I received an email today with a common question for those who read St. Louis de Montfort. I thought I would share how I attempted to answer the question. Hopefully what follows will bring some ease to using the phrase, “slave of Mary.” It seems to be a term that incites a visceral reaction.
I think the issues are two-fold. The first issue is that we live in a time that only understands slavery in terms of its southern abolition or human trafficking. It is true that slavery has been a part of civilization since the beginning but there is a way to understand slavery and its close term servant.
In Scripture and theology, the terms slave and servant (doulos) are interchangeable in Greek because of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses requires that after seven years of service, a slave or even indentured servant must be given their freedom. Sometimes slaves would marry but not be on the same timetable of service. When one of the two were released they would choose to remain a servant of the family to be with their spouse. Other times, as was the custom of the Jews, since they understood what it was to be a slave, the slaves became part of the family and called servants albeit just a slave who voluntarily stayed. There was a similar tradition of voluntary slavery or servanthood among the Greeks and Romans. Once a slave made their decision to stay, the Jews would pierce their ear and provide an earring that symbolized their filial love of service to the family. The Greeks on the other hand placed a gauntlet on the wrist.
In the great Pauline canticle of Philippians 2: 6-11, St. Paul declares that,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (doulos), being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:7)
The earliest etymology of doulos is “to tie or bind.” Christ permanently enslaved or bound Himself to humanity by the incarnation.
In fact, in the Magnificat, when we hear, “I am the servant of the Lord” it may also be translated, “I am the slave of the Lord.” St. Louis de Monfort distinguishes between three types of slavery:
- Natural slavery: all creatures are slaves of God in this sense as He is their Creator and Master;
- Enforced slavery: which not only includes devils and demons but also all those individuals that have been subjugated to another by force of will and coercion; and
- Voluntary slavery: all that willfully submit to those who acknowledge our Lord’s rights and those whom He has placed over us.
When it comes to voluntary slavery, Pope St. John Paul II teaches us that in essence, those who love God want to belong to Him.
Now, “the fact of ‘not being free’ in love is not perceived as slavery but as an affirmation of freedom and its realization.” (Documentation Catholique 76 (1979), 615)
In other words, even if one acknowledges that, as this morning’s office declares to us,
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14: 7-9)
the choice to love the one who we serve, provides the greatest expression of freedom.
There is in a certain sense, that Christ was a natural slave to Our Lady who gave to Him his humanity. It is also true that those relationships on earth are only perfected in heaven. Thus, Jesus being King and Lord of the All, Mary is the Queen Mother of All. Because of her relationship to our Lord by nature and elevation by grace, she too has a natural right over us.
We must remember that though our Lord and Lady have natural rights over us, He elevated our “office” to that of “Friend of the King,”
No longer do I call you servants (doulos), for the servant (doulos) does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends… (John15:15)
I chose to be a slave of Mary. I could use servant but the term slave keeps my ego in check and reminds me of my natural place before My Mistress and Queen. All I know is that she has never disappointed me and only commanded me to do her Son’s will. For those who still find the phrase troubling, de Montfort does suggest an interchangeable phrase, “slave of Jesus in Mary.
Hope this helps…
O exalted Queen of Heaven, Supreme Mistress of the Angels, who from the beginning has received from God the power and the commission to crush the serpent’s head, we pray thee humbly, send down thy Holy Legions, that they, under thy command and power, may pursue the spirits of Hell, everywhere wage war against them, defeat their boldness and thrust them into the abyss of Hell.
“Who is like unto God?” – “Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and protect us!” – “O kind and tender Mother, thou shalt ever remain our love and our hope.” Amen.