Power in Weakness

In an essay on Alexander Schmemann (in Ordering Love, 301-2), David L. Schindler observes that “Creaturely power begins in wonder and gratitude before the inherent beauty of the other. The power of creaturely being originates and consists primarily in the beauty of the Other: it is the attractiveness of the Other become effective in me (the self).”

It is a “staggering” truth: “Creaturely power begins in and presupposes all along the way precisely ‘littleness’ . . . , but the pertinent point is that this littleness turns immediately into genuine power.” It can do this because of “the beauty that is made effective in me, and immediately—also now with me and through me, paradoxically by that very littleness, by the littleness that constitutes me as a ‘handmaid,’ one that is structurally subordinate to the Other.” Creatures become powerful “through obedience,” an “ontological” reality “before it is moral.”

“Handmaid” conjures Mary, and Schindler goes on to comment on “the intrinsic link between creaturely power and the poor and vulnerable ones of the Gospel, those who are exalted in Mary’s Magnificat and in the Beatitudes.” Mary is liberated through the fiat of God’s choice and her obedient response, and so liberated she and the other “poor and vulnerable ones” “become themselves creative and powerful precisely with the power of God, which is to say, with the power of a love that is intended to be inclusive-transformative of the poor and vulnerable in the whole of their embodied, cosmic-cultural reality.”

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