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Friday, 15 August 2014

Truth And Heresy in Art And A Plea to EWTN

Read today's Gospel again on Christ saying that those who have faith in Him are more blessed than the physical bearing in His Mother's Womb. But, think differently on this. Think like St. Augustine, whose sermon on this passage reminds us that Mary bore Christ through Faith, not through the physical relationship with a man. Christ, the Word of God, entered Mary, and all who listened are blessed, though not in the degree Mary is. Mary's obedience in faith at the Annunciation brought forth the "yes" to the Incarnation. St. John Paul II echoes this in Redemptoris Mater.

43. The Church "becomes herself a mother by accepting God's word with fidelity."122 Like Mary, who first believed by accepting the word of God revealed to her at the Annunciation and by remaining faithful to that word in all her trials even unto the Cross, so too the Church becomes a mother when, accepting with fidelity the word of God, "by her preaching and by baptism she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God."123 This "maternal" characteristic of the Church was expressed in a particularly vivid way by the Apostle to the Gentiles when he wrote: "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Gal. 4:19) These words of Saint Paul contain an interesting sign of the early Church's awareness of her own motherhood, linked to her apostolic service to mankind. This awareness enabled and still enables the Church to see the mystery of her life and mission modelled upon the example of the Mother of the Son, who is "the first-born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29

Mary's relationship with Christ is of the order of perfection, the unitive state to the utmost degree. As fully perfect from her Incarnation, Mary had no sin, no concupiscence and no effects of Original Sin.

I make a plea to EWTN, which in view of the Teaching Magisterium, depicts Mary as not perfect and not Ever-Virgin.

I was visiting someone who has EWTN on their cable television. When the rosary came on, I was asked to join the woman and I said, of course, yes.

However, by the end of the rosary, I was saddened and disturbed to the point where I have to write this post.

Some of the art used to depict some of the mysteries include heretical references. In other words, the paintings are "Protestant".

Now, a Catholic knows the Gospel and the teaching of the Church regarding Mary. I want to clarify and argue against some of the depictions of Mary in the art used by EWTN.

First of all, I shall start with the most obvious and the least complicated. In all of the apparitions of Mary, the saints who saw her said over and over that she was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. Some of the artwork in the EWTN mysteries shows Mary not only as not beautiful, but plain and even ugly.

This is contrary to almost 2,000 years of iconography and paintings, sculptures and friezes of Our Lady. To depict her as ugly or plain is not in keeping with tradition with a small t, nor with the wisdom handed down within the Catholic culture. Nor are the paintings in keeping with the approved apparitions, even Fatima and Lourdes, where the saints said that the Woman was beautiful.

Here is St. John Paul II on the art pertaining to Mary from Redemptoris Mater:

33. This year there occurs the twelfth centenary of the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (787). Putting an end to the wellknown controversy about the cult of sacred images, this Council defined that, according to the teaching of the holy Fathers and the universal tradition of the Church, there could be exposed for the veneration of the faithful, together with the Cross, also images of the Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, in churches and houses and at the roadside.84 This custom has been maintained in the whole of the East and also in the West. Images of the Virgin have a place of honor in churches and houses. In them Mary is represented in a number of ways: as the throne of God carrying the Lord and giving him to humanity (Theotokos); as the way that leads to Christ and manifests him (Hodegetria); as a praying figure in an attitude of intercession and as a sign of the divine presence on the journey of the faithful until the day of the Lord (Deesis); as the protectress who stretches out her mantle over the peoples (Pokrov), or as the merciful Virgin of tenderness (Eleousa). She is usually represented with her Son, the child Jesus, in her arms: it is the relationship with the Son which glorifies the Mother. Sometimes she embraces him with tenderness (Glykophilousa); at other times she is a hieratic figure, apparently rapt in contemplation of him who is the Lord of history (cf. Rev. 5:9-14).85
It is also appropriate to mention the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, which continually accompanied the pilgrimage of faith of the peoples of ancient Rus'. The first Millennium of the conversion of those noble lands to Christianity is approaching: lands of humble folk, of thinkers and of saints. The Icons are still venerated in the Ukraine, in Byelorussia and in Russia under various titles. They are images which witness to the faith and spirit of prayer of that people, who sense the presence and protection of the Mother of God. In these Icons the Virgin shines as the image of divine beauty, the abode of Eternal Wisdom, the figure of the one who prays, the prototype of contemplation, the image of glory: she who even in her earthly life possessed the spiritual knowledge inaccessible to human reasoning and who attained through faith the most sublime knowledge. I also recall the Icon of the Virgin of the Cenacle, praying with the Apostles as they awaited the Holy Spirit: could she not become the sign of hope for all those who, in fraternal dialogue, wish to deepen their obedience of faith?
34. Such a wealth of praise, built up by the different forms of the Church's great tradition, could help us to hasten the day when the Church can begin once more to breathe fully with her "two lungs," the East and the West. As I have often said, this is more than ever necessary today. It would be an effective aid in furthering the progress of the dialogue already taking place between the Catholic Church and the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West.86 It would also be the way for the pilgrim Church to sing and to live more perfectly her "Magnificat."

My second point of contention, which is much more serious to consider, is that Mary is an Ever-Virgin, before, during and after the Birth of Christ. In some of the paintings on EWTN, Mary is seen doing the breathing exercises for birth and has a midwife. There was no midwife and Mary did not experience a natural Birth of Christ, but a supernatural Birth. I was shocked, and so was the older woman, in her eighties, sitting next to me. She said, "I was taught Mary was in ecstasy". I agreed, and said that was the teaching I received as well. These several depictions of the midwife are scandalous, as is the specific on showing Mary doing the birth-exercises for breathing. This is a Protestant view of the Virgin Birth. Protestants do not understand the way of perfection on this earth, which is why they do not honor Mary or other saints. They do not understand the Mystical Marriage.

As I was taught in school and in theology class, through the long teaching of the Church, Mary's hymen was never broken. Christ miraculously was born, and Mary was in ecstasy when the Incarnate God came into the world. Many taught pre-Vatican II heard this in grade-school and in high school, if not college. Catholics always understood her as the new-Eve, not experiencing the curse of Genesis 3:16,  To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband' s power, and he shall have dominion over thee.

The earliest painting, and most in the Medieval and Renaissance show Mary in contemplation at the Birth of Christ. She did not need pain management techniques. The Birth of Christ was miraculous.

Mary was free of Original Sin and all its consequences. That is one reason we celebrate today, the Assumption. She was freed from corruption in any way.

And, the Popes back us up. Here are a few references, which I found through the Catechism of the Catholic Church entry on the Virgin Birth:

from Mystici Corporis Christi, Pope Pius XII.

110. Venerable Brethren, may the Virgin Mother of God hear the prayers of Our paternal heart - which are yours also - and obtain for all a true love of the Church - she whose sinless soul was filled with the divine spirit of Jesus Christ above all other created souls, who "in the name of the whole human race" gave her consent "for a spiritual marriage between the Son of God and human nature."[216] Within her virginal womb Christ our Lord already bore the exalted title of Head of the Church; in a marvelous birth she brought Him forth as the source of all supernatural life, and presented Him newly born, as Prophet, King and Priest to those who, from among Jews and Gentiles, were the first to come to adore Him. Furthermore, her only Son, condescending to His mother's prayer in "Cana of Galilee," performed the miracle by which "his disciples believed in Him."[217] It was she, the second Eve, who, free from all sin, original or personal, and always more intimately united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father for all the children of Adam, sin-stained by his unhappy fall, and her mother's rights and her mother's love were included in the holocaust. Thus she who, according to the flesh, was the mother of our Head, through the added title of pain and glory became, according to the Spirit, the mother of all His members. She it was through her powerful prayers obtained that the spirit of our Divine Redeemer, already given on the Cross, should be bestowed, accompanied by miraculous gifts, on the newly founded Church at Pentecost; and finally, bearing with courage and confidence the tremendous burden of her sorrows and desolation, she, truly the Queen of Martyrs, more than all the faithful "filled up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ...for His Body, which is the Church";[218] and she continues to have for the Mystical Body of Christ, born of the pierced Heart of the Savior,[219] the same motherly care and ardent love with which she cherished and fed the Infant Jesus in the crib.

from Ineffabilis Deus, from Pope Pius IX, on Mary's body being inviolate.

In like manner did they use the words of the prophets to describe this wondrous abundance of divine gifts and the original innocence of the Virgin of whom Jesus was born. They celebrated the august Virgin as the spotless dove, as the holy Jerusalem, as the exalted throne of God, as the ark and house of holiness which Eternal Wisdom built, and as that Queen who, abounding in delights and leaning on her Beloved, came forth from the mouth of the Most High, entirely perfect, beautiful, most dear to God and never stained with the least blemish.
The Annunciation
When the Fathers and writers of the Church meditated on the fact that the most Blessed Virgin was, in the name and by order of God himself, proclaimed full of grace[22] by the Angel Gabriel when he announced her most sublime dignity of Mother of God, they thought that this singular and solemn salutation, never heard before, showed that the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Spirit. To them Mary is an almost infinite treasury, an inexhaustible abyss of these gifts, to such an extent that she was never subject to the curse and was, together with her Son, the only partaker of perpetual benediction. Hence she was worthy to hear Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exclaim: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."[23]
Mary Compared with Eve
Hence, it is the clear and unanimous opinion of the Fathers that the most glorious Virgin, for whom "he who is mighty has done great things," was resplendent with such an abundance of heavenly gifts, with such a fullness of grace and with such innocence, that she is an unspeakable miracle of God -- indeed, the crown of all miracles and truly the Mother of God; that she approaches as near to God himself as is possible for a created being; and that she is above all men and angels in glory. Hence, to demonstrate the original innocence and sanctity of the Mother of God, not only did they frequently compare her to Eve while yet a virgin, while yet innocence, while yet incorrupt, while not yet deceived by the deadly snares of the most treacherous serpent; but they have also exalted her above Eve with a wonderful variety of expressions. Eve listened to the serpent with lamentable consequences; she fell from original innocence and became his slave. The most Blessed Virgin, on the contrary, ever increased her original gift, and not only never lent an ear to the serpent, but by divinely given power she utterly destroyed the force and dominion of the evil one.
Biblical Figures
Accordingly, the Fathers have never ceased to call the Mother of God the lily among thorns, the land entirely intact, the Virgin undefiled, immaculate, ever blessed, and free from all contagion of sin, she from whom was formed the new Adam, the flawless, brightest, and most beautiful paradise of innocence, immortality and delights planted by God himself and protected against all the snares of the poisonous serpent, the incorruptible wood that the worm of sin had never corrupted, the fountain ever clear and sealed with the power of the Holy Spirit, the most holy temple, the treasure of immortality, the one and only daughter of life -- not of death -- the plant not of anger but of grace, through the singular providence of God growing ever green contrary to the common law, coming as it does from a corrupted and tainted root.
Explicit Affirmation . . .
As if these splendid eulogies and tributes were not sufficient, the Fathers proclaimed with particular and definite statements that when one treats of sin, the holy Virgin Mary is not even to be mentioned; for to her more grace was given than was necessary to conquer sin completely.[24] They also declared that the most glorious Virgin was Reparatrix of the first parents, the giver of life to posterity; that she was chosen before the ages, prepared for himself by the Most High, foretold by God when he said to the serpent, "I will put enmities between you and the woman."[25]-unmistakable evidence that she was crushed the poisonous head of the serpent. And hence they affirmed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace.
. . . Of a Super Eminent Sanctity
To these praises they have added very noble words. Speaking of the conception of the Virgin, they testified that nature yielded to grace and, unable to go on, stood trembling. The Virgin Mother of God would not be conceived by Anna before grace would bear its fruits; it was proper that she be conceived as the first-born, by whom "the first-born of every creature" would be conceived. They testified, too, that the flesh of the Virgin, although derived from Adam, did not contract the stains of Adam, and that on this account the most Blessed Virgin was the tabernacle created by God himself and formed by the Holy Spirit, truly a work in royal purple, adorned and woven with gold, which that new Beseleel[26] made. They affirmed that the same Virgin is, and is deservedly, the first and especial work of God, escaping the fiery arrows the the evil one; that she is beautiful by nature and entirely free from all stain; that at her Immaculate Conception she came into the world all radiant like the dawn. For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin. In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness. 

from Redemptoris Mater of St. John Paul II

The Coptic and Ethiopian traditions were introduced to this contemplation of the mystery of Mary by St. Cyril of Alexandria, and in their turn they have celebrated it with a profuse poetic blossoming.81 The poetic genius of St. Ephrem the Syrian, called "the lyre of the Holy Spirit," tirelessly sang of Mary, leaving a still living mark on the whole tradition of the Syriac Church.82 In his panegyric of the Theotókos, St. Gregory of Narek, one of the outstanding glories of Armenia, with powerful poetic inspiration ponders the different aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation, and each of them is for him an occasion to sing and extol the extraordinary dignity and magnificent beauty of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh.83
It does not surprise us therefore that Mary occupies a privileged place in the worship or the ancient Oriental Churches with an incomparable abundance of feasts and hymns.
32. In the Byzantine liturgy, in all the hours of the Divine Office, praise of the Mother is linked with praise of her Son and with the praise which, through the Son, is offered up to the Father in the Holy Spirit. In the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer of St. John Chrysostom, immediately after the epiclesis the assembled community sings in honor of the Mother of God: "It is truly just to proclaim you blessed, O Mother of God, who are most blessed, all pure and Mother of our God. We magnify you who are more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim. You who, without losing your virginity, gave birth to the Word of God. You who are truly the Mother of God."

 from Pope Emeritus, then Benedict XVI, from a General Audience, January 2, 2008:

All other titles attributed to Our Lady are based on her vocation to be the Mother of the Redeemer, the human creature chosen by God to bring about the plan of salvation, centred on the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word. In these days of festivity we have paused to contemplate the depiction of the Nativity in the crib. At the centre of this scene we find the Virgin Mother, who offers the Baby Jesus for the contemplation of all those who come to adore the Saviour: the shepherds, the poor people of Bethlehem, the Magi from the East. Later, on the Feast of the "Presentation" which we celebrate on 2 February, it will be the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna who receive the tiny Infant from the hands of his Mother and worship him. The devotion of the Christian people has always considered the Birth of Jesus and the divine motherhood of Mary as two aspects of the same mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word, so it has never thought of the Nativity as a thing of the past. We are "contemporaries" of the shepherds, the Magi, of Simeon and of Anna, and as we go with them we are filled with joy, because God wanted to be the God-with-us and has a mother who is our mother.
All the other titles with which the Church honours Our Lady then derive from the title "Mother of God", but this one is fundamental. Let us think of the privilege of the "Immaculate Conception", that is, of Mary being immune to sin from conception: she was preserved from any stain of sin because she was to be the Mother of the Redeemer. The same applies to the title "Our Lady of the Assumption": the One who had brought forth the Saviour could not be subject to the corruption that derives from original sin. And we know that all these privileges were not granted in order to distance Mary from us but, on the contrary, to bring her close; indeed, since she was totally with God, this woman is very close to us and helps us as a mother and a sister. The unique and unrepeatable position that Mary occupies in the Community of Believers also stems from her fundamental vocation to being Mother of the Redeemer. Precisely as such, Mary is also Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. Rightly, therefore, on 21 November 1964 during the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI solemnly attributed to Mary the title "Mother of the Church". 

One may also look at the Councils of Ephesus and Lateran.
Here is the CCC section to look up. I read footnotes.

I appeal to EWTN to remove the artwork which contradicts the teaching of the Church on Mary's complete virginity and the depictions of her as anything but beautiful.

to be continued...there are other issues as well with some of the other mysteries.