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)
HAIL, FULL OF GRACE – Mary as Prophetess
Page 70: With this meditative exegesis of the angelic salutation, we
have, so to say, pinpointed the theological locus of Mariology. We have
answered the question, “What is the significance of the figure of Mary
in the fabric of faith and devotion?” I would now like to illustrate
further our fundamental intuition in light of two other aspects of Mary
presented in Luke’s Gospel.
Note: Anyone who praises Mary will be out of the will of God.
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from
the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that
bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than
that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” And
while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This
is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” Luke 11:27-29.
Note: Are you focused on Mary or the Word of God? Do you want to be blessed?
Page 70: The first aspect relates to Mary’s prayer, to her meditative
character. We could also say that it has to do with the mystical
element in her nature, which the Fathers closely associate with
prophecy. I have in mind here three texts in which this aspect comes
clearly to the fore. The first is found in the context of the
Annunciation scene: Mary is dismayed by the angel’s greeting – this is
the holy dread that comes upon man when God, the Wholly Other, draws
close to him. She is afraid, and she “considered in her mind what sort
of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). The word the Evangelist uses of
“consider” derives from the Greek root “dialogue”. In other words, Mary
enters into an interior dialogue with the Word. She carries on an inner
dialogue with the Word that has been given her; she speaks to it and
lets it speak to her, in order to fathom its meaning.
Note: Since Mary was dismayed, fearful, and tormented, she was a sinner in need of a Savior.
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in
the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There
is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear
involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:17-19.
Note: Has the Roman Catholic church tormented you into being fearful due to rules?
Pages 70-71: The second pertinent text occurs after the account of the
adoration of Jesus by the shepherds. There it is said that Mary “kept”,
“held together”, and “placed together” all these words (= “happenings”)
“in her heart” (Lk 2:19). The evangelist here ascribes to Mary the
insightful, meditative remembrance that in the Gospel of John will play
such an important role in the unfolding of the message of Jesus in the
Church under the working of the Spirit. Mary sees the events as
“words”, as happenings full of meaning because they come from God’s
meaning-creating will. She translates the events into words and
penetrates them, bringing them into her “heart” – into that interior
dimension of understanding where sense and spirit, reason and feeling,
interior and exterior perception interpenetrate circumincessively. She
is thus able to see the totality without getting lost in individual
details and to understand the points of the whole. Mary “puts
together”, “holds together” – she fits the single details into the
whole picture, compares and considers them, and then preserves them.
The word becomes seed in good soil. She does not snatch at it, hold it
locked in an immediate, superficial grasp, and then forget it. Rather,
the outward event finds in her heart a space to abide and, in this way,
gradually to unveil its depth, without any blurring of its once-only
Note: Mary kept and pondered the sayings as she did not understand what was happening.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19.
Note: A sinless person would have known the will of God.
Pages 71-72: There is an analogous statement in connection with the
scene centering on the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. The first
stage is “they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them”
(Lk 2:50). Even for the believing man who is entirely open to God, the
words of God are not comprehensible and evident right away. Those who
demand that the Christian message be as immediately understandable as
any banal statement hinder God. Where there is no humility to accept
the mystery, no patience to receive interiorly what one has not yet
understood, to carry it to term, and to let it open at its own pace,
the seed of the word has fallen on rocky ground; it has found no soil.
Even the Mother does not understand the Son at this moment, but once
again she “kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51). The Greek
term for “keep” here is not precisely the same as the one Luke uses
after the scene with the shepherds. Whereas the latter emphasizes more
the aspect of “together”, of unifying contemplation, the former
stresses the element of “through”, of carrying the word to term and
holding it fast.
Note: Why did Mary question Jesus Christ? Only a sinner would question God.
His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according
to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they
returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and
His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the
company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their
relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they
returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days
they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers,
both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him
were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him,
they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done
this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He
said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be
about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement
which He spoke to them. Luke 2:41-50.
Note: Why did Mary call Joseph the father of Jesus Christ? Only a sinner would make a false statement.
Pages 72-73: Behind this portrayal of Mary we glimpse the picture of
the godly man of the Old Testament as he is described by the psalms,
especially the great psalm of God’s word, Psalm 119. In the picture
that emerges there of the pious man, it is characteristic for him to
love God’s word, to carry it in his heart, ponder over it, contemplate
it by day and by night, and be wholly imbued with it and permeated by
its life. The Fathers summed this up in a beautiful and eloquent image,
which we find formulated, for example, by Theodotus of Ancyra in the
following terms: “The Virgin has given birth … the Prophetess has borne
a child … It was through hearing that Mary, the prophetess, conceived
the living God. For the natural path of discourse is the ear.” Mary’s
divine maternity and her enduring attitude of openness to God’s word
are seen as interpenetrating here: giving ear to the angel’s greeting.
Mary welcomes the Holy Spirit into herself. Having become pure hearing,
she receives the Word so totally that it becomes flesh in her. This
understanding of hearing, meditation, and conception appears in
conjunction with the concept and the reality of prophecy: inasmuch as
Mary hears in the very depths of her heart, so that she truly
interiorizes the Word and can give it to the world in a new way, she is
a prophetess. Alois Grillmeier has offered the following commentary on
this patristic reflection: We see in the image of “Mary the
prophetess”, for example, no trace of pagan divination. Mary is no
Pythia. When we look at the scene of the Annunciation … and the meeting
in Zechariah’s house in tandem, prophecy’s center of gravity shift’s
away from the ecstatic to the interior dimension of grace … If a place
fittingly belongs to Mary in the history of mysticism, her role therein
has one meaning: she does nothing but draw away from the periphery and
toward the interior essence.
Note: The Word of God will always tell you who the person is.
Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the
tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband
seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about
eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God
with fastings and prayers night and day. Luke 2:36-37.
Note: The Word of God always noted Mary as the mother of Jesus Christ and nothing more.
Page 73: In this way, Mary illustrates the new and specifically
Christian understanding of the prophet: life in holiness and truth,
which is the true prediction of the future and the only valid
interpretation of every present. In Mary the true greatness and the
surpassing simplicity of Christian mysticism emerge into view: it does
not consist in extraordinary phenomena, in raptures and visions, but in
the abiding exchange of creaturely existence with the Creator, so that
the creature becomes evermore pervious to him, truly one with him in a
holy union at once bridal and material.
Note: God never appointed prophetesses in His church.
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second
prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings,
helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28
Note: Why does the Roman Catholic church violate the Bible continually?
Pages 73-74: No one should try to psychologize the Bible. But perhaps
we may, in spite of that, look for the delicate traces in which the
Bible concretizes this way of being in its image of Mary. For me, the
story of the marriage at Cana is one such instance. Mary is rebuffed.
The Lord’s hour is not yet come, whereas the present hour, the period
of Jesus’ public activity, requires that she withdraw and keep silence.
It appears strange, almost contradictory, that in spite of this she
turns to the servants and says “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Is
this not simply her inner readiness to let Jesus act, her intuitive
sensitivity to the hidden mystery of the hour? The second example is
Pentecost. The time of Jesus’ public activity had been for her the time
of rejection, the time of darkness. The scene of Pentecost, however,
reprises the beginning of the story in Nazareth and shows how the whole
hangs together. Just as Christ had at that time been born of the Holy
Spirit, so now the Church is born by the working of the same Spirit.
But Mary is in the midst of those who pray and wait (Acts 1:16). That
prayerful recollection we identified as characteristic of her nature
once again becomes the space in which the Holy Spirit can enter and
bring about a new creation.
Note: Jesus Christ had no role for Mary in the building of His Church.
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon,
son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes,
Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He
said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him,
“Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah,
do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third
time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things;
You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most
assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and
walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out
your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not
wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.
And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” John 21:15-19.
Note: Why does the Roman Catholic church violate the Bible continually?
Pages 74-75: Finally, I would like to refer once more to the
Magnificat, which seems to me a sort of recapitulation of all these
aspects. It is about all here, particularly in the prediction that all
generations will praise her, that Mary reveals herself in the eyes of
the Fathers to be the Spirit-filled Prophetess. Yet this prophetic
prayer is woven entirely of threads from the Old Testament. How many
stages led up to the text prior to Christianity, how far the Evangelist
was involved in its formulation, are ultimately entirely secondary
questions. Luke and the tradition from which he emerges hear in the
Magnificat the voice of Mary, the Mother of the Lord. They know that
this is how she spoke. She lived so deeply immersed in the word of the
Old Covenant that it quite spontaneously became her own. She had lived
and prayed through the Bible so deeply, she had “kept it together” in
her heart to such a degree, that she saw in its word her life and the
life of the world; it was so much her own that she found in it the
strength to respond to her hour. God’s word had become her own word,
and she had surrendered her own word entirely into his: the frontiers
were abolished, because her existence, as a lived penetration into the
Word, was an existence in the realm of the Holy Spirit. “My soul
magnifies the Lord.” This does not mean that we can add anything to
God, Saint Ambrose says, in commenting on this verse, but that we let
him be great in us. To magnify the Lord means, not to want to magnify
ourselves, our own name, our own ego; not to spread ourselves and take
up more space, but to give him room so that he may be more present in
the world. It means to become more truly what we are: not a
self-enclosed monad that displays nothing but itself, but God’s image.
It means to get free of the dust and soot that obscures and begrimes
the transparency of the image and to become truly human by pointing
exclusively to him.
Note: Recapitulation of the Magnificat, Mary reminds us that she was a sinner that needed a Savior.
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47.
Note: Why does the Roman Catholic church violate the Bible continually?
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