Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Immaculate Queen

"In Greco-Roman Christianity, probably because of the dangers of Gnosticism, the biblical images of God as female were soon suppressed within the doctrine of God. God as Wisdom, Hokmah in Hebrew, or Sophia in Greek, a feminine form, was translated by Christianity into the Logos concept of Philo, which is masculine and was defined as the Son of God. The Shekinah, the theology of God’s mediating presence as female, was de-emphasized; and God’s Spirit Ruah, a feminine noun in Hebrew, took on a neuter form when translated into Greek as Pneuma. The Vulgate translated Ruah into Latin as masculine, Spiritus. God’s Spirit, Ruah, which at the beginning of creation brings forth abundant life in the waters, makes the womb of Mary fruitful. In spite of the reality of the caring, consoling, healing aspects of divine activity, the dominant patriarchal tradition has prevailed, resulting in seeing the female as the passive recipient of God’s creation; and the female is expressed in nature, church, soul, and finally Mary as the prototype of redeemed humanity. Because God as father has become an over literalized metaphor, the symbol of God as mother is eclipsed. The problem lies not in the fact that male metaphors are used for God, but that they are used exclusively and literally. Because images of God as female have been suppressed in official formulations and teaching, they came to be embodied in the figure of Mary who functioned to reveal the unfailing love of God" (from online source quoting from "The decline of the Feminine and the Cult of Mary").

The above quote nicely summarizes what I have been getting at regarding my concerns about the use of language that obscures the truth of the nature of God as both a paternal and maternal deity. My guess is that the de-emphasis of the feminine was indeed a reaction to the heresy of Gnosticism and also to the prevailing paganism of neighboring cultures. There is a point on which I differ with the above argument; that is, I don't agree that the Church sees the feminine as the passive recipient. The Church is quite clear that the Virgin Mary actively participated in God's plan for the salvation of humanity, a teaching from Vatican II that I have previously quoted. Still, it is true that the bridal-motherhood of God has been so hidden that the natural outlet for the need of all of humanity, both male and female, to bond with the maternal aspect of God was necessarily embodied in the extremely high veneration of the mother of Jesus. Praying to Mary for her help and intercession is, to my mind, much different from praying to other saints; for she reveals the feminine face of God, and so in a mystical way prayers to her are most certainly not only prayers to the Mother of God, but prayers to God the Mother through her. Mary is not considered to be divine, except by virtue of her deification in partaking of the divine nature of her son, as I have discussed before. Yet symbolically she is understood as the Maternal Matrix, or Cosmic Mother.

 Immaculate Queen, Woman of Revelation 12

Charlene Spretnak discusses this dimension of the Blessed Mother in Missing Mary.  In her book, Spretnak laments what she perceives as the marginalization of Mary in the wake of Vatican II, which resulted in the removal of her statues in many churches, a decline in praying the Rosary, and a reduction of Mary's full spiritual presence. (It does seem, however, that we are now in a phase of  revival of Marian devotion and the Rosary.) Spretnak referred to those Catholics who wish to have the Holy Spirit feminized and suggested instead that Marian devotion needs to be brought back with a closer look at how growing the Christ child in her womb would have changed Mary ontologically, resulting in a unique, "quasi-divine" person. Personally, I really don't like the term, quasi-divine. I agree that Mary was truly unique among all of humanity and that no doubt she was transformed by the experience of becoming pregnant with the Son of God, sharing his blood and receiving his DNA into her own body. Perhaps it could even be said that by this miracle her process of divinization was begun while she was still on earth, before being assumed into heaven. This mystery of Mary being filled with the Holy Spirit and Wisdom is infinitely profound.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Spretnak discusses the efforts of the Vox Populi, a campaign for the declaration of a fifth Marian dogma, to officially grant Mary the titles of Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. Pope John Paul II used the title Co-redemptrix, and I understand that he was in favor of the dogma, but the current pope, Benedict XVI, is not. Allegedly Mary has appeared to a woman in the Netherlands as the Lady of All Nations and requested that this dogma be proclaimed so that she can be fully empowered to bring true peace to the world. There is something that makes me very uncomfortable about the effort to try to force this Marian dogma. The Lady of All Nations purportedly referred to herself as "who once was Mary" to this Dutch woman, and I really don't imagine Mary changing her name in this way. New dogma cannot be proclaimed on the basis of a personal revelation. 

At any rate, Mary is a human being and symbol of the sacred feminine, but there must be acknowledged that  in God there is a divine feminine source. Many Catholic writers, Scott Hahn included, express that the Trinity is a family, composed of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who is the Love that unites them. Hahn seems to catch on to the trouble with this single-parent family image, because he goes on to say in one of his books that no family is complete without a mother, and that Jesus gave us his own mother as our spiritual mother in heaven. Still, if the Trinity represents a complete family, of whose image humanity reflects, then there must necessarily be a divine aspect that is feminine.

In my previous post I named this divine aspect Sophia, using the triquetra symbol to illustrate the divine feminine within the Trinity, a parallel dimension to the masculine persons of the Trinity, naming her Holy Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew), Ecclesia (Mother Church, the Bride of Christ), and Shekinah (the Presence, or glory cloud, of God). Sophia is identified in the Bible as a manifold presence who has not been completely revealed. I believe that Sophia's primary manifestation is through her indwelling of the Virgin Mary and all that Mary represents. An image of this idea may be found in the Book of Revelation, when the woman who gives birth to the divine child is given the "wings of the great eagle" to flee the ancient serpent, who is Satan. 

Woman of Revelation 12

From her immaculate conception, I believe that Mary was filled with Holy Wisdom, the Virgin Spirit of God's maternal Love, and that as such a pure soul, she is the emissary of the Holy Spirit to the world. To pray to Mary is to honor her divine motherhood and the Maternal Matrix, the feminine aspect of God found in Wisdom/Ecclesia/Shekinah and embodied in the Virgin Mary. By many names she has revealed herself to the faithful, and great signs, miracles, wonders, and healing have occurred at those sights of holy ground. Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Holy Mary, our Blessed Mother. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe

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