209. The divine wisdom had now prepared all things for drawing forth the spotless image of the Mother of grace from the corruption of nature. The number and congregation of ancient Patriarchs and Prophets had been completed and gathered, and the mountains had been raised, on which this mystical City of God was to be built (Ps. 86, 2). By the power of his right hand He had already selected incomparable treasures of the Divinity to enrich and endow Her. A thousand an gels were equipped for her guard and custody, that they might serve as most faithful vassals of their Queen and Lady. He had provided a noble and kingly ancestry from whom She should descend and had selected for Her most holy and perfect parents, than whom none holier or more perfect could be found in the world. For there is no doubt that if better and more apt parents existed, the Almighty would have selected them for Her, who was to be chosen by God as his Mother.
210. He endowed these parents with abundant graces and blessings of his right hand, and enriched them with all virtues, with enlightenments of divine science and with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. After having announced to the two saints, Joachim and Anne, that He would grant them a Daughter, admirable and blessed among women, He permitted the work of the first Conception to take place, namely, that of the most pure body of Mary. The age of Anne, when She married Joachim, was twenty-four, and that of Joachim, forty-six. Twenty years they lived in married life with out having an issue, and thus Anne, at the same time of the Conception of her Daughter, was forty-four years old, and saint Joachim sixty-six. Although the conception happened according to the ordinary course of nature, yet the Most High freed it from imperfections and disorders, permitting only what was strictly required ac cording to nature, in order that the proper material might be furnished for the formation of the most perfect substance within the limits of a mere creature.
211. God limited the natural activity in the two parents and by his grace prevented any fault or imperfection, substituting for them virtue and merit, and entire propriety in the manner of conception, which though natural and according to the common order, was nevertheless directed, supplemented and perfected by the action of divine grace, without disturbing the proper effect due to the law of nature. As regards the holy matron Anne, the divine power was more manifest on account of her natural sterility ; in her the Conception was miraculous, not only in regard to the manner, but in regard to its very substance. In regard to the conceptions which happen entirely according to the natural order and in virtue of the natural powers, there is no necessity of recurring to or of depending on any supernatural cause. The parents in concurring are sufficient causes of the propagation, even in case they furnish the material and the concurrent acts of generation with imperfection and without proper measure.
212. But in this Conception, although the father was not naturally sterile, yet on account of his age and moderation, his natural powers were in a measure suppressed and weakened; and therefore he was enlivened, restored and enabled to act on his part with entire perfection and with the plenitude of his faculties, proportionately to the sterility of the mother. In both of them nature and grace concurred; the former briefly, with measure, and in that which was necessary; the latter over flowingly, powerfully and generously; absorbing, yet not con founding nature, exalting it and perfecting it in a miraculous manner. Thus grace was the origin of this Conception, while it called into its service the activity of nature in so far as was necessary for the birth of that ineffable Daughter from her natural parents.
213. The mode of repairing the sterility of the most holy mother Anne did not consist in the restitution of that condition, which was wanting in her natural faculties of conception; for thus restored, she would have conceived in no way different from the rest of women; the Lord concurred with her sterile faculties in a more miraculous manner for the formation of the body from natural material. Thus the faculties and the material were of the natural order, but the manner of moving them happened by the miraculous power of the Divinity. As soon as the miracle of this Conception had ceased, the mother was left in her former sterility never to conceive again, since no new quality was taken from or added to the natural temperament. This wonder, it seems to me, can be made intelligible by that which our Savior wrought, when saint Peter walked over the water (Matth. 14, 29). In order to sustain him, the water was not necessarily changed into crystal or ice, over which he and others could have walked without requiring any miraculous intervention except that of thus suddenly changing it into ice ; but without thus changing the water, the Lord gave it the power to sustain the body of the Apostle. It remained in a liquid state both during and after the miracle; for when saint Peter ran over it, he began to sink and was about to drown. The miracle therefore was performed without changing the water by the addition of a new quality.
214. Much like to this, though much more wonderful, was the miracle of the Conception of Mary most holy in her mother Anne. The parents were so entirely governed by grace and withdrawn from concupiscence and delectation, that the accidental imperfections, which ordinarily are the material or the instruments of conception, and which induce original sin, were altogether wanting. Thus was furnished a material exempt from imperfection and furnished in such a manner that the act itself was meritorious. Hence in so far as this act was concerned it could easily be free from sin or imperfection, even if divine Providence had not previously arranged every particular of this event. This miracle the Almighty reserved solely for Her, who was to be a Mother worthy of Himself. For if it was proper that the material part of his being should have its origin according to the order maintained in the conception of the other children of Adam, it was likewise eminently proper that, without destroying nature, grace should concur in it with all its efficacy and power, and that it should excel in Her and act in Her more efficaciously than in all the children of Adam; yea, be greater than even in Adam and Eve, who gave origin to the corruption of nature and to its disorderly concupiscence.
215. In the formation of the body of the most holy Mary the wisdom and power of the Almighty proceeded so cautiously that the quantities and qualities of the four natural elements of the human body, the sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic and choleric, were compounded in exact proportion and measure ; in order that by this most perfect proportion in its mixture and composition it might assist the operations of that holy Soul with which it was to be endowed and animated. This wonderfully composed temperament was afterwards the source and the cause, which in its own way made possible the serenity and peace that reigned in the powers and faculties of the Queen of heaven during all her life. Never did any of these elements oppose or contradict nor seek to predominate over the others, but each one of them supplemented and served the others, continuing in this well ordered fabric without corruption or decay. Never did the body of the most Holy Mary suffer from the taint of corruption, nor was there anything wanting or any thing excessive found in it; but all the conditions and proportions of the different elements were continuously adjusted, without any want or excess in what was necessary for her perfect existence and without excess or de fault in dryness or moisture. Neither was there more warmth than was necessary for maintenance of life or digestion; nor more cold than was necessary for the right temperature and for the maintenance of the bodily humors.
216. Nor was this body on account of its admirable composition, less sensible to the influence of heat and cold and the other inclemencies of the weather, but rather, as it was more delicately and perfectly constituted, so it was more acutely affected by any extremes, not being able to furnish a defense against the excess of temperature in those parts, which were more subject to them. Certainly, on the one hand, these extremes would find in such a harmoniously constituted frame much less material in which they could work their changes; nevertheless, on the other hand, the delicacy of its composition made even ordinary influences much more penetrating than greater ones in other bodies. This admirable body, thus formed in the womb of holy Anne, was not capable of spiritual gifts before it was animated by the soul; but it was capable of receiving the natural ones. These were given to this body in supernatural degree and by supernatural power, so as to accord with the high purpose and the singular gifts for which it was formed; and in this it surpassed all others in the order of nature and grace Thus were given to it a complexion and faculties so excellent that all nature would never of it self be able to produce one similar to it.
217. Just as the hand of our Lord formed the first parents Adam and Eve in such a way as to befit original justice and the state of innocence and therefore also more excellently than their descendants (for the works coming directly from the Lord must be more perfect than those of secondary causes), so his Omnipotence, in a more excellent and superior manner, operated in the formation of the virginal body of the most holy Mary. And this He did with so much the greater solicitude and abundance of grace, as this Creature was to exceed in perfection not only the first parents, who were to sin so soon, but all the other creatures, corporal and spiritual. According to our way of speaking, God exerted more care in composing this little body of his most holy Mother, than in creating all the celestial orbs and the whole universe. In accordance with this rule are to be measured the gifts and privileges of this City of God from its first beginnings and foundations to its highest pinnacle next to the infinity of the Most High.
218. Such was also the measure of the distance between her miraculous Conception and sin and its cause, concupiscence; for not only was She, as the dawn of grace, entirely free from sin, and always so exhibited and treated by the Lord; but also in her parents, sin and concupiscence was restrained and withheld in view of her Conception, in order that nature might not be disturbed or made imperfect in this work. For nature was to be subject to grace and served merely as an instrument to the supreme Artificer, who is superior to the laws of nature and of grace It was here that He commenced to destroy sin, and to lay the foundations, building up the castle of the strong armed One (Luc. 11, 22) who was to undermine evil and deprive it of the possessions which it tyrannically held.
219. The day on which the first Conception of the body of the most holy Mary happened, was a Sunday, corresponding to the day of the week on which the an gels were created, whose exalted Queen and Lady She was to be. For the formation and growth of other human bodies, according to the natural order, many days are necessary in order to organize and fit them for the reception of the rational soul. Thus for a man-child are required forty and for females eighty days, more or less, according to the natural heat and disposition of the mothers. In the formation of the virginal body of Mary the Almighty accelerated the natural time and that, which according to the natural rule required eighty days, was accomplished in Her within seven days. Within these seven days, by accelerated growth, was organized and prepared in the womb of holy Anne that wonderful body which was to receive the most holy soul of her Daughter and of our Lady and Queen.
220. On the Saturday next following this first Conception, the Almighty wrought the second Conception by creating the soul of his Mother and infusing it into the body; and thus entered into the world that pure Creature, more holy, perfect and agreeable to His eyes than all those He had created, or will create to the end of the world, or through the eternities. God maintained a mysterious correspondence in the execution of this work with that of creating all the rest of the world in seven days, as is related in the book of Genesis. Then no doubt He rested in truth, according to the figurative language of Scripture, since He has now created the most perfect Creature of all, giving through it a be ginning to the work of the divine Word and to the Redemption of the human race. Thus was this day a paschal feast for God and also for all creatures.
221. On account of this Immaculate Conception of most holy Mary the holy Spirit has provided that Satur day be consecrated to the Virgin in the holy Church, since that was the day on which She received the great est benefit through the creation of her soul and its union with its body without entailing sin or its effects. The day of the Immaculate Conception, which the Church now celebrates, is not the day of her first conception, when the body alone was conceived, but it is the day of he* second Conception or the infusion of her soul. Body and soul, therefore, remained for nine months in the womb of holy Anne, which are the days that intervene between the Conception to the Nativity of that Queen. During the other seven days preceding the vivification of the inanimate body, it was disposed and organized by the divine power, in order that this work might correspond with the account that Moses gives of the Creation of all things, comprising the formation of the whole world at its beginning. At the instant of the creation and infusion of the soul in the most holy Mother, the most blessed Trinity, repeated with greater affection of love the words, recorded by Moses at that time concerning man : “Let us make Mary to our image and likeness to be our true Daughter and Spouse and a Mother to the Only-begotten of the Father.”
222. By the force of this divine pronouncement and through the love with which it issued from the mouth of Almighty, was created and infused into the body of most holy Mary her most blessed Soul At the same time She was filled with grace and gifts above those of the highest seraphim of heaven, and there was not a single instant in which She was found wanting or deprived of the light, the friendship and love of the Creator, or in which She was touched by the stain or darkness of original sin. On the contrary She was possessed of the most perfect justice, superior to that of Adam and Eve in their first formation. To Her was also conceded the most perfect use of the light of reason, corresponding to the gifts of grace, which She had received Not for one instant was She to remain idle, but to engage in works most admirable and pleasing to her Maker. In the perception of this great mystery I confess myself overcome, so that my heart, unable to express itself in words, is dumbfounded in sentiments of admiration and of praise. I see the Ark of the Testament joined together, enriched and placed in the temple of a sterile mother with greater glory than the figurative one in the house of Obededon, and of David, or in the temple of Solomon (II Reg. 6, 11 III Reg. 8, 6). I see the altar of the Holy of holies (Is. 65, 17), whence is to be offered the first sacrifice that is to overcome and prove acceptable to God ; I see the order of nature break from its laws to be rearranged; I see new laws established against sin, disregarding those of the common order, overpowering those of guilt, conquering those of nature and supervening even those of grace itself; I see the formation of a new earth, and of a new heaven (Is. 65, 17) being the womb of a most humble woman, whither the eyes of the most holy Trinity are directed, where the Divinity presides, where the courtiers of the ancient heavens gather, and whither a thousand angels are delegated to form a guard over a tiny, animated body not larger than that of a little bee.
223. In this new creation is heard with a greater force the voice of its Maker, who, pleased with the work of his Omnipotence, says that it is very good (Gen. 1, 31). Let human frailty with humble piety approach this wonder, confessing the grandeur of the Creator, and let it rejoice at this new benefit conceded to all the human race in this its Reparatrix. Let the heat of disputation cease, overcome by thy divine light; for if the divine Bounty, as was shown to me, in the Conception of the most holy Mother, looked upon Her with such pleasure and upon original sin with such hostility that He gloried in the occasion and just cause of restraining and with holding its baneful currents, how can that appear proper to human wisdom, which was so abhorrent to God?
224. At the time of the infusion of the soul into the body of this heavenly Lady, the Almighty desired that her mother, the holy Anne, should feel and recognize the presence of the Divinity in a most exalted manner. She was filled with the Holy Ghost and was moved interiorly with a joy and devotion altogether above the ordinary. She was wrapped in exalted ecstasy, in which she was enlightened with deep intelligences of the most hidden mysteries and praised the Lord with new canticles of Joy. These effects lasted during all the rest of her life; but they were greater during the nine months in which she bore in her womb the Treasure of heaven. For during that time these benefits were more constantly renewed and repeated with continual intelligences of the holy Scriptures and of their most profound sacraments. O most fortunate woman ! let all the nations and generations of the world extol thee and call thee blessed!