Queer Mixtio

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For Bernard of Clairvaux, Mary the mother of Jesus was a cause of astonishment, for in herself she was an impossible mixture of virginity and maternity, and so a marvel like the child to whom she gave birth: the supreme mixtio of humanity and divinity With "faith and the human heart" mixed we can only wonder at her and her child.

For it is marvellous what the human heart can accomplish in yielding to faith, how it can believe God became man and Mary gave birth and remained a virgin. Just as iron and clay cannot be joined so these two cannot be mixed if the glue of the Holy Spirit does not mix them. Who can believe that he was laid in a manger, wept in a cradle, . . . died between thieves, is also God, majestic and immense?. . . And the first mixture [of divinity and humanity] is a poultice to cure infirmities. The two species are mixed in the Virgin's womb as in a mortar, with the Holy Spirit the pestle sweetly mixing them. . . . The first union is the remedy but only in the second [mixture of virginity and maternity] does the help truly come, for God wills that we gain nothing unless it passes through the hands of Mary. (Bernard of Clairvaux quoted in Bynum 2001: 122-3)

Mary with her crying infant is a perfect figure for queer theology. She is a virgin who yet gives birth; a mother for whom there is no father other than the one she comes to see in her son. And her son, when grown into the Christ of faith and heart, in turn gives birth to her, to the ecclesia he feeds with his blood as once he was fed with her milk. And then this son takes her - his mother and child - as his bride and queen, so that we can hardly say who comes from whom, who lives in whom, or how we have come to find our own bodies remade in Christ's: fed with his flesh which is also Mary's.

When the time had come for him to be born,

He went forth like the bridegroom from his bridal chamber,

Embracing his bride, holding her in his arms,

Whom the gracious Mother laid in a manger

Among some animals that were there at that time.

Men sang songs and angels melodies

Celebrating the marriage of two such as these.

But God there in the manger cried and moaned;

And these tears were jewels the bride brought to the wedding.

The mother gazed in sheer wonder on such an exchange:

In God, man's weeping, and in man, gladness,

To the one and the other things usually so strange.

(St John of the Cross, Romances)

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