THE BLESSED VIRGIN IN THE SCRIPTURAL EXEGESIS OF THE FATHERS OF THE FIRST SIX CENTURIES.
WE propose in this Chapter to illustrate the teaching of the early Fathers on Our Lady from their Scriptural exegesis. With this object we shall give numerous extracts from their writings, in which they interpret passages of Scripture of the Blessed Virgin, or apply them to her. The field is a large one. We occupy it thus early, both for its own sake, and also that the reader may have at once an ample storehouse containing rich treasures of very varied kind which the Fathers have laid at Mary's feet, but which from their close connection with the Sacred text could hardly bear sorting and rearrangement. This method will, moreover, have the advantage of presenting beforehand, in one general view, the sublime idea that the Fathers had of all the various excellencies and prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin, which in due course we shall treat of more fully in detail.
A sure test of the greater or less importance attached by the Fathers to any particular doctrinal matter would be the place they held it to occupy, and the recognition they claimed for it in Holy Writ. Christ had Himself proclaimed that the Law of Moses, the Psalms and all the Scriptures spoke of Him.* The Apostles testified to the same truth.+ To the mind of S. Paul, so much was the Divine Incarnate Word, the one central theme, the sum and substance of all former inspiration, that even the historical facts of the Old Testament seemed to derive for him their chief meaning and value from their being figurative of what was to meet with its fulfillment under the Gospel in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.++