Below you will find the text of my talk on Mary:
Talk on Mary: Jake Runyon 8/2009
Stuff from CCC:
490: In order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly born by God’s grace.
491: Mary… was redeemed from the moment of her conception. This was proclaimed definitively by Pius IX in 1854.
4 Doctrines of Mary:
1. The oldest doctrine is actually Mary’s perpetual virginity. As early as 107 St. Irenaeus was speaking about Mary as being “Ever-Virgin.” It was officially proclaimed at the Council of Trent. What does this teach exactly? Basically, Mary was a virgin before, during, and forever after the birth of Jesus. Why is this important? That Mary was a virgin before the birth of Jesus helps to defend the divinity of Jesus. Jesus was truly God, there was no human father responsible for his birth. During: people in the middle ages were especially concerned with the bodily integrity of Our Lady, meaning that for them virginity was a corporeal concept. I don’t think this is as important as saying that Mary was a virgin before and after. I don’t see how a child being born would change her virginity, which I would define as not having sex. Mary never had sexual intercourse, but she did give birth to Jesus. Therefore, Mary’s virginity during the birth of Jesus must proclaim that Jesus’ birth does not destroy or harm Mary. Today we (women that is) experience childbirth as a painful phenomenon, but we should remember that childbirth is not a bad thing. Proclaiming that the birth of Jesus does not take away Mary’s virginity is a way of expressing this fact: childbirth is good, and Jesus’ birth was good as well. After: Mary never had another Child. In fact, we could say that Jesus fully exhausted what it means to have a child. Mary is not somehow less a mother for having one child. She is fully mother of Jesus, who as representative of the whole human race, means that Mary is fully mother of the whole of humanity. There was no need for her to conceive again, every child born was already hers… It is interesting that the passages of the bible that mention the brothers and sisters of Jesus, they are never called the sons or daughters of Mary. This further supports the claim that the word used in the Bible should be given a wider meaning like: relatives.
2. Theotokos: Council of Ephesus 431. This proclaimed that Mary was the Mother of God. Nestorius was at the root of this. He tended to say that Mary was the bearer of the Christ, which he thought was different. He almost had 2 persons joined in the one Christ. God/Christ. Yet the teaching is that Christ is fully God and fully man at the same time. So if Mary is the Mother of Jesus, she is the mother of God. Also, since Mary is his mother, Christ must be fully human. It works both ways. This is the theological concept called the communicatio idiomatum, loosely translated: the communication of idioms. What this basically means is that attributes of Christ’s divine nature must be attributed to his human nature, and attributes of his human nature are applied to the divine nature. All of this is understood as a breakdown of human language. Our language cannot fully express the mysteries of God, but in some of these phrases we catch a glimpse at the mystery. For example, Mary is the mother of Jesus, Jesus is God… Mary is the Mother of God. Jesus died on the Cross, Jesus was God… God died on the Cross. God knows all things, Jesus is God… Jesus knows all things.
3. Immaculate Conception: Pronounced by Pius IX. Held for a long time and held by the people. Still, some, like St. Thomas Aquinas, disagreed. The problem here is how Christ can be born to one with sin. Also, it is only one that is free of sin that will be free enough to say yes to God. Mary was conceived in the normal way, but she was preserved from the stain of original sin. Now, there are 2 basic was to understand original sin. Either the fall of Adam essentially disordered the human substance, or supernatural gifts were removed from humanity, leaving humanity intact. Regardless of which approach one takes, Mary is still fully integral from the moment of her conception. This unique gift allowed Mary to fully employ human freedom. She was not bothered by concupiscence or pride. She was able to recognize the good and to do it. So when the Angel asked her to be the Mother of God, of course she agreed. It does not really make sense to ask if Mary could have said no. You and I recognize the good and fail to choose it all the time. Our freedom is compromised by our fallen nature. Mary, on the other hand, was completely free when she said yes, but it is inconceivable that she would say no. What does this say about Adam and Eve? Good question, their fall from grace is inexplicable: sin is essentially irrational. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pius IX in 1854. At Lourdes in 1858, Mary introduced herself as the Immaculate Conception.
4. Assumption: Mary was taken body and soul into heaven. This could have happened before death, at the time of death, or after death. But, the only thing that is proclaimed is that she was taken body and soul into heaven. This was proclaimed on Nov 1, 1950 by Pius XII. Why is this important? Benedict recently wrote: “Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us. (2005 Angelus).” The proclamation of Mary’s Assumption has more to do with us than it does with Mary. Her assumption is our hope. If she is already in heaven, body and soul, then the heaven that awaits us, please God, is one for both body and soul. We have a tendency to over-spiritualize heaven.
Ideas from Schillebeeckx:
Mary as real person: We should remember that Mary is not principally a theological concept. Rather, she is a real person. All of Marian theology comes from her reality. Upon reflecting on her life we learn valuable theological lessons. For example, Mary’s fiat is a theology of grace. In other words, let it be done to me, shows that the initiative is God’s, the power is God’s, even the action is God’s. Mary freely acquiesced to the initiative and power of God. Her freedom was exercised by the act of the incarnation was done by God. This preserves both God’s power in the salvific act, but also Mary’s freedom is not comprised. We are the same. When we let God work in us, God does the action, but we freely allow grace to work in our lives. It is hard to preserve both God’s act and our freedom in the good human act, but Mary’s fiat is a good way to look at grace. Again, her fiat is not a theological premise, but by reflecting upon it, we learn something.
Mary as formed by Scripture: we should not think of Mary as being separated from the Old Testament. Remember that the world of the Old Testament was the world of Mary. We can assume that she said Jewish prayers, may have went to the temple as a child, etc. Sometimes Christians get the notion that Mary sort of sprung from her mother’s womb as a singular event in human history; however, they forget that she was in a stream of tradition. Look at her magnificat for example. This wonderful canticle is very biblical, that is, it is deeply formed by the Old Testament. Schillebeeckx does a good job of comparing it with OT Scripture (on pages 7-12).
Mary as guarantor of Jesus’ humanity: perhaps the most important role that Mary plays in theology is her role of vouchsafing the humanity of Jesus. As you probably know, people have vacillated through time on the hypostatic union. In short, we profess that Jesus Christ, in his one person, was both fully human and fully divine. Yet, throughout human history people often overly stress one or the other: they would stress the divinity of Jesus at the expense of his humanity or vice versa. Yet, if we look at the conception of Jesus we should be able to keep this straight. Jesus was born of Mary, so he is human. However, he was born of no human father, he is divine.
Mary as model of grace and disciple: in my life, Mary is first and foremost a model. I would love to base my whole life on the life of Mary. Think about the many wonderful qualities of Mary. She was incredibly humble. Think about how meek her role is in the scriptures. If you or I were the Mother of God, would we be the same? Also, everything we have or are is certainly short of being the Mother of God, why are we so proud? Mary had incredible perseverance. Think of her at the foot of the cross, she never left the side of Christ, neither should we. Her humble obedience was richly rewarded, so will we be rewarded if we but say yes to the will of God, to the word of God.
Marian devotion: what does it mean to have a Marian devotion? First, I think we need to ponder the life of Mary. Stick with the Scriptures. There are many accounts out there of the life of Mary. These are private revelations. They are meant to be helpful to the person to whom they were given, but to us we want to be sure they are not obstacles to authentic devotion. Only the Scriptures have the timelessness we need in our days. Many of the private revelations are stuck in the time in which they were written and make them difficult for us to read today. Also, when thinking about the Marian appearances we have to be careful. On the one hand we don’t want to be so bold as to say Mary is not or has not appeared. Of course she can appear. But, we also should be careful to base our faith on an appearance of Mary. Private revelations are given to strengthen faith, they are not given to settle theological arguments, nor do they replace the gospels. The Bible and tradition are public in nature, which means that unless Mary appears to you stick with the public revelations when looking for content. Take joy in the private revelations of others. Just the fact of the revelation should stimulate our faith, not necessarily the content of the message.
So, we should venerate Mary, think highly of Mary, long to be like Mary, have an image of her in our homes, just as we would our own mother. Asking Mary to pray for us is a great way to show that we are humbly trying to allow Christ to work in our lives the way he did in the life of Mary.
The Rosary: We should think of the rosary as a great tool for prayer. Just the repetition of words is not as important as the contemplation that takes place while we say the rosary. I think of the Hail Mary’s, Glory Be’s and Our Fathers as the background music singing me to contemplate the mysteries of the Rosary. I try not to tell God where I want to go when I’m praying the rosary; rather, I ask God to take me where I need to go. Many of my rosaries were spent wondering if God really wanted me to be a priest. That was personal to me, what is it that you need to discuss with God? Discuss it over a rosary. The rosary is that it is ready-made. I don’t have to come up with something to think about or pray about; rather, the rosary is already there. It is on whether or not I feel like praying, which is great when you are tired, sad, lonely, excited, distracted, etc. The rosary can keep you on task. Schillebeeckx talked about the rosary as the family’s compline. What a great idea!