The Mystery of Mary. By Paul Haffner (England: Gracewing, 2 Southern Ave, Leominster, Herefordshire, England, HR6 0QF, 2004), 285pp. PB £14.99 (English pounds).
Written in commemoration of the 150 th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854-2004), Fr. Paul Haffner, Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, has authored a comprehensive work in Mariology that exhibits filial love, academic excellence and theological orthodoxy.
This work is reminiscent of former days when Mariological works had as their foundation the dogmatic formulations about Our Lady. This fact alone makes this book well worth purchasing. In an age when many Mariological works seek to deconstruct Our Lady, or simply focus on ideological agendas (feminism, liberation theology, false ecumenism), Haffner’s work is a breath of fresh air, a true Mariology from above, grounded in what the Church teaches dogmatically concerning Our Lady. In this sense, Haffner’s work rightly presents Mariology as a “theological synthesis” (p. 20) because the dogmatic teachings about Our Lady form the basis for Haffner’s presentations of Mariology within the context of Protology, Christology, Soteriology, Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology and Anthropology.
Haffner identifies his method as a “realist perspective” (p.2). What this means is that his study of Mary involves an intimate and inseparable link between history and revelation (scripture, tradition), reason and faith, all interpreted through the magisterium of the Church. In other words, Haffner’s presentation is not an agenda driven Mariology but rather a Mariology from the heart of the Church.
The work itself is very systematic and covers all the dogma’s of Our Lady, as well as the following areas in Mariology: Daughter of Sion (Old Testament), Handmaid of the Lord (New Testament), Holy Name of Mary, Spiritual Motherhood, Disciple of her Son, Co-Redemptrix, Queenship, Mother of the Church, Type of the Church, Mediatrix of All Graces, among others. As a theologian working within the heart of the Church, the section on Our Lady’s role as Co-Redemptrix is wonderful because it shows that all true Mariology must address this issue and present it with clarity and conviction, as the magisterium of the Church has done. Any Mariology that tries to pass over or minimize Mary’s co-redemptive role in salvation is unacceptable for a Catholic theologian, and Haffner has shown himself to be a faithful priest conveying the fullness of revelation, not selective pieces.
In my opinion, one of the most remarkable aspects of the book is the chapter that deals with Mary’s Virginity (ch.6). Haffner’s research into Catholic Tradition and the sayings of the saints is profound, leaving the reader in awe of the richness of our Catholic faith concerning the perpetual virginity of Mary. Haffner is quick to present historical evidence that in every generation there are those faithful men and women who seek to defend the virginity of their Mother and Queen against the heresies that seek to reduce her privileges to myths and anthropological uncertainties.
I cannot praise this book enough. The Mystery of Mary should be on the required reading list at every Catholic seminary and Catholic institution of higher learning in the United States.
Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC