Principles Regarding a Comprehensive View of Mary
A humble woman called by God to assume a unique role.
by Fr. Johann G. Roten, S.M. | Source:
There exists an immense literature on Mary of varied importance. Much of it reflects love and admiration for this humble woman called by God to assume a unique role. Many other writings, that is theological reflections, attest to the relentless effort to explore the mystery of who Mary is and how she relates to God. All of these reflections and writings must have a common foundation, that is Scripture, more specifically the New Testament.
Mary was a Jewish woman from Galilee, thus a historical person as attested in Scripture. Scripture is the foundation and measuring rod for our reflection on Mary’s role and person. It is here that Catholic theology connects with most other Christian denominations.
Christianity is not only a message but a history of salvation in the course of which a broader and deeper understanding of Christ’s intent and work took place. This applies to Mary, and explains why we call her, for example, "Mother of God," "Immaculate Conception," or "Queen of Heaven."
However, we need to keep in mind that Mary cannot be accurately understood for herself only. She is intimately related to her Son, Jesus Christ, his life and education, his Incarnation and redemption. This means also that Mary’s person and mission were fashioned by the will of the Father and the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Much of the reflection about Mary was done to achieve a more thorough understanding of the Church. Mary is the blueprint of what it means to be a member of the Church. That is why she is called archetype, model and even Mother of the Church. As the same time she is a member, the eminent member of the Church, for Mary is no goddess but God’s creature in need of his love like everybody else.
Mary is not a woman of the past, only a beautiful memory or a useful symbol for a better understanding of the Christian story. On the contrary, she takes active part in the process we call salvation history. Her mission continues. We call her Mother of the Church. She offers her maternal presence to us. This ongoing role of Mary is highlighted in the liturgy, which thus becomes an important source, not only of knowledge about Mary, but also of a living spiritual relationship with her. This living spiritual relationship finds expression in a rich patrimony of Marian devotions.
Marian devotion, expressed in praise and advocation, in prayer with, through, and to Mary, is not idolatry. We do not worship, meaning adore Mary. She is the facilitator who takes us to Jesus, the one mediator.
The figure of Mary is greatly popular. She attracts the attention even of those who reject her. Mary could be regarded as an ambivalent figure because she unites in her person seemingly contrasting features. She is both Mary of Galilee and Queen of Heaven. The latter is not a honorific title but points to the real reason for Mary’s crucial importance for Christianity. She is the one human person who in the name of the whole human race gave total assent and commitment to God’s offer of new life in his likeness for all of humanity thanks to the coming of his Son. This single act and its practical consequences constitute the real reason for Mary’s immense popularity and universal significance. Being hailed primarily as mother, Mary’s appeal transcends the Catholic and Christian religion, and becomes thus a bridge to the human psyche as such in search of affection, protection, and care.
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