Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought
Luigi Gambero
San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1999

Fr. Luigi Gambero is a Professor of Patristics at the Marianum (Rome) and the International Marian Research Institute (University of Dayton). He was a principal contributor to a four-volume work which presents in Italian translations all the texts of the first millennium related to the Virgin Mary (Testi Mariani del Primo Millennio). He is now the editor of what will be an eight-volume work on the principal texts of the second millennium related to the Virgin Mary.

This book on the early Marian writings is divided into four parts (the Apostolic Age; Ephesus; the great flowering of Marian devotion in the East after the Council of Ephesus; and the writers of the seventh and eighth centuries. Helpful introductions are provided for each section and author; each section concludes with a substantial portion of text from an ancient writer. Before this publication, many of these texts were unavailable or hardly accessible in English. Additional bibliography is given in the footnotes. The translations are always clear and fluid.

The Marian writings from the first six centuries are dominated by the authors from the East--Alexandria, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Jerusalem. Only with Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome do significant writings appear in the West. In the century after the Council of Ephesus (431), the East witnessed a great flowering of devotional writings on Mary.

This work provides a solid introduction for students and will be of value to those who from an ecumenical perspective seek the origins of the later doctrinal developments. These authors are closer to the actual historical events and witness to the oral traditions. Reading their works is "tasting the fresh waters of a spring." In these writings, there are not separate treatises or books of devotion. All of the Marian references are part of larger works explaining the Scriptures and identifying the work of Christ. In the face of the opposing views, the writers are strong in their affirmations: Mary is truly Theotokos (Mother of God), ever-Virgin, the one associated with Jesus Christ (the New Eve), the model for total dedication to God.

--Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.

Spanish language interview with Fr. Gambero about this book

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