How are we to understand Mary, the mother of Jesus? What does her presence mean for us and how does it serve us? Scripture tells us little of Mary, and some of what it does reveal seems to defy our human reasoning. Perhaps like her, we too are meant “to ponder in our heart” our questions and allow a vast opening for Spirit to inform us inwardly. Her icons and her many titles give us much to contemplate. When I’ve reflected on the icon of the Madonna for instance, the meaning that arose for me was that of the Divine Mother forming the young male child away from the ways of patriarchal domination, and towards the life-enhancing qualities of the Sacred Feminine: the qualities of merciful forgiveness, empathic presence, intuitive knowing and welcoming compassion. We witness these values as prominent in Jesus’ earthly ministry and Gospel message. Were they formed and nurtured within his human consciousness by way of Mary’s maternal care?
Following his own reflection on the Catholic dogma of Mary’s Assumption, Carl Jung publicly acknowledged his personal conviction that the (then) recently pronounced Marian dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950 was, “the most important religious event since the Reformation”! He went on to address the controversies that accompanied this dogma and noted his own fierce disconcertion over the particular criticisms expressed by Protestant theologians and populous. He believed the objections to the dogma were simply the result of a lack of psychological understanding, and that the psyche/soul and its means of communication gave way to the more rational/scientific approach being nurtured within Protestantism and the modern/scientific world at large.
Jung understood that the deeper part of our humanity, the psyche or soul, communicates its intimate longings by way of sacred images, and that the exalted image of Mary being received body and soul into heaven, was doing just that – conveying the soul’s deepest spiritual longing and need. The dogma of the Assumption, he asserted, was offering an image to humanity that honored the feminine aspect of the soul, which had long suffered great diminishment. Moreover, Jung contended that humanity’s comprehension and implementation of what the soul was attempting to convey via the image of the Assumption, would determine the outcome of human destiny.
These radical thoughts conveyed by Jung remain in our own day a great challenge for humanity to assimilate. Are his words relevant for us today? Might embracing Jung’s understanding help humanity transcend some of the greatest obstacles to its survival in recorded history? Given all the divisions which the dogma has created among the Christian Churches, and in light of yet another Marian dogma which since WWll continues to be considered by Rome – that of Mary as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix – what can we imagine was at the heart of Jung’s very impassioned plea regarding our understanding and assimilation of these dogmas? Perhaps we may also consider here the words of Anglican Oxford scholar, Dr. John Macquarrie: “The matter [of Marian mediation] cannot be settled by pointing to the danger of exaggeration and abuse, or by appealing to isolated texts of scripture… or by the desire not to say anything that might offend one’s partners in ecumenical dialogue. Unthinking enthusiasts may have elevated Mary’s position to a virtual equality with Christ, but this aberration is not a necessary consequence of recognizing that there may be a truth striving for expression in words like Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix”.
A Truth Striving for Expression
In attempting to understand Jung’s meaning and Dr. Macquarrie’s admonition, it may be helpful to note that Jesus’ return to the Godhead via his Ascension could only communicate visually an image of the restoration of the male gender. The dogma of the Assumption compensates for this by visually representing the soul’s longing to also elevate the female gender and reclaim the long-lost values of the feminine presence. Through Mary, the female being which throughout history has been vilified, demeaned, rendered inferior and voiceless, is now equally honored with the male. She is seen, validated and welcomed into the mystery of the Sacred, thus restoring balance to the divine principals of both feminine and masculine energies. Regrettably, in its effort to maintain male dominance via the suppression of women’s leadership, the hierarchical Church has censored this meaning and continues to exploit Mary as the model of submission, repression and unquestioning obedience. But Mary’s Spirit is indomitable, and her “truth striving for expression” is being recognized and embraced by many. As the deeper meanings of Marion dogmas are allowed to be assimilated within the human psyche, humankind may find the wisdom needed to transform our world.
Over the years, I personally have grown in my love and devotion of Mary, as an embodiment of the Sacred Feminine, as Universal Mother, as holding the potential, with Christ, to heal our world of its many divisions, its violence, its mindless treatment of the earth and one another. I offer this reflection as an encouragement for your own continued exploration of Mary’s meaning for you. If invoked, I believe, she will come, nurture, bless, guide, inspire and heal us.