Newsletter of the District of Asia

 July - December 2005

What Jesus Owes To His Mother

According to Biblical Theology
and the Middle Ages Theologians

By Rev. Fr. C. Spicq, O.P. (+ 1992)


“God sent his Son, who came from a Woman.” (Gal., IV, 4)

But why was it absolutely necessary that the body of Christ be perfect as a human body? Because this human body (or to be more precise, this body which was human in perspective, since it needed to be united to a soul to form a human composite) was destined for a soul whose activity and operations, even the intellectual ones, it was going to condition and determine.

God creates the soul at the moment when he is about to unite it to a body which human generation has prepared.15 Now every human soul (including that of our Lord) is identical not only in nature and in specific structure, but also in dignity. Human souls, on the one hand, are independent of the body with regard to certain of their operations; and being spiritual, they are also immortal. But on the other hand, these same souls contain within themselves the principle of sensible and vegetative life; the “soul” is the life of the body which it is going to inform. In this regard, all souls are the same and of equal worth. Considered as such, there could not be any difference between souls which was not a difference in species as well.16

If the soul of Christ were not entirely identical with ours, it would not be a human soul. The soul of Christ is exactly the same as ours. But this particular soul is united to this particular body; and this is what makes it an individual and differentiates it from all other souls.17

Here we must recall ‘the unity of the human composite’. The soul is not in the body as in a receptacle, like a sword in the scabbard designed to house it. This was the opinion of Socrates and Plato, both of whom considered that the soul in the body was like a pilot on a ship, or a traveller in an inn, or a prisoner in a jail. For Plato, the soul was simply lodged in the body as in a tomb (s?µa sôma – sema) or any kind of dwelling. The windows of this dwelling place are the external senses. This was what made Socrates say every time he found himself in the presence of someone he did not know: “Speak, traveller, so that you may be seen!” – as if the man, hiding behind his body, could only reveal himself through the senses and through speech. Hence the error of Pythagoras, that souls created from the beginning of the world had the ability to pass from one body to another by means of generation. “The living become the dead, and the dead become the living.” This was what made the philosopher Hermias say: “The dolphins are our brothers. Thanks to these seekers of wisdom, I am changed into all sorts of beasts: I swim, I fly, I crawl, I run ... and I sit.”18 No, man is formed neither from the body alone, nor from the soul alone, but from the substantial union of the body and the soul, by which man is constituted as a specific being.19 The body, therefore, is just as much our own as the soul is.20 I am my body in the same way that I am my spirit and my heart.21 In the last analysis, the principle of individuation for the human race is not the form of the body (i.e. the soul) but the matter (i.e. the body itself). It is only because bodies are different that souls are also different.22 As a result, if one soul is more intelligent than another, it is because its intelligence is served by a more sensitive and more refined physical constitution. As Aristotle said, “Those whose flesh is tender have a nimble spirit.”23 And if another soul is more energetic than others, it is because the immaterial and spiritual faculty of the will is served by a more favourable organism. A third will have greater tenderness of heart because its sensitivity is more varied and receptive.24 All our spiritual faculties are conditioned in a large measure by the state of our vegetative and sensitive life.25 Certainly the soul is not a complete and utter prisoner of these conditions, but it is the task of education and virtue to ‘liberate’ the soul from the grip of bodily influences. Everyone knows how laborious this is, this effort to correct and repair a gift that has been defective from the beginning .26

Consequently, since all souls are equal, and it is the qualities of bodies which differentiates each soul from other souls, we now understand the extreme importance of the body of our Lord being perfect, as an organised body destined for union with a soul.27 It follows, therefore, that the body of his Mother should also be perfect. It was not enough that the Blessed Virgin Mary be holy; nothing that was not materially integral could pass from her to him.28

If God’s special providence had not supervised the proper formation of the Mother’s body, then on the day of her Son’s Incarnation, it would have been necessary for the Holy Ghost to perform multiple miracles in order to preserve the organism of the Infant Jesus from the hereditary stains which his Mother would have involuntarily but necessarily transmitted. But since the body of the Mother was perfect, the body of Christ was also perfect: “Mater est secundum omnes proprietates maternitatis”29

Since our Lord’s body was perfectly formed and in a state of perfect integrity from the first moment of his existence, we must say that this was the only human body in all its splendour since the time of Adam. Jesus was beautiful physically, magnificently beautiful, and he owed his beauty to his Mother.30 There is no explicit document, of course, that informs us of his exterior aspect,31 but we cannot see how his image, his human appearance, could have been deficient or vitiated in any manner.32 All the more so as he did not have original sin. Original sin is contracted from the mere fact of uniting the soul to an infected body, but this fault of nature affecting the person is transmitted by the father;33 and since Jesus did not have a human father, he had no need even to be exempted from it, as his Mother was. The problem simply did not arise for him at all.

Let us be quite clear that the Infant Jesus was not an abstract infant. He was the son of his Mother, and she belonged to a specific race, a specific human category (Heb 2:16). It is quite reasonable to imagine that this human body should represent the personal traits and characteristics of the Jewish race, only without any deformity or imperfection which might arise ‘from the imperfections and vicissitudes of the ancestral line.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ had a specific, highly individualised, type. He could not resemble anybody but his Mother who was the most beautiful of all women.34 She was a descendant of David (Rom 1:3) and therefore of royal blood.35

From her our Lord derived his nobility of stature and posture.36 How could he have less power to attract than Solomon, the beloved son of David and Bethsheba, he who was so deeply loved not only by his people, but even by sovereigns and princesses: Hiram, king of Tyre and the queen of Sheba?

Exempt from original sin, and deriving robust health from his Mother, Jesus nevertheless endured fatigue because of his efforts 37 but he was never sick.38 No microbial infection could have defeated his body’s natural resistance.

The eyes of Christ must have been unbearably penetrating, though he himself averted his eyes from no man. They were the eyes of his Mother, as transparent as Paradise, eyes whose candour was not tarnished by the wisdom of experience. The eyes of men sometimes have an innocence that is somewhat empty. The eyes of Christ, however, had a certain mysterious fullness.39 When he fixed his gaze upon a soul of good will, like the rich young man, that gaze penetrated to the depths of the heart, and evoked its love.40

The voice of Jesus must have had a marvellous purity and intonation, with its grave accents capable of pronouncing the gutturals of the Hebrew language; a voice that was steady and could project itself, able to endure long hours of discourse in the open.41 When he was in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus read with emotion the text of Isaiah concerning himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” (Lk 4:20). St Luke observes that all had their eyes fixed on him, enthralled by the diction and tone which he gave to the Word of God.

It is with difficulty that we picture our Lord’s deportment and habitual bearing. What charm, what fluidity, what grace even in the smallest gestures! As an infant, his grace, his harmonious beauty, was already extraordinary and Saint Luke (2:52) draws our attention to it, according to what our Lady had told him. As an adult, this stateliness and dignity could only impress all the more.

And what shall we say of the smile of Jesus, the smile of his Mother, so spontaneous and of such freshness. In giving a summary of our Lord’s life, St Paul described the characteristic of this life in one word: “The graciousness of God has appeared on earth.” (Titus, 3:4). According to the Apostle, the chrestotes is the smile of divine charity,42 the sweet benevolence which communicates itself in a sensible manner, the tenderness of the infinite loving-kindness of the heart of God.

When our Lord affirms that he said and did nothing which he had not learned from his Father and which he had not seen him do (“he who sees me, sees my Father”), he implies that his whole life was a manifestation of the being and life of God, who is charity. To know the meaning of this life, we must appreciate and understand the meaning of love. For human beings, the smile of a mother hovering over her child is an image of love. Consequently, since the purpose of the Incarnation is to manifest the reality of divine love in a visible and tangible manner, we cannot help thinking that this epiphany is realised first in the smile of Christ, a smile of ineffable tenderness and of warm attachment, a smile which is a most precious gift. This smile of graciousness reveals the infinite beauty and goodness which no word would express; and it is the Virgin most pure who gave that appearance, that look and those lips43 to her son. In heaven, the risen Christ has them all even more luminously, and they are the first things we shall contemplate when we arrive in Paradise.


15. It is God, alone, who creates the soul to unite it with the body, S.T. IIIa, q. VI, a. 3.

16. It is the contrary for the angels, each of whom is a different species. There are no two angels alike each other. “The diverse abilities of each man do not come from a difference between one soul and another, nor does this difference arise from the fact that some souls have been restored by baptism (since all men who belong to the one species all have the same form) but from the diversity of the body. Otherwise it is different for the angels since they differ in species. Thus, the unconditional gifts are given to the angels according to the diversity of their natural capacity, but it is not the same for men” (S. T. IIIa, q. 69, a. 8. ad 3um). It is in the II Sent., dist. 32, q. 2, a. 3, that SAINT THOMAS puts himself the question in a formal manner: “Utrum animae sunt aequales in sua creatione?”

He answers: “Oportet quod diversitas et distinctio gradus in animabus causetur ex diversitate corporis; ut quanto corpus melius complexionatum fuerit, nobiliorem animam sortiatur... Unumquodque invenitur tanto nobilius genus animae participare, quanto corpus ejus ad nobilius genus complexionis pertingit, ut in hominibus, brutis et plantis” – Ad 1um: “Est quaedam diversitas formalis... non per se sed per accidens ; ex diversitate materiae resultans, secundum quod in materia melius disposita dignius forma participatur”. – Ad 4um : “Anima non educitur de potentia materiae, tamen creatur in materia ut actus ipsius, et ideo oportet quod in ea recipiatur per modum materiae”. Ad 6um: “Est diversitas partium speciei, id est partium specie differentium, sive formaliter manus, pes et hujusmodi, et talis diversitas causatur ex parte formae, quia ex hoc quod forma est talis, oportet quod corpus sit sibi sic dispositum. – Est autem quaedam diversitas materialis tantum, quae ad speciem non pertinet, sed ad individuum tantum; et ista redundat ex materia in formam, et non e converso”. Cf. S.T. Ia, q. 85, a. 7, ad 3um: “ Differentia formae, quae non provenit ex diversa dispositione materiae, non facit diversitatem secundum speciem”.

The angelic doctor is not afraid to say: “The perfection of the body is required so that the body does not hamper the ascension of the soul” (S.T. Ia IIae, q. 4, a. 6 ad 2um).

17. Cf. L. LEMAY, Principles for a moral theology of the human body according to SAINT THOMAS, ATTLEBORO (Mass, 1955, pg 48 sq.)

18. Cf. F. BUFFIERE, Les Mythes d’Homère, Paris 1956, pgs. 500 sq. He knows how Lucian made fun of the reincarnations and the áíáµíçóåéó of Pythagoras, and then Euphorbus the Trojan, Pythagoras, Aspasia, Crates the Cynic, “King, then proletarian and a little after satrap, after that, a horse, a popinjay, a frog and a hundred other things, but it would be too long to name them all, I conclude by being a cockerel several times.” (LUCIAN, Gall., 20; cf. 4, 12, 15 sq., 24 -27; V. Hist., II, 21)

19. Cf. S.T. Ia, q. 76. By its nature, the soul is made to be united to a body : “Anima ex natura suae essentiae habet quod sit corpori unibilis” (S.T. Ia, q. 75, a. 7, ad 3um; cf. q. 118, a. 2-3). It was ARISTOTLE who introduced the “instrumentist” concept, according to which the soul deals with the body in a relationship analogous that of a workman deals with his tool. Instead of being an enemy, an obstacle to its own proper activity, the body makes it easy for the soul to perform its tasks, since the soul cannot act without the body, just as the saw is indispensable for the work of the carpenter (cf. P. MORAUX, A la recherche de l’Aristote perdu. Le dialogue “sur la justice”, Paris-Louvain 1957, pg 153-156). For Saint Thomas human nature is not an accidental union between two complete substances. The soul and the body are two partial and incomplete substances, metaphysically placed in relation to one another. “The soul is not an element created by chance for an already existing body: it is a constitutive and essential part, formally bringing to perfection the matter of which the body is the material element, which is to be perfected by its form. Instead of just being an addition to the body, it is the body which exists for the soul and the generation of the body requires the presence of the soul to give it its form. This transcendental order of the body to the soul and the soul to the body explains the reciprocal influence that the physical element has over the mental, and the psychical element over the physiological element.” (A.MICHEL, in L’ami du Clergé, 1958, pp 125-126)

20.The flesh and the bones, says Saint Thomas, S.T. Ia, q. 75, a. 4.

21. For Saint Thomas, the soul separated from the body - after death and before the resurrection – is in an abnormal state against nature, and hence metaphysically imperfect: “esse separatum a corpore est praeter rationem suae naturae” (S.T. Ia, q. 89, a. 1). The Essenes professed a radically opposite doctrine: “They were firmly certain that if bodies are perishable and that their matter is not invariable, being immortal, they would always be dwelling as inhabitants of the air that is the most light; and drawn by some sort of natural attraction, they have been enclosed in bodies as in a prison; but when they are detached from the chains of the body, as if they have been delivered from a long servitude, they are happily lifted up on high.” (FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS, Wars, 154–155). Cf. the discourse of APOLLONIUS OF TYANE to a young man: “The soul is immortal and this is not due to your own making but to Providence. After the body has been dissolved, it is like a swift messenger having been delivered from his chains; without effort, it embraced and mingles with the air in its lightness, rejecting with disgust the hard and sorrowful service it endured when united to the body” (in Philostrate, VIII, 31 = II, 104, Conybeare). According to the dualist concept of the orphique-platonicienne school, we distinguish the soul (psychè) and the body, while the Semites it is the soul (nephesh) of the body. It is the latter anthropology which dominates Christian theology. The Hebrew knows nothing of the dichotomy that separates the body from the soul and he does not say: “Man has a soul” but rather he is a soul, just as he is a body. The connection between these two components of a living being cannot be broken. (Cf. D. LYS. Néphésh. Histoire de l’âme dans la révélation d’Israël, Paris, 1959, pgs. 49-50, 104 sq.) The Semites never showed in any way with the pessimistic concept of the body professed by the Greeks. They went to the extent of attributing to such and such an organ, to such and such a part of the body (the liver, the heart, the bowels), the thoughts and sentiments which reveal the soul.

22. It cannot be insisted too much: it is the body which makes human beings originally different from each other. It is from the body that differences arise since it is this which makes the whole human being an individual.

23. Quoted very frequently by Saint Thomas: Molles carne bene aptos mente! “Qui enim habent duram carnem et per consequens malum tactum sunt inepti secundum mentem; qui vero sunt molles carne et per consequens boni tactus sunt bene apti mente…quia bonitas tactus consequitur bonitatem complexionis sive temperantiae... Ad bonam autem complexionem corporis sequitur nobilitas animae, quia omnis forma est proportionata suae materiae. Unde sequitur quod qui sunt boni tactus, sunt nobilioris animae et perspicacitatis mentis” (In II De Anima, lect. 19, n. 483-485) ; “ Bonis dispositionis corporis humani facti aptum ad bene intelligendum, in quantum ex hoc praedictae vires fortiores existunt : unde dicitur in II De Anima (cap. IX, 2 ; 421a) quod molles carne bene aptos mente videmus” (III C. Gent., 84) ; “ Manifestum est enim quod quanto corpus est melius dispositione, tanto meliorem sortitur animam… Unde cum etiam in hominibus quidam habeant corpus melius dispositum, sortiuntur animam majoris virtutis in intelligendo : unde dicitur in II De Anima (cap. IX) quod molles carne bene aptos mente videmus… Alio modo contingit hoc ex parte virtutum inferiorum, quibus intellectus indiget ad sui operationem ; illi enim in quibus virtus imaginativa e cogitativa et memorativa est melius disposita, sunt melius dispositi ad intelligendum” (S.T. Ia, q. 85, a. 7 ; cf. 101, a. 2). After having translated “of all animals, it is man who has the finest sense of touch, and among men, those who have the finest sense of touch are those with a very keen intelligence. Aristotle gives an indication of this when he says: ‘Those whose flesh is tender have a nimble spirit’ ” (S.T. Ia, q. 76, a 5).

J. WEBERT rejects as obsolete the idea that the life of the spirit depends on the quality of the things perceived by the sense of touch; but from a metaphysical point of view he continues “to maintain that form and matter must correspond rigorously to each other, just as the nature of the soul must correspond rigorously to the structure of the body” (L’âme humaine, Paris, 1928, p. 351). Indeed, one can only subscribe to such assertions as the following: “Intellectus... conjunctionem habet ad corpus dupliciter: scilicet ex parte essentiae, quae forma corporis est, et ex parte inferiorum potentiarum ex quibus intellectus recipit; et per istum modum diversitas corporis in diversitatem intellectus redundat” (II Sent., d. 32, q. 2, a. 3, ad 3um); “Unus homo ex dispositione organorum est magis aptus ad bene intelligendum quam alius” (S.T. Ia IIae, q. 51, a. 1; cf. Ia P., q. 84, a. 8; 117, a. 3, ad 3um; 118, a. 3).

24. “There are some affective habits which come naturally from the very beginning of life. Indeed, there are men who because of their own physical constitution are predisposed to chastity, to gentleness or to something of that sort” (Ia-IIae, q. 51, a. ad finem). At a more profound level, the moral orientation of each individual corresponds to the natural aptitude of his being: “Qualis unusquisque est secundum corpoream qualitatem, talis finis videtur ei; quia ex hujusmodi dispositione homo inclinatur ad eligendum aliquid vel repudiandum” (Ia P., q. 83, a. 7, ad 5um). Cf. J. GUITTON, Essai sur l’amour humain, Paris, 1948, P. 106.

25. It suffices to mention the structural difference between the mentality and affectivity of a man and those of a woman. Their soul is strictly identical, coming from the hands of God, but the mere difference in sex brings about two different human species. It is the quality of the body which conditions the quality of souls.

26. It would be necessary to emphasize the consequences that follow upon these principles and facts in the conception and education of children. Parents bring about a human body which shall be the instrument of a soul and it will determine the dignity and practical ability this soul has from its very beginning. God may intervene in the process, and he has intervened but the ancestors determine the initial and fundamental orientation of a life that is human and spiritual! “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and their children’s teeth will be set on edge till the seventh generation” (Jeremiah 31:29; Ez,18:2). The matter is a potency for being departs from its state of non-being, and if the foundation is wobbly, deficient, how do you re-establish the equilibrium at its higher faculties? It is the quality of bodies which makes the difference in souls...

27. Cf. SAINT THOMAS, Ia P., q. 85, a. 7: “Manifestum est quod quanto corpus est melius dispositum, tanto meliorem sortitur animam”.

28. This is not a reason for attributing to the Mother of Christ a heavenly body, impassible and immortal, according to the Valentinians, nor an angelic one according to the teaching of the Antidicomatianites (SAINT EPIPHANE, Haer., 36).

29. Mariale, q. 145; édit Borgnet, XXXVII, P; 206. “Si corpus Domini in summo habuit quantitatem viro congruentem, ergo et mater sua habuit in summo quantitatem foeminae congruentem” (Ibid., q. 16, § 1 ; p. 40). DENYS THE CARTUSIAN, connecting the Immaculate Conception to the motherhood of the Virgin (De praeconio et dignitate Mariae libri quatuor; édit. Tournai, 1908; lib. I art. 13 et 38; t. XXXV, pg 486, 508) arrived at the conclusion that Mary conceived her child only when her own body had arrived a perfect degree of development, “in ea concepit aetate qua perfecta fuit corporis statu et quantitate” (De dignitate et laudibus B.V. Mariae, I. 37; t. XXXVI, p. 64; and ANDRE DE NOVO CASTRO. “ The Blessed Virgin Mary has passed her qualities on to the body of her son better than any mother has done for her child” (Tractatus de conceptione Virginis Mariae, 6; Quaracchi, 1954, p. 175). Cf. SAINT BONAVENTURE. “Cum caro Christi debeat carni Virginis assimilari post Virginis sanctificationem, sicut caro aliorum assimilatur carni aliorum parentum.” (In III Sent., dist. III, P. 1, art. 2, q. 2)
– Here we are only applying the law of heredity recognised by SAINT THOMAS: “Ea quae pertinent ad naturam speciei, traducuntur a parentibus in filios, nisi sit defectus naturae: sicut oculatus generat oculatum, nisi natura deficiat. Et si natura sit fortis, etiam aliqua accidentia individualia propagantur in filios, pertinentia ad dispositionem naturae, sicut velocitas corporis, bonitas ingenii, et alia hujusmodi, nullo autem modo ea quae sunt pure personalia”.
– “Those things which pertain to the nature of a species are handed down by parents to their children unless there is a defect in nature. And if the nature is strong, some individual accidents are also passed on to the children, accidents which pertain to the disposition of nature, such as swiftness of body, keenness of intellect and other things of the sort. But by no means are there those things passed on which are purely personal” (Ia-Iiae, q. 81, a. 2). But it is the soul, more than the body, which transmits its “power”. “The power which is in the seed, acts in virtue of the generating soul, according to which the soul of the one who generates is the act of the body, using the body itself in its own operation” (S.T. Ia, q. 118, a. 2); “The whole corporeal acts as an instrument of a spiritual power” (ibid., ad 3um); “The active power which is in the seed is a certain impression derived from the soul of the one who generates” (q. 119, a. 1). Cf. F. W. BEDNARSKI, Animadversiones S. Thomae Aquinatis de
juvenibus eorumque educatione, in Angelicum, 1958, pg 377 sq).

30. This must be understood first in terms of a very deep complexion (S.T. IIIa q. 46, a. 6), but we can believe what St Thomas said about this: “The height of Christ, at a perfect age, had been harmonised not too tall, not too short” (S.T. IIIa q. 33, a.2); and in addition “corporal beauty and promptness of spirit pertains to the perfection of man” (Ia IIae q. 4, a.5).

31. At every time, the appeal that Christ had on the human heart reveals itself on each page of the Gospel. Besides grace, we see the prestige of Jesus, his authority, his physical presence imposing itself on everyone. His enemies “dare not” lay hands on him. The Apostles and the Holy Women are overcome by the radiance flowing forth from his body. St Peter wonders that the disciples could love him in their turn without having had the privilege of seeing him (1 Pet., 1:8). The historian Flavius Josephus was told that “his nature and his exterior was that of a man, but his appearance was more than human” (Wars, II, 188, Slavic version). Following St. Augustine, St. Bernard and St. Anselm, St. Thomas also wrote: “Christ had that superior beauty which came to him from the radiance of the divinity upon his countenance” (In Ps., XLIV,2). In the S.T. IIIa q. 44, a. 3, ad 1um, he quotes St. Jerome: “The brightness itself and the majesty of his divinity which even shone forth upon the human countenance of Christ, could draw to himself, from that first look, those who saw him” (In Mt., 9:9).

32. Certain pseudo-mystics, following Tertullian and Origen, have claimed that Christ was ugly. Let them be. But it is a biblical counter sense and bad theology to apply to the stature of the Incarnate Son of God the prophecies of the Passion in relation to the man of sorrows: “He had no form nor beauty to draw our attention” (Is., LIII, 2). Cf. The correct observations of F. Prat, Les portraits du Christ, in Jésus Christ. Sa vie, sa doctrine, son oeuvre, Paris, 1933, pp. 526-532.

33. The transmission of original sin is linked, in human generation, to the role of the father, for it is he who generates according to the lower part of his body which in him has not been set in order from birth (De Malo, q.4, a.6, ad 4 um.) Cf. R. GIBELLINI, La Generazione naturale come Mezzo di trasmissione del Peccato originale secondo S. Tommaso, in Divus Thomas, 1958, pp. 445-464). This is why even the baptised renewed according to the Spirit, still transmit the ancient sin of Adam. Augustine and Chrysostome combatted Pelagius’ thesis that infants, born of Christian parents, were exempt from original sin and need not be baptised.

34. In explicitly asking whether the Blessed Virgin Mary had any physical beauty (Mariale, q XV), the Pseudo Albert the Great multiplies superlatives: “The Most Blessed Virgin was the best and the most beautiful of all pure creatures; therefore she had a beauty that was external and internal” (Ibid,§ 1, 4). “The Most Blessed had the highest and most perfect level of beauty which could exist in a mortal body according to the present state of life, by the workings of nature” (§ 3). This beauty of the Mother must have been transmitted to Her Son “in order to enhance the beauty of the Lord’s body for a good and noble tree cannot bring forth bad and ignoble fruit” (§ 4); “Infinite goodness in the fruit still reveals infinite goodness in the tree” (q.197). “The splendour of Mary the mirror of all beauty and innocence is reflected in the first beauty.” (q. 11, par 9, 2). Cf. M. M. DESMARAIS, Saint Albert le Grand, docteur de la mediation mariale, Paris – Ottawa, 1935, pgs.29 sv. DENNIS THE CARTUSIAN says the same thing: “It is clearly evident that the excellence of physical beauty was not wanting to her” (De praeconio et dignitate Mariae, I, 39:t. xxxv, p.509). Certainly, every author applies the principle: Bonum ex integra causa (A thing is good because its cause is entirely good), but Dennis makes the observation that the supereminent beauty of Mary could not but make her face radiant with light, dignity and beauty (art. 40; p.510). The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (V-VI), furnishes us in the style of the apocryphal writers with the first portrait of the Virgin, while yet an adolescent: “Her face was so radiant like the snow that one could hardly gaze upon it… Among her companions, there was no one who could sing as beautifully the canticles of Moses, no one more gracious in charity, more pure in chastity, more perfect in every virtue” (VI, 1-2). At the end of the eighth century, Epiphanes, a Byzantine monk and priest, does not hesitate to be more precise: “She was of medium height…her complexion was the colour of ripe wheat, the hair blond, the eyes lively and beautiful, the eyebrows black, the nose well-proportioned, the hands and the fingers long, the face oval…full of charm” (De vita B. Virg., 6; P.G., cxx, 193; cf E.von DOBSCHÜTZ, Christusbilder, Leipzig, 1899, p. 302). At the end of the fourteenth century, the Byzantine annalist Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos gave a very detailed description of Jesus, making it very clear that the son exactly resembles his mother (Hist. Eccl., I, 40; P.G.CXLV, 748-749). This genre of the “portrait”, represents a traditional literary genre. We need only recall the simple mention of the beauty of Sarah in Genesis, XII, 14 has been described in detail and illustrated by the monks of Qumran in the apocryphal Genesis, col XX, 2-7; or even the marvellous splendour of the flesh and the eyes of Noah in the Book of Henoch, 106.

35. David had “beautiful eyes and always left a beautiful impression” (1 Sam, 16:12). Pseudo-Albert also asked himself whether it is right that the Mother of God should be beautiful according to the flesh? (ibid., q.XXV), and his answer is that “according to every measure of dignity and perfection and nobility the Blessed Virgin had to be and indeed was the most noble and the most dignified to the highest degree” (§ 3, p.55). Denys the Carthusian also makes a similar remark: “In her natural endowments as well she was the most elegant above all other women” (De dignitate et laudibus B.V. Mariae, I, 7; t. XXXVI, p.26); “Among the daughters of men the most glorious Virgin was the most attractive and the most beautiful” (I, 34; p.62).

36. All the more so, Jesus was never old. According to Philon (De op. mundi, 105), Hippocrates divided the age of men into several periods; with the end of adolescence, one becomes a man (anèr); he becomes mature (presbytès) at the age of fifty before passing on to old age (géronte). If we believe what the Jews say in John 8:57: “Thou hast not yet fifty years and thou hast seen Abraham” the Lord must have appeared to be very young, not having as yet the appearance of an ‘elder’, of a presbyte. In fact, he did not even reach forty and the ironical observation of the Jews means: “Thou seemest too young!” “When Abraham is mentioned, we count by centuries and in the present case, we should reduce the number by half a century” (M.J. Lagrange, Evangile selon saint Jean, Paris, 1927, p.255). On the other hand, it would be equally rash to lend him the appearance of an adolescent. When the collectors of the temple tax questioned Peter: “Does your Master not pay the drachma” (Mt, 17:24), it is not that they are in doubt concerning the age of our Lord – every Israelite of at least twenty years of age was obliged to pay the tax – but rather they were probably questioning his right to be exempt from paying the tax. Like many tax-collectors, they should have believed in his Messiahship, if not in his dignity as the Son of God. Would Jesus have anticipated the rights to excuse himself?

37. Jesus slept in the middle of the day, in the boat, tired from so much preaching. After having climbed up the high mountains of the Jordan in the morning and under the heat of the midday sun, he reached the wells of Sychar where he sat down “as he was”, literally, “in that manner”, letting himself fall on to the ground (John 4:6).

38. S.T. IIIa P., q.14, a.4. Cf. SAINT ALBERT LE GRAND, III Sent., dist. XV, B, art. 5.

39. “The disposition of the heart usually shines in the face, especially in the eyes” (Dennis the Carthusian, loc. cit., I 36; t. XXXVI, p. 63).

40. Concerning the loving gaze of Christ (Mark, X, 21), penetrating (John, 1:42) sorrowful (Mark, 3:5), of R. THIBAUT. Le sens des paroles du Christ, Bruxelles-Paris, 1940, pg. 197 ff. The gaze of the Master frequently mentioned by the Evangelists must have been singularly expressive. As Jesus was healing the man born blind, the disciples appear to follow the direction of his gaze and were struck by its expression. As St John Chrysostom remarked (and St Thomas follows him): “Going out of the temple and seeing this blind man, Jesus gazed upon him very intently as if seeing in him a matter for operating a miracle; thus the disciples seeing this, that is to say, seeing him gaze intently, were moved to question him” (In John, 9:1-2). Under the gaze of the Lord, full of reproach and compassion, Peter burst forth into tears (Luke, 22:61).

41. Such was the sermon on the Mount. Many times, the Evangelists remarked how Christ’s voice would become louder and how he would raise his voice until it becomes a shout, either because of the strength of emotion or in order to be better heard. (Jo., 7:28, 37; 11:43; 12:43; 7:44; Mt., 27:46, 50).

42. Cf. C. Spicq, “Agapè” dans le Nouveau Testament. Analyse des Textes, Paris 1959, II, pgs 79f, 379f.

43. Physiognomy has always determined from that time on, the link between the aspect of his countenance on the one hand, the character, the thought and the sentiment on the other hand; facts which are confirmed today by endocrinology.



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