Saturday, June 16, 2012
Marian Devotion--to Restore the Sacred Feminine
When I was a kid my mother was fond of questioning, "Is nothing sacred?" At the time I didn't really get what she meant. Now I want to live a sacramental life, a life rooted in the practice of Catholicism. In Hebrew, the phrase the fear of the Lord means reverence for God, the practice of true religion. The fear of the Lord is largely absent in our secular culture, even in some of our churches.
One element of the sacred that needs to be restored is the embracing of the holy feminine. Christians, pagans, and members of all the great world religions are recognizing the connection between the absence of a divine feminine presence in our consciousness and how this has manifested in the destruction of "Mother Nature". Women, and our Earth, who is characterized always in feminine terms, are raped and degraded. The imbalances of an overly patriarchal culture are reeking the havoc of war, poverty, pollution, extreme climate change, species endangerment and extinction, environmental destruction, and a serious shortage of drinking water. Much of our food is not safe to eat, nor our products safe to use. These issues are the result of a lack of the sacred in everyday life in general, and in particular of a feminine image of holiness. Also, the dignity of women and all of humanity is threatened, and the broken family is a distressingly common phenomenon. People intuitively feel like they have been orphaned of a spiritual mother, although they may not be able to put a finger on what is missing in their lives.
As Christians, we need Mary to restore this balance. But there are road blocks that get in the way of embracing a Marian devotion. Some say the patriarchy took over the Church and kicked the divine feminine, once known as the Great Mother, out of religious practice. This is absolutely true of much of Protestant Christianity. And it is true that some comments and attitudes of the early Catholic Church fathers were misogynist, blaming all of the world's woes on Eve exclusively, and by extension, on women in general. Well, they were flawed, human men of their times. But they also contemplated the unique role of the Virgin Mary and grew more and more in awe of her and what God has done through her. They elevated her place in the Church to a level of extreme veneration. The Holy Spirit worked to reveal Mary to these men as the ever-virgin, Divine Mother, the Mother of God. And all of the Church's Marian dogmas reflect the understanding of her human but divinized nature, by virtue of partaking of the divinity of her son.
The Catholic Church embraces a God whose nature and qualities are both masculine and feminine. The revelation of this truth is limited by the language we use and our human understanding; however, God as Mother is revealed through the Church (Ecclesia) herself, which is always referred to as "she", the Bride of Christ and his Mystical Body. Mary is the most eminent member of the Church and is loved and revered as spiritual Mother.
We could invoke God in ways that reflect both the paternal and maternal aspects by using inclusive titles, such as Father-Mother God, God of Motherly Wisdom, Abba Sophia, Abba Shekinah, Abba Imma, or neutral names like Creator. There is nothing theologically wrong with any of these, and I think there is a place for their use, especially in private devotion. But in keeping with the revelation given to us by Jesus, Sacred Scripture, and the Tradition of the Church, we can pray to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the usual way, and allow the feminine presence of God (Shekinah) to be experienced through a rich Marian devotion. For in Mary dwells Holy Wisdom, in her face is reflected the maternal light of God. In her arms we are comforted by our holy Mother, Queen of Heaven. We are not making Mary an idol when we do this, or worshiping her as God. We are rather experiencing the motherhood of God through her. She is immanent, she is human like us, and she is all that we, both women and men, aspire to be as divinized human beings.
This blog will explore the practices of a deep Marian devotion, one that points us to Jesus, converts us to the ways of God and a holy, sacramental life, and shows us the beauty of the divine feminine, the Great Mother, She Who Is.