The Bible, taken on its own, gives us little information about Mary, the virgin who bore and gave birth to Jesus Christ. Yet throughout the history of the Christian Church she has been the focus of unparalleled love and devotion, the subject of fervent prayer. For countless people she is the heavenly mother, the first one to turn to with their urgent hopes and desperate needs. To add to this, she has been the subject of significant debate over the centuries, concerning theology as well as devotion. Theologically, there were ancient questions centered on the person of Christ. More recently, many Christians as well as non-Christians are puzzled: What in the Bible gives us the foundation for this degree of attention to Mary? Is not her veneration a potentially dangerous exaggeration, akin to goddess-worship? Is it not God, and His Christ and His Spirit, that are our proper focus?
Such questions arise especially in the churches born of the Reformation, although they can emanate also from people within churches where she is deeply venerated. It is not always easy to answer such queries, as the heartfelt love surrounding our experience of Mary makes it impossible fully to explain and still less feasible to convince someone of it. Yet we can learn a great deal from an informed and engaged exploration of the ways Mary, the Mother of God, has been understood in the Church. This book, by a scholar and person of faith, provides exactly that.
About the Author: Mary B. Cunningham is Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. She has published articles and books on Byzantine homiletics, hagiography, and hymnography.
Dr Peter C. Bouteneff, Foundations Series Editor
Testifying to the faith and creativity of the Orthodox Christian Church, the Foundations series draws upon the riches of its tradition to address the modern world. These survey texts are suitable both for preliminary inquiry and deeper investigation, in the classroom and for personal study.
With a wealth of illuminating details, Mary Cunningham’s book gives articulate and compelling answers to why such extraordinary honor is afforded to the Mother of God by the Orthodox people. Through this penetrating survey, grace is generously given to all readers who seek hope against the impasse of our existence and the plight of society.
Mary Cunningham has given to the Church, and to any intrigued with the Theotokos, a stunning historical and theological exposition of Scripture, tradition, and liturgy, that (to borrow from Gregory of Nyssa) “assembles more of Truth’s shadow,” that we may see more of the light.