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Mysticism and the Machine: Mysticism and Magisterium Part V

October 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Church, Fr. Geiger, Grace, Liturgy, Magisterium, Mary, Prayer

Mysticism and the Machine
Mysticism and Magisterium Series Part V

The central truth running through this series of posts on “mysticism and magisterium” is the active and effective presence of Christ in the Church. This affirmation is not an abstraction, but a fact realized in all the circumstances of history.

The Church is a person, not a thing and our relationship with “her” is sacramental, organic and mystical, not mechanical or magical. Christ lives in and through the Church, and through the Church we live in Christ.

Reflect on the previous posts’ titles: Thinking with the Church; Christ Yesterday, Today and Forever; Christ the One Teacher of All; Christ the Good Shepherd. It’s all really about divine providence and the way it is exercised through the person of the Eternal Word who has entered history by being made flesh to dwell among us.

The result of the Incarnation and Redemption is an organic unity we call the Mystical Body of Christ, or the Church. As the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church is the unity of both head and body, and is mystical because it is joined to a divine Head who governs and guides it in the first person—as an “I” and not merely a distant “Him.”

According to St. Augustine, this means that Christ is not to be taken merely as an individual, but in His fullness with the whole Church and with all its members. It also means that the Church is not a what, but a who—not merely a body guided by a head, but the whole Christ.

This is not pantheistic confusion between God and creatures, but the full realization of the Incarnation. In the words of St. Augustine, God became man, so that man might become God. The Eastern Church uses the word “divinization.” In the West we call it sanctification. Through God’s grace, received especially in the sacraments in the Church, we become more and more identified with Christ, without, however, ceasing to be a mere creatures.

So if the Church has a personal identity, and that identity is Christ, why then do spiritual writers so often refer to the Church as a “she”? The reason is precisely that in our real identification with Christ there remains a distinction between Christ the Head and the members of His Body—between the God-man and the purely human creature. But just as important is the fact that the Church finds is finest example, and even its Mother, in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

TheVirginMaryFromTheAnnunciationVladimirBorovikowskyOur Lady is the human creature par excellence who realizes fully, in Her own person, what the Church is meant to be. She is the one who most perfectly identifies with Christ, Her Son. Both the Church and Our Lady are one with Christ. Both the Church and Our Lady are our Mother and Teacher: the Church through her sacraments and doctrine; Our Lady through Her mediation and example.

In the years following the Second Vatican Council, Joseph Ratzinger came to understand the importance of this truth. Earlier in his life, he had thought the ancient patristic maxim: de Maria numquam satis (“concerning Maria there is never enough”) was a pious exaggeration. But later he realized that this was not the case at all because, in a real way, Mary reveals the true identity of the Church. Indeed, Fr. Ratzinger came to understand the truth of the saying that Mary is “the vanquisher of all heresies”; Her personal identification with the Church assures She will never be reduced to a thing or program. Joseph Ratzinger lamented:

DetailOfRatzingerSzczepanow2003_5modified2We treat the Church almost like some technological device that we plan and make with enormous cleverness and expenditure of energy. Then we are surprised when we experience the truth of what Saint Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort once remarked, paraphrasing the words of the prophet Haggai, when he said, “You do much, but nothing comes of it” (Hag 1:6). When making becomes autonomous, the things we cannot make but that are alive and need time to mature can no longer survive (The Church at the Source, 16).

To counter this, Joseph Ratzinger reminds us that Mary is “transparent to the personal form of the Church,” and the guarantee that the Church will not be treated as a merely a “program of action” or a “product of our creation and design.”

Thus, doctrinally sound devotion to Mary is an important part of reform and renewal in the Church today. In Her light, the projects of social engineering, such as the attempt to reinvent holy matrimony as something other than an indissoluble bond between one man and one woman for life, are revealed as the monstrosities that they are.

Likewise, through Mary we can come to better appreciate that the sacraments and liturgy are not production factories of grace. There are no fuel-saving nor high-performance sacramental engines.

MirrorOfCardinalRobertSarah(cropped)3On the contrary, there is our baptismal relationship with Christ and the other sacramental means by which God gives us sanctifying grace, which grace is not a thing produced by the liturgy machine, but our participation in the life of God communicated to us through the sacraments. Certainly, we can celebrate the liturgy poorly in a way that is both unworthy of God and impotent to inspire faith, but as Cardinal Robert Sarah recently wrote, we should cease to allow the liturgy to be “the locus of rivalries and criticisms,” so that “we will be brought at last to participate actively,” in the mystery of Christ glorified. In the liturgy, we encounter, not a “what” but a “who.”

Also through Mary, we learn that the Church is greater than the sum of its parts. It is reducible neither to the human ingenuity of its leaders nor of the insurgents who are convinced that the magisterium is leading the Church to hell.  But this is only something we can see clearly and act wisely upon if our devotion to Mary is authentic.

Such devotion is primarily an interior disposition, which is the fruit of prayer. All the saints, including the great Marian apostle St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was a man of vigorous action, taught that activity is of somewhat secondary importance when compared with prayer. This is because supernatural goals can only be accomplished by supernatural means. You do much, but nothing comes of it, the prophet Haggai says. The apocalyptic combox* agitation might make us feel better, but it does not change anything. Our words and actions must proceed from a deep union with God. The more difficult our problems, the more essential that union becomes.

As the Church is not a machine, so devotion to Mary, the liturgical reform of the reform or restoration, the reform of the Roman curia, of our seminaries and religious communities, are not levers to be pulled or buttons to be pushed. On the contrary, they can only be the fruit of grace and conversion, and the further means for us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ, which we find in His Mystical Body, the Church.


*combox: communications box where someone writes their comments to a post.

Art: The Virgin Mary (From The Annunciation. Icon from the royal gates of the central iconostasis of the Kazan Cathedral in St.-Petersburgh, Vladimir Borovikovsky, 1804-1809rr, PD-US; Detail of Modified version of Image:Ratzinger Szczepanow 2003 5.jpg, Marian Lambert, May 10, 2003 (released by Szamil), CCA; Mirror of modified Le Cardinal Robert Sarah (Cardinal Robert Sarah), François-Régis Salefran, 5 March 2015, own work, CCA-SA; all Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. Angelo Geiger

A native of Los Angeles, California, Father Angelo joined the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in the Philippines in 1985, and was ordained a priest in 1991. Subsequently, he assisted in establishing the Franciscans of the Immaculate in the United States where he served as general delegate for the United States, novice master and spiritual assistant for the Marian Third Order. He has lectured extensively on Marian theology and spirituality, both in the United States and abroad. His articles have been published in "Inside the Vatican", the online edition of "The Catholic World Report" and in a number of books from the Academy of the Immaculate. Currently he is studying for a licentiate in Theology at the Angelicum in Rome. He blogs at and

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  • L Almaraz

    How true… I am beginning to discover that. “You do much but nothing comes of it”. Those that are actively evolved in the battle front of the “New Evanglization” need to ponder such words. Without an intimate union with the Trinidad [Triune] God, nothing will come from our endeavors to rebuild the Church and family. The Blessed Lady remains the best source to this intimacy with our Lord through the actions of the Holy Spirit.

    • LizEst

      Very well put L Almaraz. Thank you…and God bless you!

  • Philip George Regan

    Thanks for this fascinating article – Didn’t our Lord say – “Without Me – You can do nothing ? ” And did not the Holy Mother of God say ” Do whatever he tells you” – that wisdom is enough for me, May Jesus Bless You !

  • Paul Diemert

    One does not need an imagination to recognize the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church through the teachings of men like Pope Benedict XVI, and Cardinal Sarah. We give thanks for the life of Christ among us, and pray for Grace.

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  • Judy Silhan

    Thank you, Fr. Geiger, for all of the previous posts, as well as todays, and all of which took me a while to read, and ponder over. I truly appreciate your becoming part of the writing team for I was aware, certainly, that there had been troubling times in the Church; but I’m afraid I am guilty of thinking that, as you said in Pt. 4 in this series, that the crisis of our times, namely the Synod on the Family, is unique to our times. For the past year, starting with the Extraordinary Synod last year, seemingly dissenting members of the Catholic Church, including Bishops and Cardinals, pushing for so many doctrinal changes, certainly increased my awareness, or feeling that there is, indeed a unique crisis.
    Reading further, “The Church is constantly beset by enemies from within and without,” reassured me that, what I see as a unique crisis, is not. I was most relieved to be reminded of divine providence, and that in times of crisis, Christ remains with His Church. I am also guilty of letting my concerns about what is going on in the Church “…shake my trust” in the Papacy. Appreciated is your reminder that trust in the Church is not a trust in man, but rather in God, who will not abandon us.
    With your current post, I more fully understand the need to better my devotion to Mary, and which has been slow in becoming an intricate part of my spiritual life.
    I look forward to future wisdom-filled posts. God Bless you and thanks.

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  • Kathleen Costello

    I have not been to this website in quite a while, but thought that I would check and see your further teachings on this topic. I am sad to say that there is much defending of the magisterium and not much mentioned of mysticism, except for heresies. I for one, believe that the Joachimites were correct, and we are now entering into the final age of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the church has remained
    spiritually immature for centuries and Christ is calling us out of this.

    “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food”
    Hebrews 5:12

    “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
    1 John 2:27
    Is the magisterium saying Christ’s words are untrue?

    • LizEst

      This site is faithful to the Magisterium. The Joachimites were condemned as a heresy. You would be wise to drop your support of them.

    • Dan Burke

      Aside from Liz’s astute admonition below, we have well over one thousand posts on this site and about 20 dealing with heresies. You might want to responsibly recalibrate your perception by a doing bit more reading. If you are truly sad about defending the work of the Holy Spirit as reflected in the magisterium, you might be looking in the wrong place for consolation – but then again, this might be just the place that could bring the truth necessary to save your soul – the truth of the Church that is… Blessings to you.

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