The Private Intellectual
Ecclesiastes-Based Real Estate Advice

Thursday, December 17, 2009  

Advent: The Distress and the Paradox

From Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling (Hong trans., pp.64-5):

Who was as great in the world as that favored woman, the mother of God, the Virgin Mary? And yet how do we speak of her? That she was the favored one among women does not make her great, and if it would not be so very odd for those who listen to be able to think just as inhumanly as those who speak, then every young girl might ask: Why am I not so favored? And if I had nothing else to say, I certainly would not dismiss such a question as stupid, because, viewed abstractly, vis-a-vis favor, every person is just as entitled to it as the other. We leave out the distress, the anxiety, the paradox… To be sure, Mary bore the child wondrously, but she nevertheless did it ‘after the manner of women,’ and such a time is one of anxiety, distress, and paradox. The angel was indeed a ministering spirit. but he was not a meddlesome spirit who went to the other young maidens in Israel and said: Do not scorn Mary, the extraordinary is happening to her. The angel went only to Mary, and no one could understand her. Has any woman been as infringed upon as was Mary, and is it not true here also that the one whom God blesses he curses in the same breath? This is the spirit’s view of Mary, and she is by no means--it is revolting to me to say it but even more so that people have inanely and unctuously made her out to be thus--she is by no means a lady idling in her finery and playing with a divine child. When, despite this, she said: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord--then she is great, and I believe it should not be difficult to explain why she became the mother of God. She needs worldly admiration as little as Abraham needs tears, for she was no heroine and he was no hero, but both of them became greater than these, not by being exempted in any way from the distress and the agony and the paradox, but became greater by means of these.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 8:39 AM
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