by Luigi Gambero Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholcism
In a time when we reach out to Mary for consolation and assistance, this book provides us with an interest in rediscovering the very beginning of the Christian tradition as it is considered from a different perspective. The teaching of the Fathers boasts both evangelical simplicity and doctrinal riches. We can understand and evaluate the first steps taken by Christian tradition as it labors, sometimes with difficulty, to remain faithful to the Marian statements of the New Testament. The homilies of the Church Fathers help to make even more room for the Blessed Virgin in the liturgical worship of the Christian people and the personal devotion of the faithful. This devotion took on a life of its own, to the point that Mary’s conduct became a model for Christian life. “Reading the Fathers of the Church with an awareness of history we become convinced that faith, devotion, and interest in the ineffable mystery of the Mother of the Lord were never lacking among the people of God, even thou the manifestations and expressions of the faith and doctrine may vary in different historical periods. Recent trends in the Church’s Magisterium and among theologians about the mystery of Mary confirm that the teaching of the Fathers contains something indispensable whose value the Church constantly recalls to us so that we may build one Christian faith and Christian mentality upon the foundation left us by the Fathers.”
The Scriptures are certainly not replete with Mary’s name. The name of Mary rarely appears in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. This parallels the situation of Scriptures when the figure of Mary remains at times, in a veiled way. In the Old Testament, Mary appeared in enigmatic prophecies that signify different things simultaneously. In the New Testament she is silently present in the so-called ‘infancy narrative’ She fades back into obscurity during the years of Jesus’ public life; she reappears briefly under her Son’s cross; her presence in the Christian community of Jerusalem is touched upon in the Acts of the Apostles; she finishes by becoming mingles with the figure of the Church in the vision of Revelation. In his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius stresses three mysteries that, in God’s plan had to be kept hidden from the prince of this world, namely, the devil: the virginity of Mary, the virginal birth of the Son of God and his death on the Cross. But Ignatius does not explain why or how these mysteries had to remain hidden from the devil. Other Fathers, after Ignatius, explained that Mary’s marriage to Joseph was the means of hiding these three mysteries from the devil. God refrains from solemnly revealing them until the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus in his Resurrection.
The book is filled with examples of men who venerated Mary and recorded some significant prayers on her behalf. This book is easy to read as it has chapters that celebrate one of the patristic fathers and gives us adequate information about their understanding of her during their lifetime.