Saturday, December 17, 2011

Humble Exaltation

[In some strands of modern theology] an exaggerated solus Christus compelled its adherents to reject any cooperation of the creature, any independent significance of its response, as a betrayal of the greatness of grace. Consequently, there could be nothing meaningful in the feminine line of the Bible stretching from Eve to Mary.
Mary, the Church at the Source, 43
Reflection – When I get to blogging about Ratzinger’s Marian writings, something in my heart sings for joy. Not only because I love Mary and Pope Benedict so much, but because this was my thesis for my licentiate, a thesis which became this book.
So the subject is near and dear to my heart, having filled my little brain for over a year of my life. In this passage we see Ratzinger’s contemplation of the feminine line in the Old Testament – that line stretching from Eve to Sarah to Rachel to Hannah, with Deborah, Judith, Esther thrown in for good measure, and personified Wisdom—Sophia!—coming in at the end as an emphatic affirmation of what had gone before.
All of this feminine line, which then bears fruit in a wholly new and extraordinary way in Mary, is about response, about participation, about the total engagement of the creature in the work of the Creator. The barren women who miraculously conceive, the weak women who lead Israel into battle, and the Woman Sophia who accompanies God in every moment of his creative worked—these all communicate to us that the creature is called into an engagement with the Creator in his saving acts. We creatures are always in the mode of response and receptivity, but nonetheless an active receptivity, a passionate response.
It is this strain of modern theology (I will spare you details of names of scholars, etc. – it’s all in the book I’m quoting from here) that rejects this, that is so fixed on the masculine dimension of Christ and his initiating active role that any suggestion of meaning and goodness in the feminine dimension is suspect.
To have dignity and meaning, value and weight, in this school of theology, can only come from having power, from being on top, from being the one initiating, the one who is doing. Any kind of ‘submission’ or subjection or obediential path is understood as being totally degraded, an insult to those who are invited to walk it.
Since this is the only deal God offers the human race – the path of obedience and submission to His Holy Will – this school of theology is deeply confused and does great harm to those who are exposed to it.
And so, we have Mary – as always, the great defender of orthodoxy, and scourge of heretics in every generation. The one who shows us what it really means to be human, the lowliness and humility of our condition, but in that and only in that, our exalted role in the drama of creation and salvation. “He humbles, only to exalt,” as one of those bold women of the Bible once said (1 Sam 2:7). “He has looked on his servant in her lowliness; from henceforth all generations will call me blessed,” as She put it.

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