I have my favorites, including “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” when I’m feeling overtaxed. Honoring Mary as Queen of the Americas came much later, in 1957, but she has many more names, all of them inviting us to discover how she is Mother to all of us. The names we’ve given to Our Lady, have come from us, all of us across all of time, and across many cultures, including the name, Our Lady of the Amazon.
You may remember that kerfuffle from last week with the Synod or you may (like most people) have other things to do like watch baseball, prepare for Halloween, eat, pay bills and work. Someone decided it was a good idea to throw the statue gifted to the Pope into the river. Someone else thought it a good idea to document the taking of the statue and throwing it into the river. Some praised this as brave. Others thought it theft. Some thought it the equivalent of the cleansing of the temple, likening the taker of the statue to Saint Boniface and his attempt to disentangle heretical beliefs and practices from Christianity, and others, the act akin to nailing the 99 thesis on the Church door. Bottom line, it's a tad on the crazy side to ascribe to the motives and actions symbolic equivalent of either sainthood or schismatic. It was not idol worshiping or pagan worshiping, to place a gift in the church. There were no pagans worshiping the statue. Even if people hold a mass and the statue is present, if they are participating in a mass, the statue is merely present, it is not being given glory or mistaken for anything other than what it is, a statue. If we need clarity, look to the reality of the gift and the giver.
He became flesh. He became man. He allowed to be born. He allowed himself to be naked, to be cold, to be hungry. We believe we are from the moment of conception on…so depicting Christ unborn, this should not shock. He scandalously allowed himself to grow up, and to endure that hard long process of growing. He allowed Himself to be betrayed, abandoned, beaten, to be spit upon, to be mocked, stripped, to be abused, to be hurt. He allowed Himself to be exposed, as we are exposed in all our nakedness, in every moment of our lives so that we might know God’s infinite love and mercy.
Just in case we still don’t get it, Jesus reveals himself as the resurrection. We will receive new bodies in the end, because our bodies are themselves, gifts God intends for us. He gives us the promise and the assurance of Mary’s Assumption. We will not be pure spirit. We will not be ethereal, we will exist in substance and reality at the great wedding feast.
Our Church is the Body of Christ, and we scandalize and scourge it more by our seemingly endless desire to explain why someone else is unworthy of being part of it, than by any art we create to honor Mary or a culture or our Church. The Church is bigger than cultural art, bad art, inappropriate art and even fantastic art. Stealing the gift and attempting to destroy it because one does not like it, is not a Catholic response to either the problem being articulated (concerns about the Pope and the Church itself), or to the art itself. It is at best, the same as a sibling not liking the art work given to a parent by another sibling and throwing it away while proclaiming, “I cleaned up for you Mom.” The paintings in the Sistine Chapel, and the statues like Moses and David, reveal Greco-Roman sensibilities of the beauty of the human body, pagan sensibilities reoriented toward the creation of sacred art.