19 March 2009

Our Lady of Victories (2)

If the title of our Lady of Victories apparently seemed a bit over-the-top even to a sixteenth century pope, it seems all the more inapposite to our age. Triumphalism is a dirty word to the twenty-first century Church. And not only a dirty word, it's a forbidden concept. Not for us that great canvas of Rubens in the Prado - the Triumph of the Church - with the heretics squirming in helpless agony under the inexorable chariot wheels of Ecclesia Triumphatrix. Not for our age Tiepolo's ceiling in the Carmelite Church in Venice, with the imperious Madonna looking down an almost haughty nose as she's carried in glory by clouds and angels, riding, as if it were on a supercelestial surfboard, standing on the Holy House of Nazareth as it flies to Loretto. No: our age looks to a humbler Virgin; Mary the model of obedience; Mary, the norm of the disciple; Mary, the Woman of Faith. Triumphalism is not of our age. We've been cut down to size. Ecclesia Triumphatrix has been replaced by Ecclesia Famulatrix - although I bet Orthodoxy, not so quick to lose her nerve, still celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy. But for Westerners, the Church is the Servant Church, the only society, we have been informed, which exists to serve those who are not members.

But readers of Scripure might have their occasional nagging doubts about this proscribing of all Triumphalism. The Magnificat, for example, the song of the tapeinos, the lowly one, suggests that the Lord has hupsosen, highly exalted, her. And the woman of the Apocalypse, crowned with stars and adorned with the Sun, whether she be the Messiah's Mother or his nurturing community or both, seems to my eye to have had more than a dollop of Triumphalism ladled over her. Our Lady, after all, is, as we Latins have been taught to sing, victorious over heresies: "Thou alone hast put down all heresies in the whole world". The truth of Theotokos secures the Incarnation of a real God against the heresy of Islam; it guarantees that the Rabbi from Nazareth possesses an unpronounceable Hebrew Name written but not spoken in four silent letters. Since God has entered his world in the flesh, that Kosmos, created by him and redeemed, is itself good; let Manichee therefore stop his mouth.
Ends tomorrow

3 comments:

rev'd up said...

Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum...

She is the most free and therefore the most powerful of women.

O Mater Dei, memento mei.

Michael said...

Brilliant post Father. Thank you.

Curtis said...

Dear Father, it is always a pleasure to hear good words said about Our Lady. We do not hear near enough.

Just last night I was struck by the final antiphon in the Office:

Dignare me laudare te, virgo sacrata,
da nobis virtutem contra hostes tuos

I expected to read "hostes meos". Aren't I asking intercession for my own problems? One often forgets that Our Lady, the Exterminatrix of All Heresy, has personal enemies and that the saints in Heaven have their own battles as much as they help us with ours!

Thank you again.