MARY -- STIMULUS TO ECUMENICAL DIALOGUE
Protestant Theologian Calls for Rediscovery of Her Unique
PARIS, AUG 15 (ZENIT).- "In calling (Mary) 'Mother of God' all her honor is stated; no one can say anything greater, even if they had as many tongues as leaves or plants in existence, as stars in the sky or sand in the sea." The person who wrote these words was not a Father of the Catholic Church, but Martin Luther himself, in his commentary on the Magnificat ("Das Magnificat," W 7, 572-573).
Whoever believes that the founder of Protestantism did not recognize the unique role of the Virgin Mary in Christ's incarnation, is mistaken. As those are mistaken who think that Mary was foreign to the Reformation.
In fact, in speaking of Mary's virginity, reference is made to Luther's writing. "Just as the wood, had no other merit than being preserved by God and prepared for the cross, so Mary has no dignity other than to have been divinely preserved and prepared to be the Mother of God" ("Das Magnificat,"W 7, 573).
In an article published in the Parisian newspaper "La Croix" on August 13, Lutheran theologian Elisabeth Parmentier, professor at the University of Strasbourg II, calls for overcoming the misunderstandings of Catholics who forget Protestants' recognition of Mary. "Many Protestants recognize that the complete shadowing of Christ's Mother does not accord with Sacred Scripture, or the confessions of the early Church, or the reformers' opinions," she said emphatically.
Coming Together Around Mary
Referring to Vatican Council II's teachings on Mary,
Elisabeth Parmentier suggested progress be made in the ecumenical dialogue
"around Mary." It is a viable challenge. This has been demonstrated by
the ecumenical theological research team, established in France and known by the
name of "The Dombes Group." Its members -- both Catholics and
Protestants, have taken the figure of Mary to give her "her full
place" and "no more than her full place" (Cf DombesGroup,
"Marie dans le dessein de Dieu et la communion des saints,"
Undoubtedly, Parmentier agrees there are differences in Protestant and Catholic theology as regards Mary. Unlike Luther, many Protestants today do not believe in Mary's virginity. The father of the reformation himself was against the declaration of the dogma of the Assumption (the feast celebrated today by Catholics on August 15), and Mary's universal maternity. In so far as her intercession is concerned, his position is unclear. But, on several occasions, he does ask for Mary's mediation. "May the sweet Mother of God herself obtain for me the spirit, so that I can explain in a useful way and objectively this canticle of hers" ("Das Magnificat," W 7 574-575).
Yet, the Protestant professor affirmed that "the Reformation's tradition, which insists on fidelity to Sacred Scripture, must save Mary from the (realm of) the forgotten and confess in the Creed the entirely specific role of woman and Mother of Christ."
Parmentier suggested that both Protestants and Catholics study in greater depth the figure of Mary, in order to overcome the idea of an "ethereal" woman and appreciate her for the strength with which she is revealed in the Gospel. An ecumenism is coming into being that tries to bring together Christ's disciples around Mary. As the Acts of the Apostles states in the first chapter, "All of them persevered in prayer, with one same spirit in the company of several women, and of Mary, the Mother of Jesus."