Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day

This eighth day of Christmas is the day of Jesus' circumcision and also the holy day of Mary, Mother of God. Mark Shea writes in This Rock (1994):

As a former Evangelical, I know anti-Marian arguments. But, having been a Catholic for nearly six years, I've been surprised to discover how much larger Mary looms in many Protestant minds than in Catholic ones. Maybe I'm languishing in a papally-induced spiritual blindness, but Jesus seems as big to me as ever. Only Mary has changed sizes since I "poped." She got a lot smaller and less threatening.

Since I became a Catholic she often, after directing me to her Son, has seemed to slip out of the room for long stretches, leaving me to talk with him while she busies herself with quietly praying for me or doing some other motherly task. She has been a most unobtrusive presence--endlessly loving and interceding, but not nearly as noisy about it as my Protestant upbringing would have led me to believe.

Yet how can this be? Books have "proven" that Catholics are obsessively fixated on our Lady to the exclusion of faith in Christ. They have shown that all we think about is the way in which Mary can save us from sin. They have demonstrated that I spend day and night obsequiously seeking to have her declared a fourth member of the Trinity.

Of course, there are benighted souls in my communion (Mother Teresa, say) whose summary of Marian devotion is: Love Jesus as Mary loves Jesus, love Mary as Jesus loves Mary. Such people seem to think that Mary is not a goddess but that she has a significant place in the drama of redemption. They regard her as remarkable in that her choice to love and obey the as-yet-unseen and unincarnate Messiah was the very key to the Incarnation.

They find a subtle difference between such faith (unbuttressed and unrehearsed) and the wobbly performance of Peter and Thomas. They attach some quirky meaning to the fact she was the first disciple to say "yes" to the incarnate God and that it was this "yes" and the love it expressed which was the basis of the first and deepest love relationship the Son of God ever experienced as man.

Such cultists seem to have this notion that her role in the life of the Church might extend beyond the physical fact of providing a uterine environment and three square meals a day to the Second Person of the Trinity--that she is something more than a disposable first stage in the Incarnation.

For some reason they hold the belief that Jesus, who obeyed the law perfectly, obeyed the command to love his mother in a way unique in human history and that imitating him might involve us in that love relationship too. They are bewitched with the fact the dying Jesus commanded the disciple he loved (that is, you and me) to have Mary as mother and that she was commanded to have the beloved disciple (that is, you and me) as her son.

These people suspect that as the risen Christ remains human forever, so he remains his mother's son forever. If she loves him, she just might love those who are in him as her own and pray they will love her son with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Likewise, if Jesus loves her in a unique way and we are to be like him . . . well, you can work that one out.

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