7 October 2015

Our Lady of Victories (2)

If the title of our Lady of Victories apparently seemed a bit over-the-top even to a sixteenth century pope, it seems all the more inapposite to our age. Triumphalism is a dirty word to the twenty-first century Church. And not only a dirty word, it's a forbidden concept. Not for us that great canvas of Rubens in the Prado - the Triumph of the Church - with the heretics squirming in helpless agony under the inexorable chariot wheels of Ecclesia Triumphatrix. Not for our age Tiepolo's ceiling in the Carmelite Church in Venice, with the imperious and Gloriosa Domina looking down an almost haughty nose as she's carried in glory by clouds and angels, riding, as if it were on a supercelestial surfboard, standing on the Holy House of Nazareth as it flies to Loreto. No: our age looks to a humbler Virgin; Mary the model of obedience; Mary, the norm of the disciple; Mary, the Woman of Faith. Triumphalism is not of our age. We've been cut down to size. Ecclesia Triumphatrix has been replaced by Ecclesia Famulatrix - although I bet Orthodoxy, not so quick to lose her nerve, still celebrates dominically the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Good for them! But for Westerners, who have suffered a collective loss of confidence, the Church is the Servant Church, the only society, we have been rather foolishly informed, which exists to 'serve' those who are not members.

But readers of Scripure might have their occasional nagging doubts about this proscribing of all Triumphalism. The Magnificat, for example, the song of the tapeinos, the lowly one, suggests that the Lord has hupsosen, highly exalted, her. And the woman of the Apocalypse, crowned with stars and adorned with the Sun, whether she be the Messiah's Mother or his nurturing community or both, seems to my eye to have had more than a dollop of Triumphalism ladled over her. Our Lady, after all, is, as we Latins have been taught to sing, victorious over heresies: "Thou alone hast put down all heresies in the whole world". The truth of Theotokos secures the Incarnation of a real God against the heresy of Islam; it guarantees that the Rabbi from Nazareth possesses an unpronounceable Hebrew Name written but not spoken in four silent letters. Since God has entered his world in the flesh, that Kosmos, created by him and redeemed, is itself good; let Manichee therefore stop his mouth.

Ends a little later today, around supper time.


Sue Sims said...

Indeed. If I hear one more homilist telling me that our Blessed Lady (always referred to simply as 'Mary') is special because she said 'Yes' to God (with the implied corollary that this is the only reason she is 'special'), I shall scream.

Well, no, I won't, because of Good Behaviour in Church, but you know what I mean.

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Father Hunwicke to the Synod!

Much affection from your monastic friends in County Meath.