Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Deification of the Virgin

I found the following excerpt from a blog which illuminates the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary:

"It was a class in Anatomy and Physiology, and the lesson on microchimerism, that concretely illustrated for me those two dogmas. Learning that every child leaves within his mother a microscopic bit of himself—and that it remains within her forever—the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was instantly illuminated.

Mary, then, was indeed a tabernacle for the divinity—not for a limited time, but for all of her life. Thus the Immaculate Conception made and makes perfect sense: God, who is all-good is also completely pure; the vessel in which he resides, then, must also be pure, or it would not be able to sustain all of that light.

And this relates directly to the Assumption of Mary as well. In the psalms we read 'you will not suffer your beloved to undergo corruption.' Christ’s divine body did not undergo corruption, but ascended into heaven; it follows that his mother’s body, which contained a cellular component of that divinity—and a particle of God is God, entire—would not be permitted to undergo corruption, as well.

It could not be otherwise. The God particle, commingled with humanity, necessarily preserves humanity, and calls it to himself. This is incarnational. It is eucharistic, from the beginning. It is our life, conceived in light" (

Next is an excerpt given in explanation of the difference between being divine by nature and deification by participation:

To sum up simply, Mary is a goddess by participating in divinity, through grace, to a higher extent than most humans can or will. However, all saints (that is, all who arrive in heaven) do and so Mary with all the saints could rightly be called gods and goddesses. But this in no way compromises monotheism of the one triune God, whose divinity is through itself (found in comments on the blog, Mary and Mariology: Divinizing Mary?).

These both struck me as interesting because the Catholic Church has often been accused of divinizing Mary and elevating her to the level of a goddess. In the case of the first excerpt, the only disagreement I might have is the argument that a particle of God is God entire. But a particle of God is certainly divine, and modern science sheds light on and validates Catholic teaching regarding Mary. As I have discussed before, Charlene Spretnak posed the question in Missing Mary as to whether the Blessed Mother would have been ontologically changed into a quasi-divine (or semi-divine) being by virtue of carrying Jesus in her womb, and the author implied that she would have.

The second excerpt reflects the theology of early Church Fathers who said that "God became man so that man might become gods." This means that people are not divine by nature but have the potential to be deified through participation in the divine nature. Rather than referring to Mary as semi-divine, I believe she should be understood as a divinized human being, with her deification being utterly unique by virtue of her Immaculate Conception and her physical motherhood of God the Son. I agree with Spretnak that modern science gives evidence that the traditional, cosmological, biblicalplus veneration of Mary and her full spiritual presence needs to be returned to the Church. Mary is officially honored with the unique status of hyperdulia by the Church, and so she cannot be relegated to being merely another in the communion of saints or just a model of discipleship.

The Church does not call the saints gods and goddesses, so I would discourage that practice. But I do think there is too much stigma attached to the word goddess. The name "God" typically implies a male deity. In polytheistic religions, there were multiple gods and goddesses with varying ranks of power. In Catholicism, there is one God in three persons, and this God is neither male nor female, but pure spirit. "Goddess" simply means a female deity. If the masculine version can be used to describe the one, true Creator, then why is there such repulsion in the idea of the Almighty being called Goddess? The argument is that "goddess" implies a polytheistic, pagan religion, but the same could be argued that pagans also used the word "god".  In fact, there was a monotheistic religion pre-dating the Judeo-Christian tradition which believed in an entirely feminine trinity (the maiden, mother, and crone). One interpretation of history is that the patriarchal conquerors of the people who worshipped the Great Mother created an all-male version of this trinity. The idea of God in three persons is correct, but both variations are incomplete.

This is why devotion to Mary is so important, as well as the revival of the ancient Wisdom tradition of the Old Testament that was also practiced by the early Church, in which God was understood to have a feminine dimension. We need religion that honors the sacred feminine and the bridal-maternal aspects of divinity. We need to see the hidden Sophia, who is part and parcel of Christ, and who is manifested in His human Mother.

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