instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Mary Timeline

The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute's Mary Page -- actually an extensive set of pages, hosted by the University of Dayton -- includes a list of New Testament references to Mary, adapted from Mary, of Galilee: Mary in the New Testament by Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.

What's interesting about the list of references is that it's ordered chronologically, beginning with the letters of St. Paul. This presents a different picture than the usual book ordering, which would start with the Gospel According to St. Matthew, which of course talks about Mary in the very first chapter.

In his letters, St. Paul is not at all interested in the person of Mary, except insofar as she signifies the fact that "God sent his Son, born of a woman," "descended from David according to the flesh." In other words, his point is that Jesus is both human and divine, which means He did have a human mother, but he draws no implications, he doesn't even imply that there are any implications, about the Christian's relationship with Jesus' mother.

Then we have the Gospels (and Acts):
  • Mark, with "a clear silhouette of a devout Jewish mother who is concerned about the activity of her son, Jesus."
  • Matthew, who show us "the Mother of the Messiah who is also a virgin," who "brings to a conclusion the long expectation for a Davidic Messiah," who "represents a promise to the Gentiles or the Nations because she, too, like Abraham is among those who believe in God's promise of salvation."
  • Luke/Acts, which "give us the essential framework for the beginnings of an authentic study of Mary... Mary, the mother of the Lord, is primarily a believer who has been with Jesus from his conception, to his birth, his infancy, childhood, and manhood. She continues as a believer after his death and is present when Jesus' promise of his Spirit is given at Pentecost... It is within this Lucan perspective that any study of Mary should begin for he is the only evangelist who has through his own theological purpose developed this portrait of Mary as a woman of faith who speaks, prays, and listens in the name of her son Jesus."
  • John, which gives us "remembrances of traditions about Jesus and his followers and family which were not recorded elsewhere," chiefly Mary's presence at the foot of the cross.
And finally, the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation.

Scripture itself, then, presents a gradual unfolding in understanding Mary's role in the salvation worked for us through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Little surprise, then, that this unfolding has continued since the death of the last Apostle, and that a sola Scriptura approach to the Christian faith has such trouble achieving the level of understanding the Church has achieved.

Objections to Marian doctrines, even those raised by Catholics, will not be overcome by reasserting the doctrines, but by going all the way back to points of agreement and carefully recapitulating the threads of insight that led to the statements of the doctrines the Church has made. This, of course, presupposes a relationship, a friendship even, capable of such patient dialog.