Friday, January 1, 2016

Who's More "Blessed": The Theotokos or Those Who Hear the Word of God?

With 2016 finally off the ground, the Church today celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. It's fitting that our first Holy Day of the year celebrates she who brought Christ into the world, setting the process of our salvation into action. But there's always been this one quote from the Gospels that I had a hard time understanding, and fortunately, it was clarified today at Mass by the priest in his homily. The passage I'm talking about is found in the Gospel of Luke:
...a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to [Jesus], “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts that nursed You!” But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it!” (Lk 11: 27-28)
In my mind, when I hear this read aloud, it almost seems like Christ is dismissing the importance of His mother. But of course, I know much better than that due to the various titles Mary has been given throughout the ages, and he special role as the most prominent intercessor for us before God. I knew I was probably missing something, and would often forget to delve into the matter more deeply, mainly because I knew it wasn't something to be worried about or taken in the context that many Protestants view it today. So what exactly is Christ saying then?

Icon of the Theotokos outside Hajdudorog, Hungary
Father made it apparent today that there are two failings that Catholic people have towards Mary in modern times. One is putting too much emphasis on her, deifying her as a fourth person of the Trinity, and looking at her in such a way that one thinks, "Oh, she's really holy, that's nice", instead of looking at her as the greatest of saints in the Communion of Saints and concluding that, "Hey, I should really model myself off of her since she's a creature just like me!" The other failing is putting too little emphasis on her intercession, and not noting that she has been crowned the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and that her role as Mediatrix puts her in a very special position. In Lumen Gentium, Bl. Pope Paul VI and the Council Fathers of Vatican II mention that,
"...the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adiutrix, and Mediatrix. This however it to be so understood that it takes nothing away, or adds nothing to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator."
Not to mention, her title of Theotokos, which literally means "God-bearer" makes it obvious that Mary should be given a place of prominence which makes her worthy of the title Queen of all saints. So what really made sense to me in this whole explanation was when St. Augustine was brought up. The quote used was from a work of his called Of Holy Virginity, where he says the following (emphases mine):
What else teaching us, than to prefer to kindred after the flesh, our descent after the Spirit: and that men are not blessed for this reason, that they are united by nearness of flesh unto just and holy men, but that, by obeying and following, they cleave unto their doctrine and conduct. Therefore Mary is more blessed in receiving the faith of Christ, than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. For to a certain one who said, Blessed is the womb, which bare You, He Himself made answer, Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God, and keep it. Lastly, to His brethren, that is, His kindred after the flesh, who believed not in Him, what profit was there in that being of kin? Thus also her nearness as a Mother would have been of no profit to Mary, had she not borne Christ in her heart after a more blessed manner than in her flesh.
Polyptych of St Augustine- Piero della Francesca
Are the wheels turning now? This makes perfect sense, and I don't know how I didn't put two and two together before. But hey, when you have a Church that is nearly 2,000 years old, and with such great minds as St. Augustine, how could every question that has come up NOT been addressed by now? Mary isn't so much venerated for the fact that she carried God, her Creator, in her womb; she is venerated for her Fiat, for saying "Yes!" to God and to His Will, for staying true to his commands and teachings throughout her sinless life. So it's like Christ is saying, "Hey, it's great that my mom gave birth to me, but you know what really made her blessed? It wasn't just carrying me for nine months and then bearing me; it was the fact she heard my Father and keeps His commands. You should do likewise."

It's apparent that this who act of doing likewise... THIS is why we as Catholics give such honor to Mary; this is why we give her this hyperdulia. She is the perfect model, and as we know she is Heaven, who better to ask for prayers to the Lord our God than His mother?

Another thought that popped into my brain while writing this: I can't remember where I heard this, but when I did it gave me another "a-HA!" moment as hearing that St. Augustine quote did. So, we all know that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is the Bride of Christ. We also call the Church, "Holy Mother Church"; obviously these two titles make it apparent the Church is referred to in the feminine. Otherwise, how else could Christ be called the Divine Bridegroom? It's also elementary to most Catholics that we, each individual person on Earth, Purgatory, and in Heaven make up the Church. In other words we ARE the Church. In this way, we should all especially follow Mary's example of being both a mother and one who keeps the Word of God. Yes, this applies even to males. We should want to bring people who are outside of the Church back home; that would be by our words, our actions, our charity, and our love. We should bring these people back to Holy Mother Church. Have you preached the Gospel to a lapsed Catholic, or a non-Catholic Christian? And have they been received into the Church thanks in part to your reflection of the Gospel? Then you have been a mother to them! A mother that hears and keeps the Word of God! Perhaps I didn't explain it as well or succinctly as I had first heard, but hopefully that sums it up. If I do come across the source again, I'll be sure to post it here. At the very least, I hope this makes apparent the reason that we are supposed to imitate Mary. There was only one Mother of God, but by acting like the Theotokos, we can become like mothers to many other people in our lives.

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