Saturday, September 15, 2012

Moms, Children and Covenant

At some point i'll need to write a special post just for dads, but this one is dedicated to moms.  To understand the idea of motherhood you have to understand something about kids.  Now, to understand kids you need to understand some sacramental theology and the concept of a covenant. For those of you already versed in these notions, i'll try to be brief.
      Sacramental theology states that the sign or image of a thing makes that thing sacramentally present.  A non-circular definition would be; the power of a thing being manifested through its image.  For example, a picture of a loved one.  Why do we keep these images around?  When we look at a picture of a loved one it inspires the same feelings the person's actual presence would. (Although, generally to a lesser degree.)  Another example; looking a picture of a turkey dinner can make you hungry for a turkey dinner.  These are naturalistic examples, but they express the point.  Viewing the image of a thing impacts us and renders us more receptive to it.
      We can now apply this idea to something spiritual.  Through the cleansing waters of baptism, through that image, the cleansing power of God is sacramentally manifested and the one being baptized is truly cleansed of their sins.  As the initiate passes through the waters of baptism, so to does God's grace.  SACRAMENTALLY!  It's not us wielding power over God, it's God using the sacraments to work in us.  His grace is already present, the sacrament enables us to receive it.
      Now we need to examine covenant.  A covenant is easy, it's a sacred family bond.  A lot of people think of it as a synonym for contract, but that is very wrong.  I have a contract with my business associates.  If we decide to end it, we can get out.  If one of us fails in their side of the deal, the other is freed of their own obligations.  A covenant is what i have with my mom and dad and sister, and someday with my wife and children.  There is no getting out of a covenant.  No matter how badly i may fail in my own covenantal obligations to my parents, they remain obligated to love me as their son.  Even if my children should disown me and spit upon my grave, i would remain their father and obligated to love them.
     Marriage is not a contract.  There is no such thing as the "marriage contract".  Its the marriage covenant.  The man and woman pledge to love and honor one another until death; and because this is a covenant they have to, irregardless of how they feel about it.  True love is a choice to place the other person's needs before your own.  In the matrimonial covenant i am called to do this for my wife even when she fails utterly to do it for me.  Prostitution involves a contract, marriage is a covenant.
      Now, for the Kids!  Remember, we talked about words and act in a previous post?  In the wedding ceremony the couple give words to this new covenant they are forming.  Some time latter, usually that very night, they give act to those words.  They enter into the act which completes the words, and this dualism of words and act give the full sign of their marital union.
      Now, there is a possibility that through this act a new sign of their covenant is called into being.  Their covenant is incarnated in the form of a child and for nine months that child dwells within its mother.  So that mother bares within her the sign of her matrimonial covenant.  Do you know what we call something that caries the sign of a covenant within it?  Its call an arc!  This mom is the arc of the covenant she holds with her husband!  She is a tabernacle, a sanctuary from which new life flows forth.
      Do you recall how the Israelites felt about the arc of their covenant?  God would strike you dead for touching the thing.  Today, for Jews, the holiest spot in the world is the western wall, because it is the closest they can get to the spot where The Arc of The Covenant was placed, The Holy of Holies, where God dwelt.
       The Catholic mass is divided into two parts.  First is the liturgy of the word, where scripture is read, the gospel is proclaimed, the New Covenant is given words.  In the second half we celebrate the Eucharist.  The liturgy of the act, in which the true body and blood of Christ is brought forth, under the image of bread and wine.  The sign of the New Covenant.  After communion, the remaining host is placed in a small box, called the tabernacle, often adorned in Gold and surrounded in polished marble, carved with images of angles and saints.  A veil is placed over the door.
      In traditional Catholic circles women often wear veils in church. This is not merely cultural, it shows the connection between the women and the tabernacle.  That every woman, mother or not, has within her the potential to be a tabernacle.  The veil does not hide her beauty, so much as adorn her.  It declares that she is sacred, an image of the ultimate tabernacle in heaven, and a terrestrial tabernacle herself.

      A little Mary talk before i close.  For all Christians, Jesus is the sign of the New Covenant.  It is through the New Covenant that we are forgiven our sins, that we are given access to heaven, that the Kingdom of God is made known.  It was through the womb of Mary that He came into the world.  She bore the ultimate sign, God incarnate.  You want to know why Catholics hold Mary in such high esteem?  She is the Arc of the New Covenant.
      Every child conceived within wedlock is a sign of that marital covenant.  They point to the love two people shared for one another.  They are the manifestation of that love, and manifest its power wherever they go.  The mothers of these children are the arcs of that covenant, the tabernacles of their families. 
      Just as Mary is the heavenly tabernacle of the universal Church, so is mom to her family.

 Behold your Mother.
John 19:27

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