Wednesday, December 05, 2012

What lit bonfires in the imagination of the Fathers.

When Gabriel uttered to you, O Virgin, his "Rejoice!,"
At that sound the Master of all became flesh in you, the Holy Ark.
As the just David said, you have become wider than the heavens,
Carrying your Creator.
Glory to Him who dwelt in you!
Glory to Him who came forth from you!
Glory to Him who freed us through birth from you!

(Theotokion for the 26th Sunday after Pentecost)


Term papers and imminent exams make these busy days for me - more on that later, perhaps - but as we begin to prepare for the Nativity of Christ I wanted to share a relevant passage from a book that I've been reading purely for personal enrichment in my diminishing free time:
In their attempt to supplement Mary's virginal birth with the explanation that neither Scripture nor tradition provided them, the Church Fathers, in putting Luke's Annunciation passage under their relentless hermeneutical scrutiny, unearthed the aural imagery that lay therein. For once, it made sense to take the ear as the very medium through which the Word entered the virginal body ("for the sense of hearing is the natural channel of words"). As Proclus has Mary explain, "I heard a Word, I conceived a Word, I delivered a Word." The complementary character of spoken (annunciation) and heard word (conception), and the underlining dialectics of sound and silence offered the great preachers of the fifth and sixth centuries a seemingly inexhaustible source of rhetoric that sustaied anything from the longest to the shortest homily. (A personal favorite is the - Christmas? - homily of Cyrus of Panopolis, which in its entirety reads as follows: "Brethren, let the birth of God our Savior Jesus Christ be honored with silence, because the Word of God was conceived in the holy Virgin through hearing alone. To him be glory forever. Amen.")

What lit bonfires in the imagination of the Fathers, however, was the typology entailed in the momentous encounter of Gabriel with Mary. The passage in Luke became the contrapuntal text to Genesis: as Eve in her disobedience (παρακοή) had "given birth" to death, so Mary, the second Eve, through hearing (ἀκοή) gave birth to Life. Whereas Eve obeys (ὑπακοῦειν) the serpent, Mary listens to (ἀκοῦειν) the salutation of the angel. To God's creation of man (Adam), humanity responded with the re-creation of man in the New Adam (Christ). Although both creation and Incarnation are the deeds of the Father's love, Christ's birth could not have happened without Mary's response. Tha's why Mary's fiat mihi in "let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) repeats and completes God's fiat as in "let us make man" (Gen 1:26). Both creational formulas share the same paradox: as God creates the world through a self-contraction, that is, a self-limitation of His will,so Mary assents to God's plan of the Incarnation by willfully abandoning her will; "let it be done to me."
This passage was taken from God after Metaphysics: A Theological Aesthetic, by John Panteleimon Manoussakis, a book that has inadvertently become part of my devotional reading for Advent. There is more where that came from, so I suggest that you get your hands on Manoussakis' book if the above excerpt piques your interest. Prayers for all in this time of expectation. AMDG.


At 12/05/2012 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How edifying! This is a wonderful passage and seems like a terrific book!


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