Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Newman's 'most brilliant' paragraph

Even during his Anglican years, John Henry Newman remarked that the popular exhibitions of devotion that so scandalised the 'English Protestant visitor to the Continent', even with corruptions of 'excess' or 'superstition', were preferable to the 'arid indifference' of the English laity and clergy. After all, as Newman puts it, these devotions to Our Lady derived from the real (versus notional) idea that she was the Mother of God. Later in his life, towards the end of his famous 'Letter to Dr. Pusey' (p. 86) Newman wrote what I have heard (justifiably) called the most brilliant paragraph in all his work:

'And did not the All-wise know the human heart when He took to Himself a Mother? Did He not anticipate our emotion at the sight of such an exaltation in one so simple and so lowly?  If He had not meant her to exert that wonderful influence in His Church, which she has in the event exerted, I will use a bold word, He it is who has perverted us. If she is not to attract our homage, why did He make her solitary in her greatness amid His vast creation? If it be idolatry in us to let our affections respond to our faith, He would not have made her what she is, or He would not have told us that He had so made her; but, far from this, He has sent His Prophet to announce to us, ‘A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,’ and we have the same warrant for hailing her as God’s Mother, as we have for adoring Him as God.'


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