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Mary was an Apostle. St. Albert the Great (1200 - 1280 AD)

Mary was an Apostle

St. Albert the Great (1200 - 1280 AD)

From Mariale Super Missus Est (written at ca. 1245 AD), published in Alberti Magni Opera Omnia, ed. Borgnet, Paris 1890-1899, vol. 37, pp. 62 - 246. Here Questions 119-122, pp. 173-175.

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

Note. Questions 119 - 122 in St. Albert’s work are based on Ephesians 4,11-12: “His gifts were that he made some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” St. Albert’s question is: ‘Did Mary receive these special gifts?’

St. Albert the Great

Question 119

Whether it is fitting that the Blessed Virgin should be an Apostle?

Next there is a question about those graces which are found in the letter to the Ephesians IV,11: And he made certain people Apostles.

It seems at first that it would not be fitting for the most blessed Virgin to be an Apostle:

1. For this work is ministerial, as it is added in the same place, v.12: for the work of ministry; but ministry does not fall in the operations of all people; therefore neither the apostolate.

2. Also, regarding a passage of Dionysius: “Hierarchy is divine order, knowledge, and action [S.dionysius, Lib. de Caelesti hierarchia, cap.3]”, the commentator says, that having an office without its operation is negligence; but the most blessed Virgin did not practice the action of preaching; therefore she ought not to have had the office.

3. Also, Luc. VI, 13: He chose twelve from those, that is, his disciples, whom he called Apostles : therefore the gift of the apostolate is not appropriate for the most blessed Virgin.

On the contrary, this is what I say:

1. John [the Baptist] said about himself, John I, 23: I am the voice of one crying, etc. As if he should say: I preach not so much with the voice of my mouth, but my whole self is my voice; thus all of me—my life, my food, my clothing, my place—preaches penitence. But just as everything John was preached penitence, so did everything the blessed virgin Mary was preach innocence. If therefore John has grace and the gift of preaching, who is the voice of one crying out in the desert, therefore more emphatically by far does the blessed Virgin have the gift of the apostolate; therefore she is the voice of one crying out in the heaven.

2. Also, the special property of the Apostles is that they are the light of the world; but the most blessed Virgin illuminated the world the most; therefore she practiced the office of preaching the most.

3. Also, the duty of Apostles or preachers is to reconcile sinners; but this is fitting for the blessed Virgin to the extreme; therefore she possessed the apostolic office to the extreme.

4. Also, the Lord says, Joan. VI,16: My teaching is not mine, attributing it to the one [=God] from whom he had his being. But just as he had divine nature from the Father, so did he have a human nature from his mother. Therefore just as his teaching inasmuch as he was God was from the Father, so was his teaching inasmuch as he was human, from the mother. Therefore the mother preached to us everything that the Son taught.

5. Also, the Lord says about the Holy Spirit, Joan. xvi, 13: For he will not speak from himself ; therefore just as the Spirit speaks from the one from whom he comes, so the Son will speak from the mother insofar as he is human. Other things as above in the section on preachers. [For the solution to objections, see below after Quest. CXXII.]

Question 120

Whether it is proper for her that she should be a Prophetess?

It follows: Others he made prophets [Ad Ephes. IV, 11]. Gloss: “Explicators of Scripture”; but note:

1 Mary herself is the explicator of the whole Old Testament; therefore she is the prophet or prophetess to the highest degree.

2. Also, John [the Baptist] is called a prophet, and more than a prophet [Matth.,XI, 9 and Luc., VII, 26], because he pointed to God with his finger; but she herself bore him and thus pointed out with her body that she was his Mother and the Virgin; and thus she pointed him out as the Son of the Virgin promised in the prophets and scriptures by her body and work, and thus she was the greatest prophetess.

3. Also, it is clear that sex is non obstacle here, because there were prophetesses in the Old and New Testaments. Whence, Luc. II, 36 mentions the prophetess Anna. The Acts of the Apostles, XXI, 9, mentions Philip who had daughters who were prophesying. Other things as above on prophecy.

Question 121

Whether it is proper for her that she is an Evangelist?

It follows: Others he made Evangelists [Ephes. IV, 11].

Luke, II, 51 says: And his mother, that is Mary, preserved, etc. So that when the time came for preaching or for describing the incarnation, she was able to explain all events just as they had occurred.

Other things as above in the passage on preaching.

Question 122

Whether she had the gift of being a Pastor?

It follows: But others he made pastors [Ephes. IV, 11]

In what way the most blessed Virgin had this gift, seek in the treatise on the Sacrament of Orders, and in what way she fills us with wonder, in the treatise on the Beatitudes regarding the degrees of poverty.

Thus, then, the most blessed Virgin also had this quaternary of graces [=of being an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist and Pastor].

Overall Response to questions about gratuitous graces and freely given graces.

From these it is clear that the most blessed Mistress had the universality of gratuitous and given graces; we believe this to be true in every way.

Solution to objections

To solve the objections to the contrary, we say in such a way ass to distinguish among the gifts that are freely given and not sanctifying:

  • certain gifts are given for the ministry, and not for one’s own benefit, as the prophecy of Balaam and Caiphas;
  • certain gifts are given for one’s own benefit, and not for others, as the gifts of instruction of the most blessed Lady.
  • And of these last gifts, certain ones are given to bring out a need,
  • certain gifts for embellishing power,
  • and certain girfts for ennobling the creature and honouring the person.
  • And thus the most blessed Virgin had gifts of this kind not for ministry, but for the increase of decoration, for the augmenting of perfection and delight, for the enlargement of praise and honor, and the crowning of all spiritual goods.

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