Saturday, 1 October 2016

Daughter Zion, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger



Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church's Marian Belief, translated by John McDermott, SJ, 1983 Ignatius Press, San Francisco

This book by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus, was written in the Seventies, when Catholic Marian devotion was in serious decline, until its glorious revival under Pope St. John Paul II. Here Ratzinger defends both the Church's Marian dogmas and Marian piety. He challenges the view that Mariology is a pagan aberration and a generosity towards Mariology that is based on indifferentism. He provides both a survey of the Biblical typology on which Mariology and is grounded and deep theological reflection on Mary in Christian theology.

On the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Ratzinger argues that Original Sin is not an internal quality, but is God's moral evaluation of the human condition. Therefore, Mary's lack of Original Sin is not so much a description of her being, but God's approval of her holiness and perfection. On the Assumption, it might be felt that Ratzinger offers a somewhat uncertain sound. His defense feels perhaps a little hollow and may not be convincing to those who doubt this doctrine.

I particularly liked the fact that Ratzinger related Mary to Sophia, Divine Wisdom. I am particularly interested in Bulgakov's Sophiology at the moment. He dissents from the views of the 20th century liturgical movement which had called for an exclusively Christological use of the Wisdom texts. He recognizes that Sophia offers a feminine expression of divinity that is realized in both Israel and in Mary:

"In that respect, because of the teaching about the Spirit, one can as it were practically have a presentiment of the primordial type of the feminine, in a mysterious veiled manner, with in God himself. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Spirit and the doctrine of wisdom represent separate strands of tradition. From the viewpoint of the New Testament, wisdom refers, on one side to the Son as Word, in whom God creates, but on the other side to the creature, to the true Israel, who is personified in the humble maid whose whole existence is marked by Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. Sophia refers to the Logos, the Word who establishes wisdom, and also to the womanly answer which receives wisdom and brings it to fruition. The eradication of the Marian interpretation of sophiology ultimately leaves out an entire dimension of the biblical and Christian mystery."

I would say the biggest problem with Ratzinger is his willingness to give Biblical criticism too easy a ride and this comes across at times in his discussion of Scripture. He is often thought of as a great ultraconservative. Yet it is easy to forget that by the standards of early twentieth century Catholicism, he is somewhat liberal. He is very much a bridge between a firm historical orthodoxy and more progressive ideas.

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