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 – Methodological Aspects
2. The Feminine Line in the Bible
Pages 41-42: The so-called Gospel of the Egyptians, which dates from
the second century, ascribes to Jesus the following saying: “I have
come to destroy the works of the feminine.” This sentence enunciates
one of the fundamental motifs of the Gnostic interpretation of the
Christian view. The same motif reappears, with a slightly different
twist, in the so-called Gospel of Thomas: “When you make the two one …
and the upper as the lower, and when you make the masculine and the
feminine one only, so that the masculine is not masculine and the
feminine not feminine … you will enter into the kingdom.” By the same
token, we find an explicit rejection of Galatians 4:4: “When you see
him who was not born of a woman, fall down on your faces and worship
him. He is your father.”
Note: Gnostics did not believe in the humanity of Jesus Christ.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have
seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have
handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we
have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which
was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen
and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus
Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1
Note: Saint John condemned the Gnostics.
Page 42: In this context, it is interesting that Romano Guardini
interprets as a sign of the overcoming of the basic Gnostic pattern of
thinking in the Johannine corpus the fact that in the architecture of
the Apocalypse as a whole, the feminine enjoys the equality of rank
with the masculine that Christ bestowed on it. True, the whore of
Babylon combines the dimensions of evil, of sensuality, and of the
feminine. But this would be a Gnostic idea only if, on the other side,
the good appeared solely in masculine form. In reality, the feminine
finds radiant expression in the appearance of the woman crowned with
stars. But if one were to assign any priority, one would have to award
it to the feminine. After all, the figure in which the redeemed world
is definitively embodied is … “the bride.”
Note: The woman symbolizes the nation of Israel as Egypt was not a wilderness.
Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared
by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and
sixty days. Revelation 12:6.
Note: This portion of Scripture was still future at the time of the writing. The word “has” not “had” was used.
Pages 42-43: In these remarks, Guardini puts his finger on one of the
fundamental questions concerning the proper interpretation of the
Bible. Gnostic exegesis is characterized by its identification of the
feminine with matter, negativity, and nullity – which, according to the
Gnostics, cannot be included in the salvation proclaimed in the Bible.
Of course, such radical positions can turn into their opposite, into a
revolt against such negative valuations, and into their complete
Note: Was Saint Paul negative when trying to maintain order in the church at Ephesus?
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is
head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the
Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ,
so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Ephesians
Page 43: Modernity witnessed the development of another exclusion of
the feminine from the biblical message, which, while having different
reasons from and being less radical than its Gnostic predecessor, was
certainly no less influential. An exaggerated solus Christus compelled
its adherents to reject any cooperation of the creature, any
independent significance of its response, as a betrayal of the
greatness of grace. Consequently, there could be nothing meaningful in
the feminine line of the Bible stretching from Eve to Mary. Patristic
and medieval reflections on that line were, with implacable logic,
branded as a recrudescence of paganism, as treason against the
uniqueness of the Redeemer. Today’s radical feminism have to be
understood as the long-repressed explosion of indignation against this
sort of one-sided reading of Scripture – an explosion, however, that
has indeed taken the step to truly pagan or neo-Gnostic positions: the
rejection of the Father and the Son that occurs in these theologies
strikes at the very heart of the biblical witness.
Note: Feminists lack Biblical wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those
in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,
that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and
attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the
knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in
whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians
Pages 43-44: It thus becomes all the more important to read the Bible
itself, and as a whole. Such a reading reveals that, alongside of and
with the line running from Adam through the patriarchs to the Servant
of God, there is in the Old Testament a line that runs from Eve through
the matriarchs to figures such Deborah, Esther, Ruth, and, at last,
Sophia. We cannot ignore this trajectory as if it were theologically
indifferent, even though it is as incomplete, hence, as open-ended in
its basic meaning, and as unfinished as the whole Old Testament itself,
which remains in expectation of the New and of the answer it brings.
But just as the Adamic line gets its meaning from Christ, the
significance of the feminine line, in its indivisible mutual immanence
with respect to the mystery of Christ, becomes clear in light of the
figure of Mary and of the role of the ecclesia. The disappearance of
Mary and of the ecclesia in one of the main currents of modern theology
is an index of the latter’s incapacity to read the Bible in its
integrity. The immediate effect of dissociation from the ecclesia is
the disappearance of the place where this unity of the Bible becomes
visible. All the rest follows naturally from this first move.
Conversely, and for the same reason, perception of the architecture of
Scripture as a whole presupposes acceptance of the fundamental
ecclesial standpoint and corresponding rejection of a historical
selection that declares the supposedly oldest strands of the New
Testament to be the only valid ones and so devalues both Luke and John.
Only in the whole do we find the whole.
Note: Never be afraid to search the Scriptures in context.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to
Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they
received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily
to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:10-11.
Page 44: The contemporary relevance of the encyclical Redemptoris Mater
consists, as I see it, in the fact that it guides us to rediscover the
feminine line in the Bible and its proper salvific content and to
relearn that Christology does not exclude the feminine or repress and
trivialize it and, conversely, that the recognition of the feminine
does not diminish Christology, but that the truth about God and the
truth about ourselves can appear only when the correlation of the two
is correctly appreciated. The radicalisms that are tearing our times
apart, that located class warfare at the very root of man’s being – in
the relationship of man and woman to each other – are “heresies” in the
literal sense, in other words, a selection that refuses the whole. The
drama of our day could thus foster a better understanding of the
invitation to a Marian reading of the Bible than would have seemed
possible just a short time ago. Conversely, we need this Marian reading
in order to deal adequately with the anthropological challenge of our
Note: There is no masculine or feminine salvific content to being a saved Christian.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there
is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if
you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to
the promise. Galatians 3:28-29.
Note: Saint Paul would have condemned the Marian reading of Scripture as heresy.
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