The Virgin Mary is the greatest among creatures because she responded to God with her pure fiat, a total cooperation that intimately involved all of her being. Everything that Mary did she did with her body. For this reason, Sr. Mary Timothy Prokes is correct to point out that "the privileges celebrated in Mary are grounded in her body." (36) Without Mary the teaching of the Church on the human body remains abstract and theoretical. Interestingly, during the 13th International Marian Congress at Zagreb on August 13, 1971, Cardinal Suenens asked Karl Rahner what he thought was the reason for the decline in Marian devotion. The answer Rahner gave is a theological affirmation that the Virgin Mary, especially her divine maternity, makes Christianity real and concrete: "Too many Christians, whatever their religious obedience may be, tend to make Christianity an ideology, an abstraction. And abstractions do not need a mother." (37) Without Mary, Christianity is easily reduced to the realm of philosophical theory. For this reason, the statement made by Cardinal Christopher Schönborn could not be more accurate: "Mary is the guarantor of Christian realism." (38)
In light of all the above quotes on the essential part that Mariology needs to play in theology as a whole, it is surprising that so few (hardly any) theologians have explored the interconnectedness between what John Paul II taught in his theology of the body and what the Church teaches about the Virgin Mary. (39) Without a doubt, this is an area of theology that stands in need of serious investigation.
Mary’s body, due to the theological truth that it serves as the "promising dawn" of the new creation in which all things are made new, represents the prototypical model of each individual human being in their creaturely embodiedness. What Mary has at the beginning, namely, sinlessness, all will have at the end of life if they cooperate with the gift of their embodiedness. Mary shows us how to accept the gift of our embodiedness, and this includes the God-given sex of the body. In this it is important to note that Mary’s exemplarity of what it means to accept the gift of one’s body means that the body is not an obstacle to be overcome but, rather, a gift to be lived. Mary delights in her body, especially in its God-given sex: femininity. It is precisely in her gift of being a woman, that Mary was fashioned and called by God to be the Theotókos. The gift of her body is exactly what helps her to become the Theotókos. Just think of what would have happened if Mary rebelled against the gift of her feminine body! We would be in a very different situation today.
Mary’s gift of the Immaculate Conception, in contrast to much of the feminist thought of today, does not separate her from us. On the contrary, the gift of the Immaculate Conception serves as our model of how to accept the free, gratuitous gift of our embodiedness and cooperate with God in our salvation and the salvation of others. Salvation, the new creation, is an embodied reality. In a certain sense, the Immaculate Conception serves as a blueprint for how humanity is to respond to God’s love. For this reason, Benedict Ashley states that "the Catholic understanding of the role of Mary in the plan of salvation is, as it were, a summary of the theology of the body and its historic development in the Church shows how the guidance of the Holy Spirit has overcome the dualistic influences of Platonism on Christian thought." (43)
In short, what the Immaculate Conception teaches us concerning a theology of the body is that if a person accepts and cooperates with their God-given body and sex, they will bear fruit for eternal life. On the other hand, if they choose to rebel and reject the gift of their body, they are on the road to self-destruction and anthropological frustration, that is, hell.
The dogmatic teaching of Mary’s Divine Motherhood was the first dogma proclaimed by the Church about the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was declared in 431 at the Council of Ephesus. While the main theological focus of this particular dogma is to emphasize the dual nature of Jesus Christ, divine and human, it also teachings us something essential about what it means to be a person, namely, we are called to be fruitful, some physically, but all spiritually. In this sense Mary’s fruitfulness serves as the model for both because she is not only the physical Theotókos, but, also, the universal spiritual mother of the redeemed.Since the body is a "sacrament" meant to be given away to an other in nuptial love, a nuptial love that expresses an existing communion of persons, each human body has within it the capacity for bearing fruit. The vocation to bear fruit applies to all, those whose call is to sacramental marriage, consecrated life, and the single state. How can this be? Basically, since a constitutive element of what it means to be human is that we are to make of our bodies a gift to an other, whether this "other" be strictly God or another human being, all are called to fruitfulness. It should be mentioned that not everyone in a sacramental marriage may be able to bear fruit physically due to physiological impairments, but all are definitely called to bear spiritual fruit. For this reason, some of the early Church Fathers, in order to show that Mary’s spiritual model of fruitfulness is a universal model, noted that she first heard and conceived in her ear (heart), then, afterwards, in her womb.
In essence, Mary’s Assumption teaches us that no matter what ideological definitions of the body are at work in a particular era, God made the body good and desires it to be with him in heaven. Contrary to many of the modern ideological definitions concerning the body, and its treatment as a non-essential and "extrinsic" appendage to our "real" self, the Assumption of Mary into heaven teaches us something about the goodness of our body, breaking down the dualistic tendency in modern thought that pits the spiritual life over and against material existence. John Paul II made this point in the following way:
. . . Mary’s assumption reveals the nobility and dignity of the human body. In the face of the profanation and debasement to which modern society frequently subjects the female body, the mystery of the assumption proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body, called by the Lord to become an instrument of holiness and to share in his glory.Mary entered into glory because she welcomed the Son of God in her virginal womb and in her heart. By looking at her, the Christian learns to discover the value of his own body and to guard it as a temple of God, in expectation of the resurrection. The assumption, a privilege granted to the Mother of God, thus has immense value for the life and destiny of humanity.
These excerpts and the parts I highlighted in bold seem to substantiate my view of the virginal childbirth, while the previous post's excerpt clearly affirms the virginitas in partu of Marshal and Erlenbush, who I greatly respect for provoking my lengthy meditations on this subject. Go read the whole article; I also ordered the book by Fr. Calloway, MIC. I still maintain that in partu does not have to exclude the possibility of a vaginal delivery, but it makes a compelling case that the hymen did in fact remain intact. Make of that what you will. I don't think my pregnant wife is a heretic if she and I both persist in our understanding that Mary also brought forth her child from her vagina. I don't think it inappropriate for Joseph, in the nuptial gift of his own chastity, to have assisted his wife in her delivery of the Son of God. I am convinced such a belief is consonant with the papal magisterium of JPII and B16. May the Holy Family intercede for us!