Book Critique of MARY, The Church at the Source by Ratzinger and Balthasar
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
MARY, The Church at the Source
Thoughts on the place of Marian Doctrine and piety in faith and theology as a whole
By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
THE SIGN OF THE WOMAN – Four Focal Points of the Text
1) Mary – The Believer
Pages 48-49: The central attitude in terms of which Redemtoris Mater
unlocks the figure of Mary is – faith. Jesus is the incarnate Word who
speaks out of the depths of his oneness with the Father. In the same
way, Mary’s being and the trajectory of her life are decisively shaped
by the fact of her faith. “Blessed is she who believed” – this
exclamation of Elizabeth to Mary (Lk 1:45) becomes the key word of
Note: Blessed is everyone who sincerely believes that Jesus Christ is their personal Savior.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Page 49: Mary thereby takes her place among those whom the eleventh
chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews praises as the great believers of
history, thereby giving remembrance of faith’s witnesses its
theological citizenship. The encyclical never quits this fundamental
biblical focus, and we cannot understand the document properly unless
we, too, keep it constantly in view. For this reason, we can call
Redemptoris Mater a catechesis on faith, on man’s basic relationship to
God. The Pope connects Mary’s attitude with that of Abraham. Just as
Abraham’s faith was the beginning of the Old Covenant, Mary’s faith,
enacted in the scene of the Annunciation, is the inauguration of the
New. For Mary, as for Abraham, faith is trust in, and obedience to,
God, even when he leads her through darkness. It is a letting go, a
releasing, a handing over of oneself to the truth, to God. Faith, in
the luminous darkness of God’s inscrutable ways, is thus a conformation
Note: The inauguration of the New Covenant had nothing to do with Mary’s faith.
And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart
from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He
said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but
you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Note: The New Covenant was inaugurated on Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Pages 49-50: The Pope sees Mary’s Yes, her act of faith, implied in the
psalm text that the Letter to the Hebrews interprets as expressing the
Son’s Yes to his Incarnation and Cross: “Sacrifices and offerings you
have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me … ‘Behold, I have
come to do your will, O God’” (Heb 10:5-7; cf. Ps 40:6-8; Redemptoris
Mater, no. 13). Mary, saying Yes to the birth of the Son of God from
her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, places her body, her entire
self, at God’s disposal as a place for his presence. In her Yes, then,
Mary’s will coincides with her Son’s. The unison of these Yesses – “a
body you have prepared for me” – makes the Incarnation possible, for,
as Augustine says, Mary conceived in Spirit before she conceived in her
Note: Mary could have said No and God’s will would still have been achieved.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for
their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to
Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and
found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into
it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah
Note: God is never dependent upon somebody’s Yes and Jonah still ended up in Nineveh.
Page 50: The cruciformity of faith, which Abraham had to experience in
such a radical way, becomes evident for Mary, first in her meeting with
the aged Simeon, then, in a new way, in her losing, and finding again,
the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. The Pope vigorously underlines
the Evangelist’s affirmation that “they did not understand” what he
meant (Lk 2:48-50; Redemptoris Mater, no. 17). Even in the midst of the
closest intimacy, the mystery remains a mystery, and even Mary touches
it only in faith. But precisely thus she remains truly in contact with
this new self-revelation of God, that is, with the Incarnation.
Precisely because she belongs to “the little ones” who accept the
measure of faith, she is included in the promise: “Father, … you have
hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them
to infants … No one knows the Son except the Father” (Mt 11:25, 27;
Redemptoris Mater, no. 17).
Note: Mary said NO to the will of God and tried take Jesus Christ home.
While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and
brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to
Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking
to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him,
“Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His
hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My
brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My
brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50.
Note: Jesus Christ still died for the sins of the world despite Mary being out of the will of God
Pages 50-51: The Pope’s meditation on Mary’s faith reaches its apex and its
summation in his interpretation of Mary’s standing under the Cross. As
she who believes, Mary faithfully keeps in her heart all the words she
has received (Lk 1:29; 2:19, 51). But under the Cross, the word of
promise that has been given to her – “The Lord God will give to him the
throne of his father David, … and of his kingdom there will be no end”
(Lk 1:32-35) – seems to be definitively proved wrong. Faith enters into
its utmost kenosis. It is in total darkness. But precisely in this way
faith is perfect participation in Jesus’ expropriation (Phil 2:5-8).
The circle is complete: “A body you have prepared for me; behold, I
have come” – this initial Mary’s darkness is the fulfillment of the
communion of wills that was our starting point. Faith – Abraham already
makes this plain – is community at the Cross. It is at the Cross that
faith achieves its integrity. Thus, and not otherwise, is faith room
for the “blessing” that comes from God: “You have revealed them to
Note: Why does the Roman Catholic Church proclaim Mary the mother of Jesus when Saint Matthew didn’t?
And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him,
were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary
the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Now
when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named
Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went
to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the
body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it
in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn
out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the
tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary,
sitting opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:55-61.
Note: Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for your sins?