I am Mary, I am Woman


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Theological and Anthropological approaches to the People's Mary. Denis S. Kulandaisamy

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I am Mary, I am Woman

  1. 1. BOOK REVIEW1 CAROLINE RENEHAN, I am Mary, I am Woman. Theological andAnthropological approaches to the Peoples’ Mary, The Columbia Press, Dublin2010, 145 pages, 21 cm. The author of this book, Caroline Renehan, is Head of Religious Studies at St. Patrick’sCollege, Drumcondra, a College of Dublin City University. She holds a PhD in Divinity(University of Edinburgh) and a PhD in Education (University of London). In this book, shepresents the ways in which Mary, Mother of God has been understood in the Catholic Churchthroughout the centuries. She utilizes a threefold approach in her study: the theatypical,christatypical and ecclesiatypical approaches. In her introduction to this book, the author mentions the objectives of this small volume:“Firstly, the primary objective is to propose a new methodology in order to categorise thecomplex nature of some of the material as it is found in the long centuries of Marian tradition.The methodology does not aspire to a definitive categorization of Mary’s role and function.Rather it suggests that the constant, eternal presence and figure of Mary for Catholic Christiansmay be subsumed into three broad Marian typologies […].The second objective of this volumeis to show how the Marian types have the capacity to generate substantial theological agreementbetween traditional Catholic Church teaching and Christian feminist hermeneutics” (pp. 7-9).This book is divided into five chapters. The first three chapters deal with the three broad Mariantypologies, namely Mary as Theatype, Mary as Christatype, Mary as Ecclesiatype. The fourthand fifth chapters deal with the anthropological and feminine aspects of Marian theology. In her first approach the author depicts how Mary was elevated to a place close to theGodhead in the tradition of the Catholic Church. Imaging of Mary to such excessive extent isreferred to as the theatypical approach to Mariology. She gives many examples from the earlychurch fathers and from ancient and modern theologians with respect to Mariology in theChristian tradition. The practice of ‘deification’ of Mary began with various interpretations ofthe Scriptures and Marian doctrines such as Mary’s virginal conception, perpetual virginity andthe title Theotokos. She is convinced that such a deification of Mary in the Church tradition isan undeniable fact though we can find many counter-arguments to claim that the phenomenonof Mary as Theatype never existed.1 Published in: Marianum 73 (2011) 533-535.
  2. 2. The second category of the three Marian types that the author deals with in this book isMary as Christatype. This Mariological approach places Mary almost on a par with Christ. Shesays that the Christatype imaging of Mary emerged at a time when the early fathers were tryingto fathom more profoundly Christ’s role and function in the mystery of salvation. It is veryinteresting to see how the author refers to the early sources to show the gradual development ofthis Marian concept in Church history. She writes that though the Church teaches that Mary isinseparably linked with her Son’s saving work, Mary cannot be and should not be placed on apar with Christ in the mystery of salvation. Mary’s role in redemption was one that serves‘under and with him’. The teaching relating to Mary as Co-Redeemer should not bemisinterpreted. The author summarizes her ideas in the following words: “Not only does she[Mary] perform miracles and offer much needed hope, but she also has the ability to co-redeem,co-mediate and to act as intercessor between humankind and God. In this way, she is imaged asthe Christatype” (p. 67). In the third chapter, the author turns to a more contemporary understanding of Mary asEcclesiatype and her association with the church. She places the emphasis on her humanity andidentifies Mary as ‘one of us’. The earliest biblical source quoted by the author to support thispoint is Gal 4.4: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,born under the law”. She bases her arguments on chapter eight of Lumen gentium and on thewritings of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II. Mary symbolizes the Church. She is ever present inour midst. According to the author, we must understand Mary as Ecclesiatype within thecontext of her eternal presence in the Church. This understanding of Mary as Ecclesiatypepaves a way for ecumenical dialogue and fraternal communion among the various Churches. Inthis regard, the author particularly mentions the Anglican/Roman Catholic InternationalCommission’s document “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ”. In line with the teaching of theCatholic Church, the author is very clear in explaining how Mary and the Church areinseparable. Having reflected upon these three types, the author dedicates the last two chapters tosome important Mariological themes such as: the womanhood of Mary, Christian Feminism andPatriarchy, Mary’s personhood as a model for the dignity of every woman, etc. In these last twochapters, the author analyses the problems faced by some women, such as the ordination ofwomen, theological disquiet about the patriarchal structures of the church and so on. Sheexplains how Marian theology could help us understand these problems and draw inspirationand strength from Mother Mary to overcome them and live in harmony with the divine plan forhumanity.
  3. 3. This book offers new ideas about the person of Mary and her womanhood in the light ofChurch teaching. The sources and quotations that the author makes use of in order to supporther ideas range from the earliest Biblical and Patristic writings up to the scholarly works ofmodern authors of our times. The author is very precise and coherent in expressing her theological ideas in a simplebut profound style of language. Though she is critical in presenting the various Marian imagesthat are found in the history of the Church, her ideas are perfectly in accordance with theteachings of the Catholic Church. It is an original contribution to Mariology. Scholars andstudents can find plenty of valuable and appropriate references and an exhaustive bibliography(pp. 139-145) for further research on the universal mediation of Mary. This book is a must forall those who want to know about the historical images of Mary in the history of the last twomillennia and who search for the correct Marian teaching of the Catholic Church. Denis Kulandaisamy, ( denisosm@yahoo.com ) Pontifical Theological Faculty “Marianum” Viale Trenta Aprile,6. 00153Rome, Italy.