This Book Intends to Aid Christian Unity by Helping All Christians to Truly Understand Each Other’s Different Perspectives on Mary, in Terms of the Common Christian Fundamentals
As I indicated in Volume I Chapter 1, I believe my personal experience with all of the major branches of divided Christianity allows me to “translate” between these branches, so that I can help each major group of Christians to respectfully understand the other major groups, and their different perspectives on Mary in particular, by showing how all of their different secondary beliefs are still related to the below common fundamentals of Christian faith and have been careful not to compromise them:
The Common Creed of Christianity:
The Great Common Faith of Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christianity (and “Messianic Judaism”) Which is the Basis for Christian Unity
the One God, Creator of the Universe, who is Love, exists as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, making Jesus fully God and fully man, able to make Atonement for the sins of all humanity, which He did by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead so that humanity can be forgiven and saved (and find human fulfillment) through Him; we acquire this forgiveness from sin and salvation unto eternal life through, drawn and empowered by God’s Grace, our turning away from sin (anti-love), accepting what Jesus has done for us and coming into loving, saving relationship with Him (and His Father and Holy Spirit) through belief and baptism, as He taught (Mark 16:16), which makes us members of the one Body of Christ the Church; Jesus’ literal Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; Jesus’ future return in glory and judgement and the bodily resurrection of all the dead; the tenets of traditional Christian morality (described in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages of Scripture) as how to be loving and so how to please the God who is Love; the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures which testify to all these things.
Understanding the Protestant Perspective on Mary
Since the Protestant theological understanding of Mary is pretty much simply a wholesale rejection of any Catholic (and Orthodox) Marian teaching beyond Mary’s obvious role in the Incarnation of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, there is little more to say to help Catholic or Orthodox Christians understand the Protestant position, other than to note again that this rejection comes from a genuine (if unnecessary) attempt of Protestants to protect the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity, since they have many gross misconceptions about the Catholic (and Orthodox) teachings on Mary and so they fear that Catholic and Orthodox Marian doctrine compromises the Christian fundamentals.
Although Protestant Christians vary a great deal amongst themselves, Catholic and Orthodox Christians should understand that Protestant and Evangelical Christians in general have such a great (and admirable!) focus on their having a personal loving relationship with Jesus that they have unfortunately lost any deep sense of belonging to Jesus’ family because they have been adopted by God His Father. Thus they regard having anything at all to do with Mary His human mother and the other human Saints in Heaven (His brothers and sisters) who were also adopted by God as somehow getting “in between” Christians and Jesus – even though they ask other Christians on Earth (including their mothers!) to intercede in prayer for them as Catholic and Orthodox Christians ask other Christians on Earth and in Heaven to pray for them, and even though they accept they will spend Eternity in Heaven worshiping God with the rest of Jesus’ family, the “great cloud of witnesses” of the saints (including Mary) who have gone before us who the Bible says surround us even now (Hebrews 12:1). Thus Protestant Christians in general often effectively regard the Church as a mere collection of individuals who each have an individual personal relationship with Jesus, at least much moreso than they regard the Church as God’s adopted family of all who have been redeemed by Jesus (including Mary), both those alive on Earth and those “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) in Heaven, which is emphasized in the Catholic and Orthodox understanding of the Church.
Catholic and Orthodox Christians should appreciate the genuine Christian zeal for God and great desire to be wholly devoted to Jesus which motivates the Protestant rejection of the traditional Eastern and Western Christian understanding of Mary the mother of our Savior, and deal patiently and lovingly with Protestant and Evangelical Christians even though they sometimes can be quite rude and accusatory in expressing their opinions of the Marian doctrines which they almost never understand at all accurately. The great zealous love for Jesus of many Protestant/Evangelical Christians should be inspirational to many less devoted Catholic and Orthodox Christians even if it lacks the Catholic and Orthodox perspective of profoundly belonging to God’s family of all those redeemed by Jesus Christ throughout history.
Thankfully, more and more Protestant and Evangelical Christians are slowly coming to realize how inappropriate is the classic Protestant denigration of Mary (a fact even testified to on the cover of one issue of TIME Magazine which speaks of “the Blessed Evangelical Mary”). They are coming to realize that in their overreaction to what they perceive as a gross Catholic overemphasis on Mary, they have committed the opposite error of grossly under-emphasizing her and even denigrating God’s chosen instrument for the Incarnation of God the Son in Jesus Christ. Noah, Abraham, David and others were chosen to serve God in special ways because of their godliness. So it makes no sense to think that God the Son chose Mary for the most special of all tasks, being His own mother, completely at random, and in fact Gabriel told Mary he had been sent to her because she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). So Mary deserves at least as much respect and honor for her great faithfulness to God which motivated God to choose her for such an incredibly special task as Noah, Abraham, and David deserve. She certainly does not deserve to have Protestant theologians trying to interpret the Bible so as to invent sins and denigrate her character in order to justify the classic Protestant underemphasis on her, as some have done, accusing her of sinful motivations in her intercession on behalf of the young married couple at Cana (which makes no sense of why Jesus would then reward her “sin” by doing what she asked, and doing it by performing His very first miracle!).
Thus many Protestant and Evangelical Christians, though still convinced that the Catholic beliefs about Mary are “too much” because they still do not truly understand them and how they are logically related to the Incarnation they agree with Catholics about, are in fact trying to find a more appropriate Protestant response to Mary. I hope this book will help Protestant Christians find a better response to Mary, even if they remain unconvinced of all the details of Catholic Mariology (the study of Mary).
Mother Teresa’s Simple but Powerful Explanation of Mary’s Importance to Christianity Which Justifies the Catholic and Orthodox Churches’ Theological Preoccupation with Mary: “No Mary; No Jesus”
(God the Eternal Son, Second Person of the Eternal Holy Trinity, Is Not Incarnate [Enfleshed] in a Truly Human Nature for Human Salvation Without Mary His Human Mother)
(Blessed) Mother Teresa was not a theologian like me so she never wrote a book like this attempting to explain in detail the Catholic Church’s Marian doctrine and how it does not compromise but is in accord with and even defends the common Christian fundamentals. But with the simple wisdom and insight of great saints who humbly love Jesus with all their hearts she summarized why Mary is so important to not only Catholic theology but to basic Christian theology, in a brief phrase that Protestant Christians should be able to understand: “No Mary; no Jesus.” Jesus is God the Eternal Son Incarnate, enfleshed through His Virgin Birth from Mary: Jesus the God-man is both Divine and human only because He had a Divine Father and a human mother, so Mary’s importance to Christianity cannot be underestimated. Whatever questions or concerns Protestants may have about Catholic Mariology, this simple but profound phrase on its own justifies the Catholic Church’s theological preoccupation with Mary: “No Mary; no Jesus.”
Understanding the Eastern Orthodox Perspective on Mary
There is little point in making detailed distinctions between the Marian doctrines of the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church (in its Eastern and Western Rites or “Sister Churches” unified under the pope) as if they were different doctrines. Protestant Christians generally can see no substantial difference between the doctrines of the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Churches for the simple reason that there is not any substantial difference (except for their understanding of the exact nature and limitations of the papacy). Basically anything that is Eastern Orthodox is also Catholic, evident within the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic “Sister Churches” within the Universal (Catholic) Communion of orthodox Christian “Sister Churches” (Eastern and Western) which recognize the pope as holding the ancient position of “chief overseer” or “chief bishop” of the entire Christian Church (first held by Peter to whom Jesus gave “the keys”). The Eastern Orthodox perspective on Mary is simply that of the early Eastern Rites of the Undivided Early Christian Church’s Universal (Catholic) Communion of orthodox Sister Churches,1 without the later more advanced and subtle development of those same doctrines within the ongoing Catholic Communion of Sister Churches, Eastern and Western, known collectively as the Catholic Church.
For example, the doctrine the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church calls the “Assumption of Mary” is known in the Eastern Christian Rites (Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) as the Dormition of Mary, and it is marked by a Feast Day on the same day in both the Catholic (Eastern and Western) and the Eastern Orthodox Churches (August 15), having been celebrated by Eastern and Western Christians since ancient times.
Though it was largely Roman Catholic theologians who developed the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary” in its current more advanced Catholic form, this was developed from the less developed and more implicit ancient Eastern and Western Christian understanding that the human vessel God used to make His Eternal Son human was herself made pure through God’s Grace, as a unique part and consequence of the process of the unique Incarnation of the pure human and Divine Son of God in her womb (see Volume II Chapter 1 for an advanced understanding of this early universal Christian instinct). Early heretics often attacked the true Incarnation of God Himself in Jesus Christ, son of Mary, and so in defense of the true Divinity and humanity of Christ the Early Church’s understanding of the Incarnation and of Mary’s human part in it grew up together.
Thus it is that the Eastern Byzantine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (the premier Eastern theologian of the Undivided Early Church), which speaks so often and so soaringly of the Divine Holy Trinity whom “we worship…for having saved us,” when it speaks of the human Church of the saints it repeatedly refers to Mary (first believer in Jesus and first member of that human Church!) in terms variously translated into English by Eastern Christians as “most pure,” “most holy pure,” “most holy, most pure,” or “immaculate.” Saint Augustine, the premier Western theologian of the Undivided Early Church (loved by Protestants), also had an equivalent view of Mary stated in different terms (discussed in this volume).
Chrysostom’s ancient Christian liturgy is celebrated in song weekly by both most Eastern Catholic and most Eastern Orthodox Christians (who are from the ancient Byzantine Patriarchate of the Undivided Early Church), using either the term “immaculate” or something essentially equivalent for Mary, so this doctrine is certainly not a difference between Catholic and Orthodox Christians, even though the Catholic understanding of it is now more developed. Russian Orthodox theologian Father Sergius Bulgakov has recently insisted on the importance of Eastern Orthodox Christians understanding Mary according to terms such as pan hagia (“all holy”) which are essentially equivalent to immaculate.
Eastern Orthodox Christians simply take different (complementary not contradictory) intellectual approaches than Roman Catholic Christians do in theologically explaining the Christian Divine Revelation of the Bible and the above fundamental interpretations of the Bible like the Incarnation which they hold in common with each other (and with orthodox Protestant Christians). These Eastern Orthodox approaches are also Eastern Catholic approaches, and even Roman Catholic theologians often draw from Eastern theology (written by Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Christians) as a valid different perspective on the same truths when doing their Roman theology. Different theology does not mean a difference in faith in God’s Divine Revelation which theology seeks to understand intellectually. In fact, it was this kind of pooling of the different theological insights of the mutually enriching different Eastern and Western Sister Churches which led to the clear articulations of the common fundamentals of Christianity at the Early Ecumenical Councils.
For example, the Eastern, Antiochene Sister Church had long emphasized and developed their theological understanding of the true humanity of Jesus (against heretical Christians who sought to deny it), the Eastern, Alexandrian Sister Church had long emphasized and developed their theological understanding of the true Divinity of Jesus (against heretical Christians who sought to deny it), and it was the Western, Roman Pope Saint Leo the Great, combining these insights and adding a Roman perspective, who first clearly and thoroughly articulated the fundamental Christian doctrine encapsulated in the phrase “Jesus is fully God and fully man.”2 This doctrine was adopted as irreversible dogma by the whole Church (East and West) at the 4th Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451 AD, against the (Eastern) Monophysite Christian heretics.3 This phrase which defines and guards Christian orthodoxy is the result of a Holy Spirit-led theological “team effort” of the mutually enriching Eastern and Western Christian Sister Churches which were united in the Undivided Early Universal (Catholic) Christian Church. Virtually all of the differences between Roman Catholic Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians (regarding Mary or anything else) are simply superficial theological or practical differences of this type which did not divide but mutually enriched the Undivided Early Church of East and West, and Eastern Catholic Christians who share the Eastern theological and practical distinctions of Eastern Orthodox Christians already remain in (or returned to) full Christian unity with the Roman Catholic Sister Church within the Universal (Catholic) Communion of Sister Churches known collectively as the Catholic Church.
It is worth digressing briefly to emphasize that differences in theology (which is the academic discipline of faith seeking intellectual understanding) are not differences in obedient, saving faith in what God has revealed in the Bible and in the above commonly-held fundamental Christian interpretations of the Bible. The Bible says there is “one Lord, one faith,” not “one theology.” In fact different theologies in the Church have often been complementary not contradictory intellectual approaches to Divine Revelation providing overall deeper insight into common faith in what God has revealed – or else they have been fruitless or harmful intellectual speculations which were abandoned when they proved to not be so helpful in intellectually illuminating Divine Revelation for the enhancement of Christian life, without ever having been part of the Church’s saving faith in what God has revealed. This was the very process of the Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Early Church. Eastern and Western theological ideas and approaches and insights which had proven fruitful for bringing people closer to the living core of Christian faith and love were affirmed and sometimes pooled together or otherwise altered to improve them all the more. A few exceptionally fruitful doctrines (literally “teachings”) based on the most fruitful theologies were dogmatized as non-negotiable dogmas or “articles” of Christian faith, since they intellectually articulated in a clear and concise way something the whole Church recognized as absolutely vital to Christian faith (like “Jesus is fully God and fully man”). Theological ideas which had eventually proven to take people away from the living core of Christian faith and love were condemned as heresies, but often “material” heretics were not bad Christians and they abandoned their heretical theological opinions and adopted the orthodox position as soon as the Church officially judged those opinions to be heretical and clarified the orthodox position (“formal” heretics were those who obstinately held on to their heresy after the whole Church had judged via Ecumenical or “worldwide” Council). It is important to understand that Catholic, Orthodox, and conservative/Evangelical Protestant theological opinions about how to best intellectually understand different aspects the above vast common Christian faith and common Divine Revelation of the Bible, including some at-one-time very popular ones, have come and gone, have been altered and improved or eventually abandoned, without ever changing the above common Christian faith in what God has revealed. In fact most of the current Catholic, Orthodox, and conservative Protestant theologies or intellectual approaches to the above commonly-held Divine Revelation, whatever their relative strengths and weaknesses, are complementary not contradictory, focusing on different aspects of what we all believe. Those comparatively few actual contradictions in our current intellectual theological understanding of our above common saving Christian faith are things we should be able to talk about as loving Christian brothers and sisters united in the above common faith! If we do, we will surely come to alter or abandon elements of our current understanding and combine the best insights of our different approaches to together work out an even more precise theological understanding which addresses the concerns of all sides – as happened in many Councils of the Undivided Early Church.
The 1854 and 1950 Papal Catholic Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary Were Simply Formal Dogmatic Clarifications of Undivided Early Church Doctrines Held by the Same Early Orthodox Christians of East and West Who Helped Define the Common Christian Fundamentals Against Early Heretics in the Early Ecumenical Councils
With all this in mind, Protestant Christians should note that it is simply pure ignorance of history on the part of some Protestant/Evangelical Christians that they foolishly accuse the Roman Catholic Church of “inventing” the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary in 1854 and 1950 respectively, when the current pope dogmatically defined these doctrines. These popes were simply formalizing and clarifying ancient Undivided Early Christian Church doctrines which were held by the same early orthodox Christians (in the East and West) who helped define the above common Christian fundamentals against the early heretics in the Early Ecumenical Councils, doctrines still held in some form by the majority of Christians today (in the Eastern and Western Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches). Since all of the Christian churches (Catholic or Orthodox) whose history goes back to the beginnings of the Christian Church and the centuries of early controversies with heretics over the fundamentals, when the Early Church was establishing its essential faith, believe essentially the same things about Mary, as part of their orthodox Christian faith in Jesus the God-man and how they defended it against the many early heretics, orthodox Protestant Christians should be motivated to read this book so as to finally truly understand these early Marian beliefs, since it is only the much younger Protestant churches today (never Catholic or Orthodox churches) which have often gone “doctrinally liberal” and doubted or denied the essential fundamental Christian teaching about Jesus Christ.
So in summary, the Eastern Orthodox teaching about Mary is just a less developed form of the Catholic (Eastern and Western) teaching on Mary, and thus in this book I will in fact quote Eastern Orthodox sources to help explain the Catholic position on Mary!
Understanding the Catholic Perspective on Mary:
This Book Explains the Highly Developed Marian Doctrine of the Catholic Church in Terms Which Address the Concerns of Non-Catholic Christians
So the typical Protestant perspective on Mary is simply a nearly complete rejection of Catholic Mariology, and the Eastern Orthodox perspective on Mary is simply a less developed form of Catholic Mariology – meaning that all Christians approach Mary in some kind of relation to Catholic Mariology. This requires that Catholic Mariology be truly understood if Christians are to truly understand each other’s differing perspectives on Mary.
This book then seeks to aid Protestant/Evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic Christians in understanding each other’s perspectives on Mary primarily through explaining the Catholic understanding of Mary quite thoroughly, but in newer terms (emphasizing Mary’s place in the Body of Christ the Church) which avoid the “language barrier” misconceptions (often degenerating into uncharitable accusations) which usually happen when Catholic and Protestant Christians try to discuss Mary. A thorough read of this volume should give Protestant and Orthodox readers a solid understanding of the more highly developed Marian doctrine of the Catholic Church, and help Catholic readers to understand Catholic Mariology in a thorough and enriching manner which enables them to explain it to non-Catholics in a way which addresses their concerns about Catholic Marian teaching, a way that is more sensitive to the Marian position of Protestant Christians particularly and the well-intended reasons behind it.
To Protestant readers , I want you to understand that in explaining them thoroughly it is not my main desire to necessarily convince you that the Catholic Marian doctrines are correct, but my main desire is to help you truly understand them, so that you will see how they are strongly related to the vast common Christian faith shared by Catholic and Protestant/Evangelical Christians and do not compromise that faith as Protestants typically fear, so that even if you still do not agree with these Catholic Marian doctrines, they may no longer be a barrier in your mind to the brotherly love and unity among Christians which our Lord Jesus prayed for “so that the world may believe.”
Chances are good that after reading this volume on Mary you will find that you have never thought so deeply and Biblically about Jesus the God-man, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Body of Christ the Church. Resisting the Protestant urge to ignore Mary, by reading this book, will likely lead you into a much deeper and more completely Biblical understanding of the Trinity, the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus (through Mary!), and the Church, the Body of Christ on Earth. It will connect you to the Early Church’s viewpoint on these important things which most Protestants have lost sight of since Protestantism began over 1000 years after the Early Church hammered out its precise faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation during the early controversies settled by the Ecumenical Councils of that Body of Christ the Church. At least Protestant/Evangelical readers will no longer be able to uncharitably judge Catholic Christians (wounding Christian unity) on the basis of the rash assertion that the Catholic beliefs about Mary have no basis in the Bible – for in fact things pertaining to the mother of the Messiah who will crush the serpent Satan and who will reign on David’s throne forever pop up in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation! (See Volume II Chapter 5)
Excellent Guidelines for working together in love for the world’s sake even while our denominational differences remain have already been produced by Evangelical Protestant Christian leaders and scholars and Catholic Christian leaders and scholars (including Cardinal Dulles) working together in the spirit of genuine Christian brotherly love for the sake of being good witnesses of Jesus to the world who needs to know Him – see Evangelicals & Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium [http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9405/articles/mission.html]. This joint Evangelical Protestant and Catholic statement towards Christian unity in love identifies our vast common faith and emphasizes that we must “contend together” as loving brothers and sisters in Christ regarding our remaining differences. This book in your hands is part of a Catholic response to this call which I hope will, in the long term, contribute towards a mutual resolution of our past difficulties relating to Mary by showing how much more like-minded we already are than we usually think, since both Evangelicals and Catholics are already committed to looking at Mary in the light of the above common essential Christian fundamentals.
Since, as a former Evangelical Protestant, I know that the single biggest objection Protestants have to the Catholic office of the papacy is that popes have dogmatized some Marian doctrines which they mistakenly believe compromise the Christian fundamentals, and since, in answer to this objection, the main body of Who is Mary in the Church? demonstrates how those Marian doctrines dogmatized by popes do not in fact compromise the fundamentals, I have written an additional book on the papacy in Volume III, The Papacy and Christian Unity – The Pope Was the Historic Guarantor of Christian Unity and Orthodoxy in the First Christian Millennium of the Undivided Early Church, which lists some of the positive reasons Catholics have for believing in the papal office as well. It is my hope that this third volume makes So That The World May Believe all the more useful as a resource that furthers Ecumenical dialogue and discussion, since it in detail explains both Mary and the papacy, surely the two biggest differences between Protestant and Catholic Christians, in an ecumenically sensitive way which invites Protestants and Catholics to “contend together” over our differences with a mind towards eventually resolving them so that Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity for the World’s sake may one day be granted.
To Eastern Orthodox readers , it should become increasingly apparent how greatly unified Catholic (Eastern and Western) and Eastern Orthodox Christians already are concerning Mary (as they are in most other ways as well). I will have to draw on Eastern Orthodox sources to best explain the Catholic position on Mary! It is my hope that this book will facilitate the full restoration of visible Christian unity among the Catholic and Orthodox Churches which Pope Benedict XVI (of Rome) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (of Constantinople), as the most eminent leaders of these separated ancient Christian Sister Churches, have jointly stated is their long-term goal, and that of the Holy Spirit who unifies God’s children.4 To further facilitate loving Ecumenical discussion towards this important spiritual goal, I have included the above mentioned supplementary book in Volume III, The Papacy and Christian Unity – The Pope was the Historic Guarantor of Christian Unity and Orthodoxy in the First Christian Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: The Ancient Eastern Orthodox Tradition from the Beginning Recognized the Papacy and Was Through it Part of the Undivided Early Church’s Universal (Catholic) Communion of Different Orthodox Eastern and Western Christian Sister Churches Collectively Known as the Catholic Church, Celebrating Christianity Differently while Unified in Orthodox Christian Faith Against Many Early Christian Heretics. This book describes and discusses: the papacy’s role in the Undivided Early Church of East and West and the complementary role of the ancient Eastern and Western patriarchs; how that Early Christian Unity was strained and then largely though not totally lost; what past and what continuing sins against unity on both sides have maintained the schism and need to be repented of; what has been officially laid down in the Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) which on paper and in principle solves the problems of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic division; and how Vatican II may be better and more fully implemented in the Roman Catholic Church in the future so as to most effectively contribute to the healing of the centuries-old schism – to the Glory of God and towards the more effective Christian mission of a more fully unified Christian Church!
To Catholic readers , I express my great hope that this book will first of all help you come to a greater and deeper understanding and appreciation of the Marian dimension of Catholic Christian faith, helping you conform your Marian understanding and devotion to the constant and current mind of the Catholic Church concerning Mary, and second of all that it will help you to be able to express and explain that Marian element of your Catholic Christian faith life in ways that no longer promote misunderstandings among our Protestant Christian brothers and sisters and so no longer promote disunity in the Body of Christ. I remind you that you are actually obligated to do this as good Catholic Christians, as the Catholic Church in the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) formally declared (below):
Vatican Council II Required All Catholic Christians to Participate in the Restoration of Christian Unity and Gave Guidelines Towards this Goal Concerning Mary Which this Book Will Help Catholic Christians to Live By
The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council…[The Catholic Church is] moved by a desire for the restoration of unity among all the followers of Christ, [and so] it wishes to set before all Catholics guidelines, helps and methods, by which they too can respond to the grace of this divine call (Vatican II, UR 1) …The sacred Council exhorts, therefore, all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism (UR 4) … The concern for restoring unity involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike. It extends to everyone, according to the talent of each, whether it be exercised in daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies (UR 5). [In this light, The Council] strongly urges [Catholics] to be careful to refrain as much from all false exaggeration as from too summary an attitude in considering the special dignity of the Mother of God…let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always refer to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity, and devotion. Let them carefully refrain from whatever might by word or deed lead the separated brethren [Protestant and Orthodox Christians] or any others whatsoever into error about the true doctrine of the Church (LG 67). (emphases added)
This book then is intended to help all Catholic Christian readers to live this “divine call” proclaimed above by the Extraordinary Magisterium (Teaching Office) of the Catholic Church at the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II), by giving them a complete and unified understanding of the Catholic Marian dogmas and doctrines which addresses the concerns of those who the Council called “separated brothers” (Protestant and Orthodox Christians). This will allow them to share and explain their Catholic Marian beliefs with other Christians in ways which avoid the usual misunderstandings which have greatly contributed to the disunity among Christians which the Council and which our Lord Jesus Himself desires to be healed, “so that the world may believe” when it sees the great love of all Christians “for one another” in the Body of Christ the Church.
© 2005, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
1The beloved early Christian martyrs Saint Polycarp and Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who were the direct disciples of the Apostle John himself, first called the Christian Church John had left in their care the Catholic Church, and soon the term Catholic also came to identify the orthodox Christian community which preserved the faith of the Apostles (orthodoxy means “right teaching”). Early professed Christians were either known as (orthodox) Catholics or (unorthodox) heretics.
2The doctrinal formula “Fully God and fully man” concisely encapsulates Pope Leo’s somewhat longer and more explicit explanation that Jesus Christ is one person in two natures, Divine and human, that exist in Jesus Christ without confusion or change (versus the Monophysite heresy), without division or separation (versus the Nestorian heresy), such that Jesus is consubstantial (of the same substance) with the Father with respect to His Divinity, and consubstantial with us with respect to his humanity.
3Who are still around today as part of the tiny “Lesser Eastern Churches,” who are neither orthodox (true to the orthodox Christian faith) nor catholic (part of the universal/catholic Christian communion of orthodox Western and Eastern Christian Sister Churches).
4See the Common Declaration by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I, November 30, 2006.