Mary:  Deified Human Hypostasis

mary

Now that is one theological mouthful.  Some definitions may help. The meanings of  “deified” and “human” are fairly clear.  “Hypostasis”  has been defined in several ways, e.g.,  nature,  individual reality, substantive reality, person, and essential nature.

So, how could  Mary, who has a  human nature just like the human nature of all of us, become “deified.” ? And this leads to the follow-up question  – can each of us be “deified”?

Called To Be Children Of God

Father David Meconi and Carl Olson discuss this “theological mouthful” in their book Called To Be The Children Of God  – The Catholic Theology Of Human Deification, in the section discussing “Liturgy and Divinization, Mary as Liturgical Person.” The authors tell us:

Salvation is Christ’s accomplishment, but had it not been communicated to another person, what good would it have been? Mary is witness that divinization in no longer out of reach. Christ is a divine hypostasis incarnated; Mary is a human hypostatis divinized. (page 282)

Various terms have been used for this doctrine: each person “becoming God”;  theosis;  divinization; deification; and divine adoption.  In his book, Fr. Meconi summarizes the idea as “man’s participation in the divine life of God.”

Say What? I’m Going to be God?

It is important before we get to what the heck the title of this article could mean about the Blessed Virgin Mary, to make some things clear.

“Becoming God” is  not:

The complete annihilation of a person.

The person becoming a new or separate god.

The person and God becoming equals.

“Becoming God” is:

Sharing God’s divine nature similar to the way in which He has shared our human nature.

Participating, in an adoptive way, in Jesus’s sonship with the Father.

Partaking in God’s divinity, but not possessing it.

This Is Not New

Scripture, the church fathers, scholarly works of theologians, and various works of the magisterium deal with this subject.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus Himself refers to this idea, without contradicting it, when he says:

The Jews answered him: We do not stone you for a good work we stone, but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God. Jesus answered them: Is it not written in your law: I said you are gods? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God was spoken, and the scripture cannot be broken; do you say of him whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world: You blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God?  (Jn 10: 31-36)

God’s inspired word, both Old Testament and New Testament, refers to our becoming God.

St. Peter’s second epistle provides a very clear example of this when he speaks of our partaking in the divine nature:

By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world. (2 Peter 1:4)

The New American Bible translation of this verse uses the words “share in the divine nature.”

Mary

With that groundwork, which is discussed in detail in the Meconi  book, I am going to describe my confusions and guesses about what it means to say “Mary is a human hypostasis divinized.”  To begin with, Mary was conceived a saint in her mother’s womb, born a saint, lived all her life as a saint on earth, and is now a saint in heaven, body and soul. In short, Mary is special, in some ways the special-est human being every created. Being immaculately conceived, she was “full of grace” as the Angel Gabriel announced to that young teenage girl in Nazareth over two millennia ago.

The Catechism puts it this way:

The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”. By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 493)

This means – this “full of grace,” this “by the grace of God”   – that Mary was full of the life of God. Her life was the life of God, 100%.  Our prayer, the gift of Jesus, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” was, and is, an actual reality in the person of Mary, then in Nazareth and now and forever.  Her will was in total agreement with God’s will. This being her will, her life, she shared in God’s life, in the divine nature of God.

Lossky the Theologian

Vladimir Lossky (1903 A.D – 1958 A.D.) was an Orthodox Christian theologian who was exiled from Russia by the communists. Some of his work (cited in the Meconi book) focused on the principle of theosis and the concept of Mary “becoming God”:

Mary does not partake in the divine nature as God Himself, but through God’s grace in her.….. If the Mother of God could truly realize in her human and created person the sanctity which corresponds to her unique role, then she cannot have failed to attain here below by grace all that her Son has by His divine nature. But if this be so, then the historical development of the Church and the world has already been fulfilled, not only in the uncreated person of the Son of God but also in the created person of his Mother. Alongside the incarnate divine hypostasis there is a deified human hypostasis.  (Vladimir Lossky; Chapter 11, In the Image and Likeness of God, 1974;  quoted in the Meconi book; emphasis added)

Mary is the living proof that our own deification is possible, our own partaking of the nature of God, 

Freely Willed,  Good Actions Let Us Share God’s Divine Nature

Every human action of Mary, every act done freely by her in exercising her free will, was an act of good. In a brilliant book, After Aquinas, Fergus Kerr, O.P., in a chapter entitled “Deified Creaturehood,” writes about the relationship between good human actions and deification, divinization, and participation of the creature in God.  After going through the history of this concept  – participation in  God –  and summarizing various treatments of it, Kerr refers to the “most remarkable discussion in recent scholarship” from Anna Williams. For Williams, according to Kerr, a ‘mystical theology’ of St. Thomas

is concerned with the union of God and the human being created in God’s image. . . . Anna Williams insists that the project is wholly shaped by Thomas’s relentless portrayal of God as the God who is intent on union with humanity” (Kerr. page 157)

Kerr comments further:

Thus, our beatitude is not other than God himself; and as our participation in the divine beatitude it is something that God creates in us. But now this created beatitude is the life of human activity in which our human powers begin to be fulfilled here and now. Human beings become what they are meant to be only in union with God; and the specifically human activities, the practice of the virtues, are a form of participation in divine beatitude in this life.” (Kerr, page 158)

How Do We Become God?

How do we, not immaculately conceived like Mary, how do we act so as to “become God” ?

It is our good human actions, e.g.  as discussed by Kerr and others, which bring good into being, They are actions that “make good.” They are actions that affect the participation of a human person in the nature of God. 

Conclusion

From her conception in Nazareth to today,  Mary had and has a human hypostasis divinized, she partakes of the divine nature. She is also a signpost, beacon, ideal and exemplary for us. Each of us can, exercising the God-given gift of free will, choose to do good, to “make” good, and so share in the nature of God.

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7 thoughts on “Mary:  Deified Human Hypostasis”

  1. The book offers a more complete answer to how we participate in the nature of God. We become deified through the sacraments, especially through Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. We receive Christ in the Eucharist, we are changed into Him. Our good acts can only be good if they come from our union with Him. We have to be radically changed by prayer and worship and an interior relationship with Christ, so that our will becomes God’s will.

  2. It’s providential for me to have come across this. Good stuff! Thank you! I am preparing some interview questions for Fr. Meconi about Mary’s divinization, as part of a review of Called to Be the Children of God. You focused on just the paragraph I needed to notice (!) this one: “Salvation is Christ’s accomplishment, but had it not been communicated to another person, what good would it have been? Mary is witness that divinization in no longer out of reach. Christ is a divine hypostasis incarnated; Mary is a human hypostatis divinized.”
    I volunteered to review this book because, like you, I am pondering what it means to become sons (and daughters) of God. Every Sunday I read along with the priest after traditional Latin Mass the passage in the first Gospel of John that says that all of us who are born of God and believe in His Name have been given the power to be sons of God.
    “[12] But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. [13] Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
    By the way, Father Andrew, even though when we are divinized God doesn’t share His Glory with us, isn’t it true that we will be taken into His Glory? The Apostolic Constitution defining “the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin) that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” I’m trying to understand more what our life in heaven will be like, and how we might participate in Christ’s work.

    Since Our Lady is the first human who has been divinized, she is participating in the life of God, and she seems to be sent by Him in apparitions to continue His work of salvation on earth. A favorite quote of mine from an interview I did with Roy Schoeman, who had a dream vision of Our Lady, is relevant. He was a nonpracticing Jew who had come to know God existed by a mystical experience a year before the vision happened. But he didn’t know who God was. Every night for that year he asked God to show him who He was. During the vision he came into the presence of the most beautiful woman you could imagine. She was so glorious, he wanted to worship her. But she told him that everything was not from her, but from her Son. He went to bed he said, not knowing anything about Christianity, and he woke up a believer, in love with the Blessed Virgin, and through her with her Son.

    1. Dear Roseanne, Thank yoiu for your comments. It seems you, like me, are trying to figure this all out. It is not easy, and as some have said, yoiu must tread carefully. If you have not yet had your interview, please tell Fr Meconi “thank you” from me. I think of my own sins over my whole life and then I read we can “partake” of the nature of God and I think, No Way! Which leads me right there not only to the mysteries of the Incarantion and Redempotion, but to the inescapable conclusion that God, my Father, really does love me; to quote Francis Thompson, “of all God’s clotted clay the dingiest clot.” Guy McClung, Texa

  3. I think that it is 100% clear that we can never be part of the Godhead. Capitalizing the word ‘God’ in the quote from Saint Athanasius may be a mistranslation. I have seen it quoted without the capitalization. This is my preference because capitalizing it may lead some into pantheism or blasphemy.

  4. Dear Padre A and LC, Many thanks for reading the article and for your insightful comments. Reading the Meconi et al book, then rereading 2 Peter 1:4, and trying to make some sense of this “becoming God” is what prompted my words. I still don’t “get it” with anywhere near 100% clarity and understanding. It does sound good, that we can do this. But I agree as you both warn, one must be very careful in attempting to understand this and to then write about it. We certainly already have a superabundance of heresies going around today. Guy McClung, Texas

  5. Again be very, very careful how you understand what is written here. The theology of Mary can be distorted very easily by some. Some who perhaps not deliberately , skirt very near to heresy.

  6. Great care needs to be exercised in reading this article and meditating on what it has said. It is vitally important to distinguish between a ‘participation’ in the Divine Nature and ‘sharing it’. The Father has said “I share My Glory with no man’. It is not possible as created beings, which is what we are and what we will remain, to share the Glory of God. Impossible. To participate in the Divine Life, by virtue of our status as adopted sons, yes. The angels, who we have been placed just underneath, do not themselves share in the Glory of God, but rather participate intimately in the Life – and service – of God. Let us be extremely clear on these foundational points.

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