Western Marian tradition (13th century)

By: Brother Jesus Bayo Mayor FMS

The 13th century represents the pinnacle of scholastic theology. If many of the great medieval theologians were Benedictines, in the thirteenth century insign teachers will emerge in two new schools: Dominican and Franciscan. We will present the Marian doctrine of some of these saints and writers. In a first section we show the presence of Mary in the founders Domingo de Guzmán and Francisco de Asses, along with some of his disciples: Alberto Magno, Alejandro de Hales and Antonio de Padua. In a second part we will see the Marian contributions of Thomas Aquinas, Buenaventura and Duns Scoto, egregious representatives of the scholastic.

Domingo de Guzmán (1170-1221)

Domingo de Guzmán was born in Caleruega (Burgos), Spain, in 1170. He lived the first years in his family, of noble Castilian lineage. As a child he was educated under the direction of his archpriest uncle in Osma, and in his youth moved to the University Study of Palencia, where he came to run the chair of Sacred Scripture in 1194.
During 1204 and 1206 he made trips through France and Italy accompanying Bishop Diego de Osma. Returning from Rome in 1206 he stopped in Montpellier, and began preaching among the Albigenses (heretical sect of the time) in some French cities: Servian, Béziers and Carcassonne. At the end of the year 1206 she made a foundation in Prouille for conversational and penitent women.
He continued his preaching, accompanied by fasting and prayer. In 1210 he stayed at the home of noble women while preaching Lent in Toulouse, where he founded the first male house of the Order of Preachers in 1215, when he was associated with other companions. In September of that same year he traveled to Rome, accompanying Bishop Fulco of Toulouse who attended the Council IV of Lateran, and both requested Pope Innocent III to approve the Order.
In 1216 Pope Honorius III confirmed the founding of the Order under the Rule of St Augustine. The Order, recommended by the Pope, will spread rapidly throughout France, Italy and Spain. According to the guidance of its founder, Dominicans will soon become great masters of theology at European universities: Paris, Bologna, Oxford, Salamanca and Cologne.
On 6 August 1221 the Holy Preacher died in Bologna, and was canonized in 1233 by Pope Gregory IX. His principal biographer, Jordan of Saxony, was one of his first disciples who also succeeded him as Master General of the Order.
Jordan of Saxony wrote an twilight on the origins of the Order and the life of Saint Domingo and his first disciples, Libellus de Principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum. Here is clearly indicated the endearing devotion professed to Mary, Saint Domingo and her preaching friars, through the spread of the Rosary and the Salve Regina.1
Another biographer, Gerardo de Franchet, in Vitae Fratrum Ordinis Praedicatorum (Lives of the Preaching Friars), points out the importance of Mary in the life of Saint Domingo and his first disciples. One of the narratives attributes the foundation of the Order to the Virgin Mary, when he pleaded with his Son to have mercy on the sinful world.

“On her knees the Virgin Mother before her Son begged her to be merciful to those who had redeemed and tempered justice with mercy. To which Mother said the Son: Don’t you see how insultingly they treat me? My justice cannot leave so many evils unpunished. Then said the Mother, As you well know, for all know it, there is still a way by which you will bring them unto thee. I have a faithful servant, whom you will send into the world to announce your words, and they will convert and seek you as Savior that you are one of all. I will also assign another servant to help you in the same company […] Then the Virgin Mother introduced the blessed Sunday to Jesus Christ. To which the Lord said, He will fulfill exactly and with commitment what you said. Mary also introduced him to the blessed Francis, and the Savior also recommended it.”2

In another of the chapters, Franchet explains the origin of the pious custom of the preaching friars to conclude the prayer of Complete with the singing of the Salve Regina. According to this Marian antiphon, the friars managed to scare away the demon, who tempted certain friars in the convents of Bologna and Paris with various trickery.

“They therefore decided to resort to the only hope, to the very powerful and pious Virgin Mary, and they established to make in their honor a solemn procession by singing the Salve with their prayer. To the point the ghosts disappeared, and those who were veced were freed, and a friar who was tormented by the devil in Bologna, and another friar the son of a king, who was ill in Paris, were fully healed, and since then all things came to pass prosperously to the Order.”3

Albert the Great (c. 1206-1280)

Alberto was born in Lauingen, Augsburg, Germany, around 1206. He died in Cologne on 15 November 1280. From a young age he knew the charism of the newly founded Order of Preachers to which he entered, along with another of his brothers and two of his sisters. He studied in Padua, where he met Blessed Jordan of Saxony, and in Paris.
He was an distinguished teacher in the Dominican Study of Cologne and at the University of Paris, where he distinguished himself as professor of Philosophy and Theology from 1245. In 1254 he was elected provincial prior of his Order in Germany. In 1260 Pope Alexander VI appointed him Archbishop of Regensburg and elector of the Holy Roman Empire, positions he resigned from after two years to devote himself to study and teaching.
For his extensive knowledge and eminent wisdom he is called The Great. He studied all the knowledge of his time: astronomy, geography, physics, chemistry, philosophy and theology. He is patron of those who are engaged in the study of the natural and physical-chemical sciences. He was proclaimed a doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI, and is given the titles of Doctor Expertus and Doctor Universallis. He wrote numerous works about Mary, so Peter of Prussia – one of his first biographers – will say praisefully: “he wrote so copiously of Mary that in none of his books did he forget to mention it.”
He has more than thirty-eight volumes on all subjects, and showed his extensive knowledge encyclopedicly. He attributed his memory and wisdom to the Virgin Mary, so he devoted a good part of his studies to her. Among his most important Marian works we can list: Summa Incarnationis (1240), Marial (1245), Compendium super Ave Maria (1262-1277), and Commentary to the Gospels, where he refers to Mary (1270-1277).
His most widespread work is Marial, written in the stage of his youth before become a teacher in Paris. As he himself declares, he wrote it as an act of homage and devotion to the Lady. From the commentary to the text of the Annunciation, he speaks of divine motherhood, perpetual virginity, the fullness of grace, Marian mediation, the assumption to heaven and the royalty of Mary. In her Marian doctrine she does not recognize Mary’s immaculate conception, out of fidelity to the Pauline text that makes all mortals partakers of original sin: “Death passed from Adam to all men, for they all sinned” (Rom 5:12). According to the mentality of her time, Mary was sanctified in the womb, but was not conceived without original sin.
Marial has a scholastic scheme: it consists of a proemio, sixty-seven questions or questions to which the author answers, and a supplement. The starting point is the gospel text of the archangel Gabriel’s proclamation to the Virgin Mary. To found his explanations, he frequently turns to the authority of Augustine, Anselmo, Bernard and other Fathers of the Church. The Marial of St Albert had in the thirteenth century a relief similar to that of the book of St. Bernard, In praise of the Virgin Mother, a century earlier. Below are three brief excerpts from this iconic Marian work.

“We certainly do not intend to adorn the glorious Virgin with our fallacies, or to compose in a bombastic style something new and profound for the most privileged understandings, severing the glorious Virgin and exhibiting ourselves, but we try to serve with a plain discourse the gift of devotion to all those who are like us, rude and humble. I truly believe that I will do well if, speaking of the heart of the blessed Lady, even if nothing desecrates worthy of reputation, unworthy as I am of it for my life and little science, I will give reason to the wise to write and speak of her.”4

“This announcement informs us of what the Blessed Virgin did when the angel visited her, her colloquium with him and her final response. Thus, by the way the Virgin Mary behaves after receiving the fulness of grace, we learn exquisitely how we are to keep our ears, how we should prepare to receive grace, and what we must do to increase and preserve it.”5

“The Blessed Virgin proposed to the angel the question: What will that be like, for I know no man? She does not question why she doubted herself, but to obtain a more complete description of the matter, to have greater corroboration of the truth, to avoid and remove doubts, to rule out false assumptions, for our greater building […] She says: I do not know a man as the dominator of my person, as director of my works or lord of my body, as head of my soul and father of my children. With none of these titles I want to meet you.”6

Francis of Asses (c. 1182-1226)

Francis was born in Asses around 1181 or 1182, into a family of good social position. His father was a cloth merchant. Young Francis liked to attend parties, walks and social gatherings with his friends. He participated in the war between the cities of Asses and Perugia, where he put his life in danger and fell prisoner.
After these hard experiences, he felt Jesus’ call to serve him in the poor and lepers, and heard in the church of St. Damian a voice saying, “Francis repairs my house because it is in ruins.” He detached himself from his goods, dressed poorly, and went out to preach around the world as a “messenger of the great king.”
He was soon joined by some other young disciples to live an apostolic life of evangelical fraternity and simplicity. With twelve companions he traveled to Rome to ask Pope Innocent III for the approval of his lifestyle. Received approval, they returned to the Porciuncula of Asses to live in poverty, prayer, humility, holy joy and fraternity.
Francis considered himself “little brother” of all men, and extended his fraternity to animals and all creation. He composed the “hymn to the creatures” with which he praised God with all beings; it was his daily greeting: “peace and good.” Through the testimony of his biographers we know the love he professed to Jesus Christ and his great devotion to the Mother of God and Lady of Angels. Ask the Virgin Mary to be the lawyer and protector of the brothers in the Order. This was pointed out by his first biographer Tomás de Celano.

“He surrounded the Mother of Jesus with unspeakable love, for having made our brother to the Lord of Majesty. He was taxed by peculiar praises, multiplied prayers, offered him affections, so many and as he cannot express human language. But what is most glad is that she was a lawyer of the Order and placed under her wings, so that she nourished and protected them to the end, the quijos she was about to abandon. Ea, Lawyer of the Poor, fulfills with us your mission as a guardian until the day indicated by the Father.”7

Francis expresses deep lyricism when he addresses the Mother of God to greet him with filial piety and confidently plead with him to make us partakers of his virtues, as we can see in his “Greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary”.

“Save, Lady, Holy Queen, Holy Mother of God, Virgin Mary made Church, and chosen by the Most Holy Father of heaven, consecrated by him with his most holy beloved Son and the Holy Paralyte Spirit, who had and has all the fullness of grace and all goodness!
“Save, palace of God! Hail, tabernacle of God! Hail, house of God! Hail, God’s dress! Hail, slave of God! Hail, Mother of God!
“Save, also all of you, holy virtues, who, by the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, are infused into the hearts of the faithful, to make them unfaithful, faithful to God!” 8

In Francis’ Marian antiphon for all the Hours of the Office of Passion, he expresses devotion to the Mother of the Lord, which shows Mary’s relationship with the three divine persons and her intercession for men.

“Holy Virgin Mary, no one like you, daughter and slave of the Most High King and Heavenly Father, Mother of our Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, wife of the Holy Spirit, has not been born in the world among women: pray for us together with the archangel St. Michael and all the virtues of heaven and with all the saints, before your Most Holy Beloved Son , Lord and Teacher.”9

In short, Francis sees in Mary the model of the faithful because he points the way for us to beget Christ in us and to be shaped with Him thanks to his intercession and his journey of faith, as expressed in the “Letter to all the faithful”.

“This Word of the Father, so worthy, so holy and glorious, announced by the most high Father of heaven through the holy angel Gabriel, was sent into the bosom of the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, and in him he received the true flesh of our humanity and fragility. And, being greatly rich, he wanted, together with the blessed Virgin, his Mother, to choose poverty in the world.
“We must never wish to be upon others, but rather, we must be servants and be subject to every human creature by God. And upon all those who fulfill these things and endure to the end, the Spirit of the Lord will perch and make room and abode in them. And they will be children of the heavenly Father, whose works they do. And they are husbands, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are husbands when the faithful soul joins Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost. And brethren we are when we fulfill the will of the Father, who is in heaven; we are when we carry it in our hearts and bodies for love and for a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth for holy works, which must be light for example of others.”10

Alexander of Hales (c. 1185-1245)

He was born in Hales, Gloucestershire, England, around 1185 and was initially educated in the monastery of his hometown. He then studied in Paris, where he was a teacher. He entered the Franciscan order around 1222. As a prestigious master of Theology he influenced St Bonaventure and the Franciscan school, but was also recognized by Dominican disciples. St. Thomas Aquinas entolled him by saying that he was “a true master of theology”. He died in Paris in 1245 and left a beautiful intellectual legacy to his disciples.
It is known by its Latin name: Alexius Halensis. In consideration of clarity as a professor of theology he is called an unrefragable doctor (Doctor irrefragabilis) and monarch of theologians (Theologorum monarch). It is the initiator of the scholastic heyday in the 13th century. It inspired the great Dominican theologians (Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas) and Franciscans (Buenaventura, Duns Scoto, William of Ockam). The theological school in Paris has its imronta. To teach his classes, in addition to the Bible, he used the Judgments of Peter Lombardo, which he glored wisely in four books.
His main work is the Summa universae theologiae, written on behalf of Pope Innocent IV, where he values the biblical and patristic authorities, but also the thinking of philosophers and poets. This theological work is structured in four parts: God One and Triune, Creation and Sin, Salvation and Redemption, Sanctification and Sacraments. This work set the tone for the Summas of Theology that his disciples would write, surpassing the master. Marian themes are included in the mystery of incarnation and redemption, with an eminently Christological approach.

Antonio de Padua (1195-1231)

He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and at his baptism was named Fernando. At the age of seventeen he entered the regular canons of St Augustine, where he devoted himself to study and prayer. He then met the newly founded Order of friars Minor and, at the age of twenty-seven, professed as a Franciscan adopting the name Of Antonio (defender of truth), in memory of St Anthony abbot.
He was a preacher in North Africa, but the disease forced him to return to Spain, although a storm deviated the ship and arrived in Italy. He taught Theology in his Order and was an evangelizer in Italy and France with his exemplary life, preaching and miracles. He participated in the first General Chapter of the Franciscans in 1221. From then on, he was an exempt preacher. He died in Padua in 1231, where his remains are preserved. Pope Pius XII declared him “Evangelical Doctor” in 1946.
San Francisco considered him his guide (episcope), as reflected in the following letter.

“Brother Antonio, my bishop, Brother Francis: health. I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brethren, provided that, because of this study, do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion, as contained in the Rule.”11

He wrote sermons for all the festivities of the year, among which we find many dedicated to Mary. The main topics he addresses in his preachings and catechesis are: the incarnation of the Word and mary’s divine motherhood; Mary’s simplicity, humility and poverty; Mary’s holiness and her fulness of grace. Its Marian theology is symbolic, poetic and persuasive, born of contemplation and is projected towards catechesis, teaching and preaching.12 Ω

1 Cf. Santo Domingo de Guzmán seen by his contemporaries, Madrid (BAC 208), 1947, pp. 207-208.
2 Ibid., pp. 518-519.
3 Ibid., pp. 556-557.
4 San Alberto Magno: Marial, Madrid, Edibesa, 2007, pp. 216-217.
5 Ibid., p. 222.
6 Ibid., p. 313.
7 Cf. Thomas Celano: “Second Life, 198”, in José Antonio Guerra (ed.), St. Francis of Asses. Writings, biographies and documents of the time, Madrid (BAC 399), 1995, p. 344.
8 Saint Francis of Assesses: “Greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary”, in J. A. Guerra (ed.), Complete Works, p. 46. [Hereinafter O.C.].
9 Saint Francis of Assesses: “Office of the Passion of the Lord”, in J. A. Guerra (ed.), O.C., p. 32.
10 Saint Francis of Assesses: “Second Letter to the Faithful, 4-6 and 47-53,” in J. A. Guerra (ed.), O.C., pp. 57-58.
11 Saint Francis of Asses: “Letter to San Antonio”, in J. A. Guerra (ed.), O.C. p. 74.
12 Cf. F. Martínez Fresneda: Manual of Franciscan theology, Madrid, 2004; San Antonio de Padua: Marian Sermons, Madrid, BAC, 1956.

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