Philosophize in Mary

John Paul invokes the Seat of Wisdom in the concluding section of Fides et ratio and exhorts the reader to philosophize in Mary (“Philosophari in Maria.” §108) He considers the life of Mary “a true parable illuminating the reflection contained in these pages.” Mary lost none of her humanity is giving assent to Gabriel’s word; so too “when philosophy heeds the summons of the Gospel’s truth its autonomy is in no way impaired.” All the more do its enquiries “rise to their highest expression.”

We know of John Paul’s devotion to Mary, through the “True Devotion” of St Louis de Montford and the motto “Totus tuus.” So it is not surprising to see this exhortation. But what more does it mean?  St Louis provides a meditation for doing all things “by Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and for Mary.” He says that in Mary we discover “the true terrestrial paradise of the new Adam.” In this paradise, he says, there is the true tree of life, which has borne Jesus Christ, the fruit of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which has given light to the world.” (§261)

Earlier in Fides et ratio John Paul talks about the cross (“the true tree of life”) as the authentic critique of those seek self-sufficiency. (§23) The cross is a challenge to reason  – but “reason cannot eliminate the mystery of love which the cross represents, while the cross can give to reason the ultimate answer which it seeks.” Mary stood at the foot of the cross. To philosophize in Mary and with Mary is to stand there also to consider the meaning of the sacrifice.

“Only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. . . . Christ fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.” (Gaudium et spes, §22).

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