Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sin and the BVM

I was meditating yesterday on how to explain Catholic admiration for and devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

I've got a BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary) statue in my front garden which I tell people is good for warding off Jehovah's Witnesses. I try to pray the Rosary daily, and I even wear the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel under my shirt (Most people, when they see it, treat it with that sort of silent discretion one might demonstrate with a lady whose slip is showing.) Me, I know the Brown Scapular is no free ticket to Heaven; or even to Purgatory, for that matter, although I do hope it gets me brownie points (HA HA, Ha Ha, ha...heh...oh, never mind.)

I, personally, wear the Scapular because it reminds me of who I am: a servant of Jesus Christ who reveres His mother and who needs to try to live up to that role.

But how does one explain Marian devotion in general?

Anti-Catholics have a simple explanation: idolatry.

The Church's explanation is that as Christ's mother, Mary is in a unique position to act as mediator between us and her Son, someone who can intercede on our behalf, an advocate for each of us individually and collectively for all humanity in the Heavenly Court.

But why does she appeal to us?

Many women identify with her as a fellow woman and mother.

Some are attracted to Mary as someone who is both fully human and only human, with whom they identify far more easily than with Christ, God the Son, fully God and fully human: dual states existing within a hypostatic union: a technical term for a belief which we affirm without really understanding in the least.

Others attempt to relate to Mary on that level, but are brought up short by the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception. If she was created without the stain of original sin, then not only did she not sin, but she experienced no concupiscence: no irrational attraction to sin. The only attraction she might ever have had toward so much as a sinful thought would have taken place wholly on the rational level. And of any rational temptation she ever experienced: we know she dismissed it. She was spared any inner battles with hidden desires.

In short: she had it easy.

Or did she?

Last night, as I meditated on my relationship with the BVM, a thought came to me as if from nowhere. It was either inspiration or just a dumb idea from nowhere. It was this:

Q: Why do we sin?

A: Out of a twisted notion of good.

Q: What is this twisted notion of good?

A: That it is good to gain pleasure and avoid pain.

Q: It is obvious that sin helps us gain pleasure. How does it help us avoid pain?

A: Hatred dulls our sense of injury. Lust dulls our loneliness. Gluttony dulls our poverty, and so forth.

Q: And what of Mary?

A: As she observed, watching the temple leaders convict her Son and watching the Romans condemn Him, torture Him, and kill Him in the most agonizing manner... she had no remedy. She could not retreat into hatred, condoling herself by despising Judas, Ciaphas, Pilate, or the others. She could only stand there and experience pure, unadulterated pain as she watched her son, whom she loved in a wholly unselfish manner, die the death reserved for slaves, foreigners, and perverts. The pain she experienced, even if it were not on behalf of God's Son, would still have been the most intense emotional pain any person ever had experienced because she had no sinful inclinations with which to sedate her feelings. She could not even escape through death. She lived a martyrdom more painful than the physical martyrdoms later experienced by her Son's apostles.

She did not have it easy. She truly was the queen of martyrs.