Sunday, December 31, 2006

January 1, 2007: Feast of the Divine Maternity

Begin Again – From Christ!

God “Failed” – Starts New Humanity


“God `failed’ in Adam – and likewise, to all appearances, throughout history. But God did not fail, for now he becomes a man himself and so begins a new humanity.”[1] Romano Guardini put it this way: “Christ’s effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in its history save its own creation: `In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.’ What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new creation is as far superior to the love which created the stars, plants, animals and men. That is what the words mean: `I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?’ (Luke 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not only `truth’ or `love,’ but the incandescence of new creation.”[2]

Mary’s Free “Yes”

Josef Ratzinger wrote: “God asks for man’s Yes. He does not simply employ his power to command. In creating man, God has created a free vis-à-vis, and he now needs the freedom of this creature for the realization of his kingdom, which is founded, not on external power, but on freedom. In one of his homilies, Barnard of Clairvaux has dramatically portrayed both God’s waiting and the waiting of humanity:

“The angel awaits your answer, for it is time to return to the one who sent him… O Lady, give the answer that earth, that hell that heaven itself awaits. The King and Lord of all now yearns for your consenting answer as much as he once desired your beauty… Why are you hesitating? Why are you fearful? ... Look, the desire of the nations stands at the door and knocks. Oh, what if he should pass by while you hesitate?... Get up, make haste, open!... Get up by faith, make haste by devotion… open by consent!”

Without this free consent on Mary’s part, God cannot become man. To be sure, Mary’s Yes is wholly grace. The dogma of Mary’s freedom from original sin is at bottom meant solely to show that it is not a human being who sets the redemption in motion by her own power; rather, her Yes is contained wholly within the primacy and priority of divine love, which already embraces her before she is born. `All is grace.’ Yet grace does not cancel freedom: it creates it. The entire mystery of redemption is present in this narrative and becomes concentrated in the figure of the Virgin Mary: `Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’
(Lk. 1, 38).”[3]

Then, “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us”

The Novelty:

Ratzinger says: “The Logos becomes flesh: we have grown so accustomed to these words that God’s colossal synthesis of seemingly unbridgeable divisions, which required a gradual intellectual penetration on the part of the Fathers, no longer strikes us as very astonishing. Here lay, and sill lies, the specifically Christian novelty that appeared unreasonable and unthinkable to the Greek mind. What this passage says does not derive from a particular culture, such as the Semitic or the Greek, as is thoughtlessly asserted over and over again today. This statement is opposed to all the forms of culture known to us. It was just as unthinkable for the Jews as it was (although for altogether different reasons) for the Greeks or the Indians or even, for that matter, for the modern mind, which looks upon a synthesis of the phenomenal and the noumenal world as completely unreal and contests it with all the self-awareness of modern rationality. What is said here is `new’ because it comes from God and could be brought about only by God himself. It is something altogether new and foreign to every history and to all cultures; we can enter into it in faith and only in faith, and when we do so, it opens up to us wholly new horizons of thought and life.”[4]


How is it that God Who is the Cause of all things as Creator, has a mother whom He created? Did she not give Him merely a body, and if that is the case, how can it be said that she is “Mother of God.?”

Mary gives the material, the DNA, that must be organized by a human soul that is created directly by God. No mother gives the soul, nor the person, and in the case of Christ, a fortiori, the divine Person. Thanks to the tension of Christian faith and Greek philosophy, the Fathers of the Church (St. Cyril and the Council of Ephesus in 431) distinguished between person and nature precisely here on this issue. Jesus Christ has a truly complete and integral human nature of body and soul that is distinct from His divine Person as Word and Son of the Father.

However, that human nature of created soul and body - the latter being directly taken from our Lady such that Christ is completely one of us as bodily man -, is the human nature of a divine Person. Therefore, the body is His. The divine Logos assumes and “compenetrates” that body as His own. It is His. The body of Christ is not an object or “thing’ somehow attached to the Person, but the enfleshment of the divine Person Himself, without ceasing to be human and free. In fact, by the “compenetration” of the body by the divinity, it becomes truly and integrally human and free, with the freedom of the self-gift; and this because the first man, Adam, is a type of the prototype: Jesus Christ. This is revealed in St. Paul: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…” (Eph. 1, 4-5).

Therefore, the body of Christ, although engendered by a creature, is the body of the divine Person, and therefore the body of God, and Mary as the source of the material of that body is related to – as every mother to her offspring – it as Mother of the Person of Christ, the Mother of God: Theotokos.


To repeat a word from Josef Ratzinger on the relation of the human and the divine in Christ: “In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon has ordinarily come to be little considered. The impression thus frequently remains that dogmatic Christology finishes up with a certain parallelism between the two natures of Christ. This impression has also been the cause leading to the divisions since Chalcedon. But in effect the declaration of the true humanity and the true divinity of Christ can retain its significance only when there is clarification also of the mode of unity of the two natures, which the Council of Chalcedon has defined by the formula of the `one person’ of Christ, at that time not yet fully examined. In fact only that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, where on stands alongside the other, but real compenetration - compenetration between God and man – means salvation for humankind.”

Further on he says: “The Council (of Constantinople III [680-681]) explains this union by saying of the Lord given in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the Council proves the unity of the subject: in Jesus there are not two `I,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the `I;’ this has become his `I,’ has been assumed into his `I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.”

St. Athanasius

“He had then to take a body like ours. This explains the fact of Mary’s presence: she is to provide him with a body of his own, to be offered for our sake. Scripture records her giving birth, and says: She wrapped him swaddling clothes. Her breasts, which fed him, were called blessed. Sacrifice was offered because the child was her firstborn. Gabriel used careful and prudent language when he announced his birth. He did not speak of `what will be born in you’ to avoid the impression that a body would be introduced into her womb from outside; he spoke of `what will be born from you,’ so that we might know by faith that her child originated within her and from her.”

The full humanity being affirmed, Athanasius nevertheless reaffirms the divinity of the one divine Person: “Even when the Word takes a body from Mary, the Trinity remains a Trinity, with neither increase nor decrease. It is for ever perfect. In the Trinity we acknowledge one Godhead, and thus one God, the Father of the Word, is proclaimed in the Church.”

Pius XI and the Dogma of Mary’s Divine Motherhood

“Truly, since the Son of the Virgin Mary is God, she who bore him should rightly and deservedly be called Mother of God. Since the person of Jesus Christ is one and divine, surely Mary is to be called by all not only Mother of Christ the Man, but `Deipara,’ or `Theotokos,’ that is, Mother of God… Moreover, no one can reject this truth, handed down from the first ages of the Church, by saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave Jesus Christ a body, but did no engender the Word of the heavenly Father. Fopr St. Cyril in his day rightly and clearly answers that just as any other woman in whose womb a body, though not the soul, is engendered, is rightly called a mother, so Mary, by reason of the single person of her Son, is truly the Mother of God.”

[1] November 7, 2006 Papal Homily to Swiss Bishops (published Vatican City, Dec. 10, 2006).
[2] Romano Guafdini, “The Lord,” Regnery (1954) 306.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Mary, The Church at the Source,” Ignatius (2005) 89-90.
[4] Ibid. 90.

[1] Athanasius, Epistle “Ad Epictetum,” 5-9; PG 26, 1058, 1062-1066.
[2] Pius XI, Encyclical Lux Veritatis, 25 December 1931.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Dear Father Connor,
I have learned much about Opus Dei through this website. Thank you for this gift and the gift of learning about the role of the gift of self for the lay person. Making that gift in the world. One thing that appears lacking is: do Opus Dei members make the gift of themselves to the poor in the world through charity endeavors?