The Light of the East
|These documents are considered for
this study because of the request of Marialis Cultus to consider
ecumenism as one of the four principles for teaching about Mary.
Since the two documents were published within the same month, they
are treated together here.
Ecumenism - perhaps more precisely, unity between East and West - had been a major focus in Pope John XXIII's reason for convening a Vatican council. In the thirty years since the council, work had progressed to further common dialogue. With the papacy of an Eastern European pope, Pope John Paul II has drawn attention to the East. In his writings on Mary, he refers to the rich traditions of the East. Previous documents on Mary had opened the way for Western exploration of these rich Eastern Traditions (See, for example, Redemptoris Mater 30-34).
Orientale Lumen, The Light of the East is theological in nature. The Eastern approach sees the unbroken line established by Christ to return to the Father, a line where all have a place and all are sharers. The doctrine on Mary in the document indicates the place she has in this line in Eastern thought.
Pope John Paul II situates the revelation of the Incarnation and establishment of the Church, in the East, in Jerusalem, (cf. Is 60:1; Rv 21:10) in the one place on Pentecost where the followers of Jesus had gathered. Mary is present. The Paraclete was sent upon her and the disciples.
Mary's "figure is ... the fulfillment of so many Old Testament prefigurations." She "is an icon of the Church, the symbol and anticipation of humanity transfigured by grace, the model and the unfailing hope for all those who direct their steps toward the heavenly Jerusalem." (OL 6) Mary's place is among the saints along the Church's path of divinization. Mary has "an altogether special place among them. From her sprang the shoot of Jesse (cf. Is 11:1) (OL 6).
A subtopic of the document touches the issue of inculturation, that is, to give voice to one's own heritage of culture and thought. This is the "right of every people." (OL 7) The East is "an authoritative example of successful inculturation." (OL 7) Marian devotion in the East expresses and is a model for inculturation. The Eastern cultural expressions of liturgy and devotion can enrich the way we view Mary and her indivisible unity with Christ and the Church.
The Eastern thought concerning divinization of the human person is seen in the image of Mary who has been made a sharer in the divine through Christ and the Holy Spirit in her role as Theotokos.
The document gives examples and concludes with the following Marian examples of prayer and devotion:
Mary, "mother of the star that never sets," (Akathistos) "dawn of the mystical day," (ibid.) "Rising of the sun of glory," (Horologion, Sunday Compline in the Byzantine liturgy) shows us the Orientale Lumen. Every day in the East the sun of hope rises again, the light that restores life to the human race. It is from the East, according to a lovely image, that our Savior will come again. (cf. Mt 24:27) (OL 28)
Ut Unum Sint
Part one of Ut Unum Sint is titled, "The Catholic Church's Commitment to Ecumenism." Catholics are reminded of Vatican II's exhortation in Unitatis Redintegratio, for "all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to participate actively in the work of ecumenism." (UR 1) The document is not so much concerned with the presentation of doctrine, but is a pastoral call to ecumenism describing the methods to be used.
Ut Unum Sint teaches that ecumenism fulfills the Lord's prayer, "that they may all be one." (Jn 17:21) (UUS 1) Within this context, the primacy of prayer and the importance of doctrine are discussed. Part two speaks of the progress that has been made, "The Fruits of Dialogue," and points out especially the common ground for dialogue. The third section is titled, "Quanta est nobis via?" How much further do we have to travel? Mary is mentioned in this third part as one of the "areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of faith can be achieved." (UUS 79)
The final item in the list of five topics needing fuller study is: "the Virgin Mary, as mother of God and icon of the church, the spiritual mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and for all humanity." (UUS 79) The document explains the method to be used in the study. Look first for the things that are similar: "'elements of sanctification and truth' which in various ways are present and operative beyond the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church ... 'Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the holy eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits'. (UR 15; UUS 12)
Regarding Mary, the common foundation was given in the briefest strokes. The evident themes are:
|Link to complete document|
Lumen - The Light of the East
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(1995):745-774; Origins 25 (1995):1f
Origins 25 (1995):49-72
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