Tuesday, May 27, 2008

St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi week

DOCTRINE (my emphasies in bold in the text)
Mary Magdalen's vision of the spiritual life is presented to us as on a twofold level: one develops in eternity, the other in time. The first introduces us into the depths of the divinity, in which the explanation of the second is rooted. The latter presents us with the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the path of man towards heaven. The explanation is based on love, which animates and resolves every situation. Essentially, God is love, the saint repeats innumerable times. Creation had its beginning as the terminus of excessive love and of exuberant fullness. Sin, freely committed, made the creature "incapable ... to receive God's gifts within himself". Man lost this capacity, but only partially; thus there was born in the Trinity "a new counsel of humility and love" to redeem man by means of the incarnation of the Word. A final "counsel of love "determined "to give sublime gifts and graces" to faithful creatures and "to each one according to his works". Mary Magdalen develops these themes unequally; by preference she lingers on the second plan dealing with the work of the redemption. Although, with other mystics, she repeatedly affirms that the Word would have become man even if man had not sinned, in fact, however, she presents Him as clothed in our flesh in order to redeem us from sin. The only motive for His coming was His great love, which led Him even to the "foolishness": Of the cross and made Him, as it were, "forget ... His wisdom"". The Word has redeemed us through His humanity, "the tabernacle" of God, which was possessed by the Holy Spirit "just as His own". Whoever does not pass through this sacred humanity cannot reach salvation: it is the "bridge", the "stairway", the "ship that leads to port". The Word Made Man, placed like "an anvil" between God's anger and men's wickedness, is the perfect instrument of redemption that began in sorrow and was consummated on the cross. No theme returns so insistently in the doctrine of the saint as the bloody and interior (mental) passion of Jesus, the passion often symbolized by Christ's blood, towards which Mary Magdalen nourished a deep devotion. The "re-creation" of mankind by means of the blood of Christ lifts mankind to a level of life superior to that oif original justice, even to the level of the angels. The love of God for man, before and after the incarnation, "is as different ... as light ... from darkness". The soul returns to such grandeur by faithfully recopying "the Book of Life", Jesus Himself. Its likeness to God is in proportion to its likeness to Christ. Just as the piety and the doctrine of the saint are decisively Christocentric, so also are they decisively Marian. She affirms the Immaculate Conception of the "Virgin Mary", her unique holiness - "the most holy person who has ever existed, both at present and as she must be for the future" - and her spiritual motherhood, her mediation of all graces. The return of man to God is conceived as a struggle between two loves: self-love and divine love, which is born of humility. After charity, there is no virtue on which she insists more than humility. Pride is destruction and disunion between God and man, between man and man. (Her description of pride and of the other vices, (II, 452, III, 24), is particularly effective on a psychological level). Humility establishes the union; it is, as it were, the mother of love and the gateway to grace. Freedom - both the greatness and the downfall of mankind - when dominated by pride, can place an obstacle to this grace. The return to the fatherland can be accomplished along one of two ways: one is broad, the other a narrow path. The laity take the first way, religious the second (II, 167:11, 132-3). The saint describes religious life on numerous occasions, detailing its specific virtues, its practices (with great emphasis on ascetical renunciations, and practically nothing on prayer), its possible defects, etc. Her doctrine is more theoretical in the
Ecstasies, but exclusively practical in the Teachings; it offers nothing specific except the ardor and the great passion with which it is expressed. If the soul is led to God by means of the cardinal virtues (of which brief descriptions, Thomistic in tone, are given) it is, nevertheless, by exercising the theological virtues that it directly and intimately adheres to Him. Wholly taken up with love, St Mary Magdalen speaks little of faith, almost nothing of hope. Love, of which she gives us some classifications on the basis of its intensity and the effects that it produces in the keystone of the whole spiritual edifice. It guides every event of our divine-human history: "created by God ... for love and with love ... it is through this way" that we are to return to Him, Love measures the progress of the soul on this way of return. It is significant that her rather poor doctrine on the sacraments is not so in regard to the Eucharist, the sacrament of love. True love of God demands love of neighbor: "one cannot exist without the other". The apostolic aspect of love, stressed with particular care, rendered Mary Magdalen sensitive, even in doctrinal matters, to the preoccupations of her times; very significant in this regard are the fifth manuscript on the reform of the Church, the repetition of dogmatic themes that were then being discussed (grace, free will, purgatory, etc.), and also her devotions (to the humanity of Christ, to her guardian angel, to the holy souls), which were typically Italian and counter-reformation. But the principal function of love is to unite the soul to God. Union with God is necessary for man in order that he be happy; it is also a need of divine love, which "cannot bear to see anything that is not equal to" itself. This union demands radical purification, which assimilates and makes free, by means of the practice of the virtues - above all, of humility-love, which leads to annihilation. The soul must "will nothing, be able to do nothing, ... hear nothing and comprehend everything". The intervention of God, asked for in humility and proportioned to love, is painful, because it purifies and enlightens: the soul must receive it with humility and abandonment. The apparent renunciation of activity, which is alluded to in the manuscripts and which so pleased several quietists of the 1600's, is not static apathy, but the simple psychological impression of the subject: "continuing to work," according to Mary Magdalen, "is to leave ourselves completely dead in God, to such an extent that God works in the soul and the soul in God; and thus the soul, while working, in a way does not perceive that it is working". In order to reach transformation, in which all is peace in the depths of the soul, despite possible struggles on the surface, and in which one has a particular knowledge of God caused by love, one must transcend every created form, even the very humanity of Jesus. The transformed soul lives the life of God and it can no longer be separated from Him; it is most precious for the Church; it will not pass through the flames of purgatory; its death will be one of love for Mary Magdalen, therefore, the spiritual life is like a circle, enlivened with love, that has God both as its starting and as it finishing point. The doctrinal influence exercised by Mary Magdalen on the spirituality and piety, especially Italian, of the 17 and 18 centuries was noteworthy. There were numerous editions of her Ecstasies during these two centuries, and the bibliographical listings of Mary Magdalen reached almost three hundred. The most famous representative of this influence is perhaps St. Alphonsus, who uses the doctrine of the Florentine Carmelite in some of his ascetical works. In the 19 cent., a crisis loomed, but it seems that this is being gradually resolved in our own days.