In Quest of the Jewish Mary: The Mother of Jesus in History, Theology, and Spirituality

By Procario-Foley, Elena | Theological Studies, March 2014 | Go to article overview

In Quest of the Jewish Mary: The Mother of Jesus in History, Theology, and Spirituality


Procario-Foley, Elena, Theological Studies


In Quest of the Jewish Mary: The Mother of Jesus in History, Theology, and Spirituality. By Mary Christine Athans, B.V.M. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2013. Pp. xxviii + 210. $19.

One of the prominent features of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI was his effort to engage in dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X. Benedict's lifting of the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops on January 21, 2009, sparked a firestorm when it was discovered that one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, was a notorious Holocaust denier. The barrage of media attention attending Benedict's gesture toward SSPX focused attention on their unwavering rejection of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue as articulated by the documents of the Second Vatican Council. More recently, Bernard Fellay, SSPX superior general, has called the Jewish people "enemies of the Church" (December 2012) and has stated that "in the name of a ubiquitous ecumenism ... and of a vain inter-religious dialogue.., the truth about the one true Church is silenced" (June 2013, http://sspx.org/en/sspxs-bishops-declaration-25th-anniversary).

In Quest of the Jewish Mary, however, joins a growing body of literature that approaches the mother of Jesus from the very ecumenical and interreligious perspectives that Fellay unequivocally rejects. Athans's enduring commitment to Jewish-Christian dialogue does not silence the truth about the church. Precisely through a loving appreciation of Jewish faith and life, something traditionalists cannot countenance, she serves the important goal of constantly discovering anew and illuminating the truth about Christian faith. In this volume she does so through a helpful, sensitive, and creative approach to the historical Mary that fulfills the preamble of the 1974 Vatican document, Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration "Nostra aetate" (no. 4): "Christians must therefore strive to acquire a better knowledge of the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism."

The 1991 curial document, Dialogue and Proclamation, describes four forms of interreligious dialogue: the dialogues of life, action, theological exchange, and religious experience. A. liberally employs personal vignettes--ranging from her tenure as executive director of the North Phoenix Corporate Ministry to the classroom to a host of dialogue situations--to set up the discussion for each chapter and to provide illustrations for various insights throughout her explorations. Her experientially based examples manifest the four forms of dialogue as she essays to show the authentic lines of the first-century Jewish woman revered as the Mother of God.

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