The Mother of the Lord: Memory, Presence, Hope

The Pontifical International Marian Academy
Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 2007

This work from the Pontificia Accademia Mariana Internationalis (PAMI) was originally published in 2000 as a letter to students and organizations that promote Marian studies. In a fraternal way, the letter proposes to chart a course for theological reflection on the Virgin Mary in the new millennium.

The work begins by establishing the context for Marian studies. At the beginning of the third millennium, the world manifests some frightening tendencies toward violence, genocide, and materialism, as well as some heartening movements toward solidarity, cooperation, and complementarity. Marian theology must speak to people within this context. One way to integrate Marian theology into contemporary theological currents is for interdisciplinary studies involving other branches of theological inquiry--soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology.

A second section deals with "themes and questions" to integrate the Virgin Mary not only into doctrine but also into the hearts and lives of believers--the Marian dimension of the Christian life. A third section deals with prayer in the spirit of Mary and the role that the Virgin Mary has in the Church’s liturgy and devotional life.

The letter from the Pontifical Academy is a refreshing document. It insists that reflection on the role of the Virgin Mary must speak to contemporary men and women. The centuries-old theology developed in Western Europe is not devalued or repudiated, but, at the beginning of the third millennium, "the situation has changed." People of the Third World participate in theological discourse with original insights. Women have acquired the theological status which, because of historical circumstances, was previously denied them. Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue offer new ways of dealing with traditional Marian themes. Studies of the Virgin Mary are to reflect this panoramic context presented by the pontifical academy.

A recent review in America (Nov. 19, 2007) by Nancy Hawkins expresses appreciation for many features of the work: "The historical development of Marian doctrine is explained thoroughly and clearly ... Its writing style is more inviting than the Catechism, and its conciseness makes it easy to use." But she concludes, other approaches are also needed.

"There is definitely a place on the library shelf for The Mother of the Lord, but only if it is placed next to Truly Our Sister, by Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., or another work by a contemporary Catholic theologian. The two books combined will give the reader a balanced, ecclesial and liberating vision of a graced woman of faith who has a key role to play in our lives."

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