Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Mary as Priest, Women Priests and Vatican Ban by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

On Dec. 8, 2021, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Revised Code of Canon Law 1379, which places the ordination of a woman and the sexual abuse of a child in the same grave crime category, goes into effect. 

It is ironic that the Vatican hierarchy chose this feast day of Mary for this misogynist law to become official. 

As we reflect on toxic misogyny in the updated Canon 1379, and the edicts that preceded it, one can conclude that Vatican officials are making every effort to stop our movement. Perhaps they realize that change is already here. The Holy Spirit and legions of Roman Catholics are calling women to the priesthood and embracing inclusivity and equality now. There is no stopping the spring . Women priests are here to stay! (ARCWP Statement in Response to Canon 1379)

Although the image of Mary attired in chasuble, stole and pallium of a priest  reflects medieval concepts rooted in a fall/redemption theology, the belief in the priesthood of Mary were held by priests and bishops up to the 20th century. 
Mary as Priest

Unlike the hierarchical condemnation of women's ordination in Canon 1379 based on the ridiculous sexist argument that women cannot be priests because they do not bear a physical
resemblance to Jesus, the medieval mind had no problem with fantastical stories of the priesthood of Mary. Perhaps, this was because they were familiar with the papal bulls, episcopal letters and archaeological evidence of women in sacred orders in early Christian communities. 

With the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement, we have come full circle. Today women priests are celebrating sacraments in inclusive communities and in a variety of social justice ministries in grassroots, empowering communities and interfaith networks.   

The bottom line is that women priests are here to stay no matter what punishment the Vatican dishes out. And a new day of hope is here for gender equality in the Catholic Church! So, let's celebrate the priesthood of Mary and the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement as a holy shakeup of the liberating Spirit in our times!

Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Mary as Priest

The Priesthood of Mary

The idea of Mary as Priest seems to have been around since the 4th century and is wonderfully illustrated in striking mages of Mary dressed in priest’s vestments – some dating from as early as the 6th century. Here is a brief taster…

540AD Mosaic in the Basilica of Parenzo, Croatia

The image to the left from 6th century Croatia, shows Mary visiting Elizabeth during their pregnancies. Both women are wearing what look to be chasubles with the pallium visible beneath, denoting the highest priestly honor, worn only by the Pope or Bishop as a privilege.  It has been said that Mary baptized and confirmed John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth.  Jean-Jacques Olier, contemporary of St Vincent de Paul in the 17th Century, says of the Visitation to Elizabeth, “The Blessed Virgin, as Bishop in the Church, sanctified the son of the high priest Zachariah. She sanctified St. John and through the imposition of her power, using her right as Mother of God and spouse of the Father, she imprinted the Holy Spirit on St. John”.

The Annunciation: Mary’s Ordination?

The image on the right is from 12th century Germany. Our Lady is dressed in chasuble and stole as the Angel Gabriel speaks and the Holy Spirit descends.

There exists the belief that the Annunciation acted as Mary’s ordination. There is also a belief that through her ‘yes’, Mary made Christ present in the world, in her womb – as the priest makes Christ present in the words of consecration.  In an address by Bishop Nazlian, at Lourdes in 1914 said “ A priest has the power to mystically produce the body of the Lord giving that body its sacramental form . . . . I allow myself to say that Mary is the first to say Mass, by agreeing to the Incarnation and so preparing the victim.”

A mirror image of Mary presenting Christ at his birth, foreshadowed in the Presentation in the Temple, is the death of Christ; Mary portrayed presenting her child Jesus to the world on the Cross as the ultimate sacrifice. And again, when his body is taken down from the Cross. Mary fulfills the role of the sacrificial priest; she offers up the sacrifice of her Son, her own flesh and blood to be the Bread of Life and she presents this to the world, as at Jesus’ birth, at Jesus’ death; Mary can say better than any priest, “This is my body, this is my blood.”

Mary the High Priest: "This is my Body, This is my Blood"This image of Mary as High Priest, a famous mosaic from Ravenna in the 11th century. Mary is dressed in chasuble, wearing the pallium, her arms raised in gesture of the High Priest. It can be said of Mary at the Cross that she, through Christ and in union with God has offered the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world.  “Mary was the minister of the Incarnation: that explains everything. She had as little the right to come down from Calvary as a priest would have to leave the altar while the sacrifice of Mass is going on. She had to preside over the completion, as she had presided over its beginning” (Faber)

A Deeper Understanding of the Immaculate Conception as Original Blessing for All Creation

Contemporary theologians, like Matthew Fox and many others, have written extensively about the need to replace fall/redemption theology with an understanding of all creation as original blessing. From the first moment of existence, all beings are reflections of the Creator on earth.

 Like Mary, each of us comes into this life as an original blessing, and this feast is a reminder that of the divine presence that is within us, around us, and with us, in the midst of our sufferings and struggles to do good, and overcome wrong. 

So today, let's celebrate, Mary, our companion on the journey, who reminds us that we are  beloved images of the Holy One, called to be part of the world's healing each day. 

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