Wednesday, September 11, 2013

For your consideration

There is a great post up by the always worth reading Phillip Jenkins. Here is a bit ofa teaser:
... for most Protestants (and some Catholics), the ideas I am describing – the whole Marian lore – is so bizarre, so outré, so sentimental, and so blatantly superstitious that it just does not belong within the proper study of Christianity. If anything, it’s actively anti-Christian. Even scholars prepared to wrestle with the intricacies of Gnostic cosmic mythology throw up their hands at what they consider a farrago of medieval nonsense.

As I’ll argue in a forthcoming post, that response is profoundly mistaken. If we don’t understand devotion to Mary, together with such specifics as the Assumption, we are missing a very large portion of the Christian experience throughout history. It’s not “just medieval,” any more than it is a trivial or superstitious accretion.
This Catholic cheerfully admit to  having trouble with some Marian doctrines, and even more so with some of the interpretations of these doctrines I have heard from Rosary-wielding Catholics I have met. I look forward to reading what Mr. Jenkins has to say on the subject.

BTW: One thing I have always wondered about is the issue of Mary's death. Here again, is Jenkins,
This literature had an enormous impact in giving pseudo-scriptural foundation to the very widely held church doctrine of Mary’s Assumption or Dormition. Assumption is the Western and Catholic term, suggesting that she was taken to heaven prior to death; the Orthodox accept Dormition, namely that after her bodily death, her body was raised as the first sign of the general Resurrection.
"Assumption" suggests she was taken prior to death? I've had this suggested to me by starry-eyed Marians who, like Jenkins, take it to be the Catholic church's view that she was taken to heaven without dying. I think he's just wrong about that. What church authorities I have heard talking on the subject have tended to fudge the issue by saying that we don't know and that assumption doesn't necessarily imply that she didn't die. On the other hand, they are very, very, very careful not to offend the many devout Catholics who believe she did not die.

So which is it?

This is Caravaggio's famous paining of the death of the Virgin. There is a significant dog that didn't bark hiding here.

When it was finished in 1606, this painting was harshly condemned by authorities. They objected to the undignified way Mary is presented, that you can see her bare feet, that her stomach is bloated .... No one, however, objected to the fact that she is presented as dead. They didn't for the simple reason that they couldn't; her death had been represented in art many times before.

There are, of course, many hard-core Marians who would like to have the church adopt the position that she did not die. Happily, John Paul II was not among them.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! Just last week I was reading an article on that very painting on Wikipedia which mentioned JP2's views on the doctrine (and of which I was excited to learn). I wish to come to some appreciation of Catholic doctrine (i.e. at least learn what it IS instead of its caricatures, and see if I can wrap my head around a few of the more maligned ones). If Mary died, then her Assumption is a privileged resurrection (she gets to skip Purgatory, or being 'asleep' (as Protestants prefer it, I suppose). This is OK. I can deal with that. In fact it makes very good sense, and resonates with the NT, which records the resurrections of others besides Jesus ahead of the final, general resurrection. Otherwise the doctrine, to me, remains, as I said to Mrs. Carmichael, "bizarre and frustrating nonsense".
    And I notice my copy of the catechism says that the A of the BVM "is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection...", etc.

    Anyway, I was pretty excited by this discovery and am glad to hear from a Catholic.