Theologians explore the many facets of the Virgin Mary in this series of multidenominational essays.
True to its name, the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary focuses on promoting ecumenical study and, in particular, the understanding of Jesus’ mother Mary’s place within the Christian church. Here, editors Hearden and Kimball, in their debut, collect several essays presented at the ESBVM’s 2008 International Congress in Pittsburgh. The collection, after a few opening words about Marian-related doctrine and the concept of the Immaculate Conception, spans various Christian denominations and intersects with Judaism and Islam as it explores the role of Mary in the life of today’s church. The collection includes a tribute to Robert Andrews, “America’s only Byzantine mosaic iconographer,” and uses Andrews’ 23-foot mosaic on the ceiling of San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church as a springboard to the book’s contents. Many spiritual concepts become visible through iconography—just as the divine promise of salvation through Christ became present on Earth through Mary, according to Christian doctrine. The collection includes discussions of Judaism’s “divine daughter,” Mary’s place in Islam as the “propagator of prophets,” and several explorations of Mary’s role among Protestants, including Methodist and United Church of Christ congregations. The book also touches on Orthodox traditions which depict Mary as a theologian in her own right. Many contributors are well-known for their work on Mariology, and it shows, but their essays may sometimes confuse readers who lack solid backgrounds in Christian thought. For others, however, the book will likely provide deeply thoughtful illuminations. It builds on a millennia-long tradition of Marian veneration and helps develop it into a potentially workable concept for the modern church, including for Protestants, who have long looked askance at Mary-centered prayer. For readers interested in the Virgin Mary specifically or in images of the feminine within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, these essays may provide much food for thought.
A scholarly, in-depth look at Mary’s purpose and place in modern religion.