ST. THOMAS AND THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION (EDITORIAL NOTE)
The privilege of the Virgin-Mother of God and the supreme prerogative of
her Son may be seen from the following diagram:
THE LAW AND THE COURSE OF ORIGINAL SIN UNDER THE LAW . . . . . all descendants from Adam . . . . . spring from Adam materially and seminally . . . . . the body lies (not under the guilty, but) under the effects of original sin . . . . . the stricken body dispositively causes the soul to contract the guilt of original sin . . . . . all contract both debt and stain . . . . . all need a Redeemer to destroy the stain contracted PARTIALLY EXEMPT FROM THE LAW; PRIVILEGE OF IMMACULATE CONCEPTION . . . . . the Blessed Virgin . . . . . springs from Adam materially and seminally . . . . . the body lies (not under the guilt, but) under the effects of original sin . . . . . the stricken body would have dispositively caused the soul to contract the guilt of original sin . . . . . the soul at the moment of union with the body was prevented by the infusion of grace from contracting sin . . . . . Mary contracted the debt, but not the stain . . . . . Mary needed a Redeemer to prevent her from contracting the stain WHOLLY EXEMPT FROM THE LAW; MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION . . . . . Our Blessed Lord . . . . . springs from Adam materially, not seminally (Q, A) . . . . . His body lay under neither guilt nor effects of original sin . . . . . the body being entirely free, could not transmit the stain to His soul . . . . . no preventive grace needed . . . . . Jesus Christ contracted neither debt nor stain . . . . . Jesus Christ is not redeemed, but the Redeemer
It will thus be seen how accurately St. Thomas speaks of the "flesh" or
body of our Blessed Lady. For it should be remembered that, according to
St. Thomas, the human body is animated in succession by (1) a vegetative,
(2) a sensitive, and (3) a rational soul. Hence his assertion that "the
flesh of the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin" (Question , Article , ad 1) means that the body of the Blessed Virgin, being descended from
Adam both materially and seminally, contracted the bodily defects which
are conveyed by seminal generation, and are the results of the privation
of original justice (Question , Article , ad 3). Before animation, therefore the
body of the Blessed Virgin would not be infected with the guilt of
original sin, because privation of grace can only be in that which is the
subject of grace, viz. the rational soul. Nevertheless, before animation
the body of the Blessed Virgin, being seminally descended from Adam, was
such that it would have been the means of transmitting the taint of
original sin to the rational soul at the very first instant of animation,
unless the grace of the Redeemer intervened and sanctified her soul "in
that self-same instant," thus redeeming her and preventing her from
contracting the guilt of original sin.
Why, then, does St. Thomas say that because the Blessed Virgin was not
sanctified before animation, therefore she could be sanctified only after
Such a conclusion would hold if it were a question of the order of
Nature: "a thing must be before it is such [prius est esse quam esse
tale]"; and therefore the soul must be, before it is sanctified. But if
St. Thomas held for a posteriority of time, no matter how short, we ask
how it was that he did not perceive the fallacy of the argument, since it
might be neither before nor after, but in the very instant of, animation.
The question is answered thus: St. Thomas as a Doctor of the Church and
in matters which were not then "de fide," is a witness to the expression
of the faith of his time. Hence his line of argument coincides with,
because it follows, that of St. Bernard, Peter Lombard, Alexander of
Hales, Albert the Great, St. Bonaventure. It was not likely that St.
Thomas would differ from the great masters of his time, who failed to
understand that the grace of redemption might at the same time be one of
preservation and prevention. Nor is it likely that St. Thomas had any
reliable information about the movement* in progress at that time towards
a belief in the Immaculate Conception. [*Principally in England, where,
owing to the influence of St. Anselm (1109), the doctrine was maintained
by Eadmer (1137). Nicolas of St. Albans (1175), Osbert of Clare (1170),
Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (1253), William of Ware (1300), who
was the master of Duns Scotus (1308)]. No doubt he knew something of it,
but the names of its promoters would have weighed little with him as
against those of Bernard, Albert, Peter, Alexander, and Bonaventure. And
it must not be forgotten that among those who upheld the doctrine of the
Immaculate Conception, not a few ascribed the privilege as being absolute
and not one of preservation and Redemption. Hence it is that St. Thomas
insists on two things: (1) that the Mother of God was redeemed, and (2)
that the grace of her sanctification was a grace of preservation. And, be
it remarked in conclusion, these two points, so much insisted on by St.
Thomas, are at the very basis of the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate
QUESTION 27: OF THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
After the foregoing treatise of the union of God and man and the
consequences thereof, it remains for us to consider what things the
Incarnate Son of God did or suffered in the human nature united to Him.
This consideration will be fourfold. For we shall consider: (1) Those
things that relate to His coming into the world; (2) Those things that
relate to the course of His life in this world; (3) His departure from
this world; (4) Those things that concern His exaltation after this life.
The first of these offers four points of consideration: (1) The
Conception of Christ; (2) His Birth; (3) His Circumcision; (4) His
Baptism. Concerning His Conception there are some points to be
considered: (1) As to the Mother who conceived Him; (2) as to the mode of
His Conception; (3) as to the perfection of the offspring conceived.
On the part of the Mother four points offer themselves to our
consideration: (1) Her sanctification. (2) her virginity; (3) her
espousals; (4) her annunciation, or preparation for conception.
Concerning the first there are six points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, was sanctified before her
birth from the womb?
(2) Whether she was sanctified before animation?
(3) Whether in virtue of this sanctification the fomes of sin was
entirely taken away from her?
(4) Whether the result of this sanctification was that she never sinned?
(5) Whether in virtue of this sanctification she received the fulness of
(6) Whether it was proper to her to be thus sanctified?
Article 1: Whether the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before her birth from the womb?
Objection 1: It would seem that the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified before
her birth from the womb. For the Apostle says (1 Cor. 15:46): "That was
not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; afterwards that
which is spiritual." But by sanctifying grace man is born spiritually
into a son of God according to Jn. 1:13: "(who) are born of God." But
birth from the womb is a natural birth. Therefore the Blessed Virgin was
not sanctified before her birth from the womb.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (Ep. ad Dardan.): "The sanctification, by
which we become temples of God, is only of those who are born again." But
no one is born again, who was not born previously. Therefore the Blessed
Virgin was not sanctified before her birth from the womb.
Objection 3: Further, whoever is sanctified by grace is cleansed from sin,
both original and actual. If, therefore, the Blessed Virgin was
sanctified before her birth from the womb, it follows that she was then
cleansed from original sin. Now nothing but original sin could hinder her
from entering the heavenly kingdom. If therefore she had died then, it
seems that she would have entered the gates of heaven. But this was not
possible before the Passion of Christ, according to the Apostle (Heb. 10:19): "We have [Vulg.: 'having'] therefore a confidence in the entering
into the Holies by His blood." It seems therefore that the Blessed Virgin
was not sanctified before her birth from the womb.
Objection 4: Further, original sin is contracted through the origin, just as
actual sin is contracted through an act. But as long as one is in the act
of sinning, one cannot be cleansed from actual sin. Therefore neither
could the Blessed Virgin be cleansed from original sin as long as she was
in the act of origin, by existence in her mother's womb.
On the contrary, The Church celebrates the feast of our Lady's Nativity.
Now the Church does not celebrate feasts except of those who are holy.
Therefore even in her birth the Blessed Virgin was holy. Therefore she
was sanctified in the womb.
I answer that, Nothing is handed down in the canonical Scriptures concerning the sanctification of the Blessed Mary as to her being sanctified in the womb; indeed, they do not even mention her birth. But as Augustine, in his tractate on the Assumption of the Virgin, argues with reason, since her body was assumed into heaven, and yet Scripture does not relate this; so it may be reasonably argued that she was sanctified in the womb. For it is reasonable to believe that she, who brought forth "the Only-Begotten of the Father full of grace and truth," received greater privileges of grace than all others: hence we read (Lk. 1:28) that the angel addressed her in the words: "Hail full of grace!"
Moreover, it is to be observed that it was granted, by way of privilege,
to others, to be sanctified in the womb; for instance, to Jeremias, to
whom it was said (Jer. 1:5): "Before thou camest forth out of the womb, I
sanctified thee"; and again, to John the Baptist, of whom it is written
(Lk. 1:15): "He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his
mother's womb." It is therefore with reason that we believe the Blessed
Virgin to have been sanctified before her birth from the womb.
Reply to Objection 1: Even in the Blessed Virgin, first was that which is
natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual: for she was first
conceived in the flesh, and afterwards sanctified in the spirit.
Reply to Objection 2: Augustine speaks according to the common law, by reason of
which no one is regenerated by the sacraments, save those who are
previously born. But God did not so limit His power to the law of the
sacraments, but that He can bestow His grace, by special privilege, on
some before they are born from the womb.
Reply to Objection 3: The Blessed Virgin was sanctified in the womb from original
sin, as to the personal stain; but she was not freed from the guilt to
which the whole nature is subject, so as to enter into Paradise otherwise
than through the Sacrifice of Christ; the same also is to be said of the
Holy Fathers who lived before Christ.
Reply to Objection 4: Original sin is transmitted through the origin, inasmuch as
through the origin the human nature is transmitted, and original sin,
properly speaking, affects the nature. And this takes place when the
off-spring conceived is animated. Wherefore nothing hinders the offspring
conceived from being sanctified after animation: for after this it
remains in the mother's womb not for the purpose of receiving human
nature, but for a certain perfecting of that which it has already
Article 2: Whether the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before animation?
Objection 1: It would seem that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before
animation. Because, as we have stated (Article ), more grace was bestowed on
the Virgin Mother of God than on any saint. Now it seems to have been
granted to some, to be sanctified before animation. For it is written
(Jer. 1:5): "Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew
thee": and the soul is not infused before the formation of the body.
Likewise Ambrose says of John the Baptist (Comment. in Luc. i, 15): "As
yet the spirit of life was not in him and already he possessed the Spirit
of grace." Much more therefore could the Blessed Virgin be sanctified
Objection 2: Further, as Anselm says (De Concep. Virg. xviii), "it was fitting
that this Virgin should shine with such a purity that under God none
greater can be imagined": wherefore it is written (Canticles 4:7): "Thou
art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee." But the purity
of the Blessed Virgin would have been greater, if she had never been
stained by the contagion of original sin. Therefore it was granted to her
to be sanctified before her flesh was animated.
Objection 3: Further, as it has been stated above, no feast is celebrated
except of some saint. But some keep the feast of the Conception of the
Blessed Virgin. Therefore it seems that in her very Conception she was
holy; and hence that she was sanctified before animation.
Objection 4: Further, the Apostle says (Rm. 11:16): "If the root be holy, so
are the branches." Now the root of the children is their parents.
Therefore the Blessed Virgin could be sanctified even in her parents,
On the contrary, The things of the Old Testament were figures of the
New, according to 1 Cor. 10:11: "All things happened to them in figure."
Now the sanctification of the tabernacle, of which it is written (Ps. 45:5): "The most High hath sanctified His own tabernacle," seems to
signify the sanctification of the Mother of God, who is called "God's
Tabernacle," according to Ps. 18:6: "He hath set His tabernacle in the
sun." But of the tabernacle it is written (Ex. 40:31,32): "After all
things were perfected, the cloud covered the tabernacle of the testimony,
and the glory of the Lord filled it." Therefore also the Blessed Virgin
was not sanctified until after all in her was perfected, viz. her body
I answer that, The sanctification of the Blessed Virgin cannot be
understood as having taken place before animation, for two reasons.
First, because the sanctification of which we are speaking, is nothing
but the cleansing from original sin: for sanctification is a "perfect
cleansing," as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. xii). Now sin cannot be taken
away except by grace, the subject of which is the rational creature
alone. Therefore before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed
Virgin was not sanctified.
Secondly, because, since the rational creature alone can be the subject
of sin; before the infusion of the rational soul, the offspring conceived
is not liable to sin. And thus, in whatever manner the Blessed Virgin
would have been sanctified before animation, she could never have
incurred the stain of original sin: and thus she would not have needed
redemption and salvation which is by Christ, of whom it is written (Mt. 1:21): "He shall save His people from their sins." But this is unfitting,
through implying that Christ is not the "Saviour of all men," as He is
called (1 Tim. 4:10). It remains, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin was
sanctified after animation.
Reply to Objection 1: The Lord says that He "knew" Jeremias before he was formed
in the womb, by knowledge, that is to say, of predestination: but He
says that He "sanctified" him, not before formation, but before he "came
forth out of the womb," etc.
As to what Ambrose says, viz. that in John the Baptist there was not the
spirit of life when there was already the Spirit of grace, by spirit of
life we are not to understand the life-giving soul, but the air which we
breathe out [respiratus]. Or it may be said that in him as yet there was
not the spirit of life, that is the soul, as to its manifest and complete
Reply to Objection 2: If the soul of the Blessed Virgin had never incurred the
stain of original sin, this would be derogatory to the dignity of Christ,
by reason of His being the universal Saviour of all. Consequently after
Christ, who, as the universal Saviour of all, needed not to be saved, the
purity of the Blessed Virgin holds the highest place. For Christ did not
contract original sin in any way whatever, but was holy in His very
Conception, according to Lk. 1:35: "The Holy which shall be born of thee,
shall be called the Son of God." But the Blessed Virgin did indeed
contract original sin, but was cleansed therefrom before her birth from
the womb. This is what is signified (Job 3:9) where it is written of the
night of original sin: "Let it expect light," i.e. Christ, "and not see
it"---(because "no defiled thing cometh into her," as is written Wis.
7:25), "nor the rising of the dawning of the day," that is of the Blessed
Virgin, who in her birth was immune from original sin.
Reply to Objection 3: Although the Church of Rome does not celebrate the
Conception of the Blessed Virgin, yet it tolerates the custom of certain
churches that do keep that feast, wherefore this is not to be entirely
reprobated. Nevertheless the celebration of this feast does not give us
to understand that she was holy in her conception. But since it is not
known when she was sanctified, the feast of her Sanctification, rather
than the feast of her Conception, is kept on the day of her conception.
Reply to Objection 4: Sanctification is twofold. one is that of the whole nature:
inasmuch as the whole human nature is freed from all corruption of sin
and punishment. This will take place at the resurrection. The other is
personal sanctification. This is not transmitted to the children begotten
of the flesh: because it does not regard the flesh but the mind.
Consequently, though the parents of the Blessed Virgin were cleansed from
original sin, nevertheless she contracted original sin, since she was
conceived by way of fleshly concupiscence and the intercourse of man and
woman: for Augustine says (De Nup. et Concup. i): "All flesh born of
carnal intercourse is sinful."
Article 3: Whether the Blessed Virgin was cleansed from the infection of the fomes?
Objection 1: It would seem that the Blessed Virgin was not cleansed from the
infection of the fomes. For just as the fomes, consisting in the
rebellion of the lower powers against the reason, is a punishment of
original sin; so also are death and other corporeal penalties. Therefore
the fomes was not entirely removed from her.
Objection 2: Further, it is written (2 Cor. 12:9): "Power is made perfect in
infirmity," which refers to the weakness of the fomes, by reason of which
he (the Apostle) felt the "sting of the flesh." But it was not fitting
that anything should be taken away from the Blessed Virgin, pertaining to
the perfection of virtue. Therefore it was unfitting that the fomes
should be entirely taken away from her.
Objection 3: Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii) that "the Holy Ghost
came upon" the Blessed Virgin, "purifying her," before she conceived the
Son of God. But this can only be understood of purification from the
fomes: for she committed no sin, as Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat.
xxvi). Therefore by the sanctification in the womb she was not absolutely
cleansed from the fomes.
On the contrary, It is written (Canticles 4:7): "Thou art all fair, O my
love, and there is not a spot in thee!" But the fomes implies a blemish,
at any rate in the flesh. Therefore the fomes was not in the Blessed
I answer that, on this point there are various opinions. For some have
held that the fomes was entirely taken away in that sanctification
whereby the Blessed Virgin was sanctified in the womb. Others say that it
remained as far as it causes a difficulty in doing good, but was taken
away as far as it causes a proneness to evil. Others again, that it was
taken away as to the personal corruption, by which it makes us quick to
do evil and slow to do good: but that it remained as to the corruption of
nature, inasmuch as it is the cause of transmitting original sin to the
offspring. Lastly, others say that, in her first sanctification, the
fomes remained essentially, but was fettered; and that, when she
conceived the Son of God, it was entirely taken away. In order to
understand the question at issue, it must be observed that the fomes is
nothing but a certain inordinate, but habitual, concupiscence of the
sensitive appetite. for actual concupiscence is a sinful motion. Now
sensual concupiscence is said to be inordinate, in so far as it rebels
against reason; and this it does by inclining to evil, or hindering from
good. Consequently it is essential to the fomes to incline to evil, or
hinder from good. Wherefore to say that the fomes was in the Blessed
Virgin without an inclination to evil, is to combine two contradictory
In like manner it seems to imply a contradiction to say that the fomes remained as to the corruption of nature, but not as to the personal corruption. For, according to Augustine (De Nup. et Concup. i.), it is lust that transmits original sin to the offspring. Now lust implies inordinate concupiscence, not entirely subject to reason: and therefore, if the fomes were entirely taken away as to personal corruption, it could not remain as to the corruption of nature.
It remains, therefore, for us to say, either that the fomes was entirely
taken away from her by her first sanctification or that it was fettered.
Now that the fomes was entirely taken away, might be understood in this
way, that, by the abundance of grace bestowed on the Blessed Virgin, such
a disposition of the soul's powers was granted to her, that the lower
powers were never moved without the command of her reason: just as we
have stated to have been the case with Christ (Question , Article ), who
certainly did not have the fomes of sin; as also was the case with Adam,
before he sinned, by reason of original justice: so that, in this
respect, the grace of sanctification in the Virgin had the force of
original justice. And although this appears to be part of the dignity of
the Virgin Mother, yet it is somewhat derogatory to the dignity of
Christ, without whose power no one had been freed from the first sentence
of condemnation. And though, through faith in Christ, some were freed
from that condemnation, according to the spirit, before Christ's
Incarnation, yet it does not seem fitting that any one should be freed
from that condemnation, according to the flesh, except after His
Incarnation, for it was then that immunity from condemnation was first to
appear. Consequently, just as before the immortality of the flesh of
Christ rising again, none obtained immortality of the flesh, so it seems
unfitting to say that before Christ appeared in sinless flesh, His Virgin
Mother's or anyone else's flesh should be without the fomes, which is
called "the law of the flesh" or "of the members" (Rm. 7:23,25).
Therefore it seems better to say that by the sanctification in the womb,
the Virgin was not freed from the fomes in its essence, but that it
remained fettered: not indeed by an act of her reason, as in holy men,
since she had not the use of reason from the very first moment of her
existence in her mother's womb, for this was the singular privilege of
Christ: but by reason of the abundant grace bestowed on her in her
sanctification, and still more perfectly by Divine Providence preserving
her sensitive soul, in a singular manner, from any inordinate movement.
Afterwards, however, at the conception of Christ's flesh, in which for
the first time immunity from sin was to be conspicuous, it is to be
believed that entire freedom from the fomes redounded from the Child to
the Mother. This indeed is signified (Ezech. 43:2): "Behold the glory of
the God of Israel came in by the way of the east," i.e. by the Blessed
Virgin, "and the earth," i.e. her flesh, "shone with His," i.e. Christ's,
Reply to Objection 1: Death and such like penalties do not of themselves incline
us to sin. Wherefore though Christ assumed them, He did not assume the
fomes. Consequently in order that the Blessed Virgin might be conformed
to her Son, from "whose fulness" her grace was derived, the fomes was at
first fettered and afterwards taken away: while she was not freed from
death and other such penalties.
Reply to Objection 2: The "infirmity" of the flesh, that pertains to the fomes,
is indeed to holy men an occasional cause of perfect virtue: but not the
"sine qua non" of perfection: and it is quite enough to ascribe to the
Blessed Virgin perfect virtue and abundant grace: nor is there any need
to attribute to her every occasional cause of perfection.
Reply to Objection 3: The Holy Ghost effected a twofold purification in the
Blessed Virgin. The first was, as it were, preparatory to Christ's
conception: which did not cleanse her from the stain of sin or fomes, but
rather gave her mind a unity of purpose and disengaged it from a
multiplicity of things (Cf. Dionysius, Div. Nom. iv), since even the
angels are said to be purified, in whom there is no stain, as Dionysius
says (Eccl. Hier. vi). The second purification effected in her by the
Holy Ghost was by means of the conception of Christ which was the
operation of the Holy Ghost. And in respect of this, it may be said that
He purified her entirely from the fomes.
Article 4: Whether by being sanctified in the womb the Blessed Virgin was preserved from all actual sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that by being sanctified in the womb the Blessed
Virgin was not preserved from all actual sin. For, as we have already
stated (Article ), after her first sanctification the fomes remained in the
Virgin. Now the motion of the fomes, even if it precede the act of the
reason, is a venial sin, albeit extremely slight, as Augustine says in
his work De Trinitate [*Cf. Sent. ii, D, 24]. Therefore there was some
venial sin in the Blessed Virgin.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine (Qq. Nov. et Vet. Test. lxxiii on Lk. 2:35:
"Thy own soul a sword shall pierce") says that the Blessed Virgin "was
troubled with wondering doubt at the death of our Lord." But doubt in
matters of faith is a sin. Therefore the Blessed Virgin was not preserved
from all actual sin.
Objection 3: Further, Chrysostom (Hom. xlv in Matth.) expounding the text:
"Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee," says:
"It is clear that they did this from mere vain glory." Again, on Jn. 2:3:
"They have no wine," the same Chrysostom says that "she wished to do them
a favor, and raise herself in their esteem, by means of her Son: and
perchance she succumbed to human frailty, just as did His brethren when
they said: 'Manifest Thyself to the world.'" And a little further on he
says: "For as yet she did not believe in Him as she ought." Now it is
quite clear that all this was sinful. Therefore the Blessed Virgin was
not preserved from all sin.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat. xxxvi): "In the matter of sin, it is my wish to exclude absolutely all questions concerning the holy Virgin Mary, on account of the honor due to Christ. For since she conceived and brought forth Him who most certainly was guilty of no sin, we know that an abundance of grace was given her that she might be in every way the conqueror of sin."
I answer that, God so prepares and endows those, whom He chooses for
some particular office, that they are rendered capable of fulfilling it,
according to 2 Cor. 3:6: "(Who) hath made us fit ministers of the New
Testament." Now the Blessed Virgin was chosen by God to be His Mother.
Therefore there can be no doubt that God, by His grace, made her worthy
of that office, according to the words spoken to her by the angel (Lk. 1:30,31): "Thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive,"
etc. But she would not have been worthy to be the Mother of God, if she
had ever sinned. First, because the honor of the parents reflects on the
child, according to Prov. 17:6: "The glory of children are their
fathers": and consequently, on the other hand, the Mother's shame would
have reflected on her Son. Secondly, because of the singular affinity
between her and Christ, who took flesh from her: and it is written (2
Cor. 6:15): "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" Thirdly, because of
the singular manner in which the Son of God, who is the "Divine Wisdom"
(1 Cor. 1:24) dwelt in her, not only in her soul but in her womb. And it
is written (Wis. 1:4): "Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor
dwell in a body subject to sins."
We must therefore confess simply that the Blessed Virgin committed no
actual sin, neither mortal nor venial; so that what is written (Cant 4:7)
is fulfilled: "Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in
Reply to Objection 1: After her sanctification the fomes remained in the Blessed
Virgin, but fettered; lest she should be surprised by some sudden
inordinate act, antecedent to the act of reason. And although the grace
of her sanctification contributed to this effect, yet it did not suffice;
for otherwise the result of her sanctification would have been to render
impossible in her any sensual movement not preceded by an act of reason,
and thus she would. not have had the fomes, which is contrary to what we
have said above (Article ). We must therefore say that the above mentioned
fettering (of the fomes) was perfected by divine providence not
permitting any inordinate motion to result from the fomes.
Reply to Objection 2: Origen (Hom. xvii in Luc.) and certain other doctors
expound these words of Simeon as referring to the sorrow which she
suffered at the time of our Lord's Passion. Ambrose (in Luc. 2:35) says
that the sword signifies "Mary's prudence which took note of the heavenly
mystery. For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing
than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12).
Others again take the sword to signify doubt. But this is to be
understood of the doubt, not of unbelief, but of wonder and discussion.
Thus Basil says (Ep. ad Optim.) that "the Blessed Virgin while standing
by the cross, and observing every detail, after the message of Gabriel,
and the ineffable knowledge of the Divine Conception, after that wondrous
manifestation of miracles, was troubled in mind": that is to say, on the
one side seeing Him suffer such humiliation, and on the other considering
His marvelous works.
Reply to Objection 3: In those words Chrysostom goes too far. They may, however,
be explained as meaning that our Lord corrected in her, not the
inordinate motion of vain glory in regard to herself, but that which
might be in the thoughts of others.
Article 5: Whether, by her sanctification in the womb, the Blessed Virgin received the fulness of grace?
Objection 1: It would seem that, by her sanctification in the womb, the
Blessed Virgin did not receive the fulness or perfection of grace. For
this seems to be Christ's privilege, according to Jn. 1:14: "We saw Him
[Vulg.: 'His glory'] as the Only-Begotten [Vulg.: 'as it were of the
Only-Begotten'] full of grace and truth." But what is proper to Christ
ought not to be ascribed to some one else. Therefore the Blessed Virgin
did not receive the fulness of grace at the time of her sanctification.
Objection 2: Further, nothing remains to be added to that which is full and
perfect: for "the perfect is that which lacks nothing," as is said Phys.
iii. But the Blessed Virgin received additional grace afterwards when she
conceived Christ; for to her was it said (Lk. 1:35): "The Holy Ghost
shall come upon thee: and again, when she was assumed into glory."
Therefore it seems that she did not receive the fulness of grace at the
time of her first sanctification.
Objection 3: Further, "God does nothing useless," as is said De Coelo et Mundo
i. But it would have been useless for her to have certain graces, for she
would never have put them to use: since we do not read that she taught
which is the act of wisdom; or that she worked miracles, which is the act
of one of the gratuitous graces. Therefore she had not the fulness of
On the contrary, The angel said to her: "Hail, full of grace" (Lk. 1:28); which words Jerome expounds as follows, in a sermon on the
Assumption (cf. Ep. ad Paul. et Eustoch.): "Full indeed of grace: for to
others it is given in portions; whereas on Mary the fulness of grace was
showered all at once."
I answer that, In every genus, the nearer a thing is to the principle,
the greater the part which it has in the effect of that principle, whence
Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. iv) that angels, being nearer to God, have a
greater share than men, in the effects of the Divine goodness. Now Christ
is the principle of grace, authoritatively as to His Godhead,
instrumentally as to His humanity: whence (Jn. 1:17) it is written:
"Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." But the Blessed Virgin Mary was
nearest to Christ in His humanity: because He received His human nature
from her. Therefore it was due to her to receive a greater fulness of
grace than others.
Reply to Objection 1: God gives to each one according to the purpose for which He
has chosen him. And since Christ as man was predestinated and chosen to
be "predestinated the Son of God in power . . . of sanctification" (Rm. 1:4), it was proper to Him to have such a fulness of grace that it
overflowed from Him into all, according to Jn. 1:16: "Of His fulness we
have all received." Whereas the Blessed Virgin Mary received such a
fulness of grace that she was nearest of all to the Author of grace; so
that she received within her Him Who is full of all grace; and by
bringing Him forth, she, in a manner, dispensed grace to all.
Reply to Objection 2: In natural things at first there is perfection of
disposition, for instance when matter is perfectly disposed for the form.
Secondly, there is the perfection of the form; and this is the more
excellent, for the heat that proceeds from the form of fire is more
perfect than that which disposed to the form of fire. Thirdly, there is
the perfection of the end: for instance when fire has its qualities in
the most perfect degree, having mounted to its own place.
In like manner there was a threefold perfection of grace in the Blessed
Virgin. The first was a kind of disposition, by which she was made worthy
to be the mother of Christ: and this was the perfection of her
sanctification. The second perfection of grace in the Blessed Virgin was
through the presence of the Son of God Incarnate in her womb. The third
perfection of the end is that which she has in glory.
That the second perfection excels the first, and the third the second,
appears (1) from the point of view of deliverance from evil. For at first
in her sanctification she was delivered from original sin: afterwards, in
the conception of the Son of God, she was entirely cleansed from the
fomes: lastly, in her glorification she was also delivered from all
affliction whatever. It appears (2) from the point of view of ordering to
good. For at first in her sanctification she received grace inclining her
to good: in the conception of the Son of God she received consummate
grace confirming her in good; and in her glorification her grace was
further consummated so as to perfect her in the enjoyment of all good.
Reply to Objection 3: There is no doubt that the Blessed Virgin received in a high degree both the gift of wisdom and the grace of miracles and even of prophecy, just as Christ had them. But she did not so receive them, as to put them and such like graces to every use, as did Christ: but accordingly as it befitted her condition of life. For she had the use of wisdom in contemplation, according to Lk. 2:19: "But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart." But she had not the use of wisdom as to teaching: since this befitted not the female sex, according to 1 Tim. 2:12: "But I suffer not a woman to teach." The use of miracles did not become her while she lived: because at that time the Teaching of Christ was to be confirmed by miracles, and therefore it was befitting that Christ alone, and His disciples who were the bearers of His doctrine, should work miracles. Hence of John the Baptist it is written (Jn. 10:41) that he "did no sign"; that is, in order that all might fix their attention on Christ. As to the use of prophecy, it is clear that she had it, from the canticle spoken by her: "My soul doth magnify the Lord" (Lk. 1:46, etc.).
Article 6: Whether after Christ, it was proper to the Blessed Virgin to be sanctified in the womb?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was proper for the Blessed Virgin, after
Christ, to be sanctified in the womb. For it has been said (Article ) that
the Blessed Virgin was sanctified in the womb, in order that she might be
worthy to be the mother of God. But this is proper to her. Therefore she
alone was sanctified in the womb.
Objection 2: Further, some men seem to have been more closely connected with
Christ than Jeremias and John the Baptist, who are said to have been
sanctified in the womb. For Christ is specially called the Son of David
and of Abraham, by reason of the promise specially made to them
concerning Christ. Isaias also prophesied of Christ in the most express
terms. And the apostles were in converse with Christ Himself. And yet
these are not mentioned as having been sanctified in the womb. Therefore
it was not befitting that either Jeremias or John the Baptist should be
sanctified in the womb.
Objection 3: Further, Job says of himself (Job 31:18): "From my infancy mercy
grew up with me; and it came out with me from [my mother's] womb."
Nevertheless we do not for this reason say that he was sanctified in the
womb. Neither therefore are we bound to say that Jeremias and John the
Baptist were sanctified in the womb.
On the contrary, It is written of Jeremias (Jer. 1:5): "Before thou
camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee." And of John the Baptist
it is written (Lk. 1:15): "He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even
from his mother's womb."
I answer that, Augustine (Ep. ad Dardan.) seems to speak dubiously of
their (Jeremias' and John the Baptist's) sanctification in the womb. For
the leaping of John in the womb "might," as he says, "signify the great
truth," viz. that the woman was the mother of God, "which was to be made
known to his elders, though as yet unknown to the infant. Hence in the
Gospel it is written, not that the infant in her womb believed, but that
it 'leaped': and our eyes are witness that not only infants leap but also
cattle. But this was unwonted because it was in the womb. And therefore,
just as other miracles are wont to be done, this was done divinely, in
the infant; not humanly by the infant. Perhaps also in this child the use
of reason and will was so far accelerated that while yet in his mother's
womb he was able to acknowledge, believe, and consent, whereas in other
children we have to wait for these things till they grow older: this
again I count as a miraculous result of the divine power."
But since it is expressly said (of John) in the Gospel that "he shall be
filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb"; and of
Jeremias, "Before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee";
it seems that we must needs assert that they were sanctified in the womb,
although, while in the womb, they had not the use of reason (which is the
point discussed by Augustine); just as neither do children enjoy the use
of free will as soon as they are sanctified by baptism.
Nor are we to believe that any others, not mentioned by Scripture, were
sanctified in the womb. For such privileges of grace, which are bestowed
on some, outside the common law, are ordered for the salvation of others,
according to 1 Cor. 12:7: "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to
every man unto profit," which would not result from the sanctification of
anyone unless it were made known to the Church.
And although it is not possible to assign a reason for God's judgments,
for instance, why He bestows such a grace on one and not on another, yet
there seems to be a certain fittingness in both of these being sanctified
in the womb, by their foreshadowing the sanctification which was to be
effected through Christ. First, as to His Passion, according to Heb.
13:12: "Jesus, that He might sanctify the people by His own blood,
suffered without the gate": which Passion Jeremias foretold openly by
words and by symbols, and most clearly foreshadowed by his own
sufferings. Secondly, as to His Baptism (1 Cor. 6:11): "But you are
washed, but you are sanctified"; to which Baptism John prepared men by
Reply to Objection 1: The blessed Virgin, who was chosen by God to be His Mother,
received a fuller grace of sanctification than John the Baptist and
Jeremias, who were chosen to foreshadow in a special way the
sanctification effected by Christ. A sign of this is that it was granted
to the Blessed Virgin thence-forward never to sin either mortally or
venially: whereas to the others who were thus sanctified it was granted
thenceforward not to sin mortally, through the protection of God's grace.
Reply to Objection 2: In other respects these saints might be more closely united
to Christ than Jeremias and John the Baptist. But the latter were most
closely united to Him by clearly foreshadowing His sanctification, as
Reply to Objection 3: The mercy of which Job speaks is not the infused virtue;
but a certain natural inclination to the act of that virtue.