This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Hyperdulia and the difficulty of a Marian vocabulary

It has already been said that theology as it stands is somewhat hard-pressed to adequately describe the sacred reality that is the Virgin, and that it would require a different vocabulary in order to say what needs to be said about her. This may seem like a bizarre or presumptuous thing to say, but as a matter of fact the Church has already taken precisely this sort of step before.

We are thinking here of the fact that the Church, while not elevating Mary above the status of human, has created a specific kind of worship for her which is beyond the human but below that which is permitted for God alone: hyperdulia, is the Greek term for it. The Greek dulia is the mode or level of worship authorized for human saints, and is called ‘veneration,’ while latria or ‘adoration’ is for God alone. For Mary, and Mary alone, there is a kind of super-veneration (hyper-dulia).

All we intend to say is that this same kind of terminological addition could be useful in further elaborating in theological mode the Marian doctrine. As for hyperdulia itself, it has pleased the theologians, but it has never proven satisfactory to the faithful or even the Church itself insofar as its liturgy is concerned. What we find again and again is that hyperdulia looks more like a devotion to an divine personality. Let us cite here St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church:

It is truly meet to bless Thee, O Theotokos, who are ever blessed and pure, and Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, who without stain didst bear God the Word, and art truly the Mother of God, Thee we magnify.

And we find further edification in St. Gregory Palamas, who teaches in his homily on the Annunciation that Mary ‘alone is the boundary between created and uncreated natures.’

What we can say, then, is not that we wish to transgress monotheistic doctrine by saying that in the context of Christian orthodoxy, Mary is a divinity alongside Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Rather, we will simply insist that in the vocabulary of polytheism, she is most certainly a goddess, a divine personality, and most accurately described as an avatara of the divine substances, the archetype of all virginity, receptivity, fertility, femininity: and that, if we translate this back into monotheistic language, we have nothing very specific we can say on that matter beyond the four fundamental marian dogmas, and that almost as an admission of this, the teaching church welcomes the intuitive elaborations of the saints and all prayerful believers, who express intuitively the mystery that escapes a strictly monotheistic conceptual framework.

It was the famous French poet, Francois Villon, who wrote in his 15th century Ballad to Our Lady:

Within my parish-cloister I behold

A painted Heaven where harps and lutes adore,

And eke an Hell whose damned folk seethe full sore:

One bringeth fear, the other joy to me.

That joy, great Goddess, make thou mine to be,—

It was the great goddess he implored, and it does not seem that he was hesitant to use this terminology.

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