Mary Through the Centuries

Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture

Jaroslav Pelikan
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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    Mary Through the Centuries
    Book Description:

    The Virgin Mary has been an inspiration to more people than any other woman who ever lived. For Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, for artists, musicians, and writers, and for women and men everywhere she has shown many faces and personified a variety of virtues. In this important book, a world-renowned scholar who is the author of numerous books-including the best-sellingJesus Through the Centuries-tells how Mary has been depicted and venerated through the ages.Jaroslav Pelikan examines the biblical portrait of Mary, analyzing both the New and Old Testaments to see how the bits of information provided about her were expanded into a full-blown doctrine. He explores the view of Mary in late antiquity, where the differences between Mary, the mother of Christ, and Eve, the "mother of all living," provided positive and negative symbols of women. He discusses how the Eastern church commemorated Mary and how she was portrayed in the Holy Qur'an of Islam. He explains how the paradox of Mary as Virgin Mother shaped the paradoxical Catholic view of sexuality and how Reformation rejection of the worship of Mary allowed her to be a model of faith for Protestants. He considers also her role in political and social history. He analyzes the place of Mary in literature-from Dante, Spenser, and Milton to Wordsworth, George Eliot, and Goethe-as well as in music and art, and he describes the miraculous apparitions of Mary that have been experienced by the common people.Was Mary human or divine? Should she be revered for her humility or her strength? What is her place in heaven? Whatever our answers to these questions, Mary remains a symbol of hope and solace, a woman, says Pelikan, for all seasons and all reasons.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18556-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Introduction: Ave Maria, Gratia Plena
    (pp. 1-5)

    The second sentence of the Introduction toJesus Through the Centuries,the companion volume to this book, posed the question: “If it were possible, with some sort of supermagnet, to pull up out of that history [of almost twenty centuries] every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?”¹ The same question may be appropriately asked also about Mary. There are, on one hand, many fewer such scraps of metal bearing the name Mary. But on the other hand, she has provided the content of the definition of the feminine in a...

  5. 1 Miriam of Nazareth in the New Testament
    (pp. 7-21)

    Because this book is not an inquiry into who Mary was in the first century but into what “through the centuries” she has been experienced and understood to be, biblical materials dealing with her have an essentially retrospective function here. In light of the subsequent development of devotion and doctrine, what did the Bible contribute to the portrait of the Virgin? That perspective applies with particular force to the subject of the next chapter, the allegorical and typological use of a Christianized Old Testament for its bearing on the question of Mary, where the problem of the original meaning of...

  6. 2 The Daughter of Zion and the Fulfillment of Prophecy
    (pp. 23-37)

    In a real sense, our inquiry into the witness of the New Testament to the Virgin Mary has been begging the question—and, in light of subsequent history, begging it falsely. For with their belief in the unity of the Bible, where “the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old becomes visible in the New [Novum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet],” and with the consequent ability to toggle effortlessly from one Testament to the other and from fulfillment to prophecy and back again, biblical interpreters throughout most of Christian history have had available to them...

  7. 3 The Second Eve and the Guarantee of Christ’s True Humanity
    (pp. 39-53)

    In the second and third centuries after Christ, during the momentous age of cultural transition and spiritual-intellectual upheaval that historians call Late Antiquity, which falls somewhere between the Hellenistic age and the Byzantine and Medieval periods, the parallel between Mary and Eve was a primary focus for the consideration of two major issues of life and thought that continue to be perennial concerns in our era: the meaning (if any) of time and human history and the very definition of what it means to be human.¹

    A central contribution of the faith of Israel to the development of Western thought...

  8. 4 The Theotokos, the Mother of God
    (pp. 55-65)

    Throughout history, and especially during the fourth and fifth centuries, the basic category for thinking about Mary was that of paradox: Virgin and Mother: Human Mother of One who is God, Theotokos.¹ For the most comprehensive—and, in the opinion of some, the most problematic—of all the terms invented for Mary by Eastern Christianity was certainly that title Theotokos. It did not mean simply “Mother of God,” as it was usually rendered in Western languages (Mater Deiin Latin, and thence in the Romance languages, orMutter Gottesin German), but more precisely and fully “the one who gave...

  9. 5 The Heroine of the Qur’ān and the Black Madonna
    (pp. 67-79)

    One of the most profound and most persistent roles of the Virgin Mary in history has been her function as a bridge builder to other traditions, other cultures, and other religions. From the Latin word for “bridge builder” came the termpontifex,a priestly title in Roman paganism. In the formpontifex maximusit became one of the terms in the cult of the divine Roman emperor, and for that reason it was disavowed by Christian emperors already in the fourth century. Not long thereafter it was taken up by Christian bishops and archbishops, and it did not become an...

  10. 6 The Handmaid of the Lord and the Woman of Valor
    (pp. 81-95)

    If historians of art or of the church were to follow the example of their colleagues in the natural sciences by compiling a “citation index,” not of the articles, papers, and books of other scholars as scientists do, but of the themes that have captured the attention of painters and sculptors throughout history, and especially if they were to prepare such an index together, it seems clear that among all the scenes in the life of the Virgin Mary that have engaged the piety of the devout and the creativity of the artists, the annunciation has been predominant. The annunciation...

  11. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  12. 7 The Adornment of Worship and the Leader of the Heavenly Choir
    (pp. 97-111)

    The identification of Mary, mother of Jesus, with Miriam, sister of Moses, was not only a theme of the Qur’ān¹ but had long before been a theme of Christian typology. Commenting on the words of the psalm “Among them were the damsels playing with timbrels [in medio iuvenculae tympanistriae],”² Augustine identified the Virgin Mary as “nostra tympanistria,” because, like Miriam before the children of Israel, she led the people of God and the angels of heaven in the praise of the Almighty.³ And thousands of English-speaking Protestant congregations in this century—most of them without realizing that they were carrying...

  13. 8 The Paragon of Chastity and the Blessed Mother
    (pp. 113-123)

    The paradox of Mary as Virgin Mother not only effectively illustrated but decisively shaped the fundamental paradox of the Orthodox and Catholic view of sexuality, which was epitomized by the glorification of virginity over matrimony—and by the celebration of matrimony, but not of virginity, as a sacrament. For as Virgin she served as the unique and sublime paragon of chastity At the same time as Mother she was uniquely “blessed among women,” as Elizabeth called her and as the words of theAve Mariasaluted her, not because she was Virgin but specifically because she was, as Elizabeth went...

  14. 9 The Mater Dolorosa and the Mediatrix
    (pp. 125-137)

    During the High Middle Ages of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which in a special way combined what Ernst Robert Curtius has called “the essential message of medieval thought,” defined by him as “the spirit in which it restated tradition,”¹ with what Charles Homer Haskins has called a genuine “Renaissance of the twelfth century,”² that combination of tradition and innovation was nowhere more dramatically in evidence than in its portrayal of Mary as the Mater Dolorosa, Mother of Sorrows, and its correlative doctrine of Mary as the Mediatrix. The sheer number of references to her in poetry and prose, together...

  15. 10 The Face That Most Resembles Christ’s
    (pp. 139-151)

    One of the most sublime moments in the history of devotion to Mary came in the closing cantos of Dante’sDivine Comedy,in which Bernard of Clairvaux gives praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary.¹ These praises were in great measure derived from Bernard’s many writings about Mary.² For, as Steven Botterill has said, Bernard was “helpedby the fact that his thinking is not on the cutting edge of academic theology: his writings about Mary are filled with an intense and intensely personal devotion to the Virgin, and aim as much to stir his audience’s hearts as to provoke activity...

  16. 11 The Model of Faith in the Word of God
    (pp. 153-163)

    When a great faith disappears, Gilbert Chesterton once observed, its sublime aspects go first: the Puritans rejected the worship of the Virgin Mary but went on burning witches.¹ like so many of Chesterton’s aphorisms, this one managed to be both true and false, as a closer examination of the attitude (or, rather, the several attitudes) of the sixteenth-century Reformation toward Mary would reveal. For the Protestant Reformers contended that just as their critique of what they regarded as Medieval sacramental magic had raised and restored the Lord’s Supper to its divinely instituted place, so taking from Mary the false honors...

  17. 12 The Mater Gloriosa and the Eternal Feminine
    (pp. 165-175)

    When truly archetypal motifs and figures of tradition cease to be the objects of the devotion to which they have been attached for many centuries, the afterglow can sometimes seem even brighter than the glow. So it has been true in a preeminent sense of the figure of Jesus that, by a phenomenon that could be labeled Christocentric agnosticism, “as respect for the organized church has declined, reverence for Jesus has grown.”¹ And so it has been with his Mother. In the Romantic poetry of many countries during the nineteenth century, therefore, Mary came to glow with a halo that...

  18. 13 The Woman Clothed with the Sun
    (pp. 177-187)

    Although African-American spirituals, with their profound and powerful identification between the slave experience in North America and the history of Israel, contained relatively few references to Mary, probably because the churches of most of the slaves were Evangelical and Protestant rather than Roman Catholic, it is striking to find, in one of these spirituals, Mary designated as “that woman clothe’ with the sun, moon under her feet.”¹ For the application to the Virgin Mary of that title from the words of the Book of Revelation, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun[mulier...

  19. 14 The Great Exception, Immaculately Conceived
    (pp. 189-200)

    As we have seen in the early chapters of this book, much of the venue for the development of both devotion and doctrine connected to the Virgin Mary was the Christian East—Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Greek—rather than the Latin West, to which the results came from the East. To be sure, that was also true of other doctrines, such as the doctrine of the person of Christ, though it was not by any means true of all of them. To the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, Latin writers such as Tertullian in North Africa made substantial contributions,...

  20. 15 The Queen of Heaven, Her Dormition and Her Assumption
    (pp. 201-213)

    Throughout this book, in discussing the themes and doctrines dealing with the Virgin Mary I have deliberately eschewed the many debates about her, cultural as well as theological, that have broken out during the twentieth century.¹ Rather, I merely mentioned them briefly in the Introduction, as a foil for the review that followed, which dealt only with the earlier centuries; or in some cases I have mentioned them only in order to take the account of an earlier development into its subsequent stages.² Nevertheless, one event in the history of Mary at the precise middle of the twentieth century, together...

  21. 16 The Woman for All Seasons—And All Reasons
    (pp. 215-224)

    During nearly twenty centuries, these words of the Magnificat have come true over and over, and only the most churlish have dared to be an exception to them. Retrospective consideration of the many topics and themes of this book suggests various areas of history for which the centrality of the person of the Virgin Mary is an indispensable interpretive key. Her importance as such a key does not depend on the belief or unbelief of the observer; for even those who do not, or cannot, have faith need to grasp the faith of other ages in order to understand them....

  22. Bibliographic Note
    (pp. 225-228)
  23. Abbreviations
    (pp. 229-230)
  24. Notes
    (pp. 231-258)
  25. Index of Proper Names
    (pp. 259-263)
  26. Index of Biblical References
    (pp. 264-267)
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 268-271)