Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Immaculate: The Highest Synthesis Of Nature And Grace

“…It is necessary to observe how, by prophecy in the Old Testament, by existence in the New, the maternity and the co-redemption, the mediation and the queenship—all rooted in the divine, virginal maternity—give us the most complete biblical and theological portrait of Mary as the ‘woman’ conceived and willed by God ‘from the beginning and before the world was created’ (Sir 24:14), planned by Him ‘in one and the same decree’ with the Son (bull Ineffabilis Deus), ‘blessed’ among all women (Lk 1:42), ‘woman’ with all the potential of the so-called ‘eternal feminine’, ‘woman’ virgin, daughter, spouse, mother, each to the full extent of perfection these terms signify, in living relation with God the Father, of whom Mary is daughter, with God the Son, of whom Mary is Mother, with God the Holy Spirit, of whom Mary is spouse; in living relation with the Church and with mankind, of whom Mary is ‘mother in the order if grace’.

Thus, Mary realizes in herself the highest synthesis of nature and grace; an ineffable synthesis at its base and at its crown, alpha and omega, as it were, of the human person associated with the Divine Person of the Word Incarnate—the divine ‘alpha and omega’ (Rev 1:8)—the work of universal salvation, by a unique, absolutely exclusive, distinctive relation: the ‘relation’ of virginal maternity embracing the corporal and the spiritual, the human and the divine.

But a single phrase, encapsulating and articulating the total biblical reality, it seems to us, might be this: Mary is above all the woman immaculate, or still more briefly, she is the Immaculate.

Today, the title Immaculate would express most aptly the rich content of the mystery of Mary, both as predestined to the divine and spiritual maternity of the ‘seed’ (Gen 3:15) and of ‘her offspring’ (Rev 12:17), ‘in one and the same decree’ with the Word Incarnate (bull Ineffabilis Deus); and as preredeemed, without stain, opposed to sin, victorious adversary of the ‘serpent’ (Gen 3:15) and ‘dragon’ (Rev 12:3); and as ‘full of grace’ (Lk 1:28) and ‘clothed with the sun’ (Rev 12:1), filled within, that is, and invested without, by all the graces of the Holy Spirit she received for herself and for others, so as to be, in the terminology of Greek Orthodox theology the ‘icon of the Holy Spirit.’

The conception without original sin, the divine maternity, the perpetual virginity, the mediation and co-redemption, the assumption into heaven, the universal queenship, permit us to behold Mary truly ‘full of grace’ and ‘clothed with the sun’ for herself and for us, the channel of grace in unique relation to the Most Holy Trinity, a relation appropriated to the Holy Spirit who rendered her Mother of the Word, according to the design of the Father.

The title Immaculate, today, in itself, is the one term giving precise expression to that singular thread that begins with Genesis and concludes in Revelation, making of the mystery of Mary a kind of intertestamental synthesis, a revelation of the entire creative and redemptive plan of God. It has been written very fittingly that the ‘Immaculate is that beginning which anticipates in itself its end’, a synthesis of past and future, alpha and omega, as it were, of the whole mystery of Mary, resting on the mystery of the Trinity, incorporated into the mystery of Christ, prolonged and completed in the mystery of the Church. From her conception, from her origin, in fact, the immaculate is the ‘woman’ presented and proclaimed by God Himself to be without stain, opposed to the serpent (Gen 3:15). She is the ‘woman’ ever ‘virgin’ (Is 7:14) and ‘full of grace’ (Lk 1:28). She is the Mother of the ‘Son of the Most High’ (Lk 1:32), the ‘Mother of Jesus’ (Jn 2:1.3) and of redeemed humanity (Jn 19:25-27). She is the Queen ‘enthroned’ at the right hand of the Son (Ps 44[45]:10), maternal sovereign of grace in the highest heavens.

In the Immaculate, we truly have the ‘recreation’ of the original human nature, all grace without shadow of sin, ‘fullness of innocence and holiness’, according to the bull Ineffabilis Deus; we have the perfect redemption, because she was redeemed ‘in a more perfect way’, this bull continues; we have the fulfillment of the Church—‘the Virgin made Church’, according to the suggestive phrase used by St. Francis of Assisi which prolongs in time, to the end of time (the eschaton), the virginal maternity of Mary, modeling itself on hers and realizing itself in her, as Spouse of the Word Incarnate and Mother of the redeemed.”

Stefano M. Manelli, FI in All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology.

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