Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Immaculate Love-Interest

Here are some Marian Psalms attributed to St. Bonaventure:

I will love thee, O Lady of heaven and earth: and I will call upon thy name in the nations. Give praise to her, ye who are troubled in heart: and she will strengthen you against your enemies. Give to us, O Lady, the grace of thy breasts: from the dropping milk of thy sweetness refresh the inmost souls of thy children. Honor her, O all ye religious: for she is your helper and your special advocate. Be thou our refreshment, glorious Mother of Christ: for thou art the admirable foundation of the religious life. Glory be to the Father, etc.

The heavens declare thy glory: and the fragrance of thine unguents is spread abroad among the nations. Sigh ye unto her, ye lost sinners: and she will lead you to the harbor of pardon. In hymns and canticles knock at her heart: and she will rain down upon you the grace of her sweetness. Glorify her, ye just, before the throne of God: for by the fruit of her womb you have worked justice. Praise ye her, ye heaven of heavens: and the whole earth will glorify her name. Glory be to the Father, etc.

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof: but thou, O most holy Mother, reignest with Him forever. Thou art clothed with glory and beauty: every precious stone is thy covering and thy clothing. The brightness of the sun is upon thy head: the beauty of the moon is beneath thy feet. Shining orbs adorn thy throne: the morning stars glorify thee forever. Be mindful of us, O Lady, in thy good pleasure: and make us worthy to glorify thy name. Glory be to the Father, etc.

Judge me, O Lady, for I have departed from my innocence: but because I have hoped in thee I shall not become weak. Enkindle my heart with the fire of thy love: and with the girdle of chastity bind my reins. For thy mercy and thy clemency are before my eyes: and I was delighted in the voice of thy praise. O Lady, I have loved the beauty of thy face: and I have revered thy sacred majesty. Praise ye her name, for she is holy: let her wonders be declared forever. Glory be to the Father, etc.

O Lady, may thy light be the splendor of my countenance: and let the serenity of thy grace shine upon my mind. Raise up my head: and I will sing a psalm to thy name. Turn not away thy face from me: for from my youth up I have greatly desired thy beauty and thy grace. I have loved thee and sought after thee, O Queen of Heaven: withdraw not thy mercy and thy grace from thy servant. I will give praise to thee in the nations: and I will honor the throne of thy glory. Glory be to the Father, etc.

Blessed are they whose hearts love thee, O Virgin Mary: their sins will be mercifully washed away by thee. Holy, chaste, and flowering are thy breasts: which blossomed into the flower of eternal greenness. The beauty of thy grace will never see corruption: and the grace of thy countenance will never fade. Blessed art thou, O sublime Rod of Jesse: for thou hast raised thyself unto Him who sits in the highest. O Virgin Queen, thou thyself art the way by which salvation from on high hath visited us. Glory be to the Father, etc.

Rejoice, ye just, in the Virgin Mary: and in uprightness of heart praise ye her together. Draw near unto her with reverence and devotion: and let your heart be delighted in her salutation. Give unto her the sacrifice of praise: and be ye inebriated from the breasts of her sweetness. For she sheds upon you the rays of her loving kindness: and she will enlighten you with the splendors of her mercy. Her fruit is most sweet: it grows ever sweeter in the mouth and the heart of the wise. Glory be to the Father, etc.

Deliver me from mine enemies, O Lady of the world: arise to meet me, O Queen of piety. The purest gold is thy ornament: the sardine stone and the topaz are thy diadem. The jasper and the amethyst are in thy right hand: the beryl and the chrysolite in thy left. The hyacinths are on thy breast: shining carbuncles are the jewels of thy bracelets. Myrrh, frankincense, and balsam are on thy hands: the sapphire and the emerald on thy fingers. Glory be to the Father, etc.

In Judea God is known: in Israel the honor of His Mother. Sweet is the memory of her above honey and the honeycomb: and her love is above all aromatic perfumes. Health and life are in her house: and in her dwelling are peace and eternal glory. Honor her, ye heavens and earth: because the supreme artificer has wonderfully honored her. Give to her praise, all ye creatures: and joyfully celebrate her astonishing mercy. Glory be to the Father, etc.

Give praise to Our Lady, for she is good: in all the tribes of the earth relate her mercies. Far from the impious is her conversation: her foot has not declined from the way of the Most High. A fountain of fertilizing grace comes forth from her mouth: and a virginal emanation sanctifying chaste souls. The hope of the glory of Paradise is in her heart: for the devout soul who shall have honored her. Have mercy on us, O resplendent Queen of Heaven: and give consolation from thy glory. Glory be to the Father, etc.


I could quote some more examples, but you get the idea.

This raises the question of what inspired the cult of Mary in the first place. I think there’s more than one motive. As I’ve said before, she plays the role of a patron goddess. The “Mother of God” takes the place of mother gods. But they’re functionally equivalent.

However, as you read through this material, another motivation is unmistakable. I don’t think it’s coincidental that so many of the men–and I do mean men–who contributed to the edifice of Marian devotion (e.g. St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Alphonsus de Liguori) had taken a vow of chastity.

What’s on display here is sublimated sexuality. They’ve transferred their normal masculine yearnings to Mary. It’s the thinly-veiled expression of a frustrated libido.

Mary becomes their surrogate girlfriend or love interest. The unforgettable, but unattainable cheerleader or homecoming queen they long to date. This erotic poetry, dressed up in “chaste” piety, is the monkish equivalent of the pinup girl a teenage boy has hanging on the wall of his bedroom.


  1. I haven't heard of this psycho-analysis before. If it's accurate and true for some people, then it's a useful thesis, however insulting they'd perceive it.

    But for others for whom this psycho-analysis doesn't ring true, they would probably find it insulting as well. But they shouldn't since it doesn't apply to them.

  2. (I have already posted this stuff on Turretin Fan's blog)

    I would advice you guys to get your hands on an interesting new scholarly book "Icons and power: the Mother of God in Byzantium" (2006) by Bissera V. Pentcheva.

    Pentcheva is not a Protestant writer, but she describes how the imperial Roman ideology led, from 5th century onwards, to the exaltation of Virgin Mary as the functional successor of pagan tutelary deities like Victoria and Tyche.

    Here's one particularly interesting detail she notes: like with female deities of war, Mary's supposed power flows from her perpetual virginity.

    It is just this virginal civic-goddess ideal that the Book of Revelation attacks and inverts in the depiction of the "harlot on seven hills".

    Even English Protestants still felt the power of this psychological archetype when they exalted their "virgin queen" Elizabeth I - they at least subconsciously attributed her victorious regal power to her virginity.

    And so, if Mary would have had ordinary childbirths and been just a decent Jewish housewife, she would have been unable to act as tutelary victory goddess. This is a hidden motivation why Roman and Byzantine theologians were and are so adamant about her perpetual virginity.

    Icons and Power by B.V. Pentcheva, pp. 63-64

    "The texts discussing Mary's participation in battle always attribute her supernatural power to her paradoxical virginal motherhood. ...

    "The virgin warrior Athena offers a classical example. She was worshipped as a goddess of war, among many other functions; her temples in the Roman period were sometimes built next to military garrisons. ...

    "Along with Athena, the virgin-warrior tradition was also transmitted through the image of the Amazons. They were believed to have partaken in battle only in the period in which they maintained their purity. ...

    "If a Vestal lost her virginity during her term in office, her misdeed was believed to incur a misfortune in war. The purity of the vestals thus safeguarded the city. The images of Athena, the Vestals, and Amazons also informed the representations and powers of Victoria and Roma, the main civic deities defining the Roman theory of empire. All these pagan goddesses presented the model of virginity as source of power.

    Like the power of these ancient goddesses, the militancy of Mary was perceived to issue forth from her perpetual virginity. ...

    "The passages offer a shocking representation of the Virgin in battle. She engages in hand-to-hand combat with the enemies, killing the barbarians in order to protect her peope. Her active belligerence, linked to her perpetual virginity, echoes qualities of the virgin warrior Athena. Her purity as a power of in battle is emulated by the soldiers, who observed chastity before battle.

    The seventh-century writers constructed an image of the Theotokos by employing existing literary models of Athena in war."

    Many Protestant writers, when examining the origins of Mariolatry (which is definitely partly due to pagan influences, although some amateurish Protestants like Alexander Hislop overstate their case recklessly) concentrate almost entirely on FERTILITY goddesses like Cybele or Isis, that are clearly depicted as mother-figures.

    Pencheva's book made me realize that they had neglected the other major category of female deities, the virginal victory-goddesses like Artemis and Athena. They symbolize the purity or inviolate essence of the community that enemies cannot violate.

    As Mary is seen as BOTH mother and still-virgin, she is thus able to combine the functions of both fertility and virginity goddesses.

  3. Well, at the very least the authors are guilty of altering the Word of God and rank Idolatry.

  4. Calvin said St. Bernard was his second favortie saint after St Augustine. You call youself Calvinists. He would not want to be associated with such volgar comments about such a holy man. I guess it is just the fruit of his heresy. A faith that can only mock historical Christianity.

  5. Randy, in the case you didn't notice a minor detail - this mocked pseudo-Psalter was not written by Bernard but by Bonaventure.

    And speaking of "historical Christianity", the Christians of first centuries would not have dreamed of writing a work like "Marian Psalter". Just take John Henry Newman's word for it:

    "Dr. Newman himself, disclaiming the doctrine that the Invocation of the Virgin is necessary to salvation, says (Letter to Pusey, p. III): 'If it were so, there would be grave reasons for doubting of the salvation of St. Chrysostom or St. Athanasius, or of the primitive martyrs. Nay, I should like to know whether St. Augustine, in all his voluminous writings, invokes her once.'"


  6. Your sophomoric theory of the origins of Marian devotion is about as valuable as Dr Freud's theory of the origins of belief in a "Father God". That is to say, it is both unoriginal and without merit.

    Funny to see the Ven. John Henry Newman's letter to Dr Pusey quoted. The same letter concludes in a manner appropriate to the time of year in which we find ourselves:

    "That joyful season, joyful for all of us, while it centres in Him who then came on earth, also brings before us in peculiar prominence that Virgin Mother, who bore and nursed Him. Here she is not in the background, as at Easter-tide, but she brings Him to us in her arms. Two great Festivals, dedicated to her honour, tomorrow's and the Purification, mark out and keep the ground, and, like the towers of David, open the way to and fro, for the high holiday season of the Prince of Peace. And all along it her image is upon it, such as we see it in the typical representation of the Catacombs. May the sacred influences of this tide bring us all together in unity! May it destroy all bitterness on your side and ours! May it quench all jealous, sour, proud, fierce antagonism on our side; and dissipate all captious, carping, fastidious refinements of reasoning on yours! May that bright and gentle Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, overcome you with her sweetness, and revenge herself on her foes by interceding effectually for their conversion!"