The Vision of the Beloved Disciple: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John.

George T. Montague, S.M.
New York: Alba House, 2000.

This is an original approach to the Fourth Gospel: seeing it through the eyes and faith of the author. "The anonymous disciple" is also the universal disciple with whom all can identify. The identification is not with the author's achievements, for which he wishes no recognition. Rather the identification is through a personal relation, a sharing the faith of "the disciple whom Jesus loved."

The reader is invited to experience the impact of the beloved disciple's vision of Jesus. The principal scenes of John's Gospel are presented: Nicodemus on rebirth, the Samaritan woman, the healing of the paralytic, Mary Magdalene, the Calvary scene, the post-Easter appearances. At the same time, the reader enters into the deeper themes of the Gospel: Jesus' gift of the Holy Spirit, the Paschal mystery, communion, the gift of Mary, and evangelization. The final section compares Cana and Calvary, where what was anticipated in one is completed in the other.

As in his many other works, Fr. Montague continues his tradition of allowing the reader to draw the advantage of many contemporary biblical approaches, without intimidating scholarly references. Each section ends with questions related to "real life" for prayer and discussion.

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El Secreto de sus Ojos: Estudio de los Ojos de la Virgen de Guadalupe
José Aste Tönsmann
México: Tercer Milenio S.A., 1999

In 1531, ten years after the Spanish conquered Mexico, as Juan Diego came before the bishop to present to him roses which he gathered in December, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was revealed on the cloak which contained the roses. Each year, ten million people visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City where Juan Diego's cloak is on public display. For more than four centuries, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been an object of veneration and also of investigation.

Beginning in the seventeenth century, studies were made into the style of the painting, the origin, a possible relation to some other style. The preservation of the painting on the cactus cloth, which should have deteriorated after twenty years, and the unfading brightness of the colors remain unexplainable. Infrared photography and computer enhancement of the image, begun in the 1980's could not find the "under sketch" which most artists would need for such work. This finding - plus the style, the colors, the design, and the preservation - caused the investigators to conclude that the work was the result of many "impossible coincidences."

But it is the eyes of the image which have fascinated investigators for the past fifty years. In the last century, two nineteenth-century ophthalmologists (Purkinje and Sanson) discovered that whatever is seen in the eye is also reflected in the eye (actually reflected in three places due to the curvature of the cornea). In the 1950's, an examination of the eyes of the image, by Dr. Rafael Torija-Lavoignet, identified the figure of Juan Diego. The most recent investigations of the eyes were conducted by Dr. José Aste Tönsmann, (Ph.D., Cornell University, Systems Engineering) who applied the same techniques used to interpret images received from surveillance satellites. The eyes of the image (about eight millimeters), were amplified twenty-five hundred times. The photos were digitally processed, and filters were used to separate the layers within the images. Dr. Tönsmann found more than the image of Juan Diego. Within the eyes were a group of thirteen people, including Bishop Zumarraga, Juan Diego, a seated Indian figure, a younger man acting as interpreter for the bishop, a male and a female with African characteristics (referred to in Zumarraga's will), the governor of the colony (Sebastian Ramirez y Fuenleal, and, standing in the back, a family group (man, woman, and several children). The same thirteen images, save one, are found in both eyes, This discovery of the family group in the Virgin's eyes, Dr. Tönsmann concluded, may be a "hidden message," reserved for our time, intended to strengthen family life.

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Mary for All Christians
John Macquarrie
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991
John Macquarrie (an Anglican Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church at the University of Oxford until his retirement in 1986) offers a clear theological presentation of Mary in the context of the ecumenical discussion. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Anglicans will appreciate the solid Mariological presentation. The book is appropriate for ecumenical dialogue.
Mary for All Christians consists of six chapters which are in tune with ecclesial and ecumenical developments since Vatican II. Chapter one, "God and the Feminine," is not so advanced as are some of the moderate discussions from American feminist theologians like Elizabeth A. Johnson and Anne Carr. This may be due to the slower pace of feminism in England and on the continent. Macquarrie's use of language demonstrates some unfamiliarity with current feminist thought. From a male perspective, I found this chapter least appealing. On the other hand, when read in connection with the final chapter, "Mary and Modernity," a better synthesis appears and some challenging ideas about individual and political morality are presented. Macquarrie has great skill as systematic theologian, always clear and comprehensible. Particularly insightful is the contrast and comparison of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity with the virtues of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment--liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Chapter two, "Mary in the New Testament," is a fine essay on the passages of the New testament in which Mary is mentioned either directly or indirectly. The skill of Macquarrie consists in a creative and positive presentation--neither minimalist nor maximalist. This chapter would be excellent for ecumenical dialogue.
Succeeding chapters treat the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and Mary as Mediatrix. These titles are explored in the light of both history and theology. As he explores the history of the development of dogmas, Macquarrie notes a defensiveness in the explanations of the Catholic Church. He relies on Catholic theologians for understanding the titles, while pointing out the shortcomings of such titles in the light of the Scriptures and Church history.
I recommend this work for discussion in ecumenical groups willing to consider the person and role of Mary in the Church and the Scriptures. It would also be a fine gift to seminarians and pastors of all denominations.

--Bertrand Buby, S.M.

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The Forthbringer of God:
St. Bonaventure on the Virgin Mary

George H. Tavard
Franciscan Herald Press, 1989

George Tavard's work on St. Bonaventure stems from his involvement in the Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on the Virgin Mary (begun in 1984 and not yet completed) and his long-standing interest in the thirteenth-century Franciscan.
Bonaventure, along with Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, opposed what he considered to be the unauthorized liturgical celebration of the feast of Mary's Conception. For that reason, he may have been eclipsed in recent Marian studies by Duns Scotus, another Franciscan, who proposed the basis for the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Although Bonaventure wrote no separate work on the Virgin Mary, references to her are found throughout his writings. Fr. Tavard's book is divided into four parts, which follow the pattern of Sentences; "Scriptural Meditations"--from his biblical commentaries; "Liturgical Piety"--from his homilies on the Virgin Mary; and "Mystical Insight"--from his non-scholastic works of spirituality.
Much of Bonaventure's thought on the Virgin Mary is focused on the Annunciation. "In her task as channel for the Incarnation, Mary brought forth to us the Word of God Incarnate." Mary's cooperation with the Holy Spirit in the conception and the birth of Christ constitutes the basis for the title, "Forthbringer of God," a more exact rendering of Theotocos than "Mother of God," and a title which expresses the aspect of divine motherhood most emphasized by Bonaventure.
The thought of Bonaventure is profoundly Christocentric: Christ the word made flesh is at the center, with a radiation outward to include the Holy Spirit, the Church, humanity. In the thought of Bonaventure, Mary's sinlessness and her Assumption are seen not so much as "privileges," but as icons or images of the ultimate reality in Christ and its projection into the Church.
The thought of Bonaventure on Mary might appear remote. Fr. Tavard, however, believes that many of the categories with which we now speak of the Virgin Mary have become obsolete and hinder ecumenism. He offers the work as a contribution to the ecumenical dialogue, in the hope that the thought of the great thirteenth-century Franciscan mystic and theologian, who wrote before the definition of the Marian dogmas, may one day contribute to new ways of speaking about the Virgin Mary.

--Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.

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At Worship with Mary:
A Pastoral and Theological Study

Christopher O'Donnell, O.Carm
Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1988

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 then 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 the 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 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 Mariololgy. The discussions are honest and critical, not hesitating to deal with the relation of past formulations of 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 goodness 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.

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A Doorway to Silence:
The Contemplative Use of The Rosary

Robert Llewelyn
New York: Paulist Press, 1986

The recent letter of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Christian Meditation," acknowledges that many Christians who seek a contemplative form of prayer look to the East for guidance. Robert Llewelyn, well-versed in the writings of the fourteenth-century English mystic Julian of Norwich, reminds us in this little book that for the last thousand years the West has had a prayer which can be used in a contemplative way--the Rosary.
The Rosary is a combination of different approaches to prayer. During its long history in the West, it has changed and developed. At times, it was a substitute for the psalter or the Western version of the East's slow, rhythmical repetition of the Jesus Prayer. The Pater Nosters and the Ave Marias were joined in various arrangements, until a Carthusian, Henry of Kalkar, suggested the formula of fifteen decades of Ave Marias, each decade introduced by a Pater Noster. Exactly 450 years ago, another Carthusian, Adolph of Essen, suggested that meditations on the mysteries of Christ be part of praying the Aves. Spreading devotion to the Rosary became a special work of the Dominican order. After its official approval in 1569, the Rosary remained unchanged until recently. Now both papal and episcopal documents have reminded us that there is no one way alone in which the Rosary must be prayed.

The reason many may become discouraged with the Rosary is that they have approached it with too much energy and determination and tried to accomplish too much. Don John Chapman wrote that a simple thought in connection with each mystery was the best approach. "If you try to make a mental picture, you will waste time and energy and get no good," he said. Llewelyn unravels the strands in the Rosary's development and presents us with a form of prayer, simpler than usually presented. The Rosary, or a rosary-like prayer, is a way of keeping prayer on course, of directing focus. It can become a prayer of patience and healing, of praise and thanksgiving. As Llewelyn says, the principle of the Rosary is more important than any particular use which we might make of it.
In his letter on the right ordering of Marian devotion, Paul VI spoke at length of the Rosary. Individuals are free to use the Rosary in many forms, he said, and they should be drawn to it because of its intrinsic appeal. Llewelyn's small book helps us to see the Rosary in different ways and invites us to test its value in our lives. Paradoxically, and true to Julian of Norwich, what is important is not how we pray the Rosary but whether the praying leads us to explore the loving silence which lies beyond it.

--Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.

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Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Poor
Ivone Gebara and Maria Clara Bingemer
Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1989

This book is a first in several ways: it is a comprehensive approach to Mary, the first to appear in English in recent years; it was written by two women--one a religious and the other a lay person; and it is based on the conviction that the poor, who have a special place in the Kingdom of God, can teach much about the meaning of God's Word today. Finally, it is the first major work on Mary from Orbis Books, the publishing house which makes available in English the writings of many South American theologians.
This "rereading of Mary from the point of view of our age" begins with two chapters on underlying suppositions and hermeneutics. Because of the continuity between those who now "live in history" and those--Mary and the saints--who now "live in God," the experience and faith of people today can speak of Mary. In place of the "male-centered, dualistic, idealist, and unidimensional" approaches of the past, the authors choose to study Mary in a "human-centered, unifying, realist, pluridimensional" way. They use the voices and aspirations of women and the poor to show the place of Mary in today's world.
After the two opening chapters which establish and justify their approach, the succeeding chapters--on Scripture, the Marian dogmas, and Marian devotions--illustrate how this approach can bring forth a new way of thinking about Mary. In every context, she is presented as deeply and intimately related to the concerns of people. She is part of the Kingdom of God present in history. The new people of God is "begotten in the woman who is the figure of the people." Mary's motherhood continues in every place and individual where the reign of God's Word becomes a living and active force. The final chapter, "Mary and God's Wonders among the Poor," contains an analysis of the Magnificat in which Mary affirms the desire for life for God's people and engages herself in the struggle against evil.
 
The traditional objection to Mariology which arises from the people is that it will be an impoverished one. However, when the people are the poor whose patience and sufferings are sustained by a belief in a God who loves justice, the result is a Mariology rooted in the living faith. A good book for those interested in a rich reinterpretation of all we say about Mary.

--Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.


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