Monday, September 25, 2006

Blessed art thou...

I've been a Catholic now, officially, for a year and a half. Over time, certain Catholic assumptions have become ingrained and natural in me. For example, no matter how wonderful worship among brothers and sisters in faith may be, I am naturally aware of a feeling that something is missing. Namely? The Eucharist. A year and a half in, I do indeed simply take it for granted that worship done right not only should but by its very nature must center on the Self-Offering Lord of the Altar, the Lamb of God slain for us all.

Another ingrained perspective has to do, of course, with the Blessed Mother. Whereas in my earlier days of exploring the Church, or of having just entered it, I was very self-conscious of Marian doctrines being a conspicuous new "wart on my face -- a wart that needed elaborate, winsome "explanations" -- now I simply take it for granted that Christian piety has an intrinsically Marian dimension. Her "fiat" (or, "genoito") in Luke 1 is the pattern and foundation on which all subsequent Christian faith and obedience "bears Christ" into the world. She is not the icon of the Incarnation -- the Eucharist is -- but she is the icon of the Church, that Body which bears Christ in and into all humanity. She is not Jesus's mother on simply biological grounds (cf. Mk 3), bonds which the Gospels transcendently nullifies, but preeminently his mother by her perfect faith as the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1). Now, rather than feeling defensive about "explaining" my Mary-wart, I have tremendous peace and joy in knowing Marian spirituality is the vast index of all Christian experience, and those who do away with it are the exception, truly the ones with some explaining to do.

This Marian assumption has become so ingrained in me, in fact, that recently I was musing how I'd respond if someone, say, an Evangelical, asked why I should bother with "all that Mary stuff," and was startled to hear a few very compact, very potent replies spring to mind. (The hypothetical conversation was a result of some insights brought up in a discussion with some other Catholics.) What startled me was not the truth of the points, but rather, how succinctly and smoothly, almost reflexively, they came to mind. I no longer had to think up a "clever" reply. I naturally just laid out the rudiments of the Catholic Marian framework, realizing the "splendor of truth" speaks for itself.

What did Jesus say about a tree and its fruits? "A tree shall be known by its fruits" (Matthew 12:33).

What were the fruits of Mary? Jesus Christ the Son of God!

Hence, what kind of tree is Mary? By sheer grace, she is an unsurpassably holy and fruitful tree, literally a tree of life that does not wither or rot over the ages.

Who is the New Adam? Jesus Christ, the head of the new redeemed humanity (cf. Rom 5).

Who is the New Eve? Mary, the Mother of all the living (i.e., redeemed humanity in Christ).

What is her role as the New Eve? She supplants Eve's failure against the serpent -- or, in St. Irenaeus's words, she unties the knot of Eve's disobedience -- by being a sure and lasting opponent of the Serpent (cf. Gen 3).

Who is the glorious, celestial woman in Revelation 12? Mary, the Mother of the Messiah and his brethren, the queen whom the Dragon could not and cannot defeat.

What was Jesus Christ typologically (i.e., biblical-metaphorically)? The Word of God, the Manna of Heaven, and the priestly staff of Aaron from the branch of Jesse.

What bore these same elements in the Old Testament? The Ark of the Covenant (cf. Heb 9), which was holy above all things, not to be touched by any man (cf. Num 4, 2 Sam 6), and the undefiled seat of God's own presence (cf. Ex 25).

Who bore Jesus? Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, holy (i.e., full of grace) above all things, untouched by any man, and the undefiled seat of God's Wisdom.

Who is Jesus? The Logos of God, God Himself made man.

Who was His mother? Mary.

Who are we in relation to Jesus? His siblings, friends, disciples, and subjects.

Who, then, is Mary to us? Our own Mother! (Cf. Rev 12 again.)

How should we treat our parents? With honor and obedience (cf. Ex 20).

Further, how would you treat your best friend's mother, or that of your master? With great honor and respect.

How, then, should we treat Mary, the Mother of God Himself? With unmatched honor (i.e., hyperdulia) as a uniquely blessed vessel of grace.

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