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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Summary of the Week and a Reflection (22nd March)

Marian heritage in the early Church
Stanley Kobia
The lecture was a continuation of the second chapter, Marian heritage in the early Church. First to be examined were the views of the Jerusalemites: Cyril of Jerusalem who wrote of Mary as Mother in his catechetical discourses and lecture, as well as  Hesychus who concentrated on the Eve-Mary contrast, Theotokos, and the use of Is 7:14.
Then came the Cappadocian fathers: Basil the great who wrote a about the holiness and virginity of Mary, his brother Gregory of Nyssa who concentrated on the virginity and Motherhood of Mary, their friend Gregory of Nazianz who was the first to propose Theotokos as the criterion for Orthodoxy, and Amhilochius of Iconium who also drew the Eve-Mary parallel and agreed with Basil that Mary must have suffered some doubts.
The Antiocheans who included John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia also wrote about Mary. The former teaches about the possibility of Mary’s defects and her perpetual virginity, while the latter focuses on the fact of Mary having given Jesus the flesh and consequently his Davidic descent.
Cyril of Alexandria, an ardent defender of Theotokos against Nestorian and his supporters, was presented in class today. The efforts of Cyril eventually bear fruits when the 431 council of Ephesus affirms Theotokos against Nestorius.  He also thinks of Mary as the Mediatrix of graces- through her salvation is achieved.
Ephrem of Syria, popularly referred to as the “Harpist of Marian Melodies”, composed great and many hymns in praise of Mary, at times drawing out the Eve-Mary parallel.
Other fathers and teachers of the fifth century were: Proclus of Constantinople who was a staunch devotee and an enthusiastic defender of Theotokos; Theodotus of Ancyra a humble believer who preferred to stand in adoration before the truths superior to the human mind;  Cealius Sedulius the liturgical poet in praise of Mary; Peter Chrysologius who emhasised the tripartite virginity of Mary; and Servus of Antioch a great devotee of Mary.
In the sixth century one of the greatest writers on Mary is Romanos the Melodist whose most famous hymn about ‘Mary at the foot of the cross’ was read in class today. It takes the form of a dialogue between Mary and Jesus, her son. Others in this period as presented are: the anonymous “Akathist” hymn, Gregory of Tours, and Vanantius Fortunatus.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Summary of the Week and a Reflection (8th March)

Bro. Robertson Sung  
            Indeed, the search is becoming more interesting. The day’s class focused the “searching telescope” to two important “planets”; namely, Apocryphal writings and African Fathers of the Church which also includes Tertullian. Despite the unbridled fantasies and illusions that colored the apocryphal writings, we have the reason to sieve out elements of truth they have about Mary. Starting from Proto-Gospel of James (most outstanding of the writings), Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, we see certain knowledge on the life of Mary and her involvement in the Salvation history.
            Another important and great contribution on Mary is to be found in the writings and homilies of the great African Fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian and Athanasius. Tertullian is also discussed though not an African Father but existed along side with these Fathers.
            Clement of Alexandria enjoyed using the terms “Virgin-Mother” to Mary and again relates it to the Church. For him, the mystery of Mary as Virgin and Mother is a road map to the understanding of the model of the mystery of the Church. As Mary gives birth and nurtures the Son of God, the Church by preaching also gives birth to her own children and nurtures them.
            Origen used the title Theotokos meaning Mary the Mother of God. This was attested by the historians. Also Origen saw in Mary an ever Virgin Mother of God. He insisted that virginity is another aspect of the Motherhood of Mary. If we seek to understand the mystery of virginity in Mary, it may remain an endless investigation since God’s works surpass humans.
Tertullian came in to discuss on Mary; though there is no outstanding new development he made. He only tried to explain the message of the Scripture on Mary which he did with harshness and severity. He interpreted the events of Mary in the Bible poorly and literally. Like the event of “the brothers of Jesus”, he referred to them as real biological sons and biological brothers of Jesus. Despite all these limitations, Tertullian showed a strong belief in Mary and was convinced of her contributions in the salvation history of man. He maintains that it is Mary’s “Yes” that brought salvation to us humans.
            Again comes, Cyprian of Carthage who connected Genesis 3:15 with Isaiah 7:14 in reflecting on Mary. This work he did really helped the Church to continue her reflection in seeing Mary as a woman of Revelation as foretold by the prophets.
The Father of Orthodoxy and a great defender of the Council of Nicaea came up to say that Mary is a Virgin par excellence who is model to be imitated by those committed to virginity. His devotion and personal relationship he had on Mary forced him to declare Mary as “Our Sister”. He also referred to her as Theotokos. Also, he applied the title “Mother of Zion” to Mary.
            But before the class ended, a small discussion on “Mary in the early Church of Rome” was tackled. The assertion was that though the Church of Rome holds the primacy as the see of St Peter’s Successor, it was not the first to start reflection on Mary. In the East, reflection on Mary had since been done and in fact represented in iconography before the Church of West – Rome began. But, above all these, the two churches hold a great regard for Mary and her contributions in the salvation history. Thanks! Br. Robertson K. Sung

Friday, March 9, 2012

Summary of the Week and a Reflection (8th March)

The Marian Heritage of the Early Church
 Abraha Taddesse,  sdb.
Mary in the Apocryphal Writings
The apocryphal writings regarding Mary includes just but the following:
Protoevangelium Jacobi: this is known as the proto-Gospel of James. This work is focused on the life of Mary and it is based on the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke. This writing is concerned with given solutions to the many controversial issues raised against Mary as mother of Christ.
The Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel pseudo-Matthew: These are concern with the emphasis on the miraculous powers of Jesus in a very sensational way.
The Transitus Mariae: This refers in other words as the dormition-a term which means sleeping and it's figuratively applies to the death and assumption of Mary. These are said to be legends that originated from the Eastern Churches that turned to influence the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, the Church's teachings on Mary are biblically rooted on the mysteries of Incarnation and Redemption in the life of Jesus. Mary's maternal role in these aforementioned mysteries is the yardstick to the Church's teachings regarding her.    
2.3 The image of Mary in the African Father and  Tertullian
Clement of Alexandria: Is  Catholic - Gnostic, he discovered the importance of the knowledge of the salvific truth found in the scriptures. In his principle of typology, Clement speaks of the virgin Mary as type of the Church. With regards to the maternal function of Mary especially in relating with the mystery of the incarnation, he considers her as the virgin-mother who is the archetypal model of the mystery of the Church.
Origen, is one of the greatest of Christian antiquity. He wrote 89 texts in which he used the title theotokos for Mary. He considers virginity to be the most mysterious and marvelous aspect of Mary's motherhood. Origen is convinced that the virginal conception of Jesus was not a sort of privilege for his mother but, a service she owed to and he said Mary is ever-virgin. And he teach Mary's universal motherhood as well.
Tertullian,  was the son of  a centurion, the highest rank that a non- Roman could attain. He studied law and rhetoric, worked as an advocate in Rome and then returned to Africa, which was in his blood. He passed very severe harsh judgments of the holy Virgin interpreting poorly the Gospel passages that mention the brothers of Jesus (cf. Mt 12: 46-50;Mk 3:31-35; Lk 8: 19-21). According to him the Lord was reproving his Mother together with his brothers. He defend the real humanity of  Christ that Chris's body is not heavenly but really born of the very substance of Mary, ex Maria, and he denied the virginity of Mary in partu and post partum. He states that Mary was a virgin when she conceived, she was a wife when she brought forth. He understands the brethren of Jesus as children of Mary according to the flesh. But many fathers rejected these teachings.
Cyprian of Carthage, was from a pagan family and studied literature and rhetoric. He converted at forty, distributed his property to the poor and became a priest and at the beginning of 249 was elected Bishop of Carthage. He write many surviving works like on scripture, unity of the Church, baptism, penitence and martyrdom. Only one passage which speaks of Mary by combining the texts of Gn.3:15 with Isaiah 7: 14.
Athanasius of Alexandria, was a convert to Christianity, later served as a deacon and was present at the Council of Nicaea as the secretary of the Bishop. In 325 AD, he become Bishop  of Alexandra. Athanasius is devoted to the Virgin Mary in a persona manner. He sees Mary as the Virgin par excellence who is a model to be imitated by those committed to Virginity. He calls Mary our Sister (by virtue of her sharing in the patrimony of Adam), and as Theotokos, etc.  He said for our sake he was made man having assumed flesh from Mary the Virgin Mother of our God.
Mary in the Early Church of Rome, the figure of Mary is clearly present in iconography. They said the virgin Mother present from the beginning. The Christian people of the early century gave important place to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hippolytus of Rome, appreciated the importance of Mary's role in the mysteries of the incarnation and of human salvation.
The Great Western Theologians, saw the mystery of incarnation as prefigured and prepared for in the prophetic texts of Hebrew Scriptures. The lives of consecrated virgins, both men and women, led them to see in Mary as the model for the consecrated way of life as well.
Ambrose of Milan, the future bishop of Milan was born to an aristocratic Christian family. In his writings, Ambrose presented a threefold treatment regarding Mary: (A) Christocentric reflection, (B) Reflection on Mary in ecclesiology and finally, (C) Mary is seen as an exemplary model for the life of consecrated virginity. He also applies  the title Daughter of Zion to Mary and to the Church providing greater insights into the virginal character of the Church. Ambrose convincingly argues that Mary is the model for the Church in  her faith and integrity as the Virgin Mother that enables the faithful to see her as  a model.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Summary of the Week and a Reflection (23rd February)

The last aspect we looked at in Mary in the Gospel of John is ‘Mary at the foot of the Cross’. John is the only evangelist to record the presence of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of the Cross of his Son. Mary’s standing at the foot of the cross connotes compassion and intimate sharing of the suffering of him who for our salvation became a curse, as St. Paul tells us (Gal 3:13). Mary suffered just like any mother seeing her son treated but she suffered much more because she knew who her son was, the eternal Word God from God. Essential content of this passage is the spiritual, universal motherhood of Mary. On Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, Mary’s divine motherhood, with the pangs of a most painful childbirth, is shown to extend to all brothers and sisters of Christ “the firstborn” (Rom 8:29). The entrustment of the disciple to Mary and Mary to the beloved disciple was a part of the plan of redemption; it was the institution of the spiritual maternity of Mary towards every disciple of Christ. Church is also brought forth from the Cross with the life-giving water (Baptism) and blood (Eucharist). Thus the spiritual motherhood of Mary becomes the image and the form of motherhood of the church.
MARY IN THE APOCALYPSE (She is the “Ark of the covenant” and the glorified “woman” that appeared in heaven)
1.       The Ark of the Covenant (Rev 11:19)
The Ark was the sign of the presence of God in the midst of the people (1 Chr 15:3-4). Inside, his Word was kept, inscribed on the two tablets of the Law (Deut 9:15). Allegorically Mary is the new Ark of the new covenant because in her womb the Son of God, the Word made flesh, dwelt for nine months.
2.       The Woman Clothed with the Sun (Revelation 12)
Here we have series of signs, allegorical-symbolic visions, concerning the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan structured via “concentric circles”. The first circle, the woman with child and the dragon ready to devour the son to whom the woman is about to give birth, the son who is rapt up to heaven. Second circle is the victorious combat of Michael and of his angels against the dragon, who is cast down to earth. The third circle, the dragon pursues the woman, who however flees to a secure place; thereafter the dragon vents his anger on the offspring of the woman (vv. 13-18). The red dragon is identified as the Devil and Satan, who leads astray the world. Identification of the woman clothed with the Sun is not so clear but today the basic interpretations of the “woman” of Revelation 12 are:  Mary and the Church and neither should be excluded in interpretation of the mysterious symbol. She recapitulates and expresses the whole reality of divine motherhood and of the ecclesial motherhood. Our Lady is to be ascribed a double child birth: one natural and Virginal without pain she begot the Son of God; the other spiritual, by means of which in Calvary, uniting her sufferings to those of the Redeemer she begot mystical Body of Christ.

Fathers reflecting on the mystery of redemption discovered that Mary was near the centerpiece of the new creation. They intuitively understood and taught about her role as “new and second Eve”.  Ignatius of Antioch, Justin of Samaria and Irenaeus of Lyons, discovered importance of Mary for faith in Christ in both “Christotypical and Soteriological reflection”. Their insight expressed through the Eve-Mary parallel derived from Adam-Christ parallel.
1. Ignatius of Antioch, is concerned for the reality of Jesus’  human nature thus he affirms that Christ our Lord is Son of God and Son of Mary thus his Mariology is framed in a Christological perspective.
2. Justin the Martyr, the first to discover the parallel between Mary and Eve and this lays foundation in understanding Mary’s place and role in the life of believers. On his focus on person of Christ he attaches a role of cooperation on the part of the Virgin Mary through her “yes” and he added the Soteriological dimension of the incarnation and Mary’s role within it as Virgin-mother. Thus Justin saw Mary in the plan of God as the virgin who gave birth to the messiah.
3. Irenaeus of Lyons, He advanced reflections on the Eve-Mary parallel and introduced the ecclesial-typical thoughts. Both Christ and Mary untie the knot that Adam and Eve had made. Mary, cooperating with Christ as the cause of human salvation by her obedience plays a unique role. Thus ‘Eve’ symbol of lack of faith and disobedience she is the cause of death while ‘Mary’ symbol of faith, obedience and life she is the cause of our salvation. Mary is now the Spiritual mother and advocate of the new creation and an image of the Church.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Summary & Reflection -22nd February

Bro. Leonard Muli, Sdb

John’s gospel explains the compassion and intimate sharing of the suffering Jesus, the eternal Word who for our salvation became a curse. His gospel presents the spiritual universal motherhood of Mary. He extends his great love to all brethrens bringing the divine plan of salvation to its conclusion as he institutes the spiritual maternity of Mary towards all Disciples of Christ. Mary and John represent all Jesus’ brothers and sister in the community of believers, Mary being their mother in the economy of salvation which is portrayed by the redemptive love of her Son. In this scenario the Church is brought forth from the Cross. The two disciples are symbols of the call to perfect discipleship. Mary is an image represents the church while John is a representative of every believer.
In the Apocalypse Mary is represented as the new Ark of the Covenant, the Word, a sign of the presence of God in the midst of his people. The allegorical symbolic visions representing conflict between the kingdom of God and the Satan, the personages are the woman, her Son and the dragon. The son of the woman is the Messiah. Dragon is the Satan the enemy of God’s people who shall be defeated. The term woman refers to Mary and the Church. The New Testament through the Patristic times reflected on the mystery of redemption discovering Mary as close to centre piece of the new creation, the second Eve; honoring her with the title Mother of God as she played an important and special role in the redemption of humanity.
The Church Fathers were the great initiators of Marian thought and the greatest importance of Mary for faith in Christ. Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the churches of Asia Minor mentioning and reminding them the reality of Jesus’ human nature. His Mariology is framed in Christological perspective, testifying both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus and Mary as the key witness to the true doctrine. Christ is both Son of God and Son of Mary; the motherhood of Mary and Mary’s virginal maternity is a hidden mystery. With this we are illumined on how Mary was recognized as the mother of Jesus. The true body of Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered and died for our salvation.

Justine Martyr was the first to discover the parallel between Mary and Eve. He laid a foundation in understanding of Mary’s place and role in the life of the believers. He outshined the Marian teaching of Ignatius by putting in the stereological dimension of the incarnation and Mary’s role within it as virgin mother. He demonstrates his Christian beliefs about Christ and the virginal conception seeing Mary in the plan of God as the virgin who gave birth to the Messiah.

Irenaeus linked the East and the West with his advanced reflections higher than that of Justin on the Eve and Mary parallel. He introduced the ecclesial typical thoughts while developing the Eve and Mary parallel thought. The image of body and spiritual motherhood are brought together in her theological paradigm of recapitulation within the economy of salvation. Mary becomes counterpart to Eve as the mother of the living. Christ and Mary restored the relationship that Adam and Eve had destroyed. Mary cooperates with Jesus for human salvation and she becomes antitype of Eve who brought death. She initiates moral and spiritual order; her maternal womb becomes the permanent source of the generation of the children of God, the new Eve, an Advocate and an image of the Church. The writers of this time carefully concealed the mysteries and person of Mary from the non-believers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Summary of the Week and a Reflection (17th February)

David Nduati
We have already seen that in the gospel of Luke, Mary is presented as a disciple, meaning: at the Annunciation is woman of faith; at presentation she is woman of silence (meditation); at visitation, one who serves; in magnificat, she is seen as woman of prayer and at the foot cross she is woman of sorrow.
In the Gospel of John right from the prologue, we can trace the origin of Jesus. John describes the nature and the mission of the Word. According to Ignatius de la Potterie, John knows perfectly well that, the father of Jesus is God himself, that God is his very own father.
Even if John does not cite Mary’s name explicitly, there is no doubt that in speaking of the conception and birth, he implicitly alludes to the mother of the Word. Verse 12, of the prologue, we can easily grasp how John, implicitly extended the divide maternity of Mary to all those who believe in the only begotten son of the Father.
At the marriage feast at Cana the figure of Mary occupies front stage. She appears as the one who intervenes with her son to initiate the revelation of his messianic identity. Mary is called mother of Jesus, this draws attention to the role played by Mary in relation to Jesus: she is the mother of him who is the son of God. On the other hand this title reveals the role played by Mary in the salvation history. Her intervention with Jesus to resolve problem of shortage of wine, presents her as someone who asks the help of her divine son, through whom the entire world was created. She asks help not for herself but for human kind in need of an intervention from on high. She is the one who present our needs to God. Mary also appears here as the lady of the house, centre of that community, symbolizing Israel; one who acted as the catalyst of the faith of the disciples.
Although Jesus was hesitant to his mother’s request, Mary new quite well the he would act. That is the reason why he immediately said to the servants, “do whatever he tells you.” From Jesus’ reply it seems that the divine plan had no originally intended Jesus to intervene, but her mothers’ request persuaded her to act. Hence we can rightly say that the most holy virgin is so powerful that God will always attend to all petitions which come to Him through her. For such a reason our lady has been given the title omnipotence at prayer.
There is a rich symbolism behind episode of Cana. The water that was turned into wine by Jesus symbolizes law, while the new wine is the gospel proclaimed by Jesus. For Jews the water was for ritual purification. Jesus changed it into wine of the New Law, the law of charity, which purifies and transforms the believers. The filling of the water-jars to the brim, too has a deeper meaning. It indicates the super-abundance of blessings brought by the redemption and, at the same time, signals the aspect of obedience to Jesus. The wedding feast symbolizes the messianic wedding between God and mankind.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Summary of the Week and a Reflection (17th February)

Franklin Muchangi

This gospel is chronologically the last. The Church had much experience; she had had time to deepen the words and the life of Jesus. It is the gospel of ‘signs’. His aim is expressed in 20:31 – ‘These signs are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing this you may have life through this name’. In John, thus, Mary will be an elder in the faith for the disciples. In the two cases where Mary is present in this gospel, the word, ‘believe’ is emphasized.
Right from the beginning John testifies the divine origin of Jesus. In Jn 1: 12-13, the evangelist inserts in this context a brief allusion to the virginal conception of Jesus. This is the first passage in this gospel to make reference to Mary, particularly to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word in her most pure womb. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that this text has textual variations and opinions of its interpretation remains divided among the scholars. But, the above mentioned interpretation enjoys the support of a good part of the patristic and theological Tradition. Many theologians have taken seriously the possibility of finding an affirmation of the virginal conception of Christ in this passage. No matter the position that one holds, one cannot deny the fact that John’s gospel insists on the uniqueness of Jesus. All his gospel stresses the fact that Jesus is the one sent by the Father and is returning to the Father.
            The figure of Mary occupies the front stage. The initiative of Mary obtains the miracle, the miracle which manifests the glory of Jesus and that in turn produces faith in the disciples. John never calls Mary by her name, but rather by a gracious title of honor, ‘mother of Jesus’. This certainly is a sign of respect.
            This first sign is loaded with words full of symbolism. The water turned by Jesus into wine symbolizes the Law, while the new wine is the gospel proclaimed by Christ. The water served for the purification of the Jews. There is a shift from the Old Law to the New Law, the law of love. The filling of the jars ‘to the brim’, indicates the superabundance of blessings brought by the redemption. The wedding feast as context of the miracle symbolizes the messianic nuptials between God and mankind. Jesus is the divine Groom wedded to his disciples. Mary role is that of mediation. But she is also both Bride and Mother. She is the bride of the word incarnate, Mother of the Church. Jesus’ addressing his mother as ‘woman’ is not to be taken as an expression of disrespect. It is rich in meaning. To understand its meaning, one has to see the connection between Mary, the ‘Woman of Cana’, with the ‘Woman of Genesis’, the ‘Woman of Galatians’, the ‘Woman of Calvary’ and the ‘Woman of Revelation’. There is a symbolic import in the title ‘Woman’.
            We can rightly say that Mary helps us realize who Jesus is, to have faith in him and to center ourselves on her son. We are invited to do ‘all that he tells us’. Mary is the one who believed and we are invited to believe.