Friday, May 06, 2005

Mariology of Pope Benedict XVI

In The Ratzinger Report Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, made some comments about Mary in the life of the Church.

Ratzinger candidly admitted, that as a young theologian, the declaration of the Virgin as Theotokos (Mother of God) and 'the conqueror of all heresies', at the Council of Ephesus in 431, seemed to him to be a matter of pious exaggeration, but now in this age of "heretical aberration", these are "truths that today are more valid than ever." To Jesus through Mary.

Many Protestants do not have a problem with the validity of many Marian doctrines, but instead are concerned about the emphasis that Catholics place on Mary. Ratzinger gives reasons why Catholics have this emphasis.

Ratzinger's six brief points about the importance of Mary in the Church:

1. Marian dogmas protect the faith of Christ as true God and true man.

2. Mariology provides an integration between Scripture and Tradition.

3. Mary is the link between the Old Testament and New Testament.

4. Marian devotion unifies reason and "the reasons of the heart", giving faith its full human dimension.

5. Mary as 'figure,' 'image' and 'model' of the Church, shields the Church from a "masculinized model" that sees it as merely a social-political action organization.

6. Mary is a model of authentic femininity, much needed in the world today. She showed both obedience with her Fiat and courage while standing under the Cross.

In THOUGHTS ON THE PLACE OF MARIAN DOCTRINE AND PIETY IN FAITH AND THEOLOGY AS A WHOLE , Ratzinger reports on two schools of thought before the Second Vatican Council. The ecumenical and biblical movements wanted to reform the Church by returning to purely Scriptural sources and primitive church prayers, while the Marian Movement was influenced by Medieval forms of devotion and the numerous recent Marian apparitions. The liturgical movement had a basically objective view, while the Marian movement was more subjective. The Council Fathers were sharply divided between these viewpoints, and an unfortunate opposition between them developed, although these two views are actually complementary. "Nevertheless, the part of the Council Fathers shaped by the biblical and liturgical movements had won a victory—albeit a narrow one—and thus brought about a decision whose significance can hardly be overestimated," as we see today in the state of our Liturgy. This is due to a sort of biblicism that erroneously developed in the popular mind where the patristic heritage was condemned as irrelevant.

The major flaw with biblicism is that it assumes that the Church went into decline after a time and that later developments within the Church were somehow not valid or to be denigrated. "The result of all of this was that the kind of thinking shaped by the liturgical movement narrowed into a biblicist-positivist mentality closed in a backward-looking attitude that thus left no more room for the dynamic development of the faith." And a greater danger could develop: "...the distance implied in historicism inevitably paves the way for “modernism”; since what is merely past is no longer living, it leaves the present isolated and so leads to self-concocted experimentation." Due to these errors, Mariology collapsed after the Council, and radical politics entered the void.

Misreadings of the Council's declaration on Mary need to be corrected. "Mariology, rightly understood, clarifies and deepens the concept of Church in two ways.

a) Contrarily to the masculine, activistic-sociological “populus Dei” (people of God) approach, Church—ecclesia—is feminine....

b) "Church is not an organization, but an organism of Christ," which can only be understood in terms of the formula in Genesis: “The two shall become one flesh”. In this way we say that Mary is the model of the Church.

"Mariology demonstrates that the doctrine of grace does not revoke creation, but is the definitive Yes to creation. In this way, Mariology guarantees the ontological independence of creation, undergirds faith in creation, and crowns the doctrine of creation, rightly understood. " Mariology unifies both the biological and the theological aspects of humanity. Modern thinking removes the concept of biology from the concept of man, and the biological is a " totally irrelevant triviality, as a constraint arising from historically fabricated “roles,” and is therefore consigned to the “purely biological realm,” which has nothing to do with man as such," which is evident in Feminism, which rejects motherhood. " Accordingly, this “purely biological” dimension is treated as a thing that man can manipulate at will because it lies beyond the scope of what counts as human and spiritual (so much so, that man can freely manipulate the coming into being of life itself)." "When man reduces this fundamental determination of his being to a despicable trifle that can be treated as a thing, he himself becomes a trifle and a thing, and his “liberation” turns out to be his degradation to an object of production. Whenever biology is subtracted from humanity, humanity itself is negated." This "liberation" ends up denying the right of a woman to be a woman. But the preservation of Creation requires womanhood. Woman is "the true keeper of the seal of creation", which men can only imitate.

Marian devotion "involves the heart, affectivity, and thus fixes faith solidly in the deepest roots of man’s being." "Marian piety is Advent piety; it is filled with the joy of the expectation of the Lord’s imminent coming; it is ordered to the incarnational reality of the Lord’s nearness as it is given and gives itself. Ulrich Wickert says very nicely that Luke depicts Mary as twice heralding Advent—at the beginning of the Gospel, when she awaits the birth of her Son, and at the beginning of Acts, when she awaits the birth of the Church." The Assumption of Mary "accentuates the eschatological transcendence of the Incarnation." Marian piety is a passion-centered piety: "In the prophecy of the aged Simeon, who foretold that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart (Lk 2:35), Luke interweaves from the very outset the Incarnation and the Passion..."

Ratzinger has three suggestions for Marian piety:

a) "It is necessary to maintain the distinctiveness of Marian devotion precisely by keeping its practice constantly and strictly bound to Christology. In this way, both will be brought to their proper form."

b) "Marian piety must not collapse into partial aspects of the Christian mystery, let alone reduce that mystery to partial aspects of itself. It must be open to the whole breadth of the mystery and become itself a means to this breadth."

c) "Marian piety will always stand within the tension between theological rationality and believing affectivity. This is part of its essence, and its task is not to allow either to atrophy." We must have a sober reasonable faith, but it must not suffocate the heart. "It may just be the task of Marian piety to awaken the heart and purify it in faith."

Regarding a declaration of Mary as Co-redemptrix, Ratzinger in God in the World said, “ I do not think there will be any compliance with this demand, which in the meantime is being supported by several million people, within the foreseeable future. The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is, broadly, that what is signified by this is already better expressed in other titles of Mary, while the formula “Co-redemptrix” departs to too great an extent from the language of Scripture and of the Fathers and therefore gives rise to misunderstandings."

In 1966, Pope Paul VI changed the code of canon law, to allow publishing of Marian apparitions without episcopal approval or authentication of miracles. It is known that Cardinal Ratzinger disapproved of this and thinks that the plethora of unapproved apparitions of recent decades is not helpful for the Church. Ratzinger was involved in the censure of the "Army of Mary" which claimed messages from the Virgin that were contrary to Revelation.

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