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England - The Dowry of Mary

The Origin of the Title "Dowry of Mary" and The Shrines of our Lady at

by Fr Mark Elvins OFM Cap of the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury.

There is a tradition that the title "Dowry of Mary" goes back to Edward the Confessor, and yet there is no historical documentation to support this; the association of Edward with the great Abbey of Westminster is one thing, but his having any link with the Dowry tradition is quite another. The Abbey as founded (or re-founded) by Edward in 1055 was not officially associated with any such
tradition, as I will endeavour to show, for about three hundred and twenty-six years. Another contention is that the Dowry tradition can be traced back to Edward 111(1327-77); however, the shrine of Our Lady of the Pew, with which this tradition is associated, was already in existence in the Palace of Westminster before Edward came to the throne.

It is true that Edward refurbished the Chapel of St Stephen and rebuilt its associate Chapel of Pew in 1333, but I can find no reference to the Dowry tradition during his reign. Indeed, at this time the little Chapel of Pew (reached from St Stephen's via Edward III's Cloisters) was of no particular
importance. It is known that in 1356 a College of Canons was founded to serve St Stephen's, and the Calendar of Patent Rolls (30 Edward III, p.l) mentions the "new Collegiate Church" and the "old chapel" beside St Stephen's, which could refer to Our Lady of Pew.

The late Martin Gillett considered that the Pew Chapel was already old in Edward III's time, and that it could probably be traced back to Henry III's time as the "chapel in the King's garden" (Close Rolls, Henry 1111250-51). Edward III undoubtedly rebuilt the Pew Chapel and increased its importance, and during his reign it may well have received shrine status. In 1355 a certain Richard Lackenbury was paid 3.6s.8d. "for a certain image of St Mary" (Martin Gillett's unpublished notes). This may refer to the shrine statue, for in 1369 a priest named John Bulwyk was given a grant for life to celebrate divine service before the image of Blessed Mary "in La Piewe" (the Pew Chapel) by the King's Chapel of
St Stephen within the Palace of Westminster (Close Rolls, Edward 1111367-70).

The origins of the name "pew" are obscure, but there is good reason for associating it with the French puissant ("powerful"), as it was common to anglicize French words, and an Englishman would probably pronounce this word as "pewssant" anyway. Moreover, there is the association of the French shrine of Our Lady of Le Puy, and ii, as some contend, the Latin podium ("strong support")
is the origin, the connection with the hill shrine of Le Puy as a strong-point further connects with the idea of power, and with Our Lady's title Virgo Potens.

So far we have considered the Palace shrine, but more familiar to us today is the shrine in the Abbey Church. There had in fact been two shrines of Our Lady of Pew from the last quarter of the fourteenth century until the Reformation. The Palace shrine, rebuilt after a fire in 1452, survived the Reformation, but was finally destroyed by fire in 1834. The Abbey shrine was established in an unprecedented way. The Chapel of Henry VII being the original Lady Chapel (in the apse beyond the high altar), the little shrine which has now become the focus of attention began with a widow's benefaction for the soul of her husband. The Countess of Pembroke (whose husband Aylmer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, has a fine effigy in the Chapel of SS Edmund and Thomas) established a mortuary chapel for daily Masses for her husband next to the Chapel of St John, and she presented the Abbot of Westminster with an alabaster statue of Our Lady. This is probably how the Abbey chapel came to be, because the monks of Westminster had just lost a battle with the canons of St Stephen's with regard to ecclesiastical
jurisdiction in the Palace of Westminster, and thus were debarred from the Palace shrine of Our Lady of Pew. The Abbot therefore apparently lost no time in establishing with the Countess' gift a secondary shrine of Pew which, unlike the other, with its restriction to courtiers, would be accessible to all. The
Countess' will, proved in 1377, records that the statue of Our Lady was already in position at the secondary shrine of Pew. And, according to the Sacrist's Roll of 1378-80, the image of the Blessed Mary called "Le Puwe" was already much in evidence.

At this point I wish to concentrate on the shrine of Our Lady of Pew, with its fine alabaster statue, as it is known today, the cause of not inconsiderable religious initiative and inspiration. This shrine, I would suggest, has proved the more important of the two, and it is here that we must look for the origins
of England's title, "Dowry of Mary".

In 1955 a benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous, commissioned Sister Concordia Stuart of Minster Abbey on the Isle of Thanet to carve a statue of Our Lady to replace the one lost from the Pew Chapel at the Reformation. I corresponded with Sister Concordia at the time, explaining that she was probably replacing a statue that was first associated with the title Dos Mariae. This description of England as "Mary's Dowry" moreover suggested an occasion of ecumenical initiative - of seeking unity once more - through Mary. Like the original statue presented by the Countess, the new one had to be in English alabaster, which was hard to obtain in the required measurements (3 feet by 16 inches by 7 inches), as the model for the work was to be the statue of Our Lady of Westminster in Westminster Cathedral (a fifteenth-century English carving of the Nottingham school).

To this statue, though it has no historical connection with the Pew Chapel, has been ascribed the title Virgo Potens, "Our Lady of Power". Thus there is perhaps an incidental connection in the dedication of the two Madonnas. The statue in Westminster Cathedral found its way back to England via the Paris
Exhibition of 1954, where the scholar S. W. Wolsey spotted it. Through his efforts and the munificence of an anonymous benefactor, it was restored to the Church and enshrined in Westminster Cathedral in 1955. On 10th May 1971 a similar ceremony took place in Westminster Abbey, when the statue which Sister Concordia had carved, based on the one in Westminster Cathedral, was placed in
the Pew Chapel, in a niche that had been empty since the Reformation. This was a splendidly ecumenical occasion, made possible by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, and it forged a link between the two great churches of Westminster. On the back of the statue Sister Concordia had carved UT UNUM SINT ("That they may be one").

It is not certain what the original statue of Our Lady of Pew looked like, but an inspection of the shrine chapel will give some clues. In 1896 Sir Gilbert Scott was conducting repairs in the Chapel of St John the Baptist, to which the Pew Chapel gives access, when his pupil, John Mickelthwaite, made an interesting discovery. In the Pew Chapel, with the benefit of extra light, he found a boss in the ceiling depicting the Assumption of Our Lady, and against the wall a bracket and an iron fitting which he deduced had supported the original shrine statue. Against the north wall he also discovered a painted nimbus or aureole of light still plainly visible, which must originally have surrounded the image of
Our Lady. From the size and shape of this aureole, it would seem reasonable to suppose that the original statue was a standing one, and, from the style of the vaulting and decoration, Mickelthwaite concluded that the whole work could be dated around 1380. This date is of particular importance in establishing the Dowry tradition.

It was in 1381 that England was ravaged by the Peasants' Revolt, when the imposition of a poll tax caused the southeastern counties to rise in open rebellion. Froissart's Chronicles gives a vivid description of how the young King Richard II prepared to meet the rebels, under Wat Tyler, at Smithfield:

Richard II on the Saturday after Corpus Christi went to Westminster, where he heard Mass at the Abbey with all his Lords. He made his devotions at a statue of Our Lady in a little chapel that had witnessed many miracles and where much grace had been gained, so that the Kings of England have much faith in it.

Another chronicler, Strype, described the event as follows:

On the coming of the rebels and Wat Tyler, the same King went to Westminster . . . confessed himself to an anchorite; then took himself to the chapel of Our Lady of Pew; there he said his devotions, and went to Smithfield to meet the rebels.

From this and other evidence, we learn that the Pew Chapel had already been in existence for some time before Richard II's reign. So what Mickelthwaite discovered in the Pew Chapel in 1869, and dated around 1380, must have been a refurbishment of the shrine. What, therefore, was the situation which occasioned Richard II's re-ordering of the shrine? In the answer to this question lies the
clue to the origin of England's title, Dos Mariae, "Mary's Dowry".

The original shrine, as we know, was housed in a chapel within the Palace of Westminster attached to the Collegiate Church of St Stephen. This shrine survived the Reformation, but, as I have explained, was finally destroyed in the fire of1843. Today its exact location may be determined by the site of
the Speaker's House next to the now restored Church of St Stephen. It was at this greater shrine that the sovereigns of England were wont to beseech the help of Our Lady, but the little chapel in the Abbey survives with evidence to show that it was patronized by at least one sovereign in particular.

The Abbey shrine is probably more significant as evidence for England's title, Dos Mariae, as its existence as a shrine dates from the time of Richard's successful bid to keep his throne, and it is probably a grateful monarch's gift to his people who did not have access to the greater shrine within the Palace. Moreover, the traces of painting on the walls of this little chapel are irrefutable evidence of King Richard's patronage, as there are on the east wall remnants of the King's "white hart" badge. Therefore, what was originally a chantry chapel, the King by all accounts transformed into a public shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Pew. This was the lesser shrine, but perhaps the more significant, as its foundation marked the gratitude of King Richard to Our Lady for the safe return of his realm, in offering it to her as her dowry.

A search for clues must perforce include the examination of what ecclesiastical objets d'art have survived from this period of Richard's reign, especially those specifically associated with the monarch. The one noteable example is, of course, the Wilton Diptych, housed today in the National Gallery.
As to the origin of this Diptych, a theory was first put forward by the late Everard Green, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of the College of Arms. He held that it was a votive offering made to the (greater) shrine of Our Lady of Pew on the occasion of Richard's coronation in 1371. W. G. Constable wrote in 1929 concerning this theory as follows:

The king is known to have visited this shrine shortly after that ceremony, and to have made a special offering there. It is suggested that the eleven angels [on the Diptych] wearing the King's badges, of a white hart, and of a collar and pendant of peascods, stand for the age of the King at the time of his coronation (eleven years) or could also be his monetary offering of eleven "angels" ("angel" as a monetary unit apparently not having come into use until Richard's reign). The red-cross banner [being offered to Our Lady in the Diptych] Green regarded as an offering to the Virgin to symbolize England being the Dos Mariae, as described in a mandate of Archbishop Arundel. ("The Date and Nationality of the Wilton Diptych", The Burlington Magazine, No. CCCXVI, Vol. LV.) Cf. Sir
Martin Conway, The Times, 26th June 1929, p.17.

This mandate, at the special desire of the King, was issued at Lambeth on 10th February 1399, and reads as follows:

The contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation has brought all
Christian nations to venerate her from whom came the beginnings of redemption.
But we, as the humble servants of her inheritance, and liegemen of her especial
dower - as we are approved by common parlance ought to excel all others in the
favour of our praises and devotions to her.

Everard Green's suggestion that the red-cross banner in the Wilton Diptych symbolizes England's being the Dos Mariae has not so far been substantiated. However, a closer examination of the evidence which connects the Diptych with the Pew Chapel will help to prove his point. A study of the sequence of events surrounding the young King Richard's meeting with the rebels will help to show the significance of the red-cross banner. This banner was that of St George, and it therefore represented the Kingdom of England. The rebels had produced their own standards under which they marched to London, but, upon meeting with the young King at Blackheath and then at Smithfield, they were finally persuaded to tear down their own standards and accept the standard of the realm which the King was carrying. To return to Froissart's Chronicles, this event can be dated approximately to 15th June 1381.
After his success in quelling the rebels, and their acceptance of the standard of the realm, Richard returned to meet his mother at Westminster and to give thanks. Froissart records the young King's words as follows:

"Yes, Madam . . . rejoice and praise God, for today I have regained my kingdom
which I had lost."

And he placed the Kingdom under Our Lady's protection - in thanksgiving for having regained it.

When Mickelthwaite dated the Pew Chapel around 1380, he was influenced by subsequent refurbishing for which King Richard was undoubtedly responsible. The occasion of the refurbishing must have been in thanksgiving for the quelling of the Peasants' Revolt, and therefore 1381 would seem to be a more accurate date. The evidence for this and for the connection with the Wilton Diptych will all
help to establish the tradition of Our Lady's Dowry.

The decoration in the Pew Chapel includes an incomplete survival on the east wall of the "white hart" badge of Richard II, which must be compared with the similar badges on the angels in the Wilton Diptych.

To the right of the shrine is a pillar whose capital bears a shield displaying the cross of St George; this no doubt has some connection with the red-cross banner in the Diptych in representing England as Mary's Dower. This Chapel of Pew provides an entrance to the Chapel of St John the Baptist, and in
the Diptych St John the Baptist is shown commending King Richard to Our Lady. In a line south from the Chapel of St John the Baptist, behind the High Altar, is the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, and next to this is the Chapel of St Edmund, King and Martyr. These two saints likewise appear commending King Richard to Our Lady in the Wilton Diptych. This would appear to establish the
connection of the Diptych with this Pew Chapel, and it was most likely presented to the shrine by Richard in thanksgiving for the safe return of his realm. In the Diptych Our Lady is shown accepting the standard of England in token of her dowry.

The figure of Mary in the Diptych probably most accurately represents the original shrine statue, as has been ascertained from the painted aureole, which indicates a standing figure.

The historian F. Alfad (alias Griffiths, SJ), writing before the French troops sacked Rome in 1798, stated that in his time at the English College in Rome there existed, although since destroyed, an ancient painting of a King and Queen who, on their knees, were making an offering of England to Our Blessed
Lady for her dower through the hands of John the Baptist, with this inscription: Dos tua pia laec ese, quare leges, Maria. A rough translation of the rather
obscure Latin begins:
"This is your dowry, pious Virgin . ." (Edmund Waterton, FSA, Pietas Mariaria Britannica, (1879, pp.11-17). This surely was a portrait of Richard II and his consort, Ann of Bohemia. The attitude in which they are represented would certainly seem to commemorate an offering of the English realm to Our Blessed Lady as her dowry. In the British Library (11a4. MS no.360) there
is further evidence of this ancient painting; the manuscript, from the reign of James I, reads as follows:

In the Church of Saint Thomas Hospitall in Rome [the original name for the English College] there is a very faire painted and guilded Table of Imagerie works, standing before the Altars of Saint Edmund the martire, once a King of England;. . . It is in length abooue five foote, and about three foote high.

The manuscript goes on to describe a young king kneeling before the Lady and holding between his hands a "patterne of words, Dos tua Virgo pia Haec est" (
"This is your dowry, 0 pious Virgin").

Archbishop Arundel's mandate of 1399 described England as "Dos Mariae in common parlance" by the fourteenth century, and the manuscript of James l's time declares that "it is no new devised speech to call England Our Ladyes dowerie". I would suggest that the title was obtained not so much by special devotion as by the solemn consecration that King Richard II made of the English realm to
Mary as her Dowry on the Saturday after Corpus Christi in the eventful year of 1381.

Originally a talk given to the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in September 1989. It was included as an appendix in "Catholic Trivia, Our Forgotten Heritage," (Harper Collins 1992).

* * *


By Fr Mark Elvins OFM Cap of the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, UK.


Our Lord 's words from the cross to John , the only apostle who had not fled, were ' Son behold your Mother ', indicating the special relationship that was intended between the infant Church, represented by John and Our Blessed Lady . This relationship ensured that Mary remained a special focus for the Church in Jerusalem , indeed the traditional foundation day of the Church in Jerusalem - Pentecost is usually depicted in devotional art with Mary as a mother figure surrounded by the apostles , beneath the pentecostal tongues of fire . Mary was already filled with the Holy Spirit and she became the natural focus as a mother and model of the Church.

Since the Council of Ephesus in 431 Mary has been called 'Theotokos", God-bearer or Mother of God. Christ cannot be truly man as well as God unless he is born of a human mother. Mary in order to be Mother of God has to be Mother of Jesus, who is truly God. Evidence in Scripture directs us to Galatians 4:4,'God sent his son born of a woman', and to John 's Gospel where Mary is always called 'the Mother of Jesus' and in 20:31 we find the words 'in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God'. In a fragment of papyrus preserved in the Rylands Library, Manchester, dated no later than 270 A.D., there is the earliest recorded prayer to Mary in Greek, which translated reads :'we fly to thy patronage'. This indicates Mary's maternal role for followers of her Son.


In the writings of the early Fathers Ignatius of Antioch (c.110 A.D.) records 'under the divine dispensation Jesus Christ our God was conceived by Mary of the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit of God; he was born and he submitted to baptism so that by his Passion he might sanctify water (Ad. Eph. 18:2). Irenaeus (c. 200 A.D.)claimed that the New Testament revealed two things clearly; 'that the Son of God was born of a virgin, and that he himself is the Saviour Christ, whom the prophets proclaimed; not as those men (the heretics) say that Jesus is he who descended from above' (Adv. haer. 16:2/17:1). These patristic affirmations which equivalently assert the divine maternity of Mary are summed up in the creeds, the most ancient of which reads 'born of the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary ', or 'born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary' (1).


Mary's maternal patronage implies three aspects, namely Mother of God, Mother of the Church and Mother of mankind, which presents a very particular perspective. The Magisterium has taught that as Mother of the Christ, who is the Head of the body the Church (cf. Colossians 1:18), Mary is also the Mother of the members of that body (2). At the end of the third session of the Second Vatican Council (1964) Pope Paul VI also proclaimed Mary to be the Mother of the Church.

Mary is also the mother of the members of that body, her maternity was first proclaimed at the Annunciation, and then before Christ breathed forth his life upon the cross he extended this motherhood to the infant Church. Calvary begot the new Israel in the person of John representing the apostles, and Christ declares Mary to be mother of both the head and members of that body the Church. Not only is Mary Mother of the Church but also of all believers, for as Christ is the Saviour of the human race he assumed from Mary his human nature that he might be Saviour of all believers. We are all members of Christ's Body made from his flesh and from his bones (cf. Ephesians 5:30) and have therefore ' come forth from the womb of Mary as a body united to its head' (3).

It was Anselm who explained that 'Mary began to bear us all in her womb 'from the moment of her fiat' . This is clarified by 'Redemptoris Mater" of Pope John Paul II in which he explains that since Mary 'gave birth to Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body , she also had have given birth to all the members of that one Body. New dimensions of motherhood applied to Mary were particularly stressed by Pope Leo XIII , who in his encyclical 'Aduitricem Populi" (5 September 1895) said that when Christ from the cross uttered the words to his mother 'Behold your Son ' he 'designated the whole human race' but in the first rank are they joined to him by faith (4).

Thus in a couple of lines he extends Mary 's maternal patronage to the Church and to the whole of humanity, in this way focusing on Mary 's ecumenical role as Mother of the Church and the wider church of all believers and even of the human race. These new dimensions have now received the ratification of the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ('Lumen" 'Gentium" 54) which describes Mary as 'Mother of Christ and Mother of mankind', but most of all of those who believe. Given these aspects of Mary 's maternal patronage she is thus especially concerned for the unity of all believers and therefore 'par excellence" the patroness of Ecumenism.


There is however a certain irony in Mary 's role in the ecumenical movement, for since the Reformation over 500 years of Marian devotion has contributed more to division than to unity among the various Christian denominations. In this the late Martin Gillet recognised the potential of Mary in a role- reversal, as a promoter of ecumenical devotion and a focus for many Christians in their search for unity - rather than a stumbling block. It might be asked how can this be? Martin Gillet founded the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1967. He had been inspired by Cardinal Suenens to work for unity in this way, in using a cause of division as a means of healing wounds of separation, and as such the Society seeks to study the place of Mary in the Church and among all Christians . Like an inoculation, injecting the bacillus of a disease to produce immunity this problem of division has been found to have healing properties. Particular advances have been made in a shared liturgy and Marian devotion, it is therefore important for branches of the Society
That they maintain this format for their gatherings.

Pope John Paul II has said 'there is a close and important link' between Mary as Mother and the work for unity (letter to the ESBVM). It would nevertheless be naive to pretend that as a focus in the search for unity Mary does not more often, in the wider dialogue, provide a focus contention and division. In this way there is little chance of cloaking our divisions in Christendom with Mary 's mantle, like Luther 's parody of the forgiveness of sin. It is more likely that divisions will be highlighted particularly on the level of Marian dogma, but then this can be an opportunity to Look at the reasons for such divisions in their historical context and whether or not they can still be sustained in a rapidly changing climate of opinion.


The extended titles of Mother of God to Mother of the Church and Mother of all believers provide a certain articulation to Mary as the focus for ecumenical dialogue, as mother of an extended family seeking closer family union. I would like to add to this vision of emerging familial unity the idea of the development of understanding between the various Christian denominations and the indications of a converging ecclesiology.

Even within the bounds of the Roman and Catholic Church the understanding of Mary's role has been at times contentious. On the 8th December 1845 in the Bull 'Ineffabilis Deus" Pius IX declared that 'from the first moment of her conception the Blessed Virgin Mary was by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Christ, Saviour of mankind, kept free from all stain of sin.' This belief had long been held, but not without its opponents, indeed the Archbishop of Paris and the Bishop of Evereux protested against the dogma being adopted without a general council. To be fair to pope Pius IX he had, prior to this pronouncement, consulted the entire hierarchy ('Ubi Primum" 2nd February 1849) to avoid such reactions and received favourable responses, but more particularly he had wished to know the sentiments of the ordinary people.


This has a precedent for ecumenical dialogue with other denominations, for in canvassing ordinary attitudes to Marian dogma Pius IX had introduced a major ingredient in the development of the understanding of doctrine. In this development of understanding, particularly of Marian dogma, the laity acted as a mirror of confirmation for the teaching authority of the Church. Newman while still an Anglican had no difficulty in accepting the Immaculate Conception , twenty years before it was formally declared to be a dogma of the Church. Newman's journey to Rome ended on the 9th October 1845 and directly afterwards he published his essay
on the 'Development of Doctrine" - a major contribution to the development of understanding.

In a fascinating way the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was indirectly made possible by the work on the development of understanding of doctrine. When Newman came to publish his article 'On consulting the faithful on Matters of Doctrine"('The Rambler" July 1859) he used the example of Pope Pius IX's consultation of the laity to demonstrate the preparations for the definition of dogma.


This same principle of consultation could be used in the work for Christian unity, as the same procedure achieved a unity of belief on Marian dogma. Thus the development of understanding of Marian dogma could give an example for a context of wider consultation on ecumenism and be extended across the denominational divide.

To some extent, in isolated examples, this has already been going on, but more specifically each congregation represented at meetings of the ESBVM could instruct their representatives to canvas members on attitudes beliefs and objections. Some meetings are missing opportunities by simply handing over the format to local parochial evangelical considerations. Similar debate has been going on in the Catholic Church over many centuries before a unity of belief has been reached. Such great luminaries as Bernard of Clairvaux, Anselm of Canterbury, Albert the Great, Aquinas and Bonaventure even opposed the acceptance of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. However a local Benedictine monk, Eadmer of Canterbury (1055-1154) pointed out that the feast of the Immaculate Conception had been kept by the people of England since before the Norman Conquest, adding that God who kept the good angles sinless could hardly do less for his Mother.

In the end the tide was turned by a practice that was particularly prominent in the ESBVM, the consistent devotion and liturgical celebration of a Marian order among the faithful . In this a swelling and broadening tide of devotion eventually produced a unifying influence in the development of understanding which came to overthrow all objections (cf. 'Lumen Gentium" 12). If liturgical influence can guide unity within the Roman communion as a principle for wider applications its benefits are obvious. The fact of our meeting here today is evidence of this development of understanding through Mary across the denominational divide. Duns Scotus in the thirteenth century stressed the love and the will, and these two factors must be uppermost in the desire for Christian unity, they were certainly the main characteristics of the laity who finally influenced Pius IX to declare the Immaculate as a dogma in 1854. Eadmer had already given evidence of the consistent devotion of the faithful, but Duns Scotus was to finally break the theological deadlock in furnishing the idea of 'preservative redemption' in Our Lady. This overcame the conflict in isolating Mary from universal redemption, moreover Mary even when preserved from original sin would not be freed from dependence on Christ's redemptive work, for she would have contracted original sin had the grace of the Mediator not preserved her state.


In the growth towards unity, prayer and devotion must come first and theological explanations will follow later. Mary as a model as well as a mother gives us the example in accepting the will of God despite its remaining mysterious for her, she simply pondered such things in her heart (Luke 2 :19). The mystery of the Immaculate Conception took centuries of pondering before the development of understanding enabled Pope Pius IX to declare it a dogma. Christian unity is similarly a mystery which we ponder and strive after without fully comprehending its
implications (just like Mary at the Annunciation). Like Mary moreover with prayer and devotion we grow in understanding; by our fellowship and discussion we grow in our understanding of each other and develop in that understanding towards the mystery of Christian unity. In her own faith journey Mary displayed this development of understanding, for example the angel 's words 'Hail Mary full of grace' were a cause for puzzlement as well as pondering until the revelation at Pentecost, when understanding was given.


If Mary is Mother of the Church she is also a model for the Church in the institutional sense and in the wider sense of all believers. We have already seen that she is a model for the Church 's development of understanding and that of all Christians. Andre Feuillet, the Catholic scripture scholar has described how Mary 's maternity and mediation have presented her as the 'archetype of the Church .... she is the perfect model of the Church. Only by becoming more and more like Mary,
does the Church realise more and more fully the intentions of her founder '(5). Lev Gillet, an Orthodox priest stresses Mary 's role in quoting Acts 1:14,'All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus'. This scene he stresses is an authentic image of the continuing Church, as the Church today must claim an unbroken continuity With the infant Church gathered around Mary on the day of Pentecost. He stresses that 'this accord'
must be seen in terms of agreement with Mary 's role and intentions. Her intentions of course were the 'perfect assent to the will of God; therefore it is only the conformity of our will to the divine will that will effectively unite us with Mary '(6). This unity with Mary is thus the means of growing in Christian unity.

In the Reformed tradition David Carter has said that Mary pondering on the word of God 'sets a model for future disciples', her 'wholehearted reception of the Word is an eloquent commentary on the Reformation principle of the sole sufficiency of Scripture' (7). These three models Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed have a compatibility that admits of a definite convergence. The Catholic emphasis on
Mary as the perfect model of the Church stresses that in becoming more like Mary the Church realises the intentions of her founder. This image retains the characteristics of development as does the Orthodox view with the continuing Church, claiming unbroken continuity with the focus on Mary around whom the apostles were gathered at Pentecost. The Reformed tradition with the image of Mary pondering the Word is a development principle that has already been explained.

These ecclesiologies may not always be consistent within the different denominations nevertheless there is already evidence of convergence and potential for its continuance.


Mary as a model disciple exercises a maternal example to her children and is also an exemplar in her obedience to the will of God. As Our lord declares in Mark 3:35 'whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother '. this far from diminishing Mary 's maternal patronage enhances it, for as an exemplar she is pre-eminently the instrument of God 's will. This obedience is part of her maternal role, as she tells the servants at the marriage feast of Cana; 'do whatever he tells you '. as a mother she is also a reconciler in bringing us together and bringing together our various theological traditions. As the ancient prayer states 'we fly ' to her patronage in our need to be reconciled with our Mother.

Her pondering role prefigures the process of development in the pondering Church. This process is outlined in the Second Vatican Council ('Dei Verbum" 8):'The Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually, the words of God are fufilled in her '. Mary 's maternal patronage over an extended family of believers also places her in the role of chief intercessor of that extended family, and in obedience to her Son she prays 'that they all may be one '. In Anglicanism
since the seventeenth century there has been a gradual development in
understanding of Mary 's part in God 's plan of redemption. Fanned by the Oxford Movement and the subsequent Tractarians, who in their study of the Fathers rediscovered Mary as 'Theotokos" . Newman was the great agent of this early development and A.T. Wirgman 's classic 'The Blessed Virgin Mary and the whole Company of Heaven" was a natural successor to Pusey's 'Eirenicon" . In recent years Professor Eric Mascall edited a symposium entitled 'Mother of God" (London 1949) which was a collaboration with the Orthodox and he went on to become a founder member of this Society .

This brief evidence confirms how Marian devotion has spread to every denomination but with the Roman communion the turning point came in 1958 at the first Mariological -Marian Congress at Lourdes. There was a departure from old exaggerated opinion that had made Mariology so contentious with other denominations and Mary was considered within the context of Christology and ecclesiology (8). The second turning point was the exhortation of Pope John Paul II in 'Marianus" 'Cultus" in which the future of Mariology was declared to be liturgical, biblical and ecumenical, and now we are gathering the fruits of our mutual development in understanding, our converging ecclesiologies and our shared devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, Mother of the Church and the Mother of all believers.

1. J .N .D. Kelly, 'Early Christian Creeds" , Longmans ,London 1972, pp.144-148.

2. A .B . Calkins ,' Mary 's Spiritual Maternity ' in 'Mary is for Everyone", Ed. W. McLoughlin & J . Pinnock , Gracewing, Leominster 1997, p.69 .

3. cf. Encyclical of Pius IX 'Ad Diem Illum" , 2 February 1904.

4. 'Acta Sanctorum" 28 (1895-1896).

5. A .Feuillet , 'Jesus and His Mother" ,Trans. Maluf ,St.Bede 's Publications, Massachuset 1984.p.117.

6. L .Gillet ,' The Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary ,Mother of God'in 'Mother of God",Ed. E . Mascall ,Dacre Press ,1949 ,p.79f.

7. D.Carter, 'Mary Servant of the Word' in 'Mary is for Everyone",Ed. W..McLoughlin & J .Pinnock, Gracewing ,Leominster 1997, p161.

8. C .O'Donnel ,'Growth and Decline in Mariology' in' Mary in the Church",Ed.J. Hyland,Veritas, Athlone 1989 ,p.39.

Version: 21st July 2009

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