Friday, October 16, 2015

Offices and Benefits of the Virgin

Offices or honores throughout history were gifted to individuals or even groups to function as a way of gratefulness. Gratefulness for loyalty or as a way of positively remarking on the work and accomplishment of that person was the reason for these gifts. This can be seen in relation to the Office of the Virgin because of all that Mary accomplished in her life and what her life accomplished for all of humanity. She was prophesied to fulfill all of these things within the psalms, prayers of thanksgiving for her dutifulness and faith in God’s work is lauded and most interestingly her role in the afterlife as still working for humanity’s well-being is sung.  Mary is the office given not by the people but by God and mirrored is the focus and faith given to such a ritualized prayer.

Whether praising through Matins Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, or Compline, the early medieval worshipper would realize the importance of Mary in praising the savior, Jesus. Psalms, canticles and prayers allotted a great amount of attention to her role in scripture but by making it an active act of praise, it created a collective mission for worship within Marian practices which is why Peter Damian wished for it to become a universal commitment through the church. This idea of being active within the church was not the norm in the medieval church, one leader leads mass and the others follow. But the office of the virgin allows for all to lead each other through psalm, through song, through chant and finding the meaning of Mary in the face of Jesus’ life, passion, death, and especially in his promise of salvation. The collective in the early medieval church could now not only respond but call. A modern example of the whole community gaining active participation in the church would be service of Taize. It uses the same structure, though different psalms and songs are used within these services than the Office of Mary, and it has the same repetitive nature that can be memorized and repeated thus creating a sense of movement and a sense of familiarity with the prayers.

But the focus should remain on not only how structurally the Office of the Virgin thrived but how it could be promoted to help defend the idea of the Christian servant. Peter Damian sees miracle stories as evidence of how prayers and services to Mary benefit the whole of society as well as the individual, examples of towns or just one soul becoming a protectorate of the virgin mother run rampant throughout Peter Damian’s letters to lay and cleric alike. The example of Marinus within letter 106 and not only his vision of Mary before death which eased his mind at the coming mortality but was also found with great dismay by those around him was a result of earlier worship and devotion to Mary. He had made himself her servant through pain, actual physical pain, as well as prayers of fidelity and this is rewarded in his end.

Mary herself as a servant to God would be not only slave but queen and mother through this supplication and that is what allows for praise of Mary to be both beneficial and humbling to those who follow the office of the Virgin. As one of the most influential psalms of the Office, Psalm 18 leads this servant rhetoric as it says “For your servant keeps them, and in keeping them there is a great reward”. Disobedience was not only the “sing of the first man” as Peter Damian said in letter 142, but it is the opposite of truly serving God and his most blessed (130, part 8). As the antiphon to psalm 45 suggests, Mary is unmoved by anything other than the righteous, the obedience within her to God and that is how Christians were meant to act and live.

Although there was no coordinated or ordinated version of the Office of the Virgin, there was specific themes which all hours touched upon and helped to guide the Christian throughout the day. Focusing on salvation, Mary as a type of church just as Rebecca Baltzer talks about in The Little Office of the Virgin and Mary’s Role in Paris and Jesus’ humanity allowed for monastics and clerics to focus liturgically on the role of humans in God’s church on earth and how Mary can be a guide to God. Notre Dame was an important Marian cathedral because of what it was meant to represent within the office of Mary. Just as Baltzer inquired on pages 470 – 471 of her document, through honoring her and through commitment to the hours of the Virgin, Notre Dame becomes the threshold to salvation and intercession which is an important part of the theological environment of the medieval church. She, like the church, is the doorway to God and by being this she was able to be temple, mother, and queen to the Christian populace which allowed the Little Office to become part of everyday life if not through the pontiff.

The Mother of God became a symbol of not only purity but of strength in faith and strength as a noble of the everlasting and intercessor to the almighty. She is unlike the fake believer of Peter Damian’s letter 142 on page 133 who “has never penetrated the depths of genuine love” because she is the ultimate mortal example of love, both to the divine and to other humans upon this earth. She, like Solomon and Jacob’s mothers, gave the gift of the crown, of leadership, to her son however this was an eternal throne made up of herself. If ever there was a crown worthy of honors and hours devoted to those honors, it was in the mind of the medieval theologian worthy only of Mary. Only Mary could penetrate the ecclesiastical structure, only she could reasonably frame God because she was the only one who had ever held God within her.

-        A. Graff


  1. As with your comment on Germanos and Andrew, I would have liked to hear more about the specifics of the imagery used in the Office as a way of supporting your reading. As I mentioned in class, the image of Mary as type of the Church on which Baltzer depends is in fact a modern emphasis, it is not the way in which medieval Christians tended to talk about her. They use the idea of Mary as type to explain why some of the imagery about her is the same as that used of the Church (most especially the temple), but as we have been discussing, their sense of the temple was something other than simply a building. I am trying to get you to practice noticing these kinds of details in our texts so as to give you the tools for critiquing the modern scholarship as well as delving deeper into the medieval tradition. If God is in the details, Mary most certainly is! RLFB

  2. I looked up Damian and Mariology and found your blog. I had downloaded a pdf about Mariology icons/paintings of the Andes Mountains. It unfortunately offers no contact source.

    Possibly it was written by Damain you speak of and have studied.

    Could you suggest an image online I could see of the quartz statue of Our Lady of the Andes Mountain?

    It is said to not have been made by human hands and had previously been venerated by indigenous peoples of the Andes.

    I am not able to find an image of that statue art piece. Thank you in advance for your help. Thank you.