Monday, September 24, 2012

My Marian Anniversary

It has been a year since I met the Mother of my Lord, the Virgin Mary. The anniversary was actually September 21, when in 2011 I followed her call to the Catholic Church in my town and discovered the Rosary Garden. The previous night I had been troubled with insomnia, particularly distraught over women's issues in society and my own personal struggles with my family of origin. I felt my essential role as a mother being attacked, and my heart was broken. Inexplicably, I prayed to Mary, for the first time in my life. In her garden I sat and talked to her. I cried and was comforted by her maternal, spiritual presence. Suddenly, I had hope. If I joined the Catholic Church, I could have Mary.

I started going to Mass shortly after this experience. I began to read books about Mary from the library and was like a starving person presented with a banquet and surrounded by roses. I didn't know how much I had needed a spiritual Mother, and the more I read, the more fascinated I became regarding all I did not know about the history of Christianity. I became interested enough to look into R.C.I.A., the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. But they were too far into the program at that point for me to jump in. Just this month I finally began the official process toward joining the Church, which I now love with all my heart.

I am still learning, and after a whole year, I am not any less enthusiastic about the Mother of God. She has continued to gently lead me back to her Son, who I had drifted from for so long. My daughter has been baptized in the Church and loves her weekly religious education classes. And I have been inspired in my writing in a way I hadn't been in years, through the awakening of passion and awe. So happy anniversary to me, and thank you Blessed Mother for enriching my life with your love, faith, beauty, and intercession. Hail, Holy Queen!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Simple Marian Devotions #1

I found that when I became interested in Marian devotions, it was difficult to know where to begin.  Now that I have had some time to develop certain practices, I would like to share them in a series that will hopefully be simple to follow.  As I have mentioned before, in my studies of the Chinese bodhisattva Kuan Yin, I noticed similarities between this being of compassion and Jesus and Mary.  In fact, Kuan Yin historically has taken on an undeniable likeness to the Blessed Mother.  Therefore it was easy for me to appropriate a Kuan Yin meditation chant by Lisa Thiel to an invocation of the spiritual presence of Mary.

Here are the original lyrics (you can listen to the song to learn the tune at, Lisa Thiel - Part 1: "Waters of Compassion")--

Mantra--Namo Kwan Shi Yin Pu Sa
To the One Who hears all the cries of the world, I call to You to invoke Your grace
Mother of Compassion, Goddess of Mercy
I offer You all the burdens of my heart, That I may become empty, To be open to receive Your blessings
This world is filled with suffering, Yet You, our Savioress, offer us solace
Mother of Compassion, Goddess of Mercy
I offer out into the world, All the love that you have given to me, For the sake of all sentient beings

When I sing my version, which is acoustically nice to do in the shower, I begin with:
"To the one who hears all the cries of the world, I call to you to invoke your grace;
Mother of Compassion, Ave Maria; Mother of Compassion, Ave Maria."
Then I sing, "Hail Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe; Holy Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe;
Queen of Heaven with the moon under her feet; Queen of Heaven with the moon under her feet."

 Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Juan Diego

You could incorporate the other lyrics by simply replacing "Savioress" with a Marian title that appeals to you, such as Benefactress, Advocate, or Mediatrix. It is also interesting to note that Paraclete, another name for the Holy Spirit, means "one who hears the cries." This devotion thus underscores the intimate union of Mary with the Spirit of Wisdom.

I think that praying in song is especially powerful, as the Psalms of the Bible attest, and chanting gets one into a calm, peaceful, and contemplative spiritual state. You could light a candle and meditate while singing this invocation, and of course offer other prayers as they come to mind.  To replace the mantra, Namo Kuan Shi Yin Pu Sa, which is Kuan Yin's full name, you can substitute whatever name for Mary that might rhythmically fit, such as "Stella Maris, Star of the Sea."

You are free to play around with whatever lyrics resonate most with you.  My version is a place to start. The tune Lisa Thiel created is lovely, as is her ethereal voice, and despite its origins in a "goddess" type tradition, the appropriation to Mary turns it into a beautiful Christian devotion.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lady Wisdom (Sophia)--Emanation vs. Creation

Lady Wisdom in the Bible is described as an emanation, an eternal generation, and a creation, yet we see from the following explanation that, theologically, she cannot be all three of these things. Yet she could be both an emanation and an eternal generation, as Jesus, Wisdom Incarnate, indeed is:

Emanation is a necessary and infinite number of generations that extends from the nature of the One. Everything extending from it is therefore consubstantial. Eternal Generation is a necessary and numerically single bringing forth of the Person of the Son, not the divine nature of the Son eternally extending from the nature of the Father. The Father and the Son are therefore consubstantial. Creation is a voluntary act of God that begins in time. God creates by divine fiat, not by extensive emanation. This extends from the will of God, not the nature. Therefore, Creation and God are not consubstantial but distinct in essence. Do we not then see that Creation and redemption cannot extend from the nature of God or else it would be eternal and Consubstantial with him?  --from The Trinity by Gordon Clark, p. 115

In Wisdom 7 we find, "Wisdom is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty..."  That is clear enough, that she extends from God and is therefore consubstantial with Him. Her nature is divine.

In Sirach 24 Wisdom tells us, "I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist." This connotes something more like a birth, a bringing forth, an eternal generation. And we see Wisdom herself participating in the act of creation, covering the earth to make it teem with life, like a mother bird spreading herself over her eggs. Again, her nature is divine.

In Proverbs 8 Wisdom says of herself, "The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago." Here we have her as the first of all of God's creative acts, and we sense a certain but mysterious distinction between her and God. Her nature appears to be as a creation. Are there indeed two Wisdoms, as St. Augustine suggested, one created and one uncreated?

I think what we must do to understand this plurality, as well as anyone can possibly understand the nature of God and his relationship to his works, is to take all that has been written in regard to Lady Wisdom together and see if we can get a clearer picture. In the order that the Wisdom Books appear in the Bible, we follow a gradual revelation of the entirety of the nature of Sophia. Wisdom is unquestioningly eternal and consubstantial with God; therefore, we can certainly conceptualize her as the feminine aspect of the Godhead. However, we also see her as God's link with creation, a pure spirit who is sent to dwell in the earth and among God's people. Wisdom was created in this sense, that she was poured out into all of creation, permeating all things and bringing them to perfect order. She has become both an aspect of God and a part of the created universe.  "Whoever finds me finds life," she promises in Proverbs 8, hinting at both the physical and spiritual realms.

We can conclude that Jesus is indeed the Eternal Wisdom, but we also find in the liturgy of the Catholic Church the accommodation of these passages of Wisdom to Mary, the Throne of Wisdom. Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton, in a letter, described Mary as a kind of personal manifestation of Sophia. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Mary is the dwelling of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (721). As I have previously put forth, Wisdom is clearly part and parcel of all members of the Holy Trinity (which Merton also affirms in the same letter), and therefore the idea of Wisdom indwelling Mary is compatible with official Church doctrine. Holy Wisdom in the Old Testament prefigures (is a type of) both Jesus and Mary in the New Testament, and indeed also prefigures (and is mystically synonymous with) the Holy Spirit.

We see the Blessed Mother as embodying the feminine, maternal qualities of God and possessing within her the pure spirit of Wisdom, who is at once emanation and eternal generation of God, as well as the binding force between God and creation, and a living being of creation herself. As the Church teaches, there is an inseparable spiritual connection between Jesus and his Mother. This great mystery is the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus through Mary, and it is something that we can only contemplate and hope to someday grasp in its divine fullness.