A mix of metaphors
Now this is puzzling and I may need to find a theologian to help me when it gets this complicated.
And so, if the Church is the Bride of Christ-3- (the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21:2,9,10),-8- and Mary is the mother of the Church-Bride, then the Bridegroom-7- (who is Jesus, the son of Mary)-4- is wedded to his sister.
But then if the Bride is also a mother, that is, “Holy Mother Church,”-5- then Mother Church is our mother. Does that make Mary our grandmother, since she is the “Mother of the Church”?
But Mary cannot be our grandmother, because she is the “Mother of Christ,” the Christ of which we are members. (“She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’”-1-.) So she is our mother.
We have three mothers: (1) Mary who is mother of the Bridegroom Christ and Christ’s members, (2) Mary who is mother of the Church, which is the People of God,-6- the Bride, and (3) Mother Church, whose mother is Mary, Mother of the Church. Maybe the Pope should convene a council to resolve this.
And also address the corollary of whether the People of God are the Church and the Bride, or if the people are members of the Christ, the Bridegroom, or if the people are in the church which is their mother, Holy Mother Church.
Could the following be another metaphorical quagmire?
In ancient Pagan tradition, the Virgin Goddess brought forth her Savior-Child. Christianity added Father-God to that arrangement.
As a result of later developments in Christianity, the historical Jesus became the second person of a Divine Trinity, along with the Father (person 1) and the Holy Spirit (person 3), and Jesus became the god named God. Jesus is “true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father” (from the Creed said at Mass).
According to this later view of Jesus, the “eternally begotten” (Creed), it was “by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Creed) that Jesus’ conception took place in the body of Mary, giving rise to the person of Jesus as God in a human body.
This later idea may not be the same as in the Gospel, where it was the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High (as described in Lk 1:35 (NRSV)) who caused the incarnation. Are the “Holy Spirit” and the “power of the Most High” two different entities, namely, person 3 and person 1 respectively? The Creed states it was only person 3 who caused the conception.
Just as Jesus is “one in Being” with the Father, the Holy Spirit is likewise “one in Being,” as all three are one. Despite the unity in the Trinity, it does not appear that God fathered God’s own human self and that God had some “relationship” with God’s own mother in order to give God a human body. Why not? Well, I will let the theologians explain that but I assume that there are sufficient differences among persons 1, 2, and 3 of the Trinity, so that there is no problem. At least I have never heard anyone say it was not OK.
However, I doubt that the question I just raised about family relationships is something the original Gospel writer of the Annunciation could have anticipated. But did the question occur to those princes of the Church who articulated the 3-in-1 Trinity? One possibility is that the Trinity idea is a counter-reform, moving a little bit closer to a pre-Christian formula where the son was consort to the mother. Such a counter-reform at the Council of Nicaea may have been politically expedient as Christianity became the official religion of Constantine’s Empire. But that’s just a guess as I am not able to read Constantine’s mind or the minds of the Council members.
Maybe the Council just wanted everyone to know that “the Lord is one,” as stated in Mk 12:29,-14- presumably a reflection of a passage in the Hebrew Bible, but the NRSV has translated the latter as “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” with several footnote alternatives.-15- 1Corinthians 8:6 seems to confirm this aloneness with “there is one God, the Father.”-16-
If you can endure another zigzag in the family tree, Jesus was widely known as the Son of the Father (person 1), who acted through the agency of person 3 (or person 3 acted on its own) in effecting the incarnation, but person 1 acted on his own in begetting the Son before all time. One cannot help but be impressed by what theologians have discovered.
The Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son” (Creed) in the Vatican’s Church, but not in the Greek Orthodox Church, where the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father. The latter view is probably better than the implication that the Holy Spirit, emanating from the Father and from the eternally begotten Christ, causes the incarnation (via Mary) resulting in Jesus the Christ, from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds in order to build up and renew and incarnate the whole Church which is the Body of Christ, which at the end of time, becomes the Christ-Omega joined with the Spirit of God.
It does seem a bit too familiar to me to have the Spirit which proceeds from the Christ-Bridegroom, being that which alights on the Virgin Mary to make her conceive, but then again, should the Spirit which proceeds from the Father be that which transforms the Church-Bride, his daughter-in-law?
I just noticed I wrote two paragraphs earlier that the Church is the Body of Christ.-2- (You hear that so often.) But how can the Church, which is the Bride, be the Body of Christ, who is the Bridegroom? Far out! Don’t tell me that means the Bride’s body belongs to Christ – he possesses it?
If “Christ is the head of the Church”-11- and we, the Church-Bride, are the “Body of Christ,” then the Christ has a male head and a female body? Maybe I don’t understand this as well as I thought I did.
Here it is straight from the Vatican’s SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM:-12- “The Church is His [Christ’s] beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father.” Then a couple of paragraphs later it says, “Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.” So the Church is the Bride, even though the Church is the Body of Christ.
Is this the ultimate patriarchy where the Bride is not merely barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, but she is the Bridegroom’s body? Not merely joined with him, not just his, not just possessed by him, but she is himself, his very self. This is a very weird metaphor for marriage. It was bad enough when women were the property of males. Now under this Vatican mind-set, the bride is to the bridegroom what the body is to its head. I can’t say that is very flattering. But what can you expect from an institution whose upper echelons are 100 percent male?
On to something more comprehensible. The historical Jesus was known among his contemporaries as the son of Joseph, his foster father.
And what about Mary, the Mother of God? She was created by God. That is, she was created by the Christ (as Logos) “through him all things were made.” (Creed) Huh? The Christ made “his” own mother? That’s really quite remarkable.
Now let me explain that although many churches are named after St. Mary, that is, the parish and the church building are named after her, St. Mary is not the Church institution. The Virgin Mary cannot be the Bride of the Bridegroom. So St. Mary, whose name is on the church building, is not the Church, but its mother. Very important to understand that distinction between church and Church. Also, try to understand that while the Virgin can be a mother, she cannot be a Bride. Until last week I thought that “Holy Mother Church” meant that Mary, the Holy Mother, was the Church. Not so. The Church is a holy mother who has as “her” mother the Mother of the Church who is Mary.
Mother Church is always “holy” because the Pope is always leading “her” infallibly. The Holy Spirit will not allow him to be anything but correct in matters of faith or morals. Or so they say.
And if my “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” within me, then each church member is like a little temple within the Church.-9-
Well, as if that were not enough, here is another very puzzling metaphor from the Vatican Catechism: “The Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come.”-1-
May I ask how Mary can be the “image of the Church” when the Church is the Bride? So Mary looks like the Bride?? Or Mary looks like how the Bride will look when she is “perfected”? All right – Mary can look like the Bride as long as she is not the Bride. Or is this imagery more counter-reform, telling me that there will come a time when Mary and the Bride are indistinguishable from one another?? And where is the Bridegroom in this picture??
I admit I have no special knowledge of all the religious metaphors in this post and in fact, maybe I don’t understand them well enough to be trying to figure out the family relationships.
Does the hodgepodge of genealogical allusions help me to ask the right questions on my spiritual journey? I probably get some direction from mother-of-this and son-of-that, but a new theology would be welcome if it defined the relationships among:
(1) all sentience,
(2) the material or illusive world,
(4) good, and
(5) whatever (if anything) drives, regulates, and facilitates our process of becoming (if we are indeed becoming something).
It just occurred to me that maybe the jumbled family tree has been assembled quite deliberately ??!!! over the centuries, and that maybe I have not arrived in terms of understanding this religion, until I have mastered the family relationships. When I finally “get it.” When I finally wake up.
Then, and only then, the journey begins.
Or maybe the family tree is just a metaphorical mix-up.
The mix-up can never be corrected because each successive pope is infallible and therefore, cannot make a mistake. No official in the Church can publicly question the Church’s teaching to correct it.
But then there are hundreds of millions of people who would be aghast at the idea of tinkering with tradition to correct it, not realizing that the history of the Church is a history of change.
But I’m not necessarily in favor of fixing the family tree. I can think of it as a Christmas tree with all sorts of delicate ornaments – I don’t want to throw any of them away. But some of them could be put in storage.
August 18, 2013