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Friday, December 11, 2015

Mary Did You Know???

Some Catholics are concerned about the blog post of a Jesuit priest which lambastes a Protestant Marian song because it supposedly contains heresy concerning the Immaculate Conception. 
While the song has the merits of prompting its hearers to reflect on Mary beholding her Divine Son, lines from the very first stanza actually bring Christmas to a screeching halt. Here are the problematic lyrics: 
“Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.” 
Now, those lines make sense if Mary is another sinner just like us, who needs to be delivered from sin. You see, if Mary is a sinner who like us needs a savior, then the lyricist’s play on the word “deliver” (sense 1: “deliver” = “give birth”; sense 2: “deliver” = “liberate from sin”) is both clever and theologically sound. But if Mary is a sinner in need of a savior, then she cannot be the worthy vessel in whom the All-Holy God takes on human nature as the Word-Made-Flesh. In other words the lyrics depend upon the dogma of the Immaculate Conception being false. If Mary needs a Savior, then she cannot be the vessel of the Incarnation.
God bless the priest, but he apparently doesn't know the theology behind the Immaculate Conception. Specifically, he seems to be completely unaware of Duns Scotus' completely acceptable argument supporting the IC, an argument which employs precisely the logic the priest attacks in order to explain the event.
Duns Scotus pushed this obstruction from the path by showing that instead of being excluded from the redemption of the Savior, Mary obtained the greatest of redemptions through the mystery of her preservation from all sin. This, explained Scotus, was a more perfect redemption and attributes to Christ a more exalted role as Redeemer, because redeeming grace, which preserves from original sin, is greater than that which purifies from sin already incurred. 
Consequently, Christ was Mary's Redeemer more perfectly by preservative redemption in shielding her from original sin through anticipating and foreseeing the merits of his passion and death. (emphasis added) This preredemption indicates a much greater grace and more perfect salvation.
But, isn't there something wrong with saying "This child that you delivered will soon deliver you"? No, not really. After all, the Cross exists both in time and in eternity. The Cross saves everyone, including Mary. From the temporal (in-time) standpoint, at the moment of the birth, Christ had not yet died on the Cross, so we can say "will soon deliver you." From the viewpoint of the Cross, which is eternal, it would also be equally accurate to say "has delivered you." But, since it is a Christmas hymn, there is no reason to balk at the future tense.

In fact, as Scotus and many others have pointed out, the sanctification of the Cross was anticipated for John the Baptist in a very similar (although not identical) way:
Hence the axiom of Pseudo-Anselmus (Eadmer) developed by Duns Scotus, Decuit, potuit, ergo fecit, it was becoming that the Mother of the Redeemer should have been free from the power of sin and Satan from the first moment of her existence (decuit); God could give her this privilege (potuit), therefore He gave it to her (ergo fecit). Again it is remarked that a peculiar privilege was granted to the prophet Jeremias and to St. John the Baptist. They were sanctified in their mother's womb, because by their preaching they had a special share in the work of preparing the way for Christ.
Indeed, if the good priest wishes to take issue with a Marian hymn that endorses heresy, he could do a much better job by attacking an Anglican hymn from 1914 which is considered a modern classic of Mariology, sung in Catholic parishes across the nation: Sing of Mary.
"Sing of Mary, pure and lowly,
Virgin Mother undefiled.
Sing of God's own Son Most Holy
Who became her little child
Fairest child of fairest mother
God the Son who came to Earth
Word made flesh, our very brother
Takes our nature by His conception."
Oh wow - that doesn't rhyme.

Guess we'll make it "takes our nature by His birth" even though that's completely erroneous and actually promotes the Nestorian heresy, the idea that the Divine Nature united Himself to a pre-existing human person.

As we can now see, the lyrics to Mary Did You Know are actually much more defensible than, say, those in Sing of Mary. So why is the priest so upset about the first, but absolutely silent on the second? Well, first, he doesn't really know the theology behind the IC very well. Second, the song under discussion is popular and written by a Protestant and everyone knows it is written by a Protestant, so it MUST be declared bad, while the second is written by a Protestant, but Catholics have long since forgotten that, and it isn't part of popular culture, and we have used it at Mass for a century, so ... it's fine.

At least, those are the only reasons I can come up with.
Personally, I think we should be thanking any Protestant who writes a Marian hymn, even if that hymn were as theologically unsound as Sing of Mary. After all, they need something to sing while they are engaged in Catholic idol worship around statues of the Nativity.


Ann said...

Both of those are better than some of the stuff that is sung during Communion, for instance "I Myself Am the Bread of Life"!

Mike said...

If you're at all interested in knowing . . . the Catholic Dogma . . . that we *must believe* to get to Heaven . . .

I list it on my website > > >

The Catholic God knows . . . what we think and believe . . .

Catholic writing of Romans 1:21 >
"They ... became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened."

Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Deuteronomy 31:21 >
"For I know their thoughts, and what they are about to do this day."

Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Job 21:27 >
"Surely I know your thoughts, and your unjust judgments against Me."

Geremia said...

What's worse about that song is that it portrays Our Blessed Virgin Mother in typical Protestant fashion: as an ignorant girl.

Of course she knew! She was without original sin; thus, she was born without ignorance. She knew—more than any other human being—all the naturally knowable truths, all of the senses of Holy Scriptures, and all that which is knowable from Faith.

May the Immaculate Intellect of the Blessed Virgin Mary pray for us!

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The Paschal Mystery is not a naturally knowable truth.
Mary was not omniscient.
The need for the Paschal Mystery would not, necessarily, have been obvious.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia points out " "Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart". Thus Mary observed the daily life of her Divine Son, and grew in His knowledge and love by meditating on what she saw and heard."

Also, intellects don't pray, PERSONS do.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Further, the song does not assert she did NOT know, it merely asks if she did. Which is a perfectly reasonable question.

Geremia said...

The Paschal Mystery is not a naturally knowable truth.
She didn't just know the naturally knowable truths.

Mary was not omniscient.
Yes, that's true. For example, she didn't behold the Beatific Vision while on earth, so certainly she doesn't comprehend God as the Persons of the Holy Trinity do.

Thus Mary observed the daily life of her Divine Son, and grew in His knowledge and love by meditating on what she saw and heard
Yes, she progressed spiritually.

intellects don't pray, PERSONS do.
Why can we say "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us"?

Prayer is an act of reason (thus of the intellect) and is proper to a rational creature. The Latin word for "prayer," oratio, means "spoken reason" [oris ratio].

Angels, who are pure intellects, certainly pray.

A human is his body and soul. A human soul is his intellectual soul. Therefore, a human can in a way be said to be his intellect.

Geremia said...

Yes, that's true.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The Paschal Mystery is a supernatural truth that can be known only through the revelation of God. We do not know when it was revealed to Mary. Thus, asking when it was revealed to Mary (which is what the song does) is perfectly appropriate, even though essentially unanswerable.

Intellects don't pray, PERSONS do. Angels are persons. When we say "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us", we do not mean to ask an organ of her body to pray for us. In some cultures, the liver stands for the person, in our tradition, the heart stands for the person. There is no tradition in our culture of saying "Intellect, pray for us", therefore it is inappropriate. Even using the larger sobriquet of "mind" is not what is done in the Catholic Faith. Thus, we say "Jesus, pray for us" or "Holy Spirit, pray for us" but we don't say "Divine Mind, pray for us" or "Divine Mind, hear our prayer."

Geremia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geremia said...

What do you mean "We do not know when it was revealed to Mary"? If you do not know when it was revealed to her, how do you even know whether it was revealed to her at all?

She know since the moment of her existence, being full of grace, having the virtue of faith to a higher degree than any creature, and also from reading Holy Scripture. She even knew she would be the Mother of God before St. Gabriel announced it to her (cf. Summa III q. 30 a. 1).

Also, faith is the assent of the intellect to that which is believed, and faith is not an appetitive power.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Re-read your Summa reference. In the replies, you will see that Thomas himself asserted Mary "required instruction" concerning the Incarnation.

The Incarnation is NOT the Paschal Mystery. If she required instruction concerning the Incarnation, then so much more the Paschal Mystery. Consequently, we can be fairly certain that she was not fully aware, at the Nativity, of the coming Paschal Mystery.

But this conversation misses the point of the essay. There is no theological error in "Mary, Did You Know?" A series of reasonable questions are asked, none are answered, thus no error.

Geremia said...

She did not require instruction that the Incarnation would occur; she knew it would, even before the Annunciation.

"This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you" implies she has not yet been delivered. It would be correct to say: "This child that you've delivered, has delivered you."

Also, He "is Lord of all creation" yet "will [future tense] one day rule the nations"? This is something a Jew, who still expects the Messiah to come (e.g., at the time of what Christians call the Second Coming), would agree with.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

OK, I already addressed your points so either you are illiterate or you are stupid.

Geremia said...

You didn't address whether it is correct or not to say He "will one day rule the nations."

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yeah, you're stupid.

Geremia said...

You, a supposedly Catholic apologist, can't offer a stronger argument than an ad hominem?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Sorry - I can't fix stupid.
ALL of your arguments were addressed.
Your "Lord of creation" argument is functionally identical to your "delivered" argument
But you aren't smart enough to see that.

I don't typically spend time trying to convince Catholic traditionalists of anything, because they tend to be too stupid to discuss anything with. Protestants at least consider the possibility that they are wrong. Traditionalists never do.