January 1, 2013

Motherhood of Mary

The Martyrology is marvelous today:

The octave of the Nativity of the Lord and the day of his Circumcision, the solemnity of holy Mary, Mother of God, whom the Fathers at the Council of Ephesus acclaimed Theotokos, for from her the Word took flesh and the Son of God lived among human beings, he who is the prince of peace, to whom a Name above all names is given.

It's all in there: the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the octave of Christmas, the feast of the Circumcision, (which continues to be celebrated today in the Extraordinary Form), the feast of the Holy Name, of course associated with the circumcision but now having migrated to January 3, and even the the World Day of Peace, given to us by Pope Venerable Paul VI.

I know that the Motherhood of Mary, now today's principal title, is a restoration of something older and more venerable, but I've still sometimes wished that we could have the feast of the Lord's Circumcision. Maybe it's because the circumcision of my older nephew was one of the most interesting rituals I have ever been privileged to attend.

I think about this very bodily ritual by which Jesus of Nazareth was brought into the covenant of Abraham and I'm led to contemplate the mystery of his human body, out of the flesh of Mary, as the hinge that joins the old creation to the new.

I think about this sometimes at Holy Communion. It's clear that the Body of Christ we receive is not the finite, historical body of Jesus of Nazareth. (This is why I consider misled and confused those priests who replace 'behold the Lamb of God' at Communion with 'this is Jesus...') The Body we receive is Christ risen into the Sacraments of his Church. The wonder and marvelous mystery--as well as the stumbling block--of it all is that this Risen Body is continuous with the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, executed on the Cross.

By our Holy Communion, we too become sharers in this mystery. We are made citizens of the new creation and are offered the grace to become new, renovated creatures, the grace of eyes to see new hope in the midst of the aimlessness and violence of the world. But at the same time we remain, in some sense, children of Adam and Eve, laboring under the confusions, pathologies, and injuries that are the whole human legacy of brutality and sin to which we are the latest heirs. Christianity makes us into very curious beings, blessed messes, weeds and wheat, rejoicing in our newly-granted citizenship in the new creation but still struggling with everything that continues to bind us to the old.


Friar 1: "How's your life, Father?"

Friar 2: "My life? There is no longer 'my life' but Christ who lives in me."

Friar 1: "I think Christ is a little cranky today."

It's cute, but I think it captures something. Despite the dual citizenship of the Christian, member of the 'Israel of God' which nonetheless is still in pilgrimage in history, he is not two people, but one. From the Cross Jesus gave us his mother to be our mother. By our burial into his death in baptism, we are reborn of Mary. We become the offspring of her 'fruitful virginity,' itself the great sign of the dawning new creation.

And yet it is the child of Eve who becomes a child of Mary, and the 'inner child' that was born of Eve remains. Miserable as he necessarily is, I need to treat him like the spoiled, short-sighted, tantrum-throwing brat that original sin has made him. I have to put him in 'time out' when it's time to pray and when I'm called to any kind of delicate and difficult charity for my neighbor. But I also have to look upon him with some fondness, not hating him, and not treating him with the contempt which only makes his wounds fester all the more, for he also is me.

1 comment:

Judy Kallmeyer said...

May the Mother of God be very present to you as you live your life making Jesus present in flesh again!