Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and Her Re-Emergence in the Modern Church

Charlene Spretnak.
New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Charlene Spretnak is professor in the philosophy and religion program at the California Institute of Integral Studies, a graduate institute in San Francisco. She has written on eco-feminism, women's spirituality, and a philosophy embedded in creation; she regrets that modernity has detached humanity from a more life-giving relation to the universe. This book applies the author's philosophical positions to contemporary Marian devotion. The author accepts the teachings of Vatican II, but has a quarrel with only "one eighth of one of the sixteen documents of Vatican II" (Lumen Gentium's eighth chapter) which, in the eyes of the author, has reduced Mary's "cosmological spiritual presence" into a simple biblical, modernist, radically minimalized figure--from Queen of the Universe to a "Nazarene village woman."

Missing Mary begins the "modernizing" of Mary in the 1960s, and proceeds to grassroots movement for "reinstating" Mary, to ethnic groups who have retained traditional and beautiful expressions of Marian devotion, to suggestions for restating Mary into a world cosmological vision, and finally to the gnostic denial of the essential physical, created order to which this reduced figure of Mary has contributed. The onus for these developments is the Marian minimalism of Vatican II, almost as if some other type of conciliar statement could have been the dyke against modernism.

In the post-Vatican II whirlwind, horrors may have been committed in the name of renewal, but not all were caused by the council documents. Vatican II's integration of Mary in the mystery of Christ and the Church may have displaced a certain type of devotion, but it also produced one much more directly related to Christian life. The proposals for reinstating Mary's cosmological status vary greatly, from associating Mary with a maternal ethics of compassion, to elevating her as a free-floating goddess. However, underneath, the author does express the cri de coeur of many young Catholics who feel that they have been deprived of a rich symbolic tradition, and who yearn for a deep sacramental consciousness and an integrated spirituality (and she often quotes this newsletter).

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