Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting Sorted Out

The salvation brought about by the triune God, the true center of all history, is ‘Christ and the Church’—Church here meaning the creature’s fusion with its Lord in spousal love, in which its hope for divinization is fulfilled by way of faith… Mary’s motherhood becomes theologically significant as the ultimate personal concretization of Church. At the moment when she pronounces her Yes, Mary is Israel in person; she is the Church in person and as a person.
Mary, the Church at the Source, 30

Reflection  - Mary is at the heart of the mystery of salvation. This is why she is so important, why we cannot just ignore Mary and go to Jesus directly, as Protestants and others are always telling us to do.
Mary is not the savior, but she reveals to us the nature of God’s saving work. And she embodies for us, and helps lead us into, our own part in that saving work. Salvation is not just God forgiving us our sins, not just some loving action of God that causes an effect for us. It certainly is that, but it’s not just that.

Salvation draws us into a life, a way of life in which our whole person is transformed by grace. When Mary said ‘yes’ to God, her whole being was transformed. Her womb was filled with the presence of God incarnate by the work of the Spirit; her whole being—body, soul, spirit—centered upon this new life, this mysterious presence in her of the divine.

This is a model for us of the Church and of our own personal entry into the life of the Church. The Church is not in essence institution or function or social ministry or even mission. Before all of that, the Church is Mary: humanity receiving the life of God in a real, concrete way, and bearing that life into the world of man in a real, concrete way.

Mary, then, answers the question ‘why the Church?’ Why the institution, why the social action, why the mission? We have received God really, and we must give God really. There is no other purpose, no other end, to the life of the Church. Any other end introduced into the Church’s life is idolatry which needs to be purified. Of course we all know that this purification is an ongoing and painful reality. Ecclesia semper reformanda (the church always to be reformed) is not just an elegant Latin maxim, but an excruciating and humiliating experience these days.

But the reform is always into the form of Mary. That’s why she’s so important. She not only models for us the pattern of Church life, but it is in our devotion to Mary that we become conformed better to this pattern.
She helps Jesus make us saints—that’s all. When I see someone with a lively and deep Marian devotion (which in Madonna House is a fairly common sight!), I don’t worry too much about that person spiritually. They may be a mess psychologically, socially, economically, and those areas are real and important, but spiritually I know Mary and Jesus are sorting this person out.

So as August 15, the great feast of Mary’s assumption into heaven draws near, let us allow her to sort us out today, tomorrow, and ongoingly.


  1. Father Denis,

    I think of all the Feast days in the church, the Assumption is probably the hardest for me to Figure out. Our orthodox friends call it the Feast of the dormition. Mary's falling asleep. Perhaps, then the focus is on Mary returning to God as Jesus did and in this way is at the heart of the mystery of salvation.

    You are writing as if this is more a celebration of the memory or Mary or perhaps a celebration of her presence with a still.

    I guess I never think of Mary as a reformer... And those words meaning the church always needs reform.... It brings to mind Martin Luther.... So, church reform, has long been an excruciating and humbling experience. I am interested to know if Marian devotion sprang somehow anew during the Protestant reforms?

    I do think of Mary as a gentle, presence ... And one to whom we are naturally drawn , no matter our catholic persuasions.

    1. Stay tuned to the blog and see if today's and tomorrow's post help you sort out the Assumption. The Orthodox call it 'dormition' but they certainly have always held that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven - there's a lovely old legend to that effect that goes back to the 2nd century.
      It's more than memory - it is a celebration of her presence, and her showing forth to us the radiance of the Church and of discipleship. This is how she is a 'reformer' - embodying, literally, what the Church should be, is to be. I think the phrase 'ecclesia semper reformanda' does indeed date from the Catholic or counter-Reformation (Borromeo and Bellarmine and Philip Neri, etc). And Louis de Montfort is definitely a product of the post-Reformation era, so there is something to be said for your question...


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