SCRIPTURAL EXEGESIS - PROLEGOMENA
It is well remarked, as a characteristic note of those ecclesiastical writers who are most in esteem for their sanctity, orthodox teaching, profound science of theology and Scriptural exegesis, that they have been ever forward to encourage the mystical, in addition to the literal, interpretation of the Sacred text; whereas, many authors held in less repute, have been prominent in discountenancing the mystical sense, and those of doubtful orthodoxy for the most part, wholly reject it. We know the mind of the Church on this matter from the frequent application that she makes of Holy Scripture in her Sacred books, and from the general language of her Liturgy.
There are two subjects which -- next after Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word, and because they are most intimately connected with Him -- come more generally prominent in the commentaries of the Fathers than any others: and these are His Blessed Mother and His holy Church. Other matters, doubtless, occupy more largely the attention of individual writers in their comments. But of patristic exegesis as a whole, these two are habitual themes, and seem to form, in the minds of the early Fathers, part of the very substance of Divine inspiration, or the most precious golden threads woven throughout its web.
Hence, as the Fathers find throughout all Scripture the Incarnate Word, so do they seem to discover everywhere and at every turn allusions to His Mother and His Church: and as they say that all the prophecies and types were fulfilled in Him, so also they speak -- of course, with due measure of signification, and because of their intimate relation to Him -- regarding Mary and the Church.
Though the Blessed Virgin is the sole theme of this work, we have here made mention of the Church in conjunction with her, because they are continually linked together by the Fathers in their Scriptural comments. Frequently the very same language and applications that they make use of for the one, are elsewhere in their writings referred to the other. From this, so to say, identification of Mary with the Church in the thought of the Fathers, many passages on the Church in their commentaries, may justly, we hold, be applied also to the Blessed Virgin, even though no distinct mention is made in them of her.