The Father William Most Collection
Review of R. Bernard, O.P, The Mystery of Mary
[trans. by M. A. Bouchard, in Cross and Crown 14 (March 1962) 232-33]
THE MYSTERY OF MARY. By R. Bernard, O.P. Translated by M. A. Bouchard. B. Herder Book Co., 304 pages, $4.95.
According to St. Thomas, the greatest and most basic dignity of Mary is the fact that she is the Mother of God. Most closely related to her divine motherhood is her spiritual motherhood over all of us, for by the very fact that she became the mother of the head of the mystical body, she necessarily became the mother of the members of that same body.
In this beautiful book, Father Bernard dwells especially on the spiritual motherhood of Mary. In the first part of the book, he lays the foundation in an extended treatment of the divine motherhood. In the second part, he goes through the earthly phases of the life and mysteries of Mary, from her early life through the Annunciation and the Nativity up to her cooperation on Calvary and the Assumption which flows from her sharing in Calvary. In the third and final part, he takes up Mary's power of intercession and mediation on our behalf now in heaven.
The method used by the author is scientific, yet the book is by no means too difficult to be followed by a reader not trained in theology. Rather, lovers of Mary can rejoice to see the solidity of the theological foundations on which the fullest forms of Marian devotion can and should rest.
Among the many splendid features of the work, we might single out just a few for special mention.
Today there is much discussion of the priesthood of the laity. Father Bernard explains well the most special sort of sharing in the priesthood of Christ that Mary possessed. She did not receive the sacrament of orders, yet, by becoming the Mother of God, "her entire person and her very being were sealed with a sacred mark to which the sacramental character cannot remotely compare. Christ was not ordained to the priesthood either. He is a priest in his very substance through the hypostatic union. And Mary, his mother, through her relationship to this union, also received more than ordination" (p. 22).
Again, lest in focusing our attention on our marvelous closeness to Christ through the mystical body we should feel inclined to leave Mary out of the picture, Father Bernard reminds us that "every Christian is a member of Christ and ... the reason every Christian is a child of Mary is because he is one with Christ.... Since she brought forth the head, it was inevitable and divinely providential that she should likewise bring forth the whole body" (p. 31).
Especially beautiful, too, is the author's presentation of the ideas of St. Thomas on the quasi-sacramental effects on Mary of the Annunciation: "The presence of the child within Mary was for her the matter of the sacrament.... The form of the sacrament was contained, as it were, in the inspired words, those of the angel and even more those of Mary—words that settled everything, gave the event its full meaning and effected what they signified.... By the very fact of her union with her son ... Mary was marked with his seal, confirmed in him, ordered to him and completely consummated in him" (p. 70).
In the original French this book has had four editions. This reviewer hopes the English may have at least that many.