Sarah Jane BOSS, Mary. New Century Theology series. London: Continuum, 2004. pp. 140. pb. ISBN 0-8264-5788-6. .
Reviewed by Mary Anne FOLEY, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA 18510

Sarah Jane Boss believes that the present “culture of Godless animosity toward nature” is the result of Christianity’s capitulation to modernism, with its exaltation of the individual and alienation of humanity from the rest of the natural world. She suggests that the reason for this situation is that Christianity lost its sense of Mary, and her response is to construct a “green mariology” focused on Mary as Mother of God and consequently Queen of Heaven. Mary is based almost entirely on pre-modern sources, from scriptural texts and the Protevangelium to Ramón Llull, Francisco Suárez and John Eudes. Since, in Boss’s view, “popular” culture often retains an earlier and by implication more valid view of the human person than individualistic “learned” culture, she draws as well on largely British sacred images and shrines, medieval legends and carols. Although aware that some postmodern scientific theories parallel her own approaches, Boss rejects any that do not affirm explicitly the presence of God in all of nature.

The title of the second chapter, “The Mother of God and the Cosmos,” could well have been the title of the work as a whole. Its central premise is that Mary’s motherhood made possible the Incarnation, by which God and creation are united. Traditional beliefs in her Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity are presented as showing that Mary “embodies the goodness of God’s original creation, and is the beginning and sign of its future perfection.” For Boss, the numerous “black Madonnas” reveal that Mary is in some sense the Chaos from which everything created has emerged. Moreover, in Mary’s continuing relationship with her son “we see the presence of heaven on earth, and thus the fulfillment of humanity’s right relationship with both God and creation.” Boss is at pains to show that the rest of Mary’s life, including her assent to God’s design, her role as disciple, and her “nuptial” union with God, is secondary to “the physical act of Godbearing,” making her vessel of the “new wine” of the Spirit. As a result, Mary enjoyed a “unique participation in Christ’s identity” that justifies the tendency to attribute to Mary such Christological characteristics as Wisdom of God.

Boss considers Mary a very preliminary exploration of “green mariology,” and so does not develop to any great degree its implications for humanity’s treatment of the earth. In addition, her intended audience is unclear, and her approach to her sources, problematical. Although she reads them carefully, she does so for the most part outside of any historical context and appears to treat all as equally valid and significant. At one point she distinguishes between a legend’s mythic value and its dubious historicity, but for a contemporary audience her approach to such texts as the Protevangelium needs to be clarified from the outset. In another instance she appropriately labels as “curious” Suárez’ theory that even after his birth, the body of Jesus continued to contain the substance of his mother’s flesh, but she draws repeatedly on that theory to bolster her assertions about Mary’s “participation in Christ’s identity.” Central to Boss’s ecological stance is her conviction that care for the earth depends on a belief in the sacredness of material reality. However, basing her argument so exclusively on Mary’s physical motherhood of the God-man weakens both that argument and her efforts at a balanced mariology.

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