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|THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY|
by Ramon Pedrosa
It is fitting that before we enter into the mystery that is Mary that we delve and bring to the fore the unicity of salvation economy in the persons of Mary and her Son, our Lord Jesus. From all eternity, the mind of God determined from that decision in Eden that a Woman would come and through her a Son who would crush the ancient serpent.
Several things had to happen in the Mind of God to translate this eternal economy into reality in time
she had to have parents
It is difficult to wean one event from the other for they are, as mentioned earlier, a unicity - a unique unity of oneness yet distinct of each other.
Of all the mysteries involving man there is one that crowds out all the rest. It is the person singled out of humankind -- Mary of Nazareth. To start the meditation we go into that which differs her from all humanity -- her being archrantos “the spotless one."
THE IMMACULATE ONE
Beloved mystery. What is this complicated multiple terminology of the "Immaculate Conception"?
Since we were kids this was drummed into us until the natural processes of introspection and examination of the young mind is replaced by mystery, where all inquiry is brought to a screeching halt, and the mind bows its arrogance to submission and acceptance. Now that I am a little older I understand what my mother Holy Mother Church has been teaching me all these years -- and to all the faithful all these centuries past.
Here is my own take on this mystery, which is how this minuscule mind tries to understand (which I define as getting into something by going underneath the externals). And then we will go to the ancient traditions of Holy Mother Church, and the papal pronouncements on the matter.
How do I base my belief that the Blessed Mother was conceived without original sin in her Mom, St. Anne's womb? Simple. From a consideration of my own Mom. When Mama was expecting guests, important guests of Papa (he was Secretary of Finance and Chairman of the Monetary Board of the Republic during President Quirino's watch) she would order the cleanup and preparation of the whole house, from the gate to the porte-cochère in the entrance, through the sala, and finally the elegant dining room. The kitchen would go into overload as her menu creations came alive and went into her best china. Then she would dress us kids up in our Sunday best. Well something like that.
The same is true, and rightly to be expected. In every Filipino home.
Gayundin naman na kapag naghahanda sa bahay ang Nanay sa pagdating ng isang napakahalagang panauhin ay kinakailangang maging malinis ang loob at labas ng aming tahanan.
Pansamantalang itinatabi at inililigpt ang pang-araw-araw at karaniwang gamit at ang inilalabas ni Nanay ay ang mga nakatagong gamit na gawa sa pilak at bordadong sapin sa hapag-kainan.
Ang ihahandang pagkain ay ang pinakamasarap sa panlasa ng darating na mahalagang panauhin at titiyaking walang anuman itong kapintasan.
Gayundin ang naganap sa Nazareth ng saniban ng Espiritu ang katauhan ni Ana na ina ni Maria- inihandang maayos ang sinapupunan para sa katawan at kaluluwa ng sanggol! Iyan ang tunay na kahulugan ng napakakumplikadong salita ng mga Teologo na sa wikang banyaga ay Immaculate Concepcion." (Tagalog re-translation from my waray tagalog courtesy of Nick Navarete)
No Direct Proof From Scripture
"and I will put enmity between thee and the woman and her seed;
No direct or categorical proof of the dogma of the Immaculate Comception can be brought forward from Scripture. But there is the first scriptural passage containing the promise of the redemption, which mentions also the Mother of the Redeemer. The sentence against the first parents was accompanied by the Earliest Gospel (Proto-evangelium), which put enmity between the serpent and the woman:
The translation "she" of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated only after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically. The proto-evangelium in the original text contains a direct promise of the Redeemer, and in direct reference to it the manifestation of the masterpiece of His Redemption, the perfect preservation of His virginal Mother from original sin.
The salutation of the angel Gabriel -- chaire kecharitomene, Hail, full of grace indicates a unique abundance of grace, a supernatural, godlike state of soul, which finds its explanation only in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. But the term kecharitomene (full of grace) serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma. (Catholic Encyclopedia) But there is more. Mindful of the linguistic divide between the original Aramaic of the Gospel of Luke more explicitly in Luke 1:28, and its derivative translations into Hebrew, Koine, Latin, and the western languages, consider the greeting Shalom!
The first of the two passages from Saint Luke's Gospel is the greeting of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, written in Koine Greek from the original oral Aramaic descriptions. - chaíre, the opening word of greeting in the Greek rendition, here translated "Hail," literally means "Rejoice," "Be glad."
But if you use the original Aramaic we enter into mind-boggling meanings of that transcendent, matchless encounter between the Handmaid and the messenger of God. It is another instance of the great divide between the ancient world of the Aramaic and the succeeding worlds of Hebrew, Greek, Roman civilizations and the rest of the evangelized world, their culture and their languages. We have lost it! Let us listen again to that part of the encounter between the angel of God Gabriel and this Jewish lass from Nazareth. It is from Luke who we are told got it straight from the Blessed Virgin herself:
The angel went to her and said,
But let us use the Aramaic, as far as we can make it from that Galilean Aramaic now lost, which was the language of that conversation:
SHLOM-A LOHQ MALYATH TAYBUZO MRAN IMAQ
Peace to you -- Full of Grace - the Lord is with you
Why was she greatly troubled at these words?
They were ordinary words. Taken separately she would have heard them in the synagogue, even every day in ordinary conversation at the well. Perhaps it is the juxtapositioning that the messenger from heaven made of these phrases.
The Aramaic word that is translated as 'greeting' is SHALOM. The Hebrew word SHALOM means peace. Idiomatically it is also used to greet, and it is used as well to bid farewell. But it means much more than that. That ancient word signifies perfection, fullness, completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. It literally means everything that is good.
Shalom is Peace, Perfection, Wholeness. Nothing hello about it. Nor Hail. Nor Ave which is Latin for Hi. Ave is plain wrong. It is Peace. And Peace that is out of this world. And Perfection, the perfection of the Mother of God.
Is this word and its profound meanings, that which gave the Virgin Lady, pause? That is what happens when the divine speaks directly to the mind without the intervention of human language in all its synaptical infirmities. The words took on the fulness, all the meanings of the message prepared for her from all eternity. The address from heaven cascaded down the corridors of eternity into her virginal mind. And She who was born for this was troubled and gave wonder "what kind of greeting this might be."
THE LORD IS WITH YOU
And the second phrase "the Lord is with you" what is there in it that troubled the young Lady? St. Anselm (1033-1109), bishop, Doctor of the Church, helps us understand its fuller meaning. He says that through the blessed fruit of her womb all creation is blessed. His paean of praise says it all:
"Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.
"To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of 'God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.
"God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the
re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life,
and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God's Son, nothing could exist; without Mary's Son, nothing could be redeemed.
Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself."
And the appellation of "Immaculate" whence does it proceed from?
See for yourself. St. Lawrence Brindisi (1559-1619) gives us a hint. In his treatise on the Immaculate Conception he looks at this passage:
One only is my dove, one my perfect one
He says the Hebrew reads: my immaculate one. There are three words in Hebrew very similar: tham, thamah, and thamim, of which the first means simple, the second immaculate, and the last perfect. While the Hebrew text uses the second, the Aramaic mind knows it comprehends all three.
O Perfect One you are full of grace for the Lord is with you.
It is as if that word floating around for millenia and used by peoples in all its different meanings finally came to alight like a dove coming home to roost upon the virginal mind of this singular lass of Galilee. (extract from The Hail Mary. The Prayers of My Life. Ramon A. Pedrosa)
In Nahuatl the language of the Aztec. But there is more. Much more. In that extraordinary happening in the history of the world, in 1531 -- the Mother of God appeared to the indigenous people of the world through the Aztec race whose culture and civilization were just devastated by the West. There at Tepeyac she pronounces who she is in the noble language of that race:
CA NEHWATL IN NIZENKISKA ZEMICACC
The Nahuatl terms here are so full of nuances they bring us back to the Aramaic words of the Archangel in Nazareth. The word translated as 'Hail' in English, or 'Shalom' in Hebrew, means 'Perfection' in Aramaic. And the words according to Nahuatl syntax mean that she was perfect (immaculate is such a limiting word). And the noun “perfect” is modified by the adverb “ever” -- always (as from all eternity)! Not merely from a determinate fixed time on earth, as from her conception, but from all eternity she was perfect!!! (Extract from TEPEYAC: Our Lady of 'Guadalupe' revisited. Ramon A Pedrosa)
In Zambales. Just to complete her contacts with indigenous peoples (as far as has been brought to our attention), know that way before the Spanish brought the Faith to these islands she appeared in the mountains of Zambales. She was a beautiful lady who told the Aeta chief Djadig: “Take me to your home.”
The tradition of the Immaculate Conception did not exist in the early Western church. It was developed through the centuries by theologians.
But the Eastern Churches already celebrated a feast of the “Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God” on December 9 perhaps as early as the 5th century in Syria. By the 7th century it was a widely known feast in the East. There she was archrantos -- the immaculate, spotless one -- first even before She was declared theotokos - Bearer of God! Indeed, she had to be Spotless first before she could become the Mother of God.
Among the many advocacies in the Roman Catholic Church the most primitive and the most original to the Blessed Mother is “the Immaculate Conception." But it was a latecomer. From end to end of the Byzantine world, both the Catholic and the Orthodox as early as the seventh century already greeted this young maiden as archrantos, especially on the feast of Her conception on December 9 in the Byzantine Church.
Vox populi per saeculam. Here is one of the finest examples where the witness of the people takes primary role in establishing a fact against the scientific method for so-called solid proof or evidence. In truth much of what is called history today would disappear from the libraries of the world if the evidentiary process were followed, subjecting every assertion to the test of material evidence. For instance there is no proof that the Iliad was written by Homer or for that matter that the Gospels and the Epistles were actually written by the writers. There is no historical indication that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. But they are all in the deposit of accepted fact based on the tradition of thousands of years.
The concept of sensus fidelium (also referred to as sensus fidei fidelium in Roman Catholic teachings can be implicitly traced back to the early Fathers of the Church. Sensus fidelium is the "sense of the faithful" and refers to doctrinal truth recognized (sensed) by the whole body of the faithful.
So it is with the Immaculate Conception. For while there is no documentary proof for her immaculate Conception (how can you document that), nor her Assumption, her favored state was so renowned in all the lands that had commerce with Israel that even centuries later at the founding of a new religion she takes preeminent status in Islam in the Sur'at of the Qur'an.
Theological reflection offers strong a priori argumentation to support the dogma, the chief of which is that corollary to Our Lady's Immaculate Conception is her Perpetual Virginity and her Assumption:
a) Since Mary was conceived without Original Sin she does not suffer its consequences, one of which is the corruption of the body in the grave;
b) since Mary conceived Christ virginally, gave birth to Him miraculously, and remained ever a Virgin, it is not fitting that a body so sanctified should see corruption.
Proof from reason. There is an incongruity in the supposition that the flesh, from which the flesh of the Son of God was to be formed, should ever have belonged to one who was the slave of that arch-enemy, whose power He came on earth to destroy. It is also remarked that a peculiar privilege was granted to the prophet Jeremiah 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. Consequently some much higher prerogative is due to Mary. (A treatise of P. Marchant, claiming for St. Joseph also the privilege of St. John, was placed on the Index in 1833.)
Theological Wrangling. But the theologians could not agree. It was rejected by Bernard of Clairvaux, Alexander of Hales, and St. Bonaventure (who, teaching at Paris, called it “this foreign doctrine”), and by St. Thomas Aquinas who expressed questions about the subject, but said that he would accept the determination of the Church. Aquinas and Bonaventure, for example, believed that Mary was completely free from sin, but that she was not given this grace at the instant of her conception.
Despite this formidable array of tradition and scholarly opinion, the Oxford Franciscans William of Ware and especially Blessed John Duns Scotus defended the doctrine. Scotus proposed a solution to the theological problem involved of being able to reconcile the doctrine with that of universal redemption in Christ, by arguing that Mary's immaculate conception did not remove her from redemption by Christ; rather it was the result of a more perfect redemption that was given to her on account of her special role in history. Furthermore, Scotus said that Mary was redeemed in anticipation of Christ's death on the cross. This was similar to the way that the Church explained the Last Supper (since Roman Catholic theology teaches that the Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary made present on the altar, and Christ did not die before the Last Supper). Scotus' defence of the immaculist thesis was summed up as potuit, decuit ergo fecit (God could do it, it was fitting that He do it, and so He did it). The argumentation followed the form taken for the dogma of the Assumption utilizing the same axiom of Ps. Anselmus (Eadmer).
Now for an aside from this writer who wishes to insert his own casual contribution. I am reminded that at the Preface of the Canon of the Mass, the faithful (not the celebrant) say DIGNUM ET JUSTUM EST (it is right and just) in response to the prayer. Here is the exchange between priest and people:
• Priest: Sursum corda. -- Lift up your hearts
• People: Habemus ad Dominum -- We lift them up to the Lord.
• Priest: Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro -- Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
• People: Dignum et iustum est -- It is right and just.
It is right and just for us, indeed to give thanks to our Lord. And so do we claim that it is right that He could do it, and just that He did it, and so He did. And so we give thanks to the Lord our God.
Following his defence of the thesis, students at Paris swore to defend the position, and the tradition grew of swearing to defend the doctrine with one's blood. The University of Paris supported the decision of the (schismatic) Council of Basel in this matter. Duns' arguments remained controversial, however, particularly among the Dominicans, who were willing enough to celebrate Mary's sanctificatio (being made free from sin) but, following the Dominican Thomas Aquinas' arguments, continued to insist that her sanctification could not have occurred at the instant of her conception.
Popular opinion remained firmly behind the celebration of Mary's conception. The doctrine itself had been endorsed by the Council of Basel (1431-1449), and by the end of the 15th century was widely professed and taught in many theological faculties. However, the Council of Basel was later held not to have been a true General (or Ecumenical) Council with authority to proclaim dogma; and such was the influence of the Dominicans, and the weight of the arguments of Thomas Aquinas (who had been canonized in 1323 and declared "Doctor Angelicus" of the Church in 1567) that the Council of Trent (1545-63) -- which might have been expected to affirm the doctrine - instead declined to take a position.
And so it was not until 1854 that Pope Pius IX, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic bishops, whom he had consulted between 1851-1853, promulgated the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus (Latin for "Ineffable God"), which defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined by Pope Pius IX is also viewed as a key example of the use of sensus fidelium shared by believers and the Magisterium rather than pure reliance on Scripture and Tradition
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
The operative act, as it were, are in the formal words of the encyclical “it was becoming that the Mother of the Redeemer should have been free from the power of sin and from the first moment of her existence; God could give her this privilege, and so God allowed it.”
THE IMMACULATA PRAYER
The Immaculata prayer was composed by Saint Maximillian Kolbe. It is a prayer of consecration to the the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary.
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you.
I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.
If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and "You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world." Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin
R. Give me strength against your enemies