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Toward an Indonesian Social Mariology

As with all Christians, Catholics are typically accustomed to the so-called devotional aspects of their daily existence. The Marian devotion is widely recognized as one of the most significant Catholic devotions. Numerous religious observances originated from the extensive lineage of this Marian devotion.

The practice of performing the rosary and undertaking pilgrimages to the Marian apparitions, for example, became widespread in the Catholic world. Alternatively, the customary practice of endowing a specific church or cathedral with a unique architectural embellishment in honor of Mary. Consider the Rose Windows found in numerous Catholic cathedrals. However, such is only a portion of the truth. On the converse, the field of Mariology exists.

Mariology, which has its origins primarily in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions and to a lesser extent in other denominations, is a theological discourse concerning Mary. Mariology is a distinct branch of theology. Usually, it is constructed upon theological reflections originating from the early Church tradition and biblical texts.

When discussing Mary and her connection to the Church in the context of the people of God, the praxis of the people's devotional life is typically brought up. Sociologically speaking, individuals also have a tendency to refer to devotion as an aspect of their private lives; thus, the term "private religion" originates from this last expression, which also gives rise to the term "invisible religion."

Devotional practice and the devotional life are classified as invisible due to the fact that they occur in the privacy of an individual's life. In any case, this Marian devotional life practice appears to be at least in opposition to the two biblical Mariologies. Magnificat-Mariology and Cana-Mariology are the terms for these.

These are several notable deviations and key insights from the doctoral dissertation written and successfully defended by Father Gregory Pasi, SMM, in the Doctoral Study Program at the Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Teologi (STFT) Widya Sasana in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. The dissertation was supervised by two professors: one from STFT Widya Sasana (Father Armada Riyanto CM) and one from the Faculty of Theology at Sanatha Dharma Catholic University in Yogyakarta (Father Emanuel Martosudjito).

This newly established theological program, known as the Doctoral Study Program, is situated at STFT Widya Sasana Malang and is directed by Professor Fr. Armada Riyanto, C.M. The doctoral program commenced in the year 2019. Additionally, Father Pasi, SMM, is the second graduate to successfully complete their academic pursuits. The first was a cleric from the CSE, a religious congregation based in Indonesia. His completion occurred in June of this year. As one of the external lecturers, I was extended an invitation to serve as an examiner for the Open Defense of Father Pasi SMM.

Referring back to the discourses on Mariology that were previously mentioned. Although the biblical Mariological discourses encompass numerous facets, I will limit my discussion to two of them at this time. Father Clodovis Boff, a Brazilian theologian affiliated with the Marian Congregation, OSM, served as a significant source of inspiration for the theological investigations of Pasi. I was sincerely honored to be requested and formally invited to serve as an external examiner during the inaugural defense of this doctoral dissertation on October 7, 2023.

In pursuit of this specific objective, I perused the dissertation that had been forwarded to me, in addition to several articles authored by Clodovis Boff and published in international journals of theology. Undoubtedly, Boff originates from a theological lineage in South America, characterized by a profound influence of liberation theology and notable figures such as Gustavo Guttierrez and Leonardo Boff (rumored to be the elder sibling of Clodovis) as proponents.

Boff proposes the so-called Magnificat-Mariology, which is rooted in liberation theology and has served as its foundation and source of inspiration. Additionally, the gospel of Luke and the extensive and enduring tradition of interpreting it since the time of the church fathers (patristic times) and continuing to the present day have provided substantial inspiration and influence. The theological discourse of Magnificat-Mariology often embraced a revolutionary stance and expressed severe disapproval of established societal structures and ideologies, particularly those employed by the regime or government.

This was consistent with the significant development in liberation theology in Latin America. When quoting a portion of this Marian Magnificat, we should bear in mind one of its revolutionary-critical characteristics—Mariology—which states, “He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly; the hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.” (Luke 1:52–53, Jerusalem Bible version.) Drawing heavily from liberation theology, this revolutionary-critical Mariology was exceptionally applicable to the circumstances in Latin America.

In order to establish a contextual theology in Asia, specifically in Indonesia, Father Pasi adopts an alternative Mariological paradigm. Father Pasi enrolls in Cana-Mariology rather than Magnificat-Mariology, which is predominately grounded in the Johannine Mariological tradition (see John 2:1–12). Through a meticulous examination of the text, Father Pasi highlights certain Marian figures that are described in the Bible in his dissertation.

To summarize, Mary was very curious, caring, attentive, and active (CCAA). In accordance with the overall focus of his doctoral dissertation, Pasi wishes to emphasize that the Cana-Mariology, comprising four potent keywords, is more suitable for Asia, particularly Indonesia if the Magnificat-Mariology aligns with the circumstances and history of Latin America. In this manner, social Mariology can be developed and established in Indonesia.

Both of these approaches to analyzing theological discourse surrounding Mariology are valid and true. However, it is also possible to achieve harmony between these two modes of discussion. According to Pasi, the purported Cana-Mariology ought to be founded upon a sincere act of compassion, misericordia, which was an especially potent watchword during Jesus' public ministry. He also advocated vehemently for the concept of the heart's voyage toward the Other. Cana-Mariology's CCAA ought to be predicated on the emotional response elicited by pathos, empathy, affection, and other elements.

However, in accordance with one of the more groundbreaking theological discourses put forth by Beatrice Melano-Crouch, a feminist theologian from Latin America, care for the Other (including the impoverished, cultural pluralism, religious diversity, and ecological crisis) in Asia ought to be grounded in a particular robust theological framework. In this regard, the lens of Magnificat-Mariology is indispensable. It is imperative that the established oppressive framework of society be deconstructed in order to facilitate the efficacy and success of the Cana-Mariology approach.

To be critical in the movement to develop feminist theological discourses, we must, according to Melano-Crouch, be skeptics of the current sociopolitical structure. Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche are the three masters of suspicion, according to Paul Ricoeur. Only on the basis of this deconstruction discourse can we aspire for a new and different social situation. Moreover, we can emerge from this new circumstance as individuals with fresh perspectives and dispositions. Suspicion, anticipation, and emergence constitute the three keywords. SHE represents the abbreviated form of these three stages of Melano-Crouch's theological discourses: Suspicion, Hope, and Emergence.

Father Pasi's dissertation, which spans over four hundred pages, has effectively initiated the field of Indonesian social Mariology. This is without a doubt something novel. It ought to receive the endorsement of the Indonesian church so as to eradicate the inclination towards perceiving devotion as a matter confined to private spheres and transform it into a fresh sociopolitical-religious impetus for social transformation and movement.

While conversing, Mary and Marian consider how Marian's theological discourse and Mariology contribute to social transformation and engagement, going beyond mere personal devotion and sanctity. This is one way to materialize the ideal of socio-political holiness. Father Gregory, you have succeeded. Great.

*Dr. Fransiskus Borgias  is researcher and Lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy of Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia.


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Dr Alexander J…, Oct 17 2023 - 8:26am
"While conversing, Mary and Marian consider how Marian's theological discourse and Mariology contribute to social transformation and engagement, going beyond mere personal devotion and sanctity. This is one way to materialize the ideal of socio-political holiness."

While it is a good thing and a good idea, but its implementation in a concrete social life in a country of Islam majority is not easy.
Fransiskus Borgias, Nov 02 2023 - 10:36am
Thanks so much father Alex for commenting this article. I acknowledge that it is not so always easy to put this theological idea into action considering the Muslim Majority of Indonesian population. But this is not an excuse to have a better condition in the time to come. Using the two kinds of Marial perspective described in the article, maybe the best way for the Indonesian context is the so-called Cana-Mariology and not the Magnificat Mariology. If Magnificat Mariology tends to speak about the revolutionary means for changing the existing condition, the Cana-Mariology mainly rely upon the action, the praxis, the "what-to-do-Mariology". By so doing I do hope that there will be an insignificant rejection of the majority, knowing and realizing that the starting point is not the theological discourses, but the action, the socio-humanitarian action. Thanks so much for the discussion...