Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Five -- Do Whatever He Tells You

Hello again, Coffee Talk friends!

I went to a concert tonight at the local community college -- it was great! They did a very good performance of Dido and Aeneas, among other things, and it makes me want to get back into singing and playing serious music more often. Exciting possibilities loom on the horizon!

But back to the topic at hand -- part five of "Hail WHO? - What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary." Tonight, we'll cover the next section of my paper on Mary as the New Eve which focuses on Mary's faith and obedience. And just when I thought I was the Queen of run-on sentences, I must now acknowledge St. Irenaues as the King -- he totally rocks a theologically amazing run-on in this passage. Check it out!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

Do Whatever He Tells You - Mary's Faith and Obedience

"The Lord gave man this order: 'You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die'." (18) In giving man freedom, God gives him a choice. From the beginning of human history, God, through His commandments, lovingly reveals the good to man that he might freely choose it.

St. Irenaeus views God's prohibition as an expression of His loving concern for Adam and Eve,who might otherwise misuse the power and freedom granted them by the Creator. Irenaeus explains that,
"so that the man should not have thoughts of grandeur, and become lifted up, as if he had no lord, because of the dominion given to him, and the freedom, fall into sin against God his creator, overstepping his bounds, and take up an attitude of self-conceited arrogance towards God, a law was given him by God, that he might know that he had for lord the Lord of all." (19)
God laid  down for man certain conditions that would allow him to "always remain as he was, that is, immortal." (20)

However, "this commandment the man did not keep, but disobeyed God;" (21) despite the Lord's warning, Adam and Eve abused their freedom. Through the disobedience of Adam, the first man, and the participation of Eve, the first woman, "death makes its entrance into human history." (22) As the Lord God explains, this is "because you ... ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat." (23) The Lord God also banished the man and his wife from the garden of Eden (24) -- "the man He put away from His face, and sent away to dwell by the road into the Garden, since the Garden does not admit a sinner." (25)

The first man and woman, through pride and disobedience, preferred their own choice over the word of God, their maker. And so, St. Irenaeus explains, that man might be saved,
"the Word was made flesh, in order that sin, destroyed by means of that same flesh through which it had gained the mastery and taken hold and lorded it, should no longer be in us; and therefore our Lord took up the same first formation for an Incarnation, that so He might join battle on behalf of His forefathers, and overcome through Adam what had stricken us through Adam." (26)
Christ, the new Adam, becomes flesh through Mary, the new Eve, herself the model of humility and faithful obedience.
Just as Eve's role in the Fall was secondary but active and free, so Mary's role in the plan of redemption is subordinate to Christ's, but significant as she freely and actively participates in God's redemptive plan through pure faith and obedience. The Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church describes the significance of Mary's participation in the divine plan, saying,
"Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she 'being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.'" (27)
Mary's faithful obedience to the will of the Father is evident throughout her life, as her Fiat Mihi echoes clearly from the Annunciation to Golgotha. St. Irenaeus again affirms Mary's unique role in the work of salvation, seeing
"the value of Mary's consent at the time of the Annunciation, recognizing in the Virgin of Nazareth's obedience to and faith in the angel's message the perfect antithesis of Eve's disobedience and disbelief, with a beneficial effect on humanity's destiny." (28)
Eve's disbelief in God's promise is reversed by Mary, who questions the angel ("How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"(29)) but believes completely and recognizes herself as "the handmaid of the Lord," sincerely desiring for all to be done to her "according to your word." (30)
Mary's obedience and faithfulness would be put to the test throughout the life of her Son, and the new Eve never faltered in freely exercising the pure submission and fidelity that God had bestowed upon her. Mary's faith and obedience were put to the test at the foot of the Cross, where she steadfastly stood, suffering with her Son. Pope John Paul II describes the profound effect of Mary's faith and obedience, saying,
"Yes, truly 'blessed is she who believed'! These words, spoken by Elizabeth after the Annunciation, here at the foot of the Cross seem to re-echo with supreme eloquence, and the power contained within them becomes something penetrating. From the Cross, that is to say from the very heart of the mystery of the Redemption, there radiates and spreads out the prospect of that blessing of faith. It goes right back to 'the beginning,' and as a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ - the new Adam - it becomes in a certain sense the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents." (31)
18. Genesis 2:16-17
19. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #15.
20. Ibid.
21. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #16.
22. Catechism of the Catholic Church #400.
23. Genesis 3:17
24. Genesis 3:23
25. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #16.
26. St, Irenaeus, Proof, #31.
27. Lumen Gentium #58.
28. Calkins, Rev. Msgr. Arthur Burton. "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium." In Mary Co-redemptrix - Doctrinal Issues Today. 2002. p. 26.
29. Luke 1:34
30. Luke 1:38
31. Redemptoris Mater - "Mother of the Redeemer - On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church." Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II, 1987. (Pauline Books and Media, Boston). #19.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Until next time, be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

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