Hearts of Jesus and Mary-Cardinal von Schoenborn
Heart of Theology -- Theology of the Heart
Cardinal Christoph von Schoenborn, OP
Translated by Fr. Joseph Smith, S.J.
Loyola House of Studies, Ateneo de Manila University
Is the title exaggerated? Can theology have another "heart",
that is, another center than Christ, the Logos Theou? Or, if
we remain with the image of the heart, is not the Holy
Spirit the "heart" of the Church and consequently of
theology, as Christ is the head? A Protestant theologian
writes: "When I began to study Catholic theology, I came
upon Mary every time I expected to find a treatment
concerning the Holy Spirit: they attribute to Mary what we
unanimously consider to be the proper work of the Holy
The reproach is not simply unjustified, as Father Yves
Congar has shown by means of examples.2 And yet, if one
takes the Church's doctrinal tradition as norm, it misses
the point. If one sees theology as the quintessence of the
"God speaks" of the Logos Theou, then only Christ can be its
center, the Holy Spirit its "Heart". But if theology also
embraces the creaturely answer to God's Word, then our title
presents itself in a different light; then Mary has her
place in the "heart" of theology, of that theology which
"conserves all these words and ponders them in the heart".
(cf. Lk. 2:19). Theology, as reflection on the word of God,
finds its standard in Mary since here "Fiat" represents that
spirit-effected answer to God's word, which embraces all
creaturely answers. But Mary has her place in theology not
only because her "fiat" represents the permanent form that
stamps its imprint on all theology as reflection on God's
word, but also because her role places her in the midst of
the central contents of theology. "For". affirms the Second
Vatican Council, "Mary figures profoundly in the history of
salvation and in a certain way unites and mirrors within
herself the central truths of faith."3. Both shall be
treated in what follows: a form of theology stamped by Mary,
which can only be a theology of the heart, and a theology
which considers its essential contents in their relation to
Mary and therefore sees in Mary the heart of (responding)
theology. But in connection with this, a further point
should be noted. The privileged addressees of the word of
God are "the little ones": to whom God reveals what he has
"hidden from the wide and understanding" (cf. Mt. 11:25).
Hence they are also the privileged responders to God's word.
Therefore, as word of God and a meditative answer of man,
theology has its preferred place among the "simple".4 But
once again, this means that Mary has her place in the heart
of theology, as the one on whose "lowliness" God has looked
with favor, and who has answered as "his handmaid". (cf. Lk
This sketch of Mary's position at the center of theology
will be developed in what follows. However, in order to
proceed along this path, we will first take up a preliminary
task which has received little thematization in theology,
but which has struck deep roots in "popular piety", the
devotion to the Heart of Mary. Fr. Leonardo Boff writes:
"Theology is more than a matter of sheer knowledge. Theology
is also concerned with confirming men in their piety and
with deepening what they previously possessed in faith as
1. The Devotion to the Heart of Mary as Question
addressed to Theology
Parallel to the devotion to the Heart of Jesus, there has
developed in Catholic Christianity, especially since the
11th century, the special devotion to the Heart of the
Mother of Jesus. This devotion grew from meditation on the
life of Mary, especially as the Mother of Sorrow. It
gradually found entrance into the liturgy and was finally
taken up and confirmed by the Magisterium of the Church.
The message of Fatima gave a strong impetus to the devotion
of the "Immaculate Heart of Mary." In accordance with this
message Pius XII and recently John Paul II have consecrated
the world to the Heart of Mary. The "sensus fidelium" has
received this devotion and approved it through its witness
of faith, at least in those lands in which a strong popular
religiosity prevails. The Church's Magisterium has also
accepted and approved the matter. In theology alone has the
theme until now found little response. One may object that
such forms of piety do not belong in theology but are the
affairs of "spirituality." This objection is too hasty, for
also that which arises in the spiritual, religious life of
the People of God makes a claim on theology. Is it rather a
certain "temporal disjunction" ("Ungleichzeitigkeit"), that
theology only takes up with some hesitation what has already
sprung up in the hearts of the faithful?
Valentin Tomberg has remarked with respect to Marian dogmas
that these truths o faith lived "first in the hearts of the
faithful, then they influenced more and more the liturgical
life of the Church, in order to finally be solemnly
proclaimed as dogmas. Dogmatic theology is only the last
stage of the road to dogma, which begins in the depths of
the life of souls and ends in the solemn proclamation." And
Tomberg adds, alluding to Pascal: "Just as it is said that
the heart has its reasons, which the mind does not know, it
can also be said that the 'heart has its dogmas' which the
theologizing reason does not know."6
The Heart of Mary -- is it a "dogma of the heart", to which
the theologizing reason-still-scarcely gives consideration?
When a theme like that of the heart of Mary is pondered for
a long time in the hearts of the faithful, then we may
assume that it also has something to say to the
"theologizing reason." Before we venture to attempt a
theological interpretation, there are first certain
objections to be discussed, which are more or less expressly
raised against devotion to the heart of Mary.
2. Solvuntar Objecta (Objections)
(1) A first, so to speak, surface difficulty concerns the
forms of expression of their piety. Language-and-image world
often have an aesthetically poor effect, are rejected as too
mawkish, too sentimental or simply as tasteless. Hardly
anything is to be opposed to this objection on its own
level. But the counter question is, whether with the
aesthetic verdict, something either unconsciously or
consciously is being rejected, which has more to say than
the awkward forms of expression in which it more often
encounters us. The theme "Heart of Mary" is certainly not
disposed of with the reference to the popular non-aesthetic
(2) The embarrassment before such images and their
popularity point to a more profound difficulty, which today
affects not only wide segments of theology, but equally,
enlightened western society: the deficient integration of
the affective. Dietrich von Hildebrand treated this
deficiency in his subtle work "Uber das Herz", ("About the
Heart")7. He shows the heavy consequences caused by the
devaluation of affectivity by Greek philosophy, especially
in its modern reception. The "heart" is denied objectivity,
the affective is as a whole devaluated as sentimental and
subjective in contrast to distanced, coolly neutral
"objectivity." Von Hildebrand's sensitive phenomenological
analysis shows that here we are dealing with a deep-seated
and dangerous misunderstanding. Precisely, "the voice of the
heart", as it manifests itself in joy, happiness and similar
experiences is not simply a subjective expression of
feeling, but a full and entirely human, personal response to
an objectively valid situation which is the reason for joy
and happiness. "What is not decisive is not whether we feel
happiness, but whether in view of the objective situation,
we have reason to be happy. The truly affective person, the
man with an attentive heart is precisely he who understands
that it depends upon the objective situation, upon whether
there is cause to rejoice, to be happy. The great,
overflowing affective experiences are born from taking the
situation seriously, from being filled with the question,
whether this hour demands an answer of joy, or happiness or
Von Hildebrand calls this attitude "tender affectivity"9 and
defines it in contract to sentimentality (which remains
subjective) as the truly "objective" (because corresponding
to objective reality answer to a situation which addresses
the person in his depths, in his heart.
In the light of this briefly sketched explanation of
Dietrich von Hildebrand, we can, in relation to our theme,
distinguish in the devotion to the heart of Mary between
that which is only subjective preoccupation with one's own
feelings and reactions, and that which is expression of the
response to the objective, valid impact of the figure of
Mary (even if these two aspects can never be neatly
separated). The justified criticism of the excessively
individualistic or temporally conditions expression of
emotion in the Marian devotion may not lead one to question
the validity of feelings, which are awakened by the living
contact with the mystery of Mary. Theology should listen to
this voice of the heart, when it reflects theologically on
the devotion to the heart of Mary, and in the process should
distinguish the time-conditioned secondary tones from the
Precisely this capacity to understand with the heart and
thereby to penetrate into the heart of that which is to be
understood, has always characterized the creative thinker
and scholar, who is, so to speak, "the man with the brain of
a lion and the heart of a child"10. The same is true of the
great theologian. Many examples present themselves. Let us
mention one briefly. Matthias Josef Scheeben's first work
(1860) was an anthology of Marian texts from all
centuries11, concerning which Martin Grabmann said that it
was "a fruit of his pious heart and his tender Marin
devotion." With Scheeben, as with other great theologians,
how greatly such tenderness is grounded in the objectivity
of the venerated figure is show by the following text (very
time-conditioned, certainly, in its linguistic expression):
"Oh what rapture ought not fill our souls at this thought
and how must our heart not tremble for joy in the sublime
consciousness that we are so closely related to the Mother
of God and with full right may call the Queen of Heaven and
Earth our mother. -- How tenderly ought we not love and
Not subjective sentimentality but rather being touched and
moved by the woman who is Jesus'' Mother is the objective
foundation for the fact that in her presence the affectus
cordis awaken and seek expression. "Popular piety" has no
other source than this theological cordis: the
consciousness" that we are so closely related to the Mother
of God." This nearness to the "Queen of Heaven and Earth" is
the reason why, since earliest times, men have confidently
come to her, why her figure, from the beginning, has touched
hearts. It is likewise this nearness which, through all
centuries, has turned great theological thinkers into poets;
which enabled them to express their theological reflections
in the "language of the heart", in hymns and prayers. This
nearness therefore always united the theologians with the
"faith of the simple" and helped both find a common language
without which theology and "popular piety" would have
drifted apart to the detriment of both.
(3) Against the objectivity of the "tender affectivity" (von
Hildebrand) affirmed here, there stands, of course, as a
weighty objection the suspicion that the strong affective
relation to Mary is determined by I projections, by
transferences of one's own wishes and longings upon the
simple woman form Galilee, elevated for this purpose.
Moreover the suspicion is nourished by the early, popular,
close union of mother and child as it encounters us in
It could not fail that this image of most intimate
mother-son-bond be exposed to the suspicion of
wish-conditioned projection. Sigmund Freud has already tried
to expose the Christian presentation of the relation of
Jesus to God-Father as an oedipal conflict, in which the
Son, by means of his self-sacrifice, simultaneously tries to
appease and to set aside the Father. Freud sees Christianity
as "religion of the son", as rebellious elimination of the
father-god. Freud's disciple, Ernst Jones, undertook to shed
light on the "family novel" of the holy family with the
psychoanalytic lantern and to stretch the representation of
the virginal conception on the framework of the Oedipus
conflict.15 In the popular Freudian perspective, the
following thesis is advocated to some degree even today: The
virgin-mother is the phantasm of an exclusive mother-son
relationship, in which the mother means everything to the
son, and the son to the mother and in which both enter into
a symbiosis --- of a neurotic kind --- whereby both mother
and son renounce relationships with other persons in order
to belong entirely to one another. The virgin-mother
corresponds, therefore, to the virginal son, whereby of
course, this symbiotic relationship is purchased at the
price of the renunciation of other relationships. Interested
in this mother-son-unity is above all a celibate and
power-oriented priesthood which, in the image of the
virgin-mother and her son, has created for itself a phantasm
of legitimization. This is clung to all the more
emotionally, as the unconscious wishes, which betray
themselves in this image, have to be repressed.16
In this undifferentiated form the thesis can hardly be taken
seriously. Nevertheless it contains a question which should
not be ignored. The neurotic form of exclusive
mother-son-bond described here undoubtedly exist, with all
the frequently tragic biographical constriction which
characterizes it. One will not be able to dispute that such
symbiotic mother relationships also occur occasionally with
priest living a celibate life. Of course it would be a
short-circuited conclusion to simply trace the devotion to
the Madonna with the child back to projections which are fed
from such turbid sources.
(4) A further objection closely related to the preceding
one, obtrudes itself. The spareness of New Testament
statements about Mary stands in sharp contrast to the
apparently boundless expansion of Marian devotion in the
Catholic and Orthodox traditions; the timid discretion of
the gospels is opposed to the "de Maria nunquam satis" of
this tradition. This contrast becomes accentuated even more
when, on the one hand, it is observed: "all the statements
of Jesus concerning his Mother are, at first hearing, marked
by a strikingly austere reserve"17; and on the other hand
are found expressions of an unsurpassable intimacy between
the Mother of God and her Son. Scripture and tradition
appear to come into conflict here.
(5) A final objection is immediately dogmatic in nature. It
radicalizes all the preceding devotions. In its parallel
development to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
the devotion to the heart of Mary appears to place Mary on
the same level as Christ. Now, against the background of the
other objections, the question posed at the beginning
presents itself anew: can there be any other heart and
center of theology than Jesus Christ? In the question
concerning the correct determination of the relation between
the Heart of Jesus and heart of Mary there is involved the
question embracing all the areas of theology: what role does
the creature have in the economy of salvation?
The last two objections demands a rather detailed response.
We will therefore first address the contrast between
biblical spareness and later exuberance, and then finally
establish that which is expressed in the title of this
3. ". . . and with all your heart . . ."
The contemplation of Mary, both in Marian devotion and in
Mariology, usually sees Mary primarily in her relation to
her divine Son, sees the mother with her child. This
perspective is the spontaneous reaction of the heart. It is
the reaction of that woman from among the people who called
to Jesus out of the crowd: "Blessed is the womb that bore
you, and the breasts which nursed you" (Lk. 11:27). The
picture of the mother with the child, of the mother beneath
the Cross of her Son immediately touches hearts. These
pictures inspire the simple prayer ("nos cum prole pia..."),
the compassionate lament ("at the Cross her station
keeping...").18 Jesus' answer appears to rebuff this call
of the heart: "Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of
God and keep it" (Lk. 11:28). This brusque attitude
characterizes all Jesus' words relating to his mother: "Who
is my mother, and who are my brethren?... Whoever does the
will of God, he is to me, brother and sister and mother"
(Mk. 3:33-35). And even more clearly, in the words which
Jesus addresses directly to his mother: "Why have you sought
me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
(Lk. 2:49), and "What would you have of me, woman? My hour
has not yet come" (Jn. 2:4).
Mary's reaction to this rebuff is, at the same time,
non-understanding ("and they understood not the saying": Lk.
2:50) and assenting submission ("Do whatever he tells you":
Jn. 2:5). Both attitudes, the repelling attitude of Jesus
and the accepting attitude of Mary only show themselves in
their true light, if they are understood in a strictly
theological way. The first "point of reference" of the Heart
of Jesus is not his mother but "the will of my Father." The
first point of reference of the heart of Mary is not her
maternal love for her Son, but the will of God. To see this
is the prerequisite for avoiding the "oedipal"
misunderstanding mentioned above. Jesus' "home" is first of
all (in a radical sense which allows no restrictions) his
Father: the "bosom" of the Father is his living space (cf.
Jn 1:18); the will of the Father is his food (Jn. 4:34). No
other bond, not even that of the fourth commandment, can
occupy this position. Consequently, to live the first
commandment in its full extent is also the first demand made
on the heart of Mary: to love God "with her whole heart" in
undivided devotion to his will," with all you soul and with
all your mind and with all your strength" (Dt. 6:4f; Mk
12:29f). If this theocentricity of the heart is given too
little attention, then all too easily the danger arises of
projecting the unpurified of the two hearts of Jesus and
Mary. Then all too easily will people speak of the "power of
the heart of the Son" in a sense which Jesus in the Gospel
clearly rejects. Blessed is Mary, because she has "believed"
that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her
from the Lord (Lk. 1:45); blessed is she, because she "has
heard the word of God and kept it" (Lk. 11;28). The word of
Augustine is well known: "Materna propinquitas nihil Maria
profuisset, nisi felicius Christum corde, quam carne
gestasset", and also that other statement: "Quia fide
concepit, et fide suscepit"20 .
Does this disavow the praise of Mary, which through all
generations declares her blessed (Lk1:48), ever since
Elizabeth, as the first, intoned her praise? The theologia
cordis, the "tender affectivity" was not led astray here.
Like the first and greatest commandment, is the second: "...
and your neighbor as yourself". Where God is loved "with all
one's heart," there this love can only love everything that
God loves with all its heart. The love of God is not a
detour to love of neighbor, it is the most direct way to it.
Of course only a complete purification and transformation of
the heart makes it possible to walk this path. Under the
primacy of the love of God "with all one's heart," this
transformation of hearts is accomplished. This human drama
has always moved the hearts of men: the mother and Son each
in their own way "learned obedience through what they
suffered" (cf. Heb. 5:8). In the process, each one, again in
their own way, formed and left an imprint on the heart of
In this simple, penetrating manner Cardinal Journet
contemplated the formation of the heart of Mary by means of
her way with Christ from the Annunciation to the Passion21.
The Church meditates on this way as the way of the seven
sorrows of Mary, in progressive fulfillment of the prophecy
of Simeon ("you own soul too a sword shall pierce": Lk.
2:35). It is inseparably linked with the way of her Son, who
"is set...as a sign which will be contradicted" (Lk. 2:34).
The severity of Jesus toward his mother, with which, step by
step, he breaks down the elemental reactions of maternal
love, is in reality "a hidden dissociation of his mother"22
in the full dimensions of his own mission: "at the instant
of the Incarnation, she bears within herself the one who
comes to teach the unknown demands of love. He demands of
her more than from all the others, and it is in this way
that he will make love grow in her ... He himself is going
to undertake to direct her. It will not be here, as
elsewhere, the mother who first of all gives and the infant
who receives. It is the infant who is the teacher of
love".23 "The ever more painful trials which are demanded of
her do not have as their goal to purify her from the
imperfections of her love; there was no shadow of
imperfection in her. Their only purpose is to associate her
with the redemptive suffering of her Son."24
If one considers the apparent brusqueness of many words of
Jesus about Mary in this perspective, then they show
themselves to be, not heartless dissociation, but signs on
the way of the formation of her heart according to his own.
This assimilation occurs in a veiled, hidden manner; it does
not evade the obscurity of faith; Mary "traveled the
pilgrim-path of faith."25 She, as the first, followed it
totally; she pursued it with the furthest, up to the perfect
harmony of her heart with the heart of her Son, of her
desire with this: the desire for the salvation of all men.
Precisely in this, in the surrender of all spontaneous
inclinations of the heart toward her own Son, in the total
"release" of the Son to his mission, is her heart wholly
united to his, does her heart become as wide as his mission.
At the Cross since he gives his life for all men, she
becomes the mother of all men.
However, there is also the inverse formative influence: in a
certain manner the Heart of Jesus was formed on the pattern
of the heart of his mother. The Second Vatican Council says
of Christ: "He worked with human hands, thought with a human
mind, acted with a human will, loved with a human heart.
Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us,
like to us in all things except sin".26 The human heart with
which he loved was formed according to the model of the
heart of Mary. Christ received his human nature from her.
Mary has been drawn into the mystery of the Incarnation.
This forming influence does not remain limited to the moment
of the Incarnation. It continues to have its effect through
the long hidden years, in which Jesus "was subject to them"
(Lk. 2:51) in the non-obtrusiveness of daily life. That Mary
"deeply influenced the human development of the Son of God"
in this way "is one of the most expressive perspectives in
terms of the mystery of the Incarnation."27
"The obedience, which the Son will now exercise for more
than twenty years, is an incarnate obedience, one bound into
human society, but always flowing from his obedience to the
Father, whose will plants him in this human obedience. They
may and must command him. Here in Nazareth it is provided
that these commands too result from the knowledge of the
divine will."28 Jesus' obedience to his parents does not
stand in the way of his obedience to the Father. The
Incarnate Word encounters the will of his Father in the
simple form of the Fourth Commandment. The obedience of
Jesus in Nazareth becomes, thereby, "a tangible image"29 of
the obedience of Jesus to his Father. It anticipates the
ultimate obedience in Gethsemane.
Mary formed the Heart of Jesus. Because she turned her heart
over entirely to the Father in her "fiat" she could become
for her Son the "representative of the Father's will." Cana,
the first "sign" of Jesus, will testify to this. It is from
Mary that the request is presented with reserve to the Son:
"They have no more wine" (Jn. 2:3). Jesus' reference, that
his hour had not yet come, is bridged over by himself: he
fulfills the unspoken wish of Mary. At her request "heaven
and earth are set in motion", the "hour" of Jesus, in a
certain sense, is "moved up." Journet comments: "Nothing as
great has been said, nothing as great will ever be said,
concerning the Virgin's power of intercession as the gospel
narrative of the miracle of Cana. It is the hour of the
power of Mary. The Virgin can do everything with the heart
of her Son. She has done his will too profoundly for him not
to do her will in return."30
The theologia cordis, the faith of the simple, therefore,
does not go astray, it does not miss the deeper sense of the
sparse words of Scripture when it ascribes "power over the
Heart of Jesus" to the heart of Mary. Of course this "power"
is something different than the perverted will of a mother
to dominate her son. "My hour has not yet come": Jesus'
first reference is to the will of the Father, to whom alone
it belongs to know and to determine the day and the hour
(Mk. 14:32; Acts 1:7). For her petition, Mary has no other
reference than this very same will of the Father. For this
reason, the words of Jesus apply to her as to no other human
being: "whoever does the will of God is my brother and
sister and mother" (Mk. 3:35). This is the opposite of the
oedipal situation; it is its complete sanction. Just as
Jesus has not come to dethrone the Father31, so his conduct
toward his mother is not that of an exclusive and possessive
mother-relation. Jesus' repeated reference to the will of
the Father shows the source of the community between Son and
mother: the "fiat" to the Father. The "fiat" of the eternal
Son is the very ground of his Incarnation; the "fiat" of
Mary is the ground of her divine motherhood. In this "fiat"
their hearts are united.
The "tender affectivity" in the devotion to the two hearts
of Jesus and Mary remains "objective" and, therefore,
authentic, provided it does not lose sight of this strict
theocentricity. Where this is not overlooked, there also no
opposition exists between the harshness of the words of
Jesus concerning or to Mary and the tenderness of mother and
Son, which the theologia cordis ponders and venerates.
4. Mary-Heart of Theology
Why is it that theology finds the center of its heart in the
heart of the woman who is Jesus' mother? The answer can only
be sketched here, the center indicated, and the lines, which
lead out from it into all areas of theology, only briefly
(1) Mary is the guarantor of Christian realism: in her
becomes manifest that God's word was not only spoke but also
heard; that God has not only called, but that man has also
answered; that salvation was not only presented, but also
received. Christ is God's word, Mary is the answer: in
Christ, God has "come down from heaven"; in Mary the earth
has again become fruitful. Mary is the seal of perfected
creatureliness: in her is illustrated in advance what God
intended with creation.
(2) In order to prevent misunderstandings: this human heart
from which the perfect creaturely "Yes" to God has gone
forth, does not stand to some extent as an autonomous center
of arbitrary will alongside the heart of the God-man. God's
word and human answer does not stand on the same level. In
her simple and real stance of faith, Mary is, as no other
creature, the demonstrative of sola gratia. Her
attractiveness consists in this: that everything in her is
praise of grace. And the more the greatness of her response
is seen, the more manifest it becomes that everything about
her is grace. This absolute prius of grace is also the
meaning of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.32
(3) But now in Mary it becomes apparent that grace is given
with respect to consent. Never was grace so "dependent" upon
the consenting "Yes"; for it is a question of that "Yes" for
which "the whole captive world" is waiting.33 "expectebatur
consensus virginis loco totius humanae naturae."34 "The Word
is to become man; the entire event of salvation is no inner
divine reality. To become man means to become child of a
mother who in the receiving of the seed of God must give her
full human consent. In no way and respect does God overpower
and do violence to man. In no way can and may anything be
done to man without his agreement in advance, to the
possible consequences, even when he does not know them."35
In order to be able to give her consent in this way, Mary
must already receive a share in the "Yes" of God, which is
his eternal Son and who through her "Yes" becomes her Son.
Thus Mary gives her consent already in the attitude of her
Son who as God's eternal Word is always also response. "This
quality can only be given to her in advance by God, not as
something foreign, but as capacity for the most profound
self-realization. For God is the eternal freedom; in giving
himself, he can only liberate the creature for freedom."36
(4) Thus in Mary the relation of infinite and finite freedom
becomes "prototypically" visible not as idea but reality, in
the heart of history. Mary's freedom has from the very
beginning transferred itself into the spacious sphere of
infinite (freedom) based on grace and thus perfected itself.
It did this once and for all, however much it may have been
assailed again and again in its temporal destiny... Her free
"Yes" is required by the utterly determining absolute
freedom -- "you shall conceive, bear, name: he shall be Son
of the most High; the Spirit shall overshadow you"..., as
free, it is already hidden within God's central decree of
salvation, so that the question whether Mary could have said
"No" lags far behind this union of fulfilled finite freedom
and infinite freedom. No finite freedom can be freer from
limits in its agreement with infinite freedom.37
(5) Grace opens the space of the collaboration of the
creature. The "theologia cordis" reflects by preference upon
the collaboration of Mary in the salvific work of her Son,
in his life and in his mission: from the consent to the
conception until the standing near the Cross. By that Mary
becomes the prototype of all collaboration of creatures in
the work of God. Her collaboration in the work of Christ
leads her, as no other creature, into the midst of the drama
of sin and redemption, into the center of the history of
Conversion, penance, atonement for sin: these are the themes
which always recur in the "great" Marian apparitions of the
last 150 years. In the message of Fatima, they are besides,
closely connected with the call for the veneration of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary. A brief consideration of this
message can clarify the meaning and the mode and manner of
creaturely collaboration in the work of redemption.
"Do you want to give yourself to God?" -- This question of
Mary to the children gives the keynote from the very first
apparition. Dedication to God, total and unconditional: it
is the attitude which befits the creature as creature. It is
the attitude of Mary. For man there is nothing more joyful
than such dedication. It is fully "connatural" to us. This
is the reason why despite seriousness, joy is dominant in
the message of Fatima, just as Mary's surrender to God
bathed her life in the light of "unspeakable joy" (1 Pet.
The "Yes" to dedication however, is also a "yes" to
everything that God wills to send. "Are you ready to offer
every sacrifice and to accept every suffering which he will
send you?" The second question to the children introduces
them into Mary's attitude of readiness. The "Yes" to
dedication leads into the darkness of suffering. This
suffering is not meaningless. It is participation in the
work of redemption: "Are you ready.. to accept every
suffering... as atonement for the many sins through which
the divine Majesty is offended?" Sacrifice and suffering as
atonement for sins. The theological core of this message,
which has largely grown strange to us, is permanently valid.
Presupposed is the elemental sense for the holiness of God
("the Divine Majesty") and linked with this, the deep horror
over the nature of sin, "nondum considerasti quanti ponderis
sit peccatum!"38. Is that also the meaning of the vision of
hell during the third apparition? Shortly before, the
children were told: "offer yourselves up for sinners."
Atonement does not mean here "work-righteousness" of men; it
grows out of the dedication to the holy God, out of the pain
over the deadly nature of distance from God. "Atonement",
not out of fear before God's punishment, but as sharing in
the mercy of God who does not will the death of the
In this way, we also get an inkling why the idea of
atonement is connected precisely with the devotion to the
Immaculate Heart of Mary; indeed why there is mention even
of atonement for the "offenses to this Heart." Sin as the
power of death always affects the heart of the Mother of
life. the devotion to this heart becomes the exercise of the
dedication, the glorification of God and his mercy which has
found an undying echo in this heart.40 Thereby this heart
becomes the sign of hope: " I will never abandon you; my
Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will
lead you to God." Mary is experienced here as a real and
personal sign for the certitude of faith that grace has
irrevocably conquered. Thus the message of Fatima terminates
in the promise: "In the end my Immaculate Heart will
triumph." Again it is important to pay heed to the
theological core of this message: the victory of grace is
"personified" in Mary. She is the first of the redeemed; she
remains the first-redeemed -- as mother of all the
(6) The image of the "cor immaculatum" refers to the Church.
The Constitution of the Church of the Second Vatican Council
says of Mary: "In the most Blessed Virgin the Church has
already reached that perfection whereby she exists without
spot or wrinkle." (cf. Eph. 5:27).42
Mary is the guarantor that the Church rightly bears the
attribute "holy" not only as promise, as horizon of what is
hoped for, but already as presence of what has been given.
In her, the Church is already holy, perfect Church in
advance; in her, the Church is already the bride who with
the Spirit calls "Maranatha" (cf. Apoc. 22:17). The "real
symbol" for this is the cor immaculatum of Mary: in this
heart God has inaugurated for himself in advance the sphere
of pure, unconditioned assent; it is the very "essence of
the church, as the adorned bride (cf. Apoc. 21:2) and as the
mother" (cf. Apoc. 12:17). In order to be able to love the
Church, it does not suffice to see her as idea, as
organization, as vision of the future. "An abstraction needs
no mother."43 The power of the image of the Mother-.Church
vanishes, when it is not seen as realized in Mary.44
(7) As Marina-Ecclesia, Mary is "guarantor" of perfected
humanity, the new creation. The dogma of the Assumption
reminds us of that: "the Mother of Jesus in the glory which
she possess in body and soul in heaven is the image and
beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the
world to come."45 For this, also, the heart of Mary is the
real-symbol: at the point of intersection of body and soul,
of material and spiritual cosmos, her Immaculate Heart is
the locus in which the new creation is already realized.
May we therefore call Mary "Heart of Theology?" The
"theologia cordis" is not deceived when it places Mary at
the center of theology, not to dislodge Christ from the
center, but in order to see him all the more clearly in the
mirror of Mary. This has rarely been more impressively
expressed in song than in the hymn of Saint Ephraem, who
considers the mother of Jesus and the beloved disciple John
as pure mirrors of Christ for the other. With this
outstanding witness of a theology which knows how to see
with the heart, we close our reflections.
Blessed are you, woman (cf. Jn. 19:26)
For your Lord and Son -- gave and entrusted
you to the one formed in his own image.
-- [Christ] was not ungrateful to your love:
as Son of your womb -- he gave and entrusted
you to the son of his bosom (cf. Jn. 13:23)...
Because you missed his voice, he gave you his
harp, -- to console you.
The disciple whom Our Lord loved dearly --
who represented him, clothed himself in him,
conformed himself to him, -- who zealously
strove to resemble him in all things, --
in speech, in look and stride. -- The creature
clothed himself in the Creator, -- and although
dissimilar (in essence), still he was like him.
-- One had to be amazed, how greatly the clay
was capable of receiving the imprint of his
He abandoned you, [Maria], and abandoned you not;
for in that disciple--he came back again,
in order to be with you.
Because he saw that [you in ] your love
could not wean yourself -- from that Child
whom you had weaned, -- The pure One imprinted
and formed himself in the pure one, -- so that
in his disciple you might see...
The disciple saw in the woman, -- how greatly
that Most High had humbled himself, -- how he
had entered into the dwelt in the weak womb, --
how he had come forth and drunk simple milk.
-And the woman too was in wonder concerning
him, how greatly he had been honored
-- that he had been exalted
to rest upon the breast of God.
Both were in wonder at each other, how
they had been granted the favor -- of so great
an honor through the (divine) Goodness.
You they saw in themselves...-- when they
beheld each other. -- Your Mother saw you in
that disciple, - and he saw you in your mother.
-- O You who stand above the beholders, - who
beheld you, my Lord, the one in the other,
-- at all times (as in a mirror).--They gave
an example that we too, the one in the other,
-- should see You, O Redeemer! (46)
Text translated from German. The original in German appeared
in the Melanges offered to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the
occasion of his 60th anniversary [("Weisheit Gottes-Weisheit
der Welt"), EOS, Verlag, St. Ottilien, 1987].
The footnotes which follow were translated by Ms. Mathilde
Beckers of Notre Dame de Vie, Mother of Life Catechetical
Institute, Novaliches, Quezon City, Philippines.
1 Elsie Gibson, "Mary and the Protestant Mind", in Review
for Religious, 24 May 1965, quoted in L.J. CARDINAL SUENENS,
Une nouvelle Pentecote, Paris 1976, p. 230f.
2 Je Crois en l'Espirit Saint, Bd., I. L'experience de
l'Esprit, Paris, 1979, p. 224f.
3 Dogmatic Constitution LUMEN GENTIUM, Art. 65.
4 Cf. The book of H.U. VON BALTHASAR, Christen sind
einfaltig. Einsiedeln, 1984, and our study: Einheit im
Gluaben, Eisiendeln 1984.
5 Ave Maria, Das Weibliche und der Heilige Geist,
Dusseldorf, 1982, p. 27. In this interesting book, BOFF even
seems to go as far as affirming -- as a personal hypothesis
-- a quasi-hypostatic union between the Holy Spirit and the
Blessed Mother (cf. p. 51, 62f., 69, 74, 94, 120). Through
such a "divination" of Mary he runs the risk of failing to
recognize the difference between her and Christ, God and
man. Strange "maximalisme": "What is due to a Mother whose
Son is God? It is only just and right that she be placed at
the same divine standing as He." (p. 97)
6 In this anonymous work (Anonymous d'Outre-Tombe) Die
Grossen Arkana des Tarot, Basel, 1983, p. 603. This work is
a mine that is as yet, hardly exploited.
7 UBER DAS HERZ. Zur menschlichen un gottmenschlichen
Affektivitat, Regensburg 1967.
8 Ibid., p. 90.
9 Ibid., p. 81ff.
10 Thus H.U. VON BALTHAZAR described the philosopher Gustav
Siewerth (Rechenschaft 1965, Eisiedeln 1965, p. 36).
11 Marienbluthen aus dem Garten der heiligen Vater und
christlichen Dichter zur besonderen Verherrlichung der ohne
Makel empfangene Gottesmutter, Schaffhausen, 1860: in the
new edition under the title: Marienlob in den schonsten
Gebeten, Hymnen und Liedern aus zwei Jahrtausenden, Olten,
12 In the Introduction (p. XXVII) to the Complete Works of
SCHEEBEN, vo. 1.
13 Die Herrlichkeiten der gottlichen Gnade, Gesammelte
Werke, vo. 1, 53.
14 FREUD has developed this concept in his critical writings
on religion: Totem und Tabu, Der Mann Moses und die
monotheistische Religion: cf. vol. IX of the study edition,
Frankfurt, 1974, p. 435-437; p. 532-537; p. 580; cf. on the
other hand the texts of Ch. PEGUY, A. 29 and 31.
15 Zur Psychoanalyse der christlichen Religion, Frankfurt,
1970, esp. 44 ff.
16 Brief resume of the dissertation of J. POHIER, La
conception virginale de Jesus. De qoui s'agit-il? In: G.
BESSIERE and J.P. JOSSUA, Dossier Jesus. Recherches
nouvelles, Paris, 1977, pp. 24-27; cf. on the other hand,
the remarks of H.U. VON BALTHASAR in his Theodramatik II, 2,
Einseideln, 1978, p. 298, A.19.
17 H. SPAEMANN, Drei Marien. Die gestalt des Glaubens,
Freiburg 1985, p. 15
18. Christian MURCIAUX in his new Andalusian "Saeta pour
Ponce Pilate," has shown in a masterly way the
identification of a simple woman with the people in the joys
and pains that Mary felt for her Son: Einsiedeln, 1956
(translated into German by H.U. Von Balthasar).
19 De virg. 3; PL 40, 398: quoted in St. THOMAS AQUINAS,
Summa Theologica, III, Q. 30, a.1; shortly before, St.
Augustine said: "Beatior est Maria percipiendo fidem
Christi, quan concipiendo carnem Christi."
20 In Joh. ev. tract IV, 1, 10:PL 35, 1410
21 CHARLES CARDINAL JOURNET, Mater Dolorosa - Notre dame des
sept douleurs, Stein am Rhein, 1974, 3.
22 H.U. von Balthasar, ibid. (A.16), 304, A.9
23 Cardinal Journet, ibid., 8.
24 Ibid., 68
25 Lumen Gentium, Art. 58.
26 GAUDIUM ET SPES, Art. 22
27 JOHN PAUL II, General audience of 4.1 1984, in:
Osservatore Romano, dt. Wochenausgabe 1984, Nr. 2,S.2: cf.
also C. Spicq: Ce que Jesus doit a sa mere selon la
theologier biblique et d'apres les theologiens medievaux
(Conference Albert-le-Grand 1959), Montreal-paris 1959.
28 H.U. VON BALTHASAR, Der derifache Kranz. Das Heil der
Welt im Mariengebet, Einsiedeln 1976, p. 39.
29 cf. the admirable text of Charles PEGUY in his work, Un
Nouveau Theologien, M. Fernand Laudet, # 111 (Bibliotheque
de la Pleiade, p. 920): "The obedience, the submission of
Jesus to his foster father and mother, so perfect in itself
and with an eternal teaching, was still only an earthly
image, a carnal representation of the eternal filial
obedience, of the eternal perfect filial submission of Jesus
to his Father who is in heaven. The obedience, the everyday
submission of Jesus to Joseph and Mary announced,
represented, anticipated the frightening obedience and
submission of Holy Thursday."
30 Ibid. (A.21), 91f.
31 Charles PEGUY has expressed this in "Durel" in an
impressive manner: "(Jesus) is not the son of a king who
came to dethrone his father but on the contrary to bring
back rebel subjects to him. All the action and the movement
of Jesus Christ has been to bring back man and take away sin
away from man to throw them both at the foot of the throne
of his Father" (Oeuvres poetiques, Bibliotheque de la
Pleiade, p. 1527).
32 JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER points out in: Die Tochter
Zion. Betrachtungen uber der Marienglauben der Kirche,
Einsiedeln 1977, pp. 61-71.
33 Ambrosius AUTPERT, PL 39, 2105; cf. H.U. von Balthazar,
ibid. (A.16), 283.
34 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III, q. 30, a.1.
35 H.U. von Balthasar, ibid. (A.28) 15f.
36 Ibid., 17.
37 H.U. von Balthasar, ibid. (A.16), 275f.
38 St. ANSELM OF CANTERBURY to his student Boso in, Dialog
Cur Deus Homo, I, 21.
39 Fr. Adrian SCHENKER, O.P. has shown in an impressive
series of articles the biblical aspect of atonement as
"instrument of divine mercy: "Versonhnung und Suhne. Wege
gewaltfreier Konfliktlosung im A.T. Mit einem Ausblick auf
das N.T." (Biblische Beitrage 15), Freiburg (Schweiz), 1981;
"Das Zeichen der Blutes und die Gewissheit der Vergebung im
A.T." in Mthz34 (1983) 195-213; "Substitution du chatiment
ou prix de la paix? Le don de la view du fils de l'homme en
Mc10, 45 par. a la lumiere de l'Ancien Testament" in La
Paque du Christ, Mystere du Salut (FS F.-K.Durrwell) (Le
Div.112), Paris 1982, 75-90.
40 The "oldest prayer to Mary" attributed already to the
Blessed Virgin this eusplaqchnia, a specifically divine
attribute (cf. Eph. 4,32; 1 Peter 3,8); cf. O. STEGMULLER,
Sub Tuum praesidium Bemerkungen zur altersten
Urberlieferung, in: Zkth 74 (1952) 76-82.
41 CF. L.SCHEFFCZYK, Verheissung des Friedens. Theologische
Betrachtungen zur Botschaft von Fatima, Vienna, 1985.
42 Lumen Gentium, Art. 65.
43 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Zur Lage des Glaubens. Ein
Gesprach mit Vittorio Messori, Munchen 1985, 109.
44 Cf. H.U. von Balthazar, Der antiromische Affekt, Freiburg
1974, 153-169; Katholisch, Einsiedeln, 1975, 55.
45 Lumen Gentium, Art. 68.
46 Hymnen de Virginitate, XXV, 2-9; trad.E.Beck, CSCO, vol.
224, Script. Syri, tom.95, Lowen 1962, 78-80; see also the
commentary on this text in W. NYSSEN, Maria - Geisterfullte
Kirche, Mainz 1979, 64-71.
Paper Presented at the International Theological Symposium,
Fatima, September 14-19, 1986
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