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Mary in the Bible (Part 1)

September 11, 2006

As I mentioned before, I will be posting a multi-part piece on the biblical portrayal of Mary. The impetus for these posts is the invitation by the webmaster of Answering Catholicism to “refute” one of his articles on Marian veneration. But what good would a mere refutation do? I figure a more positive approach than refutation is more instructional and constructive in any understanding of the Catholic faith. And why focus on Marian veneration alone? The entire notion of veneration proceeds from an understanding of who Mary is and what her divinely ordained role entails. I am convinced that the habit of ridiculing or challenging the Catholic practice of venerating the Blessed Mother stems from a misunderstanding or ignorance of the very foundations of Marian identity. Answering Catholicism is no exception in this regard. If one is in error in their understanding of, or prejudice against, Mary and her function in God’s salvific plan, then naturally this same one person will grossly err in coming to terms with how Catholics respond to her. As the great Thomas Aquinas writes: “A slight initial error eventually grows into vast proportions”(On Being and Essence, prologue).

That said, I have determined that a biblical exposition on the role of Mary in the plan of salvation would be more suitible for addressing the issue at hand.

My plan is to focus on the two lines of Mariology (theological study of Mary) found in the New Testament, the Lukan (Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles) and the Johannine (Gospel of John and Revelation). What will be shown is the acute awareness of the Lukan and Johannine traditions of Mary’s function in the redemption of humanity, which is played out not only after the birth of Jesus, but, more significantly, since the fall of humanity in the person of Adam. What I write will not be new or novel since the key to understanding Mary’s role in the Bible is detectable in the writings of the Church Fathers. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the clearest expositions of Mary’s role in redemption is not found in contemporary apologetic works, but in the ancient traditions of Christianity, beginning with the apostolic age.

What I hope to show is that the biblical narrative of salvation communicates an explicit line of prophesy that reaches fulfillment in Christ is complemented by an implicit line of prophesy that reaches fulfillment in Mary. This second line of prophesy, which spans the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, is intelligible only in light of Christ as the climax of God’s covenant with Israel. In other words, not only is Christ in himself necessary to illumine Mary for us, but so also is the entire Old and New Testaments read in light of Christ’s fulfillment of the covenantal interaction between God and Israel. To understand the meaning and reason of Catholic devotion to Mary entails an intellectual and spiritual grasping of the record of salvation history as it proceeds across the history of God’s words and deeds in the Bible.

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