The role of Mary has been a divisive one within Christianity over the centuries. Historically Church councils sought to clarify Mary’s role through dogmas as both eternal Virgin and Mother of God, becoming the female face of God. By so doing, Mary became the Great Mother (Magna Mater), with attributes of earth-mother goddesses mapped onto her, functioning as a female deity performing essential tasks for Christians once attributed to ancient goddesses.
Liberation theologian Leonard Boff in his study of Mary seeks to divinize her as hypostatically united to the third person of the Trinity. This movement of Mary as Mother of God to God is based upon Boff’s observation of devotion to Mary. Citing the little known or used doctrine of sensus fidelium, or the “sense of the people,” Boff insists on the collective unconscious of the Church in Jungian terms as our “interior archetypal archeology…for the divinization of the feminine.” Boff, and arguable so, points to the faith of those outside the realm of hegemonic power and theological discourse, in other words, to the everyday faithful who have come to worship and depend on the figure of Mary as their God. States Boff, “They relate to her as to someone by whom we find ourselves affected absolutely, as an ultimate source of comfort, grace, and salvation.” I should state here that Elizabeth Johnson in her text She Who Is offers a convincing argument against a Marian pneumatology as argued by Boff as well as his essentialist view of women and motherhood.
But how do we go from worshipping Mary as number one intercessor to Number One? A critical feminist approach to the exegesis of sacred scripture, tradition and practice begins with the destabilizing of static interpretation and authority. Additionally, the revelation of God cannot be fixed to the written boundaries of a canon or religious dogma but must seek new methods of what constitutes the sacred in text and praxis of the community. According to Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza a feminist reading of scripture and dogma must distance itself from Western authoritarian hegemonic understandings of sacred text while developing and conceptualizing both sacred text and dogma from a relational/contextual category by incorporating a post-colonial reading of both. In so doing, radical reconceptualization based on the experience of women and the community, redefines and expands which beliefs and practices become normative as divinely inspired. Additionally, Miriam Levering’s definition of what constitutes sacred scripture serves as a catalyst for expansion and destabilizing of canonical texts, Levering circumscribes scripture as “a special class of true and powerful words, a class formed by the ways in which these particular words are received by persons and communities in their com
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