Incarnation and Communion in Mary


by M. M. Philipon, O.P.

There is one whom the Christian tradition has always regarded as the highest ideal, the incomparable model of every soul seeking to advance in its life of union with the God of the Eucharist. This is the Virgin of the Incarnation, whose life was one of uninterrupted union with the mystery of Christ.

In her there was never any stain or defilement, never even a trace of evil. She is immaculate. In her virginal life all was pure; her love was preserved whole and intact for God alone. Neither in her body nor in her soul, which were both wholly consecrated to the service of God and the redemption of the world, did the Word meet with any obstacle to His supernatural operation; for He, the living God, dwelled in her, becoming even her Son in the flesh.

In her His divine work of sanctification could go on freely, unhampered. In every soul this supernatural work needs only to be allowed to operate freely in order to produce its effects; and in Mary it found full freedom of operation. During the nine months of real and physical presence in her womb, the Son of God produced in her soul, in a supra-sacramental manner, the most exalted and the most wonderful effects of His grace. In Mary, therefore, the usual effects of the Eucharist were infinitely surpassed.

Work of the Incarnation in Mary

At the very moment of His coming into the Virgin of the Incarnation, the Word bestowed on her the grace of divine motherhood. Through this singular prerogative the whole mystery of Mary was brought to share, in a most profound manner, in the hiddenmost life of the Trinity, since it gave her a son who was the true Son of the eternal God Himself. To this initial privilege (initial, not in the order of time, since the Immaculate Conception had preceded it, but in the order of excellence)—to this privilege, which is the foundation and raison d’être for all of Mary’s glories, were added all the graces which the Virgin of the Incarnation needed to be a worthy Mother of God and of men.

The fact of the Word being present in her as her Son became the dominant influence in the whole mystery of her life. Mary became the first beneficiary of the universal restoration and reconstruction that was wrought by the presence in the world of the Word made flesh. Her whole life was transformed by this presence. Furthermore, the God of the Crib and of the Eucharist, from whom men and women receive the power to remain steadfast in purity, did not violate her virginal integrity, but rather consecrated it forever, so that for all generations the Mother of Jesus will retain, above all, her beautiful title of “Virgin.” Moreover, death itself spared from its customary ravages the immaculate body of this woman who was the Mother of the Word. It is generally believed that her body was promptly restored to life and assumed into heaven, where now her whole being, body and soul, are in the state of glory forever.

Through the power of the blood of redemption, which the Word took from her virginal body, Mary received all those supernatural gifts and endowments that made her the masterwork, the most wonderful effect, of the redemption. And as for the union of soul, of heart and mind, that existed between the Mother and the Son from the first moment of the incarnation, human understanding may try to fathom it, but must ever stop short of the reality. We do know that the Blessed Trinity made them partners in one and the same work of salvation.

With the new Adam, God associated a new Eve, whose coredemptive and maternal action extends over the whole mystical body, reaching as far, if not so deep, as the power of Christ Himself. Indeed, God the Father, having given her His own Son to be her Son, would hardly have failed to give her all the rest: having given her the greater, He would surely not withhold the lesser. And the Holy Spirit, having produced in her the greatest of miracles, also bestowed on her, in measureless abundance, the fulness of His gifts. And the Word, who dwelled in her as Son, the source and creator of all graces, imparted to her, from His infinite and all-powerful bounty, a store of supernatural riches and merits to which it is impossible for us to affix any limits.

A Life of Communion

As for the further life of Mary after the incarnation, it, too, was one of uninterrupted union and communion with the entire mystery of Christ. The Virgin of the Incarnation, associated once and for all with the redemptive work of the Word made flesh, remained intimately united with Him in all the mysteries of our salvation. Bethlehem, Nazareth, His public life, His suffering culminating in death on Calvary—all were so many stages in Mary’s own life; each found her more and more united and identified with the thoughts and aspirations of Christ’s own soul.

The return of Jesus to heaven ended abruptly for Mary the visible presence both of the human and the divine nature of her Son. But the effect of this departure was not to halt the progress of her life of union with Christ; rather it made this union more divine, more pure, by removing all that was perceptible by sense. It was now that the life of faith reached its highest perfection in the soul of the Virgin of the Incarnation.

Now the Eucharist played the dominant role in her life, bringing to her, in a real though different manner, the same Son, the same God. Together with the small but growing body of first Christians, the Mother of Jesus continued steadfastly in prayer and in the breaking of bread, communicating with the other believers in the body and blood, in the soul and divine nature, of her own Son.

In receiving the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist Mary relived all the joys of the incarnation; but each Communion also brought back the poignant memory of her Son’s sorrowful immolation on Calvary. For in the Eucharist she, like all Christians, shared in the sacrificial offering of a victim. In fact, the blood of redemption which was in the chalice and which Jesus received from her own blood she had already offered to the Blessed Trinity at the foot of the Cross. Hence, in the Christ of the Mass and of her Eucharistic Communions, Mary could discern as none other could, the Christ that was contained in all the mysteries associated with the redemption.

It is impossible for us to penetrate the depth and intensity of the union of soul experienced between the Mother and the Son through the Eucharist. Even the initial grace which Mary received with the inaugural of her divine motherhood surpassed in fullness the sum total of all graces bestowed on all the angels and saints. But now she had advanced far beyond the first degrees of holiness and merit that marked the beginning of each of her mysteries.

Through her divine motherhood the Virgin of the incarnation had been raised aloft to the very confines of the Deity, to occupy a place within the realm of the hypostatic order. As we know, through the Person of the Son this order is substantially united with the hiddenmost life of the Blessed Trinity. Furthermore, in virtue of her role on Calvary, Mary’s participation in this divine life was extended in scope so as to include participation in the universal redemption of all mankind through Christ.

Union Consummated

Now, at the end of her life on earth, the spiritual and mystical life of the Mother of God reached its point of culmination. Her love of God had reached such intensity and such a degree of utter selflessness as to be beyond the power of a creature to understand, let alone to express in words. Here we can only guess and vaguely surmise; but even the little that we can grasp is enough to fill us with awe and wonder. For example, each of her Communions brought her a fullness of grace without equal, a fullness with which no other saint’s holiness can even remotely compare.

We shall, indeed, never understand Christ’s Mother at all, unless we view her from the perspective of Christ Himself; for she was associated with Him in all His work. Her faith was so full and complete and so blessed with light and understanding by the gifts of the Holy Spirit that she could already, though still on earth, glimpse the bright visions of the beatific life. Through the virtue of hope she possessed her soul in peace and joy. That joy came from the certain knowledge that, by her unique association with Christ, a whole spiritual universe as vast in scope as redemption itself, was receiving from her the divine life of grace.

But it was her love, especially her love, that exceeded all bounds, for now it had brought her to those summits of the transforming union beyond which no mere creature can go, summits which only the soul of Christ could exceed. Her whole life was centered in the Eucharistic sacrifice: her love, her atonement, her adoration, her prayer, her thanksgiving. By her merits and her power of reparation she supported and strengthened the disciples of Jesus in their apostolic labors, and the martyrs in their sufferings, and the entire Church in her struggle for the cause of Christ.

If the infant Church displayed such irresistible power of conquest, and such unyielding fidelity to God in the face of the most frightful tortures and agonies that marked the first persecutions, it was due to the prayer and the quiet but unfailing influence of the Coredemptress of the world, who herself drew all her strength from the Eucharist, from this real and ever efficacious presence of Christ in the midst of His faithful.

When the Mother of God gathered with the growing body of faithful, who were all her children and partook of the body and blood of her Son, her soul became one with the Word Incarnate, one with all His thoughts and aspirations; and through the merits and power of this union, through Him and in Him she nurtured the Church into the fullness of unity in the Trinity.


Extracts from The Sacraments in the Christian Life, trans. Rev. John A. Otto, Ph.D. (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1954), pp. 116-120.