Sunday, December 8, 2013

Blessed John Henry Newman on the Immaculate Conception

A Letter addressed to tbe Rev. E. B. Pusey, D. D., on the
Occasion of his Eirenicon,
in John Henry Cardinal Newman, Certain Difficulties felt by
Anglicans in Catholic Teaching
(London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1907), II., pp

What is the great rudimental teaching of Antiquity from its earliest days concerning her [the Blessed Virgin]. By 'rudimental teaching' I mean the prima facie view of her person and office, the broad outline laid down of her, the aspect under which she comes to us, in the writings of the fathers. She is the Second Eve. [ ... ] She holds, as the Fathers teach us, that office in 0ur restoration which Eve held in our fall: - now, in the first place, what were Eve’s endowments to enable her to enter upon her trial? She could not have stood against the wiles of the devil, though she was innocent and sinless, without the grant of a large grace. And this she had; - a heavenly gift, which was over and above and additional to that nature of hers, which she had received from Adam, a gift which had been given to Adam also before her, at the very time  (as it is commonly held) of his original formation. [ ... ] Now, taking this for granted, because I know that you and those who agree with you maintain it as well as we do, I ask you, have you any intention to deny that Mary was as fully endowed as Eve? Is it any violent inference, that she, who was to co-operative in the redemption of the world, at least was not less endowed with power from on high, than she who, given as a helpmate to her husband, did in the event but co-operate with him for its ruin?

If Eve was raised above human nature by that indwelling moral gift which we call grace, is it rash to say that Mary had even a greater grace? And this consideration gives significance to the Angel's salutation of her as 'full of grace', - and interpretation of the original word which is undoubtedly the right one, as soon as we resist the common Protestant assumption that grace is a mere external approbation or acceptance, answering to the word 'favour', whereas it is, as the Fathers teach, a real inward condition or superadded quality of soul. And if Eve had this supernatural inward gift given her from the first moment of her personal existence, is it possible to deny that Mary too had this gift from the very first moment of her personal existence? I do not know how to resist this inference: - well, this is simply and literally the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. I say the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is in its substance this, and nothing more or less than this (putting aside the question of degrees of grace); and it really does seem to me bound up in the doctrine of the Fathers, that Mary is the second Eve.

Mary could not merit ... the restoration of that grace; but it was restored to her by God's free bounty, from the very first moment of her existence, and thereby, in fact, she never came under the original curse, which consisted in the loss of it. And she had this special privilege, in order to fit her to become the Mother of her and our Redeemer, to fit her mentally, spiritually for it; so that, by the aid of the first grace, she might so grow in grace, that, when the Angel came and her Lord was at hand, she might be 'full of grace', prepared as far as a
creature could be prepared, to receive him into her bosom.

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