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Bible Alive Jesus Christ 005: “The Beginning of the Gospel”

Bible Alive Jesus Christ 005: “The Beginning of the Gospel”



In this class we explore the hidden event of the Virginal Conception of Jesus. Does this Tradition have roots in Palestinian Jewish Christianity or the mythology of the ancient Greeks, and why? Learn ...

In this class we explore the hidden event of the Virginal Conception of Jesus. Does this Tradition have roots in Palestinian Jewish Christianity or the mythology of the ancient Greeks, and why? Learn about Jesus’ “brothers and sisters.” Discover why Mary’s virginity is not based on Gnostic hatred of the body, but on the understanding of virginity as a total consecration to God in pure and undivided love. See how through her faith and love, Mary cooperates in the birth of believers.



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    Bible Alive Jesus Christ 005: “The Beginning of the Gospel” Bible Alive Jesus Christ 005: “The Beginning of the Gospel” Presentation Transcript

    • Bible Alive: Jesus Christ Class Five: The Beginning of the Gospel
    • The following presentation would be impossible without these resources
    • And most of all… By Father Roch A. Kereszty o. cist. Thank you Father Roch!
    • Setting the Tone • The shortest distance between the truth and a human being is a story. —Anthony D. Mello, S.J.
    • Setting the Tone • About scandalizing little ones … I spoke to a priest about it and the thing he said to me was, “You don’t have to write for fifteen year old girls.” Of course, the mind of a fifteen year old girl lurks in many a head that is seventy-five and every day people are being scandalized not only by what is scandalous of its nature but what is not. The fact is that in order not to be scandalized, one has to have a whole view of things, which not many of us have. —Flannery O’Connor
    • Setting the Tone • Abandonment ensnareth God: But the Abandonment supreme, Which few there be can comprehend, Is to abandon even Him. —Angelus Silesius
    • Let us Pray Good Father By your Word Jesus Give us in the Spirit ears that hear and hearts that wonder in humble awe Help us by the Light of Easter to see the Truth of Christmas And grant us eyes of faith Make us, we pray, like your handmaid Mary, who in her “fiat” became our mother though our sister. For your Glory. Amen.
    • Summarizing Last Class • We learned seven key points about the death and resurrection of Jesus. • We saw the theories that deny the resurrection. • We explored other interpretations of the Resurrection—we saw the extremes of reducing it to being entirely subjective or an event entirely objective. • We learned about the credibility of the Resurrection and the three ways it changed the nature of the universe.
    • The Virginal Conception • How does the New Testament present the virginal conception of Jesus—is it as a public spectacle, or something else? • Jesus’ conception is a hidden event. It needs God’s revelation to be discovered and understood. • Just as the Risen Christ is only shown to a number of foreordained witnesses, so also the mystery of his virginal conception is disclosed to only a few people.
    • Resurrection Connection • There is an analogy between the mystery of Jesus’ virginal conception and the mystery of his resurrection. • There is a certain profound continuity between the virginal conception and resurrection. • Whereas the virginal conception marks the beginning of the creation of the New Man, Resurrection marks the consummation of the New Man. • Both demonstrate God’s direct and CREATIVE intervention in human history.
    • Is the virginal conception a fact? • According to Rudolf Bultmann, the virginal conception should not be accepted as a fact, but rather as part of what he calls “the New Testament mythology” which is in need of reinterpretation. • It is the Hellenistic religions that gave rise to the story of the Virgin Birth—where gods descend to the earth, impregnate beautiful virgins, who bear half-human, half- god sons. • This mythological form is adopted by the New Testament in order to STRESS THE IMPORTANCE and SIGNIFICANCE of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus. • According to Bultmann, to take the story FACTUALLY is to miss the point of the mythological language AND WORSE!—create an unnecessary difficulty for modern believers who CANNOT accept a god performing physical miracles.
    • Recent Catholic Scholarship • Kereszty tells us that some contemporary Catholic theologians have adopted positions similar to Bultmann’s. • They accept the “Christological meaning” of the virginal conception: Jesus is God’s gift to humankind—this they hold as a “doctrine of faith.” • But as for the virginal conception, referred to by them as “a biological fact,” they call a doubtful theologoumenon (a theological opinion).
    • Perseus Herakles Theseus
    • How much can we know? • Is it possible to show that the tradition of the virginal conception of Jesus does not derive from the Hellenistic religions?
    • Rooted in Hellenism? • The “Pre-Gospel” Tradition reports that the virginal conception has roots in the milieu of Palestinian Jewish Christianity rather than Hellenism. This makes a Greek myth model doubtful. Beware of superficial comparisons. • Lk 1:35—And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God…” • In Pagan mythology like that of Herakles, Perseus, and Theseus, the gods father their human offspring by satiating their desire to engage in sexual relations with human virgins. There is no hint at sexual relations in Luke’s account; the language is that of creation and consecration.
    • Semitic, not Greek • Lk 1:35—And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God…” • Gen 1:1-3—In the beginning created God the heavens and the earth. The earth was tohu wubohu, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
    • Semitic, not Greek • Lk 1:35—And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God…” • Ex 34:34-38—Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would go onward; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not go onward till the day that it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.
    • Semitic, not Greek • Lk 1:35—And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God…” • 2 Chron 7:1-5—When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.” Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the LORD. King Solomon offered as a sacrifice twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.
    • Semitic, not Greek • In the Hellenic myths the human mother gives birth to “the Hero,” a reality neither fully human nor fully divine. • In the New Testament, the virginal conception results in the full humanity of Jesus and does not diminish his divine Sonship, nor does his divine dignity make him less human.
    • A Certain Affinity if not a STRICT PARALLEL • There are NO strict parallels with the Old Testament or extra-biblical accounts, but there IS also a certain degree of affinity with the “barren woman” stories of the Old Testament, such as Sarah, Manoah, and Hannah. • These women cannot bear children. By the power of their husbands and by their own power of fertility, they cannot conceive a child. God alone removes “their shame,” their bitterness. • Even though the child from each “barren woman” is derived from both parents, he will be called a gift from God. He will be dedicated to God and have a special part to play in God’s Plan of Salvation. • This background helps us understand the virginal conception and its irreducible newness. It is completely God’s surprise and initiative.
    • Theological Meaning • Lk 3:23, 38—Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, … the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. • According to Luke’s theology, the purpose behind God’s “surprise” and initiative is to bring about a New Adam, the beginning of a New Creation. Mary’s womb resembles the tohu wubohu at the beginning of Creation.
    • Different Theology in Matthew • Mt 1:21— …and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. • In Matthew’s theology the creativity of the Holy Spirit aims at bringing forth the Savior who will free his people from their sins.
    • Common to Both • What is common to both Matthew and Luke? Answer: Matthew and Luke seek to describe the virginal conception in such a way to show that humanity left to its own cannot produce a new humanity (Luke) or obtain forgiveness for sins (Matthew). Jesus the savior, the holy offspring, cannot be produced by human initiative, but only by the power and initiative and creativity of God’s Holy Spirit. The man Jesus is not the fruit of human love; rather he is the fruit of God’s love for humankind. The man Jesus is purely and entirely a gift that cannot be obtained by human efforts.
    • Two Things in Luke’s Understanding • For Luke, two things are revealed in the Virginal Conception: 1. The radically gratuitous character of God’s gift in the man Jesus. 2. Jesus’ divine Sonship. Read Lk 1:34-35—And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. • It becomes clear that Jesus is to be called Son of God precisely because he is going to be conceived virginally by the Power of the Holy Spirit. • “Son of God” then in Luke’s theology clearly means more than a Messianic or Davidic expectation. The man Jesus is entirely the creation of the Holy Spirit—as such he belongs to God in a radical way that excludes all human fatherhood. • The man Jesus belongs to God ALONE
    • Jesus Revealed… • What then does the virginal conception reveal about the man Jesus? Answer: It shows that the whole being and life of the man Jesus—without any “remainder”—expresses his filial relationship to his heavenly Father. All that the man Jesus is REVEALS his Father in heaven.
    • Understanding Jesus as Son • How can we better understand this divine Sonship of Jesus? • Kereszty asks us: Let us compare our situation to his. • Each of us is the child to an earthly father first, and throughout our lives we are what we are to a large extent because of our relationship to him. • Yet in this natural relationship and all the relationships of our life God offers his grace to us and we become, through grace, children of God, which is the only perfection we can have and the only reality that can satisfy us. • Therefore, Kereszty argues, all that we are and all that we do cannot “speak” of our heavenly Father. Much of our life simply reflects our earthly father. Jesus is however the complete and unsurpassable revelation of the Father because his whole being and life reveal him.
    • Virginal Conception in History • Having outlined its meaning, what can be shown historically about the truth of the virginal conception? Historical acts on the virginal conception: 1. Matthew and Luke not only suppose this but affirm this as part of the Good News. 2. Kereszty—A variant reading of John 1:13 proclaims the virginal conception; this was probably changed in the 2nd Century to the commonly accepted plural form to avoid Gnostic misinterpretation. 3. The tradition that these three sources draw from is Pre-Gospel (Part of the kerygma). 4. It is highly probable that Mary was known to be pregnant before she and Joseph came to live together. Jn 8:41 might have been based on the fact of Mary’s early pregnancy.
    • Virginal Conception in History 5. It is neither a datum historically verifiable nor a biological fact, for it transcends biological processes. It is God’s creative act, similar to the resurrection where Jesus’ dead body is raised to New Life in the Spirit. We can accept it only in faith in response to the affirmation of the Evangelists and the teaching of the ordinary magisterium of the Church. 6. However, this leap is not AGAINST REASON—historical evidence does not contradict this affirmation of faith; as Raymond Brown says, “It is easier to explain the New Testament evidence by positing historical basis than by positing pure theological creation.” 7. How is the virginal conception similar to the reports of the empty tomb? Mary’s early pregnancy and the empty tomb are historically verifiable data. The Church understands in both cases the transcendent cause and meaning of these events: God himself created the New Man in Mary’s Womb and he raised from the tomb the dead body of the New Man to immortal life. 8. And what if you have no “eyes of faith”? How then can you escape misinterpreting these events? Without occulata fides here is the interpretation—Jesus is born of adultery and the disciples stole the corpse of Jesus from the tomb.
    • “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus” • From the 4th century onward, the Church has unanimously taught the perpetual virginity of Mary before (ante partum), during (in partu), and after (post partum) Jesus birth. • The New Testament is silent about Mary’s virginity in partu and whether she was a virgin post partum. In fact, it speaks about “brothers and sisters” of Jesus. • The Reformation—Protestant Churches from the 16th century maintained belief in the virginal conception of Jesus but rejected the perpetual virginity of Mary based on contrary evidence from Scripture. • They affirmed that the Catholic belief on Mary’s virginity after Jesus’ birth was contradicted by the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels and elsewhere in the New Testament. • Not every Protestant did this—figures like John Wesley believed in the perpetual virginity.
    • The New Testament Evidence • Mk 3:31-35, 6:3— And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” … Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?quot; And they took offense at him.
    • The New Testament Evidence • Jn 2:12, 7:3-9— After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days… So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. Go to the feast yourselves; I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” So saying, he remained in Galilee.
    • The New Testament Evidence • Gal 1:19— But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. • 1 Cor 9:5— Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Kephas? SO… What CAN and CANNOT be proved from the New Testament concerning these “brothers and sisters of Jesus”?
    • Three Historical Views • It was not until the fourth century that theologians argued seriously whether or not Mary gave birth to siblings of Jesus. Three views developed: 1. The Helvidian View (Helvidius) was that Mary had other children, namely the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the gospels. (developed AD 370s) 2. The Hieronymian View (St. Jerome) held that the “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus are Jesus’ cousins, children of a sister of Mary. (developed AD 382) 3. The Epiphanian View (Epiphanius) was that the “brothers” and “sisters” are children of Joseph by a previous marriage. (developed AD 377) • To this day there are adherents to each view. It must be admitted that the Protestant consensus and the standard scholarly view agrees with the Helvidian View.
    • The Evidence and the Exegetes • John P. Meier, Catholic priest and author of the critically-acclaimed series “A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus,” comes very close to the Protestant consensus for the Helvidian view. • He holds that if you prescind from faith and later Church teaching, the most probable conclusion of the historian could not be anything else but “the brothers and sisters of Jesus were in fact true siblings.”
    • The Evidence and the Exegetes • But Fr. Meier’s position has been effectively challenged by Protestant scholar Richard Bauckham in his essay “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus: An Epiphanian Response to John P. Meier.” • Even though Bauckham stresses his disbelief in the Catholic dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary, he bolsters his arguments from the fourth century Epiphanius who held that “the brothers and sisters of Jesus” come from a first marriage of Joseph, and thus, Jesus is the only son of Mary. • This is all the more noteworthy considering that after giving birth to Jesus, Bauckham rejects the perpetual virginity of Mary—he considers that Mary and Joseph had normal sexual relations, just no other children.
    • Bauckham’s major arguments • Contra Meier and the scholarly consensus: 1. The brothers and sisters appear older than Jesus in all Gospel traditions (Mk 3:21, 31; Jn 7:3-5). Younger brothers could not have assumed authority over the firstborn son in this society are honor and shame are the core cultural values. Mk 3:21—And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” … 3:31—And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him… (They want to stop him in his ministry by force!) Jn 7:3-5—So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. (They advise him!)
    • Bauckham’s major arguments 2. Second century apocryphal documents such as the Protoevangellium of James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Peter (all literally independent from one another), all take for granted Joseph’s previous marriage as if readers already knew this fact to be the case. – While admitting that these apocryphal documents are the conflation of tradition and creative imagination, Bauckham insists that Joseph’s prior marriage could not have been produced out of imagination being that each document was independent of the other and yet relates the same story, a common tradition in Syrian Christianity of the Second Century, which would therefore belong to the oral gospel of the church of Antioch—how could they have created the same story independently of each other?
    • Bauckham’s major arguments 3. The Gospel of Mark (the earliest) NEVER refers to Jesus as the son of Joseph. Jesus is “son of Mary.” » This is a tremendous DIVERGENCE with Jewish tradition and custom, and up till now no one has been able to come up with an entirely plausible solution for it; in this ancient culture one identifies the son by his father’s name. » Bauckham gives an answer: he says, at home in Nazareth, Jesus would have been known as “son of Mary” to distinguish him from Joseph’s children by his first wife.
    • Conclusions from Bauckham • Bauckham has effectively demonstrated that Meier’s method is quite questionable and that he neglected evidence in favor of the Epiphanian view. The matter is far more open than many scholars let on. • When considering the Helvidian and Epiphanian views, the historical evidence is insufficient to solidly decide, one way or the other. • But REMEMBER—for Bauckham, the whole thing is just a question about the historical method and a tidbit of historical trivia; he sees no theological significance. • Opportunities—Yet for Catholic scholars it helps to explain why the Church was able to maintain the tradition about “Jesus’ brothers and sisters” while simultaneously developing the tradition about Mary’s perpetual virginity.
    • “Brothers and Sisters” of Jesus – From the Second century we have explicit testimonies to the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity. – But a consensus on this point among the Fathers develops only after the Council of Ephesus (AD 431), and gradually it becomes Church teaching and a part of the liturgical titles of Mary; she becomes “ever-virgin Mary.”
    • Accepting it means…  Obviously, the biblical data and early Christian tradition do not constitute sufficient evidence for Mary’s perpetual virginity.  Why accept it? Among Christians, the Catholic accepts it because the shepherding authority teaches it in the ordinary magisterium.  Nevertheless the ordinary magisterium does NOT contradict the New Testament; in fact, some biblical data are more easily explained if we accept this truth—Raymond Brown.  Moreover, Kereszty explains, we cannot fully accept the mystery of the Church and the importance of virginity in the life of individual Christians, unless we understand these mysteries in the light of the perpetual virginity of Mary.
    • Ecclesiology and Mariology  Even before the explicit claims were made, belief in the perpetual virginity had already been implied in the analogy and mutual inclusion that the New Testament and Patristic writers discovered between the Mystery of the Church and Mary.  The Church is called to be and remain a pure virgin, in the sense that her faith in Christ and her love for Christ should always remain one and undisturbed.  How then could Mary, the anticipated realization of the Church in her final perfection, not have always remained a virgin?
    • See Ezek 44:1-3 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. And he said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.” Kereszty—That the Church is interpreted as a perpetual virgin and yet fruitful mother finds its basis in mystical Ezekiel 44:1-3. It is nothing else but a further development of the Old Testament’s perspective on cultic holiness—the High Priest serving the sanctuary, as well as any soldier fighting on behalf of Yahweh, had to abstain from sexual intercourse. Later Judaism develops legends where Moses abstained from sexual relations with his wife after his encounter with God at the burning bush—the underlying conviction is NOT THAT SEX IS EVIL but rather that it involves one in THIS world. (See footnote, p. 80)
    • Virginity means Undivided Yes • Mary’s virginity is not based on Gnostic doctrine, but on the understanding of virginity as a total consecration to God in pure and undivided love. • The Gnostic documents also testify to Mary’s perpetual virginity, but for a distorted, anti-sexual reason: matter is evil, and its increase is evil. • To be honest, such anti-sexual tendencies have influenced to some extent the monastic movement in the Church, and perhaps even some theological views such as the Hieronymian View. • But the patristic argument for the perpetual virginity of Mary is not founded on Gnostic doctrine, nor contaminated by an anti-sexual tendency, but rather is founded on the understanding of virginity as a total consecration to God in pure faith and undivided love.
    • Patristic “Eyes of Faith”  Lk 1:34—And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” Ss. Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine, and other fathers and mothers of the Church, see in these words via faith the total, irrevocable vow of Mary. They interpret Luke 1:34 as Mary expressing her full intention to completely dedicate herself to God and remain a virgin. This act must be total and irrevocable. • These Fathers see Mary asking how will this Plan unfold—she is not questioning the abilities of God. • When Mary says “since I have no husband” (lit. in Greek, “I do not know man”), this refers to her status as a virgin, not her marital status. Her concern is that she is at present a virgin and she intends to remain one in the future—not that she is “unmarried.” In fact, her betrothal to Joseph (see Lk 1:27) was already a legally binding marriage. Thus the announcement of a miraculous conception (Lk 1:31) makes Mary wonder at how she will be blessed with a son and yet preserved a virgin— otherwise her exclamation is inexplicable. Nothing in the annunciation should have perplexed her IF she intended on having normal sexual relations as a married woman.
    • Uncompromised Devotion • It was unthinkable for the Church after the fourth century that Mary, totally consecrated to God by Christ whom she conceived through faith before she conceived him in her womb would compromise this consecration by sexual relations.
    • A Virgin, but Mother to Many Yet, Mary’s perpetual virginity does not RESTRICT her motherhood to only Jesus! Her undivided giving of herself to God in virginity has resulted in a universal motherhood. Jn 19:25-27—So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. Through her faith and love, Mary cooperates in the birth of believers. The Beloved Disciple stands for all believers. All disciples are embraced by their sister made their mother at the foot of the Cross. The motherhood of Mary is as universal as the Church: it extends to all people throughout the entire course of history.
    • Excursus: What About Mary?? • Christological connection—understanding Mary more means understanding Christ more and what he did. • Ecclesiological connection—Mary and the Church are inseparable. The Church is “Marian.” • Protestant Max Thurian—“Neither the Gospel nor past Christian tradition have been able to separate Mary and the Church. To speak of Mary is to speak of the Church. The two are united in one fundamental vocation—maternity” (Mary, Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church, p. 9).
    • More to Ecclesiology than Motherhood, but… • Certainly foundational to the relationship between Church and Mary is motherhood. • Richard McBrien—The Church is a mother in several senses. 1. It brings forth new creatures in Christ out of the womb of the baptismal font. 2. It nourishes the Christian family at the table of the Eucharist. 3. It is the source of encouragement, of forgiveness, of order, of healing, of love. McBrien—Each of the maternal activities is linked with one or another of the Church’s seven sacraments.
    • Mary, Mother of Christians • Insofar as Mary is first of all the mother of Jesus Christ, she too is mother of all Christians. • HOW?? 1. She gives birth to Jesus and so makes it possible for Jesus to give birth to us anew in the Holy Spirit. 2. As a model, or type, or figure, or image of the Church, Mary is preeminently a person of faith, of hope, of love, of obedience to the Word of God. 3. She is disciple par excellence in a community of disciples.
    • Mary in Catholic Theology 1. She is perfectly saved—conceived without sin and in the fullness of grace, as the Church was. 2. She is a faithful and undefiled virgin, as the Church is called to be. 3. She is redeemed by Christ, as the Church is. 4. She is the sign of God’s presence among us, as the Church is. 5. She is transformed and renewed by the presence of God within her, as the Church is. 6. She shared fully in the resurrection of Christ, body and soul, as the Church is destined to share in it. 7. And she intercedes for us before the throne of God, as the Church does.
    • Marian Devotion among Christians • Richard McBrien—Devotion to Mary is a characteristically Catholic phenomenon in that it expresses three fundamental principles of Catholic theology and practice: the principle of mediation, the principle of sacramentality, and the principle of communion.
    • Mary & Mediation Richard McBrien—The universe of grace is a mediated reality: mediated principally by Christ, and secondarily by the Church and, then, other signs and instruments of salvation beyond the Church. • The Catholic understands the role of Mary in salvation and accepts it because the Catholic already understands and accepts the principle of mediation as applied in the Incarnation and in the life and mission of the Church (a points made so effectively by Yves Congar in his Christ, Our Lady, and the Church, 1957).
    • Mary & Sacramentality Richard McBrien—The Catholic also understands that the invisible, spiritual God is present and available to us through the visible and the material, and that these, in turn, are made holy by reason of that divine presence. • The Catholic therefore, readily engages in the veneration of Mary, not because Mary is confused with some ancient goddess or super-creature or rival of the Lord himself, but because Mary is herself a symbol or icon of God. • It is the God who is present within her and who fills her whole being that the Catholic grasps in the act of venerating yet another “sacrament” of the divine.
    • Mary & Communion Richard McBrien—Finally, the Catholic perceives the Church as itself a communion of saints, in its visible as well as invisible dimensions. • It is an institutionalized, structured reality in which and through which the grace of the Holy Spirit is disclosed, celebrated, and released for the renewal and reconciliation of the whole world. • Our relationship with God and with Christ is not only bilateral but multilateral, which is to say communal. • The Church as Church enters directly into that place where one hears the Word of God and testifies to her or his faith in the Word. • The Church is itself the very Body of Christ. To be in the Church is to be in Christ and one with Christ.
    • Mary FOLLOWS Christ Richard McBrien—So, too, devotion to Mary is consequent upon the fact that we are united with her, as with one another, in and with Christ. • Mary is the preeminent member of the community of saints by reason of her unique relationship with Christ, but she is a member nonetheless, and the most exalted one at that. • Our unity with her is an expression of our unity in and with Christ.
    • Mary & Church in Christ Otto Semmelroth— “In Mary, the Church affirms her own holy, co- redemptive and redeemed essence… Thus, the veneration of Mary is the Church’s testimony to herself… [to her] own essence and to her task of imparting salvation.” (Mary, Archetype of the Church, p. 174).
    • Theological Criteria for Marian Devotion • There are two extremes to be avoided in one’s attitude toward devotion to Mary: 1. Marian minimalism, also called “mariophobia.” 2. Marian maximalism, otherwise called “mariocentricism.”
    • Marian minimalism We are tempted (ala an EXTREME Descending Christology) to so exaggerate the divine role in salvation that the value and importance of human cooperation is lost. • In this view, human cooperation plays no role at all in our salvation. • Therefore, no fellow creature, Mary included, is ever worthy of veneration, because such attention inevitably detracts from the glory owed to God alone and to Jesus Christ in whom and through whom God acted on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins.
    • The Problems with “mariophobia.” 1. Marian minimalism in effect denies (or at least narrowly applies) the principle of secondary instrumental causality, i.e., that God works through finite agents to achieve infinite ends. 2. It also denies (or narrowly applies) the principle of sacramentality, i.e., that God is present to us, is disclosed, and works on our behalf in and through visible, material realities: persons, events, nature, objects, the cosmos. (It is not always clear if the Marian minimalist understands that the humanity of Jesus Christ is also an instrumental cause and sacrament of salvation.) 3. And it denies, finally, that the Church is a communion of saints, i.e., that our relationship with God and with Christ is both vertical and horizontal, and that our relationship is always mediated—McBrien.
    • Marian maximalism The second temptation is to exaggerate the human role in salvation at the expense of the divine and correspondingly to deemphasize the effectiveness of the mediating work of Christ, who is perceived as more divine than human. And if Jesus is more divine than human, he is not so much our bridge to God as he is the God from whom we have been alienated by sin. We need access, therefore, not only to the Father but the Son as well. • According to this view, we need other ways of reaching God, and these ways must be adapted to our own limited human condition. Consequently, we turn to our fellow human beings who have already won the crown of glory and who have obviously found much favor in the sight of God. • But in that regard Mary is in a spiritual class by herself, for she alone is “full of grace” and she alone is Theotokos. Therefore, there is no limit to the help she can give us, nor is there any limit to the veneration we can show her in virtue of her standing before God.
    • The Problems with Mariocentricism 1. Marian maximalism in effect exaggerates the secondary or instrumental causality of Mary and the other saints and demeans the instrumental causality of the humanity of Christ. 2. It also misunderstands the sacramental principle. Sacramentality means that God works in and through some visible, material reality. It is always the inner transforming presence of God that ultimately counts, and not the sign and instruments of that presence. Therefore, it is not because Mary and the saints have the power of influence with God that they are objects of veneration and devotion. Rather it is because the grace of God has triumphed in them. Mary and the saints have been transformed by, and have become effective images of, Christ (Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, or as it is called “Lumen Gentium,” n. 50). It is Christ’s, not Mary’s, achievement that we celebrate.
    • The Problems with Mariocentricism 3. Finally, Marian maximalism misunderstands the nature of the communion of the saints. The Church is not just an institution of salvation, with Mary and the saints as “successful graduates” who have some measure of influence with “the administration.” It is not comparable to a filling station, where automobiles replenish their supply of fuel. The Church is the People of God, the Body of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It is, first and foremost, a community (communio, koinonia), but not just any community. It is a community of those who have been transformed by Christ and the Holy Spirit and who have explicitly and thankfully acknowledged the source of that transformation. Since transformation is a process, to be completed when the Kingdom of God is fully realized at the end of history, our bond in Christ and the Spirit is not broken by death—McBrien.
    • Marian Preeminence • McBrien—Mary is the preeminent member of this communion of saints. Our link with her is an expression of our link with the whole Church. It is a bond, however, not just of advocates and supplicants, but of brothers and sisters in the Lord, the very Body of Christ on the way to achieving “the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
    • Judging Marian Devotions • Between the two extremes of Marian minimalism and Marian maximalism there is a wide spectrum of legitimate devotional options. • One should be careful not to categorize pejoratively those forms of spirituality with which one is not personally comfortable or from which one feels culturally alienated. • The following theological criteria from Richard McBrien might be helpful in evaluating various expressions of Marian devotion:
    • McBrien’s Criteria for Judgment 1. Devotion to Mary, and to all of the saints, is ultimately devotion to Christ, whose grace has triumphed in Mary and the saints. 2. Jesus Christ in his humanity and divinity alike is the one Mediator between God and humankind. In him we are forgiven our sins, for he is full of mercy and compassion toward us. 3. On the other hand, just as God worked through the instrumentality of Jesus’ humanity for our salvation, so divine grace is symbolized and mediated through other visible, material, bodily realities, including those fellow creatures who have shown themselves striking examples of the transforming power of this grace. 4. Since God saves us not just as individuals but as members of a people, we are joined one with another in a communion of saints, i.e., of “holy ones” sharing in the holiness *the life+ of God. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2).
    • McBrien’s Criteria for Judgment 5. Mary is, by reason of her faith and obedience to the Word of God, a model of the Church and is its preeminent member, She is a disciple par excellence. 6. Insofar as Mary is truly the mother of Jesus Christ, she can be called the “God-bearer.” Again, she is a model for the Church in that the Church, too, is a “reality imbued with the hidden presence of God” (Pope Paul VI). Just as the hidden presence of God is the basis of all that we believe about the Church in faith, so it is also the basis of all that we believe about Mary in faith. 7. Yet, just as the Church is not itself the Kingdom of God, even though the Church can be called “the initial budding forth” of the Kingdom (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 5), so Mary is not herself the mediator or redeemer, even though she is the mother of Jesus and bears the incarnate Word within her. 8. Before all else, Mary is, one of the redeemed. Exception from Original Sin does not mean that she was herself in no need of the redemptive work of Christ. She was full of grace from the beginning precisely because of the redemptive work of Christ on her behalf.
    • McBrien’s Criteria for Judgment 9. While a Catholic will normally accept the Marian dogmas without reservation, it is less important that one affirms or denies them than why one affirms it or denies them. Thus, on a relative scale at least, one is actually more “orthodox” in denying the Immaculate Conception because it might detract from the universality of the redemption (as St Thomas Aquinas feared) than in affirming the Immaculate Conception on the grounds that Mary’s closeness to God made the redemptive work of Christ unnecessary in her own unique case. 10. Apparitions, visions, and other unusual occurrences attributed directly or indirectly to Mary may or may not be believed. None of them can ever be regarded as essential to Christian faith, whether they are approved by the official Church or not. If these phenomena do have any final authority, they are authoritative only for those who directly and immediately experience them. No one but the recipient(s) can be bound in conscience by whatever is communicated. 11. In any case, the “contents” (messages, directives, etc.) of such events can NEVER be placed on par with the Gospel itself, neither in terms of their authority nor in terms of the attention they elicit and/or demand. Those “contents,” in turn, must always be measured against the totality of the Christian faith and must not contradict or contravene any essential component of that faith.
    • • The preceding materials (slides 51-71) can be found in Catholicism, pp. 107.7-1109