Mary Through the Centuries
Her Place in the History of Culture

By Jaroslav Pelikan

Yale University Press

Copyright © 1996 Yale University.All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0-300-06951-0



CHAPTER ONE

Miriam of Nazareth in the New Testament

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.--Luke 1:26-27

Because this book is not an inquiry into who Mary was in the first centurybut into what "through the centuries" she has been experienced andunderstood to be, biblical materials dealing with her have an essentiallyretrospective function here. In light of the subsequent development ofdevotion and doctrine, what did the Bible contribute to the portrait of theVirgin? That perspective applies with particular force to the subject of thenext chapter, the allegorical and typological use of a Christianized OldTestament for its bearing on the question of Mary, where the problem ofthe original meaning of a passage, including the precise translation of theHebrew text, will have to be quite secondary to the meaning that thepassage acquired in Christian history through translation and exegesis. Butthe New Testament, certainly no less than the Old, has continually takenon new meanings in the course of the history of its interpretation, meaningsthat have sometimes been the consequence of what it did not say as muchas of what it did. For to both Testaments we may apply the sage commentof a scholar of the Hebrew Bible who has illumined some special chaptersin the history of its interpretation. "Just as a pearl resultsfrom a stimulus in the shell of a mollusk," Louis Ginzberg observed, "soalso a legend may arise from an irritant in the scripture." Whether asstimulus or irritant or inspiration, Scripture has dominated attention to theVirgin Mary though it has not always controlled it.

Nevertheless, the account of Mary in the New Testament istantalizingly brief, and anyone who comes to consider the biblicalreferences to Mary from the study of later development of devotion to herand of doctrine about her, as this book is doing, must be surprised or evenshocked to discover how sparse they are. One interpreter early in thiscentury, who was intent on maximizing the evidence as far as permissible(and perhaps a little farther), was compelled to acknowledge that "thereader of the gospels is at first surprised to find so little about Mary."Or, as the leading Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament put it inidentifying the first of the seven women bearing the name Maria in theNew Testament, "Little is known about the life of this Mary." Dependingon what one includes, it could all be printed out on a few pages. If thatwere all there were to go on, this book would be short indeed! In fact, thecontrast between the biblical evidence and the traditional material is sostriking that it has become a significant issue in the ecumenical encounterbetween denominations. Out of that encounter has come a volumejointly written by Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars entitled Mary inthe New Testament and devoted to a book-by-book and topic-by-topicanalysis of the possible references to Mary in the New Testament.Although the work has all the disadvantages of a book that has been notonly jointly written but subjected to a series of votes, it has assembled thematerial in a convenient form. Even more surprisingly, it reflects aremarkable consensus across confessional lines, especially in its adherenceto the historical-critical method of studying the Bible but even in itsconclusions about individual passages of the New Testament. Pointing outthat "in the course of centuries mariology has had an enormousdevelopment" (which is the business of this book), the authors of Mary inthe New Testament, because of their focus, paid little attention to thatdevelopment.

For biblical scholarship, the fact that "in the course of centuriesmariology has had an enormous development" may be something of aproblem. But for historical scholarship, that development is also anenormous resource. To be sure, Mariology was not the only doctrine tohave undergone such a development; in fact, it would be impossible toidentify a doctrine that has not done so. The most decisive instance of thedevelopment of doctrine, and the one by which the fundamental issues ofwhat could by now be called "the doctrine of development" have beendefined, is the dogma of the Trinity. For the doctrine of the Trinity was notas such a teaching of the New Testament, but it emerged from the life andworship, the reflection and controversy, of the church as, in the judgmentof Christian orthodoxy, the only way the church could be faithful to theteaching of the New Testament. It did so after centuries of study andspeculation, during which many solutions to the dilemma of the Three andthe One had surfaced, each with some passage or theme of Scripture tocommend it. The final normative formulation of the dogma of the Trinity bythe first ecumenical council of the church, held at Nicaea in 325, took as itsbasic outline the biblical formula of the so-called great commission ofChrist to the disciples just before his ascension: "All power is given untome in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizingthem in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.But into the framework of that New Testament formula the Nicene Creedhad packed many other biblical motifs, as well as the portentous andnonbiblical technical term for which it became known, suggestedapparently by Emperor Constantine: "one in being with the Father[homoousios toi patri]." With characteristic acuity, therefore, JohnCourtney Murray once formulated the implications of this for theecumenical situation: "I consider that the parting of the ways between thetwo Christian communities takes place on the issue of development ofdoctrine.... I do not think that the first ecumenical question is, what think yeof the Church? Or even, what think ye of Christ? The dialogue would riseout of the current confusion if the first question raised were, what think yeof the Nicene homoousion?" If the Protestant churches acknowledgedthe validity of the development of doctrine when it moved from the greatcommission of the Gospel of Matthew to produce the Nicene Creed, as allof the mainline Protestant churches did and do, on what grounds couldthey reject development as it had moved from other lapidary passages ofthe Bible to lead to other doctrines?

From the apparently simple statements "This is my body" and "This ismy blood" in the words of institution of the Lord's Supper, for example,had come not only the resplendent eucharistic liturgies of EasternOrthodoxy and the Latin Mass with all its concomitants, including thereservation of the consecrated Host and devotion to it, but the long andcomplicated history of the development of the doctrine of the real presenceof the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament, leading in the Westernchurch to the promulgation of the doctrine of transubstantiation at theFourth Lateran Council in 1215 and its reaffirmation by the Council ofTrent in 1551. If the First Council of Nicaea was a legitimatedevelopment and the Fourth Council of the Lateran an illegitimatedevelopment, what were the criteria, biblical and doctrinal, for discerningthe difference? As it stood, the statement of Christ to Peter in the NewTestament, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; andthe gates of hell shall not prevail against it," left more questionsunanswered than answered. But by the time the development of doctrinehad done its work on the passage, it had come to mean, in the formula ofPope Boniface VIII, that "to every creature it is necessary for salvation tobe subject to the Roman pontiff." To reject this development ofdoctrine on the argument that it was a development and that developmentwas in itself unacceptable made it difficult for the biblical exegesis of theReformation and post-Reformation periods to contend with those on theleft wing of the Reformation who, sharing the insistence of the "magisterialReformers" on the sole authority of Scripture, rejected the reliance on thetrinitarian doctrine of Nicaea as a necessary presupposition and method forreading biblical texts.

For having thus developed out of Scripture, the trinitarian perspectivehad in turn become a way--or, rather, the way--of interpretingScripture. As it was systematized at least for the West chiefly byAugustine, this method of biblical exegesis was cast in the form of a"canonical rule [canonica regula]." The several passages of the Biblethat appeared directly to substantiate the dogma of the Trinity, such asabove all the baptismal formula at the close of the Gospel according toMatthew and the prologue about the divinity of the Logos at the opening ofthe Gospel according to John, mutually reinforced each other to form thebiblical proof for church doctrine. Conversely, however, any passages that,taken as they stood, appeared to contradict church doctrine were subjectto the "canonical rule" and required careful handling. When, severalchapters after the solemn prologue, "And the Word was God," the Gospelof John had Jesus say of himself, "My Father is greater than I,"Augustine had to bring his heaviest weapons into action. If the ProtestantReformers and their descendants were willing to hold still for such amanipulation of New Testament passages in the interest of upholding adoctrinal development that had come only in later centuries--and theywere--what stood in the way of such manipulation when the passage inquestion was "This is my body" or "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock Iwill build my church"?

Perhaps nowhere, however, was the challenge of this dilemma moredramatically unavoidable than in the relation between the development ofthe doctrine of Mary and its purported foundation in Scripture. For somecomponents of that doctrine, the foundation seemed relativelystraightforward. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke leftit unambiguously clear that it was as a virgin that Mary had conceived herSon. But further reflection did produce the puzzling discrepancy thatthe rest of the New Testament remained so silent on the subject, if indeedit was so unambiguous and so essential. The epistles of Paul, the otherepistles of the New Testament, and the preaching of the apostles asrecorded in the Book of Acts--none of these contained a hint of thevirginal conception. Because Matthew and Luke did both contain it, theother two Gospels were of special interest. Mark's Gospel opened withthe adult ministry of Jesus and conveyed no information about hisconception, birth, and infancy. John's Gospel opened farearlier than that, "In the beginning" when there was only God and theLogos. Yet in its first chapter, just before the celebrated formula "And theWord was made flesh, and dwelt among us," it carried an intriguingtextual variant that was relevant to this issue. "As many as received him,"it promised, "to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even tothem that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of thewill of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." But in some earlyLatin witnesses who were not without authority on other textual questions,the plural phrase "which were born," referring to the regeneration ofbelievers by grace, was replaced by the singular "who was born" or "whowas begotten," apparently referring to the virgin birth of Christ; andaccording to the New Jerusalem Bible, "there are strong arguments forreading the verb in the singular, `who was born,' in which case the v[erse]refers to Jesus' divine origin, not to the virgin birth." Beyond thisvariant, however, is the question of the biblical support for the idea of"virgin birth" as such. For the uncontested proofs from the Gospels ofMatthew and Luke asserted only, strictly speaking, the virginal conception,leaving unaddressed the question of the manner of his birth, not to mentionthe question of the virginity of Mary after the birth. A related question, theidentity of the "brethren" of Jesus spoken of several times in the NewTestament, will engage us, at least briefly, at a later point. Earlycreeds passed over such distinctions when they simply confessed that hewas "born of the Virgin Mary."

To summarize the biblical materials and simultaneously to prepare theground for the development that followed, this chapter and the next, then,will look at some of the major themes of later thought about Mary askingwhat the adumbrations of these were seen to have been within the text ofthe New and Old Testaments. This book is not the place for an extendedexegesis of these texts, but only for an identification of what thesubsequent tradition took to be the evidence from the Bible, including thatportion of it which Christians came to call the "Old" Testament, for thethemes to follow. Some of this material can be considered rather briefly;other texts and topics will require more detailedexegetical grounding. In these chapters, therefore, the themes thatare woven into the titles of the remaining chapters provide, roughly in theorder of their appearance, an opportunity to review some of the principalbiblical texts. As epigraphs for the chapters in turn, these passages fromthe two testaments will be emblematic of the dominance of Scripture.

Ave Maria. "Hail Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with thee," was,according to the Vulgate, the salutation of the angel Gabriel to Mary.In reaction against that translation, and against the meaning with which ithad been freighted when "full of grace" was taken to mean that Mary hadnot only been the object and the recipient of divine grace, but, possessingthat grace in its fullness, also had the right to act as its dispenser, theAuthorized Version of the Bible translated the salutation to read: "Hail,thou that art highly favored." The Greek passive participle being renderedby these conflicting translations was kecharitomene, whose root, the nouncharis and its cognates, meant "favor" in general and, particularly in theNew Testament and other early Christian literature, referred to "grace,"seen as the favor and unearned generosity of God. In the immediatecontext of the account of the annunciation, it does seem to have beenreferring first of all to the primary initiative of God in selecting Mary asthe one who was to become the mother of Jesus and thus in designatingher as his chosen one. In Martin Luther's Christmas hymn "Vom Himmelhoch da komm' ich her [From heaven above to earth I come]," which wasto become the leitmotiv in each successive cantata of Johann SebastianBach's Christmas Oratorio of 1734-35, another angel was presented assaying, to the shepherds of Bethlehem and through them to all the world,"Euch its ein Kindlein heut' geborn,/Von einer Jungfrau auserkoren [Toyou this day is born a Child, from an elect Virgin]." That was aReformation formulation for this designation of Mary as the chosenone--"predestined one," it would not be unwarranted to say, as, amongothers, the Second Vatican Council would say in 1964--throughwhom the plan of God for the salvation of the world was set into motion.

This historic interconfessional dispute over the full implications ofkecharitomene should not obscure the far more massive role played by theopening salutation, Ave/Hail, through the centuries. It came to open theprayer that has, it seems safe to estimate, ranked second only to the Lord'sPrayer in the number of times it has been spoken over those centuries inWestern Christendom: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hourof our death. Amen. [Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedictatu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria,Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.Amen.]" Its first sentence, as punctuated here, combined two biblicalsalutations in the Vulgate version. Its second sentence was a petitionthat combined the postbiblical title Theotokos with later Mariologicaldoctrine, according to which the saints in heaven interceded for believerson earth, and a fortiori that the Mother of God, being "full of grace" andtherefore the Mediatrix, was in a position to intercede for them, which theyin turn had the right to request from her directly. In a striking way,therefore, the Ave Maria epitomized not only the irony of Mary's havingbecome a major point of division among believers and between churchesbut the dichotomy between the sole authority of Scripture and thedevelopment of doctrine through tradition; for even those who affirmed theabsolute supremacy of biblical authority would nevertheless refuse to praythe impeccably biblical words of its first sentence.

The Second Eve. Because the chronological sequence of thecomposition of the books of the New Testament does not correspond tothe order in which they appear in our Bibles as a collection of canonicalbooks, the oldest written reference to Mary (though not by name) thatappeared in the New Testament was not in any of the Gospels but inPaul's Epistle to the Galatians: "When the fulness of the time was come,God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeemthem that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption ofsons." Most New Testament scholars would agree that "made of awoman" did not mean or even imply "but not of a man" (although it alsodid not exclude the idea of the virgin birth), but rather that it was aSemitic expression for "human being," as in the statement "Man that isborn of woman is of few days, and full of trouble." (For that matter,Macbeth was to discover that the prophecy of the witches, "None ofwoman born shall harm Macbeth," did not preclude a human father--butalso that it did not include a caesarean section!) Thus the phrase inGalatians was taken from early times as a way of speaking about JesusChrist as truly human, in opposition to the widespread Christian tendency(considered in chapter 3) of supposing that the way to ensure that he beregarded as more than human was to describe him as less than human.But associated with this New Testament point was one of the devicesemployed by the apostle Paul to make this same point about the truehumanity of Christ, which he did on the basis of a special interpretation ofthe Old Testament. It was expressed in the verse "As by one man'sdisobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shallmany be made righteous." From that typology of speaking about theFirst Adam and then about Christ as the Second Adam it was a short step,albeit a step that the New Testament did not take, to speak about Mary asthe Second Eve, and thus to extrapolate from Paul's words to say as well,"As by one [woman's] disobedience many were made sinners, so by theobedience of one shall many be made righteous," through the One towhom she gave birth. I shall examine in chapter 2 how it was that becauseMary, the Second Eve, was the heir of the history of Israel, the history ofthe First Eve could be--or, as the early Christians saw it, had tobe--read as a biblical resource and a historical source for providing moreinformation about her.

The Mother of God. Even in the Gospels as they have come down tous, the relation between Jesus and John the Baptist was a complicatedone. The evangelists did divulge that the ministry of John the Baptist hadcaused "all men" among his contemporaries to "muse in their hearts ofJohn, whether he were the Christ, or not." Nevertheless they were atpains to explain that John himself had identified Jesus as "the Lamb ofGod, that taketh away the sin of the world" and that, when challenged, heexplicitly subordinated his historic mission to that of Jesus--and hisperson to that of the one "whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy tounloose." This tendency was carried over from the relation betweenJohn and Jesus to the relation between Elizabeth and Mary. For in theaccount of what came to be known as the visitation, not only had John theunborn "babe leaped in my womb for joy," but Elizabeth "spake out with aloud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is thefruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lordshould come to me?"

If this verbal exchange between Mary and her "cousin [syngenis]"Elizabeth were to be interpreted as having taken place in Aramaic oreven to have employed some Hebrew, the title attributed by Elizabeth toMary, "the mother of my Lord," which was he meter tou kyriou mou inGreek, could conceivably be taken as a reference to Jesus Christ asAdonai, "my Lord," the term used as a substitute for the ineffable divinename, JHWH. That was, at any rate, how from early times Christianinterpreters had seen the standard New Testament "Christological title ofmajesty" kyrios, whether or not the Gospels or the apostle Paul hadintended any such identification. And because, in the central affirmation ofthe faith of Israel, the Shema, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is oneLord," repeated by Christ in the Gospels, there already was theidentification between "the Lord" and "our God" as one, the assembledbishops at the Council of Ephesus in 431 did not find it difficult to movefrom Elizabeth's formula of Mary as "the mother of my Lord" to Cyril'sformula of Mary as Theotokos.

The Blessed Virgin. The chastity of Mary, in paradoxical combinationwith her maternity, was one of the elements held in common by the Gospelof Luke and the Gospel of Matthew. "And in the sixth month the angelGabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to avirgin espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and thevirgin's name was Mary," Maria being one of the Greek forms of theHebrew name Miryam, sister of Moses. So began, in the first chapterof Luke's Gospel, the longest sustained account of Mary in the Bible.In the next chapter, in the introduction to the story of the nativity, it wassaid that Joseph--and, according to many early Christian interpreters,Mary as well, though this was not made explicit--was"of the house and lineage of David." Although with fewer details,especially about Mary herself, Matthew's version paralleled that of Luke,also referring to her as a virgin and citing as evidence the prophecy ofIsaiah that "a virgin [parthenos] shall be with child, and shall bring forth ason, and they shall call his name Emmanuel."

It was Luke who in his first two chapters told the story of theexchange between Gabriel and Mary (the annunciation, from which thefigure of Gabriel, as depicted by Jan Van Eyck, is shown here); of theexchange between Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and Mary (thevisitation), including the Magnificat, "My soul cloth magnify the Lord"(which in some manuscripts was ascribed to Elizabeth rather than toMary); of the coming of the shepherds (whereas Matthew uniquely hadthe coming of the Magi); and of the presentation of the infant Jesus in thetemple, with Simeon's Nunc Dimittis, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servantdepart in peace." So dominant was Mary's perspective in the way Lukenarrated the story of the birth of Jesus that some early readers weredriven to inquire where these details had come from, since they did notappear in other accounts. Luke's Gospel opened with words that somechurch fathers took as an explanation: "Forasmuch as many have taken inhand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are mostsurely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us which fromthe beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word; it seemedgood to me also having had perfect understanding of all things from thevery first, to write unto thee in order." Because it has usually beenhistorians who have studied the structure and content of the Gospels, theseintroductory words have marked Luke as the historian among theevangelists. He used about himself the Greek word parekolouthekoti,which meant that he had done historical research, more or less as hisfellow historians did now. The sources on which he drew for that researchwere in part written, including the "many [who] have taken in hand to setforth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believedamong us," thus apparently including writers in addition to those who havebeen preserved in the pages of our New Testament. But the sourcesexplicitly included the "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word," becauseLuke not only did not belong to the original twelve disciples andeyewitnesses but was not even a disciple of one of these; rather, accordingto tradition, he was a pupil and "the beloved physician" of the apostle Paul,who was "one born out of due time" in coming last to the band of theapostles. When Luke undertook his research into the very beginningsof his narrative, as reflected in the first two chapters of his Gospel, whowould have been the "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" to whom hewould have turned for what we today would call the "oral history" of thoseearly events? The telling of the story in these chapters from theperspective of the Virgin Mary seemed to suggest her as primary amongthese original eyewitnesses and servants of the Gospel. In addition,although Luke, being a Gentile rather than a Jew, wrote, both in the mainbody of his Gospel and in the Book of Acts, a Greek that came closer toAttic standards than other parts of the New Testament and that soundedsomewhat less like a translation, that quality was not present in thesechapters, which in some respects did seem to be a translation from aHebrew (or Aramaic) original. These considerations led early Christianwriters to characterize the opening chapters of Luke's Gospel as thememoirs of the Virgin Mary--a characterization that has not commendeditself to the historical-critical study of the Gospels. There even arose atradition that Luke was the first painter of Christian icons, and the themeof Luke painting the icon of the Virgin became standard.

The Mater Dolorosa. When the Apostles' Creed and the NiceneCreed, in their summary confessions about Jesus Christ as the Son ofGod, moved directly from his having been born of the Virgin Mary to hishaving suffered under Pontius Pilate without so much as mentioning histeachings or his miracles or his apostles, they were echoing, but alsocarrying at least one step further, the emphasis of the Gospels on hissuffering and his crucifixion. Each Gospel, after its own fashion, shiftedfrom the individual incidents and occasional glimpses of its previousnarrative to a far more detailed preoccupation with the day-by-day andeven hour-by-hour unfolding of the story of Christ's passion and death.From the perspective of the later history of interpretation the differencesin their accounts of the passion were well illustrated by thecompilation of the seven words from the cross."

Among these seven words, John provided the one most directlyrelevant here: Woman, behold thy son! Behold thy mother!" Homileticallyif not theologically, Behold thy mother" could easily becomethe charter for entrusting to the maternal care of Mary not only "thedisciple whom Jesus loved, identified by the tradition though not bypresent-day scholarship as John the evangelist, but all the discipleswhom Jesus loved in all periods of history, therefore the entire churchpast and present. As Origen of Alexandria had already put it in the firstthird of the third century, "No one can apprehend the meaning of [theGospel of John] except he have lain on Jesus' breast and received fromJesus Mary to be his mother also.... Is it not the case that everyonewho is perfect lives himself no longer, but Christ lives in him; and ifChrist lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, Behold thy sonChrist.'" But this scene also stirred the Christian imagination in morepoignant ways; for, like the annunciation scene at the beginning ofChrist's life, it seemed to provide a window into the inner life of theVirgin. From the beginning of Christ's life there also came the prophecythat would be seen as justification for such an exploration of the subjectivityof the Virgin when, as the Mater Dolorosa, she stood at the foot ofthe cross: "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also."

The Model of Faith in the Word of God. When the Epistle to the Hebrews,in its roll call of the saints throughout the history of Israel, rang thechanges of those "of whom the world was not worthy," it introducedeach name with the formula "By faith," after introducing this rosterwith its own definition: "Now faith is the substance of things hopedfor, the evidence of things not seen." And when the Epistle to theRomans defined that "faith cometh by hearing [akoe], and hearing bythe word of God," and opened as well as closed its total message withthe identification of "faith" as "obedience [hypakoe]," it was summarizinga connection between obedience and faith, and between faithand the word of God, that had been especially prominent in the writingsof the Hebrew prophets and in the teachings of Jesus. The differencesbetween its declaration, so central to the Protestant Reformation,"that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," and thedeclaration of the Epistle of James that "by works a man is justified, andnot by faith only," would frustrate future attempts at harmonization,especially during the Reformation. But those differences did not detractfrom either the fundamental importance of faith to the entire NewTestament message or the centrality of the doctrine of the word of God.

The one historical figure who played a major role in each of thoseNew Testament pericopes--Hebrews, Romans, and James--was Abraham.According to all three, he was what Romans called him, "thefather of all them that believe." But if there were to be a "mother ofall them that believe," the prime candidate would have to be Mary, justas Eve was identified in the Book of Genesis as "the mother of allliving." The key statement by which Mary qualified for such a titlewas her response to the angel Gabriel, and through the angel to the Godwhose messenger Gabriel was: "Be it unto me according to thy word."For without invoking the word "faith" explicitly, these words put intoaction the identification of faith with obedience, and by describing herobedience to the word of God made of her the model of faith. Indeed,beginning with Mary and moving backward through the history ofIsrael, it would be possible to devise a roll call of female saints--Eve andSarah, Esther and Ruth, and many more--of whom she was an exemplar,just as it would be possible to begin with Mary and construct a similarroster of female saints since the New Testament era. And by its emphasison faith such a roster could commend itself even to those heirs of theProtestant Reformation who have traditionally regarded with profoundsuspicion any such elitism among believers.

The Woman for All Seasons. Rosters of this kind would, of course, be apart, but only a small part, of all those who through the centuries havefound in the Virgin Mary an object of devotion and a model of thegodly life, for they shall occupy the balance of this book. As she wasrepresented as predicting, "For, behold, from henceforth all generationsshall call me blessed." This was one of relatively few passages in theNew Testament that seemed to envision a long period of many generationsto come, along with the prophecy of Christ that "this gospel shallbe preached in the whole world." The content with which thosesuccessive generations would invest the title "blessed" would varygreatly through the centuries, but the striking quality would be thesuccess with which, in all seasons, Mary's blessedness would be seen asrelevant to men and woman in an equal variety of situations. And thathas truly made her the Woman for All Seasons.