The solidarity among all the forces of the cosmos Boss discusses is what, in my opinion, invalidates the feminist theologians, more so than the persuasiveness of the medieval tradition. She says, “To believe that God is truly present in Christ thus depends upon our ability to believe that when Jesus was conceived by Mary, he was fundamentally united to the rest of the world, from which it then follows that God himself participated in that wider union. And by the same token, God’s unique presence in Christ cannot be neatly cut off from the mother whose flesh he made his own, unless we are to abandon our ability to discern God’s presence in the material world at all” (28). Boss brings in the necessity of faith in the unity of Mary, Christ and God, a crucial piece to Marian devotion that I try to highlight through this post. I will attempt to see how this faith disintegrated from modern discourse and how Boss convincingly brings about its restoration.
Warner and Daly seem to buy into Henry Adam’s “dollhouse” interpretation of Mary, and attack it as if it is not just the Protestant interpretation of her, but rather has existed since the inception of Christianity. In addition to Henry Adam’s symbolism of her, the Church’s“corporate takeover” of Mary by monopolizing on her motherhood, virginity, subordination and other sexist tropes, only exacerbated her newly feminized persona, and Ratziner says “the immediate outcome of the victory of ecclesiocentric Mariology was the collapse of Mariology altogether” (24). We mentioned in class that one flaw of Warner and Daly’s arguments is that they fail to recognize that Mary was not always gendered, as our studies of medieval Mary never distinguish her gender as being particularly advantageous or disadvantageous; more often she was praised by both men and women, not just the latter as Warner and Daly assume. I am not completely skeptical of their arguments, because I think that medieval Mary was gendered to some extent, and there is older grounding in this oxymoron of “Mary establishes the child as the destiny of woman, but escapes the sexual intercourse necessary for all other women to fulfil this destiny (336) that Warner highlights. There was the issue of women being unable to serve as priestesses, because Mary was, as Epiphanius of Salamis vehemently argued, definitively not a priestess. There was also the paralleling of her and Eve, as she absolved women of the original sin that Eve imposed on them. That parallel in itself genders sin, separating the sins of woman to align with those of Eve and those of man to align with Adam. But still, to see Mary’s full potential only as a feminist icon, whether pulling from medieval or modern examples, is ignoring the bigger picture of Mary as an omnipotent force in the cosmos that Boss argues.
Ultimately, these new characterizations of Mary as a gendered rag doll of sorts to be tugged at back and forth between people like Henry Adams and the Church, are what desensitized the role of faith in appreciating her. So when we brought up the question that Maria asked in a previous blog post, where does faith come into this, I see Boss’s notion of Mary come into play, as a force more overarching than the constricted vision that she is a “façade of semi-identification of females with the Christ” (Daly 81) or an object of the self-interested corporate church. Faith is lost in this translation of Mary’s purpose over time, from when medieval monks saw her in the imagery of the Old Testament and viewed her as a model of piety, to when modern day scholars see Mary solely as an isolated symbol and model of sublime femininity.
Warner considers Mary a myth, a “protagonist in the drama of the Incarnation and the Redemption of Christ” (xxiii) and compares her to Aeneas. Ironically, Warner and Daly criticize people like Henry Adams for symbolizing Mary, and yet symbolize her in their own way. One does not have spiritual faith in a “Protagonist” or a mythological character. Faith, to me, means having a well-grounded understanding of Mary’s history so that one trusts ultimately embodies her power and judgment. Like Professor Brown said in class, history is a powerful tool and we should be aware of how it is used, and to pin her as a standalone symbol or a goddess detaches her from her history, as AN said in a previous blog post, “Mary the Symbol can be worshipped without tracing her role in scripture, her relationship with Christ, or her importance to Church doctrine”; this leaves her as only a shallow superstition.
Jesus can appear to a disbeliever with crucifixion marks on his hands to prove his resurrection, revealing himself as an individual among individuals. However, Mary cannot simply appear to a disbeliever by revealing herself within every piece of matter to prove her cosmic existence, for as Boss says, “It may be that the solidarity of things, one with another, and of God with creation, is a more fundamental truth about the world than is their separation from one another” (8). Thus, Mary requires us to have a faith, in her history, her existence, her as a humanist model rather than strictly feminist one, a faith stronger than any an individual or opportunistic Church can muster that will result in worship of her as Theotokos, the perfect image of God, the Temple and the Star of the Sky.