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)
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-à-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
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
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
Note: Do you have a testimony of Jesus Christ as Saint Paul did?
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX