Saturday, December 23, 2017

At a moment in history, the center of everything is in a woman

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl) (em portugües)

The Christmas holiday is wholly focused on the figure of the Divine Child (Puer aeternus), Jesus, the Son of God who decided to dwell among us. The celebration of Christmas goes beyond this fact. Restricting ourselves to him alone, we fall into the theological error of Christomonism (Christ alone counts), forgetting that there are also the Spirit and the Father who always act together.

It is worth highlighting the figure of his mother, Miriam of Nazareth. If she had not said her "yes," Jesus would not have been born. And there would be no Christmas.

As we are still hostages of the patriarchal era, it prevents us from understanding and valuing what the gospel of Luke says about Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the energy (dynamis) of the Most High will pitch His tent over you and therefore the Holy Begotten One will be called the Son of God."(Lk 1:35)

Common translations, dependent on a masculinist reading, say "the virtue of the Most High will overshadow you." Reading the original Greek, that is not what is said. Literally it states: "the energy (dynamis) of the Most High will pitch His tent over you (episkiásei soi)." It is a Hebrew linguistic idiom meaning "dwelling not transiently but definitively" upon you, Mary. The word used is skene meaning tent. Pitching a tent over someone (epi-skiásei), as the text states, means: from now on Mary of Nazareth will be the permanent bearer of the Spirit. She was "spiritualized," that is, the Spirit is part of her.

Curiously, St. John the Evangelist applies the same word, skene (tent), to the incarnation of the Word. "And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us (eskénosen -- it is the same basic verb), that is, he lived permanently among us.

What conclusion do we draw from this? That the first divine Person sent into the world was not the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. It was the Holy Spirit. The one who is third in the order of the Trinity is first in the order of Creation, that is, the Holy Spirit. The receptacle of this coming was a woman of the people, simple and pious like all the peasant women of Galilee, named Miriam or Mary.

In welcoming the coming of the Spirit, she was raised to the height of the divinity of the Spirit. That is why the evangelist Luke rightly says: "Therefore (dià óti) or because of this the Holy One will be called the Son of God" (Lk 1:35). Only someone who is at the height of God can bring forth a Son of God. Mary, for this reason, will be deified similarly to the man Jesus of Nazareth who was assumed by the eternal Son and thus was deified. It is the eternal Son incarnate in our humanity who we celebrate at Christmas.

Behold, at a moment in history, the center is occupied by a woman, Miriam of Nazareth. In her is working the Holy Spirit who dwells in her and who is creating the holy humanity of the Son of God. In her are present two divine Persons: the Holy Spirit and the eternal Son of the Father. She is the temple that houses both.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, so venerated by the Mexican people, with mestizo traits, appears as a pregnant woman with all the symbols of pregnancy of the Nahuatl culture (of the Aztecs). Every time I went to Mexico, I mixed with the crowds who come and visit the beautiful cloth image of Guadalupe. Dressed as a friar, I often would ask an anonymous pilgrim, "Little brother, do you worship the Virgin of Guadalupe?" And I always received the same answer, "Yes, little friar, how can I not worship the Virgin of Guadalupe? Yes, I adore her."

The devotee answered rightly, for in this woman two divine Persons are hidden, the Son who grew in her womb by the energy of the Spirit that was dwelling in her. And both, being God, can and should be worshiped. And Mary is inseparable from them, so she deserves the same worship. Hence the inspiration for one of my most read books, O Rosto materno de Deus (Vozes, 11th ed., 2012. In English translation as The Maternal Face of God, Collins Publications, 1989).

I have always lamented that most women, even women theologians, have not yet assumed their divine portion, present in Mary, by the work of the Holy Spirit. They remain with just Christ, the deified man.

Christmas will be more complete if, together with the Child who shivers from the cold in the manger, we would include his Mother who warms him, supported by her husband the good Joseph. He would also deserve a special reflection, something I have already done in these pages of Jornal do Brasil: his relationship with the heavenly Father.

In the midst of the crisis of our country, there is still a Star like the one of Bethlehem to give us hope and a Woman, bearer of the Spirit that inspires us to find a saving way out.

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