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Author Topic: Rise of the Medieval Cult of the Virgin Mary  (Read 2933 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 09, 2013, 11:18:08 PM »

I've seen it alleged numerous times that the medieval period, starting in the 12th century, is where the Virgin Mary saw the emergence of a popular cult dedicated to her. It seems they allege that she wasn't nearly as important before this period in spirituality, liturgy, etc., and it is never clarified if they mean in the West or Christianity in general.

For example:
Quote
Bernard played the leading role in the development of the cult of the Virgin, which is one of the most important manifestations of the popular piety of the twelfth century. In early medieval thought, the Virgin Mary had played a minor role, and it was only with the rise of emotional Christianity in the eleventh century that she became the prime intercessor for humanity with the deity.

Is there any truth to this? Does it speak only of Western devotion, or are they trying to say Christinianity as a whole?
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2013, 12:32:47 AM »

The veneration of the Mother of God, and her recognition as our greatest intercessor, greatly predates the 12th century. The existence of icons and mosaics of her, the latter in ancient churches which survive to this day, and the location within these churches of these mosaic icons high in the apse over the altar, most clearly expresses the magnitude of her veneration.

One of the very oldest liturgical prayers is to her: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν, (Under your compassion) which dates from c. 250AD. The bulk of the hymnography to her dates to no later than the 8thC, and much of this dates from two or three centuries earlier.
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2013, 12:36:35 AM »

The veneration of the Mother of God, and her recognition as our greatest intercessor, greatly predates the 12th century. The existence of icons and mosaics of her, the latter in ancient churches which survive to this day, and the location within these churches of these mosaic icons high in the apse over the altar, most clearly expresses the magnitude of her veneration.

One of the very oldest liturgical prayers is to her: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν, (Under your compassion) which dates from c. 250AD. The bulk of the hymnography to her dates to no later than the 8thC, and much of this dates from two or three centuries earlier.
Is it possible that the West just didn't have as much of that as the East did?
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2013, 12:40:10 AM »

The veneration of the Mother of God, and her recognition as our greatest intercessor, greatly predates the 12th century. The existence of icons and mosaics of her, the latter in ancient churches which survive to this day, and the location within these churches of these mosaic icons high in the apse over the altar, most clearly expresses the magnitude of her veneration.

One of the very oldest liturgical prayers is to her: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν, (Under your compassion) which dates from c. 250AD. The bulk of the hymnography to her dates to no later than the 8thC, and much of this dates from two or three centuries earlier.
Is it possible that the West just didn't have as much of that as the East did?

The prayer I mentioned was definitely known in the west, and many of the mosaic-filled churches are in Rome.  angel
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2013, 12:43:13 AM »

The prayer I mentioned was definitely known in the west, and many of the mosaic-filled churches are in Rome.  angel

I wonder what the argument could even be referring to then? Perhaps, especially since the quote from the Wiki is under Protestant criticism, the claim is in the vein of other anti-"Medieval Church" arguments against Catholicism from Protestants.
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2013, 12:44:11 AM »

I've seen it alleged numerous times that the medieval period, starting in the 12th century, is where the Virgin Mary saw the emergence of a popular cult dedicated to her. It seems they allege that she wasn't nearly as important before this period in spirituality, liturgy, etc., and it is never clarified if they mean in the West or Christianity in general.

For example:
Quote
Bernard played the leading role in the development of the cult of the Virgin, which is one of the most important manifestations of the popular piety of the twelfth century. In early medieval thought, the Virgin Mary had played a minor role, and it was only with the rise of emotional Christianity in the eleventh century that she became the prime intercessor for humanity with the deity.

Is there any truth to this? Does it speak only of Western devotion, or are they trying to say Christinianity as a whole?

No, there is no truth whatever to this. After the Council of Chalcedon, there is a lot more veneration of the Mother of God, but it didn't start there either. It was around from the beginning and grew with time.
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2013, 12:46:29 AM »

There is less hymnography in the West in general. They favored hymns from Scripture rather than writing new hymns like was done in the East.
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« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2013, 06:08:25 AM »

The prayer I mentioned was definitely known in the west, and many of the mosaic-filled churches are in Rome.  angel

I wonder what the argument could even be referring to then? Perhaps, especially since the quote from the Wiki is under Protestant criticism, the claim is in the vein of other anti-"Medieval Church" arguments against Catholicism from Protestants.

A characteristic of so much of this "scholarship" is its laziness and sloppiness. I have lost count of the number of books I've come across, including supposed reference books, with titles such as "A History of Christian Art", which begin with the works of Giotto and Cimabue at the turn of the 14th century. Just like that, 1300 years of iconography is wiped off the map.

I even know an art teacher or two who are quite familiar with religious art of the Renaissance, yet are almost completely ignorant of the existence and purpose of icons. They simply were never taught about them.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2013, 06:17:16 AM by LBK » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2013, 06:11:45 AM »

There is less hymnography in the West in general. They favored hymns from Scripture rather than writing new hymns like was done in the East.

Yet, my dear Shanghaiski, so much of Orthodox hymnography is stuffed full of scripture and from other writings accepted by the Church. There is probably more scripture embedded in an Orthodox vigil than in a month's worth of modern "Bible-based" protestant services.
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« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2013, 06:28:12 AM »

I've seen it alleged numerous times that the medieval period, starting in the 12th century, is where the Virgin Mary saw the emergence of a popular cult dedicated to her. It seems they allege that she wasn't nearly as important before this period in spirituality, liturgy, etc., and it is never clarified if they mean in the West or Christianity in general.

For example:
Quote
Bernard played the leading role in the development of the cult of the Virgin, which is one of the most important manifestations of the popular piety of the twelfth century. In early medieval thought, the Virgin Mary had played a minor role, and it was only with the rise of emotional Christianity in the eleventh century that she became the prime intercessor for humanity with the deity.

Is there any truth to this? Does it speak only of Western devotion, or are they trying to say Christinianity as a whole?

No, there is no truth whatever to this. After the Council of Chalcedon, there is a lot more veneration of the Mother of God, but it didn't start there either. It was around from the beginning and grew with time.

There was a whole lot of veneration of the Theotokos at the Council of Ephesus as well. Sadly the Acts aren't translated in English yet. There's a beautiful speech of St. Cyril of Alexandria in the acts of Ephesus in which the Theotokos is called "inextinguishable lamp, crown of virginity, scepter of orthodoxy, indissoluble temple, dwelling-place of Him whom no place can contain etc. etc."
« Last Edit: February 10, 2013, 06:29:05 AM by Cyrillic » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2013, 09:21:18 AM »

FWIW, I am aware of pre-Medieval veneration the Virgin. What I am more interested in is if there was a substantial increase in the Medieval period that would have given credibility, even if only in the West, to these sorts of claims. The claims generally pointed to the substantial growth of Virgin-dedicated shrines and pilgrimage, and Marian doctrines and apparitions that began to boom in the 12th centuries and onward (e.g. Immaculate Conception doctrine and apparitions, scapulars, etc.). They also claim a growth in the Theotokos' presence in liturgical texts.

I suppose it is possible that the replies so far could be true, and the above points likewise be true. After all, the mere existence of pre-Medieval veneration is not denied by these claims, but only the degree (in the West). That said, this might not be the right forum for this question since it would require someone to be familiar with Medieval Catholic hymnography, spirituality, etc. and not just pre-Medieval.
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« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2013, 11:00:42 PM »

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume....... that after Jesus ascended into Heaven that early followers would have been highly aware of his still alive mother.  Shortly after her passing I am sure people still knew her and immediately started praying to her for intercession.  Just guessing but this whole anti-Catholic notion of the fact that Mary isn't to be revered is anti-Christian.  It seeks to destroy or deny the fact that since day one people thought of Mary as super important. 
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« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2013, 11:19:01 PM »

There is less hymnography in the West in general. They favored hymns from Scripture rather than writing new hymns like was done in the East.

Yet, my dear Shanghaiski, so much of Orthodox hymnography is stuffed full of scripture and from other writings accepted by the Church. There is probably more scripture embedded in an Orthodox vigil than in a month's worth of modern "Bible-based" protestant services.

Well, I meant that if you look at the service texts of the ancient Orthodox West, you'll find the bulk of the daily cycle of services is the Psalms and most of the liturgical prayers are pretty short compared to the East. As you go further West, the prayers become shorter, in general, and further East, longer. It's a generalization, of course, but there's truth in it I think.

Later, about the fifth-eighth centuries in the West, you have many hymns written for the daily office and the feasts and liturgical seasons. But, still, the bulk of the office for the Mother of God, for example, remains Psalms--specially chosen for the Mother of God.
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If you spend long enough on this forum, you'll come away with all sorts of weird, untrue ideas of Orthodox Christianity.
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