Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How necessary Mary is for our Faith? # 2

Development of Christian Doctrine

The Blessed John Henry Newman deepened a very important aspect in Theology:
 the development of Christian Doctrine. In simple words, it means: Peter’s faith (Peter the Apostle) and our faith today is exactly the same in its core. But in our perception and understanding of this living Faith there are explicit elements and implicit elements - We need to add that in the implicit has various layers. The understanding (“explicitation” / explication) of certain aspects of our faith today, or throughout the Centuries, received a great deal of improvement/growth. What is needed for salvation is 1- the implicit faith and 2- a minimum of explicit parts (think of the very basic little Creeds we find in the New Testament, like small affirmations: Jesus is God, he is our Saviour;…). Because of external and internal needs in the Church and in the Faithful in some area of the Globe, throughout the centuries some aspects of our faith received, by the Grace of God, a deepening, a clarification: a passage from an implicit state to an explicit state. 

Newman calls this passage: development.

True development doesn’t bring anything new; it is not a new revelation of any sort. It is just an improvement of something we had from day one*. Like a seed that becomes a big tree. We can say that all the tree is included in the seed, the very same DNA is “dormant” implicitly in the seed. We may see development as the continual biological growth, not as a mutation, not as a change of specie.

*day one: Remember that our “day one” is the death of the last apostle. This is when, for us Catholics, the Revelation brought to us by Jesus is accomplished (reaches its fullness). 

Now, Newman and many others after him noticed that – amongst other aspects of course – in the last 160 years, the marian doctrine in the Catholic Church received a great deal of development. 


In his research, reflections and deepening of the Action of God in time (the Divine Economy), Newman saw that in order to have a development, God proceeded by an Envelopment of the Doctrine, of His thoughts. When Newman thinks of the Old Testament, he sees that God didn’t immediately offer everything in Christ, but, on the contrary, he adopted a pedagogical procedure of envelopment as we would do with a little Child. The parents know many things, but they still adapt their words and notions to their little child. The more the child grows, the more the language, concepts, contents will develop accordingly.

From the parents point of view, they operate by envelopment, by putting layers upon layers on the core they hope to transmit education to their children. 
Can we blame the parents for enveloping/hiding the Core (the end result) from their children? Can we say that they lied to their children? Certainly not. 

For the very case of the Old Testament, while reading it and seeing how God acts, today’s mentality in many “developed” countries, has a great deal of difficulty to admit that such behaviour from God is possible. 

Marian Doctrine 

These two notions (development and envelopment) shed a very interesting light on the recent (last 160 years) “growth” in the understanding of Mary and her place in our Faith. 

With these two notions – that are linked to each other – we are better equipped to face the recent facts and pushed as well in the field of theology to give more theological credit to these recent developments and try to take them more seriously theologically. Mary is not only a devotional aspect in our Christian Theology, to be left to some “popular Pastoral Theology” for simple minded pious people. Mary is essential and structural to our faith. And all the signs we receive from more than 160 years, are to be taken very seriously by theologians and by theology. This of course this is a huge challenge for people who think that Christocentrism might be threatened, or who think that they understood everything and nothing is left to be developed. 


The Bible, the Word of God, is the core/soul of Theology. So one of the first tools used by Theology is Exegesis. And one of the first areas in Theology to be challenged by the recent marian developments is Exegesis. 

The notion of “development” as we stated it above, implies that in what you find/see there is a great deal of implicit. Introducing this notion in Exegesis is very challenging, because Exegesis has to find new (or old) “tools” in order to become able to “see” what she is not seeing yet by herself. Since the recent developments in Marian Theology are stating “new” explicitations, and since the actual tools of exegesis are not capable of reaching to these discoveries, this means that the tools as well should develop. 

New exegetical tools 

We perfectly know that the Fathers of the Church and the Spiritual Masters did use different tools in Exegesis in order to “read the Bible” and listen to God’s Voice. Many of these tools today are either criticized or simply dismissed. On the contrary, a more welcoming eye might, would find in them some better tools that can help us “see” better Mary in the Bible, both New and Old. 

Today we dismiss the allegorical, typological, “spiritual” ways of finding Mary in the Old Testament (i.e. she is - as well as Jesus - the “Wisdom” of whom it is spoken in the Wisdom Books, she is the Burning Bush, Jacob’s Ladder, Elijah’s little Cloud, and so on). Of course this is a deep lack of theological insight and methodology.
Today we rely only on the explicit affirmations in the New Testament on Mary. Firstly we think they are very few, and secondly we think that they are not structural (part of the core of our Faith). So in our understanding of Mary and her Theological place we rely on the crust and we even reduce it! While, the recent events (160 years) are pushing us to reconsider the New Testament itself, and feel invited to explore it again, with new eyes, new thirst, and mostly: new exegetical tools, in order to “see” better and “hear” better God’s Voice in Jesus. 

Summing up 

Concluding this part we can say: 

* In the recent years (160 years) Mary appears more and more to be essential in our Faith. 
* “Development of Christian doctrine” should be applied as well to the Theology of Mary. 
* Exegesis should, accordingly, seek better tools in order to be able to follow that development, and find it (see it) in the New Testament.

(to be continued...)

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