It is written in the Gospel of St. Luke that Jesus “advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men,” (Lk 2:52). But the Fathers and theologians have pointed out that this growth, as regards wisdom and grace, was only apparent.
Indeed, from the first instant of His existence, Christ possessed perfect grace and wisdom, which could not increase. This “growth” signifies that the Incarnate Word manifested these gifts according to His age.
Christ possessed grace in its fullness, entirely, as much as it is possible for a human nature to possess it, a maximum of grace. One other reason implies the impossibility of growing in grace: the fact that the humanity of Christ possessed the Beatific Vision.
What about the Virgin Mary?
Since the absolute fullness of grace is proper to Christ, as we wrote earlier, Mary’s grace could be increased. That grace could be increased in Our Lady until her entry into heaven.
But what must be considered here is the perfection of this increase of grace in Mary’s soul. As noted by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, St. Thomas Aquinas formulated the principle of this marvelous increase in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews.
“It may be asked: ‘Why should we thus always progress in faith and love?’ The reason is that a natural movement always becomes more rapid the nearer it approaches its term (the end which attracts it).” Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange comments on this text with the example that: a falling body is “uniformly accelerated,” according to the universal law of gravity.
“Now,” continues St. Thomas, “grace perfects the soul and makes it tend to the good in a natural way (like a second nature); it follows then that those who are in the state of grace should grow more in charity according as they come nearer to their final end (and are more strongly attracted by it).”
The Angelic Doctor affirms that, as “the intensity of [the spiritual] life of the saints increases, they move more promptly and generously towards God, the nearer they come to Him. That is the law of universal attraction in the spiritual life. Just as bodies attract one another the closer they approach, so souls are attracted to God in proportion to their holiness and their nearness to Him.”
This always more rapid progress existed especially in the Most Holy Virgin, on earth, because, in her it encountered no obstacle, was not halted nor delayed by attachment to self or to earthly things.
And this spiritual progress in Mary was all the more intense as the initial speed or first grace had been greater. There was thus in Mary a wonderful increase in the love of God of which the accelerated motion of bodies under the force of gravity is but a distant image.
Therefore, it must be affirmed that the Mother of God’s grace was increased in a sublime manner during the course of her life until the Assumption. It is impossible to imagine a more perfect increase in grace. This is why she is the model of this increase, as she is for faith and hope.
What was the degree attained by the Virgin Mary at the moment when she rejoined her Son in heaven? It is certain that the glory of Mary in heaven surpasses that of all the saints put together.
Mary’s merits were therefore always more perfect; her most pure heart dilated more and more, and her capacity for the divine increased according to the words of Psalm 118:32: “I have run the way of thy commandments, when thou didst enlarge my heart.”