Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Speculation on Marian Devotion: Hardcore Anglo-catholicism

I come at Roman Catholic praxis from way, way outside; my early contact with Christ came via Jehovah's Witnesses. Thus I do not get that bent out of shape over Spong et al. But in the past I have been quite alarmed at the clear trend in the Roman Catholic Church toward the promulgation of additional Marian dogma which gives her the titles of "Co-redemptrix" and "Mediatrix"; it seemed some might be led into regarding her as somehow divine, as another Christ. So far as I can tell, that is not the intent of the dogma at all, but then one might ask, what is its intent? It seems the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church stands or suffers on exactly this question, at least for those looking in.

I. Statements & the Drive for Promulgating the Dogma

Irenaeus had referred to her as causa salutis rather early on; St. Antonius (c. 300) had said "All graces that have ever been bestowed on men, all came through Mary." "All" is rather strong--and is sure in some quarters to raise eyebrows and ire, no? St. Bernard says Mary is "the gate of heaven, because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through her"; St. Bonaventure speaks at greater length in a very important passage:

As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever it receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces that she receives from the divine sun of justice.

I suppose instances of support from tradition could be multiplied, and it ought to give one pause: is it all just poetic fluff, or is there something more serious here? Consider the line of relatively recent Popes who have promulagted the doctrine:

Pius X: We are then, it will be seen, very far from attributing to the Mother of God a productive power of grace - a power which belongs to God alone. Yet, since Mary carries it over all in holiness and union with Jesus Christ, and has been associated by Jesus Christ in the work of redemption, she merits for us de congruo, in the language of theologians, what Jesus Christ merits for us de condigno, and she is the supreme Minister of the distribution of graces.

Benedict XV: As the Blessed Virgin Mary does not seem to participate in the public life of Jesus Christ, and then, suddenly appears at the stations of his cross, she is not there without divine intention. She suffers with her suffering and dying son, almost as if she would have died herself. For the salvation of mankind, she gave up her rights as the mother of her son and sacrificed him for the reconciliation of divine justice, as far as she was permitted to do. Therefore, one can say, she redeemed with Christ the human race.

Pius XII: It was she, the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam, sin-stained by his unhappy fall, and her mother's rights and her mother's love were included.

JPII: Mary, though conceived and born without the taint of sin, participated in a marvellous way in the suffering of her divine Son, in order to be Co-Redemptrix of humanity....

As she was in a special way close to the cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary's role as Co-Redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son.

Mother Theresa and cardinal O'Connor signed on to Mark Miravalle's drive from the '90s to call on JPII to promulgate the dogma--a drive that has gathered six million signatures from 148 countries, including over 40 cardinals and 500 bishops. That's bigger than GC--and Lambeth, I dare say. The drive continues under Benedict XVI--and opposition to promulgation seems not to come within the RCC on theological grounds, but rather merely pragmatic grounds: the timing is not right; Protestants etc will be unduly alarmed. Ladies and gents, it is only a matter of time. What's going on here?

What's an Anglo-catholic to do? There is a strong case for getting on board, it seems to me.

II. Inside the Dogma, so far as I can tell
The problem is simply that we--and all of creation--are broken off, contrary to our natures, from the Father. The whole point is to get back to him. An additional problem: we are very, very low, and the Father is very, very high--we are bound to mess up the effort to get back to him unless he makes a special effort to "bridge the gap." One could from a Christian point of view look at religions outside the Judeo-Christian line as attempts to get back to the Father that have gone awry in various ways; it is not as if we have not tried, as if we could stop trying. But we will never get it right on our own.

Hence the Advent of the Word in flesh, the Bridge that crosses the Abyss, who makes it possible for us to approach the Source, the One, God as Father, even Daddy. Hence Christ in his
life among us, his Crucifixion and Resurrection, makes it possible for us to return to the Father: he is our Mediator; we could say it in a schema like this:

the Father---the Son---the People

since it would not work to simply leave it as:

the Father---the People.

And I think lots of Christians would be quite happy to leave things at that: Christ is our Mediator; we need a relationship with him, and through him we are reconciled with all creation to the Father--true so far as it goes.

But there's a problem: Christ has ascended. Can't deny it: it's right there in the Creeds, in Scripture, in tradition. And it's obvious to experience: search the world, and you will not find the risen Lord strolling through Jerusalem. Is he just gone then? Has he abandoned us? How could he possibly mediate grace through which we might be reconciled to the Father if he is simply gone? Well, he is present through the Holy Spirit. How exactly? In lots of ways, but most especially in the sacraments, in the Holy Eucharist. So: the mediation of Christ is itself mediated by the Eucharist; but the Eucharist cannot mediate on its own, which is to say our schema is now a bit more complicated:

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

And many more Christians will be happy to leave things at that--and many high Anglicans too, I suspect. Here is where the Marian dogmas come in: the mediation of grace from the Son through the Bishop must itself be mediated--in the salvation economy of this state. But by whom? Mary; hence our schema will look like this:

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

What's the point? Succinctly: 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--of course such partaking is possible only through grace, not by our own fiat.

The point is there is more to the needed discernment than what the intellect alone could possibly provide. What matters is a reception of the sacrament with a will aligned to that of God's--a will suffused with holy charity. Do not partake of the sacrament thinking "Thus I shall escape Hell" or "With this I shall enter heaven" or the like; that is not genuine charity, and signifies a will out of alignment with that of God. It is not genuine love that loves for what one will get in return; such "love" is fallen, suffused with sin, vitiated and of itself without merit. What then? Love God for who God is; when you know that Christ is in the sacrament, you are to love him for who he is, not for what he can do for you.

Yes, an instrumental approach to Christ might be useful as a beginning, but only as a beginning to the reception of the sacrament in grace, where Christ is loved simply for who Christ is: true reception in the Spirit. But how? What would such grace look like from within? Here we come to Mary: Mary free from sin is able to love her son as we fallen are unable to love at all. To the extent we are able to love Christ with genuine charity, we love him with the same type of love that Mary loved him--all through grace of course. We see him with eyes of grace, with her eyes, inasmuch as we can only approach hm through the Gospels, i.e. through the very mysteries by which she knew him. So we should learn to regard Christ with her eyes, with her heart, and in that regard we come to discern him in fullness. Hence the point of developing Marian devotion: one becomes with God's help disposed to charity.

On this view, the Bishop and Priest are--considered strictly--like empty vessels, vehicles conveying grace through the Eucharist and essentially no more. The living content in the Eucharist, the presence of the Lord for us, passes through the lens of Mary--as it were--in the sacrament. After all, one can learn all this from the unordained; a teaching bishop is strictly accidental. Likewise, Bishops and priests are only accidentally fitting models for mimesis; even corrupt clergy may still be vehicles for the Eucharist, but Mary is always a fitting mimetic model.

Anyhow, this is the core of what I can make of the Marian dogmas. There is more, and there are other angles to take, but this one seemed apt.

III. And Anglicans?
To the extent Roman Catholics, driving to promulgate this doctrine, love their neighbors, they will wish to bring their neighbors closer to God, as Christ commanded, for instance. Given the truth of the schema above with Mary playing a role as Mediatrix, promulgating the dogma would be of some importance, especially to fellow Chistians; otherwise they are obstructed from the fullness of reconciliation. Thus pragmatic considerations are of immense import; if Protestants are not ready to receive, promulgation may drive them further into alienation from the Father. How then to prepare them to receive?

It seems to me that the Anglican Communion could contribute something here, even now. On the one hand, its members have succeeded here and there in drawing mainline Protestant fragments together: Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians even. To that extent, modest Anglican devotion to Mary has an opportunity to grow in other mainline churches. And to the extent that succeeds, the right time, the kairos, for promulgation draws nearer. To the extent, however, the AC is drawn over into a modern, Calvinist orbit, one wherein Marian devotions are dismissed with scorn, that day recedes further away.


At 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article is interesting but misses out on the Holy Spirit.

God is Trinity ; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God.

The Trinity is Love, the ''producer of grace''. Therefore Christ is not only a mediator of Grace, but also a prime contributor and benefactor of it.

The Holy Spirit brings this love back to mankind, inside the Church, and seals and signifies the Divine Love of the Father and the Son.

Of course, Mary is only the Mother of God and is a creature in the best sense of the word.

But she is also the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, having made possible the incarnation.

She is the closest human witness to the Eternal Word that is the Triune Lord.

Therefore, she has a very special role as an emissary to humanity, a ''mediatrix'' if you like.

Mary, ever Immaculate, prayed to Christ during his Passion, beared Him in the womb, lifted up his Divine Body and accompanied the Apostles throughout the Pentecost, having been carried out to Heaven during her Assumption.

Therefore, because of her huge role in the hisotry of salvation, it is most appropirate that she be called co-redemptrix.

At 12:42 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Spouse of the Holy Spirit--interesting; you are right to say that I missed that.

On Christ: yes, grace is created by all three persons, and Christ is a recipient of grace in his huamn nature. But I had thought his particular mission--given the fall--was one of reconciliation. True, inasmuch as he reconciles to God and is God, he reconciles us to himself. But he is sent, whereas the Father is not sent. Thus, doesn't it seem that reconcilation to God the Son contributes to reconciliation to God the Father, whereas reconciliation to God the Father is especially an effect of reconcilation to the Son? That is, there seems to be an important asymmetry between God the Father and God the Son in teh economy of salvation.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Christopher said...


First, with regard to the Ascension, a number of theories have obtained even in Anglicanism. Just look at the traditional versus the newer collect for that Feast. Personally, I think Christ ascends to fill all things, so the schema you lay out isn't necessarily so, and isn't necessarily Patristic either.

Secondly, where is the Holy Spirit in your schema. This looks like a Medieval Scholastic model when the HS completely dropped out of our thinking. The strong and renewed Trinitarianism of the 20th/21st century coupled with that of the strong Anglican emphasis largely inherited from Eastern sources in our reforms cannot be ignored.

Thirdly, Eastern Orthdox hold the Theotokos in very high esteem and yet are also wary of these Roman dogmas.

Fourthly, I might add that your F-S-Bishop-people schema is not necessarily the only Anglican model. Many Reformed Patristic models building on 1549 would have it that the Word (i.e., Institution Narrative) and the Holy Spirit make present our Lord mediated in bread and wine, which makes the Word rather than the bishop the mediating factor per se.

I love the BVM, and have a strong devotion to her in the Ave Maria, but for me these additional dogma and the schema you outline go to far. At best these are pious speculations, at worst, they tend to get in the way of core doctrinal emphases, like the Holy Trinity.

I might add that Luther had a strong devotion to the BVM, even composing hymns to her, and this has received some renewal in our time.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I might add that the "traditional" collect is a composition of Cranmer and shows his Reformed tendency that the Lord's Body is in heaven. The latter and newer is more Lutheran and perhaps Armenian in some sense.

Personally, taking on Iranaeus and the Cappadocians, I think of the Word and Spirit as always at work in Creation together as the two hands of God, and thus, would be loathe to think of the body of our Resurrected Lord as incapable of this omnipresence.

At 12:33 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Thanks for the comments. I am not that sure about these Marian dogmas, but they just very recently struck me as dogmas making sense, for which one could make a decent case. And other things fall into place: reflection on them seems to motivate the male-only priesthood and the celibacy of that priesthood, as well as papal infallibility. From the POV of the RCC, these dogmas are near the center and should not be seen as curious or innocent oddities--and no negotiation is likely to have a chance of dislodging them.

Anyhow, to your points:
(to the 2nd)Where is the HS? The schema could be re-written "F-S-HS-People". The HS is present especially in the life of the Church--but my point is that the presence of the HS in the Church is chiefly sacramental, esp. in the Eucharist. But the Eucharist--and the HS--cannot properly function without discernment of the Body, and that, in this order, requires Mary. And again, that is the greatest work of the HS--who is, one might say, her spouse.

(to the 3rd & 4rth)I think the East accepts two of four promulgated Marian dogmas--perpetual virginity and the mother of God; I don't know what Anglicans accept. But what is the point of bringing up this plurality? Promulgation of Marian dogma might be a special charism of the RCC, in which case we might not expect the Eastern Orthodox--or Anglicans--to go as far in accepting that dogma. The RCC might see itself as being tasked with bringing the rest of Christianity to belief in these dogmas, and Anglo-catholics would seem to constitute part of that effort with regard to Protestantism. What matters most--or should matter most--for Anglo-catholics is not whom the Episcopal Church is blessing or ordaining, but fidelity to the special charism of the RCC. The rest would follow, if it follows.

(to the 1rst) However Christ fills all things, he does not do so by a hypostatic union. We can speak of an absence from our domain of anything bearing such a union with the Word--even in the union of Eucharistic elements with the person of Christ.

(to the comment @3:16)Omnipresence is effected by divinity, or by all three persons, Father/Son/Holy Spirit, and not any proper subset alone--at least there is a strong consensus for that view.

Reformed tendencies in Cranmer...well, what can one say? Nobody's perfect.

At 12:45 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Let's approach this from another direction. If I were a RC bishop petitioned to admit someone outside my communion to Eucharist, I'd ask these questions:

(1)Do you acecpt the Real Presence of Christ your Lord and Savior?
(2)Do you accept the Immaculate Conception and Ascension of Mary?
(3)Do you accept Mary as Co-Redemptrix and Mediator?

A "Yes" to (1) and (2) would be necessary for receiving the Eucharistic elements, though there is a chance one might say "No" to (2) yet have already taken on the spiritual substance of what a "Yes" would have implied--the risk would be too great.

A "No" to (3) could be tolerated as long as we had assent to (1) and (2)--but as bishop I'd take it as a moment where I would be obligated to teach the fifth Marian dogma, even if conversion were not immediate.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I would say that the same goes for the East, many Reformed Patristic types like myself, and Protestants, that holding these as obligatory is a deal breaker.

I'm reminded of the Anglican, all can, some do, some cannot.

You spiritualize the Body by do this approach. The Body to which Paul refers is those all around us. To use this phrase means contextualizing it with the whole of Chapter 1 Cor 11. Until sometime during the Medieval Eucharistic debates, the Mystical Presence was in the Eucharist and the Real Presence was in the gathered believers. This reversal has good points, but it has also led to problems. I see no need to emphasize Mary in order to discern Jesus Christ, though I think she can help. I think that this is the balance, that I can as an Anglican recognize the full faith of my Evangelical kin who approaches the throne of grace straightthrough as well as the Anglocatholic who goes through Mary. I would say that some RCC emphasis seems to want to reverse the flow of Mary pointing to Christ, and is rooted more in popular piety theologized, rather than starting with first things.

In the East, the title of Theotokos is not a Marian dogma, it is properly a Christological dogma from the Council of Ephesus defending Jesus' full humanity. And I think this gets to the bottom line for me, mariology is a subset of christology, not the other way around. Perpetual virginity is taught, but not speculated upon. The East teaches the Dormition rather than Assumption, and leaves this to piety rather than necessary teaching for salvation (again, that fine line). The Immaculate Conception, the result of a deformed Augustinianism, is absolutely frowned upon as the East has a different understanding of Original Sin.

What matters most--or should matter most--for Anglo-catholics is not whom the Episcopal Church is blessing or ordaining, but fidelity to the special charism of the RCC. The rest would follow, if it follows. Anglocatholicism is not necessarily in step with Roman Catholicism either. I think to put these two so close together might cut out folks like, say, Derek. Anglocatholicism has its own charisms, some of them might be in tandem with Rome and others not.

However Christ fills all things, he does not do so by a hypostatic union. We can speak of an absence from our domain of anything bearing such a union with the Word--even in the union of Eucharistic elements with the person of Christ.

How does this adequately get at the reception of Christ's saving humanity? His risen humanity is always in union with him? When we receive, we receive the whole of him, or at least that's my understanding.

(to the comment @3:16)Omnipresence is effected by divinity, or by all three persons, Father/Son/Holy Spirit, and not any proper subset alone--at least there is a strong consensus for that view.

There is no subset in Trinitarian thinking per se because of interpenetration. If one of the Persons is present, the character and qualities of the whole are attendant.

I'm sorry, but saying Mary is Mediator is severely problematic in Christology. An Orthodox theologian interviewed on the matter concurred with the Protestants in this regard. There is one Mediator, Jesus Christ. As a bishop if you took up the obligation of that teaching at this point, you would be in error. It is not obligatory even for Roman Catholics.

At 5:19 AM, Blogger Tony Hunt said...

As an off but still-on the subject, I think that a bit of Mariology in a theorized union (what type of static I am not so sure) would be an open door to move the RCC to accept lady Priests. Even though as you mentioned Mariology tends to support a masculine priesthood. How is it that a woman can give us the very real flesh and blood of the Word 2000 years ago but a woman cannot now give it at an altar?

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Derek the ├ćnglican said...

I've put up a post in response since I missed it first go-around...

At 2:13 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Good question, a.d. hunt.

There is no bar at all to a female friesthood, speaking of God's absolute power--he could even now have ordained from eternity that there be female priests.

The matter is one of the contingent order here below, and in that order as received by the RCC grace mediated by the bishops is itself mediated by Mary.

That implies--I think--a certain arrangement of symbols. The chaste bishop essentially points beyond to Mary and through her to Christ. His chastity is a kind of being-barren that will never end, first in that the bishop is a man and cannot issue a child through his body, and second in that as chaste he will have no line through a woman. As such, it symbolizes an absolute dependence on the prior position of Mary and Christ.

It is as if the bishop were to say "I am utterly not the story here, except insofar as I by being so barren manage to make myself not the story; Christ is the story, and you can apprehend that through contemplating Mary, not me."

A woman is of the wrong type to occupy that place in the symbolic order: she is qua woman not barren. Giving her that part in the play creates dissonance--and to the extent one takes Marian devotion seriously, the dissonance is inexusable, ceteris paribus.

With Protestants things may be different.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Judging from RC hesitation over promulgating a fifth dogma, it may well be the dogma is recognized as a "deal breaker" and the RC is biding its time, perhaps hoping to generally bring the hesitant to a position of receptivity.

I'm not certain of the truth here, but I'll try to answer from a RC-point of view; I am almost sure to come up short.

Suppose we admit two senses of "Body": Body-1 for the presence of Christ specifically in the Eucharist, and Body-2 for the Church as the Body of Christ. It seems these are connected, so that normally there is a Body-2 through the Body-1. That is, there is no Body to discern at all in the sense of a Church if that "community" is sans Eucharist--ceteris paribus. There is a case to be made for discerning the Body-1 as a condition of being in the Body-2, such that there is a Body-2 to discern. There are other conditions, like Baptism.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say discerning the Body-1 cannot merely consist in assent to propositional dogma. The one receiving should be in a certain condition--baptized, but more than that even. The receptivity proper to discerning the Word requires the person be a certain way that the person can only be through divine grace; we might call that way X.

For the Marians of the RCC, it would seem Mary is the paradigm of X. So, to the extent one instantiates X, one becomes like Mary, or one comes to have the heart of Mary--her heart being the relevant measure.

You may want to say Christ is the sufficient measure of receptivity--and that is correct. However, though he is in every way human, he is also more than human: he has two essences, he has two wills, he has two intellects, his person is divine--and one of those essences, wills, and intellects in each case is infinite, exceeding ours beyond any finite measure. It had to be this way, one might say, so that salvation could be effected: what was not assumed was not saved. That's a hard saying, but there's tradition behind it, so let it slide for the moment.

The Marian might say that out of God's infinite mercy and love for his creatures and for his Son Incarnate, God did more than he had to in providing a paradigm in Mary. Mary is more like you than the Son is like you, and so she can function as a fitting advocate and model, even if her functioning that way is not strictly necessary.

That is just to say imitation is transitive. It's like this:

(1) Mary imitates Christ better than you and I will be able to here below.

(2) We can more easily imitate Mary than Christ here below.

(3) So: we imitate Mary intending to imitate Christ, Mary imitates Christ, we imitate Christ.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

christopher, on your other points:

I'm going to agree that Anglo-catholicism and Anglicanism in general has its own tasks and talents, its own charism, quite apart from serving the RCC.

But the reception of Christ in the Eucharist is a mystery; I'm hesitant here. There's more to say on this, but it deserves its own posts. My apologies; I'll agree the post was inadequate on that whole issue.

I feel better insisting that there can be a proper subset of divine Persons, even given perichoresis, inasmuch as it seems perichiresis is consistent with real distinction. For instance, the Father and Spirit are not sent in the mission of the Son.

Well, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to convince you here about Mary--alas!


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