Mary Magdalene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is the third part of the tour of medieval heart religion from the affective devotion chapter of my Getting Medieval with C S Lewis. It follows the first part here, which looks at Origen and Augustine, and the second part here, on Gregory the Great:
There is no better example of the holism of love and logic, theology and devotion, in the medieval period than Anselm of Canterbury. When not chasing dialectical rabbits in his attempt to understand, but not explain away, the mysteries of God’s existence and Incarnation, Anselm wrote a series of highly evocative, meditative, imaginative prayers focused on the lives and personalities of Christ, Mary, and the saints, designed for people to use in their private devotions. His stated purpose in publishing these was “to inspire the reader’s mind to the love and fear of God” and inflame the desire to pray.
This was the beginning of a shift in “canons within the canon,” from the early medieval spiritual focus on the Old Testament (especially the Psalms) to the high and late medieval fascination with the Gospels.
Medievalist R W Southern finds Anselm’s in prayers an “unusual combination of intensity of feeling and clarity of thought and expression.” He attributes to them “a new note of personal passion, of elaboration and emotional extravagance” that would change devotional practice henceforth, opening the way to the “masterpieces of late medieval piety.” Continue reading
The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary
This post follows from “Who do you say that I am: Controversies about Christ in the early church“ and Controversies about Christ in the early church, part II: The hybrid Jesus and the Second Council.
I acknowledge with gratitude the teaching of Susan Keefe of the Duke Divinity School. Much of what appears in this series comes from Dr. Keefe’s lectures on this topic.
At the Council of Ephesus (431), Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, was accused of dividing the two natures of Jesus in a way that made the Virgin Mary the mother of Christ, but not of God. His leading opponent, the patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, taught the full unity of Christ’s natures. Cyril’s views triumphed, with the support of the Roman pope, and the Nestorian party was condemned. It remains open to debate whether Nestorius did in fact hold the views attributed to him. In a sense, the view attributed to Nestorius made Jesus into a sort of werewolf, doing things as a man at one point, and as divinity at another time, turning on and off like a light-switch. We’ll see how that worked in a moment. Continue reading
If you’re wondering what Lutherans AND Roman Catholics can affirm about saints, here’s what the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue’s joint document, The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary, has to say about it. Again, h/t to the folks at “Here I Walk.”
The document states some “church-uniting convergences” :
“1. We reiterate the basic affirmation that ‘our entire hope of justification and salvation rests on Christ Jesus and the gospel whereby the good news of God’s merciful action in Christ is made known; we do not place our trust in anything other than God’s promise and saving work in Christ.’ (§103)
“2. We now further assert together that Jesus Christ is the sole Mediator in God’s plan of salvation (I Tim. 2:5). Christ’s saving work and role in God’s design thus determine not only the content of the gospel and its communication but also all Christian life, including our own and that of Mary and the saints who are now in heaven… Continue reading
Cover via Amazon
I’ve long thought Protestantism has been hasty (as Luther himself was not) to eliminate the practice of confession to a priest–among other Roman Catholic (or the larger category: “catholic”) practices and beliefs. Once one clears away the typical Protestant misunderstandings (that the priest is a mediator who somehow offers absolution by his own authority, that he imposes penances as a way to “earn salvation,” etc.), this seems to me a healthy Christian discipline. Particularly it seems it would be helpful if the person to which one confessed were also one’s spiritual director, in the old tradition.
What follows are some notes taken at the Marion Wade Center, from a couple of sources by Lyle Dorsett. The first is an article peering into C S Lewis’s own practice of confession. The second is a group of excerpts from Dorsett’s book on Lewis’s spiritual development, and talks again about Lewis’s practice of confession, then also about his views on purgatory, Mary, and the Protestant-Roman Catholic divide.
Summarizing: Lewis shared some broadly “catholic” beliefs and practices with both the Roman Catholics and the Anglo-Catholics within his own Church. But he was far from teetering on the edge of conversion to Roman Catholicism, as Joseph Pearce has incorrectly (in my opinion) argued. Nonetheless, Lewis makes a good study in appropriating long-standing catholic practices while remaining Protestant in conviction and worship:
[Note: as you’ll see, my inclusion of Mary in the title of this blog post is a bit of a red herring: Lewis was averse to Marian devotion.]
Dorsett, Lyle W. “C.S. Lewis and the Cowley Fathers.” Cowley 32 n.1 (Winter 2006): cover, 11-12.
In this article Dorsett writes especially about CSL’s Anglo-Catholic confessor and “director,” Father Walter Adams. Lewis began to see Adams in late October 1940, saying after his first confession to Father Adams “that the experience was like a tonic to his soul.” (11) Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants, Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Anglicanism, C S Lewis, confession, Eucharist, Joseph Pearce, penance, Protestantism, purgatory, Real Presence, Roman Catholicism, spiritual direction, the Virgin Mary
As Christian History & Biography was preparing to put out issue #83 on “Mary in the Imagination of the Church,” I spent some quality time poring over sources on the mother of our Lord. As usual, a few of those were culled out for the issue’s “Recommended Resources” section. Here they are:
[On why evangelical Protestants should even care about Mary in the first place, see here.]
Mary: Recommended Resources
A few good places for Protestants to explore the church’s thought on the mother of our Lord.
Steven Gertz and Chris Armstrong
Those looking for a starting place for a thoughtful modern Protestant reclamation of Mary may wish to browse Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary, a compact set of scholarly essays on the subject edited by Beverley Roberts Gaventa & Cynthia L. Rigby, eds. (Westminster John Knox, 2002). For those wishing to cut straight to the most highly contested points of Marian doctrine, a stimulating read is Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Brazos Press, 2003), by an articulate and sometimes passionately opposed pair, Dwight Longenecker & David Gustafson. Continue reading
In the second half of the medieval era, an age infatuated with the details of the Gospel accounts, no scene was painted more than the Annunciation: the angels’ announcement to Mary that the Son of God would be incarnated in her womb. What we miss today about the devotion to Mary that rose to new heights in that period is that it was first and foremost a devotion to the Incarnation as the key fact of salvation history. We tend today to skip over the Incarnation, seeing it as merely a necessary step to the cross and the substitutionary atonement. Late medievals, too, paid devotional attention to the crucifixion, but as with their devotion to the Incarnation, the focus here was squarely on the miracle that God, in his love, has become flesh for us, suffering all that we suffer, in solidarity with us. Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged Abelard, Anselm of Canterbury, Aslan, C S Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia, Dorothy L Sayers, the crucifixion, the Incarnation, The Man Born To Be King, The Passion of the Christ, the Virgin Mary, transubstantiation