Monday, January 9, 2012

Mary, Better Than a Goddess

Definitions from Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as used in this article:

incarnation:  (1) the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form; (2) cap the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ

indwell:  to exist within as an activating spirit, force, or principle

centered:  placed or fixed at or around a center or central area or position; gathered at a center; concentrated

The previous article discussed Thomas Schipflinger's thesis that Mary is the incarnated Holy Wisdom (Sophia), that in fact Mary's soul is one and the same with this created spirit. I have been inclined to believe this theory, but upon deeper contemplation, I find that an amendment must be made in order for the relationship between Mary and Sophia to remain within the teachings of the Christian tradition. A distinction must be made between the Incarnation, which describes the divine Son of God, or Logos, as the human being Jesus, and the indwelling of Sophia in the person of Mary. For Mary must have an entirely human soul in order for God's plan of salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection to take effect.

The Catholic church has demonstrated the close connection between Mary and Sophia by way of using verses from the Old Testament Wisdom tradition in celebrations of Marian feast days; but a precise theology of this relationship, to my knowledge, has never been worked out in a way that would legitimately place it squarely within Catholic tradition. In the Wisdom books, Sophia has been known to dwell within holy people, and she was commanded by God to make her home in "Jacob", or the people of Israel. It is my belief that she eventually centered herself specifically in Mary. In the New Testament in Ephesians 3, Wisdom is described as being of infinite variety, to be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms through the church. Mary, as the Mother and type of the church, while not the only expression of Sophia, embodies her fullest expression. Mary's soul is not of the same essence as Sophia, as Schipflinger argues, as Mary's soul is specifically human. Mary is Mary. However, we find in Mary the indwelling of Sophia, who is centered in Mary. 

The idea of Sophia as an emanation of the Holy Spirit dwelling within Mary explains the way in which Mary is understood as a channel of the Holy Spirit by Catholics such as George Montague, the author of Our Father, Our Mother, and as revealing the feminine face of God and his maternal love. It is also helpful to look through the lens of Jungian psychology, in which all humans are understood to have within them both the masculine and feminine principles. Obviously, in men the masculine principle is more pronounced, and within women, the feminine principle. But each person is a spiritually whole image of God. Similarly, each person of the Trinity can also be understood this way, with the Father also containing the Mother, and the Son also containing the Daughter. I believe that the Holy Spirit is primarily feminine but also contains the masculine principle (see Holy Wisdom in the Trinity for a progression on these thoughts). Sophia, though, is specifically a feminine aspect/spirit. Within this theology is the veneration of Mary as hyperdulia, with no danger of equating Mary to the level of God.

Continuing in the Jungian tradition, I would like to look at Jung's idea of the mythological archetype, or highest example of a particular quality, pattern, or personification of a type of being. I see in Mary the archetype, or highest example, of the "triple goddess", represented mythologically as maiden-mother-crone. We see Mary in all three roles of womanhood in the Bible. She is the virgin handmaid of the Lord in the Annunciation story of Luke, she is the mother who gives birth to and raises Jesus, the Son of God, and she is the wise, fully mature woman at the foot of the cross and present in the Upper Room at Pentecost with the disciples of Jesus in the Book of Acts, following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit descends upon them. Mary is not a goddess; she is better. She is the complete fulfillment of God's Wisdom in an exclusively human person, and this person is a woman, who Jesus himself refers to as "Woman" in her most glorious form--his very own mother, and ours.

*(I have continued to explore the nature of Sophia, who may be seen as God's eternal Wisdom, who emanates from God and is brought forth, or fathered by Him, rather than created in the way we think of the earth and the beings inhabiting this planet. See later posts for the continuing discussion...)

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