Mariology is Christological
Marwil N. Llasos, O.P.
What is Christological Mariology?
There are varied approaches to Mariology. One of the most dominant is the “Christological” approach.
Christological Mariology is “the position of a group of Marian theologians ‘who put Mary so closely on the side of Jesus who as the Christ is the head of His redeemed Church.’ These theologians hold that Mary stands by the side of Christ, facing humanity with Him, rather than by the side of humanity facing Christ” [Fr. Ronald Dacanay Mactal, O.P., Mary: Seat of Wisdom – A Contemporary Marian Reflection (Manila: UST Publishing House, 2001) p. 29, citing Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., Mary Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1993) p. 16].
Definitely, Marian doctrines are rightly called Christological doctrines. The deeper we delve into Mary, the more we learn about Christ. Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains –
“What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ” (CCC No. 487).
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary (Marianists), correctly observed:
“As it is through or knowledge of Our Savior Jesus Christ that we have come to know the most Blessed Virgin, so also may we say that it is our knowledge of Mary that leads us to know our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Historically, Marian doctrines resulted from Christological controversies. In the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., Mary’s title of Theotokos (God-bearer) was affirmed in view of the revealed truth that her Son, Jesus Christ, was true God and true man, with two natures –human and divine- in on person or hypostasis. In the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., the title Theotokoswas decreed as the “touchstone of orthodoxy” because it safeguards the full truth about Jesus Christ:
“The revelation that Mary is the God-bearer is essential to affirming the truth about Jesus in His Incarnation. Every Christian who believes that Jesus is fully God and fully man should affirm that Mary is Theotokos!” [Peter M. Girard, “Mary and Her Son,” Homiletics and Pastoral ReviewVol. CIII, No. 3 (December 2002) p. 35].
Marian doctrine is important for Christology. Whatever is said of Mary has a bearing on Jesus. What we believe about Mary ultimately affects what we believe about Jesus Christ. As long as we profess and hold the truths about Mary, we are safeguarded from denying the truths about Christ. As an old Catholic saying goes, “Abandoning the Mother is one step from abandoning the Son.”
Church history attests to the fact that after Protestants rejected Mary, their teaching on Jesus Christ started to decline steadily over the centuries. Protestant sects, cults and denominations today no longer believe many truths about Jesus Christ. Had they preserved the truths about Mary (that they rejected long ago), they would have not fallen to heresy. Indeed, the truths about Mary reinforce the truths about Christ.
On the other hand, the Holy Catholic Church never rejected any of the M[a]rian doctrines and continues to officially teach the truths about Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Savior and God.
Blessed John Henry Newman, the famous Anglican convert to Catholicism, correctly opined:
“Son and Mother went together; and the experience of three centuries has confirmed their testimony; for Catholics who have honored the Mother still worship the Son, while Protestants, who now have ceased to confess the Son, began then by scoffing at the Mother” [John Henry Newman, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, p. 345-248, quoted in Mystical Rose, Joseph Regina, ed. (NewYork: Scepter, 1996) p. 47.]
My icon of the Mother of God written by iconographer Christina Dochwat