Monday, October 14, 2013

Our Lady and the Culture of Death

The bodily notion of the human person needs to be reiterated again and again in the contemporary world since its trivialization and even denial is an important ingredient in the formation of the Culture of Death. A woman’s body, according to leading secular feminists, is either a mere ‘instrument’ or something of little or no ontological significance…

If biology is ‘tyranny’ as so many secular feminists claim, then contraception, sterilization, abortion, and the eradication of corporeal pain through euthanasia are nothing more than forms of liberation from the body. Christ came to liberate us from sin. But secular feminists seek to liberate women from the tyranny of their biology so that they can live as they desire without being impeded by their body. Simone de Beauvoir… challenged all women to rise above the ‘animal’ act of giving life so that they can involve themselves in the superior masculine act of risking life…

The culture of death begins with a negation of some essential element of human life – God, spirituality, reason, nature, the body – and thereby fractionalizes the human being. Thus fractionalized, he wars against the very elements he has negated. In this way, secular feminism wars against the woman’s body and everything it directly implies… by contrast, Mary is whole and blessed in uniting herself with God both bodily and spiritually.

Donald De Marco, “The Virgin Mary and the Culture of Life”, in The Virgin Mary and the Theology of the Body

Reflection – Well here we go into a bit of controversy again. I went a-looking in my digital files for material on Our Lady for this October month of the Rosary—I will blog about some of Pope Francis’ magnificent words this past weekend, as soon as I can get them from the Vatican website—and found this little gem of an essay from a gem of a book that I recommend highly.

Donald De Marco is a Canadian philosopher and scholar. He is a bit of a polemicist, but he does his homework. I haven’t studied secular feminist theory, but he has, and I’m sure his characterization of it here is accurate. Certainly ‘biology is not destiny’ has been the rallying cry, and the rejection of our bodily nature, its given morphology and its function, has been a central feature of the ideology for the past half century.

And so the body’s natural fertility is a problem to be solved, and temporary or permanent sterilization is needed for true human flourishing. If a child is conceived in spite of this will to sterilize, it must be destroyed. When our bodies begin to assert their finite nature and the pain of sickness and dying begins to master us, we must exert control over them by suicide. There is a fundamental rejection of life as a given reality, as something we first receive and accede to, and then respond to with creativity and love.

Our Lady is more than a little relevant to the whole matter of the culture of life and  of death that we are contending with in our world today. For those of us who are Christians, the secular model of freedom and dignity—that of total or as near total as possible control of our humanity and its exigencies, the reduction of dependence and the maximizing of autonomy to the greatest degree possible—cannot stand for a moment in the contemplation of the Virgin Mother of God.

Simply put, nobody was as free or as dignified as Mary of Nazareth. And her freedom was found not in asserting her own right to do her own thing with her body or any other power of her soul. Her freedom sprang from her free choice of total obedience to God, an obedience that was not some abstract spiritual affair but which involved her whole bodily and spiritual self.

Out of this obedience she attained the deepest freedom possible, the maximizing of her human potential, as she actually brought forth God in human flesh from her own flesh and became (truly) a co-redeemer with Christ through her total identification with his saving mission and work. Her dignity then, is unparalleled, as in this obedience and freedom she becomes Mother of Mankind, Queen of heaven and earth.

Well, Mary is Mary, and you are you and I am me. We could reasonably argue that Mary’s life and its course are not identical with our messy affairs. Yes, this is true – she is unique. But the point De Marco and I are making is that in Mary and in her Son Jesus all the more, we see the true scope and measure of our humanity and its potential, and see how this potential for glory relates to our bodies and their determined quality.

The secular ideology of freedom and its not so subtle assault on the human body and especially on women’s bodies needs to be seen for what it is, and an alternate view of human freedom and dignity needs to be advanced. I believe fully that a consideration of Mary and of Jesus and of how God saved the world through their ‘biology’, in a sense, is key to this better and more liberating view of humanity. And that’s quite enough for one day, I think…


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  2. Blessed Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, with renewed gratitude by your motherly presence we unite our voice to that of all generations that call you blessed.

    We celebrate with you the mighty works of God, who never gets tired of bending over mankind, beset by evil and wounded by sin, with mercy to heal and to save it.

    Mother embrace with benevolence this act of entrust ment that we make today with confidence, before this your image which is so dear to us.

    We are confident that each of us is precious in your sight and that nothing is alien to you of all that dwells in our hearts. We are touched by the gaze of your sweet eyes and welcome the comforting caress of your smile.

    Safeguard our lives in your arms: bless and strengthen every desire for goodness, revitalize and nourish our faith, sustain and brighten the hope that stirs the soul and charity; guide all of us on the path of holiness.

    teach us your same love and preference for the young and the poor, the marginalized and the suffering, for sinners and those whose hearts are lost: gather all under your protection and deliver us all to your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus. Amen
    Pope Francis 10/13/13

    1. Amen! May Our Lady help us all to embrace our dignity and freedom as children of God, with great tenderness and mercy!


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