Schindler (Ordering Love: Liberal Societies and the Memory of God, 298-301) points to Mary as a model of created existence: “Mary reveals the original and abiding asymmetry in the creature’s relation to God” (fiat).” That is, all creatures receive the gift of existence from God. Second, “She reveals the ontologically consequent-but-simultaneous mutuality in that asymmetrical relation (Magnificat).” Consequent because her responsiveness to God depends on God’s gift, simultaneous because the gift of God’s fiat to Mary takes form precisely as her responsiveness. It is not that a gift is given, and then Mary gins up a response by her independent ability; she has no independent ability, so her response is precisely the form of the gift. Third, “she reveals the inherent fruitfulness of this asymmetrical-mutual relation (Theotokos).”
Schindler adds that “her responsiveness is sinless, wholly transparent to God’s initiative; her mutuality with God involves a literal unity with the divine person within her; and her fruitfulness consists literally in giving birth to the divine Son of God himself.” ”Sinless” probably means something to Schindler that it doesn’t mean to me; Mary’s response was not itself sinful, but Mary was herself a sinner. With that slight caveat, I think Schindler’s description of Marian ontology is wonderful. As he says, Mary is unique, but “God offers to all creatures, from the beginning of their existence, a genuine participation in what takes place uniquely in Mary.” We are all Mary.
Mary also reveals that “it is precisely in subordination to the Other that one assumes the power of the Other enabling one to be genuinely creative and fruitful with the Other in a way utterly beyond what one can create or produce on one’s own – that is, to be creative and powerful in some significant sense without the generativity and power of God Himself.” Creatures act always in the middle voice: “Creaturely initiative always and everywhere bears within it a relation to the Other that makes the initiative, from the beginning and all along the way, an initiative from, in, and with the Other.”
And this means that creaturely action is “originally and constitutively symbolic.” We are not substantial beings with a symbol icing, but inherently and substantially symbolic. As Schindler goes on to point out, this means that liturgy is also constitutive of human existence. All things harmonize together in a cosmic liturgy. If true, non-liturgical worship is not some sort of unfortunate aesthetic failure; it is at odds with the grain of the universe.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm
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