“If Mary no longer finds a place in many theologies…the reason is obvious: they have reduced faith to an abstraction. And an abstraction does not need a Mother” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger [Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI]).
I have a little booklet at home on Sikhism that a coworker at a past job gave to me when I asked him more about his faith. One of the claims this booklet made in defence of Sikhism had to do with the fact that its sacred text was one of precepts, principles, and proverbs, rather than stories and narratives, such as in the Bible or the Qur’an. This abstract approach to their scriptures, according to this booklet, demonstrated the superiority of Sikhism to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, since it was thereby applicable to all people and cultures. Now, I freely admit to not having read the Sikh holy book, but based on this description, I’d have to disagree with the claim.
The Bible’s stories are records of history, of God’s real, immanent action in the world and the lives of His followers. The records aren’t simply “nice stories”, but tangible reminders of God’s love and power in the world. And these stories of faith aren’t limited to the Biblical record, but extend to the living Tradition of the Church, continuing the Divine Epic from Creation all the way through to the present day.
Through our prayerful reading of Scripture and especially in our participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we are invited to enter profoundly into that salvation-history through our “remembrance” (Gk. Anamnesis/Hb. zikkaron) of these events. To the Jewish people, remembrance was an act whereby they made the past event real to their present experience as though they themselves were participants in the historic event. Similarly, Catholic tradition teaches us to place ourselves in the events of the Gospels through devotions such as Lectio Divina and the Ignatian Exercises. But most sublimely, the Sacrifice of the Mass makes the events of our salvation—particularly Our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection—sacramentally and truly present in our midst.
Today, the Church honours the birth of Our Lady. Celebrating a birthday is about as decidedly not-abstract as you can get. A child is a new, concrete reality being introduced to the world, and in ways perhaps big or small, introducing an element of change to the world. Nowhere was this potential to change the world more fully actualised and concretised than in the Blessed Virgin—save except for that of her Divine Son, who Himself predestined His impact to be intimately tied to and dependent upon hers.
So let us thank God for the gift of His Mother, who in turn through her fiat gave Him to us to save us and restore us to right relationship to Him. For our faith is not simply one of abstract precepts, principles, and proverbs, but of a living, concrete relationship of love with God and all His Saints in the ongoing story of Salvation.
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