Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
12.25.2021

A Womb More Spacious Than Stars

How Mary's Beauty and Presence Upends the Patriarchy and Stabilizes Christian Spirituality

Matthew Milliner

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Mary Theotokos, roses
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
Episode No. 99
12.25.2021

A Womb More Spacious Than Stars

How Mary's Beauty and Presence Upends the Patriarchy and Stabilizes Christian Spirituality

Matthew Milliner
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12.25.2021

A Womb More Spacious Than Stars

How Mary's Beauty and Presence Upends the Patriarchy and Stabilizes Christian Spirituality

How Mary's Beauty and Presence Upends the Patriarchy and Stabilizes Christian Spirituality

Matthew Milliner
,
Heading
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
12.25.2021

A Womb More Spacious Than Stars

How Mary's Beauty and Presence Upends the Patriarchy and Stabilizes Christian Spirituality

Matthew Milliner
,
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episode notes

"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.

Show Notes

  • "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

Production Notes

  • 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
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give

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.

"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.

Show Notes

  • "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

Production Notes

  • 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
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give

A Vision of Flourishing