Monday, January 5, 2009

Direct Dial, Part II

My wife, like most wives, I suspect, has a way of correcting me when I take things to excess. The other day we were talking, and she noted that I've been a little critical in some of my recent blog posts. She's right, of course. I jumped into the blogosphere about two months ago, and found an echo chamber for some of my opinions regarding the liturgy and traditional Catholic pieties. I can be as pharisaical as anybody, and I find that I have to guard against such tendencies. Sometimes I slip.

So, I'd like to back up and revisit my post on "direct dialing" and the honor that we give to Mary and the saints.

We can, of course, misplace our devotion to Mary. Our Blessed Mother should always lead us to her Son, as at Cana where she said, "Do whatever he tells you (John 2:5)." Mary is not an end, in and of herself; she is a path to Jesus. I recall growing uncomfortable in a Rosary cenacle where the prescribed prayer was one in which we prayed to Jesus to make us worthy of His Mother. It seemed to be placing the cart ahead of the horse.

Then there is Luke 11:27-28.
As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

The Church doesn't see any contradiction here between reverence for Mary and obedience to Christ, for Mary heard the word of God and kept it better than anyone. We should honor Mary for her spiritual gifts, rather than for her merely physical role. So, I admit being a little confused when the Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary for Evening Prayer II (from the Liturgy of the Hours) on January 1 reads:
Blessed is the womb which bore you, O Christ, and the breast that nursed you, Lord and Savior of the world, alleluia.

Or the hymn selection of Virigin-Born, We Bow Before You, with these lyrics:
Virgin-born, we bow before you;
Blessed was the womb that bore you:

Although confusing, the source is authoritative, "approved for use by the Dioceses of the United States of Americvan by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See."

As for direct prayer to God, it's simply not accurate to think that those with a devotion to Mary or the saints do not also pray directly to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It's one of those cases where there is no dichotomy; it's a both/and rather than an either/or. We could, I think, turn the question around to those who profess that they have no need for the intercession of the saints because they dial direct. Do they pray directly to God present in the Eucharist? Do they take time to fall on their knees in adoration before the tabernacle or the exposed Sacrament?

I fear that I'm starting to get a little judgmental again. Yes, there are some cautions that accompany devotion to Mary and the saints, and they deserve to be recognized. And praying directly to God is a good and necessary thing. Marian devotion does not exclude this. If anything, true devotion to Mary facilitates it. To those who pride themselves on being direct dialers, I would extend an invitation to let Mary be your guide, for she always points the way toward her Son.

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

We should honor Mary for her spiritual gifts, rather than for her merely physical role.

Just as Noah, for his physical role as father of post-Flood humanity needed to have physical purity from Nephelim ancestry (supposing Rob Skiba II is reading Genesis 6 correctly), so also the Mother of God needed a spiritual perfection for being the Mother of God.

Note that Jesus said "blessed rather" and not "no, don't say that, but rather blessed" etc.

In other words, the Antiphon is totally ok, and the Gospel supplements what is needed in even greater praise of blessed, that all generations need to give Her.