THE FUTURE OF MARIOLOGY
Doctrine and Devotion
Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.
In the rapid acceleration of change in our cyber age we are reminded of placing
Mariology in the historical context of our own time.
As Pope Benedict XVI continues to promote a new
and more careful reading of Vatican II, he emphasizes that the advancement
of knowledge, research and piety in regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary must
also be permanent since the exemplary value and the mission of Mary of Nazareth
are permanent. The Mother of the Lord is a “datum of divine revelation”
and a “maternal presence” always operative in the life of the Church (Redemptoris
Mater). He directs us not to lose sight of the importance of chapter
eight of Lumen Gentium and its doctrinal synthesis about Mary in the
context of the mystery of Christ and of the Church, for it stresses that
the Mother of the Lord is not a peripheral figure in our faith and in the
panorama of theology. Rather she participates intimately in the history
of salvation and “in a certain way unites and mirrors within herself the
central truths of the faith.” The Congregation for Catholic
education expounded on this at length in The Virgin Mary in Intellectual
and Spiritual Formation.
A Mariology detached from history and couched only in metaphysical terms
is too abstract to be interesting and meaningful. We need a Mariology
based on revelation and viewed through the magisterium, a Mariology that
has something worthwhile to say about the great ecclesial and social concerns
of our day. Such a Mariology touches the centrality of the Paschal
Mystery, the primacy of the Word, the context of salvation history, new evangelization,
Mary’s importance as the model for a disciple, ecumenism, the role of women
in the Church, the conflict between a culture of death and a culture of life,
the assaults on the integrity of creation, the struggle against hunger and
oppression, the pursuit of peace, and other questions of consequence.
Our today is fast becoming tomorrow. The future seeks enlightenment
and wants to avoid disorientation. It seeks a guide whose reins are
in the hands of God. The eternal Word became man and entered history.
He permeated history with his presence and directed it irreversibly toward
our eternal destiny. Our future will be dominated by Christ.
Pope John Paul II reminded us that, “Among creatures no one knows Christ
better than Mary. No one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of
his mystery better than his Mother.”
To assert Christ’s presence is to affirm the simultaneous presence of Mary,
the woman who is indissolubly united to Christ, in his birth and in his death,
in history and in glory. The Mother’s role is absolutely subordinate
to that of the Son. There is an infinite distance between the Divine
Person of the Incarnate Word and the human person of Mary of Nazareth.
But this union is nonetheless real, unbreakable, and ordained by God.
Who dares to oppose God’s plan?
John Paul II emphatically explains that “Among all believers she is like
a mirror in which are reflected in the most profound and limpid way the ‘mighty
works of God’ ” (Redemptoris Mater), which theology has the task of illustrating.
Consequently, the dignity and importance of Mariology derive from the dignity
and importance of Christology, from the value of ecclesiology and pneumatology,
from the meaning of supernatural anthropology and eschatology. Mariology
is closely connected to these facets of theology.
In the future Marian studies will continue to cultivate doctrinal and existential
insights into Mary’s manifold presence in the life of the Church. The
indissoluble union between Christ and his Mother, and Mary’s vital relationship
to other members of the Mystical Body reveal the unfounded nature of attempts
to detach Mariology from other branches of theology. To belittle, demean,
or underestimate the importance Marian study is to betray a gross misunderstanding
not only of Mariology, but also of Christology and ecclesiology.
The ultimate aim of the study of Mariology is the acquisition of a sound
Marian spirituality, an essential aspect of Christian spirituality.
To pursue the fullness of Christ taught by St. Paul is to know the mission
which God has entrusted to the Virgin Mary in the history of salvation and
in the life of the Church, and to take her as “mother and teacher of the
spiritual life” (Marialis Cultus). The result in one’s life in
the Church will be a union with her in striving to express the radical message
of the Good News.
Some continue to view Mariology as peripheral to the study of theology.
Rigorous academic research will demonstrate the groundless nature of this
persistent prejudice. The delicacy of any question connected to Mariology
will require that extra effort we often mention. Do not separate the
Mother from the Son. Jesus and Mary are inextricably bound. Mariology
is alive and well.
Pope John Paul II reminded us that “Among creatures, no one knows Christ
better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his
mystery better than his Mother.”