by Marie Gratton
very early in the history of Christianity, Mary of Nazareth has fired
imaginations, inspired art and poetry, touched hardened hearts,
brought comfort to the suffering, and stimulated the zeal of souls in
search of sainthood.
quickly became the stuff of legend. Stories about her were laced with
magic in an attempt to satisfy the curiosity of those who wanted more
from the Gospels that are so discreet about her. She appears only in
a dozen passages and the sacred writers give her a voice only four
brief sketch of her personality and righteousness has been generously
fleshed out by the imagination of theologians and supported by
popular devotion. So generously, in fact, that the doctrinal
developments around her are markedly extravagant considering the
scant scriptural information available. Consequently, Mary may have
become both the most famous and most misunderstood of women.
is virtually impossible to replace this Palestinian peasant woman
into her real historical context because her whole person was forever
transfigured by the unique destiny of her son. Perhaps it is time to
make a bold effort to rescue Mary from a patriarchal discourse that
is replete with enthusiastic and masterful fantasies and biases, a
discourse that has carved an utopian character so far removed from
the sober and furtive figure of the Gospels and drawn the portrait of
a woman in whom are invested all the dreams of humanity in search of
Paradise both lost and found.
order to express what from times immemorial has been called “the
eternal feminine”, I know of no clearer, deeper or more incisive
expression than the one playwright Paul Claudel puts in the mouth of
his heroine Lâla. Her husband has just refused her a place among the
men leaving to build the city: “I am the promise that cannot be
kept, and therein lies my grace”. (2)
else but in the minds of men can women possibly live up to the
challenge of being unalterable passion of the hero and rest for the
warrior, secret garden and fertile soil, impregnable fortress and
conquered city? Lovers and poets know full well that the “eternal
feminine” will never be more than a promise that is impossible to
keep. So (male) theologians gave us Mary. Promise kept. Eve was lost
and now is found and magnified as humankind itself would dream her to
be as she emerged from the hands of God… full of grace.
follow the development of Marian doctrinal teaching, be it in the
humble faith of ordinary people or the pronouncements of learned
thinkers, we must first leave behind the Palestinian peasant with the
sunburned face, wrinkled by desert winds, sadness and hard work. We
also have to forget the homemaker with the calloused hands, chapped
and raw from pulling the rope out of a well and washing clothes,
carding and weaving rough wool, and cooking over an open flame. And
then we must resolutely turn to the archetype of the “eternal
feminine”. In Scripture, Mary was a woman,
betrothed and then married to Joseph, and mother of Jesus. In Marian
dogma, she becomes the
that theologians like to see being offered to humanity by God in
order to repair the sinister consequences of the first failure,
meaning the deadly inheritance of Eve, the fallen one.
Scripture to Dogma
of the strangest paradoxes in the development of Marian dogma is that
it jeopardizes precisely what the New Testament tried to avoid by
being so discreet about Mary, and that is to propel the mother of
Jesus to the doorstep, or worse, the very centre of the divine realm.
God forbid that in the minds of simple people she be invested with
the prerogatives attributed to the goddesses the ancients were used
to and liked, and who were spared the vicissitudes of our mortal
condition. Be that as it may, four dogmas will appear to literally
snatch the mother of Jesus the Nazarene away from the common fate of
humanity. One by one, dogmas will solemnly be defined as articles of
faith: the divine motherhood of Mary, her perpetual virginity, her
preservation from original sin and finally her assumption into
heaven, thus avoiding the corruption of death while she is being
carried away into eternal glory.
does this mother of God, perpetual virgin, immaculate at conception,
and woman spared the indignities of death have in common with the
woman Mary of the New Testament? Let’s begin with a brief look at
what is recorded in the most ancient texts, the Letters of Paul.
the entire Pauline corpus, Mary is mentioned only once, in the Letter
to the Galatians (3). Speaking of Jesus, the Apostle to the Gentiles
writes: “born of a woman, born under the law.” If we keep in mind
that this affirmation follows the proclamation that God sent his son
(4), we can discern Paul’s intent. He wants to make the point at
all costs that if Jesus is the son of God, it does not follow that
his mother is of divine essence. This idea would have been attractive
to the Greeks, women and men, but women especially, who might have
hoped to add Mary to their pantheon but without losing the good
graces that the goddesses reputedly showered upon humanity, should
they switch from their traditional religion to Christianity.
the Synoptic Gospels never miss an opportunity to underscore that
Jesus himself, far from exalting the dignity of his mother, does just
the opposite, and with surprising harshness. Three times, in Luke,
his replies are terse. First, to Mary herself who, after three days
of frantic searching, finds her son among the Doctors of the Law:
when she gently chides him for having “treated” her and Joseph
(5) in this way, he replies without guile, “Why were you looking
for me? Didn’t you know that I have to be about my Father’s
the woman, perhaps a mother herself, who shows glowing admiration for
the woman who carried and nursed Jesus, He retorts: “Blessed rather
are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (7)
rather” and not blessed as well. As if Mary had not been one of
those who had heard and obeyed. A hint that could give credibility to
another episode in Luke, already present in Mark and picked up in
Matthew: someone tells Jesus that his mother and his brothers are
there and want to see him, “But he answered them: my mother and my
brothers are those who listen to the word of God and put it into
and Matthew add to the harshness of the response by prefacing it
with: “Who is my mother? And who are my brothers?” (9)
we can appreciate here the difference between the miniscule role
played by Mary in the public life of Jesus according to the Synoptics
(we will come back later to the infancy narratives) and the role
assigned to her in John’s Gospel. In John, she is an important
figure even if she appears only twice – at the wedding in Cana and
at the foot of the cross. In the fourth gospel, she does not have a
name. For the author, she seems identified with her role, she is “the
mother of Jesus”. (10) And when her son speaks to her, he says,
“Woman”. (11) So many commentaries have been written about that
singular address. Its singularity may be more readily understood when
one considers the theological intent of the author. One must look
beyond the anecdote for the symbolic meaning of these episodes. The
first marks the beginning and the other the end of Jesus’ mission.
The need to be historically accurate is superseded by the
catechetical objective: Mary is there to announce the new covenant;
she is the one who will get the wine flowing at Cana as the precursor
to the blood poured out on the cross.
Acts of the Apostles record the presence of Mary only once. (12) She
is in the Upper Room after the Ascension of the Lord. Christian
tradition recognizes her as “the Woman” in chapter 12 of
Revelations who was a figure of the Church under persecution at the
end of the first century CE. It is on this shaky scriptural
foundation that Marian theology and dogma are built. Let us take a
brief look at the stormy debates in which Marian dogma evolved and
what the consequences have been for Christian tradition and for
Mother of God
was in 431, at the Council of Ephesus that Marian dogma took off,
carried not so much by the discreet breeze of the Gospels as by the
furious windstorms of Christological debates. Up to this point, the
woman John soberly calls the mother of Jesus, the woman who gave
birth to him (to borrow the even more impersonal wording used by
Paul) had been recognized and celebrated as the mother of Christ. A
title that seemed appropriate for the woman who had brought into the
world the one that the Christian community identified with the
eagerly awaited savior of Israel, the Messiah, the one sent by and
anointed by Yahweh.
need not be a seasoned cleric to grasp the importance of the
theological leap made by the Council Fathers when, gathered at
Ephesus (13), they solemnly proclaimed Mary Theotokos
“God-bearer” or if one prefers, mother of God “in a real and
proper sense” (14). Actually, the term Theotokos
was not unknown because it had been used more than one hundred years
earlier, in 320, by bishop Alexander in a letter from the synod of
Alexandria condemning the Arian heresy that denied the
consubstantiality of Christ with the Father (15). But this title of
mother of God had never yet been dogmatically defined. If we remember
that the devotion to Mary only dates back to the beginning of the
fourth century, about the time of the Council of Nicaea (325), we can
better appreciate how quickly this Marian theological issue evolved,
historically speaking. However, its acceleration and growth is not
really centred on Mary. The entire exercise revolves around the
person of Christ. In fact, had vicious doctrinal debates about the
real identity of Jesus of Nazareth not been taking place at that
time, we may well wonder if the discreet gospel figure of Mary would
have been the subject of so much philosophical and theological
speculation and might not simply be invoked today as Mother of Jesus,
the Christ, and not as Mother of God. Indeed, had the Fathers not
been swept up in the logic of their doctrinal quarrels more attuned
to Greek speculation than the Synoptic Gospels, they might not have
been pushed to the most paradoxical of conclusions, that a human
being was the mother of God!
is possible that the women of Ephesus, although they were not
theologians could nonetheless appreciate the meaning of the words,
and so they gratefully rejoiced and acclaimed the Council Fathers.
They celebrated that there was, finally, a mother of God. They had
once had their own, the great Artemis, virgin goddess and mother. Try
as they may, clerics were unable to turn women away from her and
condemned the cult dedicated to her in the temple of Ephesus, one of
the seven wonders of the ancient world. It would therefore not be
easy to convince the followers of Artemis that the mother of God they
were proposing to the women’s devotion was not herself a goddess.
They would also have difficulty discerning between what once was
being condemned as a ridiculous myth with what was being proposed as
a Christian truth that had to be believed absolutely. That difficulty
cannot be minimized, and even though we’re familiar with the
polemical context of the definition that led to its ultimate
consequences, the affirmation of two natures in the one person of the
Word of God. This implies that all properties, activities, passions
of each of these two natures must be assigned to the Divine Word.
Following that logic, Mary, according to human nature is the mother
of the second person of the Trinity. This thesis appeared so
convincing to ancient Eastern theology that it will even abandon the
expression “Christokos”, mother of Christ, as the sign of a
weakening Christology in which the divinity of Jesus was not
sufficiently stressed (17). These subtleties might have easily
escaped the ancient worshippers of Artemis, and probably many other
believers, especially women and men who liked to think they had an
all-mighty protector in the heavens. And as the image of a judging
God took hold, it was all the more comforting to have a maternal
figure in the picture. Leo XIII expresses this with refreshing
candor: “(Mary) is the mighty Mother of the Almighty; but -
what is still sweeter - she is gentle, extreme in tenderness, of a
limitless loving-kindness.” (18)
doubt to avoid despair about its eternal destiny, humanity needed
such a divine figure to smooth the rough edges of the patriarchal
system. What better way to incite women to imitate this “gentle,
extreme in tenderness, of a limitless loving-kindness” maternal
figure from whom they had everything to learn. Not only did her
rest in her motherhood, but her very identity came through her son.
However, the advantages do not stop there. Mary must also protect
women from despair, affirm their sex in their own eyes and make it
less odious to men who were still haunted by the memory of Eve.
Augustine understood this perfectly:
he, of the male sex, had not chosen a mother for himself, women would
fall into despair remembering their first sin, for it was woman who
seduced the first man; women would believe they have absolutely no
reason to hope in Christ.” (19)
those women who didn’t have the opportunity to be reassured by this
homily, they could read the encouraging exhortation in De
Do not despise yourselves women, the son of God was born of a woman.
the proclamation of the divine motherhood of Mary was the opportunity
to develop an anthropology and theology where woman is second rate,
whose only value depended on her relationship to a man, in this case
her son, it is without a doubt through the dogmatic definition of the
perpetual virginity of Mary that the patriarchal system finds its
ideal forum. Defining woman according to her virginity or motherhood
is looking at her through a typically male lens which identifies her
solely according to her relationship to man. Saying Mary is both
virgin and mother is certainly going a step further since it
“fulfills” the impossible dream, which is to maintain all the
fascinating traits of womanhood such as the veiled mystery of
virginity and the enviable mystery of motherhood, but to let
everything threatening and frightening to the unconscious mind get
lost in a euphoria-inducing utopia. As Maria Kassel (21) has so well
demonstrated, the Great Mother of pagan mythologies did not only have
a reassuring and nurturing side, but one that is consuming and
destructive. Just as the earth sends forth food for her children, she
one day comes to reclaim them to herself. She who once fed them
eventually feeds on them. Now the dark, worrisome and death-dealing
aspect of the Great Mother comes down from Eve. It is she who, in the
Judeo-Christian patriarchal system, is the dark, frightening and
dangerous side of the eternal feminine whereas Mary is its luminous,
reassuring, life-giving side. Generation after generation, the
descendants of Eve fall into death, whereas the Son of Mary is the
Living One forever.
ancient mythologies, the virginity of goddesses was a sign of their
autonomy. The virgin-mother goddesses ensured alone and by their own
power the fruitfulness of the earth and its flocks. Initially, the
affirmation of the virginity of Mary was meant to emphasize her
complete openness to the transcendent and arouse wonderment in the
face of the fertility which resulted from abandonment in faith to the
transforming power of a God who offers but does not impose his
presence and respects human freedom. However, with the end of the age
of persecutions which had provided Christian women with so many
opportunities to manifest their virtue and win the admiration of both
their executioners and coreligionists, women were encouraged to
restore the honor of their sex through virginal consecration, a form
of martyrdom according to St. Jerome. At the same time as monastic
life was developing and the theology surrounding the compared values
of the three states of life – marriage, bottom of the ladder;
widowhood, the perfect chance to regain one’s virtue; and
consecrated virginity, presented as the way of perfection and
anticipation of eternal bliss – Stoicism and Platonism and their
ascetic tendencies were endorsed by the Fathers who were usually
extremely suspicious of sex and even often held it in great contempt.
Augustine sets the tone when he writes:
good Christian loves in one and the same woman the creature of God
whom he desires to be transformed and renewed, but hates in her the
corruptible and mortal conjugal connection, that is he loves what is
human in his wife but detests what pertains to her sex. (22)
attaching a moral and ascetic connotation to the affirmation of the
virginity of Mary, Christian Tradition has not only consecrated the
distinction between the ancient goddesses and Mary, but it has
inserted her into the patriarchal system where virginity and
motherhood are no longer the combined symbols of autonomy,
independence and creative power free of male intervention, but the
signs of a world where males could impose upon the world around them
their power to define womanhood, and where sexual intercourse is
synonymous with sin.
Christian archetype of virgin mother paints an image of the eternal
feminine where men reconcile the irreconcilable, take ownership of
the inaccessible, fulfill the impossible fantasy and dispense
themselves from making choices. They want it all, so they concoct a
virgin mother, secret garden and fertile soil at the same time. Never
mind that no woman in real life can conform to that model! Or rather,
woe to women because they can never replicate it! Woe to every woman
who must choose, failing at the impossible task assigned to her.
Mary, the ideal woman, is put on a very high pedestal from which real
women are inevitably condemned to fall.
was in 649, at the Lateran Council (23), that the perpetual virginity
of Mary was solemnly defined, although the belief in the virginal
conception is much older, of course, because it is proclaimed in many
Creeds (24) supported by the New Testament.
the Gospels state that Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by the
power of the Holy Spirit, without the intervention of Joseph, her
husband (25). It is interesting to compare Matthew’s version,
addressed to a Judeo-Christian audience and placing Joseph at the
centre of the narrative, with that of Luke who is writing for
converts from the Greek world. In Luke, Mary is the important
character with whom heaven interacts. She commits without consulting,
shall we say, father, fiancé or husband. Perhaps it’s the writers’
personalities and cultural influences that explain the different in
importance assigned by Matthew and Luke to Mary. Both agree, however,
to proclaim her virginity in conceiving Jesus. Virginity that
Tradition understands as physical integrity, which is of course only
one meaning among others of the word “virgin”, both in the
language of the time and in the biblical tradition where it is often
used as an analogy. The faithful people of God is virginal because it
does not take part in the worship of idols, which the prophets also
denounce as adultery or prostitution. (26) Covenant theology often
uses wedding symbolism to explain the relationship between God and
Israel and gives unique meanings to certain words which still carry a
great deal of weight in our own perception of the relationship
between man and woman in marriage. One need only recall the typology
rooted in the writings of the prophets and adapted by Paul in the New
Testament. In Christian marriage, the husband is identified with
Christ and the wife with the Church. Nothing more is needed to
conclude that a woman must submit to her husband as to the Lord. (27)
Symbols are never neutral and those who manipulate them are not
usually naïve. But let’s come back to Mary.
telling us that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, the
Annunciation narrative does not purport to give us a clinical
description of the physical integrity of Joseph’s fiancée, but
rather convince us that the child she is carrying is the son of the
promise, born soley of God’s will. Just like other heroes in the
history of Israel, he emerges because it pleases Yahweh to bring
forth a savior for his people. Isaac (28), Samuel (29), Samson (30),
and John the Baptist (31) are so many sons born against all hope to
fathers already old and to their sterile mothers. “Nothing is
impossible to God.” (32) That is the recurring theme of all the
miraculous conception narratives found all along salvation history.
However, to manifest his saving power, God needs men... and women,
perhaps especially women who believe in the fruits of the Covenant
and who allow it to ripen within them. God needs people who hope
against all hope, who never give in to fascination with the cult of
idols and rites practiced in pagan shrines. In a word, God needs
they say Mary was a virgin, Luke and Matthew wanted to indicate that
the child born of her was the son of God. By that, they meant that
Jesus from the first moment of his conception, was the Most High’s
chosen one, the saviour of Israel. Through these narratives, the New
Testament authors proclaim their own faith in the radical newness of
the world inaugurated by Jesus. Today, encouraged by a more positive
understanding of human sexuality based on contemporary anthropology,
theologians are exploring other ways of expressing the mystery of the
presence of God among us. They sense a strange paradox in proclaiming
an Incarnation that not only seems to defy the laws of nature but
also provides the opportunity for many tortured minds to judge that
sexual intercourse is usually sinful and degrading. (33)
in the Gospels allows us to affirm that Mary gave birth to her child
in some kind of marvelous way that would have miraculously left her
physically unchanged. “She gave birth to her first-born son,
wrapped him in swaddling clothes and lay him in a manger (34)”,
writes Luke, soberly. His intention is clearly theological. The
clinical aspect of giving birth is the furthest thing from his mind.
However, the discretion of the canonical Gospels did not really
satisfy the curiosity of those who were always looking for all the
gory details, be they factual or fictitious, on the personal life of
their idols and heroes.
the oldest of our Gospels, written around 65 C.E., doesn’t breathe
a word of Jesus’ origins or early life. Nothing about his birth or
childhood in John either, but there is the prologue which, shall we
say, begins from higher up: “In the beginning was the Word, and
Word was with God (35” and goes on, sparing any anecdotal evidence,
to affirm that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (36).”
scholars agree that the Gospel attributed to John was put in final
form around 90 C.E., though it contains source material from much
earlier. It is Luke and Matthew, whose writings are believed to date
back to 80-85, who try to retrace the beginnings of the life of Jesus
using the Hebrew tradition of the midrash
and feature characters who already have a sense of the child’s
destiny and prefigure his messianic mission. Through various episodes
which vary from gospel to another, without any real inner coherence
(37), even though their literary constructs seem well researched,
especially Luke’s, they try to answer questions for the generation
of people that knew Jesus only through his message. They may have
been familiar with the narrative surrounding his death, but knew
basically nothing of the circumstances surrounding his birth. Like
the rest of their gospels, however, the first two chapters of both
Luke and Matthew – and we know they were the last chapters written
– are not trying to give us any historically verifiable
biographical data. Their intent is theological and catechetical, and
that is the perspective, with both its power and its limitations,
that we should keep in mind when we read these narratives.
Gospels therefore do not meet the expectations of the curious who are
looking for spicy details. Enter the Apocryphal Gospels to fill the
gap. From the second half of the second century up until the fifth
century, a plethora of writings claim to reveal a whole host of
miraculous events, riddled with bizarre, intimate and sometimes
completely inappropriate details about Jesus, Mary and their
forebears, supposedly kept secret and hidden until that point (38).
That is why they are called apocryphal. And that is how the belief
gained credibility in the Christian community that Mary had brought
Jesus into the world without her hymen being broken.
instance, in the
(Gospel) of James, written in the second century, a midwife, called
by Joseph to help Mary has nothing to do but note the coming and
going of a luminous cloud and then the appearance of a child in his
mother’s arms and gentling beginning to nurse. Totally amazed, the
midwife leaves the cave and meets a woman called Salome and tells her
about the unusual birth. (39) As might be expected, Salome doesn’t
believe her and wants proof. So, the midwife tells Mary to get ready
for an examination because people are asking embarrassing questions.
(40) Salome then declares that Mary is still a virgin, but regrets
her indiscretion. Even though she is full of remorse for her lack of
faith, she is punished by losing the use of her hand. She repents and
begs God for mercy. An angel comes to her rescue and suggests she
take the Child Jesus in her arms. He takes the opportunity to perform
his first miracle: Salome walks away “healed” and “justified”.
peculiar episode that has all the earmarks of legend would not have
fared so well had it not been planted in the sadly fertile ground of
sexual taboos where suspicions and fears proliferate, all the more
harmful because they are irrational when it comes to women’s
sexuality and its fascinating role in the transmission of life. We do
know that Israel considered both menstruation (42) and childbirth
(43) as unclean, so that women needed to be purified afterwards.
Moreover, the birth of the boy child entailed a shorter time of
“impurity” for his mother than the birth of a daughter: forty
days in the case of boys, sixty-six in the case of girls. (44)
is understandably difficult to justify theologically, in any
convincing manner, that it was necessary for Jesus to be born any
other way than the one nature has so wisely devised. Actually, the
virgin birth story seems to me to have more negatives than positives
theologically speaking. Conceived without the contribution of a man,
and miraculously emerging from his mother’s womb like a cloud, a
light, as the Apocrypha claim (45), apparently already blessed with
the subtleness attributed to the resurrected body of the Lord. “When
the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.” (46)
Saviour managed to come into the world ignoring some of the most
essential limitations of human nature. Saint Leo the Great, in his
letter to Flavian against Eutyches, points to the difficulty but
considers it resolved. To anyone who worries about compromising the
real humanity of Jesus because of the extraordinary circumstances of
his conception and birth, he answers that “one must not understand
this singularly admirable and admirably singular generation as if the
newness of this creation had made the specific condition of our race
‘admirable’ and ‘singular’ as it is, this process was
nevertheless necessary, and will be justified because it is deemed
appropriate. If Mary remained a virgin while conceiving her child,
then it is only appropriate that she remain so in giving birth. If a
woman’s physical integrity was considered her most precious
“treasure”, it is understandable that Mary could not have been
robbed of it. But in order to accept this explanation of the doctrine
of the virgin birth, we must first expose the deepest and highly
embarrassing motives – a very unhealthy fear of sex and an admitted
disgust for a woman’s private parts. In a desperate attempt to make
chastity more desirable and less burdensome, it was believed
advisable particularly during the patristic period, although the
practice would flourish even more during the Middle Ages, to
depreciate sexual intercourse and stress in every way possible the
problems with marriage. Oddly enough, such an attitude owes much more
to a few Greek philosophers than to Jesus and is a more accurate
indicator of unresolved personal problems than sound mental health in
Fathers of the Church who so badly wanted to spare Jesus a “natural”
birth had perhaps irreparably associated in their minds a woman’s
body with sin. Some had had stormy youths and so their conversion
fits right in with professing in their quest for holiness a distaste
for sex which would henceforth be forbidden and banished. Here we
think of course of Jerome and Augustine. A fair assessment of
Jerome’s disdain for sex can be found in the letter he wrote to
persuade a man not to remarry. Here we find this horrible sentence
intended to inspire revulsion for marriage: “Does a dog come back
to its vomit and a pig return to his mire (48)?” Need we say more
to convince anyone that these men found literally repugnant the idea
that Jesus had been born through regular bodily channels, which in
their minds are associated with sin and shame?
firmly on the path of reasons of appropriateness, theologians of the
patristic era did not stop there. They could hope for nothing less in
a woman who conceived and gave birth to a child while keeping her
virginity than that she continue to jealously guard her “treasure”.
Any sexual activity after such beginnings can only be seen as
disgustingly immoral. That is how pope Siricius saw it when he wrote
to Anysius, bishop of Thessalonica, in 392:
would the Lord have chosen to be born of a virgin if he thought she
would be so incontinent as to sully with the seed of another human
being, the place from which the body of the Saviour would be born,
the palace of the eternal King. (49)
sex makes women impure but it also sullies their partners. This is
cultic impurity as it was understood in the Old Testament (50), and
moral impurity when its specific end wasn’t procreation, even
within marriage. Augustine had no hesitation in writing that if
intercourse between spouses produces a good thing and one only, a
child, when it is undertaken to satisfy “concupiscence” or as a
pledge of marital fidelity, it is a venial sin. (51)
was therefore appropriate that Mary remain a virgin forever. It was
all the more so that her perfect holiness would have been difficult
to fulfill in a less perfect state of life. This radical suspicion of
sex within the Christian tradition somehow questions creation and its
method of propagation. It throws a dark shadow on the work of
creation that the author of the first chapter of Genesis has God
judge very good. (52) The polemical climate that has often surrounded
the redaction of treatises on the compared value of the three states
of life, it must be said, has done precious little to promote a
healthy and serene approach to these issues. If virginity is superior
to marriage, Mary could not and should not have had other children,
and so ways had to be devised to refuse to accept the testimony of
the Gospels that Jesus had brothers and sisters of Jesus. (53)
the other privileges devolved to Mary are justified because of her
divine motherhood. The history behind the dogma of the Immaculate
Conception offers the example of the late and flimsily grounded
though flourishing development of Marian doctrine. The Catholic
hierarchy waited until 1854 to add this dogmatic jewel to the crown
of the mother of God. In fact, this piece of doctrinal gymnastics had
several objectives: honor Mary, of course, but also consolidate papal
authority by firmly implanting ultramontanism, or unrestricted papal
power. In fact, it was not in the context of a Council but alone as
the Ultramontanists had hoped, that Pius IX in his Apostolic bull
the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and
adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the
Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by
the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter
and Paul, and by our own: “We declare, pronounce, and define that
the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the
first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege
granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the
Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of
original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be
believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
it is true that a written consultation was carried out with the
bishops of the world (55), the fact that the method of solemn
proclamation of a doctrine was chosen by a Roman Pontiff on his own
lead Vatican political observers to believe that the intent was to
prepare the way for the definition of papal infallibility and deal a
sharp blow to gallicanism (which wanted to restrict papal power by
giving it to civic authorities). One could surmise that the doctrinal
developments between 1854 and 1870 (56) did nothing, and that is an
understatement, to foster dialogue between Rome and the Churches born
of the Reformation. But this of course is another story. Let’s put
the squabbles between religious leaders aside and come back to the
subject at hand.
holiness of Mary has been constantly affirmed in Christian tradition
when it was deemed appropriate to emphasize the great care God had
taken in choosing the woman who would give birth to the Saviour.
Notice that the concern of Christian theologians to ascribe to Mary
all the virtues in view of her unique mission within salvation
history has no real parallel in the Hebrew Testament. God seems to
have been less demanding of women associated with saving the Jewish
people. One example will suffice. In his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew
(57), contrary to the custom of the patriarchal tradition, inserts
four names of women besides Mary. Of these four – Ruth, Rahab,
Tamar and Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife) – the last three are guilty
of misconduct: prostitution (58); breach of trust (59); and adultery
(60). These disturbing detours on the rocky road of the Old Testament
history of salvation nonetheless opened on to the royal highway where
would walk Mary, full of grace. Belief in her holiness is one thing;
her immaculate conception is quite another. Just as a hermeneutical
leap was required to get from the affirmation of Mary mother of
Christ to Mary mother of God, so too it is not so obvious that the
holiness of Mary implies and demands that she be preserved from
original sin from the moment of her conception. And this, it could be
said, is generally understood in Christian theology. Furthermore, a
doctrine that exempts Mary from the common condition of all humanity
seems to propel her, so to speak, into the realm of the divine – if
it true that only God is holy. This has been problematic for many of
the most prestigious Christian thinkers, notably during the
scholastic period when the issue was hotly debated. The path to
credibility for the Immaculate Conception has been long and
first remark is in order. The idea that Mary was preserved from sin
from the first instant of her existence in her mother’s womb has no
basis in Scripture. A great deal of imagination is required to find
one in the book of Job, where it is written: “Who can bring a clean
thing out of an unclean? No one can. ” (61), and conclude from that
verse that Jesus, the perfect one, could not have been born of a
woman corrupted by sin. One dares not ask how far back one would have
to go to make the line of argument conclusive. It boggles the mind
because in the end we have to go back to Adam and Eve, the source of
all our woes! One has to be a bold exegete indeed to find
encapsulated in Genesis 3:15 the entire basis of Mariology and more
specifically the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. “I will put
enmity between you and the woman, and between her offspring and
yours; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” (62)
As for those who see the figure of Mary in chapter 12 of the book of
Revelations (63), they may be gifted in poetry but their rigor or
lack of it in matters of exegesis warrant a word of caution. Granted,
the holiness of Mary is affirmed in the Annunciation narrative found
in Luke. Heaven itself seem to exalt her when the evangelist has the
angel Gabriel say to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with
you (64).” This tells us nothing, however, about the moment in
which she was filled with grace. The heady debates of theologians in
the Middle Ages, trying to answer this question using all the tools
of their anthropological presuppositions and their very rudimentary
knowledge of biology, demonstrate full well that Luke’s
proclamation raises more questions than it provides clear and
is crucial to note that exalting the holiness of Mary often goes hand
in hand from the second century onward with the denunciation of Eve,
prototype of the fallen woman, perverse waster of divine gifts.
Justin is the first to establish a parallel between Mary and Eve.
(65) His process would prove itself highly successful and also
extremely damaging to women for the rest of Christian tradition.
to the Genesis narratives that try to explain the presence of evil in
the world, Eve was in the beginning the object of all divine favors,
along with her male companion. But it seems she was the one who took
the initiative, as suggested to her by the serpent, to squander them
with a cruel and stupid disregard for the disastrous consequence
which would befall her and her descendants. Mary, then, the only
creature to be spared the deadly inheritance of the first couple,
would then have been called to open the door to salvation so
unfortunately closed by Eve and her poor accomplice. With Mary
however, God wants all to put luck on his side: His desire to allow
for the full blossoming of grace means protecting her from
concupiscence. Obviously, this precaution had not been taken with
Eve. We know the rest of the story: first try, first mistake. We
almost wish God had made the mother of humanity just a bit more
belief that Mary was filled with grace with a view to her eventual
divine motherhood was never questioned in Christian theology at any
time in its history. However, theories conflicted and debates got
more intense when it came to determining whether or not she was
created in her full-of-grace state or if she was subsequently
purified, in preparation for her role in the Incarnation of the Word
(66). If it is the latter, when did this sanctification take place?
At the moment of conception or a little while afterwards in her
mother’s womb when her spiritual soul would have been infused into
her fleshly body? Maybe at the moment of her birth? Here we must take
into account the philosophical perspectives and medical opinions of
the scholastic period, since this whole issue was passionately
debated during the Middle Ages. Then we can appreciate the impressive
imaginations put to work by the dedicated and learned doctors
concerning the enigma of grace that Mary presents to theologians and
perhaps even to most of the faithful who were looking for a female
prototype that would possess every virtue while at the same time
remain reassuring. “Ivory Tower”, unsullied by sin, impervious to
lust, she was therefore the guardian of the virtue of all those men
and women who called upon her for protection and dedicated themselves
to her service. For some thinkers, the purification of Mary only took
place when it became necessary, meaning at the moment when she
conceived Jesus. Others maintain a theory of stages, though their
logic is not convincing. The first sanctification of Mary happened
when she was still in the womb, then a further infusion of grace was
given at the time of the Annunciation. It is a bit perplexing, this
divine strategy that immunizes her against evil but still needs what
would be called in immunology a booster shot.
the theologians of the scholastic era were passionately interested in
the thesis of an immaculate conception, the early Fathers came at the
issue of Mary’s holiness from a different angle. Except perhaps for
Augustine, whose opinion on the subject would also be riddled with
ambiguity. To give the Immaculate Conception a basis otherwise not
found in the Fathers of the Church, the Middle Ages simply relied on
a passage of Augustine’s De
natura et gratia. Considering
that the burden of original sin was imposed on all humanity,
Augustine writes that,
must accept that the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to
raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor
to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for
overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the
merit to conceive and bear Him, who undoubtedly had no sin. Well,
then, if, with this exception of the Virgin, we can only assemble
together all the aforementioned holy men and women. (67)
problem here is that in his polemic against Julian of Eclanum, who
accuses him of delivering Mary to the devil in person by affirming
that original sin is transmitted in the very act of conceiving any
child, he replies that,
are not delivering Mary to the devil by virtue of the condition of
her birth, but that is because this condition itself is suppressed by
the grace of rebirth. (68)
she had to be reborn into grace. This ambiguity is ignored by those
who cling at all cost to an Augustinian basis for the doctrine of the
Immaculate Conception. The reference is all the more valuable because
it is without parallel in any other of the Church Fathers.
Bernard of Clairvaux, a great Marian devotee, nonetheless speaks out
in 1136 against the introduction of a liturgical feast honoring the
conception of Mary. Its celebration already existed in England before
the Normand Conquest but had been suppressed in 1129 as agreed upon
at the Council of London. In 1136, the church of Lyon introduced it
into its calendar, but Bernard contested the relevance of introducing
such a practice on the continent. (69)
everyone agreed during the scholastic period to proclaim the holiness
of Mary, which was far from unanimous, as I mentioned earlier, what
was the moment at which God undertook to fill her with grace? At the
time of Mary’s bodily conception? At the Annunciation? And what
were exactly the effects of this grace? Were they preventive or
curative? In other words, was Mary preserved from original sin and
its consequences or was she healed of them? Does the sanctification
of Mary take place in one fell swoop or does it happen in stages,
depending on the needs of the moment? A first step designates Mary as
candidate for the Annunciation and a second reinforces the chosen one
so that she remains worthy of God’s choice.
course, it is impossible here to go into all the finer points of
scholastic thought on the conception of Mary and her sanctification
would be the subject of an entire book (70). Let’s just note that
Alexander of Hales, Saints Albert the Great, Bonaventure and Thomas
Aquinas all treated the sanctification of Mary within a
christocentric perspective. It is because Mary is to become the
mother of Christ that God sanctifies her in her mother’s womb and
again when she conceives Jesus. This sanctification is therefore
curative and progressive. Aquinas in particular finds the idea of
preventive grace profoundly repugnant. If Christ, he argues, is the
universal redeemer, Mary also needed to be saved. But how could she
have experienced this necessity if she had not been affected by sin?
The proponents of the preventive effect of grace so that Mary could
avoid the stain of original sin and its consequence have their most
famous spokesperson in Duns Scotus. The Franciscan monk’s
theological optimism was legendary. He opted for the thesis that Mary
was conceived without sin, as put forward by two lesser known
predecessors, William of Ware and Eadmer. Dons Scotus objects to
Aquinas’ theory of Christ as sole universal redeemer by countering
that being preserved from an evil constitutes a greater privilege
that having been healed of it. Accordingly, Mary was saved in a more
radical manner and had therefore contracted an even greater debt
towards the Redeemer, while at the same time being singularly closer
to the one with whom she shared, by grace, perfect innocence. Duns
Scotus finally won out in this debate and imposed his opinion on the
Catholic faith. (71)
as women, should we not rightly rejoice in this doctrine that so
radically singles out one of our own? Or on the contrary, should we
not be suspicious that the ideal figure of Mary that has been
engraved on the shiny side of a coin that has Eve on the dark side
could contribute to aggravate the mistrust, disdain and fear that we
inspire in men within a tradition which in its collective unconscious
associates us with the biblical woman who embodies weakness,
temptation, sin and death? The sanctification of Mary does nothing to
restore us. Eve has harmed us forever, or as Augustine puts it to one
of his female correspondents: “Whether she’s a wife or a mother,
Eve is always frightening in any woman (72).”
will Immaculate Mary be spared the death that Eve transmitted by her
sin or will she at least avoid its consequences? Catholic dogma has
an answer to that question.
Assumption of Mary
was only one dogma proclaimed in the 20th
Century, that of the Assumption of Mary. On November 1st,
1950, Pius XII defined
to be a divinely revealed dogma; that the Immaculate Mother of God,
the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly
life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory (73).
it is true that this doctrine can claim to be firmly established in
the hearts of the faithful and “has been approved in ecclesiastical
worship from the most remote times” (74), it still does not have
any solid biblical foundation. According to Pius XII, it is
“contained in the written Word of God” (75). Here is how. As was
the case with the Immaculate Conception, chapter 12 of the book of
Revelations is called to the rescue. The woman described there
represents the fledgling Christian church keeping the faith in the
midst of great persecution. Later, the relevance of this image was
suppressed when Christianity achieved the status of official religion
of the Empire and no longer subjected to this kind of tribulation.
And so the figure of Mary was substituted for
that of the Church.
when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he
pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the
woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so she could fly
from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is
nourished for a time, two times, and half a time (76).
is the biblical reference. One can see that this is a weak basis for
a dogma that is meant to so totally compel the faithful; to whit
anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call
into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has
fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith (77).
should be noted in passing that the dogma does not answer the
question as to whether Mary is dead or not before being taken into
heaven – a point on which the Apocrypha did not agree. Some extreme
mariologists still maintained into the middle of the twentieth
century when the dogma was being defined that not only had Mary been
spared the corruption of the grave, but also death. They were unable
to impose their radical view on more moderate theologians who could
not convince themselves that a reality so intrinsically linked to the
human condition, that Christ himself had submitted to it, could be
avoided by his mother, no matter how pure and holy she was.
some Apocrypha, as I said above, were not bothered by these minutiae.
Nothing was too marvelous or too beautiful to end the earthly journey
of a virgin mother. Aprocryphal narratives about the Assumption
gathered under the general title of Transitus
seem to date back in written form no earlier that the fifth
century.(78) They concur in presenting Mary being taken up to heaven
still alive or immediately upon her death without having experienced
the corruption of the tomb. Very powerful psychological elements
blend in with theological ones, for the sake of convenience, to
explain the emergence of this doctrine, the success of its spread
among the people, its accreditation through liturgy, and its solemn
proclamation as dogma, however late it came.
is in the doctrine of the Assumption not only the projection of an
old human dream – to never die, or at least to keep one’s
personal identity intact for all eternity. However, the Assumption
also expresses another acquired belief: that death is an unfortunate
accident and we know who is to blame. Death is the inheritance we get
from Eve. But her daughters, and here is the awkward paradox, are the
ones who give life. Fear and fascination! How are we supposed to
handle the hatred and envy that women inspire? Christian theology has
resolved this irresolvable dilemma. Exalt Mary, antithesis and
antidote to Eve, and keep mistrusting all other women. Avoid them
whenever possible, deprive them of any power, and keep them under
male authority always and everywhere. As if that can pave the way to
reflection always takes place within the cultural context in which it
is developed and consequently bears the trademark of its artisans. In
their quest for a supposedly unchanging and eternal truth, they lead
us through the meanders of their personal mindsets, the values and
judgments of the society they live in as well as the philosophical
biases and their selective readings of biblical texts. This creates a
doctrinal and dogmatic universe that is more telling of who they
than who are God, the Virgin and all the saints.
is how Marian theology reveals itself as the finely chiseled
masterpiece of a triumphalist and triumphant patriarchal system that
is carved out of a dualist and deeply sexist anthropology. Influenced
by Platonism which stresses the tension between flesh and spirit,
reinforced by the ascetic tendencies of Stoicism, Mariology has
pieced together a figure of Mary that is a far cry from the mere
sketch of her found in the Gospels. By presenting her as the
antithesis of Eve (a figure, by the way, that Jesus does not even
honor with a mention) and by making her the sworn and triumphant
enemy of Satan, the patriarchal system has paradoxically succeeded in
“demonizing” all other women. The more churchmen shower praise on
Mary, the more closely they associate her with Christ, to the point
of having her share many of his privileges, the more all other women
seem lost. They have a model in heaven, but they cannot emulate her.
The historical Mother of Jesus has become the symbol of the Church as
bride of Christ in the eschatological reign where she is presented to
him without wrinkle or blemish. (79) Thus, the person of Mary, as
shaped by the dogmatic system, becomes the tool and privileged locus
of ecclesiastical triumphalism. (80)
is not the place to trumpet the Magnificat
that has Mary herself proclaim that the triumph of the powerful will
be short lived and that victims of oppression will one day be
delivered. I have too much difficulty believing it. I can only
express how sad I am that the image of this person who shows such
exemplary autonomy and freedom in the Gospel of Luke has been so
outrageously mischaracterized and turned against women all the glory
that has been attributed to the mother of Jesus, she who undoubtedly
would have wanted nothing more than to survive in our memories as
what she was: a righteous heart.
AUBERT, Jean-Marie. La femme, antiféminisme et christianisme, Cerf-Desclée, Paris, 1975.
BØRRESEN, Kari Elisabeth. Mediaeval Anthropology and Marian Theology, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1971.
BROWN, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah, Doubleday & Co., New York, 1977.
COLLECTION. Bien plus de prix que le corail. Servantes du Saint-Cœur-de-Marie, Éditions Le Renouveau, Charlesbourg, 1978.
COLLECTION. Études sur l’Immaculée Conception, Sources et sens de la doctrine, Éditions J. Duculot, Gembloux, Bruges, 1955.
COPPENS, J. « La définibilité de l’Assomption », Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, T. XXIII, Louvain, 1947, p. 5-35.
DALY, Mary. The Church and the Second Sex, Harper and Row, New York, 1975.
DANIEL-ROPS. Les Évangiles de la Vierge, Éd. Robert Laffont, Paris, 1949.
DUMEIGE, Gervais. La foi catholique, Éd. de l’Orante, Paris, 1961.
DUPRIEZ, Flore. La condition féminine et les Pères de l’Église latine, Éd. Paulines, Montréal, 1982.
KÜNG, Hans, On Being a Christian, Collins, London, 1974
KÜNG, Hans and Jürgen MOLTMANN, eds., Mary in the Churches, T. and T. Clark/The Seabury Press, 1983
NAPIORKOWSKI, S. The Present Position on Mariology, in Concilium 29, 1967, cdn.theologicalstudies.net
QUÉRÉ, France. Les femmes de l’Évangile, Éd. du Seuil, Paris, 1982.
RADFORD RUETHER, Rosemary. Mary, the Feminine Face of the Church, Philadelphia Westminster Press, 1977.
RADFORD RUETHER, Rosemary. Sexism and God Talk, Toward a Feminist Theology, Beacon Press, Boston, 1983.
Karl. Theological Investigations Vol 1: God, Christ, Mary and Grace,
"The Immaculate Conception", trans. Cornelius Ernst, O.P., (Helicon
Press, Baltimore: 1965), p. 201-207
REED, Evelyn. Féminisme et anthropologie, Coll. Femme, Denoél/ Gonthier, Paris, 1979.
AUGUSTINE, The Complete Works of Saint Augustine, Philip Schaff, ed.,
Online Library of Liberty
STONE, Merlin. When God was a Woman, Doubleday, New York, 1976
TAVARD, George H. Woman in Christian Tradition, University of Notre-Dame Press, Indiana, 1976.
THE HOLY BIBLE, New Standard Revised Version, Catholic Edition, Catholic bible Press, Nashville TN, 1991
II. « Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium », Documents
of Vatican II, Wlater M. Abbott, S.J”, ed., Guild Press New York, 1966.
WARNER, Marina. Alone all of her Sex, The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary,
Weidenfeld, London, 1976.
1. Lk 1 : 26-38 ; 1,46-55 ; 2,48 ; Jn 2:1-12.
2. CLAUDEL, Paul. « La Ville », 2e version, acte III dans Théâtre, tome I, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Gallimard, Paris, 1948.
3. Ga 4,4.
5. Lk 2: 48.
6. Lk 2: 49.
7. Lk 11: 28.
8. Lk 8:21.
9. Lk 3:33.
10. Jn 2:1.
11. Jn 19:26.
12. Ac 1:14.
13. The Council of Ephesus took place in 431.
This is the wording used by John II in 534 in a letter to the Senate of
Constantinople. Cf. DUMEIGE, Gervais. La foi catholique, Éd. de
l’Orante, Paris, 1961, art. 314, p. 198.
Cf. NISSIOTIS, Nikos. « Mary in Orthodox Theology » in KÜNG, Hans and
Jürgen MOLTMANN, eds., Mary in the Churches, T. and T. Clark/The
Seabury Press, 1983 16. Jesus himself does not seem to encourage people
to exalt his mother. Cf. Lk 11:28; 8:19; Mk 3:33; Mt 12:48-49.
17. Cf. NISSIOTIS, Nikos. op. cit.
LEO XIII. Encyclical Octobri Mense (1891), #4 19. AUGUSTINE, The
Complete Works of Saint Augustine, Philip Schaff, ed., Online Library
of Liberty De diversis quaestionibus, 11.
20. AUGUSTINE, op. cit., De agone christiano XI, 12.
KASSEL, Maria. “Mary and the Human Psyche Considered in the light of
Depth Psychology,” in KÜNG, Hans and Jürgen MOLTMANN, eds., Mary in the
Churches, T. and T. Clark/The Seabury Press, 1983 22. SAINT AUGUSTIN,
op.cit., De sermone Domini in monte I, XV, 41.
23. Cf. DUMEIGE, Gervais. La foi catholique, art. 388, p. 232.
Cf. DUMEIGE, Gervais. La foi catholique, art. I, p. 25-41. Dumeige
discusses the Apostles’ Creed; the Creed of Saint Epiphanes (c.374),
the Profession of Faith of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Lateran
(1215) among others. 25. Mt 1:18 and Lk 1:27 ss.
For metaphorical uses of the word « virgin » see Jr 31:4 ; 31:21 ; Am
5:2. Idolatry is considered adultery in Is 57:3; Jr 3: 8-9, and
prostitution in Is 57:8, for example.
27. Eph 5:22-24.
28. Gen 21.
29. Is 19 ss.
30. Jg 13:1-7.
31. Lk 1:5-25.
32. Lk 1:37 referring to Gn 18:14.
33. Augustine, op. cit., De bono conjugali I, 1 Epistolae 188, 6 to Juliana (418) and 150 to Proba et Juliana (414).
34. Lk 2:7.
35. Jn 1:1.
36. Jn 1:14.
37. Though Mary is supposed to be aware of Jesus’s divine origin (Lk 1:31) she does not understand his mission in Lk 2:50.
38. Les Évangiles de la Vierge by Daniel-Rops can be a useful source of information.
Evangelium of James, XIX:2 And they stood in the place of the cave: and
behold a bright cloud overshadowing the cave. And the midwife said: My
soul is magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen marvelous
things: for salvation is born unto Israel. And immediately the cloud
withdrew itself out of the cave, and a great light appeared in the cave
so that our eyes could not endure it. And by little and little that
light withdrew itself until the young child appeared: and it went and
took the breast of its mother Mary. References to the Gospel of James
(GJ) are taken from M.R. James, Translation and Notes on the
Protoevangelium of James, Oxford, Clarendon Press 1924
GJ, idem. XX: 1 And the midwife went in and said unto Mary: Order
thyself, for there is no small contention arisen concerning thee. Arid
Salome made trial and cried out and said: Woe unto mine iniquity and
mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God, and lo, my hand
falleth away from me in fire. And she bowed her knees unto the Lord,
saying: O God of my fathers, remember that I am the seed of Abraham and
Isaac and Jacob: make me not a public example unto the children of
Israel, but restore me unto the poor, for thou knowest, Lord, that in
thy name did I perform my cures, and did receive my hire of thee. 3 And
lo, an angel of the Lord appeared, saying unto her: Salome, Salome, the
Lord hath hearkened to thee: bring thine hand near unto the young child
and take him up, and there shall be unto thee salvation and joy. 4 And
Salome came near and took him up, saying: I will do him worship, for a
great king is born unto Israel.
idem XX:2 And behold immediately Salome was healed: and she went forth
of the cave justified. And lo, a voice saying: Salome, Salome, tell
none of the marvels which thou hast seen, until the child enter into
42. Lev 15:19 ss.
43. Lev 12:1 ss.
44. Lev 12: 2-3.
45. Protoevangelium of James, see notes above.
46. Jn 20:19.
47. Letter from St. Leo the Great to Flavian against Eutyches cited in La foi catholique, p. 194.
Saint Jerome, Letters 54, See Flore Dupriez in La condition féminine et
les Pères de l’Église latine, Éd. Paulines, Montréal, 1982.
49. See La foi catholique, art. 387, p. 231.
50. Lev 15.
51. Saint Augustine, De bono conjugali VI, 6.
52. Gen 1:31.
53. Mk 3:32-35; Lk 8:19; Mt 12,46-50.
Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854), www.papalencyclicals.net 55. Thils,
Gustave. « Préliminaires à la définition du dogme de l’Immaculée
Conception », in Études sur l’Immaculée Conception, sources et sens de
la doctrine, Éd. J. Duculot, Gembloux, Louvain, 1955, p. 24-45.
56. Piux IX defined the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854 and papal infallibility July 18, 1870. 57. Mt 1: 1-16
58. Jos 2:1
59. Gen 38.
60. 2 S 1.
61. Cf. COPPENS, J. « La Vierge dans l’Ancien Testament » dans Collectif, Études sur l’Immaculée Conception, p. 7-20.
62. Cf. CERFAUX, « La Vierge dans l’Apocalypse », dans Collectif, Études sur l’Immaculée Conception, p. 21-33.
64. Lk 1:28.
CUNNINGHAM, Agnès. « Dévotion à Marie dans l’Église primitive » dans
Collectif, Bien plus de prix que le corail, Servantes du
Saint-Cœur-de-Marie, Éd. du Renouveau, Charlesbourg, 1978, p. 48.
For a more detailed description of these fascinating debates, see Kari
Elisabeth Borrensen, Anthropology of Medieval and Marian Theology,
Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1977, ch. I and II.
67. Saint Augustine, op. cit. De natura et gratia, XXXVI, 42.
68. Saint Augustine, op. cit. Contra Julianum, (not completed) IV, 122. [Author’s emphasis.]
69. Bernard of Clairvaux, Ep. 174, 7 See Anthropologie médiévale et Théologie mariale, op. cit., p. 30.
Kari Elisabeth Børresen has dealt with subject in Mediaeval
Anthropology and Marian Theology, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1971.
71. See Kari Elisabeth Børresen, op. cit. p. 61-67.
72. Saint Augustine, op. cit. Epistolae, CCXLIII, 10 to Letus.
73. Pie XII, Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus # 44 74. Idem. #41
75. Idem #12
76. Rev 12:13-14.
77. Pie XII, Munificentissimus Deus, op. cit. #45
78. Cf. DANIEL-ROPS, op. cit. p. 63.
79. Cf. Eph 5:27.
80. RADFORD RUETHER, Rosemary. Sexism and God Talk, Toward a Feminist Theology, Beacon Press, Boston, 1983, p. 144.