As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In Praise of Mary

I thought I would take a crack at a hymn of praise to Mary, highlighting the Old Testament imagery which points to her:
Hail, fleece of Gideon, soaked with dew though the ground was dry.
Hail, bush of Moses, that burned but was not consumed.
Hail, rod of Aaron, that blossomed though without root.
Hail, gate of Ezekiel, closed after the King had entered.
Hail, tongs of Isaiah, which hold the Fire of Heaven
Hail, ladder of Jacob, by which God descended as Man
Hail, mountain of Daniel, from which Christ was cut by the Hand of God
Hail, Ark of the Covenant, who bore the Law of God and Bread of Heaven.
Hail, Holy of Holies, in whom the Presence of God dwelt
We hail thee, maid and mother, bearer and borne,
Pray for us.
There are many hymns which use these images in praise of Mary. I found another one recently from the 13th c.:

Latin lyrics English translation

Gedeonis area
celitus perfusa rore;
flamma rubus ignea
radiat absque calore.
nucleus et nuclea
testa prodit lutea,
lux aurea!
Granum exit palea,
oleastris olea,
liquetur petra liquore.
- Philippe le Chancelier


Gideon's courtyard
is wet with dew from heaven;
the bush, with fiery flame
radiates without heat.
The fruit and seed
come forth from the shell;
as a golden light!
Grain comes forth from the chaff,
the olive from the olive tree,
the rock is made liquid from liquid.
- Philip the Chancellor


Here is another translation of the same hymn:
Gideon's threshing floor is
dreched with the dew from heaven,
and the flame burning in the bush
shines without heat.
The earthen vessel
brings forth the seed from a seed,
the golden light!
The good grain comes out of the chaff,
the olive from the olive trees,
and the rock flows with water.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

"Hail, fleece of Gideon, soaked with dew though the ground was dry."

If you read the story carefully, you will find that unlike the other symbols you present here, the fleece of Gideon was Gideon's idea, not God's. Because this test was invented by Gideon, not designed by God, it has no mystical meaning, but was merely the test that Gideon came up with at the time. Besides that, if you continue reading, you find that God performed the opposite miracle also at Gideon's request, see Judges 6:36-40.

"Hail, bush of Moses, that burned but was not consumed."

The metaphor here is the opposite of what you are looking for, since a bush burning but not being consumed seems to point more to having intercourse but not getting pregnant than to getting pregnant without intercourse. It clearly is no symbol of Mary, but a sign used to show Moses that God has the power to overide nature when he sees fit.

"Hail, rod of Aaron, that blossomed though without root."

Traditionally interpreted as being Christ who is the Branch, the shoot of Jesse, the stock of David, etc. all imagery synonymous with a rod. And also he is said in Isaiah 53 to have come forth like a tender plant unsupported by the arid ground, where the arid ground represents the unbelieving Jewish nation of the time, from which fact would come the without root aspect of the budding rod of Aaron.

Hail, gate of Ezekiel, closed after the King had entered.

This reference is to the mystical temple in Ezekiel, and obviously refers to Christ's entrance into heaven, not his entrance into earth. Hence, the gate represents personal sinlessness which is the means by which Christ entered heaven. That gate, however, is shut because no one else can enter by that means, seeing no one else can attain to personal sinlessness. Everyone else must enter by faith in Christ and obedience to his gospel.

"Hail, tongs of Isaiah, which hold the Fire of Heaven"

Which tongs are touched to the lips of the prophet, which seems to counter the tenor of your untouchable Mary argument.

"Hail, ladder of Jacob, by which God descended as Man"

Jacob saw angels descending, not God. And as Paul is very careful to point out in the first few chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus is God not an angel.

"Hail, mountain of Daniel, from which Christ was cut by the Hand of God"

Rather than Mary a giant mountain and Christ a little stone, don't you think it makes a lot more sense to see the mountan as the Jewish nation? Sure, the being hewn out of the mountain without hands part may have reference to the virgin birth, but to suggest that Mary is the mountain is a huge stretch.

"Hail, Ark of the Covenant, who bore the Law of God and Bread of Heaven."

The ark, of course, was the symbol of the Old Covenant, and was the place that the priest would take the blood of the corporate sacrifice to. In order to cover the sins of the people, he would apply the blood to the mercy seat of the ark. Is Mary the symbol of the New Covenant? Is Mary the place that Jesus had to take his blood to in order to wash away the people's sins? Nay, but the cross is. The cross is the ark of the New Covenant.

"Hail, Holy of Holies, in whom the Presence of God dwelt"

In the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel, God gives the Jews 70 weeks to do various things, including "anoint an Holy of Holies." The very terminology Holy of Holies denotes the holiest of all, and in fact is called that by Paul in Hebrews 9:8, saying "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" meaning that the way into Christ was not announced under the Old Covenant in the days of Moses, when the first tabernacle was in use, but now has been announced by the Lord and his apostles, which way into Christ is faith, repentance of sins, confession of faith in Christ, and baptism into Christ.

4:25 PM  
Blogger The Poor Blogger said...

>>If you read the story carefully, you will find that unlike the other symbols you present here, the fleece of Gideon was Gideon's idea, not God's.<<

Doesn't matter. It's still an OT image of something which resembles Mary's Virginity at Jesus' conception.

>>The metaphor here is the opposite of what you are looking for, since a bush burning but not being consumed seems to point more to having intercourse but not getting pregnant than to getting pregnant without intercourse.<<

No. It points to being with child without having the Virginity consumed.

>>Traditionally interpreted as being Christ who is the Branch, the shoot of Jesse, the stock of David, etc. all imagery synonymous with a rod. And also he is said in Isaiah 53 to have come forth like a tender plant unsupported by the arid ground, where the arid ground represents the unbelieving Jewish nation of the time, from which fact would come the without root aspect of the budding rod of Aaron.<<

Even "Lo, How a Rose" references Mary. "Lo, how a rose ere blooming, from TENDER STEM hath sprung." The tender stem is Mary.

>>This reference is to the mystical temple in Ezekiel, and obviously refers to Christ's entrance into heaven, not his entrance into earth.<<

Obvious to you, perhaps, but not to people writing before 1500 AD.

>>Which tongs are touched to the lips of the prophet, which seems to counter the tenor of your untouchable Mary argument.<<

Untouchable by HUMANS, not by God. When God "touched" her, she became pregnant with no "burning of her lips."

>>Jacob saw angels descending, not God. And as Paul is very careful to point out in the first few chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus is God not an angel.<<

Sometimes the Ladder is referred to as Jesus, sometimes as Mary. The imagery holds either was as a passage between heaven and earth. You are, surprise surprise, being to literal with all of these images.

>>Rather than Mary a giant mountain and Christ a little stone, don't you think it makes a lot more sense to see the mountan as the Jewish nation?<<

Yes and no. Mary both represents herself and the Church, herself and Israel, herself and humanity. It's why she always wears blue.

>>Sure, the being hewn out of the mountain without hands part may have reference to the virgin birth, but to suggest that Mary is the mountain is a huge stretch.<<

Again, for you, not for the rest of Christendom.

>>The ark, of course, was the symbol of the Old Covenant, and was the place that the priest would take the blood of the corporate sacrifice to. In order to cover the sins of the people, he would apply the blood to the mercy seat of the ark. Is Mary the symbol of the New Covenant? Is Mary the place that Jesus had to take his blood to in order to wash away the people's sins? Nay, but the cross is. The cross is the ark of the New Covenant.<<

Mary, the cross and the tomb are all the Ark, for each bore Christ at a certain time. Now, the bread and wine of communion are the Ark.

>>The very terminology Holy of Holies denotes the holiest of all,<<

Right, thus her "ever-virginity."

11:06 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

">>If you read the story carefully, you will find that unlike the other symbols you present here, the fleece of Gideon was Gideon's idea, not God's.<<

Doesn't matter. It's still an OT image of something which resembles Mary's Virginity at Jesus' conception."


Thus you admit that it doesn't really symbolize Mary at all and that you merely twisted it to symbolize Mary.

">>This reference is to the mystical temple in Ezekiel, and obviously refers to Christ's entrance into heaven, not his entrance into earth.<<

Obvious to you, perhaps, but not to people writing before 1500 AD."


Perhaps you could back up the claim with some quotes. Of course, anyone who doesn't obviously see that Ezekiel's temple is an image of heaven, clearly hasn't actually read Ezekiel to begin with. And a history of misinterpretation also proves nothing, other than that your interpreters never read the very book they were interpreting.

">>The very terminology Holy of Holies denotes the holiest of all,<<

Right, thus her 'ever-virginity.'"


You cringe not to blasphemously assert that Mary is holier than Christ. You, then, are self-condemned.

6:26 PM  
Blogger The Poor Blogger said...

Ah, well, I thought you were my (biological) brother also named Josh, but obviously you are not. It would help me to know from what faith tradition you are coming to I can more effectively respond to your thoughts.

>>Thus you admit that it doesn't really symbolize Mary at all and that you merely twisted it to symbolize Mary.<<

Well, I didn't twist it. It was "twisted" long before I came across it. But, no, I'm not twisting it. At least, no more than many other images meant to convey many other things. Is it twisting the bronze serpent raised in the wilderness to say it prefigures Christ? Or that Noah's Ark prefigures the Church? No. When you read the Bible from the gospels outward, everything takes on a new meaning.

>>Perhaps you could back up the claim with some quotes. Of course, anyone who doesn't obviously see that Ezekiel's temple is an image of heaven, clearly hasn't actually read Ezekiel to begin with. And a history of misinterpretation also proves nothing, other than that your interpreters never read the very book they were interpreting.<<

Actually, some of my interpreters were the very ones who chose the books in the Canon of Scripture. So, yes, they were quite familiar with it. I'll find some quotes and post them tomorrow.

>>You cringe not to blasphemously assert that Mary is holier than Christ. You, then, are self-condemned.<<

No, no, you misunderstand. Mary always, always points to her Son as the greater. He is the rose that blossomed from her tender stem, but He is also the root of that stem. He is both her Creator and her Son.

The Holy of Holies is not Holy in and of itself, but because of who dwelt there. God was there, thus it was holy. Likewise with Mary. She was not the Holy of Holies because she was holy in and of herself, but because of the Baby that she bore. Mary is glorified because of her obedience to God and because of her glorious Son, not the other way around.

Quotes when I can get to them.

7:16 PM  
Blogger The Poor Blogger said...

Earliest positive statement I know if is in the second-century Protevangelium. Obviously not a canonical source, but it does have a lot of parallels with the Orthodox teaching, and as a piece of popular literature it had a lot of influence on later, more fanciful transitus literature. See chapters 19-20.

By the fourth century, the doctrine is well attested. Here are hyperlinks where I've found online sources and references where I haven't: Athanasius described Mary as "Ever-Virgin" (Orations against the Arians 2.70), as did Epiphanius (The Man Well-Anchored 120, c.f. Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 78:6). Hilary of Poitiers argued in favor of the doctrine (Commentary on Matthew §1:4), with Didymus the Blind (The Trinity 3:4), Ambrose of Milan (Letters 63:111) , Siricius (Heinrich Denziger, Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum, §91), and Jerome (Against Helvidius, 21). Jerome's well-known argument is the one Calvin paraphrased when this controversy arose again in the 1500s.

Tertullian denied it (William Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers). Tertullian, of course, argued against almost everything, and eventually argued himself right out of Christianity. Jovinian's teaching that childbirth ended Mary's physical virginity was condemned by a synod of Milan in 390.

From what I've read, the real flowering of Marian devotion was in the fifth and sixth centuries. But the understanding of her ever-virginty was pretty universal centuries before then; from Athanasius' offhand reference, I'd say well before Nicea.

11:15 AM  

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