"Don't dare think that somehow your conversation with Mary and your interest in her is in competition with your relationship with Christ. ... You are flirting with heresy if you do not have a doctrine of Mary as mother of God." —Matthew Milliner
What is the role of the Virgin Mary in Christian spiritual formation? Art historian Matthew Milliner (Wheaton College) joins Evan Rosa for a conversation about beauty of Mary in Christian spirituality—particularly for Protestants, for whom the abuses of the past have alienated them from a core component of creedal Christianity, Mary as "Theotokos," the Mother of God. They discuss the history of iconoclasm against Mary, the struggle of contemporary Christianity with art and aesthetics, unpacking the "Woman Clothed with the Sun" from Revelation 12, the feminist objection to Mary, and how the Virgin Mary upends an ancient pagan goddess culture invented to maintain patriarchy. They close with an appreciation of Mother Maria Skobtsova, who's life and witness in the Ravensbruck death camp during the Holocaust exemplifies how the example and presence of Mary Theotokos today might inform the pursuit of a life worth living.
- "La Corona" by John Donne
- "Don't dare think that somehow your conversation with Mary and your interest in her is in competition with your relationship with Christ." —Matthew Milliner, from the interview
- Matthew Milliner's forthcoming book, Mother of the Lamb
- How sacred "art" must support presence
- "A large family album"
- Iconoclasm against the Virgin Mary
- "The institutionalized art world has done such a wonderful job of alienating so many people."
- "Where has this been all my life?"
- Madonna Della Misericordia: "The train of her robe is very wide."
- Contemporary Christianity's struggle with aesthetics
- "The idea that the Christianity is somehow aesthetically impoverished itself seems to me a fictitious assertion. One that can be fueled with select examples, but I just think there's so much out there that that has been undiscovered. And Mary is often at the heart of it all, like in some senses, whether or not Mary—her presence—[is] in a church in one way or another might be an indicator of whether or not it's going to be beautiful."
- Revelation 12: "A Woman Clothed with the Sun"
- "She's the new arc of the covenant, in which the presence of God resides."
- Four-fold reading of scripture: "the literal and the allegorical and the anagogical and the tropical logical are all functioning at the same time."
- Reading Revelation 12 adventurously: The Woman and the Dragon
- "Don't dare think that somehow your conversation with Mary and your interest in her is in competition with your relationship with Christ."
- "It only will enhance your relationship with Christ to develop these other resonances."
- "Do you realize we're actually in a deep deficit of Catholic Mariology right now?"
- Vatican II decimated Catholic Mariology
- "You are flirting with heresy if you do not have a doctrine of Mary as mother of God."
- What is the role of Mary in Christian spiritual formation?
- Intersession and prayer
- John Henry Newman on the correlation of Marian piety with cultures that hang on to Christianity.
- The essential nature of art in Marian Christian piety.
- Icon: "Virgin of the Sign"—"A womb more spacious than the stars"
- Sonogram/Ultrasound Mary—conveying all powerful Deity humbled into human form
- John Donne's "La Corona": "Thy Maker's maker, thy Father's mother."
- Feminist objection to Mariology: "Any time Mary is uplifted, other women are left out."
- "Alone of all her sex"
- Rosemary Radford Ruther, Goddesses and the Divine Feminine
- Goddess culture
- The virgin Mary upends a goddess culture invented to maintain patriarchy
- Sarah Jane Boss, Mary: New Century Theology
- Charlene Spretnak, Missing Mary: The ReEmergence of the Queen of Heaven in the Modern Church
- Mariology and Gender
- Threatened masculinity
- Pagan phallocentric religion
- Courtney Hall Lee, Black Madonna: A Womanist Look at Mary of Nazareth
- "Christ has a female body too, and a black body too, and a white body, two and not just the Jewish body that he has. An Indian body too, and in Chinese body too, because of his dimension as the ecclesia, which also has a Marian resonance. So welcome to Christianity. You stay long enough, your mind's going to be blown again. ... Nicene orthodoxy is where you get all this stuff."
- On the Apostle Paul and Marian Piety: "I am grieving until Christ is formed in you. The birth pangs that Paul goes through. And we're all intended to nurse Christ, to give birth to Christ in a metaphorical manner in our lives. And that goes for men as well. So men also can be Marian. In fact, we must be marrying if we're going to be Orthodox Christians."
- Barth, Von Balthasar, Bulgakov
- "Theology is better communicated through images because the missteps are harder to make."
- The equivalent of the hymn is the icon: a tested image that's been around for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, and that has been refined. And that people over time said, 'You know, there's something right about this one in particular.'"
- Find icons and prints online at Skete.com
- Analysis of the classic Nativity icon
- "The Nativity icon is what God wants to do in your soul."
- "Icons are the brake tapping on the entire hyper visual world that we're in. We do not need to be dazzled the way Leonardo dazzled the people of his day. We need to be restrained. And that's what these icons are providing."
- The beam of light that crashes through the immanent frame.
- Navigating the depths of interior prayer through art history.
- Rowan Williams's Looking East in Winter: research on Mother Maria Skobtsova, the Russian Orthodox female parallel to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
- "Mary functioned for her [Mother Maria] as the epiphany, as the illustration, of selfless love."
- Rowan Williams (from Looking East in Winter): "The Marian sense of being overwhelmed from outside by the presence of the others. Is one of the things that displaces the ego and self oriented projects, including the self-oriented project of doing good or serving the neighbor."
- "She kept saying, 'My monastery has no walls. My monastery is wherever the poor are.'"
- "There's the great line that the Christians of the 20th century will be either mystics or they won't be Christians at all."
About Matthew Milliner
Matthew Milliner is Associate Professor of Art History at Wheaton College. He holds an M.A. & Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University, and an M.Div from Princeton Theological Seminary. His scholarly specialization is Byzantine and medieval art, with a focus on how such images inform contemporary visual culture. He teaches across the range of art history with an eye for the prospects and pitfalls of visual theology. He is a five-time appointee to the Curatorial Advisory Board of the United States Senate, and a winner of Redeemer University’s Emerging Public Intellectual Award. He has written for publications ranging from The New York Times to First Things. He recently delivered the Wade Center’s Hansen lecture series on Native American Art, and was awarded a Commonwealth fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia to complete his forthcoming book, Mother of the Lamb (Fortress Press). Follow @Millinerd on Twitter
- This podcast featured art historian Matthew Milliner
- Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
- Hosted by Evan Rosa
- Production Assistance by Martin Chan, Nathan Jowers, and Logan Ledman
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Evan Rosa: For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. Visit us online at faith.yale.edu.
Matthew Milliner: Don't dare think that somehow your conversation with Mary and your interest in her is in competition with your relationship with Christ. You are flirting with heresy if you do not have a doctrine of Mary as mother of God! The institutionalized art world has done such a wonderful job of alienating so many people from this fundamental hospitality that part of what it means to be human is engaging with images in these ways. There's a missing element to churches that don't have images of the Virgin Mary. I say that as a Protestant myself, and I say that confidently as a Protestant, because I know of the multitude of Protestant churches that do in fact have robust, beautiful images of Mary that add that crucial missing dimension. And these are all a seamless whole. They come together. This is part of the ecclesial presence of Mary in the Church. The art is an indistinguishable dimension from these deep rich Marian resonances that all main branches of the Christian tradition have nurtured.
Evan Rosa: This is For the Life of the World, a podcast about seeking and living a life worthy of our humanity. I'm Kevin Rosa, with the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.
The English poet and Anglican priest, John Donne, speaks to the Virgin Mary of the incarnation, the Christmas event that takes place in her body. Quote, "thou art now / Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother, / Thou hast light and dark, and shutt'st in little room / Immensity, cloistered in thy dear womb." That is from his poem "La Corona," or "The Crown," a set of seven cyclic sonnets where the last line links to the first in a golden, circling crown of neverending praise that depicts the life of Christ. Quite a contrast from la Corona that we're more recently familiar with, but this episode is not about that.
Merry Christmas from all of us at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. This Advent and Christmas season, we've been focusing on the life and faithfulness of the Virgin Mary. Last week, Eastern Orthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green joined me for a conversation on Theotokos, the birth-giver of God, covering Mary's life of suffering faith and bright sorrow, from the annunciation and incarnation, through her witness of the crucifixion.
And today Matthew Milliner, an art historian at Wheaton College, and author of the forthcoming book, Mother of the Lamb, joins me to discuss the beauty of Mary in Christian spirituality, particularly for Protestants, for whom the abuses of the past have alienated them from a core component of credal Christianity: the Virgin Mary, the mother of God.
In the first half, we discuss iconoclasm against Mary, the struggle of contemporary Christianity with art and aesthetics. He unpacks "the woman clothed with the sun" from Revelation 12 and the role of Mary in Christian spiritual formation. Later in the conversation, we dive into the feminist objection to Mary, and how the Virgin Mary upends the ancient pagan goddess culture invented to maintain patriarchy.
We close with an illustration of Mother Maria Skobtsova , whose life and witness in the Ravensbrück death camp during the Holocaust exemplifies how the example and presence of Mary Theotokos today might inform the pursuit of a life worth living. Merry Christmas and thanks for listening.
Matt, thanks so much for joining us on For the Life of the World.
Matthew Milliner: My pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Evan Rosa: Absolutely. It's Christmas, and we're going to talk about Mary and art and aesthetics, but to frame things up, I just wanted to ask you, in the first place, why sacred art?
Matthew Milliner: This is part of the ecclesial presence of Mary in the Church. The art is an indistinguishable dimension from these deep, rich Marian resonances that all main branches of the Christian tradition have nurtured.
Evan Rosa: What's the role, what's the use of art and beauty in the spiritual life?
Matthew Milliner: Because, well, in regard to Mary, she's not a doctrine. She's not an idea, right? If I had a theory of Evan, my relationship with you would be weird. And then I competed theories of Evan with other people who know you. And then we got together and talked about Evan. It would just be bizarre.
Evan Rosa: Sounds like a conspiracy, honestly.
Matthew Milliner: We weren't going to tell you about it, but that's for another podcast.
But the idea being, instead of competing theories, you want the presence of a person. And so it's not about art. You have to take the entire idea of quote-unquote "art," which is a European invention, and I'm not saying it's therefore dismissible in toto, some would, but nevertheless, you just have to remove this idea of "aesthetics," and "art," quote-unquote. Get it out of the way. Pretend it never existed. There were no such thing as galleries and museums. These are all contingent institutions. Say, "We're talking about presence. That's why the images are important." That's also why in the history of the Church they've been contentious because of their power. They mediate.
What we're talking about, think of it as a large family album. You want her around, right? That's the way we need to think about this. Her continuing presence in the Church. She has a ministry of sorts, and images fulfill that often in an unconscious way. There's a missing element to churches that don't have images of the Virgin Mary.
I say that as a Protestant myself, and I say that confidently as a Protestant, because I know of the multitude of Protestant churches that do in fact have robust, beautiful images of Mary that add that crucial missing dimension. So that's why it's important that when we talk, it's not, "Okay. Are we done talking about exegesis of the New Testament and theology? Okay. Finally, if there's a little room left, let's talk about the art." No! It's not that at all. These are all a seamless whole. They come together. This is part of the ecclesial presence of Mary in the Church. The art is an indistinguishable dimension from these deep rich Marian resonances that all main branches of the Christian tradition have nurtured.
And in particular, in the Protestant tradition, the Marian tradition has been especially wild and fervent. People don't know, like, "No, it hasn't. Didn't Calvinists just rip the images down?" Like, yeah. That's one episode. I could point you to dozens of Catholic episodes where that exactly happened, to say no less of Orthodox episodes.
I can direct you, chapter and verse, to Orthodox and Catholic acts of iconoclasm against the Virgin Mary. And I could point you to, again, that especially wild dimension of Anglican Mariology, of Lutheran Mariology. All of this is feeding into the different streams of the river of Christianity.
Evan Rosa: When someone experiences presence through art, what's going on? At a spiritual level, at a formative level, at a moral or social level. Talk about the role and the use of art in that kind of a spiritual context.
Matthew Milliner: I sure hope it's not aesthetic evaluation still. The Antiques Roadshow-like "Da-da-ding!" with "Worth $35,000!" I mean, what? Exactly.
There's such a frustration when people approach me and they say, "Oh yeah, I don't know much about art, but I'm maybe interested in taking a class." What alienated you from this discipline? You are a human, aren't you? You have eyes don't you? Of course you have a gateway into this understanding.
Evan Rosa: Yeah.
Matthew Milliner: And so I think we just have to. The institutionalized art world has done such a wonderful job of alienating so many people from this fundamental hospitality, that part of what it means to be human is engaging with images in these ways. And so we just have to, again, just click refresh on the entire enterprise.
And when you look at a picture of the Virgin Mary, of which many art historians have pointed out, there may be more of her than of Jesus in the history of Christianity. You say, "This is a part of my faith." And when I say this as a part of my faith, I love to tell this story. But once I gave a presentation on the Virgin Mary at an evangelical church in town here in Wheaton and an 80-year-old man came up to me and shook me.
Evan Rosa: He shook you?
Matthew Milliner: I was like, "Oh no, he's going to hit me. He's mad at me." He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. And I was like, "See, this is how bad it is." And then the words came out of his mouth: "Where has this been all my life?"
Evan Rosa: Wow.
Matthew Milliner: "Where has this been all my life?"
Evan Rosa: Hmm.
Matthew Milliner: That's a real missing ingredient. And it, I'm sorry, it's not owned by certain branded members of Christianity. And they like to sometimes present it that way. "Well, she's ours." And the minute you develop a relationship with her, it's just a matter of time before you become one of the two main branches, of course. It can't. Why are there two? If there's only one, then why are you making me pick? No! The train of her robe is very wide, the great Madonna della Misericordia image, Madonna of Mercy, where her robe covers over the faithful.
She's a symbol of the Church. She's not just the Nazarene woman. We have to keep that in mind. All these different registers of meaning operate in the Virgin Mary at the same time. And it's a wooden, modernist, literalist, hermeneutically unadventurous read that insists, "Well, what does it say about her?" Well, that's important. But when we're talking about the, first of all, when we limit ourselves to the New Testament, what do you do with Revelation 12? You've got a very large dimension of Mariology that you've got to grapple with thats more than just, "But what was she doing when she was raising Jesus?" There's massive dimensions at play here. And I'm just growing impatient with people who lack the adventurousness to explore this, because it will be to their own detriment if they don't.
Evan Rosa: I want to talk about Revelation 12 in a second, but I'm gonna take us back to something. You said that the world of high art, contemporary fine art has kind of created a rather wide chasm from the hoi polloi, just the general public.
However, with respect to Christianity, especially modern Christianity, it does seem that the Church has had a struggling relationship with aesthetics period. Not just with respect to artwork about the Virgin Mary, but also just simply tends to think of itself more through a cognitivist or moral lens than an aesthetic lens.
Matthew Milliner: True. And I think that sometimes that fearsome approach is legitimate because the aesthetic often has functioned as a rival religion. And when that is the case, the Church has a right to defend herself and to say, "Hold on, we're going to have some distance between whatever is going on over there in the museum with its pretension to spiritual salvation and what's going on here." So, yes, it's been a rocky road throughout modernity in a lot of ways for Christian churches, but at the same time, they've also been the chief producers, both before the modern world and throughout. It's like, are you going to say Gaudí is somehow not making a huge aesthetic contribution?
I get so overwhelmed and dazzled by the multitude of Christian aesthetic horizons. The idea that Christianity is somehow aesthetically impoverished itself seems to me a fictitious assertion, one that can be fueled with select examples, but I just think there's so much out there that has been undiscovered. And Mary is often at the heart of it all. Like in some senses, whether or not Mary has the presence, her presence in a church in one way or another, might be an indicator of whether or not it's going to be beautiful. Again, "Wait, are you saying that as a Protestant?" Yes! I mean, I just described my own church.
Evan Rosa: So let's talk about a little bit about Revelation 12, just for a minute, "a woman clothed with the sun." How is that operating for you when you brought that up?
Matthew Milliner: I think the key here is to understand that Marian imagery, you have to be hermetically adventurous when you approach it.
You have to permit several horizons of meaning to be functioning at the same time. Now, when people hear that, sometimes they get nervous and they say, "Well, now you're going to start being fast and loose with the truth." And if someone has that fear, I'm delighted! Because I hope you are being jealous for the terms of truth of Christianity.
But my reply would be that I believe in all of that. I believe in the physical resurrection, the Virgin birth, all of that. Of course. But because of the fecundity of those concepts and the physical realities that they testify to, therefore all the other horizons and dimensions of meaning can be operating at the same time as well.
So when we look at the new Testament, we have a gritty, real, actual woman, and we have this symbolic dimension, that matures by the Book of Revelation. At the end of Revelation 11, you have a reference to the Ark of the Covenant, right into Revelation 12, you have the woman clothed with the sun. The chapter divisions are not inspired. I mean that's like, "Okay, who is she?"
She's the new arc of the covenant, right? In which the presence of God resides. Now, people say, "But come on, let that be just the symbolic understanding of the Church." Sure. Yes. Both/and. You can permit Mary to function in that way. And when you allow Mary, anchored to that New Testament text, to function as ekklesia, as the gathered faithful, the bride of Christ, now we begin to have a richly scriptural understanding that sometimes confuses people. Because isn't the Church the body of Christ, not the body of Mary? Yes. Both/and. We permit both of those. When you look at the resonances of Wisdom and the Old Testament, is it, "Don't connect Mary to Wisdom, Mary is Jesus." Well, both/and. You, in fact, I would argue, in order to be a Nicene Christian, you better have a both/and answer to that question.
Evan Rosa: Yeah. Wow.
Matthew Milliner: Because the person who went around trumpeting that Jesus is Proverbs 8, and there was a time when he was not, was Arius! And the Nicene formula was to resist him, and to say, "No, it has to have Wisdom dimensions as well. And Marian dimensions as well." Hermeneutical adventurousness anchored in the revelation of God in Christ is a sine qua non of Christianity. It's the heretics that decided to clamp down meaning into this formulaic simple understanding. And so I try to coax my students into the fourfold reading of scripture. Not because you're giving up on the literal, because the literal
and the allegorical and the anagogical and the tropological are all functioning at the same time. It is an adventure that comes from our confidence in the belief of how God has revealed Himself.
Evan Rosa: So let's be a little adventurous here and read from a little bit of Revelation 11 going into 12. So I'm reading from the English Standard Version here.
"Then God's temple in heaven was opened and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and heavy hail." Now we're in Revelation 12. "A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head, a crown of twelve stars.
She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman, who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.
And she gave birth to a son, a male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for 1,260 days." Of course, war comes after that. A war breaks out in heaven.
Matthew Milliner: We could spend four hours talking about it.
Evan Rosa: We sure could.
Matthew Milliner: Because on the firsthand you want to say, "Okay, John is writing to persecuted Christians from Patmos, and here's the anchor that they have in Judaism." So he references that. And then he toggles ever so elegantly toward the revelation of God in Christ, saying, "You are legitimate children of this tradition. You are not bastard children. You're part of this." And so then you have this moment where you think he's talking about Jesus, but then it's, "No, he's talking about them!" Because it's not just what Satan was doing against Jesus with Herod. It's what he's doing to them now through Rome, and he's going to help you and he's going to protect you.
And then we get to that disappearance into the wilderness, which isn't just the flight into Egypt. It's the refugee communities around the world today. One of the most staggering moments of hearing that read aloud in church was last year, around this tim. I was finishing a book on Native Americans and I had just done a lot of research, including traveling with the Pottawatomie who had ejected from the Midwest on the Trail of Death.
And they were sent into the wilderness for a time, for a season. And they were Christian, right? This ethnic cleansing was cleansing Christianity away. that's what it's doing. And then they return. And you see that revival, the renaissance of indigenous communities, Christian indigenous communities in this country now. And I'm like, are you going to tell me that, "Well, no! They can't! You can't apply that to Revelation.
It's not what it's about." I was like, "what are you saying? Of course.it's about that." It's about all of those things at once.
Evan Rosa: We'll be back with more from Matthew Milliner in just a moment.
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Matthew Milliner: So here's the thing, whatever time you are listening to this. First of all, if you're in the Twelve Days of Christmas, please enjoy all twelve days, right? It's a whole, it's a season. But I also want to say what Mary being discussed at this time of year feels like to me. Imagine you're at a party and it's a really good party and there's just really nice appetizers and drinks and the right people are there. And there are people you want to know.
And some people you already know, and it's all working. It's all working. Now, all of a sudden, some person bursts in from the cold, shakes off their jacket and says, "Hi, hi!" And you say, "Oh, hello, welcome!" You kind of make a place for them and just, "Hey, get him a drink, get him a drink! Bring 'em out."
And all of a sudden he says, "Oh, okay. Hi. Good to meet you. Wow. This is great." Grabs a handful of pretzels. And then says,"I gotta be on my way." That's what I feel like it's like when people talk about Mary this time of year, all the time. I'm like, "Don't you to realize this is a year long party? Don't you realize we can always be thinking about this?" And how embarrassing is it for women who might see in Mary, and "No, sorry.
You only get a little bit of time." Now, granted, Mary is for both men and women, but it's just so important. This is not a seasonal festivity. There's a reason that the Marian festivals of the Church that the Protestants, Anglicans in particular, continue to celebrate and do celebrate today, are throughout the entire year.
Not just once a year, but in August, in September, in May, in March. "Don't leave! Sit down, relax and enjoy!" And don't dare think that somehow your conversation with Mary and your interest in her is in competition with your relationship with Christ. And I am getting blue in the face sharing this with people, and I'll use the analogy again and again. I have to mix it up all the time, but I'll put it like this. I'll say, the analogy I use with students, I'm like, "Look, you meet your significant other's parents. And if you turn away from them and say, 'I don't care about your parents, I just care about you,' in the first time you meet them, that relationship is not going to continue.
It's over." Right? That's so offensive. And I just never see it. There's just no conflict. It only will enhance your relationship with Christ to develop these other resonances. Then people say, "Well, the church history, doesn't say that." We're talking about an abuse situation in the 16th century. Refresh your feed! Go! Realize that.
Do you realize we're actually in a deep deficit of Catholic Mariology right now? That's where we are. The Protestants are rediscovering her. But Vatican II, according to many, was an iconoclastic act. Vatican II is great. I love it. It did so many wonderful things. But there are more than a few people who say, "Gosh, there was a dimension of Catholic Mariology that was decimated by that council."
Now, again, I, as a Protestant, I'm like, "Anchor back to Jesus. Absolutely." But at the same time, there's just, there's a need for the presence of Mary in the Church. It's not a boutiquey, curious, shtick for certain so-inclined people. You are flirting with heresy if you do not have a doctrine of Mary as mother of God.
Evan Rosa: So I think you're right to criticize the fact that Mary only gets to show up at Christmas. And if it's any other time during the course of one's spirituality, there is this kind of discomfort. That there's this feeling of controversy around it. It feels like there's a controversy of allegiance or loyalty.
And so what I want to ask more specifically is, when it does come to the role of Mary in Christian spiritual formation, what are we talking about? Are we talking about her exemplarity? Are we talking about, "Mary pray for us sinners?" Are we talking about other kinds of spiritual formation?
Matthew Milliner: That's a great question.
And the answer I think is that the table is wide and large in this regard. The Church has cultivated dimensions of Marian piety that are there for you to discover that are not limited to the rosary. That's one peculiar and important and mainstream avenue, but there are all kinds of other avenues and approaches for developing this as well.
And we can talk about any manner of them. One of the questions is intercession, right? Of which the rosary is an important, the calcified form of that, right? Calcifies is a negative term. I mean that it's a liturgically sealed manner of seeking that. But one of the questions to ask is that, just like I would appeal to an elder sister in Christ to pray for me,
can that dimension be part of it? There is, it is so normative in Christian history for that to be the case. And it, again, I do not see it as in competition with my prayer to Christ.
Evan Rosa: No, certainly not.
Matthew Milliner: It doesn't. I mean, it just, it doesn't have that. The great line of John Henry Newman is that if you want to know if Mary and piety is in conflict with Jesus, look at the countries that have had rich Mariological cultures. They're the ones that still hold onto Christianity. It's the ones that abandoned, that she's a barrier reef of sorts, that then the entire Christian culture gets washed away. Which is interesting. I'm not saying a Christian culture of itself is unnecessary.
I know that has problems too, but I think the way to think about it, and for me, I'm not advocating certain forms of the Angelus, or the Salve Regina, or things of that kind. This is not part of my regular prayer life, although I admire and appreciate that other people do that. It brings us back to the question of art. This is for me that dimension of Marian piety that is essential. And so whether it is an icon at my church or an icon, in fact, innumerable icons, in my home--
Evan Rosa: I would expect no less.
Matthew Milliner: Yeah, of course. It sanctifies this space in that way.
Evan Rosa: Well, let's talk about something specific. Let's dive into Marian aesthetics and the history of Marian art. And perhaps one of the best places to start is just a very ubiquitous icon called the Virgin of the Sign. And I'd love to have you describe that but, specifically, I think, a phrase has been associated with that icon and it's, "a womb more spacious than the stars." And that kind of spaciousness and presence that you're talking about, a very wide table, the train of her robe being cast out wide, and the spaciousness of her womb is really a beautiful kind of image.
So would you take us through some of the visuals there and help us imagine it?
Matthew Milliner: You know, Evan, it's funny. That would have been a pithier answer to your question of what dimensions of Marian piety might I begin to explore. It is a womb more spacious than the stars, right? I mean, this is a capaciousness.
And again, when I say that, I'm talking about that ecclesial dimension of Mary as ekklesia. And so when you're cultivating that, those dimensions of piety, you're kind of ingratiating yourself, ensconcing yourself more deeply into what it means to be the Church. In regard to this particular icon of Mary, I call it the Sonogram Mary. Because in the original image, you will see the Virgin with her hands outstretched and there's Jesus, kind of in there, just like we would find out what's going on inside a womb today.
Evan Rosa: It's an ultrasound.
Matthew Milliner: Yeah, they had that technology. It's the Ultrasound Mary. And then it's conveying all-powerful deity humbled into human form. "Daughter of thy son," right? Dante's line. It's in John Donne. "Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother." It's just like, what?! It's like the record scratch, your metaphysical record scratch. "Huh? What just happened there?" And all of that poetic resonance is communicated instantly through the Virgin of the Sign. These icons replicate and they spread around and are they connected to warfare and violence? Yes. But what's so interesting, and people say, "Well, I therefore have to dismiss the entire Marian tradition."
At one point someone abused it." Just because Mary's being abused and taken into custody by people for their own agenda, that doesn't mean they win. She overcomes that.
Evan Rosa: We've got the same problem with people abusing Christ for their own agenda.
Matthew Milliner: Oh my gosh, exactly. Right. So the same thing can happen. She can be kidnapped by emperors, past or present, to sponsor their activities.
Or, in fact just as often, she is a force for liberation. And it's no different with La Virgen de Guadalupe. I mean, to save you the time of reading the great Guadalupe studies, and they are great and beautiful, the ones that have come out in the last five years, you get to the end and they're like, "Yes, she's been abused, but just as frequently, just as frequently as she has been used as a force of liberation."
And so I guess you go around the horn enough times and you're like, I want this dimension to my Christian faith to be active, to be at work. I want the party to last year round.
Evan Rosa: Yeah.
Matthew Milliner: Yeah. We're not just talking about a Protestant objection. There's the feminist objection. And that, for some people, has been enough to cancel their Mariology.
And what was so interesting for me as I pursued this is, I'm pursuing it, okay? You get over the Protestant resistance because you realized Tim Perry's book, Mary For Evangelicals is fantastic in this regard, it just does the work. He also has a recent, shorter recent book co-authored, with a Catholic who, just, he lays it out. You realize, okay, the Protestant refusal to acknowledge Mary at all is the result of Catholic over-emphasis. And we now have to meet in the middle.
But then there's this whole 'nother, unexpected for some, critique of the entire Marian tradition that just is a showstopper. Because a select brand of feminist theologians, of which there are a numerous amount, it's a cornucopia. A select brand has come along
and dismissed the entire Marian tradition as vociferously as a Calvinist would have in Amsterdam in the 16th century. And you say, "Oh gosh!" Because they would say that anytime Mary is uplifted, regular women are left out. And it's a cogent critique. And in 1976, the great book in this regard was written called Alone of All Her Sex by Marina Warner.
And that was quoting a medieval hymn to Mary that proves her point. "Lift her up. She's immaculate. She's perfect, but regular women, not so much." And so in some senses as contemporary people, you know, don't stop listening! Because you might say, "Gosh, that's even more devastating than Protestantism is."
Evan Rosa: it's more reactionary. If you construe the Protestant effort to try to correct Catholic overemphasis on Mary, perhaps that's one thing. But this one does cut to the quick.
Matthew Milliner: It feels that way. Exactly. And it felt that way for me for a long time. Then I'm just kind of scrambling. "What's the response to this critique?" Because the minute you start to get excited about Mary, "Oh, look! See? There it is. Two guys talking about Mary. See, there we go. You all get excited about it." But here's the answer to that,
and I finally found it, and it's, if I may, a rather good answer, please: "Which feminists are you talking about?" Because I can point you to equally good, if not far better, books by serious feminists, some of them barely within the Christian tradition, if at all, that say, "Don't listen to any of the feminists that tell you you shouldn't have the Virgin Mary in your life or you need to reduce her to a sister status as opposed to the great mother."
And these books are brilliant. They will knock your socks off. So please can we read those books alongside of the ones that critique the entire Marian tradition? Furthermore, if you continue to read the critical scholars who said the entire Marion tradition, particularly they're coming from the Catholic tradition, hence this iconoclastic strain within Catholicism that we talked about, if you follow their careers, they don't stay there.
In fact, and I'm in particular thinking about Rosemary Radford Ruether. She had some of those deep critiques of the Marian tradition in her earlier career. And in her book, Goddesses and the Divine Feminine, "You want to see a world where women are uplifted in an idealized way and actual women are trampled? Welcome to the goddess culture."
And she does the deep dive. And I'm telling you... I'm not saying she's not uncritical of Mary. I mean, she is. But describing Aphrodite, and Artemis, and Isis, and the mythology of the primordial age of the worship of the mother before patriarchy swept in, which is an archeological fiction that the entire goddess movement is premised upon.
And if you want to read a devastating critique and almost it's just like, "Whoa, Professor Ruether, please just put the gloves back on." It's an evisceration of a fictitiously generated attempt to make room for women in spirituality through this avenue of the goddess, which we know was invented in patriarchy in order to uphold men. Aphrodite functioned in that way.
There's no question about it.
Evan Rosa: So the claim here is that the only response to the idealization of Mary to the detriment of ordinary human women is that this goddess culture needs to come in to help correct it and reaffirm femininity?
Matthew Milliner: Exactly. And that was what had happened since the 1970s. And it was an attempt to say, "Well, we know that Christianity just has this bad understanding of Mary." Because they read Marina Warner.
"But if we could just go back to the goddess culture, then we would have something honorable that we could look to." And folks, the entire carpet has been pulled out from under that movement. I've finally done the reading. Tikva Frymer-Kensky is the book here, the University of Chicago professor, who just says, "Let me tell you what was really going on with Inanna.
Let me tell you what was really going on with Astarte." And she just comes through it and says, "That is the culture of the uplifting of femininity in order to please men and subjugate actual women that the Virgin Mary upended." Because they couldn't conceive of the fact that the omnipotent God could be in her womb.
No God has had that. Isis is a fourth-generation deity. Fourth. You think that's empowering women? But Mary has the first-generation God, light from light, true God from true God, in her womb, who's dependent upon her for food and breakfast for goodness sakes. It's inconceivable in a pagan mindset. All of a sudden, you're like, "No wonder they dismantled the temple of Artemis in Ephesus and built churches in place of her because she didn't provide what people were looking for."
And that's why Jesus did. And theotokos, the mother of God, was emphasizing that nowhere in paganism did this occur. So the point is, I want, when someone comes along and says, "Well, we know that Mary is just to subjugate regular women." I'm like, "You're in 1976. You've got to realize."
And the big books that I mentioned that respond to the Catholic feminists who want to demote Mary. Oh man, they're good. Sarah Jane Boss, Mary: New Century Theology, are used for a large ideal perspective on Mary. And my favorite one is Charlene Spretnak, Missing Mary. And this is too good. Charlene is a force because she came from the pagan goddess movement. She was involved in that early on.
And she would argue for it. She's like, "Yes, we live in a patriarchal society. Yes. This was an attempt to move in that direction." But isn't it interesting that their brightest light ended up writing this brilliant book that was lambasting feminist Catholic demotors of Mary and saying, "No, we need a cosmic Virgin." But not because that was pagan, but because her childhood Catholicism was reactivating in her pursuit of this. I'm telling you, I think it's the best.
It may be the best book on Mary I've ever read. Because it's coming from the wilderness back into the Church. In essence, she says, "This is what I was seeking by being involved in the goddess movements." And I want to say, "What's more liberating Aphrodite or this Christian tradition that cultivates this Marian piety
that is the perfect response to the goddess movement."
Evan Rosa: You're a man that studies Mary. And you wrote this, "Because of the mechanics of the Annunciation," that's the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary, that you will be with the Christ child, you say, "there is no way around the fact that for Christians, the salvation of the world was procured without male participation. Only the Holy Spirit and Mary were required." And you say that this is "the hammer that smashes the
Matthew Milliner: It is. I mean, here's why two men have to get together to talk about the Virgin Mary. It's because we're kind of bruised a bit, our egos are a little bruised. "Huh, gender wasn't very involved in this."
Evan Rosa: [laughs]
Matthew Milliner: That's why Joseph is kind of downcast in the corner.
Evan Rosa: And I love the depiction of Joseph in W.H. Auden for precisely that reason. I mean, he's filled with doubt, he's drinking at the bar...
Matthew Milliner: He is threatened masculinity! I mean, oh my goodness.
Evan Rosa: The temptation of Saint Joseph is to try to retain one's faith in God and one's faith in one's own masculinity in light of this fundamental truth.
Matthew Milliner: Exactly. Which is why the goddess movement just tanked in the Wiccan cosmos.
Show me the salvation of the world procured without any need for male participation, you might say, "Well, I'm sure I could find something in the Egyptian pantheon." Yeah. I'll tell you what you'll find in the Egyptian pantheon. You get to find Atum masturbating the world into existence without any need for a woman. That's kind of a problem, right? I mean, come on, talk about, talk about phallocentric faith. I think it's like, "Ummm, monotheism please? I'll take one order of monotheism to fix that."
Evan Rosa: [laughs]
Matthew Milliner: And that's what Tikva Frymer-Kensky said! She's like, "You have no idea. You want to see divinized sex? That's the pagan world and it's not pretty." It is the phallus writ large. Listen to this quote. This is quoted in Courtney Hall Lee's book, Black Madonna. Recently came out and it is an astonishing book. A womanist look at Mary of Nazareth. In this book, she quotes Sojourner Truth as having said, "Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with him." And so when Sojourner Truth says that, now she may have read Maximus the Confessor and got it there. You can find it in ancient Christian sources. But my guess is she just read the New Testament and put two and two together and said, "Yeah, that seems to be the recipe for the salvation of the world according to this Bible that you're giving me and I'm going to embrace it in all of its truth."
And so that's why men have to gather together. Cause we're just so downcast from all this.
Evan Rosa: [laughs]
Matthew Milliner: But the good news is, and that's why, in the Oxford handbook, my good friend, Tim Larson asked me, he's editing it, and he's saying, "Give me a cover.
I need a good cover." And so I recommended William Kurelek, a Canadian painter, who has a great picture of a contemporary Virgin Mary, just sitting there in this Canadian, like, factory or this construction yard. And Joseph is off warming his hands in the corner. I'm imagining him just like in the ancient icons, downcast and to the side, and saying to some guy, "I'm telling you, man, I had nothing to do with this. Nothing." And he's like, "Oh, sure." "I really didn't! I really didn't." And that's the beauty of believing in the Virgin birth. And I'm not saying as men that we should be celebrating the fact that the phallus has been dethroned to the incarnation, but in a way it kind of needed to be, because of the abuse of male gender throughout history.
And God knew that. And so God said, "This is the way that I'm going to enter the world." And that is, in some sense, what offsets the fact that indeed God was incarnate as a man, a Jewish man, and not as a woman. And so Mary is simply a dimension of that. And that's what I mean by the mechanics, that inelegant word.
And then people say, "Well then. Isn't that awful? Because now you only have a male incarnation, which privileges the male sex." Well, but Jesus rose from the dead. And he says that men and women are incorporated into his body. That's right there in the book of Acts. "Saul, why are you persecuting me?", i.e., men and women. So we know that Christ has a female body too, and a black body too, and a white body too. And not just the Jewish body that he had. An Indian body too. And a Chinese body too. Because of his dimension as the ekklesia, which also has a Marian resonance. So welcome to Christianity, you stayed long enough.
Your mind is going to be blown again. And it's all part of holding on to the Christian essentials. Nicene orthodoxy is where you get all this stuff. Once you start tinkering with that, it starts to get uninteresting, I think. Because then you, you no longer have those rich dimensions of mystery.
And then to honor us again, because we bruised masculine egos need to be coddled. Well, we can be Marian too. Because more than a few great saints, whether Jeremy Taylor in the Anglican tradition, or Meister Eckhart in the Catholic tradition, or Symeon the New Theologian in the Orthodox tradition, all insist upon all of us operating in a Marian way. To say nothing of the letters of Paul: "I am grieving until Christ is formed in you." Right? This. The birth pangs that Paul goes through. And we're all intended to nurse Christ, to give birth to Christ in a metaphorical manner in our lives. And that goes for men as well. So men also can be Marian. In fact, we must be Marian if we're going to be Orthodox Christians.
And so the symbolic register of Mariology is so crucial. And we immediately migrate on into the theological horizon. When we start thinking in this way. Let's imagine that somebody listening to us is saying, "Gosh, I don't have enough of a Marian dimension to my Christian faith, of one kind or another."
And let's imagine that they'll say "I'm not ready to pray the rosary all the time." Frankly, neither am I, it's not my main go-to way. They might say, "But I'm interested in this artistic side of things. I want to bring that in." Well, immediately you're faced with this over whelming amount of Marian
data that's available to you through Google Art Project, to say nothing of going to museums. You're just like, you're overwhelmed. You can make an argument that it's an answer to pornography. It's an answer to the exploitation. It's the response to Aphrodites, past and present, with these wonderful images of the Virgin that contained the entirety of Christian orthodoxy.
When you study theology long enough, you go through the Three Bs, right? Karl Barthes, Hans Urs von Balthazar, and Sergei Bulgakov. In the sense of, not necessarily to agree with everything they're saying, but if one really rolls up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, wants to figure out what do the minds who had the resources and the education and the training and the time to really hurl themselves into these questions freshly.
These are horizons one must contend with. And in so doing, you invest so much time and money in these books in investigating that. I understand people who are like, "I don't have time for that." Fine. Here's what I've learned. Having gone with the Three Bs, I come out on the other end, it's all immediately conveyed, in the nuances of classic Marian icons. I really mean that. That's the argument that I'm attempting to make.
Evan Rosa: So you're saying that this really wide ranging, wide spectrum of theology is accessible in Marian aesthetics.
Matthew Milliner: Not only that, but the errors avoided. In other words, if Aquinas begins the Summa [Theologica] by saying "there's a reason that revelation happened the way it did, because then otherwise it would be only available to smart people, and after that, with many errors," I think that's a reason why theology is better communicated through images in so many ways. Because the missteps are harder to make. And I know most people say the opposite. Images are the things that get us in trouble. They can! But if you get the right Marian image, I'm telling you it's going to work.
Evan Rosa: Tell us a little about about those, then. Tell us how that richness comes through.
So that's the thing. What I mean in this regard is, when someone says, "Okay, I'm interested! Okay, you got my attention! I want to incorporate my Marian element of visual devotion into my life." I'm faced with the enormity of art-historical responses to Mary that are just, there are too many to choose from.
And so where does one go? To say nothing of buying classical pieces of art, which are tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The answer to that is the tradition of icons. Because just like when you go to church, if you do, nobody says, "All right now, I'd like you to sing the Ave Maria as a congregation." Nobody does that.
There's a virtuosic level of performance required, I learned this from Gordon Graham, my seminary professor, of a real great piece of music like Handel's Messiah, that's not intended for congregational singing. Congregational singing is something that I, as a non-trained musician, can participate in without needing to have that virtuosic level of talent.
So I want to say, from the get-go, just eliminate all those great virtuosic pieces of Mary in art history past or present. And the equivalent of the hymn is the icon, a tested image. That's been around for hundreds and hundreds of hundreds of years. And that has been refined. And that people over time said, "You know, and there's something right about this one in particular."
So if you decide, "I'd like to have an icon in my home," and if you can afford to commission an iconographer, wonderful, if you can't, you go with one of these other options. Then you just go, "Okay, fine. So which one do I pick?" Then let's just choose the one for this particular season. Well, Christmas, we have twelve days to celebrate this. There's just something wonderful about the classic Nativity icon.
When you look at this, you've got, again, Joseph in the corner, to illustrate everything we just talked about. And then you have this dome that is overarching the scene, that is speaking Charles Taylor terms, that's the "immanent frame," that's the cosmos as we know it, and it's shattered!
Thank you very much. It's shattered! By what? By the light that comes from outside. In other words, the Kantian universe has been pierced and God has revealed Himself and said, "This is how I choose to come into the world." And there you have the Virgin Mary and she almost looks seed-like when you look at these icons. She's on her side, because, thank you very much, she just gave birth. And there's Christ. And the donkey and the ox are there, symbolizing both Jew and Gentile. In other words, the Book of Romans in one shot. Boom. Right there. Then you've got the Magi sometimes off in the distance, to symbolize all corners of the earth, to symbolize most in particular the Assyrian Church of the East, the expansion of Christianity all the way to the Pacific Ocean by like the 5th century, folks. Gotta remember that! These are the Christians who we have lost contact with. The global reality of Christianity is communicated by these icons. And then of course, you've got the shepherds to symbolize, we might even say, all classes incorporated into this faith, not just across the globe, but across socioeconomic status. All of it is communicated just by meditating upon it. And then you have this cavern, not some sweet little stable, but a cavern, a cave, and folks, a cave your own psyche as well. It's an adept psychology dimension of the Christian tradition. A nativity icon is what God wants to do in your soul.
This is intended to be a spiritual experience. Spend some time with that icon, it becomes a part of who you are, and a part of your home, and then you meditate upon it. And then, frankly, you know what you do? You close your eyes and you enter an imaginative interior space where different things happen.
The icon is not an end in and of itself. Once it becomes that it becomes an idol. But with all these shifting screens that we have in front of us, and our subscriptions to every imaginable channel, I don't think your temptation is going to be the icon. Considering what you have access to.
Evan Rosa: We have other idols.
Matthew Milliner: Right. And so the icon is this deep, it's the brake tapping on the entire hypervisual world that we're in. We do not need to be dazzled the way Leonardo dazzled the people of his day. We need to be restrained. And that's what these icons are providing. And, folks, they do not belong to the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church has stewarded them better than Catholics and Protestants have, but they belong to all of us. That light that I mentioned that pierced the immanent frame, that comes down and radiates upon Mary to emphasize that Jesus is indeed God from God, light from light, right? If it was an Arian icon, the beam of light would stop at the eminent frame, but no crashes through.
And that icon, that beam of light shows up again in the Transfiguration icon, it shows up again in the Baptism icon. So these can tie together because what does God say to Jesus in the Transfiguration and in the Baptism? This is my beloved son in whom I'm well pleased. And that light that holy light, the uncreated light all three of those images so you begin to realize that these are in relationship with each other. It's unbelievably rich what these icons are able to accomplish. And again, they're intended to be stimulants, prompts to your own deep, imaginative, almost Ignatian-prayer-level of things. I don't stare at an icon for 20 minutes during my prayer time.
It's there as a focus, that sometimes I will close my eyes and then enter a deeper, shall we say, the... What do they call it, now? This is your internal, equipped-by-the-Holy-Spirit, VR headset that you don't need to pay Mark Zuckerberg to use. Sometimes the icon will be a prompt in that direction. How to navigate those depths of interior is a particularly exciting chapter in the history of spirituality that is enormous and throughout the entirety of the Christian tradition.
In fact, the history of art is often a record of someone's internal prayer experience that they paid some artists to crystallize so that they could look at it again. And you can have that on your own. All of this, art history is a fossil of the movements and the currents of the Holy Spirit that should be there for us, for those currents to ripple through our own lives again. The fetishizing of that tradition is what brings the need for iconoclasm the need for erasing those images. Iconoclasm has its reasons, and I'm not saying it's always bad. Sometimes there are images that need to be destroyed. I've read the Hebrew Bible. I know that's the case. It continues to be the case in church history. But at the end of the day, these images are our invitations, gilded, literally, gilded invitations to you to enter into the gift of God who has implanted himself within you in your baptism.
And he's like, "Well, join me here." And if that sounds Marian to you, in relationship with Christ within you, welcome to the faith.
Evan Rosa: It's beautiful. How do you see Marian aesthetics helping us pursue lives that are worthy of our humanity?
Matthew Milliner: Hmm.
In his latest book, Looking East in Winter, Rowan Williams meditates at length, thanks to some dissertations by some of his students that were done in this regard, on the life of Maria Skobtsova, the great Russian Orthodox canonized saint of the 20th century, who died at the, I believe, the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
And she is the answer to that question. Because what she came to conclude after having, for goodness sake, served as a mayor during the Bolshevik revolution, I mean, she went through so much as Russia is being ripped apart in ways that make whatever's happening to our society look like a tea party.
She really goes through the apocalypse, the end of her world. She ends up in Paris. She had two marriages that did not work out well. And ultimately she became Mother Maria, became a nun. And she just recklessly served the poor in Paris. And when they came hunting for Jews, she, at her monastery in Paris, when the SS took over, when the Nazis took over, they would bang on the door to say, "Are there Jews here?"
And she would point to an icon of the mother of God. "Yeah, right there." Ultimately they got her and they shipped her off, and she died a harrowing death serving and being a light of Christ in this death camp. She died when the gunfire of the liberating Russians was in earshot. She is your female Dietrich Bonhoeffer, except Bonhoeffer had it easy in comparison.
I know that's a big statement, but you look at her life, and how difficult the end was as she was being slowly starved to death and worked to death and beaten to death, as an older woman. So you might say, "Well, what does that have to do with Mary?" Mary was her model for charity. Mary, for her, functioned as the Church operating in selfless love with no desire for gain. Somehow, this symbol who is also a person. We're not just talking about an idea, we're talking about a living presence in heaven. Mary functioned for her as the epiphany, as the illustration of selfless love. And some people might say, "Yeah, but it's a Protestant and it's..." And I want to say, "Folks, yes." Let me explain to you. Here's what Rowan Williams says,
quote, "the Marian sense of being overwhelmed from outside by the presence of the Other's pain is one of the things that displaces the ego, and its self-oriented projects, including the self-oriented project of doing good or serving the neighbor."
Evan Rosa: Wow.
Matthew Milliner: It's just has the fingerprints of unmerited grace all over it. And if I have friends who are, who have changed my life through their rediscovery of, and the holding high the banner of the unmerited grace of Christ that the reformation rediscovered for the whole Church, not just for us, for the whole Church, I think that diamond was buried and it is in need of being renewed and polished in every generation of Christianity.
What was so interesting to me is that, somehow, when you talk to people who discover that you're talking about the Virgin Mary, they don't. "Oh yeah. But that's going to get us away from unmerited grace." Well, Sister Maria Skobtsova seems to be suggesting that they are perfectly united and she did it within the Orthodox tradition. And because she kept leaving the monastery, and kept showing up to services late because of her endless labors with the poor, she was frustrating people. She kept saying, "My monastery has no walls. My monastery is wherever the poor are." I mean, she puts Thomas Merton to shame in her dissolution of the boundary between the monastery and the world, which Merton did such a wonderful job of erasing.
And all of it, according to Williams, is possible because she never was looking to keep the score. When you see someone who's Marian piety acts in that fashion, without any need for record or merit or accomplishment, you say now the great streams of the Church are coming together. Both the Protestant stream and the Orthodox stream. And the Catholic stream. We have to be drinking from all of these waters because, to put it bluntly, from what's coming at us, which doesn't look pretty, we're going to need all of these depths to make it through. There's the great line that "the Christians of the 20th century will be either mystics or they won't be Christians at all." And that applies doubly or triply to the 21st century as well.
Evan Rosa: Matt, thank you so much for your time. For bringing us along in your journey of chasing these beautiful depictions of Mary, which is really akin to chasing beauty. It's akin to chasing down justice, chasing down humility, offering this really spacious womb, more spacious than the stars, along with a long history of Christians inviting us into that space. Thank you.
Matthew Milliner: Thank you, Evan.
Evan Rosa: For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School. This episode featured art historian Matthew Milliner. Production assistance by Martin Chan, Nathan Jowers, and Logan Ledman. I'm Evan Rosa, and I edit and produce the show. For more information, visit us online at faith.yale.edu. New episodes drop every Saturday, sometimes midweek. If you're new to the show, welcome friend! Hit subscribe on your favorite podcast listening app, and we'd love your feedback. Ratings and reviews in Apple Podcasts are particularly helpful, but we're just as happy to hear from you by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We read each comment and do our best to respond and improve the show, bringing you the people and topics that you want to hear.
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