Turzovka - Mother of the Church

Marko Ivan Rupnik

The sanctuary is dedicated to the Mother of the Church

From a theological point of view, the question is very profound and significant. The council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary Bogorodica - Mother of God - because she generated the Son of God according to flesh - according to human nature. The Son, eternally generated by the Father, through the Virgin Mary assumes the human nature. As a person, he is exclusively the Son of God;nevertheless,he has two natures - the divine and the human one - as the Council of Chalcedon pointed out.

He is true God and true man; he possesses the human nature - as all of us do - but his personal conscience is the conscience of the Son of God. Christ has the self-consciousness of the Son of God, and constantly lives his own filial self in the relationship with the Father. Consequently, to live the human nature according to God's design is only possible when we live it according to God's personal life.

The true man is not the one, who lives subjected to his nature,subjected to its impulses; it is the one,who gives the human nature an imprint of existencein accordancewith God -i.e. according to the communion and according to the relationship, in which the other - and not the self - is the epicenter. Just as for Christ the Father is the epicenter of relationship, and, therefore, Christ carries out Father's will - in order to become accomplished as Son, so for us, to live the humanity in its true sense means to live it in personal relationship with the Father, in Christ.

Following this theological vision, Mary is to be understood as Mother of the Church. Just as she generated the Son according to the human nature, so we, in the Son, through his side open on the cross, are now generated into life - according to this filial mode of existence. She has given a human body to the Son of God; we, generated in the Holy Spirit, as one part of this Body of the Son, see her as Mother of the Church: Mother of the humanity generated by Christ on the cross -from the wound of his side.

She is the Mother of Christ and, therefore, the Mother of the Church - our Mother - because we are also grafted in the Body of her Son. It is the first time in the history that humanity begins to live its own human nature the way the Son lived it. And this life is the Church. And Mary is the Mother.

We are regenerated in the baptismal water and we participate in the blood of Christ in such a way that we are truly consanguineous -real children. Therefore, just as the blood of every mother passes into the child in her womb, so the blood of Christ passes through our veins: this makes us children, in the Son. Just as the child grows, is generated in the waters of the womb, so from the baptism, in the baptismal waters, the same life of the Son is vivified in us. And not only that, but - as Nicola Cabasilas puts it - in the Eucharist, this reality is accomplished with such a fullness that the Father recognizes in our members the members of his Son.

Before the baptism, we lived condemned to death,for there was nothing in our life that could overcome it; but with baptism, we receive the Son's life. He lived, he gave himself, he died donating himself; however, the Father raised him, because Christ is the life of the Father. So from baptism, we begin to live our earthly life the way He lived it on the earth. And we live the humanity just as He lived it, already having in us the life that will overcome the grave. And this way, Mary, the Virgin and Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, is also our Mother.

The reality seen through a veil

The mosaic is designed as a veil that opens up. Giacomo di Sarug says that God suggested Moses to veil the reality, because humanity was unable to understand it and, consequently, risked to interpret it inaccurately. The two principal lines of the artistic composition of the entire mosaic resemblea veil that opens up. And through the veil, two scenes from the Old Testament appear, prefiguring the theological foundation of the relationship between Christ and Church: on the top left side, the creation of Eve - and on the right, the entrance of creatures into the Ark of Noah.

The creation of Eve

Eve is created from the side. And pointing at the side she emerges from, she pulls her dress, her cloak. Adam and Eve are dressed,since we are inspired here by the Syriac tradition, according to which the created man was not naked, but covered with light and glory. The cloak, in which Eve is wrapped, is a symbol of the glory. Eve, emerging from Adam, has one hand still inhis side and the other strained towards God the Father, the Creator. Nevertheless, the Tempter misleads her and she reaches to the fruit.

Adam was created from earth and breath, but Eve is created from Adam - that is from whatSt. Irenaeus calleda "blend". That's why the true manifestation of Eve as person needs to be in relationship, because this is the true meaning of the "blend" of earth and breath:it is the personal way of the existence of God - who allowed man participate in this existence. Eve is created for aid and for relationship:that's whyman and woman shall never exist as isolated individuals; they shall rather seek each other.

God the Father "doubles" the human nature - making itmale and female- so that the human nature can be lived in a relational way. It is said that it is not good for man to be alone. With the creation of Eve, man truly becomes God's image and likeness - forjust as God lives his divine nature in love and communion of Three Persons, so man shall live his human reality in relationship. This is seen through the veil; but the reality is, in fact, the relationship between Church and Christ, i.e. the humanity lived in the ecclesial communion.

The scene of creation of Adam and Eve opens up to the following one, i.e. to the scene of sin. The meaning of all creation is to nourish the relationship of Adam and Eve with the Creator. Everything that exists, everything that Adam and Eve encounter in the creation,motivates them to form relationship with the Creator: to give thanks, to live in gratitude for the gift of life. However,exactly in the gesture of Eve one can see what - owing to the Temptator- shall end in sin: not asking and not thanking. That is, not looking after the hand of God,entirely open to the creation and to the history of humanity, as a donating hand - but rather taking things with one's own hand, according one's own desire. And this desire is induced by the Temptator- with his words: "you will be like..."

And so man does not ask and does not thank anymore: he rather takes. As the great liturgist Alexander Schmemannused to say, Adam and Eve ceased to be priests and became consumers. The world falls into the slavery of sin, of the desire to possess. Sin enters the world and, as its consequence, death also steps in. The creation and the history of humanity is no longer a place of communion, but rather a place of hatred and death.

Noah's Ark

For that reason, on the opposite side, always through the veil, we can see the entrance of creatures into the Noah's ark. The Noah's ark was traditionally seen as the image of Church, i.e. of the Body of Christ. It is true that the ancient iconography put the door of the Ark right on the Christ's open side. He who enters the Body of Christ, shall be saved. So, in fact, the Church, with its liturgy of sacraments, represents the space,in which the creation shall once again become favorable to man. But that's not enough. The earthly matter does not only heal man;it also becomes the setting,through which God's love - in the Person of Christ - redeems and sanctifies him.

Therefore, in the sacraments,the water really becomes what it was in the Creator's design - and the grain, the cluster of grapes and all creatures enterthe dimension of the new creation. Moreover - and above all -the man also does.For that reason, the entrance of the Noah's Ark, in fact, represents the entrance of all creatures in the love of God, in the salvation. Noah looks out from the Ark to see how the creation is saved -but also to see the dove bringing him the announcement of the flood's end -i.e. the beginning of the new stage of creation. This is, in fact, the redemption lived in the Church, where the fruits of the earth and of the man's work, through the descent of the Holy Spirit (Dove), become eternal food and drink of salvation.

The two sides of the veil,showingtwo scenes from the Old Testament,express their meaning alsothroughthe application of material: the left side, where the beginning of sin can be seen, thoroughly collapses. Everything falls, everything slips away,getsheavy and tumbles over. On the other side - where salvation is expressed through Noah's Ark,throughthe image of Church and throughthe Body of Christ with his open side, in which we can enter to gain life - the whole composition of lines and materials converges and flows into Christ.

The reality unveiled

From the Father's hand, the flow of life descends on to the Son, who - as priest - makes the sacrifice, which is necessary because ofsin and because of death, that is, because of the abyss that separates us from the Father. The sacrifice of life is necessary to overcome death. Christ offers himself in the power of the Spirit - as the Letter to the Hebrews 9 puts it - and, therefore, this image of Christ crucified as priest highlights the Eucharistic aspect of the offering. We areentering the divine dimension of life. Blood is life - but it is a sacrificial life, a life given. One comes out of the open side, and enters into the God's life. The sacrifice is not accomplished by any hero: it is the priesthood - or the sacrifice of one's own will - that unites mankind to the Father. It is the powerful image of crucified Christ, who embraces the world - embracing it with his open arms - and shows us the prayer and the sacrifice of praise to the Father,praise for the gift of redemption, in the name of all humanity.

The side opens and Mary is born, the new Eve, who is the Church that collects this life. Mary, standing next to her Son, is clothed; she also holds a cloak in her hand - just as Eve does, a cloak that on her is truly full of glory -for it is the cloak of her Son. The glory that Eve has lost, humanity regains here - in the glory of God that surrounds Mary.

We come out of the side, generated as the new humanity - but this humanity is new precisely because it receives the life of the Son, the divine life. We are generated from the side of Christ, and grafted into the life of God. We begin to exist according to God. Mary collects the blood that will be the blood of the Church. A beautiful symbol - because the blood transmits the way of living; i.e. not just the life: with Christ, the blood acquires a fundamental connotation: it expresses the way of living one's own life.

We are generated from the blood of God, but Mary collects this blood as Church, so that it may become our way of existence; already this mankind, in fact, lives its own humanity according to the way of Christ, the Son. The Church, born of Christ - or we could say,the Church according to the order of Christ - lives its own humanity consistently with Christ. And this is the redeemed humanity, the new humanity - human nature lived in a communal way - as the communion of all baptized, grafted into this Body.

The apostle Thomas

On the left side, there is the image of the heavenly Jerusalem - and on the right side, the meeting of the risen Christ with Apostle Thomas. This meeting takes place on the eighth day of the octave - i.e. when the baptized,afterhaving put aside their white dresses, for the first time participate in the Eucharist - and the Gospel about Thomas is read,for we were born from the Christ's side.

Thomas is shown in such a way that he still leans on the wound, that is, on the spot, from which he was generated. And he puts his feet in the water, because he reached new humanity: he is no longer subjected to the nature; he is able to walk on the water. Nature becomes expression of this new life according to God - and we no longer exist purely according to our own nature. It is not in the human nature to walk on the water; Peter could only do it in relation to Christ, not by himself. The redeemed man lives no longer only according to his kind, according to his nature, but according to the God's way of existence. Therefore, Thomas, born from the side of Christ, that is, having received the Son's life, is able to walk on the waters - in union with Christ and in Christ, on whom he leans.

He is no longer subjected to the nature,but begins to walk on the water - as we Christians do, when we become gifts to others, not sparing ourselves, not listening to the demands of our nature, but letting ourselves be moved by the life of Son, who is Love. This scene shows how the Church generates her children for life lived according to God.

The heavenly Jerusalem

John, contemplating this mystery, points with a deisis gesture to the Mother, his Mother and ours - since she generated the Body we belong to. Then, with the Mother of God, and the Mother of Church, with the new humanity, the door of the Heavenly Jerusalem opens.

Christ was crucified at the gates of Jerusalem - because he was thrown out; but this way, his sacrifice opens the entrance to the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Mary is just beyond the threshold of the heavenly Jerusalem. The Church, withher sacraments and liturgy, is already the entrance to the Kingdom: but until the eschaton comes, the Church does not yet coincide with the Kingdom. The Kingdom is depictedwith the bright houses andthe golden cupolas, withthe throne of the Lamb, withJohn the Baptist - who recognized the Son of God in the history - and with the water streaming out from under the throne. The Lamb has a very large head -since He is The Head, and we are the body. He is already accomplished, and we are in the process of becoming. The becoming of the Body must lead to the right proportion - in relation to the Head.

The mosaic can be read diagonally and horizontally

From the creation of Eve, emerging from the side, diagonally to the center of the mosaic, where the Church, in the image of Mary, is generated from the side of Christ, and to the generation of humanity in the baptism, which makes the Church - and which we find here in the image of the Apostle Thomas, leaning on the side of Christ.

The other, diagonal line,starts from the entrance of creatures in the Noah's ark, descends to the central scene, where the humanity, generated from the side of Christ, enters into its existence according to the life of God -entering into the sonship of the Father - up to the entrance of the Church, that is, of the humanity generated in Christ, in the heavenly Jerusalem, i.e. in the Kingdom.

But it can also be read horizontally: from the creation of Eve, emerging from the side, to the right side, where there is the entrance of creatures into the Ark, that is, the entrance into the side, into the Body of Christ, i.e. into the Church. The reading then focuses on the exit and on the entrance. On the top, left to right, in the bottom, right to left, where we have the baptismal image of Thomas, of the new man,who comes out of Christ's side and gets to the entrance of the heavenly Jerusalem. So, again, we follow the move from the exitto the entrance.

At the same time, in the central scene, going out and going in coincide. There is no longer any movement, since the emergence of the Church from the side of Christ is simultaneously the entrance of humanity into the divine life, into the filial life, into the life of communion with the Father.