Friday, September 4, 2009

Some Links and a Song for Labor Day

As a librarian who is both a Catholic and a union activist, I am often asked about resources on our Church's teachings on labor. Fortunately, there is one place you can go to for everything you ever wanted to know about the Catholic Church and labor issues. The Catholic-Labor Network has been on the world wide web for more than seven years, and consists of hundreds of pages of information regarding our Catholic social gospel related to work and worker associations, and related articles and commentaries.

The Catholic-Labor Network "hopes to be a place for those Catholics, lay, religious and clergy, who are active in their churches and in unions to learn about their Church's teachings as regards to labor issues, pray for those who are working for economic justice and share information about events and struggles that may be taking place in their area."

From Pope Leo XIII's radical (for 1891) encyclical Rerum Novarum to Pope Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate, the Catholic Church has been a voice of support for workers, and a conscience to the body politic when it pondered issues dealing with the distribution of wealth and the condition of workers.

And if you are not Catholic, some good interfaith Labor Day resources are the AFL-CIO's Labor in the Pulpits page, their Faith and Worker Justice page, and Interfaith Worker Justice.

Finally, a song:



The Ballad Of The Carpenter
By Ewan MacColl/Phil Ochs

Jesus was a working man
And a hero you will hear
Born in the town of Bethlehem
At the turning of the year
At the turning of the year

When Jesus was a little lad
Streets rang with his name
For he argued with the older men
And put them all to shame
He put them all to shame

He became a wandering journeyman
And he traveled far and wide
And he noticed how wealth and poverty
Live always side by side
Live always side by side

So he said "Come you working men
Farmers and weavers too
If you would only stand as one
This world belongs to you
This world belongs to you"

When the rich men heard what the carpenter had done
To the Roman troops they ran
Saying put this rebel Jesus down
He's a menace to God and man
He's a menace to God and man

The commander of the occupying troops
Just laughed and then he said
"There's a cross to spare on Calvary's hill
By the weekend he'll be dead
By the weekend he'll be dead"

Now Jesus walked among the poor
For the poor were his own kind
And they'd never let them get near enough
To take him from behind
To take him from behind

So they hired one of the traitors' trade
And an informer was he
And he sold his brother to the butchers' men
For a fistful of silver money
For a fistful of silver money

And Jesus sat in the prison cell
And they beat him and offered him bribes
To desert the cause of his fellow man
And work for the rich men's tribe,
To work for the rich men's tribe

And the sweat stood out on Jesus' brow
And the blood was in his eye
When they nailed his body to the Roman cross
And they laughed as they watched him die
They laughed as they watched him die

Two thousand years have passed and gone
Many a hero too
But the dream of this poor carpenter
Remains in the hands of you
Remains in the hands of you

Dorothy Day - Prayer of Migrants

The current edition of the Houston Catholic Worker published by the brothers and sisters at Casa Juan Diego contains a beautiful bilingual prayer for the intercession of Dorothy Day, whom John Cardinal O'Connor proposed for sainthood. For more information on this cause, visit the Dorothy Day Guild. To the prayer, I've also added three different icons of "Servant of God" Dorothy Day by (top to bottom) Brian "Nikolai" Tsai, Robert Lentz, and William Hart McNichols.


Dios misericordioso,
llamaste a tu hija Dorothy Day
a mostrarnos el rostro
de Jesús en los migrantes,
los pobres y abandonados
y a mostrarnos tu deseo
de justicia y paz en la tierra.
Cuenta a ella de entre tus santos
y guíanos todos a ser amigos
de los pobres de la tierra
y a reconocerte a tí en ellos.


Dorothy Day, amiga del migrante,
intercede por nosotros
y pide para nuestro mundo
amor, justicia y paz.
Muéstranos el amor del Padre.
Ayuda a los débiles y a los tristes
para que el Espíritu Santo
nos anime en la esperanza de
construir un mundo mejor.
Amen




Merciful God, you called your daughter
Dorothy Day
to show us the face of Jesus
in the migrants,
the poor and the homeless,
and to show your desire
for justice and peace on the earth.
Count her among your saints and
guide us to be friends of the poor
and to recognize you in them.


Dorothy Day, friend of the migrant,
intercede for us and pray for
justice and peace for our world.
Show us the love of the Father.
Help the weak and the sad
that the Holy Spirit might encourage us
in the hope of building a better world.
Amen.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Religion - Pure and Undefiled

The next time I am reading in church, I will be reading from the Letter of James, so I was pleased to see this reflection from Padre Rogelio Cruz, a priest who lives and works among the poor in the Dominican Republic.

by Padre Rogelio Cruz
El Día
9/2/2009

I will start this reflection with the only definition of religion that appears in the Bible and is found in the Letter of James (1:27), which says: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

Admittedly, this letter of James the Apostle is a very concrete and direct writing, because the author says that Christianity is not to be believed in, but to be lived out, faith without works is dead faith.

Rather than talking about religion, we must live in a true and authentic manner. Today there are many religious movements that are limited only to lots of hallelujahs and proclaiming that Christ is coming, forgetting the commitment to the liberation of the oppressed.

Jesus denounced this evil religion, that leaves aside the commandment of God to cling to the traditions of men.

God must be worshipped in spirit and truth, i.e. with the totality of our being.

It is necessary to differentiate between the commandment of God and the tradition of men, to see where faith -- true religion -- begins, and where legalism begins.

That's why today from a religious perspective we state that today's world is in upheaval, the old structures are crumbling. Everything is in crisis.

The crisis also reaches the religious world and the worst of it is that the churches are alien to this convulsed world or have turned their back on it, though not in all cases, since in Latin America, from the stance of liberation theology, we seek to give a different answer.

Against all this and from religion a religious perspective we continue to proclaim a Christ who is the light for the mind, a Christ who is strength for the will, who is present in the love toward others, who gives us strength to oppose injustice wherever we find it and who gives us a spirit of gentleness and tolerance to endure so much adversity.

Religion has much to say to the world of today. Let us live a pure and undefiled religion.

Filmmaker who documented Mara 18 killed in El Salvador

Press TV and other wire services
9/3/2009

Controversial French filmmaker Christian Poveda has been shot dead while making a documentary in a rural area in El Salvador.

The 52-year-old Poveda, whose 2008 La Vida Loca provoked controversy earlier this year, was found shot in the head in a car in Tonacatepeque, a rural region north of San Salvador.

Police says Poveda had been driving back from filming in La Campanera, a poor, overcrowded ghetto and a stronghold for the infamous Mara 18 gang, which was the subject of La Vida Loca (Crazy Life).

The heavily tattooed Mara 18 gangsters are suspected to be behind the killing and Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes has ordered a thorough investigation.

La Vida Loca closely follows the hopeless and brutal lives of Mara 18 members, a number of whom were killed or jailed during the filming of the documentary.

The film won the Guadalajara Film Festival Memory Award this spring, and had been selected for the San Sebastian Film Festival, the Morelia Festival in Mexico and the International del Nuevo Cine Latin-American festival in Cuba.


In April, Poveda told the Los Angeles Times that despite the drugs, shootings, beatings and cruelty he captured on the film, he had sympathy for many of the gang members, whom he described as "victims of society."

He placed the blame for the violent gangs in El Salvador on U.S. policies, and said he "was never afraid of them."

"As savage as they can be, they're people of their word. The gangs are very well-structured organizations and the decision made by a gang is the final one. From the moment I understood that, I had no problems," he said.

“We have to understand why a 12- or 13-year-old child joins a gang and gives his life to it,” Poveda said in a recent interview with Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro.

“Children who have terrible family problems, or come from poor families who don't have time to take care of their children.”

The film develops the idea that although gangs spread terror, they also testify to the fact that young gang members are captivating and representative of the family life breakdown in El Salvador, the country with one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America.

Christian Poveda first went to El Salvador as a photographer for Time magazine to cover the civil war in the early 1980s. He returned after the armed conflict was over to cover street gangs.

The Mara 18 and rival Mara Salvatrucha gangs make up a huge criminal network that runs from Los Angeles, where a diaspora of Salvadoreans lives, down through chunks of Central America.

Authorities estimate there could be as many as 30,000 so-called mareros, who sell drugs, rob illegal migrants or extort businesses in the tiny country of just 5.7 million people.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Poveda "a respected journalist; a professional who never hesitated to take great risks in the name of freedom of information".

Reporters Without Borders deplored Poveda's murder. Fellow journalist Alain Mingam, a member of the Reporters Without Borders board, said this about his close friend:

“Christian was the son of Spanish Republicans who sought refuge in France. It was from his origins that he derived the strong humanist convictions to which he always remained faithful. He was a reporter in Chile, under the Pinochet dictatorship, in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He was very committed and involved in his subjects without taking sides. His humanistic convictions went hand in hand with a great deal of professional rigour.

“He had an original approach and an incredible ability to penetrate the worlds he was filming, whether AIDS or anti-fascism in France or the Salvadorean maras. For him, the way a film was edited was more important that any comments you made. This was how he restored humanity to people like the ‘mareros’ regardless of how monstrous their actions were. Christian’s personal involvement in his subject even resulted in his being approached by gangs who saw him as a possible mediator.”

"La Vida Loca" (WARNING: This movie trailer contains graphic violence)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Playing God 2: The Right to Die With Dignity

Not yet picked up much in the English language press but the Spanish newspaper El País reports today that "the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent a letter to the bishops and provincial superiors of 41 Italian priests telling them to meet with the priests to bring them into line, evaluate their orthodoxy and adherence to the Church and the Pope and eventually to punish them." The priests' crime? Signing a statement that appeared in the Italian magazine MicroMega last March against the law regulating living wills that was passed by the Italian Senate days after the death of Eluana Englaro, a woman who spent 17 years in a persistent vegetative state before her father finally won permission from the courts to withdraw the artificial feeding and hydration that were keeping her alive.

The statement itself is brief and definitely within the parameters of Catholic bioethical teaching:

"The law on living wills that the government and the majority are preparing to vote on imprisons the freedom of all actors involved at the ultimate moment of death. Defining forced nutrition and hydration as ordinary and obligatory care, and not as extraordinary therapeutic intervention, the law annuls any possibility of making a judgement on aggressive treatment. The individual, family and doctor are powerless in the face of an external will that imposes a protocol that is only political and not moral. Life must always be respected unconditionally, as long as it remains a human life with the consciousness, dignity and strength to bear it.

Death is a natural event to which all are called, for believers it is the culmination of life, the threshold that leads to eternity. The decision to end a semblance of an existence is the exclusive domain of the person concerned who has the right to express it in advance in a will or through the family in consultation with the doctor who is acting with knowledge and conscience. By the power of reason and in the serenity of faith, we are opposed to legislative action which mortifies the informed and responsible freedom of conscience in the name of principles that are not the responsibility of the state, much less a government and a parliament which are acting in an ideological manner under the emotional manipulation of a painful affair (Eluana Englaro). As believers, we believe that just as anyone is free to live their lives, they may also decide to die in peace, when there is no hope of improving their condition of human existence."


According to El País, the first signatory, Paolo Farinella, a priest from Genoa, has already been called in and questioned by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, bishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Bishops Conference. Farinella characterized the meeting as open and calm. He was shown the CDF note and invited to prove his orthodoxy and responded that the statement was inspired by texts from the German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini and Pope Paul VI.

However, another signatory, Goffredo Crema, withdrew his name from the statement and Farinella told El País he thinks Crema might have been intimidated into doing that.

This case is not about euthanasia. It is about the right we should all have to die a peaceful, dignified, and natural death without being forced to subject ourselves or our loved ones to artificial measures aimed only at maintaining bodily functions when there is no reasonable hope of recovery. Among my immediate relatives we have an understanding that none of us wants to be kept alive by artificial means if we are in a persistent coma or terminally ill with no prospect of recovery. I have no problem honoring these preferences and do not see them as contradictory to my Catholic faith. I do object to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith trying to intimidate priests who are only publicly stating what most Catholic faithful believe -- that decisions about death are to be made by individuals according to their beliefs and in consultation with their families, doctors, and ministers, not in accordance with some protocol imposed by the state.

Photo: Eluana Englaro's father holds a picture of his late daughter, before the accident that left her in a coma.

Playing God 1: Teddy Kennedy's Funeral

[Jesus] then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. "Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14, NAB)

For some reason, the controversy over Senator Kennedy's funeral arrangements last week brought this parable to mind. I'm Catholic but I hadn't really thought there was anything to be debated. Kennedy was a Catholic and he would have a funeral Mass and burial suitable for someone with a long and distinguished career in the public service. Nothing to discuss, I thought, until I saw the following headline: A Catholic Funeral for Ted Kennedy?

Ed Peters, a respected Canon lawyer, was finding it necessary to offer a defense of Kennedy's right to a Catholic funeral under Canon Law (1983 CIC 1184). Peters' conclusion? "Now, any man with a 100% rating from NARAL (to highlight just the tip of the iceberg of Teddy's decades-long campaign against natural rights) has, to put it mildly, the burden of proof in seeking a Catholic funeral (okay, technically, his executors have the burden of proof, but you see the point) in that notorious pro-aborts seem to be "manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful." ..."Unless, that is, "they gave some sign of repentance before death." And there is at least some evidence that Ted Kennedy did just that." So he gave a green light to the ceremony.


I wondered why Peters felt he had to make a pronouncement on the issue and found that a number of conservative pro-life Catholics were arguing against a public Catholic funeral for Senator Kennedy:

Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International: "We must, as a matter of precept, pray for the salvation of heretical Catholics like Senator Edward Kennedy, but we do not have to praise him, let alone extol him with the full honors of a public Catholic funeral and all the adulation that attends such an event...Ted Kennedy's positions on a variety of issues have been a grave scandal for decades, and to honor this "catholic" champion of the culture of death with a Catholic funeral is unjust to those who have actually paid the price of fidelity...It is not enough for Kennedy to have been a "great guy behind the scenes" as we have seen him referred to even by his political opponents. It is also not praiseworthy to put a Catholic rhetorical veneer on his leftist politics that did nothing to advance true justice as the Church sees it or to advance the peace of Christ in this world..." The statement goes on with more pronouncements along the same lines but you get the idea: Enteneuer thinks he knows what it means to be a good, faithful Catholic and that Kennedy isn't.

John-Henry Westen, editor of LifeSite News: "Saturday's grandiose Catholic funeral for Senator Ted Kennedy has the potential to be a scandal that will make Notre Dame's Obama Day a walk in the park. With all four living former Presidents in attendance and an address from President Barack Obama, the funeral is set to be a royal crowning, right inside a Catholic Church, of a man who betrayed the most fundamental moral teachings of the faith...What example will this give to Catholics and the rest of the world looking in? It will surely belie the Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life and sexuality. "Surely," they will say, "if one of the most vociferous proponents of abortion and homosexuality in politics is so feted in the Church, the Church cannot possibly regard abortion as murder." Would anyone so honor one who so advocated what the church officially considers an "unspeakable crime"?"

These are but two of the many right-wing Catholic pundits and bloggers who appointed themselves the self-righteous judges of Senator Kennedy's entitlement to a Catholic burial. Reuters Faith World blog even took an informal online poll on the subject. As of today, with 2,597 votes cast, 57% concluded that Kennedy should have a Catholic funeral, but an impressive 42% judged him unworthy of the rite.

The funeral and burial proceeded regardless under the care of two of our cardinals who have been most compassionate towards the poor and the immigrant community, as Kennedy himself was: Seán O'Malley, OFM Cap in Boston and Theodore McCarrick at Arlington National Cemetery (ably assisted by local priest and pro-immigrant activist Fr. Gerry Creedon). And the criticisms continued.

EWTN News Director Raymond Arroyo took the two cardinals to task: "The prayer intercessions at the funeral mass, the endless eulogies, the image of the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston reading prayers, and finally Cardinal McCarrick interring the remains sent an uncontested message: One may defy Church teaching, publicly lead others astray, deprive innocent lives of their rights, and still be seen a good Catholic, even an exemplary one. The casual viewer is tempted to think that Catholicism has become a Church of externals where core doctrines and major teachings are as malleable as they are in the nearest Protestant community. Or worse, to think it all a hollow show."

In the end, the quiet semi-private graveside service was, for me, the most moving part and, in particular the reading of Senator Kennedy's final letter to the Pope which Arroyo so disliked. Kennedy talks humbly about his life and faith and asks the Pontiff's prayers:

"Most Holy Father,

I asked President Obama to personally hand deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Roman Catholic faith is to me and I am so deeply grateful to him.

I hope this letter finds you in good health. I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our church and inspire our world during challenging times.

I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer over a year ago and although I am undergoing treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me.

I am 77-years-old and preparing for the next passage of life.

I’ve been blessed to be part of a wonderful family and both my parents, specifically my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives.

That gift of faith has sustained and nurtured and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my past.

I want you to know, your Holiness, that in my 50 years of elected office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I’ve worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I’ve opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a U.S. Senator.

I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life.

I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I’ll continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.

I’ve always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness. And though I have fallen short through human failings I’ve never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith.

I continue to pray for God’s blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me.”

"I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Photo: Senator Ted Kennedy's grave one day after the burial (courtesy JuanMM)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

25 Years Ago Today

On September 1, 1984 my friend and hermano José Eugenio Hoyos became "Padrecito", receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the San Pedro Cathedral in Buga, Colombia. May God grant him 25 more years of service to our community. ¡Te queremos mucho, Padrecito!




Everyone is invited to join us for a special Mass in celebration of Padrecito's 25th Anniversary this Saturday, September 5th, at 11 AM in St. Bernadette's in Springfield, VA. Click here for directions to the church.

Cristo Mesoamericano

One of the things I like best about my new parish is that you will hear songs in that Hispanic community that you won't hear in any other parish in the diocese because they would be considered "too radical". So we get variety, and not just what OCP has vetted and is pushing to the U.S. Hispanic Catholic Church.

Last Sunday we were treated to distinctly Central American Christology: "Cristo Mesoamericano" or, more formally, the "Canto de Comunión" from the "Misa Mesoamericana", a Mass of a slightly later vintage but with the same roots as the better-known "Misa Popular Salvadoreña" -- both composed by Guillermo Cuéllar. The "Misa Mesoamericana" was recorded in 2000, on the 20th anniversary of the 1980 Misa Popular, by Cuéllar and his fellow musicians in the Salvadoran music group Exceso de Equipaje (Web site - Blog). The lyrics of "Cristo Mesoamericano" are by Miguel Cavada Diez. The Mass was inspired by, and is a tribute to, the late Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. According to fellow band member Paulino Espinoza, Cuéllar, who collaborated with Msgr. Romero in youth ministry, drew on different themes from Romero's homilies to produce the Mass. "The entrance hymn deals with the subject of emigrants, 'Cristo Mesoamericano' deals with the young and excluded, the 'Lamb of God' is about the crucified people, the 'Magnificat' about women, etc..."




Cristo Mesoamericano

Texto: Miguel Cavada / Música: Guillermo Cuellar

Cristo mesoamericano toma su cuerpo en tus manos
para ser un pueblo nuevo con vida y dignidad.
Cristo mesoamericano bebe su sangre en tus labios
para ser un pueblo nuevo con vidad y dignidad.
Cristo negro, Cristo Maya, Cristo mískito y chorti;
Cristo lenca, Cristo Nahua, galileo y quiché
Cristo río y montaña, Cristo árbol, Cristo mar,
Cristo puma y quetzal, Cristo selva por talar.
Cristo obrera, costurera; la maquila y el hogar,
Cristo madre y compañera, fortaleza para amar.
Cristo niña de la calle vende goma de mascar;
Cristo niño huelepega arrumbado en un portal
Cristo joven y rebelde con la gorra de rapear;
estudiante y carpintero; Cristo inquieto y soñador.
Cristo abuela, Cristo abuelo desechado en un asilo,
apartado en el olvido; Cristo enfermo en soledad.
Cristo suda en la zafra y en las cortas de café,
Cristo pobre jornalero; Cristo milpa y maíz.
Cristo cruza la frontera para poder trabajar,
ilegal y marginado, añorando retornar.
Cristo Pueblo maltratado.
Cristo Pascua y Libertad.
Cristo mucha muchedumbre que anhela resucitar.
Cristo vida y esperanza;
Cristo verbo, buena nueva;
Cristo voz de los profetas;
Romero de la verdad.

(English translation by Rebel Girl)

Mesoamerican Christ - Take His body in your hands
to be a new people, alive with dignity.
Mesoamerican Christ - Taste His blood on your lips
to be a new people, alive with dignity.
Black Christ, Mayan Christ, Miskito and Chorti Christ;
Lenca Christ, Nahua Christ, Galilean and Quiche
Christ river and mountain, Christ tree, Christ sea,
Christ puma and quetzal, Christ jungle to cut down.
Christ worker, seamstress; factory and home,
Christ mother and companion, strength to love.
Christ street girl selling chewing gum;
Christ glue-sniffing boy stacked in a doorway
Christ young and rebellious in a rapper's cap;
student and carpenter; Christ anxious and dreaming.
Christ grandmother, Christ grandfather tossed away in a home,
separated and forgotten; Christ alone and ill.
Christ sweating in the harvest of sugar cane and coffee,
Christ the poor day laborer; Christ maize and corn.
Christ crossing the border to work,
illegal, marginal and longing to go home.
Christ ill-treated people.
Christ Easter and Freedom.
Christ the vast crowds longing for resurrection.
Christ life and hope;
Christ word, good news,
Christ voice of the prophets;
Pilgrim of truth.

Photo: Exceso de Equipaje

Monday, August 31, 2009

Marian Dogmas for the 21st Century: 4. The Assumption of Mary

This is a talk Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila gave about the Marian dogmas under the title "The Future of the Christian Experience". It is available on her Web site in its original Catalan and in a computer-assisted Spanish translation. Since I'm putting it on the blog, I have divided the text into four parts.

1. Introduction and Mary, Mother of God
2. Virgin Mary
3. Immaculate Mary
4. The Assumption of Mary, Conclusion and footnotes



4. Assumption of Mary, Pius XII, November 1, 1950

The dogma of the Assumption brings us back to the meaning and value we give to our corporeality and the material world with it. It is known that a Christian world view and epistemology are incompatible with dualism. That does not mean that one cannot find many examples of undervaluing the body among Christian authors past and present, since dualism seems from the intellectual point of view to be the most logical position and in fact has been the prevalent position in Western philosophy, whether in its materialistic or idealistic versions. The first reduce the world of what really is or exists to matter and consider the spirit to be mere chimera, an invention without a consistent corollary in reality; the second extol the purity of the spirit and despise matter as a contingent and limited reality. The idealistic versions of dualism have been the most influential ones. Since Plato, the material world and specifically the human body have been seen as a prison for the spirit. The material world is conceived as that which limits the unfolding of the spirit. O when that liberation comes from this matter that does not allow us to be fully that which we are called to be! This lament is incompatible with the Christian view, which considers matter in its entirety and our body in particular as completely transparent to the action of the Spirit. For Christianity, what opposes the Spirit and makes expression difficult is not matter but only fear of freedom. Every Sunday in Lauds we sing the song of the three young men: “Bless the Lord, all His works, praise Him forever…light and darkness…clouds and sun…mountains and hills…wild beasts and tame…all people” (Dn. 3:52-90) The whole Creation, in its materiality, has been made by God to help us and not to be an obstacle to us in our existential task that is encountering God – the friendship with God that is made real in the friendship with those near to us, especially the least fortunate. Everything that lives and everything that exists is brother/sister in the sense of St. Francis, everything except sin, which was not created by God but is the fruit of the renunciation of our responsibility as co-creators. At the moment of making the Creation, God declared it “good” and even very good (Gn. 1:10-55), the created matter can be completely invigorated by the Spirit and thanks to this potentiality participates in the grace of that Spirit that hovered over the nothing of the primordial waters. All that we call the “material world”, far from being a prison for us, is the condition of possibility for experiencing that for which we were made: loving God and loving each other. In this task, matter is not our enemy but rather, our ally, since it is only through the limits of space and time that it imposes on us, that we can become aware of our ability to choose, that it is possible for us to take one direction or another in life and in each real situation (Kant expressed the paradox of the spatial-temporal limit in a succinct and poetic way: “The light dove, cleaving the air in her free flight, and feeling its resistance, might imagine that its flight would still be easier in empty space.” [14])

The dogma of the Assumption states that Mary was raised up to Heaven in body and spirit. St. Paul announces the transformation of our “earthly body” into a “spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44 ff) and in the Creed we proclaim “the resurrection of the body”. Not only on earth, but also in the fullness of Heaven, the soul is inseparable from the body and the person is not conceivable without both. The “body” is the equivalent of the “esse in” dimension of the person, of his freedom, of the virginity conceived of as that unyielding space that individualizes him and allows him to be truly distinct from all other people and also distinct from God. To state that Mary was raised up to Heaven in body and soul is equivalent to stating that her way of living out her personal identity on earth was completely free. Mary was totally “herself”, without fear and without sin; she fully assumed her responsibility as co-creator within the contingency of the world and the vicissitudes of her life journey that was not exactly easy. Using the Pauline expressions quoted earlier we can state that Mary’s “earthly body” corresponded to her “spiritual body” in everything – something that, because of sin, doesn’t happen to any of us but did happen to Jesus. What this correspondence (in the case of Jesus and Mary) or the transformation (in our case) of the “earthly body” into the “spiritual body” means concretely cannot possibly be known while we are in the world of time and space. Nonetheless, what can be stated definitively is that the soul doesn’t leave the body. The only thing that is excluded from Heaven is sin, not the body.

The important point about the Assumption of Mary for the Christianity of the future is the reapparaisal of the inseparable unity of body and spirit that gives an absolute meaning to our history and allows us to interpret it as a limitless succession of second chances. There is not a second life in space and time that allows me to learn to love better, so the limit of having only one life is not an obstacle but instead is precisely the only way, the condition of possibility for learning to love. The light dove…might imagine that its flight would still be easier in empty space. Without limits, we would never learn to truly love. Without risk, our love would be worth nothing. Loving is a simple act, available to everyone, one that doesn’t depend on circumstances but only on the ability to trust. For the Christian, this ability to trust (and to take full responsibility up to the ultimate consequences for the trust given) must be practised in this life that is limited by space and time, that is the only one we have, and that is why it has absolute urgency and dignity.

This brief tour of the Marian dogmas has highlighted the close unity between them from a theological standpoint. The circumstances in which they were proclaimed are very diverse and are not exempt from conflict, but both in their formulation and in the history of their interpretation these dogmas point towards the same essential reality: the Christian God, the Trinitarian God, cannot and does not want to relate to us only as the one who gives – only as Father – but also as Son, as the one who receives. Mary lived this unprecedented reciprocity with God (the reciprocity of the Spirit) to the utmost consequences and trusted this All-powerful God who is not afraid of vulnerability completely. It is in this sense that we state that the Christian experience in the 21st century will either be Marian or it will not exist.

FOOTNOTES

1. ‘The Devout Christian of the Future Will ... Be a Mystic'. Mysticism and Karl Rahner's Theology. In William J. Kelly, ed., Theology and Discovery: Essays in honor of Karl Rahner, SJ. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1980; 139-68.

2. ‘The 21st Century will Be religious or will not Be’: Malraux's Controversial Dictum, Metamorphoses: André Malraux and the 21st Century, Harvard Colloquium, in the Revue André Malraux Review, volume 30, numbers 1/2 (2001), 110.

3. Martín Velasco, Juan de Dios. Más allá de la vieja idea del exclusivismo: hacia una nueva espiritualidad para un mundo religiosamente plural. VII CONGRESO TRINITARIO INTERNACIONAL ‘GRANADA 2008’: Nueva espiritualidad (liberadora trinitaria) para otro mundo posible. Granada, del 20 al 22 de Noviembre de 2008.

4. Newmann, JH. Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (original edition 1845; second edition revised by author 1878).

5. Properly, the title ‘Theotokos’ would not be translated as “Mother of God” but as “Engenderer of God” (Genetrix Dei). Mother of God would properly be ‘Theométer’.


6. Maria Jesús d’Àgreda. The Mystical City of God (Book Three, 11.137). The text corresponds to the original autograph of the author (1660) in the digital edition care of Antonio M. Artola Arbiza (www.es.geocities.com/mariajesusagreda/index.htm). [English text at: http://www.themostholyrosary.com/mystical-city.htm]

7. ge÷noito/ moi kata» to\ rJhvma¿ sou (Lc 1,38).

8. ∆En aÓrchvˆ h™n oJ lo/goß (Jn 1,1).

9. Lux Orta Sermon (attributed to Thomas Aquinas and considered probably authentic by critical sudies): Isaiah 9, 2: populus qui ambulat in tenebris, (scilicet ignorantiae ante adventum Christi et nativitatem beatae Mariae virginis) vidit lucem magnam, scilicet beatam virginem, quae fuit lux magna, quia sicut filius ejus totum mundum illuminat, sic beata virgo totum genus humanum. De ista luce dicitur in Genesi 1, 3: dixit Deus, fiat lux et facta est lux. Fiat lux ad animae beatae virginis creationem, et facta est lux in sanctificatione (Lux Orta, 2).

10.In Hebrew: rwóøa y∞Ih◊y . In the LXX version: genhqh/tw fw◊ß.

11. Maria Jesús d’Àgreda. The Mystical City of God (Book Three, 11.141).

12. See the epilogue of La Trinitat, avui (PAMSA, 2005). See also the article “Feminist Freedom” published in the Journal of the European Society of Women in Theological Research (ESWTR, 2008), of which a Spanish version is available at http://www.benedictinescat.com/Montserrat/htmlfotos/TeresaLibertadFem.html

13. St. Augustine, Sermo 169, 11, 13: PL 38, 923. Cited in Catechism of the Catholic Church, part III (Life in Christ); Section One (Man’s Vocation: Life in the Spirit), Chapter 1 (The Dignity of the Human Person), article 8, paragraph 1847.

14. Kant, I. Critique of Pure Reason (Introduction, 3).

Marian Dogmas for the 21st Century: 3. Immaculate Mary

This is a talk Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila gave about the Marian dogmas under the title "The Future of the Christian Experience". It is available on her Web site in its original Catalan and in a computer-assisted Spanish translation. Since I'm putting it on the blog, I have divided the text into four parts.

1. Introduction and Mary, Mother of God
2. Virgin Mary
3. Immaculate Mary
4. The Assumption of Mary, Conclusion and footnotes




3. Immaculate Mary, Pius IX, December 8, 1854

To state that Mary was conceived without original sin is not only equivalent to stating that sin is not part of our human nature such as it was created by God (i.e. it is possible to be fully human without having anything to do with sin and this is the case with Mary and Jesus), but also that God continues to guarantee – in spite of all the horrors of history past and present, in spite of the sadness of so many instances of injustice – that all of us without exception can one day come to live without sin, to be fully human, fully divine. Sin is never the fruit of freedom but only of the fear of freedom, the fear of loving as God loves. Therefore not only is it possible to be fully human without sin, the absence of sin (absence of fear) is the condition of possibility for this plenitude, it is the end towards which we are aiming. Mary and Jesus’ life without sin is the eschatological anticipation in history of what will be possible for all of us with the grace of God, that is, our full divinization which is the same as our full humanization.

Therefore, is there no basis at all for the difficulty in seeing in Mary a model of full humanity? Did that come out of nowhere? No. I don’t believe it came out of nowhere, but it is very important to specify that the difficulty is not born of Mary’s absence of sin (if it were thus, we would have the same difficulty with Jesus and then redemption itself – which is based on the full humanity of Jesus – would be empty), but rather the absence of temptation. The problem is in thinking that Mary was never “tempted”. And no dogma states that. Mary, like Jesus, was tempted. Mary, like Jesus and like ourselves, had to decide in every real moment in the space and time of her life, what loving is. That Mary was born without original sin does not imply that she could not sin. She could. Like Jesus, who also could (see the gospel passage on the temptations, Mark 1:13 and parallels).

Mary’s free and responsible answer made the advent of God into history possible, without which there would not have been Redemption. God could not have saved us without Mary’s free “YES”. That is why John Paul II proclaimed Mary Co-Redeemer. The dynamic of co-redemption, like that of co-creation, is unique in Mary but not exclusive to her, rather it is extended to all of us. Also in us is the truth that redemption cannot be accomplished without our free and responsible “YES”. God’s message is clear, and it was beautifully expressed by St. Augustine: “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.” [13] This is our dignity, the dignity that belongs to our being in the image of God, to our freedom. Both for co-creation and for co-redemption Mary is the theological place in her fulfilled humanity that gave birth to the Light.

There is no dogma that says that Mary was not tempted. Jesus’ full and complete historicity is the same as that of Mary, to whom the old man Simeon announced that a sword would pierce her soul (the psyche). The sorrow that Mary suffered at the foot of the Cross and that artistic tradition has converted into one of the main representative motifs, is authentic in the same way that Jesus’ sorrow in Gethsemane is authentic. God’s ways are not ours. Mary, like Jesus, doesn’t understand everything, she is not protected from doubt or anxiety and she must decide for herself what it is to love at each moment, even at the foot of the Cross, when love seems to have been hopelessly vanquished.

At the beginning of Luke’s gospel we find a diptych that establishes a parallel and at the same time, a contrast between the scenes of the angel’s annunciation to Zechariah and to Mary. In both cases, the message of God seems impossible to accomplish since objectively the necessary conditions are not there. Both Zechariah and Mary express their perplexity: Zechariah says that his wife, Elizabeth, is long past the age of conceiving and Mary says that she has not known a man. And in spite of the strict parallel between the reactions of Zechariah and Mary, Zechariah is punished and remains mute, without being able to proclaim the Word of God or speak of what has been revealed to him, while Mary, on the other hand, is honored and joyfully goes to sing on the mountains the angel’s announcement. What happened? The difference between Zechariah and Mary is not that Zechariah doubts and Mary doesn’t, it is not that Zechariah thinks and reasons logically and Mary doesn’t, it is not that Zechariah has his own criteria and Mary doesn’t. The implicit difference in the story is that Zechariah absolutizes his own boundary of comprehension and Mary doesn’t. Mary, like Zechariah, expresses her objection but then, unlike him, gives witness with her fiat to her radical trust, which is the sine qua non condition of our relationship with God. Living in faith, like Mary and Jesus, prepares one to commit oneself out of love beyond one’s own ability to understand, and that attitude bases its reasonableness on the fact of having previously experienced that one’s own comprehension has limits that don’t correspond to objective reality.

The important point of the immaculate conception of Mary for the Christianity of the future is that any person is completely redeemable because his sin is not part of his essence and because the only thing that God asks of him is an act of trust that is always within his reach.

Marian Dogmas for the 21st Century: 2. Virgin Mary

This is a talk Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila gave about the Marian dogmas under the title "The Future of the Christian Experience". It is available on her Web site in its original Catalan and in a computer-assisted Spanish translation. Since I'm putting it on the blog, I have divided the text into four parts.

1. Introduction and Mary, Mother of God
2. Virgin Mary
3. Immaculate Mary
4. The Assumption of Mary, Conclusion and footnotes




2. Virgin Mary, Lateran Synod, 7th cent. (649)

What sense would it make to think that Mary conceived Jesus through a sexual relationship with Joseph or some other man and that later or simultaneously, God somehow made the one who had been or was being conceived the “Son of God” and “True God”? The problem with such an explanation would not be that it would be incredible – since the explanation that Mary conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit is equally incredible – but that its existential consequence -- that which this way of conceiving the Incarnation would be affirming about the possibility for our relationship with God and about the task of giving birth to it in the world (our Christification) -- would in fact link the possibility of fulfilling myself as a human being to the possibility of having a couple relationship. But no. Our personal fulfillment, our Christification, the fullness of our human potential, does not depend on whether or not we have a mate or on whether or not we have a sexual relationship; it only depends on our capacity to love God and that capacity to love God can be recognized in the love for others, above all for those who count for nothing (preferential option for the poor). If Mary had not been able to conceive Jesus without Joseph or another man, our Christification (the possibility of conceiving Christ within ourselves and giving birth to Him in the world) would not only remain linked to a couple relationship, but in particular to a heterosexual couple relationship (the only one capable of begetting biological children).

On the other hand, the dogma of Mary’s virginity puts our personal fulfillment in its proper sphere: in the intimacy of our relationship with God (which is shown in love of others). This intimacy with God can be experienced as much if one has a partner as if one doesn’t. Therefore the Christian couple is not a sacrament of God’s love to the extent that it is closed in upon itself, but rather in the heart of the community of faith.

The subject of personal fulfillment without a partner has historically been a particularly difficult point for women, as much due to external pressure as to inward belief. Society has tended to define us in terms of maternity and we women have tended to associate happiness with having achieved a life of coupledom. On other occasions I have taken a position on what I think is the origin of this problem. [12] Here I will limit myself to noting that to the extent that it is true that we women generally tend to fear solitude more than dependency and the men the reverse, the issue of virginity seen as an unyielding and incommunicable inner space from which it is possible to love freely, can be particularly important to us women.

My personal unyieldingness is the space that I cannot surrender even to God Himself; it is the condition of possibility for co-creation, the nucleus of my “alterity” with respect to God and with respect to any other creature, my unalienable dignity, my freedom. It is not a space one needs to protect or preserve. One only has to acknowledge it. The more centered a person is in this space, the more she is able to give of herself and love without dependence or limitation just as God loves us.

The important point of Mary’s virginity for the Christianity of the future is inseparable from that of her maternity: maternity matches with the idea of co-creation and virginity with the idea of “radical freedom” that makes it possible.

Marian Dogmas for the 21st Century: 1. Mary, Mother of God

Finally, as promised, here is some more of Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila's theological writing, translated into English. This is a talk she gave about the Marian dogmas under the title "The Future of the Christian Experience". It is available on her Web site in its original Catalan and in a computer-assisted Spanish translation. I found it interesting because many feminists and progressives in the Church shy away from Mariology while Forcades i Vila is rising to the challenge of giving a modern interpretation to the most traditional of Catholic Church teachings.

Since I'm putting it on the blog, I have divided the text into four parts. It is complex and was a bit difficult to translate. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions about the translation. In the case of quotes, I have tried to use existing English translations so they may be a little different from what Sr. Teresa has. I am aware that the Hebrew and Greek in the footnotes do not come across for technical reasons. Unfortunately, this is also a problem on Sr. Teresa's original version on her Web site. Comments on this blog are moderated so if you want to just suggest something but not have your comment published "live", simply indicate this somewhere in your message.

1. Introduction and Mary, Mother of God
2. Virgin Mary
3. Immaculate Mary
4. The Assumption of Mary, Conclusion and footnotes




The Future of the Christian Experience

By Teresa Forcades i Vila

Karl Rahner’s statement is well-known: “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.”[1]

It seems that Rahner was paraphrasing an earlier statement by André Malraux, even though Malraux himself denies having said what others claim to have heard him say, which is: “The 21st century will either be religious or it will not be…” [2]

Just a couple of months ago (November 8) at the 7th Trinitarian Theology Conference of Grenada, Juan de Dios Martín Velasco, the religion phenomenologist, stated: “The Christianity of the 21st century will either be theological or it will not be.”[3]

The colleagues of Espacio Abierto (“Open Space”) have not proposed that I speak today on the future of Christianity but on the future of the “Christian experience.” I give a lot of importance to that word “experience” which reminds us from the start that our question about the future cannot ignore the environment of freedom and irrepressible love that makes up our “interiority”. The recourse to interiority does not imply a denial of, or scorn for, the political dimension of faith but rather a recognition of its deeper roots: the social and political commitment without which Christianity has no future in the 21st century or in any other – it is simultaneous and inseparable from the personal experience of God’s love. In that sense, I propose to develop a thesis that paraphrases the earlier ones and that I hope will help us discover perhaps new or not previously taken into account aspects of our “Christian being”. My thesis is: “The Christian experience in the 21st century will either be Marian or it will not exist.”

The figure of Mary has had a difficult relationhip both with progressive Christianity in general and with feminist theology in particular. The exaltation of the figure of Mary is associated at least with Catholic groups and movements with conservative sociopolitical leanings that long for the model of the patriarchal family and tend to legitimize the extreme injustices of the prevailing economic system as if they were the law of life. In contrast with the revoluionary mistrust of Mariology, one must affirm that the Biblical text that most clearly and emphatically supports liberation theology and its preferential option for the poor is none other than the Magnificat of Mary of Nazareth. Mary, as soon as she felt herself pregnant with God, proclaimed that the Almighty would “cast down the mighty from their thrones”, “lift up the lowly”, “fill the hungry with good things”, and “send the rich away empty-handed.” Not a very politically correct canticle, one that we sing every day at Vespers, in honor of the Mother of God.

I will now present a lecture on the four Marian dogmas -- Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos), the Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mary, and the Assumption of Mary -- that place the feminine figure of Mary as a reference point and catalyst for a Christian experience that rises to the level of the challenges posed by the 21st century.

Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos), Council of Ephesus, 5th cent. (431)

The title “Theotokos” (Mother of God) is the first dogmatic statement of the Church in relation to Mary. The title was much debated during the first centuries of Christianity; in fact, all the Christian dogmas were preceded not by days, or months or years, but by centuries of heated theological debate, controversy, struggles that included defamation, exile, excommunication, and even execution by the civil authority of those who held opposite views. The goal of these discussions and the reason for the formulation of the dogmas isn’t, as John Henry Newmann [4] explained so well, to encapsulate the truth of the Revelation in human formulas, but quite the opposite: to save the mystery of God from remaining limited by any concrete conceptual universe through formulations that force our rational mind to go beyond itself. The mystical step is not opposed to reason, nor does it ignore it, but it is only possible from reason, even though it goes beyond it. The trinitarian dogma (one nature, three persons) and the Christological one (one person, two natures) have forced human reason, over and over again over the course of history, to face its own limitations and to discover its own greatness in the act of acknowledging them. The anonymous 14th cent. writer speaks of the “cloud of unknowing” and Kierkegaard of the “suicide of reason”, but for both, the mystical dimension is an absolute and eminently positive anthropological dimension, the acknowledgement of which is a sine qua non for theology. Our language for God is always insufficient (the apophatic dimension) but it is never indifferent (the cataphatic or analogical dimension). Stating that “God is good and faithful” is not the same as stating that “God is evil and treacherous”. (cf. Thomas Aquinas, ST 1, pp. 12-13)

Then what does it mean to state that Mary is the “Mother of God”? If God is the Absolute, how can He have a mother? [5] Already in the 5th cent., Nestor, the patriarch of Constantinople, did not see it clearly and thought that Mary’s title should be Christotokos, not Theotokos, since strictly speaking, Mary is the mother only of the human nature of Christ and not the divine one that is eternal. Cyril of Alexandria, for his part, thought that Mary had not begotten any “nature”, divine or human, but that she had given birth to a “person”, and did so when this “person” – as the Council of Nicea had already defined it a century earlier – was already fully God. Mary could be called completely rightfully the “Mother of God”. The Christian faith states that Jesus is God Himself, who was born in the space and time of our history and is begotten in it. By begetting Jesus, giving birth to Jesus, Mary begets God in the space and time of our history. From which it is clear (or should be clear) that, in fact, God did not create “history”. God created all the necessary conditions for “history” to exist, but the notion of history – as distinct from the notion of life cycle or eternal rebirth – presupposed a dialogue between God and His creation; history is the common space (of God and humanity) that gives meaning to Creation.

That has already been masterfully expressed by the Baroque era theologian María Jesús de Ágreda (1602-1665). In her work, The Mystical City of God, this great theologian to whom history has not done justice, states that Mary’s maternity is the theological place of our freedom. Our mission as people – the purpose of our existence – is, like Mary, to “give birth to the Light”, to beget Christ in the world, and the only way to do this is to conceive Him before hand in ourselves through the working – and grace – of the Holy Spirit. This is an ancient doctrine and the reason why Mary is the image of the Church. In the divine economy, Mary – who is not, never was, and never will be a “divine person” – is not, in spite of that, “subordinate” to God because God, through a free decision of his sovereignty, does not seek us out as “subjects” but as “friends”. God could not have become incarnate through Mary in any way without Mary’s freely given “YES”. He could not violate Mary and He cannot violate us because God is love (to argue that God can act with indifference is a contradiction that is equivalent to stating that Love cannot love). To state “He can’t” in the case of God is the same as saying “He doesn’t want to” because God is of all and only that which He wants to be. God is totally free and has made us so that we can be as well. But we will not be so without our active participation, we will not be so without wanting to be, just as, mutatis mutandis, Mary would not have been the Mother of God without wanting to be. God is totally free because He is totally love. We are free to the exact extent that we love.

Let’s see how María de Ágreda describes this coming into awareness of Mary of Nazareth, this calm and lucid pondering of that which the angel announced to her and this taking charge of her own freedom before God:

Therefore this great Lady considered and inspected profoundly this spacious field of the dignity of Mother of God (Prov. 21, 16) in order to purchase it by her fiat; She clothed Herself in fortitude more than human, and She tasted and saw how profitable was this enterprise and commerce with the Divinity. She comprehended the ways of his hidden benevolence and adorned Herself with fortitude and beauty. And having conferred with Herself and with the heavenly messenger Gabriel about the grandeur of these high and divine sacraments, and finding herself in excellent condition to receive the message sent to Her, her purest soul was absorbed and elevated in admiration, reverence and highest intensity of divine love.[6]

The verbs of which Mary is an active subject in this description of the Annunciation are: to consider, to inspect profoundly, to purchase, to clothe herself, to taste, to see, to comprehend, to adorn herself, to confer with herself and the angel Gabriel, to be in excellent condition, and finally to receive. The only verb of which Mary is a passive subject is: her soul was absorbed and elevated.

María de Ágreda continues by describing how the free and conscious act of love of Mary of Nazaareth made it possible for three drops of blood to emerge from her heart that stopped at the uterus and became the initial material and at the same time symbol and expression of Mary’s love, the total, free, and conscious gift of herself without which the Incarnation would not have been able to take place. According to María of Ágreda, the Incarnation is not the result of the union of the Spirit of God with the matter of Mary. The Incarnation is the result of the union of the Spirit of God with the spirit and the flesh – the entire person – of Mary. Mary’s “fiat” is not her consent because God “takes her body” and is incarnated. It is infinitely more than that. It is a true interpersonal dialogue, the loving union of two fully free persons: the divine person of the Spirit and the human person of Mary. God, who is Love, could not have been incarnated in Mary without her active and conscious love. The mystery of the Incarnation is the mystery of interpersonal love, on a first name basis, between God (Holy Spirit) and Mary, and in her, every one of us. The mystery of Mary is the mystery of the hoped for paschal New Creation.

Ágreda’s theology focuses on Mary’s words to the angel Gabriel:

Ecce ancilla Domine, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.[7]

And she asks herself what this ‘Word of God’ [verbum tuum] that Mary refers to is. The Gospel of John begins: “In the beginning was the Word.”[8] María de Ágreda, as Thomas Aquinas seems to have done four centuries earlier[9], puts Mary’s “fiat” [fiat mihi] in relation to the first word God pronounces in the Bible, that is:

Fiat lux. Let there be light. (Gen. 1:3 [10])

Fiat lux. What light are we talking about? The quote cannot refer to the light of the sun because the Biblical text indicates clearly further along the moment when the stars in the firmament are created (Gen 1:14-18). This light that makes the cosmos emerge from the darkness of chaos is none other than the Logos understood as the “principle of intelligibility” of Creation. The Logos as the alpha and omega of the Creation. The Logos as the “exemplary cause” of Creation. The Logos-word that existed since the beginning is the second person of the Trinity and it is in no way “created” but rather a “condition of possibility” of Creation, a condition of possibility for that which is not God to be able to exist and have meaning.

The diversity of Creation, and the “no” associated with the coordinates of space and time that characterize it (here is not there; today is not tomorrow) are only possible because in the immanent reality of God – source and origin of Creation –a form of “diversity” and a form of “negation” have existed since the beginning: The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. The existence of the Logos-word characterized by “pure receptivity” (the Son was begotten by the Father and received everything from Him) and by “alterity”, makes the existence of Creation possible as a “receiver” and truly “distinct” from God.

At the beginning of Genesis, God says: Fiat lux. When the fullness of time has come, Mary says: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum…and gives birth to the Light. Only then can Creation be considered complete, when the Logos-Light is not only present as exemplary cause and principle of intelligibility but lives in historical and personal form (when to further support it, the Logos-Light that is God manifests Himself in the world: epiphany). The old man Simeon announces: “I have seen the Light that enlightens the nations” (Luke 2:32) and Jesus Himself states: “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, cf. tb. 3:19-21, 9:5, 11:10, 12:35-36, 12:46). Creation finds its fullness in Mary’s Fiat.

Our mission as human beings is none other than to “give birth to the Light.” The Logos cannot exist in the world without our collaboration. Mary’s maternity is extraordinary and unique in history because she alone has begotten God in the flesh. This is a definite given. However, the Incarnation and the Redemption, which are unique events in history, do not achieve their objective except to the extent that each one of us makes ourselves freely available for the loving dialogue with God as Mary did. Each chapter of María de Ágreda’s The Mystical City of God ends with a speech by the Mother of God that supports what the author has written and makes some of her own corrections and contributions. I think it is of utmost importance that María de Ágreda puts the following explanation in Mary of Nazareth’s mouth, after the passage on the Annunciation that we just quoted:

My daughter, thou art filled with astonishment at seeing, by means of new light, the mystery of the humiliation of the Divinity in uniting Himself with the human nature in the womb of a poor maiden such as I was. I wish, however, my dearest, that thou turn thy attention toward thyself and consider, how God humiliated Himself, and came into my womb, not only for myself alone, but for thee as well. The Lord is infinite in his mercy and his love has no limit, and thus He attends and esteems and assists every soul who receives Him, and He rejoices in it, as if He had created it alone, and as if He had been made man for it alone. Therefore with all the affection of thy soul thou must, as it were, consider thyself as being thyself in person bound to render the full measure of thanks of all the world for his coming; and for his coming to redeem all. And if, with a lively faith thou art convinced and confessest, that the same God who, infinite in his attributes and eternal in his majesty, lowered Himself to assume human flesh in my womb, seeks also thee, calls thee, rejoices thee, caresses thee, and thinks of thee alone, as if thou wert his only creature (Gal. 2, 20) ; think well and reflect to what his admirable condescension obliges thee. Convert this admiration into living acts of faith and love; for, that He condescends to come to thee, thou owest entirely to the goodness of the King and Savior, since thou thyself couldst never find Him nor attain Him.[11]

The culmination of Creation is initiated in Mary, but it is still not complete. It will only be when each one of us does as she did and expresses from the innermost nucleus of freedom itself the Fiat that begets the Light in the world.

The decisive point of Mary’s maternity for the Christianity of the future is the awareness of where the Christian scandal of the Incarnation leads: in addition to relating to us as Father (as the one who gives), God relates to us – each one of us – as Son (as the one who receives). This is the Trinitarian dimension of the Christian experience: God is pure giving (tradition expresses it in the word of the Father), pure receiving (Son) and pure sharing (Spirit). The task of co-creation to which God calls us, happens through discovering one’s own responsibility in relationship to God and the radicalness of the reciprocity God wants to establish with each one of us.