Why Mary?

I going to post this from both Sarah Morrigan’s Oregon Collyridian blog and the Mother God blog. I think that it is excellent.

Why Mary? January 5, 2009

Filed under: By Sarah Morrigan, Collyridian the@logy — thelittleprincessofiris @ 11:22 pm
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Sometimes I get a question from people, like this:

  • Why do Collyridians worship Mary, she is just a human.
  • Why don’t you just worship Goddess?
  • What is wrong with inclusive-language scriptures and liturgies?

My short answer to all of the above:

When we worship the Holy, our faith and devotion must be stronger than mere manipulation of words or intellectual assent to any doctrine. After all, it does little good if all what one is doing is reciting a creed or a prayer that she does not think is “right.” As the epistle of James states, one cannot have a wavering mind when one prays.

While it is certainly valid and correct to pray to a “gender-neutral” deity of an inclusive liturgy, or simply to a non-specific Goddess, there is an element that cannot be neglected: one’s subconscious — the part of us that is beyond the rational mind, but that which belongs to the heart.

For many of us, the iconology of the Virgin Mary has a very powerful imprint on our consciousness. It is no wonder that there are more apparitions of Mary than that of Jesus, Moses, or any saint, and how such apparitions draw thousands and millions of followers with a deep, heart-felt faith. At the very least, for those with an average exposure to the Western culture, the very image and name of Mary evoke something beyond and above the intellectual reasoning, pseudo-religious experimentations, or anything that is on the level that could ever be considered “artificial.”

The authors of Mother-God.com website explain this point more fully:

In Christianity, however, the patriarchal doctrine was carefully sealed. There was no room doctrinally for the Creatrix and officially, the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary was simply that she was the physical vehicle of Christ’s incarnation.

However, both Her titles and Her iconography told a different story. Despite the official theology, the image of the Supreme Mother was returning to the West.

She was called Mother of God – an extraordinary title which logically implies that She is antecedent to, and the Cause of, any other Divinity.

The ancient titles of the Supreme Creatrix were bestowed on Her – Queen of Heaven; Star of the Sea; Rose of the World. She was pictured “clothed in the Sun” like the Solar Mother, with the moon at her feet. She was depicted crushing the head of the serpent just like Eurynome, the Mother-Creatrix of ancient European religion.

Even theologically, the Divinity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was hard to suppress. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means that She was conceived without sin. Now, according to Christian doctrine, all humans are conceived in original sin, and only Christ can redeem that sin. But the Blessed Virgin Mary, before the incarnation of Christ, was sinless, unlike any human being, and made the redemption possible.

Within the strict patriarchal economy of Christianity, the Blessed Virgin Mary cannot be recognised as God; but in Her iconography, her titles and Her devotional cultus (none of which have a great deal to do with the biblical and historical Mary), She is clearly God the Mother.

Western devotees of Our Mother God look upon the statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary with love and devotion: easily and naturally recognising Her as Our Lady. The question that then arises is: “Can we, and should we, take these beautiful images back? Or, since they are made within a patriarchal tradition that denies Her Divinity, would that be wrong?”

When we adore and devote ourselves to Mary, we are not merely speaking of a certain Jewish woman who lived at the turn of the first century, but of the Lady of All Things that is revealed through the icons and mythos of the Virgin Mary.

Likewise, as Collyridians we continue in the sacramental traditions of the Church through which many of the ancient worship of the Lady was preserved even as it was thoroughly theologized and reconstructed away in the centuries of patriarchal Christianity. This is also the reason why we find values in preserving many traditional practices of the Church, including the seven sacraments and the apostolic succession; we believe that they, like the icons of Mary, are symbolic and mystical vehicles through which the tradion is carried to this age.



Who are the Collyridians?

I have recently discovered the blog site of the Collyridian Episcopate of Saint Bridget of Portland, Oregon. For those who do not know, the Collyridians were a Christian group which were defined as heretical by the orthodox Christian writer Epiphanius in the 4th Century CE. To cite the blog site:

Who are the Collyridians?
By Markus Mössner

Kollyridians or Collyridians were adorers of Mary in the 4th century Arabia, as Epiphanius mentioned in his writing against heretics (see: Haer. 78, 23; 79). He coined the expression Collyridians which has the meaning of “cake-eater-sect”. Leontius of Byzance had a different name for them. He called them “Philomarianites”, meaning Mary-lovers (PG 87, 1364). The priestesses of this sect used to present Our Lady with cakes or a special kind of bread (kolluris) intended as offerings as was the custom in pre-Christian times. This sect, mainly consisting of women or at least led by woman priests, propagated what amounts to a Goddess cult regarding Our Lady. Epiphanius had this warning on their behalf: “Although Mary is the most beautiful and holy and worthy of praise, we don’t owe her adoration” (Haer. 79, 7, PG 42, 752). In a different passage Epiphanius uses even stronger words: “Adoration must cease. For Mary is no goddess nor has she received her body from heaven. (oute gar theos hae Maria oute ap’ouranou exousa to soma)” (Haer. 78, 24). Collyridians are also known and mentioned by John Damascene (PG 94, 728).

I would highly recommend that people check out this site. The leader  of the Oregon Collyridian community, obviously inspired by the ancient Collyridian movement, is Bishop Sarah Morrigan.  Bishop Morrigan ordained by  an Archbishop of the Reformed Catholic Church of America (Old Catholic) seems  to be  an articulate presenter of a maximalist Marian point of view. So far I have found her blog well worth reading.

An Adjustment in Direction

At the end of my last log entree  I stated that “from this point on  I will look not primarily to the modern pagan theologies of Wicca, Pagan Reconstructionism, New Age thought, etc. I will not because Marian devotionalism is primarily a Christian phenomena and not a Pagan one.  But instead I will look  to the traditional, orthodox and heterodox religious traditions of Western Civilization for sources with which to dialogue.” On thinking on the project of this site for over two weeks now, I think that I have changed my mind on this. Certainly I will attempt in this place to share my thoughts and feelings regarding the orthodox formulations to Marian theology and devotion. However since in fact my own unique perspectives regarding Mary,  to a significant degree, have been strongly influenced by  sources such as Christian feminist theology and by Pagan conceptions of the divine, I now see no reason not to dialogue with these sources as well. After all the Greco Roman vision of Isis as the Universal Goddess has had a major impact on my own religious practices and theology. If readers of this blog, knowing of the impact of Isis on my life for example, attempt therefore to discredit everything that I say then so be it.

Situating Mary!

I think that I will initiate this discussion by  situating the place that Mary has in the religious or spiritual life of modern society. From there I will be able to more adequately explain my own particular assumptions about Mary and better describe the direction of the future discussion of this site.

Mary the Mother of Jesus, the Theotokos, the Mother of God lives of course near the center of both the  Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Within both of these church communities, Mary is known as the Queen of Heaven who intercedes in prayer to the Trinity for her people, etc.  In both Catholicism and Orthodoxy Mary is prayed to, adored, and passionately loved. Further more  much of the art and cathedrals of Western Christian civilization have been  dedicated to her. Mary is as the Eastern Orthodox liturgy says “higher than the cherubim and seraphim. And yet in spite of this the apologists of both communities continually reiterate the message that Mary is only human and not divine. She, as many Protestants say,  needed to be saved by her Son as do the rest of us.

To say the least many members of the Protestant Christian community and members of  the very small but growing  Neopagan communities through out the world view these views as both contradictory and strange. In fact  from the Protestant point of view the historical Marian devotionism of the Catholic community seems to suggest  that the status that Mary plays in Roman Catholicism  is in fact that of a  Pagan goddess. In fact anti-Catholic Protestant preachers regularly make this  charge as a major part of their anti-Catholic rhetoric.

Modern pagans make the same charge al be it from a completely different perspective. Paganism in fact takes a certainly amount of glee in the fact that the most powerful Christian church seems to give worship to Mary. This fact, as they see it, confirms their idea that in fact goddess worship is a universal human inevitability. Even the anti Pagan Roman Catholic Church can not get away from it. However, a part from this perception it would seem that modern Paganism in general has little real interest in Mary. They do give her a slot as one of the many aspects or faces of the Great Goddess along with Diana, Isis, the Morrigon, Hecate, etc.  After doing this most modern pagans with obviously some exceptions  pretty much forget about her.
Now I can better place  my own views relationship to Mary. First I certainly am a supporter and practitioner of Marian devotionism. As a Marian maximalist I have a very high view of the status of Mary in deed. I hold such a high view of Mary that I in fact agree with both Protestants and Pagans who argue that Mary is a sort of goddess. In spite of the denials of Roman Catholic apologists the kind of devotion and adoration that Mary has received in Roman Catholicism is the same type of devotion and love that earlier pagan peoples gave to goddesses  such as Isis, Athena, etc. In fact perhaps the attention that Mary has received may  be even more than that received by most of the pagan goddesses. However Mary’s role is not that of a pagan goddess, as  both Protestants and Pagans imagine, but of a Christian Goddess. To be more specific I see Mary as in fact incarnating the Holy Spirit and the female Spirit of God called in the Bible – Sophia / Wisdom. To my own mind to see Mary as having any lessor status actually eliminates any reason for giving her the great devotion or worship that she receives. In line with my Protestant religious heritage, I have a  problem with the idea of giving adoration or praying to beings who are less than God.

So these are the views with which I start. This is the starting point of discussion. From this point on  I will look not primarily to the modern pagan theologies of Wicca, Pagan Reconstructionism, New Age thought, etc. I will not because Marian devotionalism is primarily a Christian phenomena and not a Pagan one.  But instead I will look  to the traditional, orthodox and heterodox religious traditions of Western Civilization for sources with which to dialogue. Since I am  passionately attached to most aspects of  the biblical word view and interested in the development of Christian theological traditions though out the last 2000 years  this will work well.