Should Every Perfection Be Attributed to the Mother of God?

December 11, 2021

De Maria nunquam satis, “one can never say enough about the Virgin Mary.” Many Fathers and theologians attribute unique perfections to Mary, including perfections not mentioned in Scripture.

Some object that there is a risk of ending in excesses that will expose Marian theology to ridicule, even heresy. They add that everyone should stick strictly to what has been explicitly revealed.

It is, again, Pius IX, in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus, who clarifies this question for us: “From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for His only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, He would be born into this world.”

“Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight.”

“Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of His divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully. And indeed it was wholly fitting that ….”

Mary was provided with singular privileges

Theologians indicate two reason justifying the attribution of the greatest privileges to the Mother of God:

First, the Virgin was chosen for the highest mission entrusted to a human person. Now, “God so prepares and endows those, whom He chooses for some particular office, that they are rendered capable of fulfilling it,” says St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae III,q.27, a.4).

The Angelic Doctor adds elsewhere that Our Lady is the nearest to Jesus Christ, the source of grace. Now, “the nearer the thing is to the principle, the greater the part which it has in the effect of that principle,” the Angelic Doctor states again (III, 7, 1 and 27, 5).

Therefore, it is suitable to attribute privileges, even singular privileges, to the Virgin, but it must nevertheless be done with discernment:

-- It must not be contrary to the faith, to the doctrine of the Church, or to reason.

-- It must be suitable to the Virgin, either because of what she is, or because of her Son.

-- It must have a positive foundation in Revelation.

In addition, it must exclude the perfections that come under the angelic nature (infused knowledge per se), which are reserved for the masculine sex (the priesthood), which would prevent compassion (the glory of the body, or impassibility), and finally, which would imply an imperfection excluded by faith (the virtue of penance).

It must also refrain from asserting what, without impropriety, is absolutely gratuitous: one does not presume miracles.

What is positively suitable is more delicate: it must have a foundation in what is known, what is known of the habitual economy of grace, and show that the idea is traditional.

That being said, it is certain that Our Lady’s proximity to the Incarnate Word confers on her exceptional privileges, which far exceed what is involved with common sanctity.