Everybody's Got One
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Sunday, October 06, 2002

 

A thought on the 1st Sunday of the month of Our Lady of the Rosary

Where Mary is not properly honored, the Incarnation is first misunderstood, then ignored, and in the end denied.

This is an valuable warning from the days of the council of Ephesus. (No attribution for the quote, sorry. Pick a saint, any saint.) Most folk who look around would argue that Mary is underhonored today – and I agree – and trace the increasingly post-Christian character of our society to that. Perhaps. But I take a different tack, of course, and wonder about the unintended consequences of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1846, the Council of Baltimore designated Mary in her Immaculate Conception as the patron of the United States, and it's in the United States that the two greatest misconceptions have arisen. First, that the IC refers to Jesus and not to Mary. I can't count the number of non-Catholics – and maybe some poorly catechized Catholics as well – who think this refers to the action of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation rather than to the complete protection of Mary from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception, so that her womb might be a fit vessel for the indwelling of the Christ.
Second (and perhaps related) is the historically remarkable notion that every child is immaculately conceived – born utterly free of original sin (whatever that is) and gradually corrupted by exposure and slow acclimation to the world and its sinful structures of oppression/repression/inequality. Nothing special about Mary – everybody's born sinless, aren't they? Nobody's really in need of salvation, because we're all OK, right?

So maybe the problem isn't that Mary is insufficiently honored, but that one of her attributes – and a recently (in Church time) doctrinalized one at that – is both widely misunderstood and widely overapplied. The key phrase was properly honored, after all - and the progression of heresy is misunderstood, ignored, denied.

Just a thought.

posted by Kelly | 1:49 PM link
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