Taken from Part 1
The Divine Maternity and the Plenitude of Grace, Article III
Mary Exempt from Every Fault and Every Sin
The Council of Trent  has defined that 'after a justification a man cannot avoid, during the whole course of his life, every venial sin, without a special privilege such as the Church recognizes was conferred on the Blessed Virgin'. The soul in the state of grace can therefore avoid any venial sin considered separately, but cannot avoid all venial sins taken together by keeping itself always free from them. Mary however avoided all sin, even the least grave. St. Augustine affirms that 'for the honor of her Son Who came to remit the sins of the world, Mary is never included when there is question of sin'.  The Fathers and theologians consider, to judge from their manner of speaking, that she is free even from every voluntary imperfection, for, according to them, she never failed in promptness to obey a Divine inspiration given by way of counsel. Though a minor lack of generosity is not a venial sin, but simply a lesser good, or an imperfection, not even so slight a shortcoming was found in Mary. She never elicited an imperfect (remissus) act of charity, that is to say, one that fell short in intensity of the degree in which she possessed the virtue.
VIEW AN IMAGE OF THE ANNUNCIATION
St. Thomas gives the reason for this special privilege when he says: 'God prepares and disposes those whom He has chosen for a special purpose in such a way as to make them capable of performing that for which He selected them.'  In that God differs from men, who sometimes choose incapable or mediocre candidates for important posts. 'Thus', continues St. Thomas, 'St. Paul says of the Apostles (2 Cor. iii, 6), "It is God Who has made us fit ministers of the New Testament, not in the letter, but in the spirit." But the Blessed Virgin was Divinely chosen to be the Mother of God (that is to say, she was predestined from all eternity for the Divine maternity). Hence, it cannot be doubted that God fitted her by grace for her mission, according to the words spoken her by the Angel (Luke i, 30): "Thou hast found grace with God. Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus." But Mary would not have been a worthy Mother of God had she ever sinned, for the honor and dishonor of parents is reflected on the children according to the words of the Book of Proverbs: "The glory of children are their fathers."
Besides, Mary had a special affinity to Jesus, from Whom she took flesh, but "what concord hath christ with Belial?" (2 Cor. vi, 15). Finally, the Son of God, Who is Divine Wisdom, inhabited Mary in a very special manner, not in her soul only but in her womb also; and it is said (Wisdom i, 4): "Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins." Hence it must be said without any reservation that the Blessed Virgin committed no sin, mortal or venial, so that the words of the Canticle of Canticles are fully verified in her regard (Cant. iv, 7): "Thou art all fair, my love, and there is not a spot in thee".'
Mary had therefore impeccantia (the term is parallel to inerrantia) or freedom from sin, and even impeccability. Her title to these endowments is not however the same as her Son's. In her case it was a matter of preservation from every sin through a special privilege.  This privilege includes first of all a very high degree of habitual grace and charity, which gives the soul a strong inclination to the act of love of God and withdraws it from sin. It includes also confirmation in grace, which when granted to a Saint is had normally through an increase of charity, especially that proper to the state of transforming union, and an increase of actual efficacious graces which preserve the soul de facto from sin and move it to ever more meritorious acts. Thus Mary enjoyed a special assistance of Divine Providence. This assistance-----more effective than even that which belonged to the state of innocence-----preserved all her faculties from faults, and kept her soul in a state of the most complete generosity. Just as confirmation in grace is an effect of the predestination of the Saints, so this preservative assistance granted to Mary was an effect of her peculiar predestination. Far from diminishing her liberty or free will, the effect of this preservation from sin was to confer on her full liberty in the order of moral goodness, with no inclination to evil (just as her mind never tended to error). Hence her liberty, following the example of that of Jesus, was a faithful and most pure image of God's liberty, which is at once sovereign and incapable of sin.
If human masterpieces of art, in architecture, painting and music, and if the precision instruments produced by human skill all reach such perfection, what must not be the perfection of God's masterpieces? And among these, if the works of the natural order are so perfect-----the majesty of the ocean and the high mountains, the structure of the eye and ear, the human mind and the mind of the Angels-----how perfect must not the works of the supernatural order be, among which so remarkable a place is held by the soul of Mary which was adorned with every choice gift from the first moment of her existence?
The distinction between imperfection and venial sin
The problem  has been taken from its proper context by the casuists. It is one which concerns interior souls, advanced in the spiritual life, and careful to avoid every more or less venial sin. Those who consider the problem in relation to less advanced souls run the risk of taking for imperfection what is really a venial sin.
At one time the problem was closely associated with another one: is it possible to commit no more than a simple imperfection by resisting a religious vocation! The answer ordinarily given to this question is that though the religious vocation does not oblige under pain of sin, sin is always involved in rejecting it for the reason that religion is a way of life that embraces the whole of life, and the other ways of life, being less safe than it, are never chosen in preference to it except through some inordinate attachment to the things of this world, as is seen in the example of the rich man in the Gospel. Thus, the rejection of a vocation involves an inordinate attachment (which is forbidden by Divine precept) and not only a lack of generosity.
To see the problem of an imperfection as distinct from a venial sin in its proper perspective, it must be viewed in its relation to very generous souls, and still more in relation to the impeccability of Christ and the sinlessness of Mary. Here we may ask: Was there any voluntary imperfection in the lives of Jesus and Mary? The question is obviously a most delicate one.
The answer usually given to this problem is that there was never any imperfection, however slightly voluntary, in the lives of Jesus and Mary. for they never failed in their prompt obedience to every divine inspiration given by way of counsel. But if there had been any lack of promptitude, it would have been a mere lack of generosity, not a moral disorder in the strict sense of the term, as is an inordinate attachment to the things of this world.
As regards interior souls, it may be said that as long as they have not taken the vow of always doing the most perfect thing, they are not bound under pain of venial sin to act always with the maximum of generosity possible to them at any given instant.  It is becoming, however, that those more advanced should, without binding themselves by vow, promise the Blessed Virgin always to do what will appear to them evidently the most perfect in any given circumstance.
THE PERFECTION OF MARY'S FIRST GRACE
The habitual grace which the Blessed Virgin received at the instant of the creation of her holy soul was a fulness or plenitude to which the words of the Angel on the Annunciation day might have been applied: 'Hail, full of grace.' This is what Pius IX affirms when he defines the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He even says that, from the first instant, Mary 'was loved by God more than all creatures (prae creaturis universis) , that He found most extreme pleasure in her, and that He loaded her in a wonderful way with His graces, more than all the Angels and Saints'.  Many texts might be quoted from tradition to the same effect. 
St. Thomas explains the reason of this plenitude of grace when he says : 'The nearer one approaches to a principle (of truth and life) the more one participates in its effects. That is why St. Denis affirms (De caelestia hierarchia) that the Angels, who are nearer to God than man is, participate more in His favors. But Christ is the principle of the life of grace; as God He is its principal cause and as Man (having first His humanity is, as it were, an instrument always united to the Divinity: "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John i, 17). The Blessed Virgin Mary, being nearer to Christ than any other human being, since it is from her that He received His humanity, receives from Him therefore a fulness of grace, surpassing that of all other creatures.'
It is true that St. John the Baptist and Jeremias were sanctified, according to the testimony of Sacred Scripture, in their mother's womb, without, however, being preserved from Original Sin. But Mary received grace from the very first instant in a degree far excelling theirs, and received as well the privilege of being preserved from every fault-----even venial-----a privilege we find accorded to no other Saint. 
In his Expositio super salutatione angelica St. Thomas describes Mary's plenitude of grace (and his words are applicable to the initial plenitude) in terms of which the following is a summary:
Though the Angels do not manifest special respect for men, being their superiors by nature and living in holy intimacy with God, yet the Archangel Gabriel when saluting Mary, showed himself full of veneration for her. He understood that she was far above him through her fullness of grace, her intimacy with God, and her perfect purity.
(a) She had received fulness of grace under three respects. First, so as to avoid every sin, however slight, and to practice all the virtues in an eminent degree. Secondly, so as to overflow from her soul upon her body and prepare her to receive the Incarnate Son of God. Thirdly, so as to overflow upon all men  and to aid them in the practice of all the virtues.
(b) Further, she surpassed the Angels in her holy familiarity with the Most High. On that account, Gabriel saluted her saying: 'The Lord is with thee.' It was as if he said: 'You are more intimate with God than I. He is about to become your Son, whereas I am but His servant.' In truth, Mary, as Mother of God, is more intimate with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, than are the Angels.
(c) Finally, she surpassed the Angels in purity, even though they are pure spirits, for she was both pure in herself and the source of purity to others. Not only was she exempt from Original Sin  and from all mortal and venial sin, but she escaped the curse due to sin, namely, 'In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. ..into dust thou shalt return' (Gen. iii, 16, 19). She will conceive the Son of God without loss to her virginity, she will bear Him in holy recollection, she will bring Him forth in joy, she will be preserved from the corruption of the tomb and will be associated by her Assumption with the Ascension of the Savior.
Already she is blessed among women, for she alone, with and through her Son, will lift the curse which descended on the human race, and will bring us blessings by opening the gates of heaven. That is why she is called the Star of the Sea, guiding Christians to the harbor of eternity.
Elisabeth will say to her: 'Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.' Whereas the sinner looks for that which he cannot find in the object of his sinful desires, the just finds everything in what he desires holily. From this point of view, the fruit of the womb of Mary will be thrice blessed.
(a) Eve desired the forbidden fruit, so as to have the knowledge of good and evil, and thereby to become independent and free from the yoke of obedience. She was deceived by the lying promise 'You will be as God', for far from becoming like God, she was turned away from Him. Mary, on the contrary, found all things in the blessed fruit of her womb. In Him she found God, and she will lead us to find God in Him.
(b) By yielding to the temptation, Eve sought joy and found sadness. Mary, on the contrary, found joy and salvation for herself and us in her Divine Son.
(c) Finally, the fruit sought by Eve had beauty only for the senses, whereas the fruit of Mary's womb is the splendor, the eternal and spiritual glory of the Father. Mary is blessed herself, and still more blessed in her Son, who has brought all men blessing and salvation.
The preceding is a synopsis of what St. Thomas has to say of Mary's fullness of grace in his commentary on the Hail Mary. He has in mind most of all the fulness of the Annunciation day. But what he says is applicable also to her initial fulness, just as what is said of the stream is applicable also to its source.
Mary's Initial Grace Compared with that of the Saints
It has been asked if Mary's initial grace was greater than the final grace of the greatest of Angels and men, or even than the final grace of all Angels and men taken together. The question is usually understood not of the final and consummated grace of Heaven, but of the grace which is final in the sense that it immediately preceded entry into glory.  As for the first part of the question, theologians commonly hold that Mary's initial grace was greater than the final grace of the highest of Angels and men. This is the teaching, for example, of St. John Damascene,  Suarez,  Justin of Miechow, O.P.,  Contenson,  St. Alphonsus,  Fathers Terrien,  Godts, Hugon, Merkelbach, etc. Today, all textbooks of Mariology are unanimous in considering this teaching certain. It can even be found expressed by Pius IX in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus in the passage we have quoted already. The principal argument in favor of this teaching is arrived at from a consideration of the Divine maternity, which is the reason for all the privileges conferred on Mary. There are two ways of outlining it: from the point of view of the end to which Mary's initial grace was ordained, and from the point of view of the Divine love which was its cause.
Mary's initial grace was given her as a worthy preparation for the Divine motherhood-----to prepare her to be a worthy Mother of the Savior, said St. Thomas (IIIa, q. 27, a. 5, ad 2). But even the consummated grace of the other Saints is not a worthy preparation for the Divine maternity, for it pertains to the hypostatic order. Hence the first grace of Mary surpasses the consummated grace of the other Saints. Pious authors express this truth by taking in an accommodated sense the words of Psalm lxxxvi: 'The foundations thereof are in the holy mountains.' They say that the summit of the perfection of the other saints is not as yet the beginning of the perfection of Mary.
The same conclusion is reached by considering the uncreated love of God for the Blessed Virgin. Since grace is the effect of the active love of God which makes us pleasing in His eyes as adoptive children, the more a person is loved by God the more grace he receives. But Mary, since she was to be the Mother of God, was more loved by Him in the first instant of her being than any Angel or Saint. Hence she received from the first instant a greater gift of grace than any of them, however favored.
Was Mary's First Grace Higher than the Final Grace of all the Angels and
Saints taken together?
A number of theologians, both ancient and modern, have answered this question in the negative.  However, the affirmative answer, which is given by Ch. Vega, Contenson, St. Alphonsus, Godts, Monsabre, Billot, Sinibaldi, Hugon, L. Janssens, Merkelbach and others, is at least probable.
For it there is, first of all, the argument from authority. Pius IX favors it in his Bull Ineffabilis Deus, when he says: 'Deus ab initio . . . unigenito filio suo Matrem... elegit atque ordinavit, tanto que prae creaturis universis est prosecutus amore, ut in illa una sibi propensissima voluntate complacuerit. Quapropter illam longe ante omnes angelicos Spiritus, cunctosque Sanctos coelestium omnium charismatum copia de thesauro Divinitatis deprompta ita mirifice cumulavit, ut . . . eam innocentiae et sanctitatis plenitudinem prae se ferret, et qua major sub Deo nullatenus intelligitur, et quam praeter Deum nemo assequi cogitando potest.' [From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so lover her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the Angels and all the Saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully.] Taken in their obvious sense all these expressions, especially the 'cunctos sanctos', mean that Mary's grace surpassed that of all the Saints together from the first instant mentioned in the text. If Pius IX wished to say that Mary's grace surpassed that of each Angel and Saint individually, he would have said 'longe ante quemlibet sanctum et angelicum' rather than 'longe ante omnes angelicos Spiritus cunctosque sanctos'. Nor would he have said that God loved Mary above all creatures, 'prae creaturis universis', and that He took greater delight in her alone, 'ut in ilia una sibi propensissima voluntate complacuerit'. It cannot be contended that in all this there is no question of the first instant of Mary's existence since Pius IX goes on to say, immediately after the passage just quoted, 'Decebat omnino ut beatissima Virgo Maria perfectissimae sanctitatis splendoribus semper ornata fulgeret'.
A little further on in the same Bull, we are told that, according to the Fathers, Mary is higher by grace than the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and the whole heavenly host (omni exercitu angelorum)-that is to say, all united. Though it is universally admitted that these words refer to Mary in Heaven, it must yet be recalled that one's degree of heavenly glory is proportionate to the preceding grace or charity at the hour of death. And in the case of Mary, this latter was proportionate to her dignity as Mother of God, a dignity for which she had been prepared from the very first instant of existence.
To the argument from the authority of the Bull Ineffabilis, two theological reasons can be added. They are based on the Divine maternity, considered as the end towards which Mary's first grace was ordained and on the uncreated love which was its cause. As a help to grasping them, it is necessary to remark that even though grace is a quality and not a quantified thing, there are many to whom it is not at once evident that if Mary's first grace surpassed that of the highest of the Saints, it must also surpass that of all Angels and Saints united. They say, for example, that though the eagle's vision is more acute than that of the most keen-sighted man, it does not follow that an eagle sees more than all men taken together. Of course, in this example an element of quantity-----that is, of extension and distance-----enters in, which is not found in the case of Mary's grace, so that it is really irrelevant. But, at the same time, it may be well to clarify the question still more.
1st-----Since Mary's first grace prepared her to be the worthy Mother of God, it must have been proportionate, at least remotely, to the Divine maternity. But the final consummated grace of all the Saints together is not proportionate to the Divine maternity, since it belongs to an inferior order. Hence the final consummated grace of all the Saints united is less than the first grace received by Mary.
This argument-----even though not admitted by all theologians-----seems to be quite conclusive. The objection has been raised that Mary's first grace was not a proximate preparation for the Divine maternity and hence was not necessarily of a different order from the grace of all the Saints. To this it may be answered that, though not a proximate preparation, Mary's first grace was a worthy and proportionate preparation, according to the teaching of St. Thomas (IIIa, q. 27, a. 5, ad 2): 'The first perfection of grace (was) as it were dispositive, making the Blessed Virgin worthy to become the Mother of Christ.' But the consummated grace of all the Saints united is not proportionate to the Divine maternity, which is of the hypostatic order. The argument therefore retains its force.
2nd-----The person who is more loved by God than all creatures united receives grace surpassing theirs, for grace is the effect of uncreated love and is proportionate to it. As St. Thomas says (Ia, q. 20, a. 4): 'God loves one more than another by the fact that He wills him a higher good, for the Divine will is the cause of the good that is in creatures.' But God has loved Mary from all eternity more than all creatures united, as being she whom He was to prepare from the first instant of her conception to be the worthy Mother of the Savior. In the words of Bossuet: 'He always loved Mary as His Mother, and considered her as such from the moment she was conceived.' 
This does not, of course, exclude the possibility that Mary advanced in holiness, or grew in grace. For grace, being a participation in the Divine nature, can always increase though still remaining finite; Mary's final fullness of grace is limited, while yet being so full as to overflow on all souls.
To these two arguments, taken from the Divine maternity, another may be added, which will become increasingly evident as we speak of Mary's universal mediation. It is that Mary could obtain by her merits and prayers-----even on earth, and from the time when she could fIrst merit and pray-----more than all the Saints together, for they obtain nothing except through her universal mediation. Mary is, as it were, the aqueduct which brings us grace; in the mystical body she is, as it were, the neck which joins the members with the Head. In short, from the time she could merit and pray, Mary could obtain more without the Saints than they could without her. But merit corresponds in degree to charity and sanctifying grace. Hence Mary received from the beginning of her life a degree of grace superior to that which the Saints and Angels united had attained to before their entry into Heaven.
There are other indirect confirmations, or more or less close analogies. For example, a precious stone-----a diamond----is worth more than a number of other stones united; a Saint like the Cure of Ars could do more by his prayers and merits than all his parishioners together; a founder of an order like St. Benedict surpasses all his first companions by the grace he has received, for without him they could not have made the foundation whereas, had they failed him, he could have enlisted others to take their place; the intellect of an Archangel surpasses that of all inferior angels united; the intellectual worth of St. Thomas is greater than that of all his contemporaries; the power of a king is greater, not only than that of his prime minister, but also that of his ministers combined.
Early theologians did not examine the question of the degree of Mary's first grace, but that is probably because its solution appeared evident to them. They taught, for example, at the end of the treatises on grace and charity that whereas a ten-franc piece is worth no more than ten one-franc pieces, the charity signified by the ten talents of the parable is worth more than ten charities of one talent.  That is why the devil tries to keep souls called to high sanctity by their priestly and religious vocation at the level of mediocrity. He wishes to prevent the growth of their charity, knowing that one man of great charity will do much more than many whose charity is at a lower, lukewarm level.  Thus Mary, in virtue of the first grace which disposed her for the Divine maternity, was worth more in God's eyes than all the Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, and Virgins united, more than all men and all Angels created from the beginning.
The thought of the marvelous instruments which human skill can produce is a reminder of what the Divine Artist can do in this soul of His special choice, in her of whom it is said 'Elegit eam Deus et praeelegit eam', in her who the liturgy tells us was raised above all the angelic choirs. The first grace she received was already a worthy preparation for her Divine maternity and her exceptional glory which is inferior only to that of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Nor should we forget that she suffered proportionately as He did, for she was called to be a victim with Him so as to be victorious with and by Him.
These reasons permit us to get some glimpse of the dignity and elevation of Mary's first grace.
One more point before concluding. The classics in the literature of every country mean much more to us when we take them up in mature age, than they did when we first read them at the age of fifteen or twenty years; and the same is true of the works of the great theologians, of St. Augustine and St. Thomas. Must there not, then, be beauties hidden as yet from our eyes in God's masterpieces, in those composed immediately by Himself, and especially in that masterpiece of nature and grace, the soul of Mary, God's Mother? This thought alone is enough to make one begin by affirming the richness of her initial grace. Perhaps the next thing will be, to wonder if the affirmation has not been too hasty, if a probability has not been made into a certainty. But last of all, there will come a return to the first position; not now because it is beautiful, but because careful study has shown that it is true; not because it has a merely theoretical becomingness but because its becomingness acted as a motive in determining the choice that God actually made of it.
1. Sess. VI, Can. 23; Denz. 833.
2. De natura et gratia. ch. xxxvi.
3. IIIa, q. 27. a. 4.
4. Our Blessed Lord has absolute impeccability under three titles: by reason of His Divine Personality; by reason of the beatific vision which He had in a permanent way since His conception; by reason of the absolute and inalienable fulness of grace and charity, the fervor of which could not diminish. Besides, He always received efficacious grace.
5. I have treated it at length in L' Amour de Dieu et la Croix de Jesus, t. I, pp. 360-390.
6. Strictly speaking, a counsel obliges only when one would offend against a precept by not obeying it. (Cf. IIa IIae, q. 124, a. 3, ad 1.)
7. lneffabilis Deus . . . ab initio et ante saecula unigenito filio suo Matrem, ex quo caro factus in beata temporum plenitudine nasceretur elegit atque ordinavit, tantoque prae creaturis universis est prosecutus amore, ut it illa una sibi propensissima voluntate complacuerit. Quapropter illam longe ante omnes angelicos Spiritus, cunctosque Sanctos caelestium omnium charismatum copia de thesauro Divinitatis deprompta ita mirifice cumulavit ut ipsa an omni prorsus peccati labe semper libera ac tota pulchra et perfecta eam innocentiae et sanditatis plenitudinem prae se ferret, qua maior sub Deo nullatenus intelligitur, et quam praeter Deum nemo assequi cogitando potest.
8. Cf. Terrien, La Mere de Dieu, t. II, 1. VII, pp. 191-234; De la Broise, S.J., La Sainte Vierge, cbs. II and XII; Dict. Apol. art. Marie, cots. 207 sqq.
9. IIIa, q. 27, a. 5.
10. Cf. Ibid., a. 6, ad 1.
11. Theologians commonly hold that Mary merited for us willi a merit of becomingness(de congruo) all that Christ merited in strict justice (de condigno).
12. This is the text we have quoted on p. 61.
13. Theologians commonly teach that the consummated grace of Mary in Heaven is higher than that of Angels and Saints combined; also that the final grace of Mary at the moment of death, and even her grace at the moment of the Incarnation, surpassed the final grace of all the Saints at the term of their earthly lives. The question under discussion here is whether or not the same may be said of Mary's initial fulness of grace. We know, of course, that the degree of glory of the Saints in Heaven corresponds to the degree of grace and charity which they had before entry there.
14. Orat. de Nativitate Virginis P. G., XCVI, 648 sqq.
15. De mysteriis vitae Christi, disp. IV, sect. I.
16. Collat. super litanias B. Mariae Virginis, col. 134.
17. Theol. mentis et cordis, 1. X, diss. VI, c. I.
18. Glorie di Maria, lie P., disc. 2.
19. La Mere de Dieu, t. I.
20. Theophile Raynaud, Terrien, and Lepicier, admit it only in regard to Mary's final grace. Others, like Valentia, admit it for the grace of her second sanctification at the time of the Incarnation. However, most theologians join St. Alphonsus in admitting it for her initial grace. Among these three opinions, the first two are certain; the third, as Fr. Merkelbach shows in his Mariologia, 1939, pp. 178-181, is at least very probable.
21. Cf. E. Dublanchy, Dict. Theol. Gath., art. Marie, col. 2367: 'The teaching of Pius IX in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus resumes the argument upon which theological tradition has always relied: God's love of special predilection for Mary more than all other creatures, a love such that He made her alone the object of His greatest satisfaction, and gave her that which was dearest to Him, His own Son. And since it is the teaching of St. Thomas (Ia, q. 20, a. 3) that the good which God produces in creatures is proportioned to the love He has for them, it may be concluded with certainty that Mary, loved by God more than all creatures, has been the recipient of Divine favors greater than those given to all creatures, taken even collectively.
22. Cf. Salamanticenses, De caritate, disp. V, dub. III, par. 7, nos. 76, 80, 8S, 93, 117.
23. Attention must be drawn to the nature of the order of pure immaterial quality to which sanctifying grace belongs. The reason why the vision of the eagle is not better than that of all men united, even though it is better than that of the most keen-sighted man, is that quantity or distance in space intervenes; all men, situated at different places on the globe, can obviously see more than one eagle, even if perched on the highest mountain. But quantity does not enter at all into the order of pure quality.
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