May 20, 2018
It’s May, that’s all Mothers and Mother Mary, especially.
On last weekend I mentioned that the Church does not have a ‘mother’s day liturgy or celebration’ to match the ‘hallmark’ date. But, then, the ‘hallmark’ date came to be at the instigation of a protestant lady whose religious community pooh-poohed any celebration of or observance of the Mother of God.
Here follows a long parenthesis: (I suppose it says something about how ‘american’ we are, rather than ‘catholic’, that the ‘hallmark’ date has become almost mandatory, even in Catholic Churches. Siiiigh! Or, maybe it means that we need to ‘advertise’ more in order to create a ‘catholic mothers’ day. Actually, in England, Mothering Sunday is kept on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and it has never been supplanted by the card companies!)
I mention this because Pope Francis has just lately decreed that the Monday after Pentecost shall hereafter be observed as The memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church. That is a relatively new title – fifty years old at this point. It was first used of Mary at the Second Vatican Council to describe her relationship to the Church, understood as the Mystical Body of Christ, the Son of Mary.
The ecclesial (church-related) Maternity expresses one meaning of Mary’s role as the first to hear and accept the Good News of the Incarnation of God’s Son, conceiving him by faith in her heart even before she conceived him in her flesh (to quote several patristic authors). In the very moment that the Holy Spirit comes upon her to make her the mother of the Son of God, she become the first human who shares the life of the Son of God in her own flesh. This life-sharing is the characteristic of Christians that we have been discussing as we talked about the Sacraments of Initiation.
Lest we be accused of saying too much about Mary, let me hasten to point out that all of the initiative in this ‘divinization’ of the human belongs to God alone. Mary did not become Mother of God – and still less Mother of the Church – apart from the decision on the part of God to so love the world as to give his only-begotten son; by saying “Yes” to that love.
A theologian named von Balthasar has written extensively about the Marian dimension of the Church. He points to the responsiveness of Mary to God’s initiative, her obedience, her trust, her humility and makes clear that these are attitudes without which the Church becomes just one more non-governmental, transnational corporation.
This Marian ecclesiology is a bit of a ‘come down’ from the apologetical approach of other days that spoke of the Church as a ‘perfect society’, a presence of ‘the Kingdom of God’, a necessary path to salvation, the one true Church, etc.
It’s almost as if the more we think about Mary, the less we claim for ourselves, either individually or corporately. But then it was she who asserted My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord – not her own.
Really and truly and kinda humbly yours,