Thursday, May 27, 2010

Respice Turrem Davidicam!

I'm busy following Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's devotions on Our Lady during the month of May. Today's is Mary as the Turris Davidica.

A TOWER in its simplest idea is a fabric for defence against enemies. David, King of Israel, built for this purpose a notable tower; and as he is a figure or type of our Lord, so is his tower a figure denoting our Lord's Virgin Mother. She is called the Tower of David because she had so signally fulfilled the office of defending her Divine Son from the assaults of His foes. It is customary with those who are not Catholics to fancy that the honours we pay to her interfere with the supreme worship which we pay to Him; that in Catholic teaching she eclipses Him. But this is the very reverse of the truth. For if Mary's glory is so very great, how cannot His be greater still who is the Lord and God of Mary? He is infinitely above His Mother; and all that grace which filled her is but the overflowings and superfluities of His Incomprehensible Sanctity. And history teaches us the same lesson. Look at the Protestant countries which threw off all devotion to her three centuries ago, under the notion that to put her from their thoughts would be exalting the praises of her Son. Has that consequence really followed from their profane conduct towards her? Just the reverse—the countries, Germany, Switzerland, England, which so acted, have in great measure ceased to worship Him, and have given up their belief in His Divinity while the Catholic Church, wherever she is to be found, adores Christ as true God and true Man, as firmly as ever she did; and strange indeed would it be, if it ever happened otherwise. Thus Mary is the "Tower of David."
There seem to be Protestants out there who just simply will not be told that Catholics do not worship Mary. If they will not listen to the simple words of the Blessed Cardinal, then I am clearly not going to do much better. However, if they accuse me of conservative intransigence, I can legitimately say "right back atcha!"

It's the last bit of this that intrigues me. Of course, by "Protestant" the Cardinal means those who are not Roman Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox having decided that the Anglican Church of his time was more "Protestant" than Catholic. Yet I have friends who have a convincing claim on the word Catholic who rejoice in their Protestantism. The fluidity of adjectives always puts a spanner in the works. However, there is something in what he says. The investment of Europeans into their spirituality seems remarkably poor. In throwing out devotions to Our Lady, they have thrown out the veneration and sanctity of humanity. "Respect has to be earned" they say. Others describe Christianity as "one woman's lie that got really out of hand".

We have lost the skill of recognising the venerability of human beings, not in worshipping them, but in loving them as the Lord commands. It seems difficult for me to refute Cardinal Newman's correlation between lack of veneration of Mary and lack of religion. I would also notice a correlation between those who do not reverence Our Lady and the lack of love they have for their neighbour. Now correlation is not cause, but all this seems indicative of the lack of estimation that we have of ourselves.

We are nothing but dust. True. We are just fragile little soap-bubbles clinging to a film sandwiched between the past and the future on the currents of Eternity. Some say we are just biological machines. If that is all we are, then we are the greatest tragedy of them all, falling through space in an aether of hopelessness without a point or purpose but an illusion of failed possibilities.

However, if we realise that, in among our failings, fallings and falliblities as a race, God has bothered to be born among us, then it shows us our true worth as human beings - we mean something to God. Our Lady is truly venerable because she is one of us. She is no God and Human like our Lord, just a simple human being. Her venerability comes from her humanity - she was capable, worthy, affirming of receiving in Her womb God Himself, not just the Human bit of God which is the ancient heresy of Nestorianism and refuted by St Cyril.

"Respect must be earned" many say. What does that mean? That they only consider the contributions of others valuable if they meet up with their personal standards? Who made these folk boss of the world that their demands must be met on how much another is worth? Perhaps they should tell me how much they're selling Granny for and, if I have enough, I'll buy her just to save her from their materialistic tyranny!

Unless we realise that each human being actually has an innate worth that begins with the very moment of their conception, we are back to dismissing them as nothing, aborting them from our lives with a frightening ease.

You cannot love someone without respecting them. Respect comes from the Latin meaning to look at, to regard. It's the diametrical opposite of dismissal. Veneration is the act of recognising that affinity someone has with God, another instance of looking very carefully at someone's life.

Respect that is earned is not worth having. It will pass into Eternity on the soap film of existence. If we're looking for true permanence, then we will find it by looking very carefully into the faces and lives of those around us and realising their worth to us that transcends measurement. Perhaps then we might see it in ourselves.

If, by venerating Our Lady, we learn to venerate and cherish others then that, surely, is the worship, not of Our Lady, but of God because we follow His commandment to love.

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