As much as the end of this course on Mary seems to be anticlimactic, and that the doors to an effective and influential Marian devotion in the Church are closing, I believe that the post-modern conception of Mary is going to serve as the foundation for a renewed, holistic, and dedicated devotion to the Mother of God throughout the world. I wrote a post a while ago about how vespers at the closing of the day is “Mary's hour.” She uses this closing time as a means to salvage the dimming light and conserve it until the sun comes up again. That is why we cannot lose hope that Mary will have a significant place in Christian thought and prayer today and in the years to come.
Marina Warner may claim that “the Virgin's legend will endure in its splendour and lyricism, but it will be emptied of moral significance, and thus lose its present real powers to heal and to harm” (339), but one must know better. We, who have access to and understand the entire history of Marian devotion in the Church from Mary's life up until now, can see the bigger picture. Marian devotion has endured trials, criticism, Councils, the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment, modernity, and pluralism. In every age and place since the time of Christ, devotion to Mary has broken through every barrier, proclaiming that yes, this woman is important and yes, she has a mysterious power and role that we strive to understand. Simply because post-modernity has come up with another roadblock to devotion, you mean to say that these past forty years will wipe out Mary altogether? I beg to differ!
This is why I preferred the positions of Ratzigner and Boss in our readings. Each in his/her own way chose to take a proper understanding of Mary's role and her function in today's world. They both were able to take Mary's context throughout history and interpret this for the modern believer. Ratzinger took the position that Mariology is best understood in the context of both Christology and ecclesiology. [Side note: I just finished a course on the Christology of Ratzigner/Pope Benedict XVI, so I really cannot escape the knowledge that almost any issue or theology he expounds upon is intended to direct the faithful to a Christocentric view and spirituality.] Mary's purpose is to lead people to Christ. She is nothing on her own at all. And boo hiss to the feminists who complain about this! OF COURSE she is insignificant without Jesus Christ; we never would have known about this woman if it weren't for God's choosing her to be His Mother. Back to the point... Ratzinger explains the uniqueness of Mariology, noting that “Mariology underscores the nexus mysteriorum—the intrinsic interwovenness of the mysteries in their irreducible mutual otherness and their unity” (29). He adds, “While the conceptual pairs bride-bridegroom and head-body allow us to perceive the connection between Christ and the Church, Mary represents a further step, inasmuch as she is first related to Christ, not as bride, but as mother. Here we can see the function of the title “Mother of the Church”; it expresses the fact that Mariology goes beyond the framework of ecclesiology and at the same time is correlative to it” (29). And so Marian devotion, to Ratzinger, is a fruitful addition to the faith so long as it is conducted within proper respect to Jesus Christ, serves an enhancement of the Christian mysteries, and stands as a balance between the head (rationality) and the heart (affectivity).
Likewise, Boss takes Mariology and connects it with a new cosmology and understanding of the human person in relation to God. To Boss, Mary “stands at the Annunciation in the same relation to God as do the waters of creation at the beginning of the world. It is as though the world's redemption in Christ is in fact its re-creation, and that God accomplishes this re-creation by breathing and speaking afresh upon the world's foundations, in the person of Mary, whose very flesh and blood are transformed into the divine microcosm that is her son” (4). This is such a refreshing take on Mary's role in the Divine plan. She is not simply a mother, or one who obeys, but she is most importantly the foundation by which the re-creation and redemption of the world take place. If Mary is “present in all physical things as their foundation” and “shows the glory to which all things are called by their Creator” (5), then we must vehemently disagree with Warner's prediction of the dissipation of Mary's influence in the world. We cannot simply shut her up in a box and pull her out occasionally when we are feeling particularly nostalgic. She is imbedded in literally everything, in every detail of all things visible and invisible.
That's why she is my mother. And your mother. And everyone's mother. She is the Mother of the Church. She is the Mother of the World. If Christians believe that Jesus—God's self-revelation—is everything, then Mary is not simply a historical figure or just part of the story. She is everything, too. She contained the uncontainable, people! She allowed the world itself to be re-created, and thus redeemed. She orders rightly our devotions so we can reflect upon these mysteries and unite ourselves with this history of divine work, salvation. Mary shows us how to live as a true microcosm, a universe within us, all creation summed up in what we are supposed to be. For me it is simply saying “Yes.” Yes to what God asks of me. Yes to the plan. Boss sums my thoughts up perfectly: “If we ask the question, 'What is it to be fully and properly human?', the answer given by Catholicism implicitly takes the form of teachings and other practices concerning the Blessed Virgin. In Mary, we see what God intends us all to be – and more than this, we see what God intends for the whole of creation” (28).
Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee. What else do we need? She is chosen, beloved by God. And better yet, she is not simply up on a pedestal. She's right down here, completely imitable, completely approachable, and completely a guide for us to be the best that we can possibly be. She's not going anywhere.