The original purpose of this book was to provide information on Marian feasts. For each of the fifteen Marian days in the liturgical calendar, there are historical notes on the origin, exegetical notes on the readings from Scripture, and references to current ecclesial documents which broaden and extend the meaning of the mystery celebrated. Each section concludes with suggested intercessions for the Prayer of the Faithful which succinctly summarize the principal themes of the celebration.
But this is much more than a bland commentary on liturgical texts. O'Donnell realizes that the intellect is not dormant in liturgy and that many questions about theology and devotion arise in the celebration of Marian feasts. For each feast, he provides a well-informed and balanced discussion entitled "Reflection," on questions which may occur to thoughtful and intelligent participants in liturgy. The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, gives rise to a discussion of the origin and Christological significance of the title Theotokos. The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is the occasion to discuss the significance of shrines and apparitions: the discernment of apparitions and the type of belief which they warrant; shrines as places of pilgrimage; the centrality of the Eucharist at Marian shrines. Popular piety (the way Christianity is incarnated in culture) and its characteristics---spontaneous, festive, open to the transcendent, based on communal memory- are considered in relation to August 5, the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
Sometimes, "Reflection" presents the conclusions from contemporary scholarly discussions. In other cases, a Marian prerogative or title, formulated long ago but now little understood and appreciated, is given new meaning. Within the long history of theology and Marian devotion, many titles which at one time conveyed valid and valuable insights today appear irrelevant. For example, grace was once presented in quantitative terms, something channeled and passed on; in this context, Mary as "mediatrix of grace" had meaning. Now, however, grace is presented not so much as something passed on but as a loving relation with the living God. What is, then, the meaning of the title "mediatrix of grace"? Mary is the model or the form through which grace is communicated; she is "the model which God uses in gracing us." Mary's person and loveliness give us the image of the person graced by God.
Through these discussions, a liturgical handbook becomes a compendium of current questions in Mariology. The discussions are honest and critical, not hesitating to deal with the relation of past formulations to contemporary concerns. A valuable bibliography is appended to each discussion.
The title, At Worship with Mary, is well-chosen. We are frequently reminded of the theocentric nature of Marian devotion. On Mary's feasts, we "join in Mary's praise of God's good- ness to her, and through her also to us. " How does Mary contribute to our worship? She is a model for the Church at worship, and she provides a vision of beauty-a vision which does not threaten but only draws us on. Her feasts are moments of repose and refreshment on our journey. "Beauty cannot be possessed; it can only be enjoyed...the admiration of her beauty causes us to marvel also at our own. "
--Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.Return to Book Review Index
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