Friday, May 4, 2012

The Triune God and Mary: Bride, Body, and Church

This devoutly and unapologetically Marian post is dedicated to Our Lady, whose month we currently are in, and it is for her honor, dignity, and generosity in offering Jesus Christ her Son as the Sacrifice of our Atonement, her generosity in offering her Son to us as our Food, Drink, and Sustenance; our Very Life, and finally, most profoundly, to the honor of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, who when He Himself became the true Tree of Life, united to the Cross physically and spiritually, gave us His mother, the New Eve, as we are her children in Him whose very life is Sacrifice.

A huge number of Protestants, when investigating the teachings of the Catholic Church, find the most troubling teaching that they have to reconcile themselves to is the notion of the high dignity, glory, and honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was in that place at one time, and I had to gradually grow acclimated to the love and devotion that the Catholic Church has for her as Mother and Queen over time, by looking to typology in the Scriptures and understanding her roles as they were clearly displayed in Scripture and Tradition.

Over time, however, something struck me that opened up my own fervent devotion to Blessed Mary. I realized a mystical aspect of her office that is at the core of who she is, something that I've even seen many Catholics disagree over or not fully realize. Over time spent immersing myself in Catholic Teaching, I found a repetitive pattern showing up in the language that is commonly used regarding Holy Mother Church and Holy Mother Mary. Both are described as the mother of the faithful, both are described as nourishing the faithful, and the Church is often personified in a mystical sense without fully explaining or making clear what this personification means. Likewise, I often heard it described that the Blessed Virgin represents the Church, or that she is the perfect model of the Church, or some other hedging analysis about something that seems so very clear to me. Here is what I came to realize: the Virgin Mary is literally the fulness of the Church of God. Not figuratively, not partially, not a representative of, not a model of, but literally the Virgin made Church as St. Francis of Assisi proclaimed. She is the Bride of the Triune God, and in the most beautifully literal sense, the very Body of Christ. She is God's cosmos full and entire, the entire creation finds its voice and being in her Heart. She is the Old Creation renewed and the beginning of the New Creation in Christ. She is literally Israel and the Church, the twelve Apostles and Tribes are the glorious stars in her Crown and the glorious foundations in her being as a City; they are her Glory and Beauty. Just as St. Thomas Aquinas said that the Soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit, so it was also said by St. Louis de Montfort that Mary's spirit and the Holy Spirit are so intimately joined that they have become one. This is entirely Scriptural, and it shows forth the intimacy that the Church has with the Holy Spirit, Mary being the Church, she has the most intimate relationship with the Spirit possible, so intimate in fact that the only closer joining of humanity to God is in the infinite joining of human nature to the Divine Person of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. She is not simply a role model, she is joined intimately to all of us who are united to our Divine Spouse, Jesus Christ, and we see Him through Mary's Heart. Inasmuch as her children in the Church Militant here on Earth are the Church of God, Body of Christ, and Bride of the Holy Trinity, they are so not on their own right, but precisely because they graciously share in her relationship with the Triune God, and most specifically with Jesus Christ. Anyone united to Jesus Christ in salvation is looking out of her eyes and dwelling in her heart, and she in ours. It is precisely in sharing in this bond between Jesus and Mary that the Church finds it's being; we subsist in the Immaculate Heart and her unspeakable union with the Divine Heart of our God, Jesus Christ. This is the key to understanding the great honor she holds, and also key to understanding all of the popular devotions to Mary, and it is also key to understanding the concept of Mary as the channel of all God's grace.

Take, for instance, the Holy Rosary. The Rosary is simply and solely joining yourself to the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes and felt through the Heart of His Mother. The enormous grace in praying the Rosary has at its core the fact that you are joining yourself to Mary and seeing through her Heart, and sharing her relationship with Jesus Christ. Mary is not so much, in my devotion, some distant and separate figure that you are petitioning outside of yourself, that is not the core of what Marian devotion or going to Jesus through Mary is. She is not separate from you, she is in your heart and you are in hers. Mary is the Church, so by praying the Rosary, you are joining yourself utterly to her in her entirety and making your plea to God with her, once voice and one Heart, acknowledging that she is the Church. This is where the great grace is, and this is where salvation is. All men and women who make it to blessed and eternal communion with Jesus Christ in Heaven are, whether they know it or not, members of Mary and participants in her communion with God; those who acknowledge that she is the Church and cling to her and unite themselves to her Heart willingly and consciously, on the other hand, are most blessed and holy and sanctified because they willingly run to their Mother like small and beloved children, something that those who are not conscious of this do not know, and so timidly walk along toward Jesus through Mary.

Let's extend this to the Holy Sacraments. The Sacraments are the very Life of the Church, and they represent the fullest outpouring of the Grace of God onto us here in the Church Militant. No one here on Earth receives any Grace whatsoever that has not involved Mary in any way, and in this way she is the Mediatrix of all Graces that we here on Earth receive. I am not saying nor do I advocate that she is the Mediatrix of all Grace, period, because that has some issues when you get into the Hypostatic Union of the Divine and human natures of Christ, among other theological problems. But nevertheless, all Graces that we receive, come through her on their way to us. There are three reasons for this: 1) Mary gave birth to the One who is Grace Himself, and inasmuch as all good things that come to us as the Church come to us by way of being participants in the Body of Jesus Christ, so to Mary gave birth to those Graces in the Person of her Son. 2) Mary is intimately and almost unfathomably united to the Holy Spirit, being His perfect vehicle and perfect human expression to the world. It is for this reason that she is called the Seat of Wisdom, or the Seat of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, Jesus Christ is literally and absolutely God - not the seat of God or the bearer of God, but God really, to quote the Council of Ephesus. Mary, however, does bear God's presence into the world, and it is through her and with her that we meet the Holy Spirit, who associates Himself absolutely with her person. When the Holy Spirit brings the presence of Grace into our life, it is never separate from Mary, but always with her. It was said by St. Louis de Montfort that when the Holy Spirit sees Mary in the heart of a Christian, He comes down fully onto that person, as at Pentecost. Yet again, this is because Mary Is The Church, and so Participating In Her Life Is To Be Dwelling In The Grace And Presence Of The Holy Spirit. Finally, 3) Jesus clearly said that His Church was the Light of the World, a Beacon of Hope and Grace in darkness, and that from His Church would flow the River of the Holy Spirit to the World, mirroring how it flows from Jesus Christ to the world. Mary, as the fulness of the Church, fulfills this role absolutely.

Extending this to the Sacraments, the main and absolute source of Grace, we can see a pattern emerging. Six of the Seven Sacraments connect remarkably to Mary, and the Seventh does in a special way as well, though differently from the other Six.

1) In Baptism, we are born of the waters of the Womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the children of God and Mary, joined to Christ, incorporated into His Body mystically in the Incarnation in Mary's Womb, and renewed and created anew by the Holy Spirit through water. All of this happens really and truly, spiritually and physically, in union with Mary; and it also happens to be joined not only to the Incarnation in Mary's Womb, but also to her own Immaculate Conception in St. Anne's Womb, the New Creation of which was accomplished by the Holy Spirit in both cases. The two are unfathomably and beautifully joined, and both are present in Grace and Truth in Baptism.

2) Having been physically and spiritually joined to Mary, and through Mary, to Jesus in Baptism, now the Holy Spirit finds Mary in your heart and comes down fully as in a new Pentecost in Confirmation. Mary, the Church, dwells in your Heart, and from the point of Confirmation, you participate fully in the Life and Union that Mary has with the Holy Spirit.

3) In Penance, the Holy Spirit stands ready to repair your association with Immaculate Mary, and cleanse your soul by the Word of Christ, so that you may once again be joined to Jesus through Mary. Again, the Holy Spirit never operates separate from Mary, so in this cleansing and renewal by the Spirit, Mary is once again made fully present in your heart.

4) In Matrimony, the Holy Spirit makes present the union of Mary to the Triune God as His Bride and as the Body of Christ in the couple to be joined, and the Graces of that union, that spiritual Marriage of God to Mary, are poured out on your joined and shared life. There is hymn in the Byzantine Tradition that calls on the Theotokos to "Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded." She is Bride, even prior to her chaste and spiritual union with St. Joseph, because she is the Bride of the Holy Trinity.

5) In Holy Orders, Mary, the Mother of the Clergy, acts as the Mediatrix through whose hands the special grace of the Priesthood is given, flowing from the Divinity and humanity of the Person of her Son, Jesus Christ. By the eternal imprint of the Priesthood on the soul of a man, that man comes to have a unique and special place in Mary, who is the Body of Christ. In sharing in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, the eternal Priesthood after the order of Melchisidech, the man is clothed with the special presence of Mary, and is united to her Heart in her relationship with her Son. The Priest embodies the being of both Jesus Christ preeminently, and Mary His Mother, by along with Mary offering Jesus Christ to the eternal Father as the Sacrifice of our Reconciliation. When you see the Priest elevate the Host and the Chalice during the consecration and during the Agnus Dei, picture with religious piety the Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross, clinging to the Feet of Jesus Christ, and holding them, uniting with His Passion, and offering her Son and in Him herself to the eternal Father for the salvation of all mankind, and for all the cosmos. So is the Priest offering the same Sacrifice, in the dignity and honor of Mary, for the same purpose, and in that Sacrifice offering Himself as well.

6) In Extreme Unction, Mary, tender and caring mother of the Catholic, tends his wounds and binds up his soul, and it is through her presence in the soul of the Catholic that the Holy Spirit comes down and imparts Jesus Christ's healing and restorative Love to the soul, and it is through Mary that the man is conformed and joined to her, to die a member of her perfectly, and dwelling in her Immaculate Heart, so united to Jesus.

7) Finally, in the Holy Eucharist, Mary, in the person of the Priest, and the Holy Spirit, call with one voice the Divine Lover, Jesus Christ our God, into the womb of the Church, and into the world. The Spirit and the Bride do indeed say, "Come!" at every Mass. For the Priest speaks the prayer of the Church, the prayer of Mary, invoking the Holy Spirit to come down upon the gifts of bread and wine, and calling in the consecration Christ to come down into the womb of the Church and through the Church to the world, as quickly and simply and beautifully and assuredly as He was called to be conceived in the womb of Mary when at her Fiat she and the Holy Ghost spoke with one voice and one heart. Even so is the Mass the making-present of the Incarnate life of Jesus Christ, and in doing so, most especially, it makes present Mary and Jesus in the Incarnation.

In all of the Sacraments, Mary is present in our hearts, and it is because He sees the Immaculate Conception present in us that the Uncreated Immaculate Conception (St. Maximilian Kolbe), the Holy Spirit, works through the physical signs of all of the Sacraments (all types of the physical sign of Mary Most-Holy), comes to strengthen us and make Christ present in us, most preeminently and magnificently in the Holy Eucharist.

Mary is the Church, the Church is in Mary, and all is in Christ Jesus, true God and true man. We are all members of Him, of His Body, and Mary is His Body; we are also therefore members of her, and members of every other child of hers, members of every other member of the Body of Christ. Christ is the Head, Mary is the Neck, and we are members of both, all things being ordered to His Unique, utter, infinite, and eternal Majesty, Jesus Christ our God.

Glory to Jesus in Mary. Glory to Mary in Jesus. Adoration to the Triune God alone.

Amen.

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