The second reading for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is taken from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Gal 4:4-7). The passage begins: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). This is the first mention of Mary in the New Testament.
Luke speaks similarly: “Her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6). Thomas reflects that this time was “fixed by God … This time is called “full” because of the fullness of the graces that are given in it” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
This time is also “full” because of “the fulfillment of the figures of the Old Law: ‘I am not come to destroy but to fulfill’” (Mt 5:17).
Thomas comments: “Since He that was to come was great, it was fitting that men be made ready for His coming by many indications and many preparations. ‘God, who, at varied times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days hath spoken to us by His Son’ (Heb 1: 1) (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas explains that, since Jesus was coming as the “physician,” people should know their infirmity of knowledge through the law of nature and their lack of virtue through the written Law (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas comments on the paradox: “The time in which Christ was humiliated and in which the faithful were exalted turns out to be the same” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
God sent His Son: “God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). What was unusual about this “sending” is that the Son remained with the Father: “… without His being separated from Him, for He was sent by assuming human nature, and yet He was in the bosom of the Father: ‘The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father’ eternally (Jn 1:18)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
The Son came to where He already was: “He sent Him, not to be where before He Was not; because, although He came unto His own by His presence in the flesh, yet by the presence of His Godhead, He was in the world, as is said in John (1:14)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
The Son’s mission was taking our flesh: “His mission was the assuming of flesh” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians). He sent the Son to heal our concupiscence and to enlighten our ignorance. He came to deliver us from death: “I will deliver them out of the hand of death. I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy death”’ (Hos. 13:14).
Jesus came to save us from our sins: “For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world may be saved by Him” (Jn 3:17).
Paul tells us that the Son was “born of a woman.” Isaiah had foretold: “For a child is born to us” (Is 9:6) and Paul affirmed: “He emptied Himself taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7). Thomas reflects: “He made Himself small not by putting off greatness, but by taking on smallness” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas understands Paul’s words as a refutation of the fourth-century heretic Photinus, who denied the Incarnation and Christs divinity: “This contradicts what is said in Romans (1:3): ‘Who was made to Him of the seed of David, according to the flesh; he does not say ‘according to His person,’ which exists from eternity, namely, the hypostasis of the Son of God” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas insists: “From the fact that the Son of God newly assumed flesh, it is not proper to say that the person of Christ newly came to be, but that a human nature newly accrued to that person … The person of the Word is in no way changed by it” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas believes that this passage in Galatians contradicts the early Jewish Ebionites who believed that Jesus was the son of Joseph. Nestorius, a fifth-century patriarch of Constantinople, emphasized the distinction between the divinity and the humanity of Christ so much that he failed to recognize, as the Council of Ephesus affirmed (431), that the Son was one person, the eternal Son of God, who was took a human nature in the womb of Mary.
Thomas insists: “God sent his Son born of a woman. Now one who is made of a woman is her son. Therefore, if the Son of God was made of a woman, namely, of the Blessed Virgin, it is obvious that the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of the Son of God” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Paul writes that the Son was “born under the Law” but Paul also asserts: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:18).
Thomas explains that “Christ is not only spiritual but the giver of the Spirit … I answer that ‘to be under the Law’ can be taken … so that ‘under’ denotes the mere observance of the Law, and in this sense Christ was made under the Law, because He was circumcised and presented in the temple: ‘I am not come to destroy but to fulfill’ (Mt 5:17)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Christ frees us and makes us great: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal 3:13). Secondly, the fruit of being made great, inasmuch as we are adopted as sons of God by receiving the Spirit of God and being conformed to Him: ‘Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His’ (Rom 8:9). This adoption belongs in a special way to Christ, because we cannot become adopted sons unless we are conformed to the natural son: ‘For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son’ (Rom 8:29). With this in mind, he says, that we might receive the adoption of sons, i.e., that through the natural Son of God we might be made adopted sons according to grace through Christ” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Paul continues: “And, because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying: ‘Abba, Father.’ Therefore, now he is not a servant, but a son. And, if a son, an heir also through God” (Gal 4:6-7)
Thomas understands that Paul includes not just the Jews but also the Gentiles as “Sons of God”: “He says therefore that the gift of adoption of sons pertains not only to those who were under the Law but to the Gentiles as well. Hence he says: because you are sons of God, i.e., you are the sons of God, because not only the Jews but all others who believe in the Son of God are adopted as sons: ‘He gave them power to be made sons of God, to them that believe in His name’ (Jn 1:12) (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
The sending of the Spirit into our hearts makes us children of God: “The manner in which that gift is obtained is by the sending of the Spirit of the Son of God into our hearts” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas believes that Paul emphasized the role of the Spirit in making the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, children of God: “They were united to Him through the Spirit and thereby adopted and made sons of God. Hence the conversion of the Gentiles is in ‘a special way’ attributed to the Holy Spirit. Consequently, Peter, when he was blamed by the Jews for going to preach to the Gentiles, excused himself through the Holy Spirit, saying (Acts 11) that he could not resist the Holy Spirit by Whose inspiration he had done this. And so, because God the Father sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, i.e., the hearts of the Jews and Gentiles, we are united to Christ and by that fact are adopted as sons of God” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas notes that the Son is often associated with the sending of the Spirit by the Father:
• “The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name” (Jn 14:26).
• “But when the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you from the Father” (Jn 15:26).
Thomas reflects: “The Holy Spirit is none the less common to Father and Son and proceeds from Both and is sent by Both. Accordingly, wherever it is said that the Father sends the Holy Spirit, mention is made of the Son … and where He is said to be sent by the Son, mention is made of the Father” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas continues: “Nor does it matter that at times the Holy Spirit is only said to proceed from the Father, for the fact that the Son sends Him shows that He proceeds from Him. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Son as of the One sending and as of the One from Whom He proceeds, as well as of the One from Whom the Holy Spirit has whatever He has, just as of the Father: ‘He shall glorify Me, because He shall receive of mine’ (Jn 16:14)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas observes with regard to the Spirit being “sent into our hearts” that, in physical generation, a small seed “contains in effect the whole.” By comparison: “The other is spiritual, which comes about by spiritual seed transmitted to the place of spiritual generation, i.e., man’s mind or heart, because they are born sons of God through a renewal of the mind. Furthermore, the spiritual seed is the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas explains: “This seed contains, in effect, the whole perfection of beatitude; “I will put a new spirit within you” (Ez 36:26).
“Crying, i.e., making us cry, Abba, Father, not with a loudness of voice but with a great fervor of love. For we cry, Abba, Father, when our affections are kindled by the warmth of the Holy Spirit to desire God: ‘You have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry, Abba (Father)’ (Rom 8:15). Abba in Hebrew and Pater in Greek have the same meaning of “father.” And he makes mention of both to show that the grace of the Holy Spirit, as such, is related in a common way to both” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Paul declares: “Therefore, now you are not a servant, but a son” (Gal 4:7). This is the “fruit of this gift,” first by removing all evil, freeing us, “from which we are freed through adoption by the Holy Spirit. This is freedom from bondage” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Thomas identifies the effects of the Spirit within us: “The Spirit cries ‘Father’ in us, now, from the time of grace, he, i.e., each one of us who believes in Christ, is not a servant, i.e., serving in fear—‘I will not now call you servants but friends’ (Jn 15:15); ‘You have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons’ (Rom 8:15)—but a son: ‘For the Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God’ (Rom 8:16).
In a certain sense we are “servants”: “… but we are good and faithful servants, serving out of love. For that reason we obtain freedom through the Son: ‘If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed’ (Jn 8:36)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
If we are children, we are “heirs,” which is “its effect of attaining every good”: “And if sons, heirs also: heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). “Now this inheritance is the fullness of all good, for it is nothing other than God Himself, according to Psalm (15:5): ‘The Lord is the portion of my inheritance.’”
What the Jews receive through the promises made to their fathers, “… the Gentiles too received it through God, i.e., through the mercy of God: ‘But the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy’ (Rom 15:9). Or, through God, i.e., through the working of God: ‘Thou hast wrought all our works for us, O Lord’ (Is 26:12)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians).
Today is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. At the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit was sent to Mary and she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary waited with the apostles and other disciples in the upper room for the gift of the Spirit (Acts 1:14). Mary was the “woman” of whom the Son of God was born. Mary teaches us how to receive the Son and the Spirit who are given to us.
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.
References to Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on the Letter of Paul to the Galatians may be found on the web page of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/