Summer “What We’re Reading” Wednesday II

I read an interesting historical account because it is relevant to ecumenical dialogue and is chock full of liturgical theology. Michael Magee (now a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) wrote a doctoral dissertation at Pontifical Gregorian University titled “The Patriarchal Institution in the Catholic Church.” It has long struck me that one point at which eastern-western dialogue misses each other is the levels of hierarchical structures. The east did not have the office of the papacy to theologize about, but the west lacked patriarchates so this is missing in our ecclesiology. Magee’s lengthy dissertation has four parts: (a) the figure of patriarch in Scripture, (b) a history of the origin of the patriarchate in the first millennium (only slight attention to the second millennium), (c) the meat of the work is examining the discussion about patriarchates in the preparatory documents for the second Vatican Council, and (d) what half a dozen influential theologians have written since the Council. After the fact I found that the omniscient Rocco Palma has a short piece on Magee.

Jean Corbon wrote a provocative line that has stuck with me since first encounter: “The Virgin Mary is the Church as it dawns in a single person.” So every once and a while, when I want to strengthen a liturgical ecclesiology, I return to some Marian material. Right now, it’s Otto Semmelroth, S.J. “Mary, Archetype of the Church“. In addition to a dogmatician’s thorough review of teachings in this short book, Semmelroth raises a question that will, as Aidan Kavanagh used to say in class, ‘create a cerebral itch to scratch later.’  “It is much too easy to be satisfied with the statement that Mary is God’s mother. True, much of our knowledge of her mysteries proceeds from this point, but we may and should approach even the mystery of her motherhood with the question: Why is Mary the mother of God in God’s plan of salvation?” ‘Why’ questions are always the most interesting.

So when that is finished, the two volume work by Matthias Scheeben, Mariology, await. Good preparation for August 15, which, I might add is my birthday, so when people ask why I became Catholic I reply “Because Jesus still can’t refuse his mother anything.”

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