Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Feast of the Assumption in England

On the Solemnity of Our Lady's Assumption, body and soul into Heaven, it seems appropriate to remember the great devotion of the English people to Mary before the Reformation.  According to some sites I've seen, England was one of the first countries to celebrate the feast, in 1060, before the Norman Conquest. The shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham symbolizes this devotion to Mary, as it was such an important pilgrimage destination. Depictions of Our Lady filled Catholic churches before the Reformation; certainly pride of place belonging to her figure on top of the Rood Screen beside her crucified Son with St. John on the other side. This imagery certainly recalled Jesus's words to her and to St. John, the Beloved Apostle: "Woman, behold your son. Behold your Mother." (And then Mary joined St. John's household.) Lady Chapels and other images of Mary as the Mother of God, and devotions to both the Joys AND Sorrows of Mary also demonstrate devotion to Our Lady,

Here is a link to an interesting academic project, tracing the changes in Marian devotion under the Tudors:

My thesis examines the changing position of the Virgin Mary during the English reformations of the sixteenth century. It explores the unsettling of established Marian tropes in order to assess the development of theological belief and its interaction with shifting patterns of piety. It also analyses the use of the Virgin as an archetype for England’s 'female kings', Mary and Elizabeth. Although she had been a central figure in medieval Christianity, the Virgin’s role in the incarnation and her place in the scheme of salvation lacked clarity, leaving space for religious speculation. Consequently, re-imagining Mary became an aspiration for Catholic evangelicals and Renaissance humanists, and one of the identifying symbols of Protestantism.

Situated at the crossroads of cultural history (representations of the Virgin) and social history (devotional practice), this research will contribute to the post-revisionist debate within Reformation studies (Wooding, 2000; Wizeman, 2006) and also engage with key writers on the sociology of religion, such as Emile Durkheim, Peter Berger and Max Weber. Consequently, it promises insights into paradigm formation, the activity of collective consciousness and the birth of confessionalism.

Although the Church of England does honor this feast on their calendar--with a nod toward the Eastern Catholic/Orthodox feast of the Dormition of Our Lady--the 2005 document on Marian dogmas and devotion agreed to by the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) noted that:

The dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption raise a special problem for those Anglicans who do not consider that the precise definitions given by these dogmas are sufficiently supported by Scripture. For many Anglicans the teaching authority of the bishop of Rome, independent of a council, is not recommended by the fact that through it these Marian doctrines were proclaimed as dogmas binding on all the faithful. Anglicans would also ask whether, in any future union between our two Churches, they would be required to subscribe to such dogmatic statements (para. 30 of Authority in the Church II (1981)).

Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ ended with these advances in ecumenical understanding and agreement on the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

As a result of our study, the Commission offers the following agreements, which we believe significantly advance our consensus regarding Mary. We affirm together
- the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture, and only to be understood in the light of Scripture (paragraph 58);
- that in view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One, Christ’s redeeming work reached ‘back’ in Mary to the depths of her being and to her earliest beginnings (paragraph 59);
- that the teaching about Mary in the two definitions of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception, understood within the biblical pattern of the economy of hope and grace, can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions (paragraph 60);
- that this agreement, when accepted by our two Communions, would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context (paragraphs 61-63);
- that Mary has a continuing ministry which serves the ministry of Christ, our unique mediator, that Mary and the saints pray for the whole Church and that the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us is not communion-dividing (paragraphs 64-75).

No comments:

Post a Comment