instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, May 09, 2008

Glorious things are said of thee, O mother of God

Using the old patristic principle that everything that can be said in faith of the Church in general can be said of Mary in particular as your guide, you can wind up in all sorts of places.

For example, one thing that can be said in faith of the Church in general is that Jerusalem in the Old Testament is a type of the Church. That, surely, is how Christians read Psalm 87(86):
The Lord loveth the gates of Sion above all the tabernacles of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.
I will be mindful of Rahab and of Babylon knowing me. Behold the foreigners, and Tyre, and the people of the Ethiopians, these were there.
Shall not Sion say: This man and that man is born in her? and the Highest himself hath founded her.
The Lord shall tell in his writings of peoples and of princes, of them that have been in her.
The dwelling in thee is as it were of all rejoicing.
Sion => the Church <==> Mary. So we can interpret this psalm as foretelling Mary saying this man and that man, these peoples and those princes, are her children. And, indeed, the Highest himself hath founded her as mother of all the living.

Now, we all know there are lots of Christians, including lots of Catholics, who think devotion to Mary is at best a matter of personal inclination. They follow Jesus, not Mary.

Here, the metaphor (though it may be more than a metaphor) is that you cannot worship at the Temple if you aren't in Jerusalem. Imagine a Jew in the centuries before Christ arguing that worshipping in Jerusalem isn't important, only worshipping at the Temple matters. That's geographical nonsense. Jerusalem matters -- not in and of itself, to be sure, but it matters nonetheless.

Moving to the antitypes, arguing that Mary isn't important, only Jesus is important, is incarnational nonsense. It assumes that what is contingent is irrelevant. But everything is contingent: not just the person who happened to give birth to the Son of God, but also the very fact that the Son of God was born. Our salvation, our Church, our Bible are all contingent on God's grace. Arguing Mary's irrelevance from Jesus' importance is just as sound as arguing Revelation's irrelevance from His importance.

I worry somewhat that, when it comes to talking of Mary, we [American Catholics who talk of Mary] think relatively too much in terms of apologetics, of intellectual acceptance of enumerated dogmas, and relatively not enough in terms of mystagogy, of living a life in communion with the person who is the subject of those dogmas.

But the Lord loveth the gates of Sion above all the tabernacles of Jacob. If we do the same, if for us the dwelling in Mary is as it were of all rejoicing, then so, some day, shall it be for Rahab and Babylon.