16 August 2016

Assumptive collects

Forgive, O Lord the offenses of thy servants, that we who by our own deeds are not able to be pleasing unto thee, may by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord [God] be saved.

Thus a literal translation of the collect which, until Pius XII, was said on Assumption day; after the 1950 proclamation of the dogma of our Lady's Corporal Assumtion, it was replaced by a collect more explicitly asserting the corporality of her Assumption. Incidentally, the word [God] appears in earlier texts and I think it ought to be restored because in this age of weakened faith we ought to lose no opportunity of hammering home the Godness, which is not a misprint for goodness, complete and unambiguous, of the rabbi from Nazareth. This old collect, by the way, survives as one among the options in the new rites for the Common of our Lady, and for use on Saturdays, and for August 5, now seen as the commemoration of the Ephesine definition of Theotokos.

Another reason why this collect might give pause for thought is its apparent assertion that we are 'saved' by the intercession of our Lady. A trifle (as some Anglicans might put it) 'extreme'? I do think this needs unpacking. And so I would make two points. (1) Earlier tradition asks the question "why was she assumed?", and gives an answer quite different from that offered by some modern theologians (i.e. that being immaculate she was not subject to death). She was assumed that she might intercede for us. You will find this in a sermon of the great hesychast Father S Gregory Palamas. This Eastern idea appears also in Western texts such as the Gregorian Sacramentary: "Great, O Lord, in the sight of thy loving kindness is the prayer of the Mother of God, whom thou didst translate from this present age for this reason, that (idcirco ut) she might effectually intercede for our sins before thee". "Let the help, O Lord, of the prayer of the Mother of God come to the aid of thy people; although we know that after the condition of the flesh she left this world, may we know that she prays for us before thee in heavenly glory".

And, (2), I feel we should give a broad sense to the word intercession. Yes, it means that she prays for us. But it also means that Mary came between (cessit inter) God and Man when by her fiat she gave birth to the Divine Redeemer. And, in Mary, function and ontology merge; she is eternally what she was in the mystery of the Incarnation.What she did at Nazareth and Bethlehem is what in the Father's eternal creative utterance she is. And so these two senses of 'intercession' are really one.

That is, surely, the root of the dogma of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces.


mark wauck said...

I feel like Rip Van Winkle. Since when did Mediatrix of all Graces become a dogma? I prefer to base my understanding of intercession in the light of Hebrews 4:16, rather than Palamite theology.

Don Camillo SSC said...

Father, I don't quite follow why our Lady's bodily Assumption is necessary in order for her to be our intercessor.

Matthew Roth said...

It is already a doctrine to be held definitively.

Anonymous said...

@mark wauk; Without Mary there is no Jesus. And in him is every grace. She was no mere vessel to bring him into the world to be cast aside once he was born. Throughout his life on earth and now in heaven, having recieved the fullness of redemption, she collaborates with his saving work as “Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix” [Lumen Gentium 8] beyond the measure of any saint. No one comes to the Father but through Christ and no one comes to Christ but through Mary whether or not they acknowledge that or are conscious of it at the moment. I see no contradiction between that and Hebrews 4:16.

On the right of the Throne of Mercy stands the Queen in Gold of Ophir, the King's holy mother pleading and praying for all those who are called to be born in the image and likeness of her Son. The title Mediatrix of all Graces may not yet be formally defined by a papal statement, but her liturgical feast is celebrated and approved in the Church's calendar. It does feel a bit Protestant to suggest that this contradicts scriptural affirmations of Our Lord as the One Mediator with the Father. Surely the intercessions of the saints participate in that one mediation, amplifying rather than diminishing his glory and his mercy as it fills the fullness of his Mystical Body? Our Lady's intercession is with her Son, not directly the Father independently of Christ. Her intercession is uniquely universal from the nature of her unparalleled intimacy with his Person and his mission. And we have Jesus' own words from the Throne of Mercy itself: "Son, behold your Mother!".

William said...

I can't help but agree with Don Camillo (above) and alwelborn (on a previous thread). Do not all the other saints intercede for us? Is their intercession in any way less effective, or compromised, as a result of their (temporary) incorporeality? If not, what is the basis for the teaching expressed by that idcirco ut?

Unknown said...

A pertinent question might be how devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary could have ever been a tangible devotion for us humans to grasp here on earth, were Our Blessed Mother not to have been assumed both body and soul into Heaven.

Remember Blaise Pascal's quote? . . ."The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."

The promise that, "In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph", would surely appear to lose much of its impetus if our Blessed Mother had not been assumed both body and soul into Heaven.

Banshee said...

St. Bob on earth can intercede for others with both his body and soul, but they are still the imperfect body and soul of a sinner.

The glorious St. Bob in heaven has a perfect soul that no longer has sin; but his body is separated from it, and can't intercede for us except in a relic way.

The Blessed Virgin Mary can intercede for us with both soul and body.

Don Camillo SSC said...

I do not question either our Lady's bodily Assumption or her universal intercession, I merely ask why the latter is supposed to be somehow dependent upon the former.

mark wauck said...

Lots of interesting comments. I'd like to simply add that, to me, this business of proclaiming dogmas 18 or 19 or 20 centuries after the fact seems a pretty dubious proceeding--especially when advanced by self-proclaimed "traditionalists."

@ Grumpy Beggar:

"Remember Blaise Pascal's quote? ... 'The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.'"

Appeals to unreason are, IMO, dubiously Catholic. In my own turn I would appeal to that justly famous cleric with a face “as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling": ‘You attacked reason. It’s bad theology.'

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"I do not question either our Lady's bodily Assumption or her universal intercession, I merely ask why the latter is supposed to be somehow dependent upon the former."

By parallel with Her Son's Ascension for "basically same" reason.

It is more polite for an intercessor to be present in bodily person.

One could of course add that Heaven = heavenly Jerusalem = Kingdom of Judah = where the King's MOTHER is the Queen, so there is a monarchic reason too, but not sure if that totally differs from intercessionary one.