Theotokos, Part 2

(See Theotokos, Part 1)

Then He, whose face she had tenderly caressed in childhood,

…was laid on the wooden beam of the cross, and the terrible moment came for the mother Mary when she heard the hammer blows as the huge nails were driven into His flesh.

The sound of nails being hammered: she had heard that sound before. Her son, the carpenter, had been making chairs and tables since his youth.

….In former times she had often heard the sound of hammering in her house when Joseph and Jesus too drove nails into the wood. But this time- oh, how incomprehensible! The hammer pounded on nails piercing the hands and feet of her own Son. Would not cries of horror have come from her lips at the gruesome treatment? -Schlink, Mary the Mother of Jesus, p105

Yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also…

The Pietà, Luis de Morales, 16th century

The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. -Luke 1:35

It overshadowed her. When Moses was honoured with an encounter with the most high, he shone so brightly that the people were scared to look upon it, when the Spirit descended on Saul he was “turned into another man.” (1 Sam 10:6) and once it “hovered over the face of the waters,” the creation exploded into all its shining splendour. And yet, there is no comparison…

The Holy Mystery of that moment is beyond the reach of human understanding…The Holy Spirit Himself, the third person of the Godhead, overshadowed her, perhaps moving over her as He once moved over the face of the waters when the earth was without form and void. Who can tell what happened to Mary when she came into such contact with the holiest of all. -Schlink, Mary the Mother of Jesus, p22

He came to her. The Sheiknah, came to her- the Sheiknah of the Tabernacle.

Mary and the Tabernacle

The tent, the tabernacle of Moses, covered the Ark of the Covenant. The ark itself, carried by the Priests, was adorned by two Cherubim, for it housed the sacred- the Ten Commandments inscribed on two tablets of stone and the Manna of God. None could come near it- for it was where the glory dwelt. When the temple was built, the tabernacle was placed in the centre, the sacred heart of God’s dwelling in the Holy City, called the Holy of Holies. Sacred, for the It, Yaweh: the self-evident one, the knowing of whose majesty or sheiknah, is beyond human conception, dwelt there…

And now, he dwelt in Mary.

“Oh Mary…you are the tabernacle, wherein God dwells!” –Coptic Theotokia of Sunday

“Hail Blest Virgin yet bearing child: For he who sits at the Father’s right hand. The ruler of heaven, of earth and sky, has sheltered Himself in your womb. O Mary!” –Salve Mater Misericordiae

Moses and Joshua bowing before the Ark, James Jacques  Joseph Tissot, c.1900

The Coptic church celebrate Mary with various ‘types.’ They call her the Second Tabernacle, Jacob’s Ladder, the Ark of the Covenant, the Vessel of Manna, the Golden Lampstand, the Burning Bush. Each is potent and striking, but it’s the notion that Mary is “Aaron’s Rod,” that most speaks to me.

The blossoming of Aaron’s Rod

The Lord commands Moses to have each of the tribe leaders present their wooden staffs, in a process that will determine which of the twelve Israelite tribes the nation’s priests shall come from. The staffs, according to Matthew Henry, were probably “old dry staves, that had no sap in them”(Henry, Concise Commentary, Numbers 17)  Yaweh says that the man’s rod, which I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.”

Then “it came to pass, that….the rod of Aaron… was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.” (Numbers 17)

The dead stick bloomed. It’s that transformative sentiment, the electrifying possibility that life might spring from death, that he might yet make it all come right, that so pleases me. Vibrant creative splendour from this stagnant inertia. Truth and light and something real, something that matters, in spite of this heavy, cloying vale.

He, the Christ, was able to cut through this suffocating ease- this complacency. He was victorious, and with that victory, there is true hope. Ludicrously fortunate, impossible salvation- tempting me to to joy in it! Through this screen of clumsy matter, came truth and light, and, more than that, it came to me.

Wherever he treads, dead thing blossom into life. He placed in Mary his Son, and even here, in this place, beneath these dark clouds, produces his own shining perfection.

and, behold, the rod of Aaron….bloomed blossoms..

The victory of the faithful

“Blessed are they that weep now, for you shall laugh”  -Luke 6:21 

Schlink speaks of her exaltation. Blessed for her humility and made the Theotokos on earth, blessed in her mourning and taken to his presence. She passed through, she overcame, she made it to his courts.   

Joyful laughter will now be he lot for all eternity and she will join in celebrating Jesus’ victory. She will rejoice and raise songs of praise…She was immersed in suffering, but for this reason she will also be privileged to taste the fullness of glory. -Schlink, Mary the Mother of Jesus, p111

The Coronation of the Virgin, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, 1645

And now, to me, and to those who look to Mary, and seeing her, long to pass through, and to make it to his courts also…

There is an empty, gaping chasm, it is vast, there is no end to it. I am close to the edge, I am at the brink, and this abyss stretches out before me and its pull is irresistible. I know that this place is endless and cruel, it troubles me to the core and I see no end to its madness and sickness. It is pure tyranny, and, for all that, this place, this pit is inside me, and that makes it more horrifying still.

Then he comes, my Saviour and prince, he comes to take this sickness to himself. He embraces me and I fly to his protection, he is mine.

“He is the Sun of Righteousness, who comes with healing in his wings, and who healed our sin” -Theotokia of Sunday

“He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust” -Psalm 91:4

“For the Father himself loves you…you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”      -John 16:27

He came. He came to me, even to this place, he came. It’s unbelievable, and yet, he came ….Mary, show me to Him.

My God, I long to make it, to pass through, to see you. God, I long to prove myself to you. Compassionate Mary, have mercy, come, meet me in my need, see to my confusions, erase my doubts, take me by the hand, soothe my fears, have mercy on me and show me to Him.

Ave Maria, Mater Amabilis! Ave Maria, Virgo potens!

Read Theotokos, Part 1

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