Saturday, July 20, 2013

Honor your Mother- the Blessed Virgin Mary

Traditionally, Saturdays are the day of the week we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in a particular way. One way we can still see this is in Morning Prayer for Saturdays, especially in the Intercessions. For example, today the Church prayed Saturday Morning Prayer from the Week III of the Psalter. Therefore, we began the intercessions with this: "With confidence let us pray to the Father who willed that the Virgin Mary should surpass all creatures in heaven and earth." One might retort, "Wait a minute! What about our Blessed Lord?" Well, Jesus Christ is not a creature, but "true God from true God."

With all of this already in mind, I opened the first volume of Hans Urs Von Balthasar's Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (I quickly made it through the first half of the book during Lent and since have bogged down in my effort to re-read it due to so many commitments) and started to read "The Marian Experience of God," which begins thus:
At the point where all roads meet which lead from the Old Testament to the New we encounter the Marian experience of God, at once so rich and so secret that it almost escapes description. But it is also so important that time and again it shines through as the background for what is manifest. In Mary, Zion passes over into the Church; in her, the Word passes over into flesh; in her, the Head passes over into the body. She is the place of superabundant fruitfulness (pg. 338)
St. Anne, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Christ Child, by Leonardo da Vinci

Identifying Mary as "the place of superabundant fruitfulness" puts me mind of the way we respond to silly accusations of worshiping the Blessed Virgin. Of course, in accordance with the Decalogue, we worship God and God alone- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Greek word for worship is latria. We also venerate the saints and the Greek for that is dulia. The Mother of God, however, occupies a unique space between God and the saints. The reverence due to her we call hyperdulia, which is just what it sounds like, the prefix hyper meaning over and above, or beyond. So, while hyperdulia falls well short of latria, it goes over and beyond dulia

Since Mary is not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of the Church, that is, as Jesus said from the Cross to the beloved disciple (John 19:26-27), our Mother, and since I have already invoked the Ten Commandments (i.e., the Decalogue), it bears noting that the first three commandments have to do with loving God with all heart, might, mind, and strength. But it is not exactly accurate to then lump the remaining seven commandments together and say they are about loving our neighbor. The fourth commandment enjoins us to honor our parents. It is the commandment with a promise. For each of us, even if our parents, or one parent, are absent from our lives, our mother and father occupy a space between God and everyone else. In this schema it makes sense to honor the Blessed Virgin. It also helps us to see that Von Balthasar in no way exaggerated her importance either in this passage or elsewhere, especially in his ecclesiology, which holds that the Church is essentially Marian.

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