The letter, The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, written by the Congregation for Catholic Education (March 25, 1988) in the section – “The Contribution of Mariology to Theological Research” states,
“The history of theology shows that an understanding of the mystery of the Virgin contributes to a more profound understanding of the mystery of Christ, of the Church and of the vocation of man. Similarly, the close link of the Virgin of Christ, with the Church and man throws light on the truth about Mary of Nazareth. In Mary, in fact, “everything is relative to Christ.” In consequence, “only in the mystery of Christ is her mystery fully made clear.” The more the Church deepens her appreciation of the mystery of Christ, the more it understands the singular dignity of the Mother of the Lord and her role in the history of salvation.”
Why is the study of Mariology important today?
We study Mariology to understand Mary of Nazareth. It is through her that Jesus Christ was brought into the world. She is the Mother of God (declared at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.) and it is by her fiat, her “Yes” to God at the Annunciation that we have Our Lord. From her conception in her mother’s womb (St. Anne), she was prepared by God to be an immaculate ark that would bear and deliver the Savior of the World. Her role in Salvation History is fundamental to our salvation. She works with Our Lord and in bringing salvation to all mankind. However, we must not study the Blessed Mother solely for herself. We must study her to understand her role in Salvation History that comes from the twofold sources of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
In my adolescent years, I remember individuals at my parish that were so much about the Blessed Mother that they forgot about Jesus. The Blessed Mother would never seek her own interests before her Son. In every private revelation approved by the Church, she is always pointing to Jesus. As the Virgin of Guadalupe, she is pregnant with child – that child is Jesus Christ! We must always look towards the magisterium, the official teaching office of the Catholic Church, when studying the Blessed Mother. Mark Miravalle states in chapter one of his book, Introduction to Mary, “Devotion to Mary will be authentic doctrine that comes from the Word of God entrusted to the Church. Marian devotion will then be authentic and, as such, an instrument of grace and ultimate union with Jesus Christ.” The teachings on Mary and devotion to her do not stand on their own. They are held fast with the teachings of the Church and the cultures that have embraced them from Pentecost forward. They are constant, orthodox, and alive.
When studying Mary, what needs to be remembered?
We must always remember that Mariology texts must be in conjunction with Jesus Christ and the Church. From the Early Church Fathers to Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Marian doctrines always correspond with that of Jesus and the Church. Lumen Gentium – The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church states in paragraph 67, “…following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium, let them [theologians] rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always refer to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity, and devotion.”
What do Marian doctrines have to do with Jesus Christ?
Everything! Mary’s role is fundamental in Salvation History and she has everything to do with Jesus the Christ. It’s her “Yes” that we read about in St. Luke’s Gospel account. Mary of Nazareth would not be as important as she has been for the Church if it wasn’t for her role in the life of Christ. We know Mary because Jesus Christ loved, respected and was obedient to his mother. The Gospel of John depicts for us a special relationship between mother and child, between Mary and Jesus. Her role at the Wedding Feast of Cana (John 2) is a key event in the life of Christ and in Salvation History. If Jesus is the New Adam, then it is clear that Mary is the New Eve.
Why are Marian doctrines important in the life of the Christian?
In Mary, we see the fulfillment of the baptismal promise. We see the perfection and completion of body and soul united as one. Mary is our example and our goal. Although we should strive to be like Christ, we should also strive to be like Mary. She is already in the heavenly kingdom united body and soul. As Christians, we must also want to reach heaven.
It was Mary who first came to believe in Jesus Christ and to know the great events that would soon surround him. Mary was the first to teach Jesus and the first to be taught by him. Mary stood at the foot of the Cross and watched Jesus be tortured and killed – did she lose hope? NEVER! She remained constant through it all. It was this example that led so many early Christians to give up their lives for Jesus Christ. It was her example that assisted in the growth of Christianity in the early centuries.
From the earliest of days in the Church, the Christian communities congregated around Mary in prayer. Just as the early Church grew from her example and prayer, so must we look towards Mary as Christians in the 21st century. It is our duty to learn about the Marian doctrines that have been set before us by the Church. It is our duty to respect and honor Our Lord’s Blessed and Immaculate Mother. The best way to love our Lord is to love his mother. Mary is not God, but is through her motherly duties that we find God in the flesh.