“St Hyacinth’s Memorial: Mary as Included in the Mystery of Christ” (8/17/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
There’s the well-known story about St Hyacinth being in the chapel as the Moslems are invading. To rescue the Eucharist, he removes it from the tabernacle and makes his way for the door. Then the statue of Our Lady speaks to him, asking, What about me? So we have the common image of St Hyacinth with the Blessed Sacrament in one arm and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the other.
While being historical, it is also rich in symbolism, highlighting these two distinctive elements of our Catholic Faith: the Eucharist and our Blessed Mother. So we too might imitate Hyacinth, carrying the Eucharist and Our Lady in our arms, close to our heart. For, it is also to those with a childlike faith that Jesus says, “Let the children come to me.”
It is sometimes asked, Why Mary in addition to Jesus? Is not Jesus enough? There are several ways to approach this. I’ll offer just one. Why Mary in addition to Christ? But who says that Mary falls outside the mystery of Christ? To enter deeply into the mystery of Christ is also to meet Mary his mother. If Christ is close to one’s heart, eventually Our Lady is going to ask, What about me? as she did to Hyacinth. To enter deeply into the mystery of Christ is also to meet Mary his mother.
St John Damascene, in his treatise on the Orthodox Faith, says that the name “Mother of God” “expresses the entire mystery of the Incarnation” (Bk III, ch 12). That’s interesting. The name “Theotokos” “expresses the entire mystery of the Incarnation.” Right, if she’s mother of God, Jesus is truly God. And with Mary’s motherly role with her human body, Jesus is truly man. And the unity of the divine person of the Son is also implied. The entire mystery of the Incarnation is expressed in the name, Mother of God.
Why Mary in addition to Jesus? But Mary is included in the mystery of Jesus. She is his true mother, and provided for his human nature. To appreciate the full implications of God becoming man is to appreciate Mary: God dwelling with humanity in all its dimensions: It’s the mystery of the Incarnation, God with us.
There’s an interesting story about Karl Barth, the great Protestant theologian who died about 50 years ago. In his later years he would often listen to Catholic preaching on the radio. A curious hobby for that man! What was going on there? On Sundays, Barth would tune in on the radio to hear some preaching by Catholic priests. After some time, he noted that in all the Catholic sermons he heard, he never once heard mention of Mary. In reaction, he made a characteristic quip about Catholicism. He said, “You see, they can get by just fine without her.” “They can get by just fine without Mary.” (What about me?, we might hear Mary ask here.)
And what about the Church in our own day? At a recent Mariology conference, it was mentioned that only about one third of seminaries offer a course on Mariology. Even factoring in some possible exaggeration, that’s lower than I would have expected. I would have expected them all to.
In conclusion, to recast John Damascene’s words, For an appreciation of the entire mystery of the Incarnation do we not need the Mother of God? Can we get by just fine without her, with Mary tucked away in our back pocket? Present, but hidden away. Or do we need something more like the image of St Hyacinth, holding out the Eucharist and Mary before us, front and center, and close to our heart?