Galilee (Volume III): The Marian Heritage of the Early Church
New York: Alba House, 1997
Mary of Galilee is the name of a trilogy of works by Fr. Buby,
volumes inspired by the vision and spirit of Vatican II's Lumen
gentium (chapter 8), Dei Verbum, and the Congregation for Catholic
Education's letter, "The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual
Formation." From these seeds germinated this three-volume study of Mary in
the Scriptures and in its earliest commentators.
Volume I treated Mary in the New Testament; volume II examined Mary in the
Hebrew Scriptures, the Liturgy, and the Catechism of the Catholic
Church. The third volume explores the Marian doctrine and devotion of
the first five centuries of Christianity. A pervading theme throughout the
work is that the Marian heritage of the Church must be continually
reexamined, reappropriated, and transmitted to future generations. The author
outlines the Marian teachings of the early preachers and writers, while
calling the reader to affirmation and response. The early writers pondered
the Scriptures, while involved in all the controversies of the era. Each
wrote in a distinctive style as they searched for fresh images to communicate
the Christian message. Slowly, new terms developed. Political terminology was
used: Jesus became the "Pantocrator" (the Almighty), the extension of
"Kyrios" (Lord). Mary was "Theotokos," God-bearer or forth-bringer of God.
More than twenty vignettes are presented to entice the reader to respond to
the image of the Mary which the authors present. Excerpts are taken from
Ignatius of Antioch, Justin, Irenaeus, the Protogospel of James. A chapter
deals with Mary in the Koran.
The final chapter contains ten biblical principals employed by the early
writers, together with six conclusions about their way of presenting the
Virgin Mary. The select bibliography is a significant contribution, providing
an overview of the apochryphal and patristic literature. The text reads
smoothly and is always mindful of the pastoral implications of each topic.
Both the reader seeking general information as well as the student looking
for bibliographical leads will find this volume interesting and useful.
-John Samaha, S.M.
Book Review Index
Thousand Faces of the Virgin Mary
George H. Tavard
Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996
Fr. Tavard began his book on Anglican orders saying that he had resolved not
to write more on that topic unless something new could be said. He could have
made a similar resolve about the Blessed Virgin, for much in this book has
not been said before. Marian titles are not the subject of this book. Rather
it is an examination of Mary's relation to "Christian doctrines in a broad
ecumenical perspective." The broad ecumenical perspective includes the place
of Mary in the Scriptures, the apochryphal literature, the Koran; the images
of Mary in Eastern Orthodoxy, in Protestantism, in poetry, in popular
devotion and apparitions. There are also instructive chapters on female
symbols of the Absolute in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Tavard should be recognized as a pioneer of Christian feminism, one who wrote
on the topic before the term gained currency. He insists that grammatical
gender is no indication of the reality. He also shows that the equality of
women is independent of whether a society is matriarchal and patriarchal,
both of which have alternated in the course of history. He is concerned about
Scriptural texts cited to justify destruction of the earth--Gaia--and its
resources. To the medieval trilogy which related Church, Mary, and soul, he
To attempt an ecumenical treatise on Mary is no small challenge, since both
the World Council of Churches and the bilateral ecumenical discussions have
shown great reluctance to discuss Marian doctrine and devotion. When the
churches are ready to discuss the Marian doctrine, Tavard suggests the two
Marian definitions of 1854 and 1950 be restated in a way that the whole of
Christian tradition, including Orthodoxy and Protestantism can contribute to
its formulation. This may well be the "ultimate test of ecumenical
There is an impassioned ecumenism in these pages, not unlike the insistence
on the need for Christian unity found in John Paul II's encyclical That
All May Be One. In both works, unity is not something which is added to
the Gospel, but something which stands at the heart of the Christian message
(#9). Its absence is a "grave obstacle" to the preaching of the Gospel." In
the matter of definition of doctrines, Tavard states that "authorities of the
Church should strive for pastoral reasons to make the path of salvation less
onerous." The Pope states, that in the journey toward unity, "one must not
impose any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary." (#78) (cf. Acts 15, 28) The encyclical asks "What more needs to be done?" Fr. Tavard's book is
full of suggestions.
--Thomas A. Thompson, S.M.
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Lady, the Mother of Jesus in Christian Faith and Devotion
London: SCM Press, 1996
While it may be "an exaggeration to speak of a Marian movement in
contemporary Anglicanism," recent works by Donald Allchin, John Macquarrie,
and Norman Pittenger suggest some stirrings. In this work, Pittenger
continues his life's project of making the entire fabric of Christian
theology accessible in process conceptual categories.
Pittenger sees the roots of Marian reflection in the gospel traditions,
refracted through the experience of the Christian community. The gospels are
written ex fide, in fidem, to express and invoke faith. The virginal
conception in the Lukan and Matthaean infancy narratives affirms that "Jesus
[is] genuinely from God rather than to assert the supposed virginity of his
mother." In the apocryphal literature, Pittenger distinguishes between sheer
legend and genuine myth. The second Eve, the perpetual virginity, and the
Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary are all classified as
"mariological mythology." The Freudian discovery that a mother has an
overwhelming influence for good or bad on the conduct of her child is an
inductive indication of the Immaculate Conception.
In the Annunciation, Mary's response to the divine initiative makes her "a
model of all genuine Christian discipleship." The doctrine of the communion
of saints expresses our reliance and interdependence upon one another in the
order of grace which, for Pittenger, corresponds also to the order of nature.
The inter-connexion of all actual entities in the becoming of creation
reflects God's Being as Communion, and Mary's Fiat exemplified that
appropriate response as God lures creation eschatologically to himself. The
most problematic aspect of Pittenger's work are his references to Jesus as "a
peculiarly vivid and decisive revelation of the deity," "a disclosure of God
as 'pure unbounded Love," and the consequent reluctance to speak of Mary as
"Mother of God."
This book is announced as his "last work" in the career of man who has
dedicated himself to "bringing the truth of Christianity out of the cloister
or the study and giving it currency in the living thought of men and women
today." While affirming his contribution to rendering theology accessible,
the highest accolade for this his final work is one of firm and critical
--Owen F. Cummings
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Mount Angel Seminary
Search of Mary: The Woman and the Symbol
New York: Ballantine Books, 1996
In Search of Mary is a personal search. It is the author's attempt
to piece together images of Mary that have been important to her but whose
meaning has changed. In this inquiry, she examines the New Testament, looks
at the role of Mary in the struggling church of the early centuries, evokes
the emergence of the God-bearer in the patristic era. Sally Cunneen deals
with differing views toward Mary among Catholics and Protestants, her
inculturation in the nations of the New World, and the nineteenth-century
developments of Marian apparitions and devotions. As the author reaches the
present, her image of Mary escapes the purely traditional expressions and
offers fresh discoveries that are meaningful to contemporary men and women.
This attractive and readable book on Mary evokes a matured Marina Warner but
does not espouse her conclusions. Mary is not a fossilized symbol anymore.
Both woman and symbol, she is very much alive and even useful. "Whether we
are believers or nonbelievers, it is worthwhile to think about Mary today if
only to clarify our attitude to religion in general." In Search of
Mary attempts a dialogue between theological insights and artistic
creation, between the place of Mary in earlier eras and interpretations by
contemporary, mostly feminine, viewers. The result is that of a complex
Marian figure almost infinitely malleable but a powerful presence for
millions and women for two thousand years.
--Johann Roten, S.M.
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Our Lady of
Guadalupe: the Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol,
Stafford Poole, C.M.
Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996
Stafford Poole writes as a historian seeking documentation for apparitions at
Guadalupe to Blessed Juan Diego, popularly believed to have taken place in
1531. In the past quarter century, there have been many serious studies on
Guadalupe--Jacques Lafaye, Mauro Rodriguez, Edmundo O'Gorman. The story of
Guadalupe is "complex and tortuous in the extreme," and this is perhaps the
fullest and clearest available, thanks to the author's familiarity with
Nahuatl, the native language.
That a Marian shrine existed at Guadalupe from the first half of the
sixteenth century is not disputed. Popular literature will continue to date
Guadalupe in 1531 under Bishop Zumarraga, but scholarly opinions will date it
to the mid-1550s and Archbishop Montufar. What is questioned is why the
account of the apparition was not written until 1648 by Miguel Sanchez, who
appeared to use the shrine to promote a national criollo identity. The author
seems unaware of the twin traditions, found from 1556 to 1666, one of which
stresses the role of the Bishop Zumarraga and the gift of the image, and the
other which speaks of Mary's promises and the cure of Juan Diego's uncle. The
work concentrates on the written accounts, while the oral traditions which
allowed Sanchez to synthesize the traditions are neglected. Though the style
is readable, the author writes as a dispassionate observer, rarely showing
the sympathy of a William Christian or William Taylor towards the pilgrims,
nor much admiration for their trust in Providence.
--Martinus Cawley, OCSC
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