The Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
by Mark Frank
[Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1849]
transcribed by Dr
ON THE DAY OF
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
S. LUKE i 28
And the Angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
THE day will tell you who this Ôblessed among womenÕ is: we call it our Lady-day; and the text will tell you why she comes into the day, because the Angel to-day came in to her. And the Angel will tell you why he to-day came in to her; she was Ôhighly favouredÕ and Ôthe Lord was with her,Õ was to come himself this day into her, to make her the most Ôblessed among women,Õ Ñsent him only before to tell her soÑto tell her, he would be with her by and by himself.
This makes it Annunciation-day, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, as the Church calls it, and the annunciation to her, as we may call it too. 1. The annunciation or announcing and proclaiming of Christ unto her, that he was this day to be incarnate of her, to take that flesh to-day upon him in the womb, which he was some nine months hence, on Christmas-day, to bring with him into the world. And 2. The annunciation or announcing, that is proclaiming of her Ôblessed among,Õ above ÔwomenÕ by it, by being thus Ôhighly favouredÕ by her LordÕs thus coming to her; Ña day, upon these grounds, fit to be remembered and announced or proclaimed unto the world.
Indeed, Dominus tecum is the chief business; the Lord ChristÕs being with her, that which the Church especially commemorates in the day. Her being Ôblessed,Õ and all our being blessed, Ôhighly favoured,Õ or favoured at all, either men or women being so, all our hail, all our health, and peace, and joy, all the angelsÕ visits to us, or kind words, all our conferences with heaven, all our titles and honours in heaven and earth, that are worth the naming, come only from it. For Dominus tecum cannot come without them; he cannot come to us but we must be so, must be highly favoured in it, and blessed by it. So the Incarnation of Christ, and the Annunciation of the blessed Virgin, Ñhis being incarnate of her, and her blessedness by him, and all our blessedness in him with her, make it as well our LordÕs as our LadyÕs day. More his, because his being Lord made her a Lady, else a poor carpenterÕs wife, God knows; all her worthiness and honour, as all ours, is from him; and we to take heed to-day, or any day, of parting them; or so remembering her, as to forget him; or so blessing her, as to take away any of our blessing him; any of his worship, to give to her. Let her blessedness, the respect we give her, be inter mulieres, Ôamong womenÕ still; such as is fit and proportionate to weak creatures, not due and proper only to the Creator, that Dominus tecum, Christ in her be the business: that we take pattern by the Angel, to give her no more than is her due, yet to be sure to give her that though, and particularly upon the day. And yet the day being a day of Lent, seems somewhat strange. It is surely no fasting work, no business or occasion of sadness this. What does it then, or how shall we do it then, in Lent,Ña time of fast and sorrow? Fast and feast to, Ñhow can we do it? A feast it is to-day, Ña great one, ChristÕs incarnation, Ña day of joy, if ever any; and Lent a time of sorrow and repentance, Ña great one, the greatest fast of any. How shall we reconcile them? Why thus: The news of joy never comes so seasonable as in the midst of sorrow; news of one coming to save us from our sins, can never come more welcome to us, than even then when we are sighing and groaning under them; never can angel come more acceptably that at such time, with such a message as ÔAll hail, thou art highly [34/35] favoured, blessed art thou.Õ It is the time that angels use to come when we are fasting. So to Daniel; so to Cornelius; the time when we best hear a voice from heaven, and best understand it with St. Peter; the time when God himself vouchsafes to spread our table, as he did there, of all kinds of beasts and fowls, to St. Peter, all heavenly food and mysteries. It is the very time for gratia plena, to be filled when we are empty; the only time for Dominus tecum, for our LordÕs being with us, when we have most room to entertain him. So, nor the Church, nor we in following it, are any whit out of order. Dominus tecum, Christ is the main business, both of our fasts and feasts; and it is the greatest order to attend his business in the day and way we meet it, be it what it will.
Though perhaps it seem stranger too, to hear of an angel coming into a virginÕs chamber at midnight, (as is conjectured,) and there saluting her. But no fear of those sons of God, if they come in unto the daughters of men. Angels are virgins, Ñmay be with virgins in the privatest closets, Ñare always with them to carry up their prayers, and to bring down blessings. No strange thing, then, to hear of an angel with any of them whom God highly favours, with whom himself is too; no wonder to hear of an angel or Ave to any such. The only wonder indeed to us, will be to hear of an Ave Mary. Indeed, I cannot myself but wonder at it, as they use it now, to see it turned into a prayer. It was never made for prayer or praise, Ña mere salutation. The AngelÕs here to the blessed Virgin never intended it, I dare say, for other, either to praise her with, or pray unto her. And I shall not consider it as such. I am only for the AngelÕs Ave, not the popish Ave Maria; I can see no such in the text.
Nor should I scarce, I confess, have chosen such a theme to-day, though the Gospel [p]reach it me, but that I see it is time to do it, when our Lord is wounded through our LadyÕs sides; both our Lord and the mother of our Lord, most vilely spoken of by a new generation of wicked men, who, because the Romanists make little less of her than a goddess, they make not so much of her as a good woman: because they bless her too much, these unbless her quite, at least [35/36]. will not suffer her to be blessed as she should. To avoid both these extremes, we need no other pattern but the AngelÕs. Who here salutes and bless her indeed; yet so only salutes and blesses her, so speaks of and to her as to a woman here, though much above the best of them; one Ôhighly favoured,Õ it is true, yet but favoured still; all her grace, and blessedness, and glory still no other, mere favour and no more; and Dominus tecum, the LordÕs being with her, the ground, and source, and sum of all; virgin and day, both blessed thence. The better to give all their due, Angel, and Lord, and Lady, and you the better understanding of the text, the scope, and matter, and full meaning of it, we shall consider in the words these two particulars:ÑThe AngelsÕ visitation, and the AngelÕs Salutation.
I. His visitation, or coming to her, in these words:ÑÔAnd the Angel came in unto her.Õ
ii. His salutation to her, or saluting her, in these:ÑÔHail thou that art highly favoured; the Lord is with thee: blessed,Õ etc.
In the visitation we have,
1. The visitor. 2. The visited. 3. The visiting,ÑThe Angel, the visitor, he. The blessed Virgin, this the visited, her. And the visiting, his coming in unto her.
In the salutation there is to be considered, both the form of it, and the titles in it.
1. The form, threefold:Ñi. ÔHail.Õ ii. ÔThe Lord is with thee.Õ iii ÔBlessed art thou,Õ or ÔBe thou blessed, ÑSis benedicta, it may be, as well as Es.
2. The title given her, they three too:ÑÔThou that art highly favoured,Õ that is one. ÔBlessed thou,Õ that is another. ÔBlessed among women,Õ that is the third. These all so evident and so plain, than none can miss them. But to these points, two more are to be added:ÑThe grounds and bounds of these great titles.
1. The ground of this high blessedness and favour:Ñi. Full of grace, so our old translation and the old Latin render it; her fulness of grace and goodness, that is one. ii. But Ôthe Lord is with thee,Õ that is the main, thence all her blessedness; thereby it is that she is so highly favoured, because the Lord is with her. [36/37]
2. The bounds or limitations of these titles, they come first with a caÜre, no other form than what is and hath been given unto men; though great they be. Yet divine they be not. The greatest title, secondly, is but kecaritwmùh, from mere grace and favour. Thirdly, it must still, too, acknowledge Dominus tecum. ÔShe hath a Lord,ÕÑis a subject as well as we. And lastly, all her blessedness is but inter mulieres, Ôamong women;Õ how much soever she excels all women, she is but inter mulieres, among such creatures, in the rank of creatures; no goddess, nor partner with the Godhead, either in title or worship.
By considering and laying all these points together, we shall both vindicate the blessed VirginÕs honour, as well from all superstitious as profane abuses, and ourselves from all neglect of any duty to the mother of our Lord,Ñone so highly favoured and blessed by him, whilst we give her all that either Lord or Angel gave her; but yet dare not give her more.
And now Dominus mecum, and Dominus vobiscum too, the Lord be with me whilst I am speaking it, and with you whilst you are hearing it, and bless us both whilst we are about it, that we may learn to bless where we should bless, whom, and when, and how to do it, and rightly both accept and apply GodÕs blessings and our own.
We are now to learn it from the Angel, his visiting and blessing the blessed Virgin here. His visit and his salutation to her. But his visit, or visitation, that stands first. Where the visitor, the visited, and his visit; the Angel, the Virgin, and his coming in unto her, are all to be considered. ÔAnd the Angel came in unto her.Õ
And who i. so fit as an angel to come in to her,Ñto give this visit,Ñto give this blessing? It was a bad angel that bought the curse upon the woman Ñit was fit a good one should bring the blessing.
The employment ii. suits none so well. It was the news of joy; who could bring it better than one of those who were the first sons of eternal joy,Ñthe first enjoyers of it, Ñwho could pronounce it better?
Who fitter iii. to come with a Dominus tecum, before the face of the Lord, with a message of his coming down to earth, than they who always behold his face in heaven? [37/38]
Who fitter iv. to come to her? She was an immaculate and unspotted virgin: and to whom do virginsÕ chambers lie open at midnight but to angels? God sends no other thither at that time of night; and that that time it was, may well be conjectured from Wisdom xviii:14-15: ÔWhen all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, thine Almighty Word came down from heaven;Õ then, it seems, was the time of her conception, Ñof ChristÕs coming to her; before whom immediately the Angel came to bring the message that he was a-coming, if, as St. Bernard says, he were not come already.
And v. with such a message to a virgin, as that she should conceive without a man, who was convenient to bring it but an angel? Ne quo degenere depravaret affecta, says St. Ambrose, that there might not be the least ground of a false suspicion.
But vi. to such a virgin, one so highly favoured as to be made the mother of God, (for the mother of Christ is no less, he being God,) what messenger could come less than an angel? Prophets and patriarchs were too little for so great an embassage, and angels never came upon a greater.
Nay, vii. every angel neither was not fit for so high an office. The Angel Gabriel it was, he is the  here. Gabriel, is by St. Jerome and St. Gregory interpreted fortitudo Dei, the power or strength of God; and in this work if appeared indeed. GodÕs strength and power never so much shown, as in the saving of us by Christ. It is by others interpreted vir Deus, or Deus nobiscum,ÑGod man, or God with us. Could any be thought fitter to bring this news upon his lips, than he that carries it in his name? Especially, being the same that foretold all this to Daniel, Ñfit that he should see to the performance who brought the promise. Petrus Damiani thinks he was the holy VirginÕs guardian angel,Ñ[38/39] proper therefore to bring her this good message, or any else. God had several times employed him before, to Daniel, Zacharias, and others, and found him faithful; he therefore now employs him still, that we may know, he that is faithful in the least, God will by degrees trust him with the most, the greatest matters.
In a word, angels drove us out of paradise, and now they come to let us in again. Then they placed a sword to keep us out, Ñnow they bring the word to let us in. None now, you see, more fit for this business than an angel, Ñthan the angel Gabriel too; whether we respect the persons, either from whom or to whom the message comes, or the message, or the time, or the way, and order of it. So we have done with him; come we now to her, Ña greater than he, Ñif we speak with Epiphanius, and some others.
Yet I shall not give her other titles than the Scripture gives her: I am afraid to give her such as many do. A Ôvirgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David,Õ she was, and her Ôname was Mary,Õ in the verse before the text. (1) Of royal descent and lineage; (2) espoused to a husband of the same kingly house; (3) of a name very answerable to her greatness. Of DavidÕs seed, for so her Son, the Messiah, was to be; a virgin,Ñfor of such a one he was to come: semen mulieris, not maris; from the beginning the womanÕs seed, and not the manÕs; so necessarily a virgin then, and so plainly foretold to be by Isaiah. ÔA virgin shall conceive and bear him;Õ yea, a Ôvirgin espoused,Õ (1) to conceal the mystery of his Incarnation from the devil; (2) to take away all occasion of obloquy from devilish men; (3) that the birth of our Saviour, might be with all possible honour; and (4) that his genealogy might so be reckoned as all others, regularly by the man, as you see them both by St. Matthew and St. Luke.
Of a high and illustrious name besides; Maria is maris stella, says Bede: Ôthe star of the sea;Õ a fit name for [39/40] mother of the bright Morning Star that rises out of the vast sea of GodÕs infinite and endless love. Maria (2) the Syriac interprets domina, Ôa lady,Õ a name yet retained, and given to her by all Christians; our Lady, or the Lady Mother of our Lord. Maria (3), rendered by Petrus Saminai, de monte et altitudine Dei, highly exalted, as you would say, like the mountain of God, in which he would vouchsafe to dwell, after a more miraculous manner than in every Sion, his Ôown holy mount.Õ 4. St. Ambrose interprets it, Deus ex genere meo, ÔGod of my kin;Õ as if by her very name she was designed to have God born of her, to be Deipara as the Church, against all heretics, has ever styled her the Mother of God. You may well now fully conceive no ambassador so fit to come to such as one as her, but some great angel at the least.
And his coming to her comes next to be considered: ÔAnd the Angel came in unto her;Õ where we are taught both how he came, and where he found her. By his coming, or being said to come, we are given to understand that it was in a bodily and human shape. So angels often used to come in the likeness of men; and at this time it was of all ways the most convenient that the angels should come like men, seeing their Lord was now to come so; and one of them to come before him with the news. When he himself would vouchsafe to wear the livery of our flesh, it is most convenient his servants, sure, that wait upon him, (whom he sends upon his errands) should appear at least in the same livery. Nor could his message easily be delivered in more sweetness, not the blessed maid entertain it with less terror or diffidence any other way.
For though it could not but trouble her, as we see it did, in the following verse, to see a man at that time in her closet, ere she was aware; yet his coming is so insensibly, when the doors were shut upon her, besides perhaps the brightness of his countenance and raiment, could not but tell her it was an angel, and so abate her fear a little.
Yet observe here a difference between the AngelÕs coming now and heretofore: we never read of an angelÕs appearing but abroad, or in the temple, till now. Now they begin to [40/41] grow more familiar with usÑcome in into our closets, now Christ is coming; the kingdom of heaven, it is a sign, is come nigh unto us. And (1) it is a good time to us to keep much in our closets, seeing angels are now to be met with there.
And (2) it is an item too for virgins to keep within: Dinah went out and met with you know whom; came home ill-favouredly. The blessed Virgin keeps in, and meets with an holy angel, and the title of Ôhighly favouredÕ and ÔblessedÕ for it. The straggling, gadding housewife, meets no angel to salute here, whosoever does. If we look for angelsÕ company and salutations, we must be much within. ÔA garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, says Christ.Õ The spouse of Christ, the soul he loves and vouchsafes his company, much private, oft within, Ñwithin and at her prayers and meditation too. So was the blessed Virgin, (says the Fathers here,) blessedly employed, watching at her devotions; no way so sure to get an angelÕs company, or hear good news from heaven Ñto obtain a favour or a blessing thence, as this Ñas prayer and watching in our closets.
This we piously believe of the blessed Virgin; but we are sure she was within Ña true daughter of Sarah in it Ñwho it seems kept commonly within doors in her tent, Ôwhose daughters you are,Õ says St. Peter, Ôas long as you do well;Õ must be too in this, as well as other things, if you would do well.
For lastly, to show the truth of the AngelÕs words, that she was full of grace, the Scripture tells us, by the AngelÕs coming into her, that she was within, where, qui habeat abundantian grati¾, says HugoÑthey that are full of graceÑkeep in as much as they can, fearing the corrupt discourses and conversations of the world. None so scrupulous of appearing abroad, none more fear idle, loose, or vain discoursesÑwhich cannot be avoided by such who go often abroad Ñthan they that are fullest of grace and goodness. Nor do they care for the salutation, favours, and compliments of men, who are Ôhighly favouredÕ of the Lord. No matter at all with them to be neglected by men, who desire only to be saluted by an [41/42] angel, as was the Virgin here, which falls next to be considered. The AngelÕs salutation.
Two points we told you there were to be handled in it: the form of it, and the titles in it; the form in which it runs, the titles with which it is given.
The form is in three expressions, ÑÔHail, the Lord is with thee,Õ Ôthou art,Õ or be thou Ôblessed.Õ Three several salutations, as it were, and that (1) for the greater reverence and honour to her; so kings and queens are commonly saluted with thee adorations. (2) To show from whom he came, from Father, Son and Holy Ghost; from all three Persons in the Trinity. That (3) she was so intent and busy at her devotions that she minded not, perhaps, his first and second salutation, he was fain to add a third; to show, lastly, the triple blessing that he came with Ñpeace, and grace, and blessedness of heaven clearly now propounded and proffered to us. The first salutation is an Ave,Ña salutation never heard from an angelÕs mouth before. And it speaks (1) joy, and peace, and health, and salvation, both to her, and us by her. The Greek word caÜre, Ôrejoice,Õ rejoice indeed, at such a Child as now is to be born of thee, ÔO virgin daughter! Behold, I bring you tiding of great joy of a child,ÕÐ all our joy by him,ÑÔwhich is Christ the Lord.Õ
(2) The Hebrew word speaks, Peace be to thee. A wish for peace, the first news of heaven reconciled; the way to reconciliation being now in agitation, and to be by her. Peace from the Prince of Peace, from the Author of our peace, now coming, as joyful a salutation as we can wish, all our peace from this conception, all begun with this message, and the Angel the herald of it.
(3) It intimates health as well as peace. We were all sick till this day came; the best, with the spouse, Ôsick of love;Õ the worst, sick of somewhat else. None well till this news came, Ñtill the next morning after this great conception rose with healing in his wings. Now all ÔhailÕ and whole, and well again.
(4) It signifies a wish of salvation too. Ave, says one, piously, though not learnedly, a v¾, all woe now away, temporal [42/43] and eternal. Eva spelled backwards; all EveÕs ill-spun web unravelled, undone, rolled backward by the conception of this blessed Virgin here foretold; temporal and eternal woes taken all away; nothing but joy and salvation to us, if we hear it with the blessed Virgin, and accept it.
The second salutation is, ÔThe Lord is with thee;Õ and it may be either an appreciation, or wishing that he would be; or an annunciation, or affirmation,Ña declaring and affirming that he is; or a prediction or foretelling that he will be with her.
It was an appreciation when Boaz gave it to the reapers, that God would be with them.
It was an appreciation and affirmation both, when the Angel gave it to Gideon: ÔThe Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.Õ
It is affirmation, appreciation and prediction, all three here, to our blessed Lady, Ña wish that the Lord would,Ñan assurance that he is,Ña prediction that he will be yet more signally, and more particularly, with her by and by.
It is somewhat to be saluted by an angel, and it is not common; we hear often of their coming with a message, seldom with a salutation. It is a sign of more than ordinary acquaintance and familiarity with God, and of his respect particular unto us, when he sends his angels, not only upon errands, but how-do-you to us.
With such a salutation too as ÔThe Lord is with thee.Õ ÔThe hand of the Lord was with him,Õ it is said of St. John Baptist, and that was well; his hand, and not himself; and yet the greatest of them that was born of women was not Ôgreater than he.Õ But here it is he himself with the greatest among women. It is a great favour to have his hand; but it is a high one to have himself with us.
Yet the Angel says to Gideon, ÔThe Lord be with thee.Õ Kœrioj metõ soˆ, an aticle, an emphasis put upon it. He is not with her, as he is with any else. Tecum in mente, tecum in ventre, as the Fathers gloss it; Tecum in spiritu, tecum in carne, with her he was, or would be presently, as well in her body as in her soul, personally, essentially, nay bodily with her, and take a body from her, Ña way of being with any never heard before or since, Ñ[43/44]. a being with her beyond any expression or conception whatsoever.
And the Lord thus being with her, all good must needs be with here: all the gracious ways of his being with us are comprehends in it; so the salutation no way to be exceeded. And well may he choose to be with her Ñeven make haste and prevent the Angel, as St. Bernard speaks, to be with her. He is with Ôthen pure in heart,Õ with the humble spirit, and piously retired souls, and she is all. And though, by the AngelÕs words, we cannot conceive that the Lord was yet conceived in her, he speaking in the future; yet as sure it was, even whilst the Angel was in his salutation, as if he were already incarnate in her flesh. Upon this may well follow the third salutation, ÔBlessed art thou,Õ or, Be thou blessed. Yet.
I shall not here say much of this; I reserve it to be handled amongst the titles, Ñonly tell you it may as well pass fore a salutation as the other. We still sometimes use it in our salutations; use to say, ÔGod bless you,Õ when we salute sometimes; so the mowers to Boaz, return his salutation of ÔThe Lord be with you,Õ with ÔThe Lord bless thee.Õ And we read that Jacob ÔblessedÕ Pharaoh when he came before him; that is, saluted him in a form of blessing.
All the famous salutations, now you see, of all former and latter times, are here rallied up in this ÑDanielÕs ÔLive for ever;Õ for life, and health, and safety; the AngelÕs to Gideon, ÔThe Lord is with thee;Õ BoazÕs to Ruth ÔBlessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter; TobitÕs to the Angel, Gaudium tibi, ÔJoy be unto thee;Õ ChristÕs to his disciples, ÔPeace be unto you;Õ the ApostlesÕ ÔgraceÕ and ÔpeaceÕ and Ôsalvation,Õ to their Churches; all in this of the Angel to the Virgin, now in treaty about ChristÕs Incarnation. To show us (1) all these are in Christ, all now coming to us, by his coming to us, to be found altogether no where but in him; joy, and peace, and health, and salvation and blessedness, first rising on us by this dayÕs business Ñhis Incarnation. To teach us (2) good forms of salutation, blessing, and not cursing; though there are some peevish, to say no worse, to tell us they had as lief we should say, The devil take [44/45] them, as God bless them, or God be with them. It seems they had rather imitate the bad angel than the good: I hope we had not. Good words, if it be no more, are fittest, sure, for Christian mouths; but yet God wishes too; for he that forbids to say to some, ÔGod speed you,Õ intimates we should say so to others; and though the disciples are bid to Ôsalute no man by the way,ÕÑthat is, when it will retard or hinder their holy business,Ñthey are yet bid, when they come into a house, say, ÔPeace be to it.Õ And if the Angel do it, and Christ bid it, and do it too, as he does, I hope we may and will do too; nay, and give good titles too, upon the same account: the Angel does so to the blessed Virgin; and we hasten to them. ÔThou that art highly favoured,Õ blessed, Ôblessed among women.Õ
ÔThou that art highly favoured;Õ but why Ôthou,Õ without a name? Why not Mary here as well as after? Why? there he used her name so to dispel her fear, as it were, by a kind of friendly familiarity; here he forbears it in his reverence to her. We use not to salute great persons by their names, but by their titles; and the Mother of God is above the greatest we here meet with upon the earth. We must not be too familiar with those whom God so highly favours; that is our lesson hence. We are not to speak of the blessed Virgin, the Apostles, and Saints, as if we were speaking to our servants, Paul, Peter, May or the like. It is a new fashion of religion, neither taken from saints, nor angels, nor any of heaven or heavenly spirits, to unsaint the saints, to deny them their proper titles, to level them with the meanest of our servants. We might learn better manners from the angel here Ñmanners, I say, if it were nothing else; for we dare not speak so to any here that are above us, and we think much to be thoued, without our titles, by that new generation of possessed men, who yet with more reason may call the best man thou, than we the Apostles, John or Thomas.
But to descend to a particular survey of these titles here: Ôthou that art highly favoured,Õ so our new translation renders it; Ôfull of grace,Õ so our old one hath it, from the Latin, grati¾ plena; and both right; for kecaritwmùnh will carry both. Grace is favour; GodÕs grace is divine favour; [45/46] high in grace, high in his favour; full of his grace, full of his favour, Ñall comes to one.
Now there is gratia creata and increata, Ôcreated grace,Õ and Ôuncreated grace.Õ Created grace is either sanctifying or edifying; the gift of the Holy Spirit that sanctify and make us holy; or the gifts that make us serviceable to make others so. The first to serve God in ourselves: as faith, hope and charity, and other graces; the second, to serve him in the Church: such as the gift of tongues, of prophecy, of healing and the like. Of each kind she had her fulness according to her measure, and the designation that God appointed her.
For sanctifying graces, none fuller solo Deo excepto, ÔGod only excepted,Õ says Epiphianus. And it is fit enough to believe that she who was so highly honoured to have her womb filled with the body of the Lord, had her soul as fully filled by the holy Ghost.
For edifying graces, as they came not all into her measure, she was not to preach, to administer, to govern, to play the apostles, and therefore no necessity she should be full of all those gifts, being those are not distributed all to any, but unicuique secundum mensuram, to every one according to his measure, and employment, and not at all times neither; so neither is she said to be less full for wanting them. There is one fulness of the fountain, another of the brook, another of a vessel; one fulness of the sea, another of the river, another of the pond, and yet all may be full. Christ himself is said to be full of the Holy Ghost, and St. Stephen is said to be full, and others said to be full; yet Christ, as the sea or fountain, Ñthey as the rivulets or rivers; and yet all as they can hold. It is so in earth, it is so in heaven: and with such a fulness as the brooks or rivers is our Virgin full, and with no other. Where any defying grace was necessary for her, she had it as well as others; more perhaps than others. Where it was not necessary, it was no way to the impairing of her fulness, though she had it not. As the banks of the rivers rose, or the channel was enlarged, so were those [46/47] graces, but inter mulieres, Ôamong women,Õ at the end, makes me inclined to think the fulness of apostolic endowments do not any way belong to her, women not being suffered in the times of the Apostles but to teach their children or servants at home: never thought so full of the Spirit as to be sent to blow it all abroad.
And indeed it is not said here, Ôfull of the Spirit, but Ôfull of grace,Õ and that is commonly understood of sanctifying grace, of which it is very convenient that we believe none fuller than she; and the original kecaritwmùnh will not enforce it much higher in the business of created grace.
But in respect of the increated grace, that is, of Christ, with whom she was now so highly favoured as to be with child, none ever so filled with grace indeed. This was a grace of the highest nature, of which created nature was never capable; kecaritwmùnh well rendered, highly, Ôhighly favoured,Õ for it is most highly can be imagined; and this is her first title, ÔO thou art highly favouredÕ high in GodÕs grace and favour Ñso high, as to be made his mother, then, sure, made a fit receptacle for so great, so holy a guest, by the fulness of all grace and goodness.
From this follows the second title, Ôblessed,Õ blessed of God, blessed of men; blessed in the city, and blessed in the field. Cities and countries call her blessed; blessed in the fruit of her body, in her blessed child Jesus. Blessed in the fruit of her ground, her cattle, her kine, and her sheep, in the inferior faculties of her soul and body; all fructify to Christ. Blessed her basket and her store, her womb and her breasts; the womb than bare him and the paps that gave them suck. Blessed in her going out and her coming in, the Lord still being with her; the good treasure of heaven still open to her, showering down upon her, and the earth filled with the blessings which she brought into the world when she brought forth the Son of God. Blessed she indeed that was the conduit of so great blessings, though blessed most in bearing him in her soul, much more than bearing him in her body. So Christ intimates to the woman that began to Ôbless the womb,Õ that is, the mother Ôthat bare him,Õ ÔYea, rather,Õ says he, Ôthey that hear the word of God and keep it;Õ as if he had said, She is more blessed in bearing [47/48] the word in her soul than in her body. But blessed she is; Elizabeth, by the Holy Spirit, fell a-blessing her when she came to see her; and she herself by the same Spirit tells us, Ôall generations shall call her blessed.Õ So we have sufficient example and authority to do it. And I hope we will not suffer the Scripture to speak false, but to do it.
And do it to her above all women, Benedicta tu in mulieribusÑthat is her third title, Most blessed, none so blessed; none ever had a child so blessed; none every bore or brought forth child as she.
Benedicta in mulieribus, Ôblessed among women;Õ she (1) indeed only blessed; all other subjects to the curse of in dolore paries, of conceiving and bringing forth in sorrow Ñshe wholly free from that Ñshe a perpetual Virgin before, and in, and after child-birth. Christ came into her womb insensibly; came forth, as it were, insensibly too, without groan or sorrow to her. ÔBlessed (2) among women;Õ they all henceforth saved by her child-bearing; ÔNotwithstanding she,Õ that is, woman, shall be saved in child-bearing, i.e. diõ tekuogonÉaj, Ôby her child-bearing,Õ says a learned commentator, not their own, but hers, by the child she bore; and they therefore shall call her blessed.
ÔBlessedÕ (3) Ôamong women;Õ that is, none more blessed than the best, the highest of them; none above the mother of God; none, sure, so good as she, Ñwhich now brings me to consider the grounds of all this honour, all these titles.
The first is grace, gratia plena, c£rih in kecaritwnùnh, that always the ground of GodÕs favour and all our blessedness; so she tell us in here hymn, Respexit humilitatem. It was the humility of his handmaid that God, in this high favour of the Incarnation of his Son, respected in her. Humility the ground of all grace within us,Ñall grace without us,Ñof GodÕs grace to us, Ñof his graces in us,Ñthe very grace that graces them all too. Humility makes them the most lovely, pride disgraces them all, be they never so many, though indeed they can be truly none that are not founded in and adorned with humility.
The second grounds of blessedness is in the text too, Dominus tecum, the LordÕs being with her. From ChristÕs being with her and with us it is that we are blessed. Ñ[48/49] From his Incarnation begins the date of all our happiness. If God be not with us all the world cannot make us happy, much less blessed. From this grace of his Incarnation first riseth all our glory; so that, ÔNot unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give the praise,Õ must she sing as well as we; and they do her wrong as well as God, that give his glory unto her, who will not give his glory to another, though to his mother, because she is but his earthly mother,Ña thing infinitely distant from the heavenly Father. Nor would that humble handmaid, if she should understand the vain and the fond, and almost idolatrous styles and honours that are given her somewhere upon earth, be pleased with them; she is highly favoured enough that here Lord and Son is with her and she with him: she would be no higher sharer. You may see it in the last particular, the bounds and limitations of her titles and blessedness.
1. For, first, how full soever she be of grace, it is yet but grace and favour; it is no more. GodÕs mere favour so exalted her, respexit only, his respect to her, his free looking on her, no merit or desert, kecaritwnùnh, he hath highly favoured her indeed, but he had done, don it in the pr¾ter, before she could conceive or imagine it.
2. The salutation here, except the titles given her by the angels, is not much more than what he gave to Gideon, or what Boaz to his harvesters. Enough to make the Papists afraid, one would think, of those extravagant, at least, if not blasphemous, title they give her, of their closing their books and studies with Laus Deo et Virgin Mari¾, joining her in partnership with God, as if they were as much beholding to her as him. I am sure they learned not this from the Angel; he brings no divine but human titles and salutations to her. And he knew how to give titles, though not flattering ones, as Elihu speaks in Job.
3. All her honour and blessedness is from Dominus tecum, the LordÕs being with her. He is her Lord as well as ours. More, indeed, he is with her than with us or with angels either, plus tecum quam mecum, as some gloss it; but he is her Lord still for all that, and she is content so to acknowledge it and leave us a penned hymn in witness of it, to give him the sole honour of her magnifying and being magnified. [49/50]
Lastly, though it be benedicta, it is but inter mulieres, Ôamong women,Õ all this is; and they are but creatures: a creature-blessedness, a blessedness compatible to the creature; all to show us that when we exceed this way of honour to her, or this way of blessing her, we are all out in our Aves, Ñwe know not what we say. And it is well for some that their ignorance excuses them, that they understand not what they speak.
Give we her in GodÕs name the honour due to her. God hath styled her ÔblessedÕ by the Angel, by Elizabeth; commanded all generations to call her so, and they hitherto have done it, and let us do it too. Indeed, some of late have overdone it; yet let us not therefore underdo it, but do it as we hear the Angel and the first Christians did it; account of her and speak of her as the most blessed among women, one Ôhighly favoured,Õ most ÔhighlyÕ too. But all the while give Dominus tecum all the glory, the whole glory of all to him; give her the honour and blessedness of the chief of the saints, Ñhim only the glory that she is so, and that by her conceiving and bringing our Saviour into the world we are made heirs, and shall one day be partakers of the blessedness she enjoys, when the Lord shall be with us too, and we need no angel at all to tell us so.
Especially if we now here dispose ourselves by chastity, humility and devotion, as she did, to receive him, and let him be new-born in us. The pure and virgin soul, the humble spirit, the devout affection, will be also highly favoured; the Lord be with them and bless them above others. Blessed is the virgin soul, more blessed than others, in St. PaulÕs opinion; blessed the humble spirit above all. For God hath exalted the humble and meek, the humble handmaid better than the proudest lady, Blessed the devout affection that is always watching for her Lord in prayer and meditations; none so happy, so blessed, as she; the Lord comes to none so soon as such.
Yet not to such at any time more fully than in the blessed Sacrament to which we are now a-going. There he is strangely with us, highly favours us, exceedingly blesses us; there we are all made blessed Marys, and become mothers, sister, and brothers of our Lord, whilst we hear his word. [50/51] and conceive it in us; whilst we believe him who is the Word, and receive him too into us. There angels come to us on heavenly errands, and there our Lord indeed is with us; and we are blessed, and the angels hovering all about to peep into those holy mysteries, think us so, call us so. There graces pour down in abundance on us,Ñthere grace is in its fullest plenty,Ñthere his highest favours are bestowed upon us,Ñthere we are filled with grace, unless we hinder it, and shall hereafter in the strength of it be exalted into gloryÑthere to sit down with this blessed Virgin and all the saints and angels, and sing praise, and honour, and glory, to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for ever and ever.
Thus, by being full of grace, and full of those graces, we also become Marys, and the mothers of our Lord; so he tells us himself, ÔHe that so does the will of my Father,Õ he is my mother. Let us then strive to be so, that the angels may come with heavenly errands to us our Lord himself come to us, and vouchsafe to be again born in us, and so bless us, fill us with grace, receive, and set us highly in his favour, and fill and exalt us hereafter with his glory, and with thus blessed Virgin, and all the saints and angels, we may sing praise, and honour, and glory, to him, Father, Son and holy Ghost for ever and ever.