Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Perfection of Our Nature: The Hearts of Jesus and Mary

This is one of my favourite theological themes. Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart and yesterday the Sacred Heart. Contemplating the perfections of these is a kind of centre-point of anthropology and soteriology. But it is also a place where great differences of opinion arise: we do not all agree on who Jesus is and what kind of woman Mary was. We can strongly disagree.

In Christology we strongly disagree over the degree of Christ's human knowledge. In Mariology, her knowledge, her physiology, etc. Today, for instance, our pastor said that Mary is the perfection - I can't remember his exact word - the perfection of our human nature, which perfection is our goal. I disagree.

Scripture never says that; no Father of the Church ever said that.

Christ is the perfection of our human nature: He is our telos, our goal, our end.

To be free from sin is not to be perfect.

Christ was not only free from sin but perfect in knowledge; He enjoyed the beatific vision. Mary did not. Now, freedom from sin implies a great deal, but it does not imply what is in Christ. When I say that freedom from sin implies a great deal what I mean is that it implies a certain degree of knowledge and physical perfection - one can only be free and remain free from sin if the body and the mind are in a certain high state of perfection. Our bodies must be in a certain sound state, and our mind must have knowledge of certain things. Now, I am using 'perfection' is the relative sense, as when he say the saint have attained perfection in the world. I grant, obviously, that of all those who are relatively perfect, Mary is the most relatively perfect. Being free from sin, then, is no small potatoes: Francis of Assisi was not free from sin, nor were Peter, Paul, John, John the Baptist or Joseph.

The perfection that freedom from sin implies is great, but it is not the perfection of Christ, the goal of all human life. We are meant for the beatific vision, which Mary did not possess in the world, but which Christ did. To say that we are only meant to be free from sin is awful, because it implies that we are not meant to 'know God as He is, that is, face to face.' To miss the difference here is to fail to see that our goal is not to be restored to the state of Adam, but to be elevated to God. Adam before the Fall was free from sin and had no inclination for sin, but neither do dogs and rocks. Elevation to life in Christ is not about losing sin it is about gaining knowledge and love of God.

Nevertheless, we can gain a great deal in contemplating the perfection of Mary, her psychology, her relationship with God, her knowledge of God, her freedom with respect to sin, the type of relationships she was able to form with people.

Our contemplating Mary's perfection can be aided by certain visual portrayals. Some speak more strongly to me than other ones do. I like the one I have attached to this post mainly because they shake me up a bit.


  1. Hey! The image of Mary kneeling is by my aunt, Brigid Marlin. I'm glad you find it appealing, or thought-provoking, or whatever.

  2. Wow, that's great! I like it because it is beautiful, yes, and because it steps outside of the traditional 18/19th century Western motifs.

  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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