Tuesday, July 29
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Parts VI & VII
Perhaps the heart of Mary in the Redemption comes in the chapter entitled “The Marian Aspect of Salvation History.” Here von Speyr puts all of the Old Testament under a Marian spotlight and finds much to see. She begins by asserting the superiority of Mary and her Son: “Christ is not just Adam regained: he is God. Mary is not just the reintegration of Eve: she is the Mother of God.” Thus, through the redemption, Christ and Mary in a sense transfigure the humanity that has come before them, but which has manifested their coming in prefigurations. She calls the Old Testament prefigurations of Mary “hyphens between fallen creation and redemption,” but states of Mary that “she herself is the actual hyphen; she helps to establish a harmony” (64). These prefigurations, or types of Mary, prefigure her “in their being,” as opposed to those of Christ, which can only do so “in their knowledge and prophecy” (67). Thus, Mary is the concrete reality that puts into flesh and blood the spiritual reality that had existed for so long in that knowledge and prophecy. Von Speyr puts it best by stating that “Mary is that which is concrete and remains so throughout the whole of history;” her existence, which give birth to the ultimate unity of body and spirit, is the ultimate defeat of dualism and what von Speyr calls “an artificial disembodiment” from which the Church suffers (69-70). This concreteness of Mary is fully realized in her Son, the Word made flesh, who even in his resurrected state is true flesh and blood.
Mission and office are important concepts for the theology of Balthasar, and one can see the influence of von Speyr on these ideas in Mary in the Redemption. In the aforementioned unity between Mary and Christ is a complete unity of mission, so much so that “Her mission is included in his to such an extent that he would sever his very self were to he sever himself from the Mother’s mission.” This might seem like a strange idea at first, since it would strike one that Christ’s mission comes first, but “she is sent with him because she first bore his mission. At the Cross, she then discloses what he first disclosed to her on the Mount of Olives: the possibility for the faithful to suffer with the Son.” Thus, von Speyr comes back to the co-redemption as the ultimate mission of Mary and through her, all mankind. This ties in very importantly, though somewhat paradoxically, with the concept of office. For von Speyr, “Christ’s office is like the unchanging link between Divinity and humanity. It is like a form into which he is poured” (99). Office thus becomes primarily a matter within the Godhead between Christ and the Father. This is transmitted to man through the office of priesthood, but Mary does not take on office, she rather transmits the office of Christ to earth: this is her only activity with regard to office. As von Speyr puts it: “Grounded in the manner in which she has carried it is the fact that women have no office in the Church, or actually no further office. Mary exhausted the officiality that was possible for women” (103). For a modern feminist, these could be easily seen as fighting words, but seen in its context, it is really a complement to the Eucharist: “the one is a never-ending gift of self until the end of the world, whereas the other is an irrevocable handing over accomplished once for all” (104). Thus, Mary, as handmaid, receives the office of Christ at the Annunciation, but hands it back at the Cross. Hers is thus an ideal submission, made not to a dominating force, but out of her own free will and through an acknowledgement of her state in life.