The Person of Mary: Cultural background (Jewishness) ©

The charts below are direct quotes from Post-Vatican II Magisterial Documents concerning the theme, Mary's Jewishness. These teachings of the Catholic Church may prove useful to include in talks, in homilies or for research. For the full title and document data, click on the abbreviation code (for example, BYM leads you to the document, Behold Your Mother). This will also lead you to the complete document on this website or assist you in locating it elsewhere.

For an index of the documents used in the study see: List of Magisterial Documents
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Documents V. The Person of Mary / 2. Cultural background (Jewishness)
Lumen Gentium, 1964
  • exalted daughter of Sion 55
  • being of the race of Adam 53
  • daughter of Adam 56
Signum Magnum, 1967
  • humble virgin of Nazareth 25
Behold Your Mother (USA), 1973
  • a daughter of Adam (LG 56) 55
  • In the tradition of her people she recognized that God gives life and watches over its growth. "Just as you do not know the way of the wind or the mysteries of a woman with child, no more do you know the work of God who is behind it all." (Eccl 11:5; see also Ps 138 (139):13; 2 Mc 7:22) 131
  • According to the customs of her time and people, Mary was probably no more than fourteen when her parents arranged her marriage, and Joseph probably about eighteen [years old]. 143
Marialis Cultus, 1974
  • [regarding anthropological guidelines] the Virgin Mary has always been proposed to the faithful by the Church as an example to be imitated, not precisely in the type of life she led, and much less for the socio cultural background in which she lived and which today scarcely exists anywhere. She is held up as an example to the faithful rather for the way in which, in her own particular life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God (cf. Lk. 1:38), because she heard the word of God and acted on it, and because charity and a spirit of service were the driving force of her actions. 35
  • It should be considered quite normal for succeeding generations of Christians in differing socio cultural contexts to have expressed their sentiments about the Mother of Jesus in a way and manner which reflected their own age. 36
  • When the Church considers the long history of Marian devotion, she rejoices at the continuity of the element of cult which it shows, but she does not bind herself to any particular expression of an individual cultural epoch or to the particular, anthropological ideas underlying such expressions. The Church understands that certain outward religious expressions, while perfectly valid in themselves, may be less suitable to men and women of different ages and cultures. 36
Sharing the Light of Faith (USA), 1979
  • Catholics and Jews share a common heritage - a heritage not only of biblical revelation rooted in faith in the one true God and the liberation of the exodus event, but also in the, family origins of Jesus, Mary, and the apostles. 77
Dives in Misericordia, 1980
  • two voices ... in Luke's Gospel ... They express the semantic elements linked to the differentiated terminology of the ancient books. Mary, entering the house of Zechariah, magnifies the Lord with all her soul for "his mercy," which "from generation to generation" is bestowed on those who fear Him. A little later, as she recalls the election of Israel, she proclaims the mercy which He who has chosen her holds "in remembrance" from all time. [hesed] [Zechariah is the second voice] 5
Redemptoris Mater, 1987
  • Virgin of Nazareth 8, 12, 27, 37, 43, 46, 51
  • [Elizabeth's home] "a city of Judah" (Lk. 1:39) According to scholars this city would be the modern Ain Karim, situated in the mountains, not far from Jerusalem. 12
The VM in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, 1988
  • Attention of the Church to Mary of Nazareth runs through the centuries. 2
Redemptoris Custos, St. Joseph, 1989
  • Luke refers to Mary as "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph." (Lk 1:27) Even before the "mystery hidden for ages" (Eph 3:9) began to be fulfilled, the Gospels set before us the image of husband and wife. According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his own house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her "husband." Mary, however, preserved her deep desire to give herself exclusively to God. One may well ask how this desire of Mary's could be reconciled with a "wedding." The answer can only come from the saving events as they unfold, from the special action of God himself. From the moment of the Annunciation, Mary knew that she was to fulfill her virginal desire to give herself exclusively and fully to God precisely by becoming the Mother of God's Son.. Becoming a Mother by the power of the Holy Spirit was the form taken by her gift of self: a form which God himself expected of the Virgin Mary, who was "betrothed" to Joseph. Mary uttered her fiat. The fact that Mary was "betrothed" to Joseph was part of the very plan of God. This is pointed out by Luke and especially by Matthew. The words spoken to Joseph are very significant: "Do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20). These words explain the mystery of Joseph's wife: In her motherhood Mary is a virgin. In her, "the son of the Most High" assumed a human body and became "the Son of Man." 18
  • This "just" man, who, in the spirit of the noblest traditions of the Chosen People, loved the Virgin of Nazareth and was bound to her by a husband's love, was once again called by God to this love. 19
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994
Fidei Depositum, 1992
Jewishness of Mary: 423, 488, 528, 529, 531, 532, 583, 593 [BB]

423 We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem ....

Orientale Lumen, 1995
Ut Unum Sint, 1995
  • My gaze turns to the Orientale Lumen which shines from Jerusalem (cf. Is 60:1; Rv 21:10), the city where the Word of God, made man for our salvation, a Jew "descended from David according to the flesh," (Rom 1:3; 2 Tm 2:8) died and rose again. In that holy city, when the day of Pentecost had come and "they were all together in one place," (Acts 2:1) the Paraclete was sent upon Mary and the disciples. From there the good news spread throughout the world because, filled with the Holy Spirit, "they spoke the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31) From there, from the mother of all the churches, the Gospel was preached to all nations. OL 2
Novo Millennio Ineunte, 2001
  • Christianity is a religion rooted in history! It was in the soil of history that God chose to establish a covenant with Israel and so prepare the birth of the Son from the womb of Mary "in the fullness of time." (Gal 4:4) 5
  • They recorded his religious fervor, which prompted him to make annual pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem with his family (cf. Lk 2:41), and made him a regular visitor to the synagogue of his own town (cf. Lk 4:16). 18
Ecclesia in Oceania, 2001
  • Authentic inculturation of the Christian faith is grounded in the mystery of the Incarnation.(41) "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3:16); in a particular time and place, the Son of God took flesh and was "born of a woman." (Gal 4:4) To prepare for this momentous event, God chose a people with a distinctive culture, and he guided its history on the path towards the Incarnation. 53

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.

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