Thursday, August 21, 2008

erga veritatem

In reply to Derek's Contra Scotistam I, I'd like to defend some of the points I made earlier about Mary--though I have to reinterate my disavowal of expertise and experience. Others with more exposure to Mariology should do better than I can, or at least be more accurate; caveat lector.

Doctrine develops, and it develops naturally from devotion.

Whence the Chalcedonian definition? I should say: development from reflection on sacred text, sacred practice, and secondary theology--development that worked. Verily, saying

Thus, early devotion to the BVM as I see it was not fundamentally about doctrine. [But is any devotion fundamentally about doctrine?] Yes, there certainly was doctrine about the BVM, but as Christopher notes, it was in relation to Christology

would not preclude that early devotion developing into a separate doctrine, even a true doctrine. The contingent historical practices of ancient patronage making that early devotion intelligible as an historical phenomenon need not be essential parts of the developed doctrine. Just so, contemporary doctrine articulating the need for obedience to the last commandment of the Decalogue does not require taking women as property; nor do the inital commandments require henotheism. And rightly so.

One may see Mary as the Church--"here is your mother"--in SoS commentaries and elsewhere; that symbolism is consistent with taking Mary to be Mediatrix. In fact, it seems to set up a structure crying out for just such doctrine. The schema I threw around was:

the Father---the Son---Mary---the Bishop(---the Priest)---the People.

Nothing precludes the schema being elaborated thus:

the Father--the Son--the Church [Mary--....].

That would be to say the Father is normally mediated to the people through the Son only in the Church, where Mary represents the Church before Christ.

The gist of what Derek wants to say, the main point I think, is here:

The bottom line for me is this: Yes, Anglicans should honor Mary, giving her the veneration she is due....But does this mean we must embrace modern Roman dogmas in her regard, especially the contentious issue of “co-redemptrix”? I think not. Yes, our salvation comes through her as she bore the Christ and shared with him her humanity, but redemption proper is a function of the Uncreated Godhead. If she were to be “co-redemptrix” for her role, by extension the patriarchs must also become “co-redeemers” for their role in the unfolding of salvation according to both the flesh and the spirit. (And you won’t see the Roman church pushing for that anytime soon…) So, devotion to Mary? By all means. Scholastic dogmas of Mary? Unnecessary, I think. Illicit? No, I don’t think that either—but not required.

First, I do not think that the argument beginning with "If she were to be "co-redemptrix"... is sound. What the Roman church pushes or does not push for is not a necessary criterion for how doctrine should develop. More importantly, the roles of the Patriarchs differed from that of Mary. While they contributed to the history of salvation, their contribution was significantly different from Mary's. In virtue of that difference, her contribution might merit a different title.

Well, what's the difference? Picture Mary and Abraham witnessing the life of Jesus. They would see the same events of the very same life, but they would see them differently inasmuch as Mary has a connection to Jesus that Abraham does not simply from the fact she is his mother and he is not.

You might say--and this is very close to my main point--Abraham knows something like what Mary knows when he takes Isaac away to be sacrificed. Kierkegaard mentions this likeness in Fear and Trembling, though he does not make anything of it in terms of Marian doctrine: both Abraham and Mary are paradigms of faith. In Kierkegaard's treatment, Abraham's first-person experience of taking Isaac out to be sacrificed matters; indeed it is essential to the truth God wishes to communicate in Genesis 18 et al.

Just so, Mary's first-person experience of Jesus' life matters. Is it essential to the truth God wishes to communicate?

It seems Derek would say "No!" here. That is, it seems according to him you do not need to see Jesus as she saw him; nothing essential to the faith is gained by it. Whatever she knew of Jesus that was peculiar to her is a remainder that well remains with her alone, with no ultimately significant loss to us.

Of course I disagree with this hypothetical Derek, and say "Yes". Genuine faith in Jesus requires grace, at least so that we might regard the object of our belief, the Jesus of the Gospels--Jesus as Mary knew him--with grace. That is, not as a patron with whom I negotiate a mutual exchange or from whom I first and foremost get what I want, but as beloved.

Of course Abraham and Mary are not exactly parallels: e.g. Abraham's faith was not formed by the actual sacrifice of Isaac; Mary was not so fortunate with Jesus; Mary saw the life of Jesus unfold with a type of grace that Abraham lacked in seeing Isaac. So far as I can tell, these differences would intensify the significance of Mary's first-person experience of Jesus. Coming to regard Jesus as beloved, in grace, is sharing the most relevant and essential aspect of Mary's experience of Jesus. There is no other type of love fitting for him.

I call having this love for Jesus that Mary had "having the heart of Mary", and then went on to say:

anyone who partakes of the Eucharist without the heart of Mary fails to discern the Body in its fullness, and fails to partake with the fullness of meritorious faith.

That still seems right to me. If it is, then there is a sense in which grace is mediated to the Church through Mary, though that grace does not originate with her, and the work of redemption Christ completed is not her work.