Book Critique of MARY, The Church at the Source by Ratzinger and Balthasar

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Marian Piety

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)

Marian Piety

Pages 33-34: The connections we have just outlined enable us finally to explain the structure of Marian piety. Its traditional place in the Church’s liturgy is Advent and then, in general, the feasts relating to the Christmas cycle: the Presentation of the Lord and the Annunciation.
Note: Believers will celebrate the Incarnation of God not the piety of Mary.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” John 1:14-15.
Note: Saint John would have condemned Mariology as damnable heresy.

Page 34: In our consideration so far, we have regarded the Marian dimension as having three characteristics. First, it is personalizing (the Church, not as a structure, but as a person and in person).
Note: The church is a gathering of people (plural) in a specific location.
Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Acts 11:25-26.

Page 34: Second, it is incarnational (the unity of bios, person, and relation to God; the ontological freedom of the creature vis--vis the Creator and of the “body” of Christ relative to the head).
Note: The Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ establishes a relationship with God not Mary.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8: 9-11.

Page 34: These two characteristics give the Marian dimension a third: it involves the heart, affectivity, and thus fixes faith solidly in the deepest roots of man’s being. These characteristics suggest Advent as the liturgical place of the Marian dimension, while their meaning in turn receives further illumination from Advent. Marian piety is Advent piety; it is filled with the joy of the expectation of the Lord’s imminent coming; it is ordered to the incarnational reality of the Lord’s nearness as it is given and gives itself. Ulrich Wickert says very nicely that Luke depicts Mary as twice heralding Advent – at the beginning of the Gospel, when she awaits the birth of her Son, and at the beginning of Acts, when she awaits the birth of the Church.
Note: Angels and believers celebrated Jesus Christ after He was born.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. Luke 2:13-17.

Pages 34-35: However, in the course of history an additional element has become more and more pronounced. Marian piety is, to be sure, primarily incarnational and focused on the Lord who has come. It tries to learn with Mary to stay in his presence. But the feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, which gained in significance thanks to the dogma of 1950, accentuates the eschatological transcendence of the Incarnation.
Note: Believers who have died will not bodily rise until the return of Jesus Christ.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16.

Page 35: Mary’s path includes the experience of rejection (Mk 3:31-35; Jn 2:4). When she is given away under the Cross (Jn 19:26), this experience becomes a participation in the rejection that Jesus himself had to endure on the Mount of Olives (Mk 14:34) and on the Cross (Mk 15:34). Only in this rejection can the new come to pass; only in a going away can the true coming take place (Jn 16:7).
Note: Mary was not rejected but was received into John’s home as his own mother.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. John 19:25-27.

Page 35: Marian piety is thus necessarily a Passion-centered piety. In the prophecy of the aged Simeon, who foretold that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart (Lk 2:35), Luke interweaves from the very outset the Incarnation and the Passion, the joyful and the sorrowful mysteries. In the Church’s piety, Mary appears, so to speak, as the living Veronica’s veil, as an icon of Christ that brings him into the present of man’s heart, translates Christ’s image into the heart’s vision, and thus makes it intelligible. Looking toward the Mater assumpta, the Virgin Mother assumed into heaven, Advent broadens into eschatology. In this sense, the medieval expansion of Marian piety beyond Advent into the whole ensemble of the mysteries of salvation is entirely in keeping with the logic of biblical faith.
Note: All salvation and biblical prophecy is centered on Jesus Christ alone.
Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:9-10.
Note: Mary would shout “See that you do not do that!” to those who would glorify her.

Pages 35-36: We can, in conclusion, derive from the foregoing a three-fold task for education in Marian piety: a. It is necessary a maintain the distinctiveness of Marian devotion precisely by keeping its practice constantly and strictly bound to Christology. In this way, both will be brought to their proper form. b. Marian piety must not withdraw into partial aspects of the Christian mystery, let alone reduce that mystery to partial aspects of itself. It must be open to the whole breadth of the mystery and become itself a means to this breadth. c. Marian piety will always stand within the tension between theological rationality and believing affectivity. This is part of its essence, and its task is not to allow either to atrophy. Affectivity must not lead it to forget the sober measure of ratio, not must the sobriety of a reasonable faith allow it to suffocate the heart, which often sees more than naked reason. It was not for nothing that the Fathers understood Matthew 5:8 as the center of their theological epistemology: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The organ for seeing God is the purified heart. It may just be the task of Marian piety to awaken the heart and purify it in faith. If the misery of contemporary man is his increasing disintegration into mere bios and mere rationality, Marian piety could work against this “decomposition” and help man to rediscover unity in the center, from the heart.
Note: Conversion is the means to purify the heart through faith in Jesus Christ not false Marian humility.
Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.
Note: Do you have a testimony of Jesus Christ as Saint Paul did?

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