Matthew LEVERING, Mary’s Bodily Assumption, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015, pp. 268. ISBN 978-0-268-03390-0. . Reviewed by Christopher RUPERT S.J., LaStorta Jesuit Residence, 2320 Liverpool Rd., Pickering, ON L1X 1V4.
Mary’s Bodily Assumption is a significant, easy-to-read concisely written book with appeal to many audiences. Marian researchers, methodologists, mariologists, theology students, and educated layfolk alike will find it insightful, thorough, fair, and engaging. Those who read notes may also find Levering provocative and challenging.
I particularly like his focus on the developments in the reasoning used over time for and against Mary’s Assumption as an article of faith. Levering neatly organizes this treatise for both the casual and intensive reader: a crystal-clear introduction (11 pages), six short well-sequenced chapters (131 pages), a brief conclusion (5 pages), extensive notes and citations (71 pages), list of sources referenced (35 pages), all well indexed (8 pages). His discussion has two parts: I - Mary’s Assumption within the church, and II – How scholars come to accept or reject it
Part I presents current papal documents related to Mary’s Assumption, the main 20th century theologizing leading to its proclamation by Pius XII in 1950, and the nouvelle théologie since then focusing on Rahner, von Balthasar, Boyer, and Ratzinger: the key modern exponents. Part II weighs in on the value, strength and scope of typological exegesis as used both outside the church (chapter 4) and inside it (chapter 5). Chapter 6 then presents arguments on the fittingness of Mary’s assumption, especially as used by Blessed J. H. Newman. Levering in his frank conclusion admits that the Church’s reasoning about the assumption of Mary will not persuade many non-Catholic opponents. There is an implicit challenge here for apologists to get working. Intriguing, almost aside comments lurk in his notes. For example, p. 222, Note 1: “Boff’s theology of God is Hegelian rather than catholic.”
Statisticians and methodologists will delight in Matthew Levering’s reliance on triangulation to affirm the church’s position on Mary. His routes there are scripture, church practice, and fittingness. Social psychologists and most of the public will appreciate his triple reliance on feeling (fittingness), reckoning (theology), and history (in scripture and liturgy). Lonergonians and protestant dissenters will wish that Levering had spoken to the value and need of this dogma on the Assumption in every day life and decision-making.
Mary’s Bodily Assumption is a masterful template for the presentation of church dogma. I look forward to more writing of this caliber on dogma. Thank you Matthew.