Woman of Many Names: Mary in Orthodox and Catholic Theology

By Daley, Brian E. | Theological Studies, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Woman of Many Names: Mary in Orthodox and Catholic Theology


Daley, Brian E., Theological Studies


WHEN I WAS A DOCTORAL STUDENT in England, each year I used to go with a group of students on a Holy Week pilgrimage to the medieval Marian shrine at Walsingham. Our group was composed of about 30 young people, half of them Catholic and half Anglican, with an Anglican priest and myself as chaplains. As we walked on our way, we were put up each night by a local parish; the night before we arrived at Walsingham we were usually guests of an Anglican community in a remote village in rural Norfolk, with a majestic 15th-century church standing alone in the fields. One year, as our straggling, footsore band of pilgrims neared the church, the vicar--a rather eccentric but enthusiastic high-churchman, radiating tousled white hair and expansive gestures--came out in surplice and cope with a delegation of his parishioners led by cross and candles to meet us. When he found out I was the Catholic chaplain, he greeted me with a warm embrace. "I'm so glad you're here," he assured me--expressing the hope (which unfortunately I could not fulfill) that I would, as he said, "confabulate" the Eucharist with him the following day. "Our Churches have grown so close over the past 20 years," he gushed. "We really believe the same things, use the same lectionary, pray the same prayers. Why, the only difference, really, is that we don't say the 'Hail, Mary'!"

Having been involved in ecumenical conversations for many years since then as a Catholic theologian, I know that things are not quite so simple. I know, for instance, that the Anglican communion has a long tradition of Marian art and devotion--even of "saying the 'Hail, Mary'"--that sets it somewhat apart from most other Churches of the Reformation. Still, the vicar had a point: for Protestants of many different traditions, and even for some Anglicans, the theory and practice of Catholic devotion to Mary raises serious questions about the Christian legitimacy of the Catholic Church itself. What account can we give of it? How is it grounded in the biblical witness to God's work in the world, to God's salvation of sinners in Christ and his call to follow Christ alone? Does not the focus on Mary in Catholic art, Catholic liturgy, and the prayer life of ordinary Catholics suggest that for them she shares a place parallel to that of Jesus in God's plan to redeem the world? Does she not represent what is often seen as the Catholic Church's historic tendency to forget that it is only the sheer grace of God, engaging the faith of individuals in and through Christ, and the Bible's witness to him, that saves us from sin and destruction?

In a trenchant passage from his Church Dogmatics, volume 1, part 2, Karl Barth raises these questions powerfully. Agreeing--as Luther and Zwingli had done--that it is legitimate to apply to Mary the ancient church's title Theotokos, "Mother of God," as a striking, even provocative way of expressing the divine personal identity of her son, Jesus, Barth insists that the "privileges" ascribed to Mary by Catholics beyond this, since patristic times, all represent "an excrescence, i.e., a diseased construct of theological thought" that must simply be "excised" like a tumor. Barth explains:

We reject Mariology, (1) because it is an arbitrary innovation in the face of Scripture and the early church, and (2) because this innovation consists essentially in a falsification of Christian truth.... In the doctrine and worship of Mary there is disclosed the one heresy of the Roman Catholic Church which explains all the rest. The "mother of God" of Roman Catholic Marian dogma is quite simply the principle, type and essence of the human creature co-operating servantlike (ministerialiter) in its own redemption on the basis of prevenient grace, and to that extent the principle, type and essence of the Church. (1) What Marian doctrine and devotion reveals about Catholic Christianity, in Barth's view, is its fundamentally heretical notion that human receptivity and freedom play a decisive, if always simply a receptive, role in the saving activity of God in the world.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Woman of Many Names: Mary in Orthodox and Catholic Theology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.