Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Meeting the Mother of God IV: Marian Dogmas and Devotions

During the summer while I was in Washington, DC. I remember going through the art galleries. Somehow, I always thought to myself, why do the Madonna paintings always seem to put Mary, instead of the Christ child at the center of attention? Shouldn’t Jesus be the one whom we fix our eyes on?

All these doctrines and devotions to the Virgin Mother, some of them sound pretty excessive. Allow me to quote to you de Ligouri:

Shall we scruple to ask her to save us, when “the way to salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary.”

“Many things,” says Nicephorus, “are asked from God, and are not granted: they are asked from Mary, and are obtained.”

At the commands of Mary all obey—even God.”

How shall I resolve this internal cognitive dissonance?

Let me tell you this story:

“You mean I have to believe in all these doctrines to be a good faithful Catholic?” I wondered to myself when the RCIA class was learning about the communion of saints, the Angels, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

For example, the dogma of Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven, at best, only spoken of metaphorically in the Scriptures (Rev. xii 1-6). On face-value, the doctrine definitely looks repugnant to the Scriptures.

The Immaculate Conception: the dogma that Mary was conceived without original sin and that she is sinless. Scripture seems to also point in the other direction (Rom. 3:23).

I was still learning how to be Catholic at that time. I was also learning how to read Scriptures again. I had remind myself that the Epistles were written mainly to sort out disputes, encourage and exhort the Christian faithful. It was not written to contain all the doctrines necessary for the faith of the Church. Allow me to digress. When the Apostles preached the Gospel, they handed over the living faith to the believers. Then they arranged the worship, the other doctrines and practices to the Church. That’s why St. Paul says, “Hold fast to the traditions I have handed over to you.” Part of these traditions are ones about Mary. You can also find references in the Scriptures about the Marian dogmas as well. You see, it’s not Scripture alone, neither is it Tradition alone.

I think by that time I already implicitly accepted the dogmas; I just needed reasons for doing so. My reason for joining the Catholic Church, which is another blog in of itself, is for the unity of the Church. It’s about submitting to the rightful interpreter of the Holy Scriptures and preacher of the Gospel. So here I was, thinking again that my 22 year old self knew more than the 2,000 year old Catholic Church.

As I was going through the arguments with the Marian doctrines with my sponsor, Dr. Budziszewski, a sort of lightbulb suddenly lit in my mind, except it wasn’t my own idea. I swear to you, the thought just popped into my mind, and I just blurted out the questions, “Why all these dogmas? Why does the Church has to pronounce these doctrines on Mary rather than just focusing on Christ alone? I mean, what do these doctrines do to help us come closer to Christ?” And that’s it! That’s what these doctrines are for. They help us come closer to Christ. The purpose of understanding Mary is to understand Christ.

And that’s how one should see the theology of the Church. Every theological doctrine the Catholic Church holds fast to is Christological in nature. They point us to Christ. And next time, the last installment of this series will be on exactly how Mary has helped me come closer to Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment