Mary as Mediatrix: An Incarnational View


Many Christians find the notion that Mary played a role in our salvation extremely blasphemous. They particularly find the ascription of the title Mediatrix to Mary, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, offensive.  In their eyes this ascription stands in direct opposition to Jesus’s role as the sole mediator between God and man. After all, Sacred Scripture is crystal clear on this matter:

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NKJV).

While I completely embrace these words from St. Paul, I deny that they constitute a defeater for Catholic Marian dogma. I contend that the aversion to Mary’s role in our salvation, endemic in so many Christians, is a form of Neo-Docetism. I further maintain that shedding this Neo-Docetist attitude, and embracing an incarnational approach to theology, will help us to understand Mary’s soteriological importance.

The Neo-Docetist Attitude

To be sure, Jesus is the One Mediator between God and men. For it is only through the Word who, “became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14) that we can be united to God. Mediation is the very point of the incarnation. God, in His love, united Himself to His creation so that His creation might be united to Him: this is the ultimate act of reconciliation. It is, also, the cosmic destiny–or telos–of the universe. As St. Paul states:

“For he [the Father] has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:9-10).

But many Christians fail to see any of this.  They fail to see the fundamental importance of the incarnation; and fail to see the work of Christ as including the redemption and renewal of the body and the physical/material world in general.  In consequence, the work of Christ is often narrowly construed. The matter of greatest importance, for many Christians, is that Jesus came to satiate the wrath of the Father so as to take away the punishment necessitated by sin (i.e., Penal Substitutionary Atonement).

Mediation, on this view, only happens through the cross; everything hinges upon the death of Christ. As such, the incarnation plays little to no role in the process and is almost a peripheral issue. This implicit denial of the incarnation lies at the heart of the Neo-Docetist attitude. Unlike Classical Docetism, which explicitly denied the incarnation, Neo-Docetism minimizes the importance of the incarnation to the point where its relevance to soteriology is indiscernible.

As I have argued before, this attitude also leads to the rejection of a sacramental worldview; one in which God works in and through the corporeal world to bring about its renewal. Everything in the Christian faith, given the Neo-Docetist perspective, becomes over spiritualized. Baptism looses its efficacy and becomes just a symbol. The Eucharist is no longer the real presence of Christ, but a sentimental ritual that we perpetuate out of obedience. Works of love play no role in our salvation, which is wrought through faith alone (i.e., a mental assent or acknowledgment of Penal Substitutionary Atonement).

Penal Substitution and Mary

Obviously, if one adopts a Neo-Docetist attitude, Mary can play no role in the mediation between God and man. For if (1) mediation is narrowly construed as Penal Substitutionary Atonement and (2) salvation is merely a sort of mental assent to this doctrine, then it is utter lunacy to ascribe to Mary the role of Mediatrix. Clearly, Mary didn’t take the sins of the world upon herself and die on the cross, thereby satiating the wrath of the Father towards mankind. It must be admitted, therefore, that if we adopt this limited conception of mediation, it makes sense to oppose Catholic Marian dogma. On this view, the very notion of Mary being a Mediatrix is nonsense.

Incarnational Theology and the Role of Mary

If, however, mediation is understood in a broader incarnational sense, the role of Mary becomes crystal clear. For it is through Mary that the Word became flesh; it was in her womb that the Creator and sustainer of the universe took on human nature.

God did not force Himself upon Mary against her will either. As Peter Kreeft is fond of saying, “God is not a rapist.” Mary didn’t have to accept the message from Gabriel; she didn’t have to submit herself to what the Lord was intending to do in her life.  Mary, like you and I, had a real choice to make when she heard the message: she could either choose to reject God, as Eve had done in the garden, or choose to fully submit to His will and trust in Him.  To all of creations great relief, Mary chose the latter saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Like us, Mary’s faith in the Lord was made possible by the grace of God; and it was through the grace and love of God that Mary was emboldened to open herself to receiving the Lord. Likewise, it was the power of the Holy Spirit, working in and through the Virgin, that made it possible for the Word to take on flesh; and it was through the incarnation of the Word that God united Himself to man.

It is in this context, the context of the incarnation, that Mary is said to be Mediatrix. For it is through her openness to God that the Lord was able to make his abode among men. As Hans Urs von Balthasar so eloquently explains:

“[in Mary] we see readiness, a receptivity that is totally unreserved: body, soul, and spirit are utterly open, “openings” to God. Here the essential thing is that the body is involved; that the handmaid’s consent echoes right through her, down to the lowliest and most unconscious fibers of her being; her whole self, in its materiality, from its lowest level upward, makes itself a womb for the Wholly Other, for God’s self utterance (and hence his “substance”). Never before had this substance taken up its abode within the straitened dimensions of a mortal body.”

Through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord, human nature has been restored to its former dignity and purity, and it is once again possible for the creation to be fully united with its Creator.

In all of this, there is but One true Mediator, and that is God. For it is God who creates and sustains the world, and it is God who saves. Mary, on her own, has no power to mediate. This is why the Catechism says:

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it. No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source” (CCC article 970).

Considered in this light, it is clear that Mary plays a substantial role in salvation history and that her role in no way threatens Christ’s position as the One mediator between God and man.


Lessons in Cognitive Dissonance: This is what feminism looks like?

1187168955For good reason, the past few months we’ve been bombarded with feminists trying to tell men to shape up. Let’s face the facts too, we (men) really need to shape up. How women are treated in our society as nothing more than sexual objects or as unintelligent isn’t good, it’s very much wrong. Both come with incredibly negative ramifications, specifically leaving women in compromising, unsafe, and brutal conditions. While the solutions proposed are sometimes far out of left field, the fact remains that we do need to reevaluate how we, as a society, look at women.

That being said…

There’s also a ton of absurdity surrounding the recent raised voices. In the modern age it’s popular for social causes to become social fads, something people spend money on in order to seem like they’re progressive and aware, but who are only perpetuating the problem. For instance, while it might be popular to buy shirts saying, “This is what feminism looks like,” the reality is you’re paying good money for a shirt that is in turn perpetuating a company that oppresses impoverished women in India. Oops?

See, we want equality for women…so long as they’re civilized and living within the Western World. Outside of the Western World? Meh. Consider that Anita Sarkeesian was given time on the Colbert Report to cover the whole “Gamergate” controversy, and rightfully so (the threatening of lives and targeting is disgusting and wrong). Gamergate as a whole has received a lot of coverage. But Iran just hanged Reyhaneh Jabbari for killing a man who attempted to rape her and hardly a peep was made over her death. Women in Iran, Pakistan, and much of the Muslim world are grossly mistreated, beaten, and killed for being victims. They’re victimized for being victims. I have many Muslim friends who are disgusted by how women are treated (or in the case of Muslim women, how they are treated). And of course it’s not just Muslims, but many other nations: Italy, for example, has the famed Casanova, the rich man who has a wife at home and a mistress in the hotel. But if the woman does the same thing, she’s considered a whore.

It’s completely okay to call for equality here, especially concerning the catcalls and aggressive nature of men. But at least be consistent enough to realize that women elsewhere in the world have it worse and that our way of living only contributes to their situation. Buying these T-shirts from India, or Indonesia, or elsewhere in the world only subjugates women in those sweat shops. “This is what feminism looks like” should come with a warning label: “By buying this shirt, you’re actually perpetuating the oppression of women. But hey, you’ll feel really good about yourself and it’ll give social cred at elite parties.”

I think the commodification of women overseas is more a result of feminism being a “fad ideology” within the US, something that seems nice, but has no real backing. For one, modern feminism wants equality for equality’s sake, but never considers if what they’re trying to be equal in is wrong to begin with. Not so long ago – and even today – a man who had sex with multiple women was a hero, while a woman having sex with a bunch of men was a slut. Today that stereotype still exists. We’re told that we should celebrate such sexual independence of a woman as we would with a man. Yet, no one stopped to think, “Maybe neither sex should do this.” No one stopped to question if the activity itself was wrong.

At first men left the homes to go work in factories. They were gone for 50-60 hours a week, never coming home. This left the wife in the home, stuck with the kids, not having time to obtain an education or to better herself. It made de facto single-parent homes long before divorce was as rampant as it is today. The feminist movement, rather than decrying such work conditions and demanding that the men leave the factories and return home, instead argued that they too should be able to leave the home. Rather than correcting the wrong, they only furthered it. And so today we’re told that women should be able to do any job a man does and get paid equally for it without first questioning is either sex should actually perform that job.

A lot of times men have been granted the freedom to do something while woman have not and feminists, instead of arguing that men should do what they do, instead claim that women should make the same mistakes. It’s absurd. It’s not right for a mother to be away from her kids 40-60 hours a week, married to her job. Her children and husband are her obligation, whether she likes it or not, whether that ruins her career or not. BUT ON THE SAME TOKEN, it’s not right for a father to be away from his kids 40-60 hours a week, married to his job. His children and wife are his obligation, whether he likes it or not, whether that ruins his career or not. It’s not that we need better daycare so men and women can choose to leave their families, it’s that we need better families. The idea of the husband trotting off to work all day, leaving the woman to be “domesticated” is a modern invention, misogynistic, and wrong. Yet, the view of both husband and wife trotting off to work all day, leaving the children behind, is equally modern and wrong. Both approaches take the parents out of the home for long periods of time, thus both are ethically wrong.

Without diving into our economic problems and how Capitalism is one of the most anti-family economic systems to ever exist, modern feminism arose because we abandoned the family in pursuit of the dollar. Today modern feminism wants women to be equal parts of the Capitalist system, but doing so – especially in a globalized society – requires the objectification and commodification of women elsewhere. Any system that would destroy the nuclear family for a buck while exploiting families across the ocean ought not be supported by anyone crying out for equality. Yes, we must support equality on the home front, but not if it entrenches inequality elsewhere. We must speak out against the objectification of women, but only if we hold to a standard of ethics that leads us to being better people, not just being equal in our wrong actions. If we truly care about equality for women, then we should pursue equality in the right things and pursue it for everyone, not simply perpetuate their inequality to soothe our social conscience by purchasing a T-shirt.

From a Christian perspective, we know what a feminist looks like. A feminist in the true sense of the word – someone calling for and advocating justice for all people, for equality – is the Theotokos (God-bearer, Blessed Mary). The Theotokos didn’t consult her husband-to-be when she embraced the God-child within her, she didn’t back down, she didn’t become weak, but instead stood strong and as the perfect example of faith. She became the first follower of Christ, the first witness of hope to the world, and through her act of obedience salvation came into the world. When all the male disciples, except John, fled Christ, it was Mary who went to the foot of the cross. While all the male disciples hid in an upper room and moped around, not trusting the promises of Jesus, it was the women who went to the tomb. It was women who spoke the Gospel – that Jesus is risen from the dead – into the world first. It was women who lent their homes to the early Church for meetings (read Acts; almost every house mentioned belonged to a woman). Some of the greatest martyrs of the early Church, some of the most stalwart examples of the faith, were women. A truly Christian perspective, one that doesn’t demean women by mixing culture with the faith, understands has a proper feminist perspective; that women are capable of virtue, of doing incredible things, and ought not be stopped from accomplishing these things. A proper Christian view of women forbid catcalling or mistreating women. It doesn’t allow for the objectification of them, but rather to treat them with dignity and respect. While no man is perfect in this ideal, it still remains an ideal we ought to pursue.

True feminism doesn’t lead to further exploitation or the demand to commit the same sins as a man, but rather seeks the liberty of all people in the world while seeking to lead a virtuous life, and calling on others to do so as well.


Something About Mary . . .

I’ll never forget the reaction of one of my co-workers at the homeless shelter the day I wore a bracelet with an icon of the Virgin Mary.  You see, we were Protestants working at a Protestant mission, and, as a rule, any depiction of the Mother of God (outside of a nativity scene at Christmas) causes a Protestant to break out in a cold sweat.  I was curious to see how my friend would react . . . okay, I knew how he’d react . . . I just wanted to watch his reaction for my own amusement.  As I anticipated, the moment he noticed my bracelet his face contorted into a look of disgust and he exclaimed in a loud voice, “what are you wearing?”

Trying hard not to laugh I acted as if I didn’t know what he was talking about.  “What do you mean?” I asked innocently.

“I mean, why do you have a picture of Mary on your bracelet?” he asked in bewilderment.

I responded to his question with another question (a little trick I learned from Jesus): “Why wouldn’t I have a picture of Mary on my bracelet?  She is, after all, the mother of Jesus.”

His response:  “You do realize that Mary isn’t important; I mean, God could have used any old tramp for his purposes?”

There is something about Mary that really freaks Protestants out.  Perhaps we are not all as irreverent and demeaning as my friend, but most of us start getting a little nervous when her name is mentioned.  We are especially uncomfortable at the thought that she played a significant roll in our salvation.  We are so suspicious of Catholicism or afraid of slipping into Marian idolatry that we choose to avoid theologizing about Mary altogether.

To my fearful Protestant brothers and sisters I have this to say:  (1) fear is never a sound basis for determining matters of faith and practice, and (2) the Bible has a high view of Mary and if we have a high view of the Bible then we should too.

With regard to the first point I will say this.  Fear nearly always results in poor decision making–it clouds our judgement and often causes us to avoid things which are actually good.  Consider the child who is terrified of going to the dentist.  Her parents know that getting her teeth checked, while sometimes uncomfortable, is ultimately a great good.  Why?  Because the dentist will ensure the health of her teeth and gums.  The child, however, is not thinking about the ultimate purpose of her upcoming visit; she’s simply afraid of being uncomfortable.  She’s afraid that the cleaning might hurt or that the doctor might find a cavity and have to use his drill, and if it was up to her she would make the decision, based upon these fears, not to visit the dentist.  We all know, however, that such a decision, if made, would most certainly be detrimental to her long term health and wellbeing.

The same rule applies to Protestants as they consider Mary.  Fear of Catholicism and fear of Marian idolatry are extremely poor reasons to avoid Marian theology.  In point of fact, most of the fears that Protestants have are based upon distorted conceptions of Catholic teaching and practice anyways.  Is it truly worth missing out on the beauty and richness of the Biblical teaching on Mary–and, in turn, the incredible blessings of Marian theology–on the off chance that someone might decide to start worshiping her?  We don’t stop teaching about angels or other great men and women of faith out of fear that someone might distort our words–so why is it that we suddenly become silent when it comes to our Lord’s mother?

The truth of the matter is our silence, and sometimes even destain, for anything to do with Mary is a serious problem.  For turning our back on her, like turning our back on the dentist, will result in spiritual rot and decay (for a concrete example of this see Joel’s previous post).

This brings me to my second point, which is that the Bible has a very high view of Mary.  Contrary to my friend at the shelter, the scriptures teach us that Mary was not just “any old tramp,” but like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and King David, especially chosen and highly favored of the Lord.  Consider the angel Gabriel’s incredible greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28: “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” and his consolatory affirmation in verse 30, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  Mary was someone special indeed, for she had been chosen to conceive and bear the very Son of God–our Lord and savior Jesus Christ!

Further on in Luke’s narrative, we find Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” exclaiming: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43).  Here we see Elizabeth, moved by the divine Holy Spirit of God, exulting Mary’s name and referring to her as the, “mother of my Lord.”  Early Christians, inspired by Elizabeth’s words in this passage, began to refer to Mary as the Theotokos or “Mother of God.”  This honorary title reminds us that Jesus was fully divine and thus testifies to the incredible role that Mary played in our salvation.

To understand this more fully, we must read and meditate upon Elizabeth’s words in verse 45: “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”  You see, Mary didn’t have to believe in the words of the angel Gabriel; she didn’t have to submit herself to what the Lord was intending to do in her life.  Mary, like you and I, had a real choice to make when she heard the message: she could either choose to reject God, as Eve had done in the garden, or choose to fully submit herself to the will of God.  To all of creations great relief, Mary chose the latter saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Against all odds, Mary conceived and gave birth to our savior.  It was from her very flesh that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  It was in her tender arms that our Lord was nurtured and loved as he matured to adulthood.  Truly, Mary’s complete faithfulness and cooperation with the Lord, her total submission to the working of the Holy Spirit, brought about the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  For, through Mary’s womb, the very conqueror of Satan and death was brought into the world!  This is why turning our back on Mary will result in spiritual death and decay; because turning our back on her is in some way turning our back on her son.

As we (fearful Protestants) contemplate these incredible truths we must ask ourselves this question:  do we esteem Mary in the same way that the Bible does?  Mary prophesied, saying, “henceforth, all generations will call me blessed; for he who is might has done great things for me” (Luke 1:48-49).  Do we, joining hands with the Holy Spirit, call her blessed and revere her name?  Do we truly rejoice and find an abundance of encouragement in what the Lord accomplished through her?  Or, out of ignorance and fear, are we unwittingly turning our backs on the very mother of the One who redeemed us?

Victoria’s Secret and the Steubenville Rape or, How Honoring Mary Can End Objectification

The_Annunciation_by_logIconVictoria’s Secret has announced its attempt to corner the pre-teen market. Of course, it isn’t simply producing simple undergarments, but instead has decided to “sexualize” preteens. The CFO even said that the new line is targeted at young teenage girls to make them feel as cool as college girls. This new line has panties that have “Call me” on them and “Feeling Lucky?” written on them. According to the CFO of Victoria’s Secret, then, we’re left believing that one must be sexual in order to be cool. Essentially, this company is targeting young girls who already suffer from self-image problems, have pressure to fit in, and have added hormones to boot all in an attempt to make a buck. It’s sexualizing young girls, which doesn’t empower them, but instead objectifies them.

Think of what occurred at Steubenville, Ohio. Young boys who thought they could do what they wanted to a girl because they were athletes and she was (allegedly) drunk. What is quite sickening about the whole ordeal is how their peers, both male and female, essentially normalized such an act. They quickly passed around pictures of the act, becoming instant paparazzi, yet somehow worse. They became gossip columnists not concerned at all with the victim, but just being part of a good story in which someone was deeply humiliated. The young victim was not a human, had no feelings, but was merely an object; she became nothing more than an object for sexual gratification to these young boys, but was objectified a second time by the community as nothing more than a form of entertainment. Yet, to make matters worse, she became an object by the national media as the catalyst for ruining these “young men’s” lives. CNN stands out as an example of a news agency that further objectified the victim by focusing on the young boy’s. Granted, while we ought to feel sick that these young boys have thrown their lives away, or at least drastically changed the courses of their future, we should not sympathize with them. However, CNN chose to sympathize with them while ignoring the victim. In the end, the boys, her immediate community, and even the national community objectified the victim.

Yet, should we be so shocked and surprised that rape victims are objectified in such a manner? After all, even today people commonly make arguments justifying rape, saying that provocative clothing or flirtatious actions can confuse a male into acting on his sexual urges. Some, like CNN, went out of their way to point out that the girl was supposedly drunk, as though that matters. In essence, we have created a culture where we expect women to be sexualized, we expect them to dress a certain way or they’re the butt of jokes on television and in the movies, we expect them to act a certain way or we call them prudish. In short, we have forced women to become sexual objects, arguing that this actually gives them power (it doesn’t), encouraged and normalized sexual activity, but then we’re surprised when people are desensitized to rape and further objectify women. But this shouldn’t shock us, mostly because as a culture we’ve raped the essence of womanhood. We’ve forced women into a position where they are nothing more than sexualized objects, ready for the taking. Of course, we’ve done the same thing with men as well, normalized to the point that any male that is still a virgin at the age of 18 is seen as a freak and an anomaly.

The sexual revolution, rather than freeing our sexuality, did quite the opposite by objectifying it and thus enslaving our sexuality. Anyone would tell you that sex is more than just the act, but also what comes before it, the flirting, the seduction, the chase. All of this, of course, is natural and quiet healthy within its natural limits. But when we tell young men that they are nothing more than sexual beings who’s job is to go out and have fun and we turn around and say the same thing to young women, should we be shocked when objectification happens and rape results? We’ve already robbed them of any true meaning in existence, so objectification logically follows.

For Christians, we can look to Mary, or the Theotokos (literally, “God-bearer”), or in the English translation of the name, the Mother of God. For many Protestants, such a name may cause some cringing, but the name does make sense. After all, Jesus is both human and God. He is fully divine and fully human, partaking in both the Divine nature and the human nature. As Christians, we believe that a human comes into existence at conception. Since Jesus is God and Mary held Christ in her womb, it is appropriate to say that Mary is the Mother of God; it is not appropriate to say she is the mother of the Divine nature, but she is the mother of Christ’s human nature. But since Christ cannot be divided we cannot say that she is the mother of Jesus in a sense; she is Jesus’ mother and that makes her the mother of God. Through her, salvation came into the world. Through her intercessions, Christ’s first miracle occurred and His ministry began. Through her tears, she was given over to John the Apostle as his mother and subsequently as our own mother. Finally, she is the first evangelist, the first person to proclaim that Christ was raised from the grave. Through Mary, Christ was brought into the world, His ministry began, and the good news of His resurrection was brought to the world. So Mary is very important in the Christian faith.

Mary, in the view of Christianity, is womanhood perfected. When one understands the importance of Mary to Christ and subsequently the world, one also understands the importance of women to the world. Mary displayed more strength, honor, and independence than any modern secular feminist could conjure up. When the angels came to her and said that she would give birth to our Salvation, she did not lament her position, but instead rejoiced. She lived in a time where an unwed (or even engaged) pregnant woman faced being ostracized and kicked out of society. But she first focused on the joy of the news. Ever present throughout the life of Christ, she was there for His first miracle of turning water into wine. Not only was she there, but she interceded and convinced Him to perform the miracle. She was also present for the death of her Son, laying at the cross while others mocked Him. The strength and honor of Mary is something that all women (and men) should strive to achieve.

But notice how not once did she have to rely on her sexuality. In order to have strength and honor, she did not become some sexualized object. In fact, every Church Father contends she remained a virgin after having Christ (not because sex is somehow evil or wrong, but because she was prophesied to remain solely in the service of the Lord). Many women in the Church followed Mary’s example of becoming very powerful, respectful, and independent without relying on sexualization.

Mary is, in many ways, the new Eve. Whereas Eve had disobeyed God, Mary obeyed God. Whereas Eve encouraged Adam to sin, Mary encouraged the New Adam, Christ, to holiness. Whereas Eve attempted to usurp Adam, Mary served in obedience to the New Adam. Where as eve became the first objectified woman, becoming the object of blame from Adam, Mary became the first redeemed woman, becoming blessed through accepting God into her womb. How, then, can we objectify women when they share a commonality with the Mother of God? How can we look at what Victoria’s Secret is doing to young girls and say, “Well, they just want to be cool like the college girls so it’s no big deal?” The reality is, the college girls have only bought into a form of objectification and thus we’ve created a vicious cycle. There’s nothing wrong with a wife or a husband wearing things that the spouse may enjoy. But when we take these things out of their context, we treat the person as nothing more than a sexual object; we de-personify them. This is the breeding ground for rape.

We should instead teach our young ladies (and young men) to look to Mary as the penultimate female. Here is a woman who gave up sexual desires in order to serve God. While celibacy is not a higher calling than marriage (see St. John Chrysostom’s homilies on marriage), it is still a high calling. But the highest calling is obedience to God, and Mary certainly obeyed God. We shouldn’t teach our young women to treat older, thinner, “sexier” college girls as role models. There is no empowerment for women found in objectification; when you serve the needs of man, even if you do so freely, you are still a slave. Mary, however, was free. She freely submitted to God and followed Him all her days. She is what every woman should be, someone who freely obeys and worships God. And every man should treat every woman as though she were Mary, for she is a daughter of Mary. Every man should treat every woman with the respect due to her, not by exploiting her sexuality, but by protecting it. In many cases, this is as simple as refusing to look at the woman as a sexual object, but instead to look upon her as a person (as who she really is).

Thus, we deplore Victoria’s Secret for encouraging young girls to give up who they are in the pursuit of a false image. We deplore even more a culture that celebrates the objectification of women and calls it “empowerment.” We reject this culture, this culture of rape, that first rapes the essence of womanhood and then rapes the woman. Instead, we turn to the holy Theotokos, pray that we might all learn from her, and submit to God as she did. We pray that in this submission we will find our true nature and realize our sexuality within that nature. We pray that in our submission we will find our freedom.