Will great round to writing the next day of Downside up in the near future. In the meantime, here is a little something on our Lady- my first attempt at anything homiletic/ theological.
Our Lady has a great many, very beautiful titles: Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Tower of Ivory, Ocean of Bitterness, House of God, Morning Star, Mother of Perpetual Help, and so on ad infinitum. For every conceivable aspect of human need, there is a title of Our Lady that we may name her, and beg her help and intercession and gain what we require, either for spiritual or material aid.
This is all well and good- I have an especial devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, who’s intercession I have sought a great many times, and never without success. She is also Patroness of my diocese (Middlesbrough) - but one title we never hear is “Mary most Worthless”. I was suddenly, through misreading “worthiness” struck by this; that Our Lady, the Mother of God, and Assumed and Glorious Queen of Heaven, conceived without sin, and first of all creation, is in fact, of herself of no worth.
Except for Grace.
Through the operation of Grace; that is through the loving kindness of our God; all generations call her blessed. It was Grace that rescued her from ever being in original sin, and from ever committing the slightest sin making her the fairest of all women. None of this is achieved by herself through her own merits. Without God deigning to bestow on her an infinite number of Graces, and making her the Theotokos, she would have been no better than she ought to be; just like the rest of us.
And yet she is just like the rest of us; she was created by God, in His image and likeness, as we all are; she is a God bearer- as we all are whenever we receive Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; she is a recipient of God’s mercy and loving kindness; and many, many other ways.
I am nervous of the term which seems to be so prevalent among the Orthodox Churches of “Deification”. I don’t know why, it is a very good term for what God desires to happen to us, that over time, as with John the Baptist, He increases, as I decrease, we draw closer, and closer to the Godhead, until we become God: until we are so lost in God, so hidden in the face of the Almighty (to quote Bernard of Clairvaux) that all our flaws have been lost, even our littlest sins and peccadilloes are smoothed away that we achieve (I don’t want to use the phrase, but work with me on this) perfection- we become one with the Godhead.
This is what, I think, has happened to Mary; she has become so intimate and so close to God; not just because she bore Him for nine months in the womb, not just because she was the one who taught Him his religion, because our Lord says in response to “Blessed is the woman who bore thee”, “Nay, Blessed rather is he who hears the word of God and keeps it”. Would our Lady be so worthy of praise if she had not been the perfect example she was? What if she’d gone off the rails and hit the Gin? Who knows? Does it really matter? Probably not. I suspect that was nor part of the Almighty’s plan, to which she was utterly submissive.
But the impression I get is that she is worthy of praise and adoration because she is the most perfect follower of Christ, more so than for her having borne our Lord in the womb. But she did, and she is and she was, if that makes sense. And through this, through her pondering all things in her Immaculate Heart, she drew ever closer to God and closer and closer and closer, until she had diminished to the point where she only displays the will and love of God- can one think of Mary except as the God bearer? Would we think of her at all if she had not been the God bearer, if she had instead become a proud and domineering housewife, feared and respected in Nazareth? I suspect not; her name would have died with the last person who remembered her. So through her humility, through her utter obedience to God, through her loosing herself totally in Him, she has become Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Tower of Ivory, Ocean of Bitterness, House of God, Morning Star, Mother of Perpetual Help, &c., &c. And not Mary most worthless, Mary most unremembered.
This may all be abundantly clear to everyone, but it had never really occurred to me.