Mary, the Universal Soul of Israel
In this message I try to outline a a Jewish Catholic doctrine of Mary, a doctrine that, I think, does full justice to Mary as she is understood by the Church while, at the same time, acknowledging the dignity of Israel as it is understood in Judaism.
Understandably enough, as a Jew, I have never been entirely comfortable with the place of Mary in the teachings of the Church. This essay is especially important one to me because, as I wrote it, I came to a new realization of Mary's role and importance in the economy of salvation.
Just one point to keep in mind. I have contrasted the knowledge of Gd's Majesty revealed on Sinai with the knowledge of His Mercy and Humility revealed on the Cross. I oversimplified in order to underscore my basic point. The story of the foundation of the Jewish People recorded in the Bible is a story of Gd's Mercy. It differed from the Cross because it revealed Gd's Mercy through His Majesty, while the Cross revealed Gd's Mercy through His Humility.
1. The Universal Soul of Israel that Cannot Sin
Hear, my son, your father's instruction,and reject not your mother's teaching; (Proverbs 1:8)
"Your Mother" is Knesset Yisrael. (Babylonian Talmud 35:b; Zohar Part 2, p.85a)
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)
"Knesset Yisrael" is the soul of the totality of the Jewish People. That exalted universal Jewish Soul is, as the Slonimer Rebbe writes in his homilies on Purim, incapable of sin.
Why is it incapable of sin? Because the universal soul of Israel remembers the Majesty of Gd on Mount Sinai. Indeed, it has never left the Presence of that Majesty, and in the presence of that Majesty, sin is inconceivable. It cannot sin. It is immaculate.
Every Jew participates in that universal soul of Israel, but besides that universal soul, he has an individual soul. That individual soul is not so pure. It is capable of sin. The only one whose individual soul has the purity of the universal soul of Israel is Our Lady.
2. Mary, the Immaculate Universal Soul of Israel
Mary is not merely a symbol or personification of that universal Jewish soul. Mary, is the universal soul of Israel revealed as an individual human being. The Immaculate Conception prevented her individual soul from all corruption of sin, so that, perfectly configured to the universal soul of Israel, she is the perfect realization of Gd’s image in man.
Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is the immaculate universal soul of Israel that stands before Sinai and receives Gd’s Word at all times. When she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, she received Gd’s Word once again. Just as the Written Word is given to the Jewish People by way of their immaculate universal soul, the Incarnate Word is given to the them and to the world through Mary, in whom the immaculate universal soul of Israel became a Jewish woman.
In the passage from Proverbs cited above, the Hebrew for "mother's teaching" is "Torat imecha" : literally the Torah of your Mother. The Torah is attributed to "your Mother." Who is “your Mother?” The Talmud and the Zohar teach us that “you Mother” is the universal soul of Israel, for it is through her that the Torah is revealed. Jesus tells us that “your Mother” is Mary, for it is through Mary, in whom the universal soul of Israel became a person, that the Mercy of Gd who abased Himself on the Cross is revealed.
3. Mary, the Most Merciful
To appreciate the humility of Gd, one has to realize how extreme that abasement was. The universal soul of Israel, which beholds the Majesty of Gd, can appreciate the humility of Gd as no other creature can. And since that Divine self abasement reveals the measure of Gd’s Mercy, the universal soul of Israel knows the Mercy of Gd as no other creature can. When the act of that mercy was fulfilled, just before Jesus gave up his spirit to Gd, Jesus affirmed that a new dimension had been added to the witness of the universal soul of Israel by appointing Mary to be our Mother: Mary is the universal soul of Israel as it dwells before the Divine Mercy revealed on the Cross.
Not cold faith or superficial faith, but the faith that receives Gd's truth and participates in that truth by making it so much one’s own that it becomes the principle of one’s acts—that is faith that saves. The universal soul of Israel knows Gd’s Majesty because it participates in that Majesty. It is the most exalted of Gd’s creatures: the soul of man as it is a perfect image of Gd.
Similarly, the universal soul of Israel knows Gd’s Mercy only by participating in that Mercy. The final expression of that mercy was Jesus giving himself over freely to be crucified for love of man. Mary, the universal soul of Israel, could not know that mercy unless she participated in the crucifixion, unless she, like her Son, gave herself over freely to suffer his crucifixion with him. That is the sword that would pierce her heart. Mary is the immaculate universal soul of Israel as it participates in the Mercy of Gd revealed by the Passion of Jesus. Mary is the most merciful of Gd’s creatures.
4. Mary is the Church
The individual soul of the Jewish sinner is so corrupted that it obscures the light of the universal soul of Israel that glows from deep within him. Jesus appointed Mary as our Mother to restore the sinner to communion with the immaculate universal soul of Israel. The mercy of Mary that extends the light of her immaculate soul to the sinner is analogous to the Incarnation. In her mercy, Mary extends her Immaculate purity to the sinful soul just as Gd, in his Mercy extends His Divinity to sinful mankind through the Incarnation. Just as Israel knows the Majesty of Gd through its universal soul, the sinner knows Gd's Mercy through Mary.
Jesus is the Gd of Israel as He is revealed to those who believe in the Incarnation. Mary is the universal soul of the Jewish People, the Mother of Israel, as it is revealed to those who believe in the Incarnation. The Jew who has forgotten that his individual soul participates in that immaculate universal soul of Israel rediscovers it through Mary, the Immaculate Conception. And the Gentile who, in the order of creation, does not participate in the universal soul of Israel, is grafted on to it, in the order of faith, through Mary.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by the Church as a truth of faith implied in the Mystery of the Incarnation, but the Catholic Jew cannot help but recognize in it a doctrine that suggests the link between the Mystery of Israel and the Mystery of the Church. For Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is the universal soul of Israel which cannot sin, and Mary is the Church.