Mary
Part 5 Mary and Theology

Chapter m56 Other Titles of Mary

Introduction

Bibliography

Metaphor / Doctrine

Mediatrix

Criteria for Evaluation

Mother

First of the Disciples

Co-Redeemer

Titles in the Litany of Loretto

To Think About

 

Introduction

This is page is intended to address the theological issues that are implied in various titles of Mary; e.g. "Mother of God", "Mother of the Church" "Tower of Ivory", "Star of the Sea",  "Mediatrix", etc. Some of these titles are primarily "metaphor"; others have profound theological consequences.  Often these consequences are not explicitly acknowledges but lie hidden "under the iceberg." 

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Bibliography

 Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, Apostolic Exhortation for the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  1974 Feb 02.   Text available in English at  http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Paul06/p6marial.htm

Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, Encyclical Letter, March 25, 1987

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, December 2001.  (Available on line at the Vatican Web Site at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20020513_vers-direttorio_en.html    See especially Chapter V:  VENERATION OF THE BLESSED MOTHER OF OUR LORD (183-207)

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By.  (University of Chicago Press, 1980)

Margaret Barker.  "The Images of Mary in the Litany of Loreto"  Usus Antiquior, Vol. 1 No. 2, July, 2010, 110--31.  Available online:  http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/USU_Barker.pdf

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Metaphor / Doctrine

The titles of Mary are of various types.  Some are metaphors:  expressions of love and affection.  Some titles express doctrine, facts, and beliefs.

1.  Metaphor

Webster's Dictionary defines metaphor as "a figure of speech in which one thing is likened to another, different thing by being spoken of as if it were that other. For example: 'All the world's a stage.'"  

Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, p 5:  "The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another."

A metaphor both reveals and conceals; it tell us something about "what is" and about "what is not." 

Example:    "My love is like a red, red rose..."
A.  Reveals  (what my love is) -- sweet, precious, fragile, beautiful, etc. 
B.  Conceals  (does not imply that my love is)  -- green, thorny, dangerous, has one long green leg, dies if not standing in water, etc.

Example:    Mary is a "Tower of Ivory" 
A.  Reveals  (what my Mary is) -- beautiful, pure, strong, etc. 
B.  Conceals (does not imply that Mary is)  -- 50 feet tall, stony, unfeeling, , etc.

The reference in the Litany of Loretto to Mary as "Tower of Ivory" is taken from the lover describing the beauty of his beloved in the Song of Songs:

Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,
overlooking Damascus. (Song of Songs 7:4 NRSV)

2.  Doctrine

Other titles of Mary, while expressions of love and affection move beyond metaphor and are expressions of theological truths and doctrines.  These titles must be evaluated in the light of the theological truths which they express. 

"There is a significant formal difference between Christology and Mariology [Pannenberg] suggested.  This difference lies in the fact that Christology is the explication of the meaning of a historical event, namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, while Mariology, possessing no such historical basis, is the personification in symbolic fashion of the characteristics of the new humankind of faith.  In other words, because so very few historically attested events surround the figure of Mary, her persona is more open to being shaped by diverse projections regarding the virtues and values of the ideal believer."  (Truly Our Sister, p 96) 

3.  Archetype  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/archetype

1.  The original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies : prototype; also : a perfect example.

3.  an inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of C. G. Jung that is derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of the individual.

Note:  "Karl Rahner noted that the image of Mary in the church has always been closely tied to the image of women at any given time."   (quoted in Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p. 17)

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Criteria for Evaluation

Pope Paul VI in Marialis Cultus  http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Paul06/p6marial.htm  gives several criteria for evaluating authentic devotion to Mary.  (See  Chapter m63 Marian Devotions).    The Holy Father has 5 principles which are to guide and direct authentic devotion to Mary. 

Principle 1.  PRIMACY OF CHRIST.  "In the first place it is supremely fitting that exercises of piety directed towards the Virgin Mary should clearly express the Trinitarian and Christological note that is intrinsic and essential to them.   In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him."  (#25)

Principle 2.  BIBLICALLY BASED.  "Every form of worship should have a biblical imprint." (#30)

Principle 3.  LITURGICAL YEAR.  "Devotions with consideration for the liturgical seasons should be so arranged as to be in harmony with the sacred liturgy."  (#31)

Principle 4.  ECUMENICALLY SENSITIVE.  "Because of its ecclesial character, devotion to the Blessed Virgin reflects the preoccupations of the Church herself. Among these especially in our day is her anxiety for the re-establishment of Christian unity. In this way devotion to the Mother of the Lord is in accord with the deep desires and aims of the ecumenical movement, that is, it acquires an ecumenical aspect."  (#32)

Principle 5.  CULTURALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY SOUND.  "Devotion to the Blessed Virgin must also pay close attention to certain findings of the human sciences.  Woman's equality and co-responsibility with man in the running of the family are being justly recognized by laws and the evolution of customs".  (#34) 

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Mother

Mother of Jesus of Nazareth

xxx

Mother of God

xxx

Mother of Christ

xxx

Mother of the Church

1.  Mother -- flows from archetype

2.  Metaphors reveal and conceal...

Mary is "Mother of the Church" reveals a truth; but conceals that "Mary is a daughter of the Church".  In the one metaphor Mary is my Mother; in the other metaphor, Mary is my Sister.   (In the second metaphor "daughter" of the Church, Mary is clearly placed among those redeemed by Christ.  The first metaphor could seem to imply that Mary was above or outside of redemption; but metaphors reveal and conceal.  See the example above:  "My love is like a red, red rose" does not imply that my love has one long green leg with thorns on it!)

The Church is the "Bride of Christ" reveals a truth; but conceals the truth that the Church is the "Body of Christ".  The first metaphor would lead one to refer to the Church with the pronoun "she"; the second truth would lead one to refer to the Church with the pronoun "we" or "it" (as a collective noun). 

In the metaphor "Mother of the Church" - Church as feminine - the priest who represents the Church in persona ecclesiae is feminine in this metaphor.  

3.  Jungian Archetype "woman"

"Karl Rahner noted that the image of Mary in the church has always been closely tied to the image of women at any given time."   (quoted in Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p. 17)

There are a variety of archetypical understandings of "woman" and "feminine".  Johnson speaks of two:  An anthropology of complementarity and an anthropology of egalitarian partnership.  These "archetypes" lie under the iceberg, in the subconscious; and are consequently, by definition "invisible" (even to the author/speaker).  

The medieval reappropriation of classical Greek thought gave this earlier dualism a new lease on life.  In each instance theology utilized a philosophy that divided all reality into two spheres, spirit and matter.  It also ranked these spheres in order of importance with spirit, which signifies the higher realm of light and eternal life, being prized over matter, which embodies the lower realm of darkness, change, and death.  Everything that exists belongs to one sphere or the other.  Regarding human beings, men are classed with spirit while women are identified with matter, in the latter case, especially because of the obvious changes that take place in women's bodies through menstruation, childbearing, and menopause -- female flesh being forever the stumbling block to equality, in patriarchal thinking. Consequently, men by nature are nearer to the divine, endowed with a full measure of soul, while women for their own good need to be governed by men who can guide them toward the higher realm.  This dualistic vision results in a world where men function as the normative human beings fit to exercise authority in the public realm while women are destined for the private domain of childbearing, homemaking, and care for the vulnerable.    ... As Thomas Aquinas writes "woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates."  ...  Women who dedicate themselves to virginity... By renouncing the exercise of their female genital sexuality with all it entails, they are in fact taking leave of their feminine nature and "become male," thus moving closer to the divine.  In Jerome's view as long as woman is for birth and children, she is different from man as body is from soul.  But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman, and will be called man (vir)."   (quoted in Johnson, Truly Our Sister, pp. 48-49)

One of the "difficulties" of this anthropology of complementarity for the seminarian / priest is that many of the key qualities that are required of a priest are (in this anthropological vision) feminine:  compassion, listening, obedience, service, humility, understanding, wisdom, piety, etc.

 

My (i.e., "our") Mother

xxx

Our Sister

xxx

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First of the Disciples

 

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Mediatrix

This title is based on the understanding that God only gives grace through Christ and through Mary.

Principle 1.  PRIMACY OF CHRIST.  "In the first place it is supremely fitting that exercises of piety directed towards the Virgin Mary should clearly express the Trinitarian and Christological note that is intrinsic and essential to them.   In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him."  (#25)

Principle 2.  BIBLICALLY BASED.  "Every form of worship should have a biblical imprint." (#30)

Principle 3.  LITURGICAL YEAR.  "Devotions with consideration for the liturgical seasons should be so arranged as to be in harmony with the sacred liturgy."  (#31)

Principle 4.  ECUMENICALLY SENSITIVE.  "Because of its ecclesial character, devotion to the Blessed Virgin reflects the preoccupations of the Church herself. Among these especially in our day is her anxiety for the re-establishment of Christian unity. In this way devotion to the Mother of the Lord is in accord with the deep desires and aims of the ecumenical movement, that is, it acquires an ecumenical aspect."  (#32)

Principle 5.  CULTURALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY SOUND.  "Devotion to the Blessed Virgin must also pay close attention to certain findings of the human sciences.  Woman's equality and co-responsibility with man in the running of the family are being justly recognized by laws and the evolution of customs".  (#34) 

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Co-Redeemer

This title is based on the understanding that Mary was so closely related to her Son that she shares with him in work of redeeming the fallen human race.

Principle 1.  PRIMACY OF CHRIST.  "In the first place it is supremely fitting that exercises of piety directed towards the Virgin Mary should clearly express the Trinitarian and Christological note that is intrinsic and essential to them.   In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him."  (#25)

Principle 2.  BIBLICALLY BASED.  "Every form of worship should have a biblical imprint." (#30)

Principle 3.  LITURGICAL YEAR.  "Devotions with consideration for the liturgical seasons should be so arranged as to be in harmony with the sacred liturgy."  (#31)

Principle 4.  ECUMENICALLY SENSITIVE.  "Because of its ecclesial character, devotion to the Blessed Virgin reflects the preoccupations of the Church herself. Among these especially in our day is her anxiety for the re-establishment of Christian unity. In this way devotion to the Mother of the Lord is in accord with the deep desires and aims of the ecumenical movement, that is, it acquires an ecumenical aspect."  (#32)

Principle 5.  CULTURALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY SOUND.  "Devotion to the Blessed Virgin must also pay close attention to certain findings of the human sciences.  Woman's equality and co-responsibility with man in the running of the family are being justly recognized by laws and the evolution of customs".  (#34) 

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Titles in the Litany of Loretto

An excellent and through explanation of these titles can be found in:  Margaret Barker.  "The Images of Mary in the Litany of Loreto"  Usus Antiquior, Vol. 1 No. 2, July, 2010, 110--31.  Available online:  http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/USU_Barker.pdf

Tower of Ivory   The reference is to the lover describing the beauty of his beloved in the Song of Songs:

Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,
overlooking Damascus. (Song of Songs 7:4 NRSV)

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To Think About

Examine various popular hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  What metaphors do they use.  What theology do they presuppose.

Are these the same metaphors and titles that appear in liturgical hymns and texts?  What differences to you find?

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 04/07/14 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org