The Christian apologist C. S. Lewis relates a conversation he had with an atheist friend of his who dismissed the story of Christ as just another solar myth. After analyzing the text of the Gospels both Lewis and his friend realized the Gospel narrative had to be a historical account beyond any doubt. Knowing all the stories about a resurrected god in mythology, Lewis’ friend concluded, “Rum thing, it really must have happened once.” The coincidences of Christ’s story with the typical solar myth are many and cannot be dismissed but most important among them is the dynamic that the solar myth imprints in the whole image of the life of Christ. In my opinion we are made for Christ not only spiritually but also physically and intellectually. There is in us an unfulfilled desire until we encounter Him, as St Augustine rightly said. For that reason men deprived of knowing him through history had to invent for themselves the best Christ they could. They called it Osiris, Marduk, Apollo, Siegfried, etc. Mankind multiplies those crude imaginations of Christ’s glorious reality until this day. Every hero is first the desire of the archetypal Hero; each one is a realization of our desire for Christ. A key element on the final fulfillment of that desire in history is Our Blessed Mother but to understand her role we have to go back to the very beginning, to Eden.
A fallen angel whispered into Eve’s soul the envy of divine happiness and power and made her eat from the forbidden fruit of the tree (xylon) of knowledge. In the fullness of time a holy angel communicated to Mary of Nazareth her mission to give birth to the Saviour. How would that mission counterpoint perfectly with the original envy that sank mankind into sin? Mary’s life taught her the answer to that and led her to a moment in time when she would counter the awful act of our mother Eve with a loving act of her own.
When Christ, as the Sun in all its mythical reality was “lifted” on the Cross He could finally irradiate life to mankind like the sun does at noon. What Christ irradiates is love and life but the medium itself is pain. The pain of the Cross is the most real exercise of love ever done. The agony on the Cross is paradoxically the greatest ecstasy ever experienced, an act of Divine Potency more powerful than the original act of Creation. The essential elements of that act are suffering, agony, and pain that irradiate just like the sun illuminates, warms, and gives the energy of life to everyone.
Before this other tree (xylon) there is this time a different woman. This tree is holy, reserved for God alone just like that other ancient tree in the Garden of Eden. The Fathers of the Church imagined that the Cross was made with the wood of the old tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Mary is now about to complete her act of acceptance, once again she has to tip the titanic forces before her with her will and she is able to do it because of her motherhood. In a supreme act of self inflicted emotional and intellectual violence she envies the Cross, her heart desires the Cross for herself. With the same intensity that Eve desired the happiness of God Mary desires for herself the suffering of God. With that act of Mary — pure Mary, human Mary — the entire cosmos begins to fall in order. She unties the curse of Eve out of the purest love imaginable, the love of a Virgin Mother. From then on she will bask for ever in His glory and we, born again under her care, will learn through her motherhood the terrible paradox of the Cross: that the gates of Eden are open again and we can enter and eat the fruit of the tree of life in the Eucharist.