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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BVM: Mary, The Mother of the Lord---Part III

The Blessed Virgin Mary, theotokos, is the difference that keeps on giving. As some readers have doubtless noticed, I have stolen part of the title of this blog mini-series from Karl Rahner's treatise, Mary, The Mother of the Lord (London, 1963). While I would not so boldly state, as Rahner does, that Mary as the mother of Jesus "implies the whole substance of Christian belief" (54), I would be far less reticent to agree with him that Mary's maternity transcends the biological dimension, and unites all Catholics in a "partnership" with God, as she models the acceptance of grace for all (12). Rahner's Mariology is intensely Christological, as well as ecclesiological, and imbued with his theology of grace. In this sense, Mary is the human side of the Church, which, when it is at its best, flatters her by imitation.


The Ave Maria, at once an intensely biblical and theological excursion, derives its content from Luke and the 3rd ecumenical council of Ephesus (convened in 431 to confirm the validity of the ancient honorific, theotokos). The prayer is felt by some to be the essential Catholic prayer, uniting, as it does, Christology and the human cooperation in the on-going creation of the world. The Angelus, a prayer celebrating the Incarnation and Mary's role in its history, is also quite biblical and theological. It emphasizes a bit more the intercessory role of Mary than the Ave, but the theme of Christ's saving work always keeps his sole-mediatorship of salvation clear. The Magnificat, Luke's little masterpiece, might very well be the perfect Catholic prayer:




46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. (Luke 1:46-55, [KJV])







I deploy the King James Version for its sheer poetry, despite some archaisms. Luke, a master of the Septuagint, has created a truly inspired hymn that not only Catholicism, but all biblical faiths, and though not strictly biblical, Islam as well, can embrace. It could have been predicted that the liberation theologians would embrace the Magnificat as something of a manifesto, given how it situates Mary in her 'low estate' and 'puts down the mighty' and satisifies 'the hungry.' Perhaps it is the message of the Magnificat, that Islam has heard and felt, that brings it to its understanding of Mary with which I began this 3-part series.


I am neither a Marian maximalist nor minimalist, though my leaning is toward the latter. Despite a few historical chips on some papal shoulders, divisiveness can never be a role for Mary in the Church. Some are called to versions of Marian piety ordered to the life of the living Church (cf. Marialis Cultus, 1974). Others are called more to praxis, and still others are called to Mary as a reflection of themselves as authentic Christians, Christocentric believers, who demure from the niceties of speculative theologies of grace.


Finally, in light of this recent consideration of Mariology, I might review the placental turn that seems to drive things Marian. I first used the metaphor of the placenta to suggest the relation within the hypostatic union. The 'placental turn' might clarify the relation between the single divine person of the hypostatic union and his mother. Mary is united biologically to the placenta of the word made flesh. Like the presence of the Logos to the human that witnesses to the death of Jesus, Mary, in her body, witnesses to the unmerited grace within her that exposes itself to her, sanctifies her. Her sanctification therefore is through the eternal Word, which sanctifies her eternally. Through the very givenness of the Logos that takes maternal flesh from Mary, Mary is 'gifted,' just as those who receive the IM are 'gifted' through its very givenness. In terms of the event, the IM releases the event of grace in the reduction of Mary to her givenness to God, and God's givenness to her. Mary becomes, moves into her subjectivity and her selfhood, as God loves her before she is, because God loves before he is.

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