we begin to name them we are startled at our own words. And yet they are true. She is one flesh and blood with Him. She gives Him life, nourishment, protection. There was a stage at which she was life to Him as far as His temporal life was concerned. He lives in her, by her, obeys her, depends upon her, clings to her in life and death. Himself and all that is His belong to her by natural right and by special divine disposition. Much more could be said in this strain, but we reserve them all for a special chapter on the Divine Maternity. We can only repeat that by a miracle of God’s Omnipotence this unique creature has been admitted in some marvellous way into the intimate society of the Blessed Trinity. No wonder some saints and theologians, among them Hesechius, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the early days, and Cardinal Lepicier of our own, have gone to the extent of calling her the Complement of the Most Holy Trinity.


[1] Gen. I, 3.

[2] Mariology, Vol. I, chap. ix.

[3] Hom. iii, 4 de Laud Virg. Matr.

[4] Summ. Part. 2-2, quaest. 103, art. 4.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Mariology, Vol. II, Ch. ix.