Saint Worship - Part 5

I have wished from first to last in this series to show that the order of nature and the order of grace are based on the same fundamental principles, and are in reality two distinct parts of one complete plan in the divine decree, rather than two separate and unrelated orders. The order of regeneration is the complement or completion of the order generation, and I follow, for myself, the theological opinion that God would have become incarnate even if man had not sinned; though assuredly, in such case, he could not have come to suffer and die for man’s redemption. But be this as it may, it is certain that the order of regeneration is teleological and does not complete the order of generation; and since man has actually sinned, grace can complete nature only by redeeming it, and redemption and regeneration are, in relation to the individual, simultaneous, whether really distinguishable or not.

Now, we know by supernatural revelation that God is three really distinct Persons in one essence. The three Persons are related to each other in the divine being, operating ad intra as principle, medium, and end; the Father is principle, the Son is medium, and the Holy ghost is end and therefore proceeds from both – from the Father as principle and the Son as medium – and thus, so to speak, completes the divine pleroma, or consummates ad intra the divine being.

God operating ad extra after His own idea, which is His essence, is one and indivisible, and therefore in all operations ad extra the three Persons necessarily concur, but in diverse respects: the Father as principle, the Son as medium, the Holy Ghost as end or consummation. The Son or Word is the medium of creation. "All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made." As essentially God, He is the Creator; as distinctly Son, He is the medium of creation. Hence, the apostle says, by, or through, Him all things were made.

We know, again, from revelation, that in the fullness of time the Son – as the medium of all the divine operations to complete the creative act and to raise man to union with God in heaven, or to redeem fallen man, and in doing it secure him a supernatural beatitude – assumed Flesh in the Womb of the Virgin Mary, took upon Him human nature, and raised it to be truly and indissolubly the Nature of God. As God incarnate becomes the founder of the teleological order, or as Saint Paul calls it, "the new creation" (but a creation having relation to the end of fulfillment of what is initial and inchoate in Adam in the first order, i.e., the order of generation), there must subsist in this new order between the incarnate Creator and the new creation the same relation that I labored to show subsists between him and the creature in the first or initial creation. From this we obtain a new ground for saint-worship, and may learn that saint-worship is the best safeguard against that form of naturalism which denies the Incarnation, and with it the whole order of grace and man’s supernatural destiny. In the Incarnation, God takes upon Himself our nature, and makes it His own. Since the Incarnation, (2) human nature is the nature of [the Word]; not His divine nature, but His human nature, yet as truly and as indissolubly His nature as the divine nature itself. (3) This is the mystery of the Incarnation – the mystery of God manifest in the flesh, which no created intellect can comprehend, and which, if I may so speak, exhausts the creative power of God that, infinite as it is, can go no further.

By the Incarnation, then, human nature becomes an object of supreme worship. As Christians we honor the Son as we honor the Father, the Son of man as we honor the Son of God; for the Son of man and the Son of God are henceforth one, and the same God is present in His saints, not only by His creative act, and by the gifts of His grace, but by identity of nature. They have a natural relation to Him. This nature, human nature itself, in the language of Pope Saint Leo the Great, has been deified, deificata, and therefore in the order of regeneration – I almost fear to write it – it is to be worshiped as the nature of God. Tremendous thought! What meaning does it not give to the injunction, "Honor all men," and how forcibly bring home to us the fact that, "if any man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar... and the truth is not in him"!

It is, however, human nature that is deified, not the individuals of the race. Individually, [human nature] is hypostatically united to God only in the man Jesus Christ. As individuals, the saints are sons of God only by adoption, and while their nature is deified and worshiped as the nature of God, and therefore with divine honors, they as individuals can be honored only with a relative or secondary worship, not as God, but as related to Him through His human nature; nevertheless, this relation itself deserves to be recognized and honored in them as well as in Him.

The itinerary of the soul is from God as first cause, through regeneration in Christ, to glorification, to supernatural union with God as final cause. The saints are those who by their concurrence with the gifts and graces of God have completed their journey, finished their course, and attained to their supreme beatitude, their crown of glory. They are united to God by identity of nature, by spiritual conformity, and the closest union possible, short of personal identity; and to refuse to recognize and honor it were a gross indignity to the Word made flesh, and to the whole principle of the new creation or order of regeneration. The chief ground of our saint-worship, after all, is in the relation of the saints in their nature to the nature of God; a relation initial indeed in all men, since human nature is one and the same in all, but consummated, completed or perfected only in the saints, who are individually conformed to and united with God and made "partakers of His Divine Nature," so that they are really, in a secondary or imitative sense, Christs, and Sons of God, as Christ is the Son of God.

It is now easy to understand the hyperdulia, or superior worship, which we render to Mary. It is not solely because through the gifts and graces of God her personal merits are greater, but because her relation to the human nature of God is closer and more intimate, and therefore entitled to a larger share in the honor we give, and are required to give, to that nature as assumed by the Word. It was from her that God took His human nature, and in doing so, He took that nature to be His own; He raised her to the dignity of Mother of God. The closest relation, save the hypostatic, possible is that between mother and son, and therefore Mary, by her natural relation to the human nature of God, deserves a higher honor than any other saint, and the highest below that given to God Himself. We, then, in our hyperdulia, on the strictest philosophical and theological principles, give Mary only the honor that is her due; and with our best efforts we cannot so highly honor her as God honors her.

The worship of saints in general and of Our Lady in particular being based on the Incarnation, its practice tends to keep living and active in us the great fact of our Religion – "The Word was made flesh" – on which our redemption, our salvation, and all our hopes of final beatitude depend; and almost universally, the neglect of saint-worship is followed by loss of faith in the Incarnation. The sects that reject saint-worship hardly in a single instance remain orthodox on the capital point of our Faith.