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Mary possessed the priesthood eminently and equivalently. St. Albert the Great (1200 - 1280 AD)

Mary possessed the priesthood eminently and equivalently

St. Albert the Great (1200 - 1280 AD)

From Mariale Super Missus Est (written at ca. 1245 AD), published in B. Alberti Magni, Ratisbonensis Episcopi, Ordinis Praedicatorum, Opera Omnia, ed. Augustus and Aemilius Borgnet, Paris 1890-1899, vol. 37, pp. 62 - 246. Here Question 41, pp. 79 - 80; Solution pp. 84 - 87.

Translated especially for www.womenpriests.org from the original Latin
by Dr. Mary Ann Rossi

St. Albert the Great

Question 41

Whether the perfection of the Blessed Virgin would comprise that grace which is conferred under the sacrament of Orders?

After this there is the question about the sacrament of Orders whether the perfection of the most Blessed Virgin comprises also that grace which is conferred by the Sacrament of Orders.

And it is seen that it is so:

l.  For Orders are for the spiritual multiplication of the faithful, but spiritual multiplication pertains to the spiritual mother: now the blessed Virgin is the spiritual mother of all the faithful; therefore she herself had to possess the Sacrament of Orders.

2. Likewise among Orders various degrees of dignity are distinguished in the Church, as is seen in the Pope, Archbishops, etc. But the most blessed Virgin possesses the highest dignity; therefore she also possessed the highest Order.

3. Likewise the hierarchy of the Church has been formed on the model of the celestial hierarchy; but in the celestial hierarchy, as Dionysius says, all the superiors possess the characteristics of their inferiors, and more excellently; therefore in the ecclesiastical hierarchy it will be thus; but the blessed Virgin was the supreme and most worthy person in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Therefore she will possess the dignities and proprieties of her inferiors, and she will possess all Orders.

4. Likewise, the character of Orders is the character of excellence; therefore it will most particularly be found in one who excels all creatures in worthiness.

5. Likewise, the Apostle [Paul] says: ‘Every soul has been subordinated to more sublime powers’ [note: Ad Roman., xiii, i]. But the blessed Virgin was held to be subordinate to no human power. Therefore she was supreme in rank and dignity.

6. Likewise, for One in whom there is greater, there can also be lesser; but greater is the fact that through someone’s consent and word the very body of the Lord was formed of flesh, than the fact that through his ministry bread is transformed into his very body. The first marks her as the mother of God; the second, the ministry of Christ. But the first had been accomplished in the most blessed Virgin. Therefore the second also could be done.

7. Likewise, if it had been imposed on all women by a curse that they should not be able to take Sacred Orders, she ought to be immune from this curse, since she was apart from other women; for she was blessed among women; therefore if women ought not to be ordained because a woman was the beginning of sin, therefore she ought, on the contrary, to be ordained, who was the beginning of life for all.

8. Likewise, whatever the general reason was for other women, it does not include the blessed Virgin, who was not among the number of all, but above all, as we see in Esther, xv, 12: What do you have, Esther, I am your brother. And in v. 13: For not for you but for everyone else has the law been established. As if she should say: You are not of everyone, but above everyone.

Solution to the Questions

General Answer to Questions 36 - 43 [Borgnet, p. 82]

As to the objection that is made about sacramental graces, we respond that the most blessed Virgin received all the sacraments of the Church at that time, which in her time had been generally instituted for all persons and promulgated to be observed by everyone. And there were many reasons for this: first, for the humbling of herself; second, for the avoiding of scandal; third, for the filling of the precept; fourth, for the increase of her merits; fifth, for the refutation of heresies: that is, of those who asserted that she was not a person, but an Angel; sixth, for the teaching of perfection, so that one who is holy might be further sanctified; seventh, for the conviction of sinners.

These seven causes can be reduced to three causes, for which sacraments are stated to have been instituted in Book IV of the “Sententiae”: that is, humility, erudition, and cultivation.

[St. Albert then discusses Mary’s reception of the various sacraments in detail]

Specific Answer to Questions 41 [Borgnet, pp. 84-87; § numbers and bold print added by John Wijngaards for easy reference]

§1. Only the sacrament of Holy Orders the most blessed Virgin did not receive. But this sacrament confers a certain dignity according to people’s outward reputation, but inwardly, according to humble truth, it pertains to servitude. Hence Holy Orders were opposed to the status of the most blessed Virgin, since she had before God the greatest dignity inwardly, and outwardly before people she had the greatest humility.

§2. For this [= for the following reasons] the blessed Virgin did not receive this sacrament.

§3. First, as has been said, on account of it opposing her status.

§4. Secondly, on account of her humble conformity to other women, who are excluded from this sacrament, that is, on account of the unworthiness of their sex, of their greater weakness regarding sin, and on account of something that follows from these, the incongruity of their holding authority.

§5. Thirdly, in order to signify the elevation of her status. For all the honors of the Church have been introduced for service, for the salvation of the souls of the faithful: whence the Lord says in the Gospel: “Princes dominate their nations...It will not be thus among you, for whoever among you wished to be made greater, etc....”[Matth.xx, 25 and 26]. Hence they are all also called shepherds.

§6. Hence Bernard:

“It is not that loftiness flatters when there is greater solicitude: the former intends discriminating, the latter proves a friend [S.Bernardus, Lib.II de Consideratione, Cap. 5]

§7. And further on Bernard says:

“What should be noticed in every way: [the ministry] is not for lording over I think, for the Prophet, when he was raised up, heard: You must pluck out and destroy, ruin and put to flight, and you must build and transplant. [Jerem. I, 10] Does this sound like reason for arrogance? Certainly spiritual labour has been expressed more in the manner of rustic sweat. And I therefore, as I oftenperceive about myself, I have experienced that a service has been imposed upon me, and not dominion given.” [S.Bernardus, Lib.II de Consideratione, cap.6]

§8. Further on Bernard says,

“Learn from prophetic example to preside not so much in order to be in charge as to make things happen as the time requires. Learn that you need the hoe, not the sceptre in order to do the work of a Prophet. And indeed he does not ascend to rule but to extirpate. Your predecessors the Apostles heard that many were the crops but few the workers. Vindicate your father’s inheritance. For if you are a son, you are also an heir. In order to prove yourself heir, be watchful with care and do not languish in idleness, lest someone say to you: ‘Why do you stand idle here the whole day?’ (Cf.Matth. XX, 6) Much less fitting is it for you to be found relaxed in sweet past times or lying on your back in parties. None of these is assigned to you on the tablets of the testator. But what is assigned? If you are satisfied with the contents [of these tablets], you will inherit worry and work, rather than glory and riches. Does the bishop’s throne attract you? It is an [illusory] mirror. From your throne you will, after all, supervise, echoing in the title of bishop not dominination, but duty. For why are you placed in an eminent position, from which you can see everything, you who are established as an overseer over everything? For indeed that overseeing brings you concern, not leisure. But when we may glory in something, why is no leisure allowed? There is no place for leisure where the sedulous concern for all the churches is pressing. For what else has the Holy Apostle [Peter] left to you: What I have, he says, this I give to you. [Act III, 6]? What did he leave? One thing I know: that it is neither silver nor gold, since he says: ‘Silver or gold I do not possess’. ”

§9. Afterwards, Bernard says:

“Neither could he give you what he did not possess himself. What he possessed he did give, namely concenr over the churches. Did he perhaps give domination? Listen to him: ‘Not domineering’, he says, ‘as clerics, but having become the model of your flock’ [I Petri, V, 3]”

§10. From these and similar passages it is clear that the dignities of the Church have been introduced for service and ministry. But the most blessed Virgin was adopted to be a help to salvation and to share in the kingly rule; for she alone suffered [with Christ], while the [ecclesiastical] ministers fled. Hence also she alone obtained participation in the kingship, she who was the helper of the work [of redemption], according to this: ‘Let us make a helper for him, similar to himself.’ (Genes, II, 18).

§11. But although the most blessed Virgin did not receive the sacrament of [Holy] Orders, she possessed in full whatever dignity and grace is conferred by them. And a sevenfold grace is conferred in Holy Orders; but she was full of grace in every way.

§12. Also, there are in the sacrament of orders: spiritual power, ministerial dignity, and executive power. But the most blessed Virgin possessed these three [powers] within herself excellently and equivalently. Ministers of the Church possess a beneficial dignity through their [sacramental] character of excellence, but the most blessed Virgin possessed the crown of the triumphant kingdom as well as of the Church militant. Whence the greatest of ministers is called the Pope, and he is the servant of the servants of God; she is the Queen and Mistress of Angels; he is the servant of the servants of God; she is the Empress of the whole world.

§13. Also, in ministers resides a spiritual and temporal power from God, either delegated or vicarious; in her resides a perpetual plenitude of celestial power from ordinary authority.

§14. Also, in ministers resides the power of binding or dissolving by the use of keys; in her there is the legitimate power of dominating by binding or dissolving through imperial rule.

§15. And thus it is clear that the blessed Virgin does not lack to any degree whatever there is of grace and dignity in [Holy] Orders.

§16. But lest she seem to have possessed only general powers and dignities, and to have lacked the specific ones, we assert that she possessed the dignities and graces of the individual [Holy] Orders equivalently and with excellence.

§17. She shared the expulsion of demons with exorcists. Whence Gen III, 15: She would count your head. And Judith killed Holofernes, and Esther conquered Aman.

§18. With doorkeepers she shared the admission of the clean and the exclusion of the unclean. Whence Ezechiel, XLIV, 2 and 3: This gate will be closed; it will not be opened...and it will be closed for the prince. The prince himself will sit by it. That is to say: This gate will be open to the prince and his imitators, and it will be closed to the unworthy.

§19. She also shares giving light with the acolytes [the candle bearers]. Whence, Cantic. III, 6: Who is that who ascends, etc.? And the passage in Numbers xxiv, 17: A star will arise from Jacob.

§20. Also, with Lectors she has in herself the exposition of all the Prophets according to the letter. Whence, Isa. VII, 14: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a child. And the Angel said to her, Behold, you will conceive, etc. For she is the teacher of the instruction of God.

§21. She shares the manifestation of the Apostolic teaching with the subdeacons. Whence she is signified by the ark in which there was manna and the rod of Aaron [Numer. XVII, 10; at Hebr., IX, 3]: which rod means, divine wisdom.

§22. But she shares with deacons the preservation of the Word of the Lord, the gift of narrative to describe [the Word] to others, and the perfect fulfilment of the counsels of the lord. Whence Luc. II, 19: Mary preserved all the words, etc.

§23. She shares with priests the formation of the Lord’s Body through herself, its handling and communication. The body of the Lord has been formed through the mediation of her word, and her flesh and blood, and she handled his bhody most intimately and for the longest time, and communicated it to us in food and drink. Through this she bound us all to his sweet yoke and his light burden with charity; and not only did she show that sins and punishments were dismissed from all, but she even absolved them, according to this: Who eats my flesh, [Joan. VI, 55], etc.

§24. Also she shares with Bishops the power toordain of clerics, the confer ecclesiastical positions, to consecrate churches, and receive sacred virgins into religious congregations. For the Bishop ordains priests through the conferring of the sacrament; but the most blessed Virgin through the obligation of continence, according to this: Be cleansed, you who bear the vessels of the Lord [Isa. LII, 11]. For the Bishop confers ecclesiastical positions by installing them; but the most blessed Virgin by making them. Moreover the Bishop consecrates churches by dedicating corporal holy places; but the most blessed Virgin consecrates spiritual temples by inspiring chastity, and by vindicating it especially in herself. For the Bishop consecrates virgins by blessing them outwardly; but the most blessed Virgin consecrates virgins inwardly by adorning them with virtues and by betrothing them to her son, and by consecrating not only virgins, but also virginity, and by removing the shame of sterility from them, by adopting them as her special daughters, and by exalting their most worthy state, according to this passage: Honesty makes them closest to God [Sapient. VI, 20].

§25. The most blessed Virgin shars continuously with the Pope the care of all the Churches, plenitude of spiritual power, and the universality of privileged actions. Care of the Churches: because the Pope is the father of fathers; but she is the mother of all Christians, nay, of all good people, according to this: For all good things have come to me equally with her. An I did not know that she was the mother of all of these. [Sapient., VII, 11 and 12]. Plenitude of power: For the lord Pope holds the plenitude of power in this life, but not in heaven, nor in purgatory, nor in hell; but the most blessed Virgin holds all power in heaven, purgatory, and hell.

§26. She also shares [the Pope’s] universality of privileged actions, as will be clear below when we inquire about her privileges.

§27. And note that when the most blessed Virgin humbly received sacraments instituted for sinners, she did not on this account speak a falsehood, by as it were implying that she was a sinner in deed, but beyond obligation she conformed herself to sinners in good actions, demonstrating that she was truly humble in deed, and so she spoke the truth in all things.

§28. Thus has it been shown that the blessed Virgin lacked nothing in whatever there is of dignity or of grace in the sacraments of the Church, through the plenitude of grace that was in her. She possessed all of this fully, either in the sacramental graces themselves, or in graces that were equivalent to them or excelled them.

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