2cornucopias

Newman: Memorandum Part I

In 07 Observation on 2011/08/29 at 10:22 PM

Next, Was it a primitive doctrine?  No one can add to revelation. That was given once for all;—but as time goes on, what was given once for all is understood more and more clearly. The greatest Fathers and Saints in this sense have been in error, that, since the matter of which they spoke had not been sifted, and the Church had not spoken, they did not in their expressions do justice to their own real meaning.  The Athanasian Creed says that the Son is “immensus” (in the Protestant version, “incomprehensible”).  Bishop Bull, though defending the ante-Nicene Fathers, says that it is a marvel that “nearly all of them have the appearance of being ignorant of the invisibility and immensity of the Son of God.”  Do I for a moment think they were ignorant?  No, but that they spoke inconsistently, because they were opposing other errors, and did not observe what they said. When the heretic Arius arose, and they saw the use which was made of their admissions, the Fathers retracted them.

The great Fathers of the fourth century seem, most of them, to consider our Lord in His human nature ignorant, and to have grown in knowledge, as St. Luke seems to say. This doctrine was anathematized by the Church in the next century, when the Monophysites arose.

In like manner, there are Fathers who seem to deny original sin, eternal punishment.  Further, the famous symbol “Consubstantial,” as applied to the Son, which is in the Nicene Creed, was condemned by a great Council of Antioch, with Saints in it, seventy years before.  Why?  Because that Council meant something else by the word.  Now, as to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, it was implied in early times, and never denied. In the Middle Ages it was denied by St. Thomas and by St. Bernard, but they took the phrase in a different sense from that in which the Church now takes it.

They understood it with reference to our Lady’s mother, and thought it contradicted the text, “In sin hath my mother conceived me”—whereas we do not speak of the Immaculate Conception except as relating to Mary; and the other doctrine (which St. Thomas and St. Bernard did oppose) is really heretical.

As to primitive notion about our Blessed Lady, really, the frequent contrast of Mary with Eve seems very strong indeed. It is found in St. Justin, St. Irenæus, and Tertullian, three of the earliest Fathers, and in three distinct continents—Gaul, Africa, and Syria. For instance, “the knot formed by Eve’s  disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; that what the Virgin Eve tied through unbelief that the Virgin Mary unties through faith.” Again, “The Virgin Mary becomes the Advocate (Paraclete) of the Virgin Eve, that as mankind has been bound to death through a Virgin, through a Virgin it may be saved, the balance being preserved, a Virgin’s disobedience by a Virgin’s obedience” (St. Irenæus). Again, “As Eve, becoming disobedient, became the cause of death to herself and to all mankind, so Mary, too, bearing the predestined Man, and yet a Virgin, being obedient, became the Cause of Salvation both to herself and to all mankind.” Again, “Eve being a Virgin, and incorrupt, bore disobedience and death, but Mary the Virgin, receiving faith and joy, when Gabriel the Angel evangelised her, answered, ‘Be it unto me,'” and Again, “What Eve failed in believing, Mary by believing hath blotted out.”

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