The Dormition of the Theotokos...  

Posted by Joe Rawls

...or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Or the feast of St Mary the Virgin. Or any attempt to make some sense of the life of a Jewish peasant girl who got pregnant out of wedlock.

We mark today's feast first of all with a quote from an essay by Anglican Craig Uffman; the complete piece can be found here. Then we have a sermon by St Gregory Palamas, a Greek theologian of the 14th century and a crucial figure in the development of hesychasm. Then we round things off with an excerpt from Missing Mary (New York and Basingstoke, Palgrave McMillan 2004, p. 208), a book by Charlene Spretnak, a Roman Catholic feminist (no, that's not a complete oxymoron).

It is surely significant that Mary responds [to God] magnificently as a woman. It is fashionable these days to deny the particularity of our sexuality, as though being male and female means that we are "merely different". But we are known only insofar as we are bodily, which means that only insofar as we are male and female. So it is important that Mary's relation to Christ is not merely spiritual, but intensely biological. Her relation to Christ is incarnational; her flesh, her person, and her relation to God are inseparable.

She is the cause of what came before her, the champion of what came after her and the agent of things eternal....She is the glory of those upon earth, the joy of celestial beings, the adornment of all creation. She is the beginning and the source and root of unutterable good things, she is the summit and consummation of everything holy.

Theological reflection in every age ideally energizes the contemporary engagement with the Mystery of the Incarnation by bringing to bear the fullest, most current knowledge about the Creation. Twenty-first century physiology reveals that a mother's body receives some of her fetus's cells and DNA, which can remain in her indefinitely. Therefore, Mary's body contained cells of God-the-Son for the remainder of her days, which she spent as the First Disciple of the "Jesus Sect". That is, divine presence entered Mary from the moment she assented at the Annunciation, and it never left. Moreover, contemporary science tells us that pregnancy and child-birth alter the mother's brain by creating new neural pathways. Imagine the neural pathways that would develop in a woman's brain while God-the-Son was gestating within her and growing from her very flesh! Of course, Jesus was physiologically fully human but he was also fully divine--and they both knew that, which surely must have lent a profound dimension to their intimate connection. That elemental connection became part of Mary forever. The Catholic tradition of mystical engagement with the mystical birth of Christ has long intuited this aspect of Mary's spiritual being: Mary after Christ was more than human, the luminous Blessed Mother. During the first several centuries of Christianity, this was particularly apparent to the laity. Many grassroots Christians considered Mary to be the Theotokos long before the Early Church Fathers decreed the title official.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 15, 2008 at Friday, August 15, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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