St. Francis of Assisi, by Jusepe de Ribera (1642)
[now available only in my book, Biblical Catholic Salvation: "Faith Working Through Love"]
No finite creature with a free will is intrinsically impeccable, because that would require either a perfect alignment between the ultimate end and the will (which is only true of God according to His divine nature) or a voluntary acceptance of that end in advance of creation (which is only true of the voluntary assumption of the human nature in the Incarnation). But the righteous angels and saints in Heaven are contingently impeccable on account of having been fixed in virtue by their initial choice (for angels) and by their state of grace at death (for saints). Likewise, it does seem entirely possible that Mary would have been contingently impeccable on account of the Immaculate Conception, and I think that is likely to be true, although it would not necessarily have to be the case.
Theologians assert that Mary was impeccable, not by the essential perfection of her nature, but by a special Divine privilege. Moreover, the Fathers, at least since the fifth century, almost unanimously maintain that the Blessed Virgin never experienced the motions of concupiscence.
[S]inless Mary was impeccable, preserved by an extraordinary grace from God from ever being capable of offending God by deliberate sin. Yet though impeccable Mary was able to choose. This bears emphasis. We are so accustomed to identifying freedom as choosing between good and evil that we forget the highest use of our liberty is not to choose "not to sin", but rather to choose to do more than we have to do or that we are obliged to do – in a word, to choose to be generous. Like Mary, then, we can choose to give God more than He demands under pain of sin. We can choose to love God with our whole heart and not just to avoid His punishment.
(The Handmaid of Humanity: Mary, Woman of Salvation History)
Two special factors rendered Mary impeccable or unable to sin. The first was her constant awareness of God, living always in his presence, and the second was her reception of special and extraordinary graces. These special graces made it possible for Mary to maintain a perfect harmony in her mind, will and emotions and to recognize always what was the right thing to do and then to do it.
We must not forget that Mary was "full of grace".
(Fundamentals of Catholicism: God, Trinity, Creation, Christ, Mary, Vol. 2, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983, p. 332)
492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son". The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".
[W]e will have free wills in heaven, yet be unable to sin. That is a mystery, but unless I'm mistaken I believe the trajectory of human redemption goes:
Pre-Fall Adam/Eve - Able not to sin
Fallen human nature - Not able not to sin
The glorified in heaven - Not able to sin
By anticipation Our Lady received graces such that her whole life she lived out that final state of glorified human nature, not able to sin.
I. First, let us enquire, WHAT IS THIS CROSS OF CHRIST to which some men are sadly said to be enemies?
Of course, it is not the material cross. It is not anything made in the shape of the cross. There are some who can fall down and adore a cross of wood, or stone, or gold, but I cannot conceive of a greater wounding of the heart of Christ than to pay reverence to anything in the shape of a cross, or to bow before a crucifix! I think the Savior must say, “What? What? Am I the Son of God and do they make even Me into an idol? I who have died to redeem men from their idolatries, am I, Myself, taken and carved, and chiseled, and molten, and set up as an image to be worshipped by the sons of men?” When God says, “You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them,” it is a strange fantasy of human guilt that men should say, “We will even take the image of the Son of God, or some ghastly counterfeit that purports to be His image, and will bow down and worship it, as if to make the Christ of God an accomplice in an act of rebellion against the commandment of the holy Law.” No, it is not the material cross to which Paul alludes—we have nothing to do with those outward symbols! We might have used them much more, but they have been so perverted to idolatry that some of us almost shudder at the very sight of them!
(Sermon #2553: The Enemies of the Cross of Christ; Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, 26 October 1884)
A Guide To Becoming Holy
Mary is the star that guides us to holiness, says Holy Father during Angelus
Vatican City, Oct 11, 2009 / 11:27 am (CNA).- Presiding over the Sunday Angelus following the canonization Mass for five new saints, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that "the Virgin Mary is the star that guides" us in every "area of holiness."
The Pope then thanked the faithful from all around the world who traveled to Rome for the canonization Mass and remarked that Mary’s fiat, her "yes," makes her a "model of perfect adherence to the divine will." [source]
[my citation, leaving out the middle sentence] Christ is our model of holiness. . . . Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.
Romans 11:13-14 (KJV) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
2 Corinthians 1:6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to youward: (RSV: “assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you”)
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (RSV: “impart grace . . .”)
James 5:19-20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;  Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (RSV: “whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”)
1 Peter 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Philippians 2:12-13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (RSV: “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching: hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers”)
1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord . . .
Ephesians 3:2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne;  they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?" (RSV)
Christ is our model of holiness. . . . Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.Dave, First, let me quote the statement which Louis posted and from which you launched your argument.
Christ is our model of holiness.
All the promises of God have their "yes" in Him.
Assigning that role to any other is idolatry.
"All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?)
A Straightforward Biblical Argument For the Sinlessness of Mary
Luke 1:28 (Full of Grace) and the Immaculate Conception: Linguistic and Exegetical Considerations
Dialogue on the Exegesis of Luke 1:28 ("Full of Grace"), and the Immaculate Conception (vs. Ken Temple)
Dialogue with an Evangelical Protestant on Catholic Mariology (including an explicitly biblical argument for the Immaculate Conception, from Luke 1:28, related exegesis, and the meaning of grace) (vs. Jack DisPennett)
The other image of the Holy Spirit which we find in the Acts of the Apostles is fire. I mentioned at the beginning the comparison between Jesus and the mythological figure of Prometheus which recalls a characteristic aspect of modern man. In possessing himself of the energies of the cosmos "fire" the human being seems today to assert himself as a god and to wish to transform the world excluding, setting aside or even rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be an image of God but of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free and adult. Of course, this attitude reveals a relationship with God which is not authentic, the consequence of a false image which has been fabricated of him, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel parable who believes that he can fulfil himself by distancing himself from his father's house. In the hands of such a man "fire" and its enormous potential become dangerous: they can backfire against life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for the purposes of war, ended by sowing death on an unheard of scale, serve as a perennial warning.
One writer seized upon the phrase "used for bellicose ends" as a pretext for bashing the Holy Father, as if he were some sort of blind anti-American who only dimly understood the realities of war.
"In the hands of a such a person, 'fire' and its enormous potential becomes dangerous: It can be turned against life and humanity itself as history unfortunately has demonstrated. A perennial warning comes from the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for bellicose aims sowed death in an unheard-of proportion," Pope Benedict said.
Fire is the other image of the Holy Spirit that we find in the Acts of the Apostles. I compared Jesus with the mythological figure of Prometheus at the beginning of the homily. The figure of Prometheus suggests a characteristic aspect of modern man. Taking control of the energies of the cosmos -- "fire" -- today human beings seem to claim themselves as gods and want to transform the world excluding, putting aside or simply rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be the image of God but the image of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free, adult. Obviously that reveals an inauthentic relationship with God, the consequence of a false image that has been constructed of him, like the prodigal son in the Gospel parable who thought that he could find himself by distancing himself from the house of his father. In the hands of man in this condition, "fire" and its enormous possibilities become dangerous: they can destroy life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which atomic energy, used as a weapon, ended up bringing death in unheard of proportions, remain a perennial warning.
1) Holy See website English translation: ". . . atomic energy used for the purposes of war . . ."
2) Catholic News Service: ". . . atomic energy used for bellicose aims . . ."
3) Zenit: ". . . atomic energy, used as a weapon . . ."
A perenne monito rimangono le tragedie di Hiroshima e Nagasaki, dove l’energia atomica, utilizzata per scopi bellici, ha finito per seminare morte in proporzioni inaudite.
Como advertencia perenne quedan las tragedias de Hiroshima y Nagasaki, donde la energía atómica, utilizada con fines bélicos, acabó sembrando la muerte en proporciones inauditas.
Como perene admoestação permanecem as tragédias de Hiroxima e Nagasáqui, onde a energia atómica, utilizada para finalidades bélicas, semeou morte em proporções inauditas.
Les tragédies de Hiroshima et de Nagasaki, dans lesquelles l'énergie atomique, utilisée à des fins belliqueuses, a fini par semer la mort dans des proportions inouïes, en représentent une mise en garde constante.
A constant reminder of the tragedy remains of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy, used for war purposes, has come to sow death in unprecedented proportions.
For the eternal warning remain the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where Atomic Energy Agency, used for belligerent purposes, has finished to sow death in unprecedented proportions.
inclined or eager to fight; aggressively hostile; belligerent; pugnacious.
(Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009)
adj. Warlike or hostile in manner or temperament. See Synonyms at belligerent.
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company)
In possessing himself of the energies of the cosmos "fire" the human being seems today to assert himself as a god and to wish to transform the world excluding, setting aside or even rejecting the Creator of the universe. . . . this attitude reveals a relationship with God which is not authentic, . . . In the hands of such a man "fire" and its enormous potential become dangerous: they can backfire against life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for the purposes of war, ended by sowing death on an unheard of scale, serve as a perennial warning.
He also addressed "a group of survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki," and prayed "that the world may never again witness such mass destruction of innocent human life."
This does indeed "alleviate some of my doubts", at least to the degree that I can say that it is not something Dr. Hahn is pulling out of thin air. He seems to be suggesting that certain maternal aspects of God seem to be attributed to the Holy Spirit by appropriation, not stating that the Holy Spirit is essentially feminine. If this is all he is getting at, then I think that I for one can give him the benefit of the doubt -- - after all, Proverbs 8 speaks of Wisdom as unambiguously feminine, but this has never stopped the Fathers, Scholastics or modern theologians from applying these passages to the preexistence of the Son, who is obviously not a female. In the same way, while keeping in mind both that God has revealed Himself as a Father, but that in His substance He is neither male nor female, I don't see as much problem in saying that the Spirit acts maternally now that I have read Dr. Hahn's exposition of it and seen his citations.
I am grateful for your blog and also for your kind words. And I appreciate your concern about my understanding of the Holy Spirit, and some of the bridal-maternal aspects that may (or may not) pertain to the Holy Spirit's Person and work. Please allow me to share some thoughts that might help to alleviate your concerns.
First, I have never once referred to the Holy Spirit as feminine, as the ancient gnostics did. Indeed, I expressly deny the Holy Spirit is feminine in my book First Comes Love (both editions).
I do quote Cardinal Ratzinger, from his book, Daughter Zion (p. 27), where he states: "Because of the teaching about the Spirit, one can as it were practically have a presentiment of the primordial type of the feminine, in a mysterious, veiled manner, within God himself." I subsequently go on to clarify Ratzinger's point by stating: "Once again: God is not feminine by nature. Nor is the Holy Spirit feminine" (pp. 163, 166).
I then proceed to quote the Catechism's teaching about God: “He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective ‘perfections’ of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband” (CCC 370).
As to my patristic sources, I quote first, from a baptismal homily of St. Aphrahat (who speaks of "God his Father and the Holy Spirit his mother"); second, from a homily by St. Macarius (who speaks of how "Adam no longer saw the true Father, nor the good Mother the grace of the Spirit, nor the desirable brother, the Lord"); and third, from the Syriac rite of pre-baptismal anointing (where the Holy Spirit is called upon,"Come, Mother of the seven houses").
As you mentioned, I quote St. Ephrem, a Doctor of the Church, who actually refers to the Holy Spirit as "Mother" on many occasions (in homilies, hymns and prayers). I also cite St. Catherine of Siena, another Doctor of the Church, who wrote: "The Holy Spirit becomes a mother who feeds them from the breast of divine charity."
But I draw most extensively from modern Catholic saints and theologians of unimpeachable orthodoxy. So for instance, St. Maximillian Kolbe speaks of the Holy Spirit as the "Uncreated Immaculate Concepion," and the Blessed Virgin Mary as the "quasi-incarnation of the Holy Spirit."
St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein) writes: "Thus we can see the prototype of the feminine being in the Spirit of God poured over all creatures. It finds its perfect image in the purest Virgin who is the bride of God and mother of all mankind."
The great 19th century German Thomist theologian, Matthias Joseph Scheeben, who is generally acknowledged to be the founder of Mariology as a distinct branch of Sacred Theology), writes: ""As the mother is the bond of love between father and child, so in God the Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son." He also notes: "As Eve can, in a figurative sense, be called simply the rib of Adam... St. Methodius goes so far as to assert that the Holy Spirit is the rib of the Word (costa Verbi)" (Mysteries of Christianity, 183-85).
I go on to show how this notion is affirmed by many other notable theologians: R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP; L. Bouyer; J. Kentenich; B. Ashley, OP; Cardinal Y. Congar (Tradition & Traditions, pp. 372-75); F.X. Durrwell; A. Feuillet; H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, OP (The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit).
All of this does not prove that bridal and maternal elements are proper to the Holy Spirit's Person and work, of course; but it does indicate how highly unoriginal I am in exploring something that has never been condemned by the Church's Magisterium. Nor should this ever be linked to (or confused with) the bizarre speculations of the ancient gnostics, who rejected the Incarnation and Trinity in favor of bizarre aeon-schemes drawn from a pantheistic/emmanationist view of God and the world.
Likewise, it should be noted that this approach to bridal-maternal aspects of the Holy Spirit is generally rejected as abhorrent to feminist scholars, like Catherine LaCugna, who warns that "the Spirit's activities should not be stereotyped according to gender-determined roles for women.... Further, the association of feminine imagery solely with the Spirit would reinforce the subordination of women in church and society" (cited in First Comes Love, p. 206).
All of this is found in a chapter of First Comes Love ("The Family Spirit"), which is available on-line here.
All the best,
PS I might add that I first ran the entire manuscript of First Comes Love by my "spiritual father," Bishop Bruskewitz (who received me into the Church back in 1986), asking him to read it carefully and offer his critique. He offered some suggestions and then concluded: "I assure you that in my view it is not only completely orthodox but also exceptionally useful."
PPS Thanks for suggesting that I write bigger books, which makes me think you may be interested to learn that in June, I published a 600-page book with Yale University Press, Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises (Anchor Bible Reference Library), and a 1000-page Catholic Bible Dictionary (Doubleday), also in June, and then last week a measly 200-page book, Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Baker Brazos). But I will get to work on another big tome just as soon as I've recovered from these! It's a start, at least.
All the best,