Mary: A person, not a "goddess" or a "metaphor"
I have been churning through Charlene Spretnak’s Missing Mary. I continue to enjoy it, but it raises more questions than it answers, particularly about how the “conservative/liberal” divide is panning out in the States.
She says much that is good, but also much that is way off the mark. Especially concerning is the way she continually talks about Mary as “goddess” or “more-than-human”. Now, what she is reacting against is the “biblical-only” tendency to wipe Mary out of the picture as “just an ordinary human Nazarene housewife”. Fair enough, but I don’t think the answer is to raise her to divine or semi-divine status.
My reactions became especially acute when I read Charlene’s excerpts of a paper by Fr Andrew Greely (yes, that Andrew Greely) calling for the revival of the Mary “metaphor” in the Church.
Lets be quite clear. Mary is not:
- a metaphor
- a goddess
- an idea
- a principle
Mary is, first and foremost, a person. A real, human person, who was born of real human parents, and who remains a real human person. Three things set her aside from anyone else:
- She was conceived without sin
- She became the “Mother of God” by conceiving and giving birth to Christ
- Upon her death she was assumed body and soul into heaven where she now reigns as “Queen of Heaven”
But none of this means that she is “more than human” or “divine”. She certainly has not been “dis-incarnated” to the level of an idea or a metaphor. The whole point of the Church’s love and veneration and infinite estimation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is that she is all these things, and yet she is still a humble human being.
In this she resembles her Son, and we rejoice in the great grace shown to her for the same reason we rejoice in the Incarnation of her Son: that both Mary and Christ are real human beings, now in heaven. Christ is King, and sits at the right hand of the Father. Mary is “Queen Mother” of Heaven, holding the same position in heaven that the queen mothers of Ancient Israel held in the court in Jerusalem.
The paradox between the humanity and the divinity cannot be resolved by making either Christ or Mary “semi-divine”. Christ, in respect to his divinity, is truly divine (not “semi-divine”). Just so, in respect to their humanity, neither Mary nor Christ are “more than human”; they are, rather, truly human. And that is something so rare in our experience that it might well lead the un-informed to suppose that they are “semi-divine”.