Wednesday’s readings differed from Monday’s readings in almost every way. Mary was seen as personal and relatable as she discussed her experience witnessing the Crucifixion of her son. Details were given to make us relate to her sorrow and it was easy to follow along. Now Mary is elevated and sometimes is not seen as a woman. Wednesday’s readings were difficult to follow along and had to be read slowly so you can comprehend the metaphors and contemplate what the meanings were. Why were they so hard?
I think they were particularly difficult because they were portraying difficult themes and concepts. The major themes discussed in these songs were the Incarnation, Mary as the New Eve, and Mary’s virginity. All these have been focused on in class before, and are all connected to each other, but when you think about it, it’s hard to grasp. Therefore, as we listened to the slow melody of one of them, Ave Generosa (Hildegard’s Symphonia number 17), we had time to let the words sink in to us. Furthermore, the music would react to the words in the song, like the word joy, which helps direct us to the crucial parts of the song and helps us understand what is meaningful. The Incarnation made the Word into Flesh and Mary is so important because she contained the Uncontainable. The many metaphors reinforce this idea and drive it home with repetition. We are left with no doubt of Mary’s importance as she is the one who enables us to be redeemed us after Eve made us fall.
Speaking of Eve, the songs refer to Mary as being present at the moment of creation with God. This portrayal of her is that she is Wisdom. Frauenlob’s Marienleich is rich in this theme. Mary is more than a person here. She is cosmological and she transcends the natural realm as is evident from talk about the sun and moon. She is no longer someone we can relate directly with, as on Monday because she is elevated. How do we relate to her then? This question is hard to answer because before she is our mother, but now she seems to have more of a divine status. Instead of identifying with her, we honor and praise her. That’s the best answer I can think of really, but it raises the concern of worshipping Mary. She refers to herself as almost divine when she discusses her relationship with the Trinity but it had to be clear that she was not divine otherwise that is heresy.
St. Paul identified Christ as Wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:24) I was looking at pictures portraying Mary as Sedes Sapientiae and found images similar to the famous Virgin and Child Enthroned images. That’s when I realized that Jesus, or Wisdom, is seated on Mary’s lap, making her the Seat of Wisdom, or Sedes Sapientiae. Why does it seem that Mary is calling herself Wisdom though? Since Mary is the Mother of Christ, then that would make her Lady Wisdom then, which might be why she is referred to as Wisdom. This concept would have had to be understood otherwise it sounds somewhat heretical to place Mary this high up.
What I like about these sets of readings is how Mary is given all these titles. She’s a virgin, a bride, a mother, Lady Wisdom, and the New Eve. So many themes are woven into these songs. We get a sense of her whole being and her role in salvation instead of an intense focus on a part of her life. Most of the metaphors and allusions can be found in the Bible, especially the Song of Songs. We also get a sense of why she deserves praise and honor because she has a role in everything. All this takes thought and contemplation so the songs make us stop and process all this and helps us understand why she needs so much praise.
Walt Wimborne discusses in Ave Virgo Mater Christi that no amount of praise for Mary will ever be enough. The distinction must be kept in mind between praise and worship. While Mary is many things, she is still a creation. Yet she deserves praises because she plays a huge role in the salvation process. She’s a virgin, but became a mother. She is the bearer of God. That certainly deserves praise. She is our mother and can intercede and pray for us which Walt demonstrated. A phrase from class which really stuck with me was “How do you describe in words the one who gave birth to the Word?” I’ve been thinking about that and it is completely true! How does one honor the person who brought Christ into this world? Not only that, but she works with us and prays for us. How do we thank her enough?
The answer of why these songs are so difficult to comprehend is that they have so many underlying themes. If a person could guess where all the allusions and metaphors are from, that would be pretty awesome. We know they are found in Scripture and the liturgies. The Marian Psalters were broken into divisions of fifty and that how we pray the rosary-Mary’s prayer. I think about this and I wonder why many people today do not recognize Mary’s role in our salvation or how her obedience is another fulfillment of the Old Testament. I see why it is easy to confuse her human status with a more divine sense, but it seems to me that her role is central to the Christian faith.