Mary, the Church, and the Trinity

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by GMC

Icon of the Theotokos

After Christ’s revelation of the thrice holy Trinity, new light is shed upon the entire arc of salvation history, especially the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This meditation sketch explores the thesis that Mary and Mother Church image the Divine Person of the Father in being the font of new persons.

Consider Mary’s virginity. From her womb, the Son of God received his human nature and became for us the Son of Man, yet without change to his divinity. His immutable identity as the only-begotten Son of the Father—his Person—remained intact. In Mary he is conceived not by the seed of man, but by the Holy Spirit. In other words, his entrance into our world bypassed the dyadic union of the male and the female. 

This theological truth suggests that the hidden “who” or person of each of us is also transcendent to that dyadic union. Our final destination in the transfigured and deified state is communion in the Trinity, in which persons “neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).  

Masculinity and femininity are two complementary halves of one human nature, but the person of each man or woman is whole and entire, transcendent to nature. Consider the Person of Christ who is neither male nor female, as divinity transcends the dyad. He lived his earthly life as a first-century Jewish man, but his hidden “who” remained in triadic communion without ceasing. 

Before proceeding, let us review the distinctions between person, individual, and nature within humanity. An individual has a certain height, weight, gender, culture, giftedness, etc., but persons embody the entire human nature—the entire Body of Christ—really and mystically. In common parlance, we use the word “person” when we mean “individual,” but in theological terms, they have distinct meanings which cannot be confused in the case of Christ. In the Trinity there are no “individuals,” as each Person contains the whole divine nature in its entirety.

Salvation is on the line if these two meanings are not clearly distinguished. A guiding dictum in patristic theology (reflections by the Church Fathers) states: “What has not been assumed has not been saved.” We believe that Christ assumed human nature and saved it. If the Person of Christ is not distinguished from his existence in time as an individual, then what is saved is only the masculine, Jewish portion of humanity.

In Scripture, the language of the dyad is employed to speak of the relationship between man and God—the Church is the “Bride of Christ.” Humanity is “betrothed” to God in “marriage.” St. John speaks of the “marriage of the Lamb” in Revelation. For most of salvation history, and for all of the Old Testament, God is conceived as one, not Trinity. Man is in an “I-Thou” relationship with the one God. The God revealed by Jesus Christ, however, is both one and three. Dyadic language points to the union between the divine and human natures, but our communion in the Trinity as persons requires another approach. 

It is noteworthy that the Third Person of the Trinity is not revealed to us with a gendered name. The name “Holy Spirit,” unlike “Father” and “Son,” transcends the dyad. This supports the revelation of Christ that heavenly communion transcends marriage. Names are given to us during our earthly sojourn, and we reverence the Persons whose names we invoke. In our heavenly state, there will be no need for words and addresses, as we will all be of one mind and heart in the love of the Trinity.

The thesis sketched here, if based on sound principles, requires more development. The point of this essay was to explore the idea that Mary and the Church give birth to persons in the Womb of the Father, fit for eternal communion in the Trinity. The Church’s font of baptism, also like a “womb” in which we are born “of water and the Spirit,” makes us adopted children of the Father. The Father is a Virgin, St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote in his work, On Virginity, highlighting the passionlessness of Christ’s eternal birth. The revelation of the Trinity deeply enriches our meditation on who we are as persons and our destiny for eternal communion in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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