I recently came across a very ugly antithesis of the Incarnation, presented to me (actually shouted in Church) as Mary’s shame. According to this thesis, Mary was ashamed at the Incarnation, at her pregnancy. Instead of knowing, accepting, welcoming, and rejoicing in the Incarnation, participating in it with her whole soul, strength and body, she was, according to this thesis, ashamed of it, and in fact, she remained ashamed of the whole work of redemption up to and including the culminating moment on the Cross. In the same context as this thesis was presented to me, a “New Age” notion was given as the illusory hope we can have in life as Christians. According to this notion there is no White Ladder to Heaven but only a drill that we must use to drill our way to the center of the earth, where we are supposed to find something glittering… When my children describe the spatial dimensions of the spiritual realm, they say that Heaven is up, Hell is down, and Purgatory is sideways. Interpreting the New Age notion of Salvation with this key, we are to find hope in hell. Interesting.
The Incarnation was God’s first act in His work of redemption, which made it possible also for us to be born anew. Had He not first sprung as the bridegroom from his bridal chamber—our Lady’s womb—we could not be born anew of Her, or at all. Without the Incarnation there would be no White Ladder or Salvation for us, it is true. But we believe that the Word was made flesh. This is the fundamental belief of the Church. In a Latin phrase, Caro Cardo Salutis—Salvation hinges on the flesh—Jesus’ “enfleshment”—His marriage with His creation.
The world has forgotten Jesus. It has discredited Him as a myth invented by naïve people with futile hopes. Particularly at Christmas we are not supposed to think of Jesus and His birth, but revel instead in the twitching produced by the repeated urging of the material desires. One can perceive this quite easily by just a brief look at the consciousness of people. Self-satisfaction and self-destruction go hand in hand. We are on the one hand supposed to find everything good within ourselves or for ourselves, and on the other hand if there is ever something that disturbs this hoarding for self, we are recommended to do away with ourselves quickly before we disturb anyone else. If we long for God, we are judged as morbid and ought to take drugs or do some great achievement to bring about some sort of a self-conversion. It is a thoroughly two-dimensional world. In this mindset, Jesus has become just a tool, a drill, by means of which we dig deeper into the earth. Mary is no longer the White Ladder, our Mother, immaculate and perfect, unashamed and rejoicing, but weighed down heavily with shame, unaware and confused at God’s actions in her life. And this, of course, (according to the world) is because she is degraded by her willingness to cooperate with Him, to go beyond herself, to become His Mother… Mary’s Divine Motherhood is part of Her degradation.
I wonder what good Salvation is, if we are not relieved of something. If we are supposed to find happiness in the thought of Mary’s shame and in burrowing into the earth, where is salvation? Where is God? Salvation cannot exist if we are not saved from something! If there isn’t a Savior—and a Mother of the Savior—there certainly is no salvation. Burrowing into the earth we can do quite on our own without stepping outside of the small selfish realm, but climbing without a ladder we cannot. I see this antithesis and “New Age” notion as a two-fold way to deny us direction—toward Heaven—and the means to get there—Salvation. Having Mary’s “shame” shouted in Church on the Fourth Sunday of Advent puts across so well how far the agenda of the world that hates Jesus has gone. We are to be satisfied with this life and not wish to go anywhere (except to the center of the earth); the answer to our dilemma of suffering and life is “imagine ourselves somewhere else”. It is the technique of coping with pain recommended to women in childbirth, “imagine you are on a pleasant beach”… Going to Church would then be a way of teasing our imaginary capabilities of pain-coping, a sort of mantra exercise. It might seem grand, deep, fascinating and “solid”, but I suggest we have a much better way of surviving, not only childbirth or an hour in Church, but whatever meets us on life’s journey, because we are going somewhere (and not into the earth). In the words of an ancient Swedish prayer for a woman in childbirth, addressed to our Lady:
You, who hold the Key of David, open now my womb.
Jesus, the Key of David, opens the gates of Heaven, barred by the sin of our first parents. He also provides us with strength to live with Christian joy and hope while still on earth, so that we may enter Heaven without shame.
Mary was not ashamed of her God, or of His work of Salvation, nor of His wish to make Her part of both Himself and His work of Salvation. She is our White Ladder, which we must climb with great energy, because the reward is not something glittering inside earth, but Heaven, and Heaven does exist. It is not something automatic that we will get if we do not fight for it, and certainly not something we will find if we proclaim that the ladder is not even there.
Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:24)
The idea that our Lady was ashamed of her pregnancy, and the idea that Heaven is just “another dimension of earthly life”, denies us every hope we have as Christians. It is an effort to de-Christianize us by reshaping our understanding of the hinge of our Salvation—Jesus’ enfleshment—so that we become empty shells with nothing on the inside, no strength and no hope.
Hope and strength come not from burrowing in the ground and imagining dimensions in fallen creation that are not in fact there, but in accepting, welcoming, and rejoicing in the marriage of God with His Creation, together with our Heavenly Mother! God chose a Mother, He took flesh and became one of us to save us from sin, and He did this by putting himself—the key of David—in the hands of His Mother, the White Ladder. This is the faith of the Church. If only it were proclaimed.