Monday, February 20, 2012

The Glory of Woman, Part 4 of 4

"The Crowning of the Virgin by the Trinity"
by Velázquez, 1645
The greatest saint in the Catholic Church is a woman. She is Blessed Virgin Mary. No other man or woman can outdo her in reception of grace. She is the crown jewel of salvation. In relation to the holy Trinity, she is daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse to the Holy Spirit. God willed her to be perfect in light of Christ's redemption (Luke 1:28,47) so that no sin would hinder her vocation as Mother of God (Luke 1:43). By grace she conceived the Messiah, gave flesh to His body, birthed Him, nursed Him, bathed Him, clothed Him, raised Jesus to adulthood, followed Him to the Cross (John 19:26), prayed with the apostles after His resurrection (Acts 1:14), and lastly joined Him in heaven with a glorified body (Rev 12:1-6).

Oh how blessed Mary is! The apostles traveled with Jesus for three years and St. John would rest his head on Jesus (John 13:25), but Mary got to live with Jesus for thirty years -- over 10,000 days. She was His best and longest disciple. Can you imagine the unique graces she received by mothering and observing her Son? Truly, "Mary treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them" (Luke 2:19).

Mary is the antithesis of radical feminism. Whereas radical feminists want greater power, Mary wanted to "proclaim the greatness of the Lord" (Luke 1:46). To their earthly dismay, she was only a mother and obediently practiced a patriarchal religion -- no accomplishment worthy of enshrinement in the halls of radical feminism -- but Mary surpasses all women by her actions because she never refused grace. Not once. Of all womanly achievements in the history of humanity, the greatest one belongs to Mary because her "yes" to God made Jesus a reality: "Behold, I am the Handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Christian feminist Sidney Callahan has a very interesting reflection on the perfect inner freedom of Mary's consent:
Mary’s "fiat" to the angel, accepting the birth of Jesus, was believed to be given in perfect freedom from any anxiety of sin because of the immaculate conception. In the story of Christian salvation, Mary is not coerced by God (as if by Zeus), nor is she driven to reproduce -- by her own anxiety, or by social influences, or by her husband’s desires, or by biological forces. Mary’s personal "fiat" produces a pregnancy and childbirth that can be seen as heralding a new era of human reproduction. A redeemed woman freely consents to cooperate with God and life as a responsible, responsive moral agent.
I conclude with ancient biblical analysis from St. Irenaeus (c.125-202):
The Lord's obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband. As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve (Against Heresies 5 § 19-20).
Without Mary, there is no Jesus.
Without Jesus, there is no salvation.