Friday, November 02, 2012

No Mary, No Jesus?

I’m going to briefly comment on this post:

One point of contention between Protestants and Catholics is Mary’s participation in the economy of salvation, but this holiday makes clear her special role as the mediatrix of all graces. I know, as a Protestant, that phrase grated against me hard, but I’ve come to see that her role is exactly as central as the Catholic Church claims it is, precisely because Christ took His sacred flesh from Mary’s own body.

That is to say, without the body of Mary, there would be no body of Christ. Given what science has told us about gestation and birth, we know that Christ’s body and Mary’s are forever intertwined. Mary’s body contained, and contains to this day, cells from the body of Christ, and vice versa just as every human mother and child share cells.

i) Needless to say, you can’t invoke scientific confirmation when you’re dealing with a sui generis event like the virginal conception, much less Catholic additions like the alleged in partu virginity of Mary. That’s unprecedented.

ii) I think it’s probably true that Jesus and Mary share DNA. I don’t have a problem with that claim.

iii) At the same time, that’s something which goes beyond what you can actually prove from Scripture. If the body of Jesus didn’t require male DNA from a father, then his body didn’t require female DNA from a mother. In principle, God was able to make the body of Jesus ex nihilo, like Adam. In principle, Mary could simply be a surrogate mother.

We don’t know for a fact that Jesus derived his body from Mary’s body. I think that’s probably the case. And I don’t find anything theologically objectionable about that. But I’m not sure I can give you a good reason for why I believe that’s likely.

There is no child without the mother, no mother without the child. It was her flesh that God took to make His own.

i) That’s not axiomatic. After all, we’d normally said no father, no child. So, at most, this is a special case in reference to Jesus.

ii) It’s historically true that without Mary, you wouldn’t have Jesus. However, to leave it at that is deceptive.

iii) We’re dealing with a contingent truth, not a necessary truth. The Incarnation didn’t require Mary to be the mother of Jesus. In principle, any woman could host the Incarnation. Mary is not inherently indispensable to redemption. Far from it. Given that God planned it that way, that’s a prerequisite for the Incarnation. But that’s a conditional necessity, not a metaphysical necessity.

Although there’s a sense in which Jesus was causally dependent on Mary, God wasn’t dependent on Mary.

iv) Moreover, the causal dependence of Jesus on Mary only operates at the level of his humanity. At the level of his divinity, Mary is causally dependent on Jesus for her existence.

v) Furthermore, notice whom Matt is cutting out of the picture. According to Scripture, the primary agent of the Incarnation isn’t Mary, but the Holy Spirit:

And the angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God (Lk 1:35).

Rather than having the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, why not have the feast day for the Holy Spirit, who actually caused the Incarnation?

Everything that comes to us through Christ comes through Mary physically if in no other way. And once we realize that the spiritual and the physical are inextricably connected, we can see that grace cannot come to us through Christ without Mary—and that is by God’s own design.

That argument either proves too much or too little. For that argument applies with equal force to Christ’s maternal grandparents, great-grandparents, &c., going all the way back to Adam and Eve.

She taught Him to sing the Psalms, the words He would chant as He suffered and died on the cross for you.

i) Perhaps she taught in the Psalms. I don’t have a problem with that.

ii) But we don’t know that. Maybe he learned the Psalms at the local synagogue.

iii) Moreover, although Jesus qua man learned the Psalter, Jesus qua God already knew the Psalter.

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