Monday, January 2, 2017

Mary of Nazareth (Ignatius Press)

We have just celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, so it seemed like a perfect time to review a book about her. The book I am reviewing today is called Mary of Nazareth: History, Archaeology, Legends, and it is published by Ignatius Press. The book begins by talking about the Advocata Nostra, which is the oldest icon in Rome and also the cover image of this book. The book then discusses the prophecy of a virgin birth, and how a lot of people tried to attribute it to Octavian the Roman emperor, but he clearly did not fit the bill. The third and one of the most interesting chapters to me delves into oral tradition and apocryphal books to give us a fuller picture on the life of Mary. The Proto-Gospel of James is the major source of inspiration for this chapter and discusses not only Mary, but James the Brother of God, which the Orthodox would say makes him Joseph's, but not Mary's son, and the Catholics would say make him Jesus' cousin.

Rather than continuing to go on and tell you about each and every chapter, I am going to give a brief summary now. The first eight chapters take us all the way up to Jesus' birth. There is a brief aside in the middle of the book, in which the author pinpoints when Jesus was born. The second part of the book talks about the time after Jesus' birth. We see the Flight into Egypt (to escape Herod), Mary's agony under the Cross, and Mary in Ephesus with John the Apostle taking care of her after Jesus' death and Resurrection. At the end of the book is a brief chronology; a very detailed bibliography of other books I now want to read; and most importantly of all, an epilogue on Marian devotion. This brief epilogue shows us that Marian devotion is not a new phenomenon but has roots in Scripture and Tradition.

This book lives up to its billing, as it does a fine job of mixing many different sources of knowledge to give us a detailed portrait of Our Lady. We already know we should have great reverence and devotion to Mary, but this book helps provide us with a wealth of information that should only make our devotion even deeper. What I appreciated most about this book is the variety of sources and interpretations the author (Michael Hesemann) used. It is very easy to get the Roman Catholic blinders on when it comes to matters of Church history and tradition, but within this book were Eastern Orthodox interpretations as well, which helps provide a fuller picture of the greatest saint of all. If you are looking for a fascinating and educational book on Mary for the new year, I highly recommend this one!

This book was provided to me for free by Carmel Communications in exchange for an honest review.