St Thomas argues as follows. The nearer something is to any kind of source, the more it shares in the effects of that source. The part of the lawn nearest to the sprinkler will be greener than the more remote parts. Now Christ is the source (grace, as author in His Divinity and as instrument in His humanity, and the Blessed Virgin is closer to Him than ant other creature is, because it was from her that He received His human nature. 'It was therefore necessary for her to receive from Christ a plenitude of grace greater than that anyone else. 
Even from her conception, she was full of grace. By the anticipated merits of her Son, she was preserved from all stain of Original Sin in the first moment of her conception. Now Original Sin is the privation of sanctifying grace. If, therefore, our Lady was preserved from that privation, if she lacked the lack of grace, she wasputting it positivelyendowed in the first moment of her existence with the overflowing fulness of the redeeming grace of her Son. She never lacked grace nor did she ever lose it. By a special privilege she was free from all personal sin, mortal and venial, even from the inclination to sin. All men are sinners, says St Augustine, 'except the Holy Virgin Mary, whom, for the sake of the honour of the Lord, I want to exclude altogether from any talk of sin'. 
When, then, we contemplate all the actions that make up our Lady's motherhood, ('Welcome in womb and breast,/ Birth, milk, and all the rest'),  we should remember that these humble human realities are endowed, through Mary's supernatural perfections, with a spiritual beauty surpassing that of any other mother in human history. 'And she brought forth her first-born son and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn' (Lk 2:7).
St Luke's words, by their very simplicity and sobriety, convey something of the supernatural refinement of maternal affection in our Lady's heart. She shows her Son and God that precious virtue which the Middle Ages (including St Thomas) named as 'courtesy' (curialitas), the delicacy of a loving intelligence, the opposite of that crass lack of perception in the man without charity. 
[This is excerpted from chapter 3, "Mother and Maiden," of Cradle of Redeeming Love.]
 'It is impossible for a pure creature to be raised to a higher degree. By the grace of her motherhood, she exhausts, so to speak, the very possibility of a higher elevation' (Charles de Koninck, Ego sapientia: La sagesse qui est Marie [Montreal, 1943], p. 39).
 In salutationem angelicam, a. 1.
 Cf ST 3a q. 27, a. 5.
 De natura et gratia cap. 42, no. 36; PL 44:267.
 Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 'The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe', The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. W H. Gardner & N. H. Mackenzie, new ed. (London, 1970), p. 94.
 The anonymous author of the fourteenth-century poem Pearl calls our Lady 'the Queen of Courtesy': see Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo, trans. J. R. R. Tolkien, new ed. (New York, 1980), p. 111. 'Great is the courtesy', says St Thomas, 'when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords invites us to His nuptials' (Sermo 1, pt. 3).
 M.-D. Philippe OP, Mystére de Marie: Croissance de la vie chréitienne (Nice, 1958), p. 145. According to the Revelations of St Bridget of Sweden, when the Blessed Mother saw her newborn Son shivering with cold, she 'took Him in her arms and pressed Him to her breast, and with her face and breast warmed Him with great gladness and tender motherly compassion': Revelationes , lib. 7, cap. 21; new ed., vol. 2 (Rome, 1628), p. 231.
John Saward is a Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria. He is the author of several books, including The Way of the Lamb, The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty, and Redeemer in the Womb.
Cradle of Redeeming Love: The Theology of the Christmas Mystery
Following up on his acclaimed Redeemer in the Womb, John Saward returns to the mystery of Christ's Incarnation. He draws upon the rich traditions of the Church, as well as the writings of the great Christian mystics, to create a work that is both new and old, revolutionary and orthodox. This profoundly moving meditation will aid any contemplation on the life of Christ.
The subject of this book is the objective and divinely revealed truth of the Nativity of Christ, as proclaimed by His infallible and immaculate Bride. It is the splendor of this truth, of Loves noon in Natures night, which for two millennia has captivated the Fathers and Schoolmen, and activated the genius of poets, painters, and musicians. Illustrated with eight color paintings.
Combines Sawards usual profundity and precision with a treasure-trove of texts from the tradition. A comphrehensive exposition of the Christmas mystery. Anyone wanting to know the true meaning of the Incarnation and Christmas need look no further. Aidan Nichols, O.P., Author, Looking at the Liturgy
A profound theological meditation on the Incarnation
as an anticipation of the joy in heaven.
Place your order toll-free at 1-800-651-1531
Ignatius Press | P.O. Box 1339 | Ft. Collins, CO 80522
Web design under direction of Ignatius Press.
Send your comments or web problems to:
Copyright © 2013 by Ignatius Press
IgnatiusInsight.com catholic blog books insight scoop weblog ignatius