Queen of Heaven: a Working Hypothesis

God willing, I shall be confirmed a Catholic at the Vigil of Easter. In preparation since September, I have (among other things) read and studied the Catechism. It’s been edifying to have the Faith completely spelled out, at least in outline. I’ve learned that as a traditional Anglican, the orthodox theology to which I have long adhered is thoroughly Catholic – at least with respect to those doctrines of the Faith that I had yet tried to understand.

One domain of doctrine I had not ever much thought about or understood concerns Mary. Anglicans venerate Mary, of course, but are not as fascinated with her as Catholics. So I’ve been studying up a bit on Mary. I’ve not been concerned so much with this or that controversial Marian dogma, as with far more general questions of how we ought to think about her – e.g., what is her function in the plan of salvation, what is her status in the economy of Heaven (including this little cosmos), and so forth. I figured that if I understood that, then the rest of Mariology would fall into place without too much fuss.

Not that I have been much troubled by the Marian dogmas so widely controverted among Protestants. Their logic opened to me as soon as I grappled with them. The Immaculate Conception, for example, is the Marian doctrine most difficult for Protestants to take on board. Given that the whole of the Divine Providential plan of creation and salvation, and the whole of its implementation, are present to God from all eternity, it seems relatively straightforward to me. If God vouchsafed to his human mother the first fruits of the Atonement at an ontological locus prior in the order of time to the locus of the Passion, why then that’s his prerogative. Certainly there’s no ontological difficulty about his having done so, any more than there is a difficulty about his having redeemed Elijah or Moses after their deaths and before his own, so that they could appear with him glorified in their resurrection bodies on the Mount of Transfiguration.[1]

God could make the conception of any woman immaculate; he could conceive a son in any woman he wanted. So, Mary is not remarkable because these things happened to her in particular, but rather because these particular things happened to her. This is so even of her sinlessness. There is nothing in our nature that makes it ontologically impossible for humans to live sinlessly – indeed, ex hypothesi, we are designed to live that way (if we weren’t, sin would not be sinful). That we do not is an accident of our inheritance from history. It is that accident that Jesus cures by the Atonement, repairing our being so that it can conform to its true nature. Mary was furnished with that cure at her conception, so that she would start her earthly career uninfected by Original Sin, and could then make her way through life “unspotted by the world,” so to as be capable of her total, perfect assent to the proposal of Gabriel, with all that it entailed for her subsequent adventures. But God could have bestowed at any time, upon any woman, the redeemed perfection of human nature that Mary enjoyed ab initio. To be himself borne by unspotted matter, he needed an unspotted mater. He had to choose someone, and he chose Mary – just as he had chosen her forefather Abraham and his seed Israel forever.[2]

So, again: Mary did not become Queen of Heaven because she was special; she is special because she is the Queen of Heaven.

And it is just that which puzzled me. What does it mean to say of Mary – or of any woman who might according to the accidents of history have taken her part – that she is Queen of Heaven? I.e., quite apart from her historical instantiation as Mary, who is the Queen of Heaven?

Shortly after I began thinking and reading about Mary, a working hypothesis suggested itself to me, and so far it has borne up: the Queen of Heaven is the archetypal, perfect, palmary and primordial Creature. She is the radix of creatureliness, the first among creatures both in the order of Creation and in the order of honor; for all other creatures take the form of creatureliness she first and supremely exemplifies. The Queen of Heaven subsists in perfect concord with the Divine Will. She is therefore, with all other perfected creatures that like her are faithful, the Image and likeness of the Logos.[3]

Is there a creature anywhere? Then is there, first, the Queen of Heaven. Wherever the Logos is expressed in a creature, it is in and by way of an instance of the Heavenly Queen. As the primordial and archetypal Creature, the model and form of creatureliness, the Queen of Heaven is the matrix of creation, the Receptacle of the logos spermatikos, the Prime Matter, without whom creatura is formless and void – i.e., is not. She is everywhere the place in which the Logos makes his dwelling and is incorporated.

So it is that the Theotokos is called Bride, Mother, Throne, Tabernacle, Tree, Lampstand, Altar, Burning Bush, Cloud, Sun, Chariot, Incense, Manna, Tower, Temple, Ark, Fortress, Mountain, Cave, Garden, Sea, Rock, Pillar, Fount, Veil, Vesture, Body, Firmament, Vessel, Heaven, Church, City, People, Door, Gate, Chalice, Treasury, Ship, Kingdom, Glory.

Mary in her complete fiat mihi is the Immaculate human implementation of that Queen and her perfect concord between creature and Creator.

Here we see the Queen of Heaven as Burning Bush (or Christmas Tree, perhaps – either way, the Tree of Lights, the Menorah (one of the lights has taken his traditional angelic appearance)), Throne, Cave, Spring of Living Water, and of course Mother. In many versions of this icon, the bush sits atop a mountain amidst a cloud; YHWH’s hand reaches from the cloud and hands Moses the Law.

Mary in the Bush


[1] I feel serene also about Perpetual Virginity, and its corollary in the tradition that, as exempt from Original Sin, Mary gave birth to Jesus painlessly. Resurrection bodies – human bodies as they were meant and designed to operate – can do amazing things. I see no reason why Jesus could not have tunneled out of the womb the same way he tunneled through the wall of the Upper Room after his death, or walked on water before it.

[2] These two choices, disparate in the order of time, are aspects of one single choice in eternity.

[3] And, thanks to the circumincession of the three Persons, likewise of the Godhead. This is why Augustine says somewhere that the Heavenly Sophia is the creaturely mirror of the uncreate Wisdom of the Godhead.

38 thoughts on “Queen of Heaven: a Working Hypothesis

  1. Nice meditation, Kristor.

    “God willing, I shall be confirmed a Catholic at the Vigil of Easter.”

    I checked. He does will it.

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  3. An interesting reflection. Congratulations on your confirmation! I was myself confirmed just Friday.

    It seems disproportionately difficult in my experience to argue with Protestants about Mary, esp. as you have noted with regards to the Immaculate Conception, even though it is perfectly logical.

    • Thanks, and congratulations upon yours!

      I don’t actually know how difficult it is to argue with Protestants. I’ve never done it. What tends to happen with me – and this is as true for Catholics and atheists as Protestants – is that I respond to statements of the form, “I don’t buy doctrine x; it doesn’t make sense to me,” by explaining the sense, which no one has ever done for them. The Christians generally respond positively, saying something like, “Oh, I see; interesting; I’ll have to think about that.” The atheists just get quiet (sometimes I have to do a powerful lot of explaining to conduct the atheists to that point!).

    • The immaculate conception is not necessary. As Isaiah was allowed to stand in the presence of God after a burning coal was applied to his lips. Mary is able to bear Jesus without trouble.

      Moreover only Jesus was described as sinless. Otherwise this scripture applies to all
      Proverbs 20:9:
      “Who can say I have kept my heart pure;I am clean and without sin”

      • Was the Immaculate Conception indeed unnecessary? All things are possible with God, of course; yet, “Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4). Making the clean out of the unclean is one of those logical impossibilities, such as making a four-sided triangle, that even God cannot perform.

        The purity of Isaiah, Elijah and Enoch is an artifact of the Atonement. If Christ had not redeemed them, they could never have stood in heaven. Thus while their purification presupposed the completion of the Atonement, the Atonement presupposed Mary’s prior complete purity. In the order of time, her purity had to be effected before the Atonement could get under weigh; not so for them.

        As Job points out, God could not bring the purity required for the complete and perfect Marian “yes” out of an impure Mary, who had been tainted by sin. So he had to make her pure from the get go.

        Is it really true that only Jesus is described as sinless? Mary does not call herself pure, but Gabriel does: he calls her “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). She has no defect of grace, so that her nature is by that grace perfected. She is therefore without spot of sin; for, any such spot would have falsified Gabriel’s statement.

      • I think Pius IX would agree that the Immaculate Conception was not “necessary”:

        We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

        Note: “by a singular grace and privilege … in view of the merits of Jesus Christ.” If it was necessary that she be conceived immaculately than it would hardly be a privilege; and it was not for her own good but the further glorification of Christ, “in view of” whose merits this particular gift was bestowed.

      • Was the Immaculate Conception indeed unnecessary? All things are possible with God, of course; yet, “Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4). Making the clean out of the unclean is one of those logical impossibilities, such as making a four-sided triangle, that even God cannot perform.

        So, it’s logically impossible for God to bring forth the the sinless Jesus from the sinful Mary, but it’s not logically impossible for God to bring forth the sinless Mary from the sinful Anne?

      • An excellent question. It raises a far deeper, more difficult and important question: if Job is right that it is logically impossible to bring impurity out of impurity, how can we be saved, even by God?

        I’ll try to answer both those questions in a new post.

      • Proph:I think Pius IX would agree that the Immaculate Conception was not “necessary”: …

        So, … what? The doctrine is not only a recent innovation (as a doctrine), is not only not grounded in the Bible, but is also superflous?

        Might it also be that it’s a distraction?

  4. Could the Queen be anything else than human being? Or could there be more of such human implementations of the Queen of Heaven? Had Mary been the Queen even before she was born?
    Perhaps, it is the word “queen” which confuses me. It means to me some sort of personal rule in Heaven while archetype means something impersonal.

    • In the angelology of the First Temple – which was carried forward by the Essenes and then by the Christians – what Plato called Forms or Ideas, and what Jung called archetypes, are not abstractions, but concrete entities: angels, or gods, or sons of God. For each principle, there is a Principal: a person who is its palmary exemplar, and ergo the archetype for all other entities that participate in its type. Such participations or types are Images of their archetypes; their degree of fidelity to their archetypes is captured in the notion of likeness.

      And there are angels of angels. E.g., each man has a guardian angel, who is himself a type of the archetype of Man. Thus the hierarchy of angels, rank upon rank.

      The Queen of Heaven is among other things the chariot throne of the LORD. The throne is alive; it is composed of, or rather its composition involves, the four Living Creatures with their wheels within wheels (just as we are animals made of animals). It is adorned with countless flaming stones. Each stone is an angel, a living archetypal Form. The Forms, then, are not inert, but intensely active: they burn, and glow, and smoke, and fly. They go wherever they want without moving their parts, but rather by just intending, the same way that we move our muscles. And they see, they know: the stones are also called eyes, as in Ezekiel’s visions.

      The stones of the throne are not just rocks, but ideas; not just abstract principles, but concrete, burning facts. Each is a living divine person with godlike powers.

      As the chariot throne is composed of angels, so are the Temple, the Holy of Holies therein (which was covered on the inside with bas-reliefs of angels, cherubim and seraphim of beaten gold), Israel, the Church (starting with St. Rock), and the New Jerusalem; so that they are all types of the throne. Thus each of the flames in the icon of the burning bush is an angelic jewel; one of them has begun to fly off on a mission, and has taken on the appearance of an angel. Some of them appear as fiery dragons (the seraphim), some as terrific griffins (the cherubim); and some appear as many different sorts of things all at once (the four Living Creatures).

      As the Angel of Creatureliness, the Queen of Heaven is then a person. Because she is the archetype of archetypes, and of all their types, she is incorporated in – she informs – all creatures. They are created in her Image, which is the Image of the Logos. Just as an image of a man may or may not look very much like him, some of those images are her faithful likenesses (e.g., Gabriel), while others are not (e.g., Lucifer, me).

      Could the Queen of Heaven perfectly inform more than one human being? I think the answer is yes. Mary is the first and palmary Christian, our model and guide, and all of us are intended for the same perfection of being she has always maintained. The Queen of Heaven is the angel of all creatures, and of all humans, and all of us may partake of her by enacting the Marian “fiat mihi.” But it seems that Mary is unique among humans in that the Queen of Heaven is also her particular angel, just as the Angel of the LORD is the particular angel of Israel, and of Jesus the Nazorean.

      Was Mary Queen before she was born? In the order of time, no: before she was born, Mary wasn’t anything at all, whereas the Queen was. In the order of eternity, yes – albeit a qualified yes, because in the order of eternity there is no before or after.

  5. Welcome home Kristor. More than Queen of heaven, she is the Queen of Christian hearts. Our mother Mary is the shortest, quickest, safest way to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Her immaculate heart is the maternal matrix where Christ is truly formed in us. St Louis de Montfort is the best explorer and guide to the Marian mystery. God bless and thank you for your insights.

  6. Oy, where to start?

    Rather than asking if the Immaculate Conception (“IC” following) is necessary, we should ask why is a Queen of Heaven required? Wisdom is personified in Proverbs; she’s a metaphor, an expression of Christ, or something akin to the Shekinah. Hagia Sophia predates Mary and is arguably more divine, but (as far as I know) never called Q of H.

    That’s a very impressive list of titles that were strung together for Mary. Many of them are used in scripture for Christ; expanding them to an extra-Biblical Mediatrix is problematic at the least. How do Kingdom & Glory apply to her?. “… for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory….” The Ark is a type of salvation in Christ; unless one is going to go all Dan Brown on Mary as the vessel, it doesn’t work.

    If Mary is the image of the Logos, and the Logos is the expression (icon, IIRC) of the substance of God (Heb. 1:3), then are there further exhalations, overflowings, & other Gnostic folderol?

    As memory serves, wasn’t the doctrine of IC first authorized in the 19th C? That’s rather late for a fundamental doctrine.

    The Dread Sovereign of the Universe can do as He pleases as long as it doesn’t contradict His nature, so I suppose that an IC is possible. Using Enoch, Moses, & Elijah as examples of pre-Calvary glorified saints, one could argue that there are others. However there is no need for this special status for Mary. It makes for an interesting conjecture, but that’s about it.

    Our Lord Jesus has both a Divine and a human nature. If He can have a sinless human nature why does Mary need one? It seems to lower Christ, a dangerous thing to do.

    That’s about it for this stream of consciousness. To many (good, mature, thoughtful) Protestant Christians, Marianism is a major problem.

    None-the-less, I wish you all joy and peace over the coming holy days.

    • Thanks, Griffon, you raise some good points. Responding to them will be edifying.

      … why is a Queen of Heaven required?

      No creature, including the Queen of Heaven, is required. Every one of them is superfluous.

      Wisdom is personified in Proverbs; she’s a metaphor, an expression of Christ, or something akin to the Shekinah.

      That she is all those things does not mean that she is not a concrete actuality. Metaphors have rhetorical power because they indicate some formal character that two disparate things really do share. Furthermore, that one thing is like another metaphorically does not mean that they are not both items of the same sort. A soccer ball can be used as a metaphor for a football: both are as well fully and completely balls.

      It’s not that she is akin to the Shekinah, she seems actually to be the Shekinah.

      That’s a very impressive list of titles that were strung together for Mary. Many of them are used in scripture for Christ …

      They are common in the writings of the Fathers, who use the typological approach to the interpretation of scripture popular from 1,000 BC to AD 1,000. Thus Mary is, not literally, but typologically the Ark of the Covenant: e.g., like the Ark she is the vessel consecrated to bear and contain the Word, the Torah. It takes a while to learn to read scripture this way, but once you do, the connections are pretty spooky. And wonderful.

      … expanding them to an extra-Biblical Mediatrix is problematic at the least.

      Why? So long as we bear in mind that Mary is a creature, and do not offer her worship, what’s the problem? When “Wisdom” is used to refer to the Son, then it is the uncreate Wisdom of the Logos that is indicated; when it is used to refer to Sophia, then it is the creaturely Image of the Logos that is indicated. Simple.

      How do Kingdom & Glory apply to her?. “… for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory….”

      Read it carefully. Christ is the King, not the Kingdom. The power and the glory are his; they are not him. He is the Head, not the Body; the Bridegroom, not the Bride. Etc.

      The Ark is a type of salvation in Christ; unless one is going to go all Dan Brown on Mary as the vessel, it doesn’t work.

      Why? How is anything Dan Brown has said relevant to the question? If he said Mary is the vessel, that doesn’t mean she is, and it doesn’t mean she isn’t.

      If Mary is the image of the Logos, and the Logos is the expression (icon, IIRC) of the substance of God (Heb. 1:3), then are there further exhalations, overflowings, & other Gnostic folderol?

      Yes. Of course. All humans are like Mary made in the Image of the Logos. (Genesis 1:27) The Logos in turn is the Image of the Father. (Colossians 1:15) The Gnostics used this concept of the ikon, but so did everyone else back then. That the Gnostics employed it no more makes it a peculiarly Gnostic notion than their use of π would make π a peculiarly Gnostic letter.

      As memory serves, wasn’t the doctrine of IC first authorized in the 19th C? That’s rather late for a fundamental doctrine.

      The Immaculate Conception became dogma – explicitly stated teaching of the Church – in 1854. Dogmas are promulgated for pastoral reasons, in order to clarify doctrinal confusions or settle controversies when and as they arise. E.g., the Trinity had been doctrine since before the Incarnation, but did not become dogma until 325.

      The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is extremely ancient. The perfect sinlessness of Mary was either argued to be true or assumed to be true by St. Justin Martyr (155), St. Irenaeus (189), Origen (244), St. Hippolytus (235), St. Ephraim the Syrian (361), St. Ambrose of Milan (387), St. Gregory Nazianzen (390), and St. Augustine (415), among many others. Of these, Irenaeus is particularly interesting, as having heard St. Polycarp, who was a student of St. John, Mary’s adoptive son and caretaker.

      It appears that any Christians who thought about it back then concluded that Mary had to have been sinless.

      However there is no need for this special status for Mary. … Our Lord Jesus has both a Divine and a human nature. If He can have a sinless human nature why does Mary need one? It seems to lower Christ, a dangerous thing to do.

      The Immaculate Conception doesn’t demean Christ, it ennobles Mary. The nobility of a King is nowise diminished when he ennobles one of his subjects. On the contrary. When a King ennobles a knight, his own glory is thereby burnished.

      About the need for Mary’s special status, all the saints seem to disagree with you! Again, no creature is necessary. This world is not necessary. But given the logic of our cosmic economy, it would seem that a sinless Theotokos is indeed needful for our Atonement.

      If there is to be an ontological compensation for the defects of this world sufficient to heal the infinite alienation brought about by its defection from perfection, it has to come from this world. God is not the one who needs to move in order for the rift to be healed. It is the world that must cross that infinite gap in order to be healed, and to be joined again to God in perfect agreement, harmony and communion. But as wounded, the world is ontologically crippled. It hasn’t the ontological resources to heal its own wound, because you can’t – logically can’t – produce perfection from defection.

      Nor could the ontological resources even of a sinless creature such as Mary, or Gabriel for that matter, suffice to cross an infinite gap; for creatures are only finitely capable, and have not the power to heal the creation that contains and overpowers them. The world must rather be healed by a power that contains and overpowers it. Only God has sufficient ontological resources to bridge the gap.

      But the gap has to be bridged by a creature.

      So the only way the wound can be healed is for God to come into the world as a perfect creature, who can then by his perfect obedience as consecrated victim be the first creature of this world since the Fall of Lucifer its lord who is not congenitally crippled by alienation from the Creator, and thus open the way for the rest of us. And that sacrifice has to be of a perfect, spotless victim; the tiniest blemish will ruin the whole rite, for its atonement will fall somewhere short of completeness. The victim has to be perfect in his nature, and perfect in his material implementation. Every factor of his being must be perfect, including the human nature inherited from his mother. And since you can’t – logically can’t – get what is perfect from what is imperfect, that means that Mary has to be sinless from her conception, in every respect.

      This analysis does raise a further troubling question: if God can make Mary immaculate from her conception, why did he bother with Incarnation, Passion, the whole shooting match? Why not just make everyone immaculate from conception, hey presto, and be done with it?

      The answer is that such a move could not suffice to repair the wound already inflicted on the whole history of creation by the sins of our forefathers and the angels. Consider that Adam and Eve were created immaculate, and were tempted, and Fell. If God were to make all their heirs immaculate at conception, those heirs would be just as vulnerable to the suasions of Lucifer as their first parents. The Fall would then be recapitulated in every generation.

      Indeed, there is a sense in which this is exactly what does happen. Each new moment in each life begins in and from God, and therefore perfect; and in reckoning with its past, as each worldly moment must needs do (this being the way that a causal order is knit together in a net), it meets temptations, and Falls – not certainly, but with a likelihood very near unity.

      So, once the world had Fallen, and the facts of its past were fixed, there was no way that God could repair it by making it unfallen, because it would then just Fall all over again. He had to find a way to use the death that is for each of us the final complete effectuation of the Fall as the gate to everlasting life. As the master of aikido uses the momentum of his attacker to throw him to the ground, so God used death – his own, and ours in union with his – to destroy death. A neat trick.

      Thanks for writing, Griffon. I always learn some interesting stuff when responding to counterarguments. A blessed Easter to you.

  7. Welcome home Kristor.

    In your discussion of Mary’s assumption and crowning as the Queen of Heaven you claim that she is not special. You point out that God could have put any woman in her place. You leave out one very important point – the key to all understanding of Mary and Catholic Mariology.

    Mary CHOSE.

    “May it be done to me according to your word,” says Mary to the angel Gabriel, the messenger of God (Lk 1:38). Our Creator never impinges on our free will. God could have put any woman in Mary’s place but Mary, herself, chose to be the Mother of God. God the human, the temporal, destined to die. As we contemplate the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary we think of Christ, but we think also of Mary His mother. As all mothers feel pain at the suffering of their progengy, imagine the agony Mary felt seeing the painful death of her Divine son. Yet she chose this, willingly.

    Nothing special? I think you have missed something important in your writing. (Some of your comments indicate that you haven’t actually missed this in thought. It’s always a struggle to communicate everything necessary while keeping a post to a reasonable length, I know.)

    In response to the hypothetical question raised by various other commenters as to whether the Immaculate Conception was necessary – of course not. God is infinitely powerful and certainly could have simply erased the stain of Original Sin. It is a mark of His Divine love for us that he chose instead a method of salvation by which the Divine Word experienced the agony that results from our rejection of Him. When we pray the Our Father we ask that He lead us – “lead us (not into temptation but deliver us) from Evil”. Surely the Creator of All can easily pluck us from our troubles and keep us from all evil. Yet instead he took human personage so as to lead us out of darkness. We are like quadripelegics who know that we ought to have the use of our limbs but have never had the use of them; we were made to be like God and yet we are fallen away. God easily could have made our spiritual limbs move again but instead, in His infinite love for us, He chose to yield the use of His own arms and legs for a time so as to show us how to regain their use. He could have commanded from on high, but because of His love for us He chose to come down to us and lead.

    Now to the Immaculate Conception. God is by nature goodness perfected. Evil cannot coexist with goodness perfected: this is not a limitation on the infinite power of God, but a limitation of evil. In fact, Hell is the supreme example of God’s mercy. God created everything good – and though some aspects of Creation may turn to evil, God will not unmake them. For evil, communion with the perfect goodness of God is anathema; thus God in His mercy made a place removed from His presence such that those who choose evil may yet exist, apart from Him.

    So, since evil cannot coexist with the presence of God, when God became present in the person of a human being, Jesus, the human mother in whom He was formed and from whom He drew sustenance in the womb could not have been at all evil, lest she be destroyed. Ergo, logically, His mother could not be evil (sinful). This is not a requirement for Christ but a requirement for Mary. Any woman in the yoke of sin must necessarily have been destroyed upon the conception of our Lord, hence Mary was of necessity without sin.

    • Monsieur le chevalier, thank you for your kind wishes. I assure you, I didn’t mean to assert that Mary was not special. Actually, reviewing the post, I see that in fact I didn’t say that she isn’t special. I said rather that she is special, not because in her nature she was extraordinary, but rather because extraordinary things happened to her, that don’t happen to other women: the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, and so forth. She was chosen from before all worlds, yes; the whole history of Israel led up to her, yes; but God could have designated another Mary, or a Ruth, or a Judith, or an Elizabeth, in her stead, and that designation would have been equally efficacious.

      Her fiat mihi was extraordinary, to be sure; but in its perfection, in the completeness of its assent, it was made possible by the Immaculate Conception. Such an immaculate assent would have been incompatible with any maculae; a woman at all blemished would not have been able to accomplish it, but would rather have grasped to herself some small iota of the Fallen creature’s “no.”

      And the Immaculate Conception was not her doing.

      It could be argued that her fiat mihi was in a way not her doing, either. What follows will perhaps appeal to Reformed readers, and to mystics inclined to Advaita Christianity. The general idea is this: the only sort of act that can originate with a creature involves an assertion of that creature’s will, and such an assertion eo ipso constitutes a “no” to the Divine Will. This is so even if the assertion of the creature results in his agreement with that Will.

      Say that God wills me to do x. If I am at one with God – in communion, a state of grace – I shall do x without thought of what I would or would not do. X shall flow from the core of my being without modification from me. I shall act, but rather as a conscious instrument of God than as an independent power in my own right. This is the communion with God that enables his obedient angels to speak with his voice; it is the communion of the inspired prophet or Apostle.

      If on the other hand I hear the still small voice in me telling me I should do x, and consider whether I want to do it, then the will operating in me is mine. I may then decide to do x, but the decision will be mine. It will therefore constitute some measure of alienation of my person from full communion with God. My act of self-constitution will then agree with Providence in its outward historical effects, but only the way that a broken clock agrees with the time twice each day.

      From this perspective, then, Mary’s fiat mihi was indeed hers; but as she was herself from the beginning immaculately one with God – this being the very meaning of sinlessness – it originated in and flowed from the Divine source without any hindrance or influence originating in her. The assent was of Mary, but Mary herself was wholly of God. Thus Mary was, not just the vessel of God, but his vesture.

      I shall respond in a separate post to the suggestion that God might have eliminated Original Sin from the world all at once by a Word of power, avoiding the hassle of Incarnation and Passion.

  8. Kristor,

    This all makes me so happy! Have you begun reading the Mystical City of God? I know you will love it. Have a blessed Easter.

  9. So, Kristor, you’re all on-board with all that “co-redemptrix” heretical idolatry with which the Roman denomination is shot through and through?

    • I hadn’t thought about the question of whether Mary is co-redemptrix, or what that might coherently mean, until you asked. But you got me thinking, so here goes.

      If we take “co-redemptrix” to mean the same sort of thing we mean when we say, “God,” then all talk of Mary as co-redemptrix is indeed idolatry. And that’s how I had always taken it. But that’s before I started thinking about the question just now, and my Scholastic distinction engine kicked into gear.

      Here’s the key distinction: if by “co-redemptrix” we do *not* make reference to God, but rather only to someone who anywise assists in the redemption effected by God, then talk of Mary, or any other feminine creature, as co-redemptrix is not idolatry.

      It seems prima facie that all sorts of creatures could help God with his project of redeeming the world. E.g., Paul says (in Colossians 1:24) that “[I] now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church …” Paul makes up with his own suffering what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, which is part of his service as a member of Christ’s body. By extension, we may say that a Christian suffering for Christ is participating thereby in the Atoning sacrifice of Christ. This notion suffuses the literature on martyry.

      By a modest further extension, then, any evangelist, missionary, apostle, confessor – indeed any truly faithful professing member of the Church – is a co-redemptor with Christ. So a fortiori is any heavenly divinity engaged with him in the war against Lucifer and his legions: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, powers, archangels, angels, principalities, and so forth. Among this company of co-redemptores, Mary as the mother of the body of Jesus and the first cell of the Body of Christ, the Church, would have the palmary honor.

      That’s what I’ve come up with so far.

      • Am I (being male) my own co-redeemer? Was my mother (being female) her own co-redemptrix?

        For, if I am indeed redeemed, that is it not the case that I assisted in the effection of that redemption by ceasing to fight against God? Is it not the case that God, for all his infinite power, cannot save me from Death if I refuse to stop clawing my way deeper into Hell?

        So, if I have, indeed, turned away from my sinfulness and have, indeed, cast myself upon the mercy of God through Christ, then am I not, by this attempt to turn hank idolatry into a superfluous matter of no particular consequence, my own co-redeemer?

      • No.

        You might be my co-redeemer. But you can’t be your own co-redeemer. We can’t pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But we can help (or hinder) Christ as he pulls on the bootstraps of others.

        Your co-operation with your own redemption is not itself redemptive. It is, rather, a cessation of your disagreement with your redemption.

  10. This isn’t off-topic, despite that the careless will insist that it is.

    Let us suppose that Kristor had always been a Roman Catholic. And let us suppose that over the course of his life, and perhaps in part prompted by current events, he had begun to question certain doctrines and/or traditions of Catholicism. And let us suppose that he had finally concluded that certain key-and-distinctive doctrines of Catholicism were superfluous, and potentially distractions from the person of Christ, whereas others were heretical and utterly contrary to faithfulness to Christ.

    And let us suppose that after some time of reflection, Kristor had concluded that he could no longer be a Roman Catholic (nor could he become a Greek/Eastern Orthodox, for much the same reasons), and so, let us suppose, Kristor announces that he is soon to be received into some Protestant denomination.

    And, let us suppose, that a number of Protestants had congratulated him, and had said things like “Welcome home!

    Now, here is the point – how would all you Catholics, both those who explicitly said the same sort of thing here and those who thought it but didn’t write it react? Many, if not most, of you would be shrieking like hypocritical little pussies: “How *dare* you imply that [the Roman denomination] isn’t *real* Christianity!!1!

    It’s a strange sort of “truce” we American Protestants and American Catholics have, isn’t it? The Catholics get to falsely blame the ills of the modern world on Protestantism, and we Protestants get to shut up; the Catholics get to play that silly (and false, and indeed illogical and irrational) One True Church card, and we Protestants get to shut up; the Catholics get to call Protestants heretics (when the truth is the reverse), and we Protestants get to shut the hell up. Because, if we say anything, they’ll cry and parade out all their hurt feelings, and we will have violated the “truce”.

    • we Protestants get to shut up

      Oh I only wish. You are not a Christian, the Catholic Church is the true Faith you don’t have natural “rights” to life, liberty and property and oh yeah I don’t care if that hurts yours or any one else’s feelings. Protestantism is indeed the cause of modernism broadly speaking, Prots here and elsewhere claim otherwise but whatever argument they offer up in response is usually so incredibly weak. In fact you basically own up to this when you defend right-liberalism and capitalism. But I know you don’t understand this anyway as your entire worldview is fundamentally a-historical. Your conception of intellectual history is so painfully bad of the sort of “I’m so smart I don’t even have to bother” variety, Observe also the kind of adolescent “I’m right and every other authority is wrong” mentality. You call Kristor a heretic? By what standard? Your own idiosyncratic reading of the Bible? Please. You perfectly demonstrate the absurdity of Protestantism.This mentality of course is in vogue on the Alt-Right and we get all sorts of idiotic results. It reminds me of libertarian “super-intelligence” Vox Day. He’s such a special little snowflake of a theologian that he rejects the trinity- because the Bible and his unique intelligence sayz so. He rails about Catholic immigrants destroying American “freedom” ….while living in Europe. If I actually felt inclined to negatively caricature Protestantism, especially the low-church American “conservative” variety that rears its head here occasionally I don’t think I could do the job’s Ilion’s own (presumably) serious attempts at intellectual engagement provide. In a worldview seemingly taken from such illustrious intellectual milieus as the Glenn Beck or the Alex Jones show, any critique of capitalism MUST* seemingly a priori MEAN* you’re a totalitarian. Capitalism has given us all of these great trappings of material progress. But anything deleterious about capitalism is to be dodged by ascribing it to “crony-capitalism” i.e. not true capitalism but to statism. Notice here again there is absolutely no serious attempt at looking to history to see whether the state has indeed played a role in the market’s triumph over traditional culture. No instead we get a lot of BS about distributism leading to mass killing fields and “totalitarianism”. This is how liberalism legitimates itself. To sum it up, is it any wonder that the Left has trounced you guys when this kind low-church-Protestant right liberalism is dominate in the “conservative” paradigm. Your ideology is so woefully inadequate..

      • Gentlemen:

        And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32

      • Kristor:Gentlemen: …

        What’s this “Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” moral equivalency bullshit? Are you, Kristor, intellectually dishonest? What? My being kind/forgiving with respect to a mindset that declares that I don’t even have the right to be alive means that that mindset doesn’t exist, and doesn’t seek to achieve its ends, among which are a dead me? Is this how it works between Arabs and Jews, and between Moslems and everyone else?

        Is it really the case that for the sake of “peace” Christ requires us lie to ourselves (and especially to others) about the various -isms that seek to kill us and/or destroy our nation? Does Christ also requires us to club over the heads our fellow citizens who ask, “What?! Wait! What did he just say?”

        However pointed, however unwelcome, I asked some *honest* questions about Catholicism. Now, maybe I’m wrong in my understanding; maybe those honestly asked questions are grounded in ignorance. But they’re not: I know they’re not, and ‘Ita Scripta Est’ knows they’re not; he confirms the socio-political grounding of my questions. In fact, going by his reaction, I don’t have nearly as negative an opinion of The One True Bureaucracy as I ought!

        The mindset displayed here by ‘Ita Scripta Est’, and by he and other “traditionalists” when I have previously stated unwelcome truths about Catholicism, is exactly the mindset that The One True Bureaucracy seeks to inculcate in its adherents.

        However good many Catholics may be, Catholicism is a major enemy of the individual human life and of human liberty, in specific and in general. Catholicism‘s socio-political stance is leftism: starting with socialism and ending, as leftism must, in despotism and with windrows of human corpses along the way.

      • Kristor:Gentlemen…

        You know, when ‘atheists’ lie about the priestly sex scandals, dishonestly (*) using the sin (**) of a small number of men as a club with which to beat the Roman denomination, and all Catholics, I’m right there with you Catholics, stating the truth. When ‘atheists’ lie about the One True Bureaucracy with respect to ‘Science!‘ (e.g. Galileo), dishonestly using the false history they present as a club with which to beat the Roman denomination, and all Catholics, I’m right there with you Catholics, stating the truth.

        But, when these “traditionalists” with whom you choose to hang misrepresent me, and lie about me, and now openly declare (as I always knew to be the case) that I don’t even have the right to draw breath, then you, Kristor, can muster only a false moral equivalency. Do you (and you, the reader) not find that interesting?

        (*) dishonest in more ways than one; (**) of which sin they approve, moral condemnation of which sin they condemn as “immoral”

      • For the love of Christ, Ilion, all I am suggesting is that you and Ita Scripta comport yourselves here at the Orthosphere as Christian gentlemen – that you put away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking (e.g., hurling accusations of intellectual dishonesty), and all malice. Disagree as forcefully as you wish, but do so politely, in a spirit of charity and lovingkindness. Express your arguments courteously and circumspectly, read the arguments of your interlocutors carefully, and respond to those arguments respectfully, so that we may all try to learn something from each other.

        Light, not heat: that’s the ticket. You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and gall. Arguments proposed in a spirit of wrath are not taken seriously, as coming from serious men seriously interested in the search for truth.

        If we don’t listen to each other carefully, and with a charitable intention to understand each other as people, then we’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff. E.g., you mistook what Ita Scripta said about rights to life, liberty and property – at least, you seem to (you express yourself so heatedly that it is hard to be sure). He did not mean that you, Ilion, have no right to live on account of the fact that you espouse this or that doctrine – at least, he didn’t seem to (he expressed himself so heatedly, it is hard to be sure). He meant rather that there is in the natural law no right to life, to liberty, or to property.

        Taking another example, I have not responded to your challenges with contempt or ridicule, despite the fact that you so often write in a way that comes across as mocking and contemptuous. On the contrary, I have taken them seriously, and devoted a great deal of time to responding to them substantively, doing my level best to maintain an irenic tone. In the process, I myself have learned a great deal. I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, just to explain the intellectual benefit of the sort of discourse I am enjoining upon you and Ita Scripta.

        There are lots of places on the web where Catholics can get together and revile Protestants, or vice versa. I find that sort of thing both irritating and boring, and I don’t want the Orthosphere to descend to such stuff. It’s a waste of time. If you guys want to revile each other, do it someplace else, please.

  11. Pingback: Everlasting Life from the Body of Death | The Orthosphere

  12. It has been through reading the Orthosphere that I have come to realize how profound the differences are between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The axioms are so at odds with each other that sometimes it feels as though we are in the same position as the humans and the alien in Solaris: unable to communicate at all. The comments on this post have only brought this out more prominently.

    I have wanted to comment on this thread, not to the Roman Catholics but to the Protestants, so that my fellow Protestants would not be led astray, but out of respect for Kristor, and a desire to avoid inflamed responses from Roman Catholics, I have refrained.

    Whether we are Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or otherwise, I think we can maintain a truce with our heretical co-religionists by staying away from foundational issues. The Orthosphere contributors do not point out the shortcomings of other denominations in their posts or comments; we, the commentariat, should follow that example.

    Having said that, I reserve the right to respond to attacks and to correct misrepresentations, and will do my best to refrain from making attacks or misrepresenting a position.

    • The Orthosphere contributors do not point out the shortcomings of other denominations in their posts or comments; …

      From which planet are you reading this blog? Though, I suppose that technically you’re correct when you claim that the “Orthosphere contributors do not point out the shortcomings of other denominations in their posts or comments” … since technically what they do is post false calumnies about Protestantism.


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