Five Days of Wisdom. Day 3: Dante and Mary

And further do I pray thee, heavenly Queen  

   With thy protection render him secure

  From human impulse; for this boon the saints,

  With Beatrice, thronging fold hands and implore.  

                                 -Paradiso Canto XXXIII, 34-39 

   Mary, “the handmaiden of the LORD,” is the figure of Lady Wisdom in the culminating stanzas of the Commedia, yet another great work written by an exile. Her proximity to the Most High is the first clue to this connection, but “keep his heart pure” and “render him secure from human impulse” are direct paraphrases of Lady Wisdom’s own role as described in Proverbs 4, 8, and 9.  

   The sophistry of the modern age has blinded many a Protestant eye to the merits of Mary, who, by the figuring of Ps 16:2, ought to consume us with delight as much as any other saint.  She is salient, like Rahab (whose name means “salient”), and her Magnificat ranks among the best confessional statements we have.  She was as ardent a student of Lady Wisdom as any.  Her great confession forms core teaching in the epistles of James and Jude, demonstrating she had an active role in teaching her children, including Jesus. Jesus’  seven woes to Pharisees draw much from a woman who refutes the false teaching of the day with statements such as “the rich you have sent away empty.”  Note the parallels between her Magnificat and the poetic ‘song’ of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 1.  

   A word of warning to post-it-note Protestants:  you may be in danger of falling into the heresy rejected by the Chalcedonian Creed (a creed embraced by the Reformers) if you think for a moment that Mary’s theology was insignificant in Jesus own understanding of the Scriptures.  He was truly man as well as truly God.  You are also speaking contra Scriptura if you say that any saints are dead, or that they do not pray constantly before God’s throne for the consummation of His kingdom, which includes not only bringing justice to victory, but effecting sanctification, strength, and comfort for “the sheep of His hand.”  

   Also consider the corollary to the admonition that ‘dead’ saints cannot save us: neither can ‘living’ saints.  Yet we ask them to pray for us and often forsake the rich prayers of Scripture (and our own book of common prayer) for babeling drivel before the Most High.

   One who takes a former Augustinian Monk from Germany seriously enough to recognize the importance of the “tradition handed down once and for all to the saints”  can see through such common misconceptions.  The Reformation was a reach backwards to doctrinal tradition, not a revolutionary movement to “break bonds asunder” and tempt the Most High and His Royal Handmaiden both to mocking laughter (Ps 2, Prov 1). 

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