Since the 17th century, Mariology has designated the part of dogmatic theology that concerns the Blessed Virgin Mary in her relation to God and to her fellow creatures under God.
Origin and History. Revelation provides the primary data. "In the books of both the Old and New Testaments, the Sacred Scriptures tell us many glorious things about the Blessed Virgin… her virginal motherhood and unspotted holiness are expressly asserted" [Pius XII, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 46 (1954) 678]. However, it is not "possible to define adequately and to explain correctly the Blessed Virgin's great dignity and sublimity from the Sacred Scriptures alone … without taking into account Catholic tradition and the teaching authority of the Church" (ibid. ). Hence the importance of tracing the faith of the Church in the evidences of Christian tradition. Solemn pronouncements concerning Mary are few—only four doctrines are certainly dogmatically defined: divine motherhood, virginity, immaculate conception, assumption.
Development in Early Christian Authors. Early writings concerning Marian theology are in reflections on the Scriptures. The Pauline comparison of Jesus Christ to adam (Rom 5.15) is amplified in the 2d-century description of Mary as the new eve, bringing forth in obedience the Holy One, in contrast to the first Eve who brought forth disobedience and death (St. Justin, St. Irenaeus).
Evidence of the first three centuries reflects a clear conviction of Mary's virginity in conceiving Christ, ante partum (before childbirth), but does not yet show acceptance of Mary's virginity in partu (in childbirth), and post partum (after childbirth). Ambrose (d. 397) and Augustine (d. 430) defend Mary's virginity in and after the childbearing of Christ as well as in His conception (see virgin birth).
The holiness of Our Lady has an equally slow maturation in Christian consciousness. Some accuse her of fault; for example, of importunity at Cana (Irenaeus), of vainglory during her Son's public life (Chrysostom; cf. Mt 12.46), and even of doubt on Calvary (Origen). The patristic conviction of Mary's total freedom from personal sin is gradually strengthened; no serious question is raised about it after the definition of the divine maternity by the Council of ephesus (431; Enchiridion symbolorum, 251).
The delay in emergence of these Marian truths is explained in various ways. Christological and Trinitarian truths receive first attention. Possibilities of erroneous interpretation sometimes make the publication of a Marian truth inopportune. The Mediterranean pagan world knows of mother goddesses, and so Christianity cannot risk calling Mary mother of god prematurely. To hold Mary free of even the least personal sin seems to take away from Christ's unique holiness. Similarly, to state the virginal childbearing incautiously might play into the hands of Docetism, which denies a real body to Christ.
It is only in 649 that a Lateran council under Pope St. Martin I proclaims the perfect and perpetual virginity of Mary—before and after the birth of Jesus (Enchiridion symbolorum, 503). Historians of dogma disagree as to whether or not this council affirmed also the virginity in partu, although it is taught explicitly by Pope Paul IV (Enchiridion symbolorum, 1880). The Church has never specified the precise meaning of virginity in partu, but a common theological opinion is that it was a further miraculous sign of the divine origin of Christ.
Late Patristic, Early Medieval Times. By the 6th century the Assumption is being discussed, though there is need to distinguish between the exaggerations of the apocryphal Transitus Mariae (Passing of Mary) literature and authentic tradition. Other points of Marian doctrine are considered only in passing. Belief in the heavenly mediation of Mary underlies appeals to her intercession, as in the familiar prayer Sub tuum praesidium confugimus (We fly to thy patronage), traceable to at least a 4th-century Greek version. The title mediatrix appears in the 8th-century East with St. Andrew of Crete and St. Germanus of Constantinople; about the same time it comes to the West through Paul the Deacon's translation of "The Life of Theophilus" (although it might be said that recognition of the dates of the title's appearance varies).
An at least indirect spiritual maternity is found in early texts. Origen, for example, says that the Mother of Jesus can be called mother of those who are joined to Christ as John the beloved disciple was (Jn 19.26). St. Ambrose Autpert (d. 784) regards Mary as mater gentium (mother of the nations), mater credentium (mother of believers), and mater electorum (mother of the elect), whom she has generated in generating Christ.
As early as Epiphanius of Constantia (d. 403) Eve's title, mother of the living, is extended to Mary, but Mary's spiritual motherhood of the members of the mystical body appears clearly only in the 12th century, e.g., in Hermann of Tournai. A factor here is the mutual enrichment of Mariology and the theology about the Church. The maternal meaning that has always been part of the concept of the Church as new Eve is applied now
also to Our Lady as new Eve. "Like the Church of which she is the figure, Mary is mother of all those who are born again to life" (Guerric of Igny, d. 1155; Patrologia Latina, 185:188).
From the 12th century onward the meaning of Mary's compassion with Christ on Calvary becomes part of Mariology, e.g., in Rupert of Deutz, on "Woman, behold your son." In harmony with belief in the Assumption a stronger consciousness develops also of Mary's power to intercede for men's salvation, e.g., in John the Geometer in the 10th century.
Systematic Mariology. Systematic Mariology has its beginnings in St. anselm (d. 1109), father of scholasticism. His axiom is famous: "It was becoming that the Virgin should shine with a purity so great that nothing greater under God can be imagined. For to her God determined to give His only Son" (De conceptu virginali 18; Patrologia Latina, 158:451). St. Anselm relates Mary's sanctity and virginity, her mediation and intercession to the divine maternity.
St. bernard (d. 1153) preaches a sober, spiritual Marian theology in De laudibus beatae virginis (Patrologia Latina, 183:55–88), consisting of homilies on the Annunciation Gospel, Missus est (Lk 1.26). He compares Mary's mediation to an aqueduct bringing graces from Christ, the source. Never avant-garde in his Mariology, he does not call Mary spiritual mother; she is rather "Our Lady"—a powerful, yet tender queen of mercy. His opposition to the feast and doctrine of the conception of Mary sets a pattern followed by even the greatest scholastics (Patrologia Latina, 182:332–336).
Peter Lombard's Sentences devotes to Our Lady only a few questions by way of corollary to Christology. The commentaries of other schoolmen on the Sentences follow the lead of Lombard (d. 1160): St. Bonaventure's, St. Albert the Great's, St. Thomas Aquinas's. To appreciate the full Marian theology of the scholastics, their other writings need to be taken into account. The unknown author of the contemporary Mariale super missus est, once attributed to St. Albert, takes a step forward when he describes Mary in her compassion as "the associate of Christ, the helpmate similar to Him (Gn 2.21)."
St. Thomas shows deep insight into the divine maternity in the Summa theologiae. Starting from the revealed truth that Mary is Mother of Jesus, St. Thomas examines the holiness of Mary, her virginity, her dignity. His homiletic writings, on the Hail Mary, for example, introduce also Mary's mediation and queenship (see mary, blessed virgin, queenship of). He does not attempt a Mariological synthesis, and the necessity of Mary's Redemption inhibits him in the matter of the Immaculate Conception.
For centuries there is to be no significant advance in the overall approach to Mariology, although individual questions continue to be agitated. The prime example of these is the Immaculate Conception. duns scotus intuits the theological solution of the main problem besetting what the Church will eventually proclaim a dogma—the preservative Redemption of Mary from original sin.
J. Gerson (d. 1429) is a conspicuous exception in a mediocre period. In his sermons and in an explanation of the magnificat there is a rich Mariology-Mary's mediation, her queenship, her role in the Eucharist. The sermons of St. Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444) offer a sound theology of the mediation and Assumption. He attributes to Mary jurisdiction over all graces without exception.
Reformation and Aftermath. In accord with their theology of the communion of saints, the early reformers deny a privileged intercession on Mary's part; in practice, they forbid the invocation of Mary as prejudicial to the unique mediation of Christ. The Council of Trent devotes only slight attention to Our Lady, stating it has no intention of including her under the universal law of original sin, mentioning her freedom from actual sin (some theologians consider Trent to define this, e.g., J. de Aldama, SJ), and defending veneration of her images.
In the post-Tridentine theologians a great period opens for Mariology—not only in Spain, where Protestantism is not a domestic threat, but also in Germany, where the defense of Marian doctrine and devotion is a pressing need. St. Peter Canisius (d. 1597) refutes the Centuriators of Magdeburg with a wide use of quotations from Scripture and the Fathers, in a pioneering work of documention, De Maria virgine incomparabili. Francisco Suárez, SJ (d. 1617), deserves the title father of scientific Mariology. Suárez's Roman lectures (1584–85), Quaestiones, are an approach toward a full and separate tract of Mariology, although he is less bold in his definitive Marian theology, De mysteriis vitae Christi (1592). Both works contain extensive considerations on Mary's holiness. Suárez studies Mary's life as one of love of God, of grace demanded by the dignity of the divine maternity.
The 17th century is a high point in Marian theology. The relationship of Mary to the redemptive work of Christ is a prominent theme, e.g., in F. Q. Salazar, SJ (d.1646), S. Saavedra, Mercedarian (d. 1643?), and D. Petau, SJ (d. 1652). In Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle, founder of the French school, the central notion of Mariology is the "state of the Mother of God." Bérulle proposes a reverent admiration of the place of Mary in the mystery of the incarnation. St. John Eudes (d. 1680) writes of the doctrine underlying devotion to the Heart of Mary (see immaculate heart of mary). St. Louis Grignion de Montfort (d. 1716) develops the ideas of the French school in the direction of Mary's spiritual motherhood. In The Love of Eternal Wisdom Montfort mentions devotion to Mary as a preferred way to obtain Wisdom Incarnate, Jesus Christ. True Devotion elaborates this means.
By the end of the 17th century, however, the cold wind of jansenism is blowing strong. Jansenists are accused of minimizing devotion to Mary by denying her mediation and spiritual motherhood. A. Widenfeldt's controversial but often justly critical brochure, Monita salutaria (Ghent 1673; soon tr. into English as Wholesome Advices from the Blessed Virgin to her Indiscreet Worshippers, London 1687) provokes a storm in which the original work is often lost sight of. St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787) advocates, especially in The Glories of Mary, the universal mediation of Mary, not only against Jansenism and Protestantism, but also in reply to the hesitations of L. A. Muratori.
1854 to 1962. The definition of the Immaculate Conception (1854) inspires a flowering of Marian studies, exemplified in Newman and Scheeben. Writing in defense of the Immaculate Conception, Newman cites the patristic sources on Mary as the new Eve (Letter to Dr. Pusey ). His studies on the development of doctrine enrich Mariology as well, e.g., On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, 1859 (see doctrine, development of). Matthias Scheeben makes a place for Mariology in his Dogmatik (1873–82); C. Feckes (d. 1958) and E. Druwé, SJ (d. 1950), do much to make it known. The identifying feature of Scheeben's Marian theology is "bridal motherhood"; this is Mary's "personal character" and the foundation of her privileges and mission. Worthy of mention at the turn of the century is J. B. Terrien, SJ, Marie, la mère de Dieu et la mère des hommes, 4 v. (Paris).
The main themes of the first half of the 20th century are the mediation of Mary and the Assumption. The first international Marian congress (Lyons 1900) holds a study, session on the role of Mary in the plan of salvation. At subsequent conventions, national and international, many papers on mediation are offered, e.g., by R. de la Broise, SJ, J. V. Bainvel, SJ, and E. Hugon, OP. Cardinal A. Lépicier, OSM, in 1901 and C. Van Crombrugghe in 1913 reflect the trend in their manuals of Mariology. The movement gains momentum when the Brussels Marian Congress (1921) takes Mary's mediation as its motif.
Cardinal Mercier forms an episcopal committee to study the definability of the mediation; pontifical commissions are appointed for this purpose in Belgium, Spain, and Italy. Around Mercier gathers a group of distinguished theologians, e.g., B. M. Merkelbach, OP (d.1942), author of Mariologia (Paris 1939); J. Bittremieux (d. 1950), founder of the Flemish Mariological Society in 1931, author of De mediatione universali B. Mariae Virginis quoad gratias (Bruges 1926); J. Lebon (d. 1957), indefatigable protagonist of mediation in many writings.
After the definition of the Immaculate Conception, interest grows in a definition of the Assumption. With regard to both truths, however, the Church is moved to solemn definition more by the faith of the Christian people than by the state of theological study. In the intellectual doldrums of the mid-19th century the definition of the Immaculate Conception settles questions that once had Christian thinkers at loggerheads. In 1950, at a thriving time for Marian studies, the Church defines the Assumption, a doctrine that has not been the main focus of attention in Marian theology. Not surprisingly, the definition has called attention to differences between Catholics and other Christians, because the Assumption is a test case for intricate questions of Scripture and tradition and their relationship to each other and to the teaching authority of the Church.
The progress made in mariological studies during this period also owed much to the guidance of the popes. In addition to the definitions of the Immaculate Conception (Ineffabilis Deus ) and Assumption (munificentissimus deus ), many other Marian documents have emanated from the Holy See. Leo XIII is remembered for his encyclicals on the rosary and its doctrinal meaning (e.g., Iucunda semper, 1894); St. Pius X for Ad diem illum (1904), on the spiritual motherhood; Benedict XV for Inter sodalicia (1918), on Mary's compassion; Pius XI for Lux veritatis (1931), on the Ephesus anniversary. The acts of Pius XII contain an immense amount of material, e.g., the encyclicals Fulgens corona (1953), for the Marian year, and Ad caeli reginam (1954), on the queenship. Pius XII wrote of Our Lady's place in the general theology of Christ and the Church in his great doctrinal encyclicals: mystici corporis (1943), mediator dei (1947), and Haurietis aquas (1956). In his Marian messages Pope John XXIII spoke frequently of the spiritual motherhood, e.g., to the eighth French National Marian Congress at Lisieux, C'este bien volontiers, July 6, 1961 [Acta Apostolicae Sedis 53 (1961) 504–506]; also in placing under Mary's patronage vatican council ii.
Vatican II and Beyond. The mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary was further developed by Vatican Council II, meeting from 1962 to 1965. The Council mentioned Mary in many documents, initially in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (No. 103), but particularly in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (ch. 8). It was most significant for the renewal of Mariology and of devotion to Mary that the Council Fathers voted, October 29, 1963, in favor of making the Marian schema a part of the document on the Church. The very title of the chapter, "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church," placed her in close relationship with her Son (christocentric Mariology) and with his Mystical Body (ecclesiotypical Mariology). This is the proper setting in which to assess Mary's role in the work of Redemption. The true ecumenical importance of the Council's decision is derived not from minimizing her place in Catholic faith and piety, but from emphasizing a sharing-oriented Mariology instead of one that is privilege-centered.
Vatican II resulted in a shift in mariological studies, moving away from a privilege-centered to a sharingoriented consideration of Mary, in association to Christ (Christocentric) and in relationship to the Church (ecclesiotypical). In contrast to the discussions in the early 20th century, the postconciliar period witnessed few studies on such themes as principles of Mariology or Marian mediation, but many positive investigations, especially into biblical and patristic sources. The Mary-Church relation attracted serious notice.
Ecumenical concern has affected theological exploration also; among the operative factors here was Vatican II's reference to the "hierarchy of truths" which "vary in their relationship to the foundation of the Christian faith" (Decree on Ecumenism, 11, 20). In 1967 the English Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded, and along with regular meetings and publications (the pamphlet series, Mother of Jesus ), it sponsored several international conferences. Its American branch was established in 1976 and has brought together Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant Christian scholars to explore the thorny differences for which the Virgin Mary often served as a symptom: the bonds between Scripture and tradition, and the Church's teaching authority; the legitimacy within the communion of saints of calling on the saints in prayer (invocation). A theologian in the Reformed tradition, Dr. J. A. Ross Mackenzie (Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia) received the president's patronal medal at Catholic University, Washington, DC, December 7, 1977. The medal, founded in 1974, recognizes promotion of study and veneration of Mary (previous recipients were Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Mother Mary Claudia, IHM, and Theodore Koehler, SM, curator of the Marian Library at the University of Dayton).
Postconciliar theological developments showed a two-fold orientation in Mariology: continuation of the directions of Vatican Council II; new areas, as explorations in the devotional life of the faithful. Study was spurred by important papal documents and joint pastorals by national episcopal conferences, as in the United States, the NCCB's Behold Your Mother, Woman of Faith (November 21, 1973), Switzerland (1973), Puerto Rico (1976), and Poland (1977).
Pope Paul VI's apostolic exhortation Marialis cultus (February 1, 1974), "for the right ordering and development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary," showed Mary's place in the revised Western liturgy and included significant points on anthropology, on the Virgin Mary in respect to women's rights, and on human dignity.
In the ensuing decades after Vatican II, Mariological societies in various countries continued to function. In the United States, the Mariological Society of America met for the 25th time, January 1974. Its speakers and subjects showed an increasing ecumenical orientation, e.g., the virginal conception of Jesus was discussed at the 1973 St. Louis convention, with A. C. Piepkorn (Lutheran) and H. W. Richardson (Presbyterian) giving papers [Marian Studies 24 (1973)]. National societies concerned with Marian theology continued to meet, for example, French (Bulletin de la soliété française d'études mariales ), Spanish (Estudios Marianos ), Canadian (French-speaking, occasional publication) and American (Marian Studies ). The topics of the French society during this period illustrated postconciliar concerns: "Mary's place in religious congregations of Marian Inspiration" (1972); "Mary and the Question of Women" (1973 and 1974); and "Representations of Mary in Popular Piety, Historically, Iconographically, and Psychologically" (1976 and 1977). The Spanish society has reached its 40th volume of proceedings; recent themes have been: "The Psychology of Mary" (1972); "Mary and the Mystery of the Church"(1973); "Marian Dogmas and the Interpretation of Dogma" (1976).
Marian Library Studies (Dayton), the international Marianum (Rome) and Ephemerides Mariologicae (Madrid), and other periodicals, both scholarly and general, illustrate present centers of Mariological interest: popular piety; Scripture, especially the infancy narratives; catechetics; Mary and ecumenism; Mary as model of the Church, Mary and women, and Mary in popular devotion. The popular cult of the Virgin Mary has increasingly become a topic of investigation. Research interest has focused on the origins and significance of folk devotion in various cultures, both in the Old World (pilgrimage sites and shrines like Czestochowa and Lourdes, more visited than ever), and in the New World (Guadalupe, Argentina, and other countries). An associated theme is the place of Mary in the "way of beauty," complementing the "way of the intellect," as Pope Paul suggested to the Roman congress of May, 1975.
John Paul II and Redemptoris Mater. The papacy of John Paul II marked another important milestone in mariological studies, with the publication of the encyclical redemptoris mater on March 25, 1987. Redemptoris Mater was a comprehensive scriptural, conciliar, and theological meditation on the Mother of God, directed to all Christians. The encyclical explained her subordinate mediatorial role, her role as model of mother and obedient expectant follower of the divine will. It cited the Marian piety as a common tradition binding Catholics and the Orthodox together.
Theological Aspects. Under the impetus of Vatican II the theology of Mary stresses the truth that her special graces and prerogatives are to be seen as primarily for the sake of her Son and his redeemed-redeeming Body, the Church. Divine Revelation about Mary makes the central mysteries of faith more intelligible and meaningful for Christian living.
The Christocentric and ecclesiotypical emphases of contemporary Mariology are mutually complementary and not in conflict. For Mary cannot be related to Christ without being intimately associated with the ecclesial Body that he received through his redemptive activity. At the same time, she is the archetype of the Church only because her unique relationship with Christ is the basis for the Church's share in his redeeming work (see Semmelroth 1963, esp. 80–88). Consequently, concentration upon the ecclesiotypical significance of Marian doctrine and devotion should not obscure their basic Christocentric character.
Theologians today are more inclined to include the Mary-Church analogy within the basic Marian idea or fundamental principle of Mariology. "Her concrete motherhood with regard to Christ, the redeeming God-Man, freely accepted in faith—her fully committed divine motherhood—this is both the key to the full understanding of the Marian mystery and the basic Mariological principle, which is concretely identical with Mary's objectively and subjectively unique state of being redeemed" (Schillebeeckx 106). Within one organic principle the two emphases are contained, i.e., both the Christocentric (Mary's "fully committed divine motherhood"), and the ecclesiotypical (her "objectively and subjectively unique state of being redeemed"). Her vocation to be the mother of the Word incarnate must be considered in close connection with the graces that reveal her calling to be the prototype of the Church.
Immaculate Conception. Accordingly, Mary's Immaculate Conception is God's special favor preparing her to accept freely the invitation to be the Reedeemer's mother and so to share in the redemption. Following St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas taught that her consent was given "in place of the whole human race" (Summa Theologiae 3a, 30.1). Because she was so completely receptive to God's loving plan, the members of Christ's Body can receive the fruits of Christ's redeeming love into their own lives. Being the first fruit of her Son's Redemption, Mary is uniquely redeemed objectively (preservation from all sin through the grace of the Immaculate Conception). Responding to her vocation with total commitment, she is uniquely redeemed subjectively. Since she received the Savior into her own life of loving faith, Mary cooperated maternally in Christ's objective redemption of the human race. Indeed Christ alone is the Redeemer who reconciles the world to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Mary's "fully committed divine motherhood," however, gives her free act of identifying with his objective redemption a redemptive meaning and value for all the members of the Church.
Divine Maternity. The truth that Mary's motherhood of Christ is both bridal and virginal has rich ecclesiotypical significance (see Semmelroth 1963, esp. 117–142). Her vocal fiat of free consent at the annunciation and her silent fiat at the foot of the cross make Mary the spiritual bride of the Redeemer. In her compassion she received the fruits of her Son's sacrifice both for her own redemption and for that of the whole Church. Concomitantly, and as a result of this creative receptivity to grace, her bridal motherhood is also virginal. Her maternal fruitfulness cannot come from human power but from the breath of the Holy Spirit. Had she conceived Christ other than as a virgin, her bridal relationship with the Logos incarnate would have been obscured. Without her perpetual virginity, the revelation of her complete and continuous fidelity to Christ and his messianic mission would have been blurred. Mary then is the archetype of the Church as the Church is also the virginal bride of Christ. As the community of persons redeemed by him, the Church is called to be constantly faithful to his word. The Immaculate Conception is the perfect exemplar of a grace-filled Church. As the sacramental community called to mediate Redemption to the world, the Church also images the bridal motherhood of Mary. The Assumption makes her "the sign of sure hope, and comfort for the pilgrim people of God" (Lumen gentium 68—69). All the Marian dogmas, therefore, converge toward a theological and prayerful contemplation of Mary as the archetype of the Church.
As bridal and virginal mothers, both Mary and the Church are to be dynamically united together with the Holy Spirit. The sole source of their spiritual fecundity is the abiding presence and activity of the risen Lord's Spirit. A closer connection between Mariology and Pneumatology will contribute greatly to a balanced Christology, ecclesiology, and Christian anthropology. Much remains to be done in this regard, especially by theologians of the Western Church who have begun to study more seriously the magnificent heritage of the Eastern tradition on the Holy Spirit.
New Eve. A portion of the patristic patrimony common to East and West is the image of Mary as the New Eve. Its rediscovery, under the special inspiration of Cardinal Newman's Marian writings, has led to a renewed research into the witness of the Fathers who made use of this image in their teaching about Mary. After the Scriptures, it reflects the most ancient meditation upon Mary and is a very fertile source of the Mary-Church analogy and typology. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in the pastoral on the Blessed Virgin Mary points out: "Even more anciently, the Church was regarded as the 'New Eve.' The Church is the bride of Christ, formed from his side in the sleep of death on the cross, as the first Eve was formed by God from the side of the sleeping Adam" (NCCB 41). From her earliest days the Church has seen herself symbolized in Mary and has come to understand her mysterious self more profoundly in light of Mary as archetype. Mary "personifies" all that the Church is and hopes to become.
The impact of an ecclesiotypical Mariology upon Marian devotion has been most salutary. Pope Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation for the right ordinary and development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, stated: "She is worthy of imitation because she was the first and most perfect of Christ's disciples. All of this has a permanent and universal exemplary value" (Paul VI 35). Mary, of course, is not an exemplar in the sense of being a stereotyped blueprint upon which contemporary Christians are to model their lives. Nevertheless, if Christians are to mature as members of Christ's living Body, the Church, they must prayerfully penetrate the perennial meaning of Mary-like faith, courage, concern, constancy, etc.
Still a stumbling block for many, especially members of other Christian Churches, is the concept of Mary's mediation and intercession. It seems to interfere with the unique mediatorship of Christ. Vatican II's Marian chapter clearly teaches: "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power" (Lumen gentium 60). Reconceptualization of the mystery must remove from Mary's mediatory role any image of her being a go-between, as though the risen Lord were made remote. Such a misconception misses the basic meaning of the Incarnation and true grandeur of Mary, namely, that God the Son has chosen to become man in her and to be an abiding presence in human history in his risen humanity forever. Her spiritual motherhood primarily helps dispose believers to encounter the ever-present Christ more intimately in their daily Christian lives. Both by her example as archetype of the Church and by her intercessory ministry in glory, Mary enlightens and inspires her spiritual children to grow more docile to the direct action of her Son's spirit and to cooperate more generously with the special graces of God's redeeming love.
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