Mary, the Mother of God is an Advent study presented by Brother James Dennis during November and December 2015 at Church of the Holy Spirit in Dripping Springs, TX.
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If we really take the incarnation seriously, if we believe that the incarnation changed the world forever and was not just a one-time event that happened some 2000 years ago, what does it mean for us to be pregnant with God, to carry Jesus and to deliver Him into a world that is often hostile and perhaps worse, dreadfully unconcerned with Christ?”
Mary: History and Themes
One of the principal and very early forms is the rosary.
Probably did not originate with St. Dominic (1170-1221), although special association with the Order of Preachers.
Deësis and Mary
Depicts Mary and John pleading (intercession) on behalf of sinners.
Mary and John stood on the border of the Old Testament and the New.
Mary deeply associated with the Incarnation and with intercession.
Early in Christian history, Mary is identified as the Mother of Sorrows.
“A sword shall pierce your soul also.”
“Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
“Woman, behold thy son!”
13th Century (“The sorrowful mother was standing”)
“Through her heart, His sorrow sharing, all His bitter anguish bearing,now at length the sword has passed.”
Michelangelo intentionally portrays Mary as a young woman.
As the virgin “full of grace,” Mary has been spared the ravages of age, just as in death she would be spared the ravages of corruption.
Gretchen prays: “Incline thy countenance graciously to my need, thou who art abounding in pain. With the sword in thy heart and with a thousand pains thou dost look upon the death of thy Son.” Goethe’s .Faust
Mary as Mediatrix
“You are like the precious gold that has been beaten on the iron of the anvil . . . .Through my suffering, you have suffered more than anyone else.”
Mary had a unique role in the incarnation and in redemption.
By her “yes”, she had made possible both the incarnation (of God) and the redemption (of man).
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): “She is our Mediatrix, she is the one through whom we have received thy mercy, O God, she is the one through whom we, too, have welcomed Jesus into our homes.”
Dante, The Divine Comedy
Theology from Bernard of Clairvaux
The Black Madonna
Song of Songs: “I am black but beautiful.”
The art form generally arises during the medieval period.
Many Black Madonnas inscribed with the phrase from the Song of Songs.
Painted by St. Luke the Evangelist.
While painting it, Mary told him about the life of Jesus. He later incorporated that into the gospel.
In 1655, small group of Polish defenders drove much larger Swedish army from the sanctuary.
Became a symbol for Polish resistance to the Nazi occupation.
1854 Pope Pius IX issues Ineffebalis Deus (dogma)
Mary, “at the first instant of her conception and by a singular privilege” and God’s grace was preserved from the stain of original sin.
Originates with St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109).
Summed up as potuit, decuit ergo fecit.
(God could do it, it was good that he do it and therefore he did it.)
Rejected by Bernard of Clairvaux and Bonaventure; questioned by Aquinas.
The question: was Mary rescued from sin or preserved from it from birth.
By the 15thcentury, the doctrine was widely accepted within the church.
When the course of Mary’s earthly life had run, she was assumed body and soul into heaven.
Very early doctrine: at least by the 5th
century (Transitus Mariae).
Around the 6th century the Feast of the Dormition celebrated.
Luther accepted the perpetual virginity of Mary (“Christ was the only son of Mary and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides him.”)
“But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin…” Martin Luther.
“Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s ‘brothers’ are sometimes mentioned.”
“I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil.”
“The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.”
Latimer, Cranmer and Jewel accepted that Mary was “Ever Virgin.”
From 1561 on, the Book of Common Prayer recognized 5 feasts associated with Mary: the Conception, the Annunciation, the Nativity of Mary, the Visitation and the Presentation.
The Book of Common Prayer, however, no longer recognized the Feast of the Assumption.
Lacked Scriptural warrant and exalted Mary at Christ’s expense.
Extended the Magnificant to use in the Daily Office.
Absent clear scriptural authority, however, the doctrine omitted from the Protestant creeds.
Hostility to Rome
Tendency to view veneration of Mary as idolatry.
Mary points to the Christ (whose eyes are fixed on her)
Even as a child, Jesus’ hands are fixed in a teaching pose (scroll)
Embarrassment: an unexplained pregnancy shamed her family and fiancé
That will be his life as well.
Are we willing to risk the world’s condemnation of us as “failures?”
Mary carries Christ, hidden within her (for nine months, God was hidden within her in the mystery of the incarnation.)
Mary has always been taken as a sign for the Church.
The life that fuels the Church may well be moments of exposure and insight or even desperately needy openness from some “irregular” Christians.
Our honest helplessness may be the well from which the real living waters will spring.
James R. Dennis, O.P. is a member of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio and of the Anglican Order of Preachers. He frequently writes, preaches and teaches around the Diocese of West Texas on spiritual matters. He lives in San Antonio with his two silly dogs.