This is the last of this latest Marian triptych.
It started with an unapologetic emphasis on the Ever-Virginity of Mary, mainly opposed to the fetid desire on the part of vested interests to make of Mary (and Joseph) someone not much different than themselves.
Then, for the patient and over-taxed reader, there was this poorly structured reflection on the ministry of the Theotokos. In her completely natural work in participating with Trinitarian Grace, she became quite abnormal. Implicit in these rambling remarks was the assertion that it is this very ministry -- this very contemporaneous, mystical and frankly scary activity (much like "holy haunting") -- that is probably an even more immediate (and embarassing) reason why most people would rather lock up Ever-Virginity and stick it in the lower shelves of the bookcase.
Now, finally, a few closing remarks on implications (the proper stuff, as my homiletics students will tell you, for a peroration):
Let us start again by thinking (again) about a very eerie event going on. It is widespread. It apparently does not care about the jurisdiction or canonicity or even the relative quality of its setting for its manifestation. It occurs on original writings, varnished copies (some of them even by disreputable hands), and even Western -- nay, even humanistic -- copies of renaissance-type portraiture.
Of course I am speaking of the miraculous weeping of many, many icons of the Theotokos around the world.
It seems that more are weeping, in these last few years, than any other time in history.
Chew on that fact.
I think it is good to wonder what this means -- knowing, of course, that there is no way of completely knowing.
I would like to go by way of deduction -- a via negativa, if you will.
What are some reasons for the weeping of the Ever-Virgin's icons that cannot be true?
One obvious non-reason is that she is endorsing institutional or political decisions. This interpretation of a holy miracle is dangerous, to say the least, and can set into motion all sorts of bad consequences.
Another false reason is that the Church or the Clergy were especially deserving of the miracle. No one is ever deserving of any Grace, whether a portent like myrrh-streaming or a sacrament like anointing. My two priest friends who are guardians of four weeping icons (in two locations) demonstrate the right attitude: they fear having this sign and wonder. It is a good, constitutive fear -- but it is fear all the same. The furthest thing from their minds is the inane thought that they were deserving in any way of this miracle -- much, much less that they were more deserving than others.
I would like to put in this column these two rationales: that the Theotokos is weeping for our sinfulness; and that she is warning us of peril to come. I would like to dismiss these ideas, but I find I cannot.
What are some reasons (clearly not all) for the weeping of these icons that are certainly true?
The Church extends far beyond our trite, stultified perceptions.
Grace is actively present in the Church, and occasionally is made obvious in physical significance -- in signs that cannot be predicted or explained satisfactorily in the framework of human knowledge.
The Church is called back from dallying with value-structures of the dark world, and to reform its philosophy on the predicates of apostolic theoria. In other words, it has flirted too much with the aristocracy, and needs instead to enter into sobor (or koinonia, or fellowship) with the poor, and the poor in spirit.
Something is going to happen.
Civilization is changing.
You need to live in the House of God, and make better friends who know how to pray, to ask rightly and to "spend it" on virtues -- to rephrase the words of St. James (in 4.3).
I propose here that we draw a hermeneutical line from the miraculous icons (that are appearing within the bounds of sacramental Tradition) to the Magnificat of the Ever-Virgin.
Is it not obvious, then?
Is she not calling us, in her maternal friendship, to the perfection that she proved is possible for a human being ... to a sinlessness matched by Grace in communion with the Godman, Jesus Christ?
Is she not calling us to prayer -- a prayer that exceeds propositional belief? a prayer that is liberated from the chains of passion, and leaps up into a transcendence that surmounts paradox and fate? a prayer that moves mountains more massive than geology?
Is she not calling us, to shake ourselves from self-absorption, to reject the aristocratic contempt of the poor in spirit? To walk with her into the House of Meekness, and to sit with her at the feet of her Son, and to choose -- with her -- the better part, which shall not be taken away?
Can we not embrace, as she does in her deification, the abnormal simultaneity of winsome cheer, hope and wonder, alloyed and annealed with a prophetic denunciation of the oppressive powers?
Is Mary not weeping, in her Heavenly Ever-Virginity, because we have too much pride in the imagination of our hearts?
Because we have exalted ourselves on our autonomous thrones?
Because we have sent the hungry away, and we have hungered, ironically, for less than good things?
Because we have not sought mercy enough to give it, and to seek nothing less?
Because of too many abortions, too many deaths from hunger or polluted water or lack of doctors? Too much destruction of nature, too much scarring of creation?
And ... too little deification, abnormality? Too much corporate thinking at the centers? Too much forgetful ennui, quiet desperation on the marches?
History begins in the Nous, the essence of the soul. "Thy Kingdom come" starts in the heart, blossoms in language, and is harvested in the world of history.
She smiles. Her spirit, after all, rejoices in God the Saviour, for the Lord is magnified, not forgotten, by her soul.
The world is changing. Might as well try something new.