ROME, NOV. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- One of the most popular Catholic writers is back in bookstores with “The Mary Hypothesis,” published in Italy by Ares.
Vittorio Messori, author of “The Jesus Hypothesis” (1976), is the first journalist in history to publish a book-length interview with a Pope, the best-selling “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (1994).
He also published “The Ratzinger Report” (1987), based on an interview with then prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.
In this interview with ZENIT, Messori discusses the meaning of his most recent work, in which he reflects on the “depth of mystery” that the Virgin Mary represents.
Q: Who is Mary? How can one explain the mystery of a woman chosen by the Creator to give birth to the Son of God?
Messori: Mary is but a humble woman from a humble village. No pre-Christian text speaks of Nazareth, to the point that an attempt was made to demonstrate that no place existed with that name.
For the wisdom of the world, Mary is nothing, but from the perspective of the faith she is the depth of mystery. She is a human person like us, and at the same time the indispensable instrument for the greatest and most unique event — the incarnation of God himself.
From the Catholic perspective, at present there are in heaven two bodies like ours, glorified for eternity: the one belonging to Jesus and that of his Mother. They anticipate what we too will be.
Q: Why write this book? What is the objective and meaning of this research?
Messori: When, in 1976, I published my first book, “The Jesus Hypothesis,” many readers asked me to work on “The Mary Hypothesis.”
The matter, then, seemed strange to me, and unacceptable.
My thinking was that Jesus is on the streets, and his Mother is at home. … One knows and loves her only when one attains sufficient closeness with the Son to enter where he dwells.
In any event, there are two challenges that I have tried to address in these more than 500 pages.
First, to show that it is possible to be devoted to Mary without falling into a certain rhetoric. Also, to show that to make room for the Virgin is not the hobby of sentimental or ignorant believers, but a need of every believer which cannot be ignored.
Everything that the Church has said and says about the Mother is, in fact, at the service of Christ, in defense of his humanity and at the same time of his divinity.
Mariology is, in fact, Christology. Her dogmas are but the confirmation and bulwark of her Son’s. Whenever Mary has been neglected, sooner or later Christ has also disappeared.
Q: Given the waves of secularization of the last three decades, Marian devotion has preserved many Catholic communities. The latter, by praying the rosary, have kept the faith and tradition. Nevertheless, in some Catholic realms Marian devotion is considered anti-modern and too traditional. What is your opinion in this respect?
Messori: In “The Mary Hypothesis” I write a great deal about apparitions, even though I limit myself to those recognized by the Church.
In the Virgin’s apparitions, she continues her vocation of Mother who hastens to her children in difficult moments. Since the beginning of modernity, it is faith itself that is threatened; the flock of believers seems to be in danger of scattering.
The apparitions are a call, a jolt, a confirmation, a strengthening. I go when I can, as a pilgrim, in addition to going as a scholar, to European Marian shrines. I encounter multitudes there that no longer go to their parishes, but that are attracted by those places where the maternal presence has manifested itself.
In the West, the increase in pilgrimages has been the only index of a positive sign in a Church where everything is in decline, from participation in the sacraments to vocations. Marian devotion is at present perhaps the greatest pastoral resource.
And I don’t know what to think of certain “intellectual clerics” who reject or even scorn this extraordinary possibility. However, fortunately, average people do not read the “adult” and “critical” theologians, but rather continue to be fascinated before the possibility that a merciful Mother awaits them in a shrine.
Q: Historically, the increase of Christians is also explained thanks to a lofty conception of woman in contrast to the pagan world. To what point does the figure of Mary explain the Christian conception of woman? What could Mary say today to the movement for the emancipation of woman?
Messori: Twenty years ago, after a few days of conversation with the prefect of the former Holy Office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, I published “The Ratzinger Report.” The future Benedict XVI told me that Christians should oppose the crisis of woman, often so painful for her, with an antidote: Mary. In that same person coexists the two great feminine vocations: virginity and maternity.
If properly understood, Marian devotion is not an obstacle, but rather a precious help for women to rediscover a way that truly values the mystery of femininity.