In Search of Mary: The Woman and the Symbolby Sally Cunneen
Mary is more alive today than she was in the early Christian church, surfacing in art and worship in almost every culture on earth. Her appeal bridges the gap between the devotional and the secular, the uneducated and the sophisticated. But who is Mary and what exactly does she symbolize? How did a humble
Mary--relic of the religious past or beacon of the future?
Mary is more alive today than she was in the early Christian church, surfacing in art and worship in almost every culture on earth. Her appeal bridges the gap between the devotional and the secular, the uneducated and the sophisticated. But who is Mary and what exactly does she symbolize? How did a humble Jewish girl become the most honored woman in human history? Why is there so little about Mary in the Bible and so much about her in the art and history of Christianity, East and West? And why, in an age dominated by science and technology, does devotion to Mary persist?
In Search of Mary is Sally Cunneen's provocative response to these questions. As Cunneen eloquently points out, in order to see Mary whole, it is important to look at all the different visions and versions of her, revisiting history through the eyes of a present day searcher. Including the latest findings by historians, anthropologists, and psychologists, as well as art historians and religious scholars, In Search of Mary reveals what we know about the life of Mary, follows the history and development of her image over the last two thousand years, and explores the different ways that Mary has transformed the lives of people today.
As we struggle for greater unity in a divided world, In Search of Mary shows us a woman who can touch all people, regardless of their backgrounds. She is a profound reminder of the presence of the holy in ordinary life.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
For Cunneen (Sex: Female; Religion: Catholic, 1968) Mary has to be rediscovered because she has been obscured by ideas and images that no longer speak to us and that reflect problematic views of women. Beginning with a discussion of the laconic New Testament material, Cunneen takes us through the early centuries, when Mary was viewed as the New Eve, and later as "God-Bearer." Cunneen notes the emergence of the cult of Mary in 12th-century western Europe, exemplified in extraordinary cathedral art and in the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. She devotes a chapter to Reformation controversies, with a discussion of how Luther's and Calvin's pessimistic views of humanity dominated their basic views of Mary. Cunneen is at her best in her treatment of versions of Mary common in the 19th century, describing the discovery of Mary as a liberating figure by Protestant women writers such as Christina Rossetti and Margaret Fuller, and in her descriptions of the work of some modern artists fascinated by the figure of Mary. Their work, she argues, allows us to look at Mary in fresh and nurturing ways. But in covering so much ground, the author frequently ends up saying too little, as in her scanty treatment of the figure of Mary in Byzantine Christianity. Cunneen makes highly contentious use of Cardinal Newman's theory of doctrinal development, and she avoids the crucial issue for feminists: In orthodox Christianity the cult of Mary ultimately derives from a belief in Jesus as God.
While providing a wealth of information, Cunneen's search is more a reflection of her own ongoing personal journey than a definitive statement.
- Random House Publishing Group
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