We previously saw the Marian doctrine of some emblematic saints of the thirteenth century, belonging to the main spiritual currents of the time: Saint Francis, Saint Domingo, St Anthony of Padua, Alexander of Hales and St Albert the Great. Next, we will present some prominent disciples of those teachers, faithful representatives of scholastic theology: Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio and Blessed John Duns Scoto. In them we can find the ripe fruit of medieval mariology, whose contributions influenced the further elaboration of Marian dogmas, Christian spirituality and popular devotion.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor Angelica
Tomás de Aquino was born in Roccasecca, Italy, in 1224/1225, and died in Fossanova Abbey on 7 March 1274. He is the great philosopher and theologian of the scholastic in the thirteenth century. He belonged to the Order of Preachers and is known as Doctor Angelica, Common Doctor and Doctor of Humanity. He was canonized in 1323, declared a doctor of the Church in 1567 by Pope Pius V, and declared patron of Catholic universities and higher education centers. His liturgical feast is celebrated on 28 January.
His best-known works are the Commentary to the Judgments of Peter Lombardo (compendium of scholastic philosophy), Theological Sum (compendium of Christian theology) and Sum against Gentiles (philosophical apology of the Christian faith). He also wrote many biblical sermons and comments.
Tomist mariology is eminently Christological and Trinitarian. The central point of St. Thomas’s Marian doctrine is his divine motherhood (Mary, Dei Genitrix). From this dogma derive his eminent dignity, his abundant graces and his great privileges. All the people contemplated that she gave birth to the Savior; the words of the angel Gabriel confirm this when he tells Joseph that he has conceived of the Holy Ghost; and the prophet Isaiah announces it: “Behold, Our Lady shall conceive and bear a child” (Is 7:14).
Divine motherhood is closely related to the mystery of redemption. The Word was incarnating himself within a virgin by the work of the Holy Spirit, without the collaboration of a man. “God sent his son into the world born of a woman” (Gal 4.4). The human nature of Christ exists inseparably linked to the nature of the divine Word.
By her divine motherhood, Mary is united to the Holy Trinity. No wonder the archangel Gabriel tells him, “Full of Grace, filled with divine holiness for God’s mercy and love.” That is why the Church greets him as “Mother of Divine Grace”. This does not mean that Mary is the source of grace, which comes only to us from the Father, by Christ, in the Holy Spirit. But we can deduce that if divine grace has been poured out into our hearts by the Spirit, how much more fully Mary would be filled with divine Love (cf. Rn 5.5). This also includes the dignity and holiness of the Mother of God: according to the Son and by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Mary’s holiness, according to St Thomas, requires no sin. In his writings Doctor Angelica defends the universal redemption of Christ. This basic argument prevented her from sustaining, as was common in her time, Mary’s exemption from original sin and her immaculate conception. She recognizes that as adam’s daughter she was subjected to the law of sin, but that, as Mother of God, it had nothing to do with sin. He saves the contradictory pitfall by recognizing a peculiar purification before birth and extraordinary sanctification before conceiving the Redeemer, but does not consider preventive redemption, as Duns Escoto will propose later. St. Thomas emphasizes her need for redemption because she belonged to our race.
St. Thomas defends the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God (Dei Genitrix et Semper Virgo). Jesus is the son of Mary: the Son of God is the son of Our Lady. The Mother always Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Savior, the Son of God. Mary’s inviolable bosom was necessary for the flower and the redemptive fruit to germinate. “A renewal shall come out of the rod of Jesé, and a flower shall be born from its root, and upon this flower shall rest the Spirit of the Lord” (Is 11:1). The Mother-Virgin because of the eternal Father who begets the Son, because of the Word that existed before time, because of the holy humanity of Christ, the immaculate Lamb who takes away the sin of the world; because of the mystery of the incarnation, by which God becomes man so that we may become children of God.
In relation to the dogmas of the Immaculate and the Assumption, Saint Thomas Aquinas follows the theological tradition of his time and the celebration of the liturgy. If Mary is all holy and full of grace, we must venerate her name. If he always collaborated with the Son in the work of salvation, he will reign in eternal glory with him. As in Scripture she finds no arguments for these dogmas, she simply recognizes Mary’s holiness and her presence in glory with the Son, even if she does not explain the exemption from original sin (dogma proclaimed by Pius IX in 1854), nor stop to recognize Mary’s assumption in body and soul to heaven (dogma proclaimed by Pius XII in 1950). However, Mary’s full holiness and transit to heaven with the Son were mysteries celebrated by the Church related to Christ’s redemption.
San Buenaventura, Dr. B&B
San Buenaventura de Bagnoregio is the religious name adopted by Giovanni de Fidanza when he entered the Order of Friars Minor. He was born in Bagnoregio, Italy, around 1217/1218/1221, and died at the conclusion of the second Council of Lyon on 15 July 1274. He was a Franciscan theologian and mystic, Minister General of his Order, Bishop of Albano and Cardinal who participated in the election of Pope Gregory X. He was a disciple of Alexander of Hales at the University of Paris. He was proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Sixtus V in 1588 and is known as Doctor Sefico.
He studied and taught in Paris from 1248 to 1258. He was elected Minister General in 1257 and sought to be a sign of unity and charity in the midst of his brothers. He was also proposed as Archbishop of York, a privilege he rejected. He then had to accept the diocese of Albano and was appointed cardinal. He participated in the Council II of Lyon.
His theology is inspired by St Augustine and is the complementary correlate of Saint Thomas Aquinas, eminently Aristotelian. Doctor Sefico accepts the use of philosophy and human reason as ways to lead the soul to God. He was a great theologian full of spirituality. Among his works are the Commentary on the Judgments of Peter Lombardo and the Itinerary of the Soul to God (on theology and mystique). He also wrote a Life of St. Francis.
The mariology of St Bonaventure is biblical and Christological in nature to nourish the devotion of the faithful to Mary, Mother of the divine Savior. That is why she calls her Mother of Christ, co-operator of the Redeemer, mediator of all graces that spring from the redemption of Christ. Consider Mary as the Mother of Christ the Saviour because she freely collaborated to bring about this mystery and that is why we can say that she is “sacrament of salvation”. In this sense, there is also a similarity of analogy with the Church.1
From this service in the work of redemption with the Son, the holiness of the Virgin-Mother and the worship that corresponds to her is derived. She is by our side and is of our human race, but because she is the Mother of Jesus she is the closest creature of God. Her divine motherhood makes her superior to angels and men. She conceived those who died for the Atonement of all guilt, and therefore was redeemed before the birth of the Redeemer; unique among Adam’s children, he first conceived Christ in his virginal heart and freely collaborated in the incarnation of the Word.
St Bonaventure follows St Anselmo and is in favour of Mary’s immaculate conception because it was appropriate for the Virgin-Mother to be pure and unspotted from sin. Consequently, she argues that Mary was free from lust to conceive of the Son of God without any corruption of sin.
Following the traditional scholastic of his time, Buenaventura considers that only Christ was exempt from all kinds of sin. Mary was not immune to original sin, but was pre-sanctified after being conceived within her mother, an object of liberating and non-preserving redemption; it was also sanctified at the time of the Conception of the Son, so the original sin did no harm to her, nor was she inclined to sin by concupiscence. Mary was also not immune to the punishment of sin, death, but suffered with Christ for our redemption. However, he ended up accepting the feast of the Immaculate Conception and introduced it to the Franciscan Order in 1269, when he was its minister general.
Buenaventura considers Mary’s perfect and perpetual virginity as a singular privilege, a sign of holiness and exclusive dedication to God, as a symbol of the relations between the Church and Christ.
Doctor Sefico defends Mary’s intercession before God and mediation before Christ because he conceived and gave birth to the Redeemer. Following the patristic tradition, she considers that the same thing that Eve participated in the destruction, so Mary participates in the construction and the new creation. She sees Mary as the protector and benefactor of humanity; their mediation of the graces bestowed by the Spirit is superior to all the intercessor saints. For this reason, she is also a mother and model of the Church, and contributes to her growth with the distribution of graces. As mother of all men, she helps us and guides us in our journey to the heavenly Homeland.
Blessed John Duns Escoto, Doctor Subtle
John Duns Scotus was born in Duns, Scotland, in 1266 and died in Cologne, Germany, on 8 November 1308. He was a theologian at the Franciscan school who studied at Oxford, Cambridge and Paris, where he was also a teacher. The subtlety of his analyses earned him the title of Doctor Subtle. He is considered holy and revered as such, without mediating a canonization, but on 20 March 1993, John Paul II confirmed his worship as Blessed.
As was customary in his day, he taught and commented on the Judgments of Peter Lombardo. As a theologian he defended the humanity of Christ. After teaching for several years at the University of Paris he had to move to the Cologne Franciscan Studio, where he died in 1308. Among his works are: Ordinatio and Opus parisian. With great use he demonstrates that the First Principle (Efficient Cause indicted), by its very nature is endowed not only with intelligence but with will, with which Creation is not an act of metaphysical need, but of full freedom and divine love. He believes that understanding captures the universal by abstraction, but intuitively the individual. It maintains the priority of will over understanding.
Perhaps his main and most specific contribution to theology was his argumentation in favor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, based on the preventive redemption of Christ, who being God could, wanted and did so for his Most Holy Mother.
With regard to Mary’s divine motherhood, Duns Escoto, like Buenaventura, follows the patristic tradition and uses the same arguments of the Fathers against Nestorio, to ensure hypostatic union (unity of the two natures, human and divine) in the one divine person of Our God and Lord Jesus Christ. Mary conceives Jesus, her Son, and the Word, the second person of the Trinity, was faced. Mary participates in the mystery of the Incarnation and is therefore the Mother of God, the Incarnate Word.
Duns Escoto made a great contribution to mariology in relation to the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Ancient patristic tradition and medieval theology had considered Mary to be all saints (panagia), but no one could explain that she was not preserved immune from original sin. However, from the 8th century onwards a feast arose in the East to commemorate the Holy and Pure Conception of the Mother of God. From the ninth century the celebration of the festival was widespread in the West in honor of the Most Pure Conception of Mary.
From a theological perspective, St John Damascene had defended Mary’s liberation from original sin, before her birth, but without specifying the moment. St Anselmo considered that only Christ, the Redeemer, was free from original sin, so it had to be conceived virginally by Mary. It was believed that by passion and lust in conception, proper to the conjugal sexual act, the original sin was transmitted.
Theologians considered that Mary was not exempt from original sin in her conception (by her parents Joaquin and Anne), but that she was released after conception and before her birth in anticipation of Christ’s merits to be the Mother of God. In general, the scholastics of the thirteenth century accepted this doctrine, which allowed to reconcile the universal redemption of Christ and Mary’s belonging to our human race, subjected to sin and in need of redemption. The arguments against the Immaculate Conception were based on three principles: the conception of a human being, inside or outside marriage, the work of a man and a woman, conveys to the offs the off the original sin (physical theory); man comes into existence in sin and is then redeemed and sanctified (ontological theory); original sin affects all mankind, and everyone needs redemption (universal redemption).
Duns Escoto defended the Immaculate Conception of Mary without denying the universal redemption of Christ, as it is a perfect saving action of the one redeemer, in anticipation of Mary’s exceptional mission as Mother of the Redeemer. In this way, the Subtle Doctor sowed the germ for future dogmatic definitions of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the Assumption in 1950.
On the basis and argumentation of Duns Escoto continued the Franciscan reflection that defended until his proclamation the dogmas of the Immaculate and the Assumption, which is based on the philosophical argument that emphasizes more intuition, will and affection than intelligence and abstraction to come to the knowledge of the truths. Ω
1 Cf. F. Martínez Fresneda: Manual of Franciscan theology, Madrid, 2004, pp. 272-285.