1 May 2010

Mary Month: a contribution from (Bl) John Henry Newman.

Newman intriguingly argued that the Arians, who were prepared to use the most extravagant language about our Lord while firmly denying that he is coequal in his divinity to the Father, accustomed Christians to believe in an exalted yet created mediator. They were condemned by the Church, on the grounds that Christ is God and thus, like the Father, Uncreated. So the question arose : who is the merely created being that really does occupy, in God's will, the lofty place which was still considered infinitely too lowly for the Divine Word? Now read on.

[The Arians] left Him a creature and were found wanting. Thus there was a 'wonder in heaven': a throne was seen, far above all created powers, mediatorial, intercessory; a title archetypal; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the Eternal throne; robes pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all; and who was the predestined heir of that Majesty? Since it was not high enough for the Highest, who was that Wisdom, and what was her name, 'the Mother of fair love, and fear, and holy hope', 'exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and a rose-plant in Jericho', 'created from the beginning before the world' in God's counsels, and 'in Jerusalem was her power'? The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The votaries of Mary do not exceed the true faith, unless the blasphemers of her Son came up to it. The Church of Rome is not idolatrous, unless Arianism is orthodoxy.

Newman goes on to argue that it was thus, during the period of the Arian controversy, that it was 'determined, that to exalt a creature was no recognition of its divinity'; and to speak of those in his own day who condemned devotion to Mary as (unconsciously) heretics. 'It is not wonderful ... if those who never rise higher in their notions of our Lord's Divinity, than to consider Him a man singularly inhabited by a Divine Presence, that is, a Catholic Saint, - if such men should mistake the honour paid by the Church to the human Mother for that very honour which, and which alone, is worthy of her Eternal Son.


Joshua said...

Would not St Maximilian Kolbe's daring statement - that Our Lady is almost the incarnation of the Holy Ghost - fall into this same category? With holy daring he simply put most arrestingly the thought that she was so guided and governed by God's Spirit as to be in moral union with Him, though she and the Paraclete remained two separate persons: which is more or less what Nestorius asserted of Jesus Christ as being a very holy man in moral union with the Person of the Eternal Word. Indeed, living a life suffused by the Holy Spirit is what the saints are called to, as St Philip Neri rather alarmingly demonstrated...

tap said...

Joshua, interesting take on St. Kolbes words, thanks.

Joshua said...

Don't mention it!

Fr H., what do you make of that Polish Franciscan's notions - do you see any resemblance to the Sophiology of the Russian emigres that was developed at around the same time?

Joshua said...

I've found a passage by Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov whose theological exposition seems so like St Maximilian Kolbe's idea of Mary Most Holy:

"There is no personal, human incarnation of the third Person of the Trinity. But although the third Person is not personally incarnated as a human being in the same sense as the Son of God was, there is that one human, created personality which is the vessel filled by the Holy Spirit. She so completely surrendered her human, personal life as to make it transparent to the Holy Spirit, testifying about herself, 'Behold he handmaid of the Lord.' This being — the Blessed Virgin — is not the personal incarnation of the Holy Spirit but becomes his personal, living receptacle, an absolutely Spirit-bearing creature [Pneumatophoros?], a Spirit-bearing human being. For although there is no personal incarnation of the Spirit, there may be such a thing as personal Spirit-bearing, in which a created personality is completely surrendered in its createdness and is, as it were, dissolved in the Holy Spirit. This interpretation [sic; lege 'interpenetration'?] by the Spirit amounts to a change of kind. The Virgin is wholly deified, full of grace, 'a living temple of God'. Such a Spirit-bearing personality radically differs from the God-man, for she is a creature, but she differs as radically from the creation in its createdness, for she is raised and united to the divine life. And through this spiritualization is realized the image of God in man. It must therefore be admitted that in heaven the human figure of the Mother of God, together with that of the God-man Jesus, jointly manifest the integral pattern of man. The ikon of our Lady and her Child, the Logos and the creature receiving him and filled with the Holy Spirit, in indivisible unity forms the pattern of man in his integrity. The God-man and the Spirit-bearer, the Son and the Mother, manifesting the revelation of the Father through the Word and the Spirit, manifest the fullness of God's copy in man, or, the other way round, of the pattern of man in God."

— from S.N. Bulgakov, The Burning Bush (Kupina Heopalimaya) (1927), quoted, translated from the end of pp. 137-142 in the original Russian, in A Bulgakov Anthology, J. Pain & N. Zernov, edd. (London: SPCK, 1976), 92.