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.”