Maria Mediatrix - Maria Adiutrix
Pobożność maryjna w nauczaniu kaznodziejskim
w Polsce późnego średniowiecza
MARIA MEDIATRIX - MARIA ADIUTRIX. MARIAN DEVOTIONS
IN THE TEACHINGS OF LATE MEDIEVAL PREACHING IN POLAND
The Sermones dominicales et festivales
from the So-called Collection of Piotr of Miłosław
Dated to the latter half of the fifteenth century, the collection ascribed to Piotr of Miłosław is one of the most popular postils from the late Middle Ages in Poland that cover the liturgical year in its entirety. Marian preaching can be found in the following six sermons (in a chronological order): De conceptione Virginis Marie (no. 10), De purificatione Beate Marie (no. 30), De annuntiatione Marie Virginis (no. 43), De visitatione Marie Virginis (no. 84), De assumptione Virginis Marie (no. 97), and De nativitate Virginis Marie (no. 102). These six sermons address a typical set of medieval religious feasts devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Similar themes can be found in Polish cisiojani, fifteenth-century synodal statutes, and liturgical books and calendars. The postil featuring the collection ascribed to Piotr of Miłosław has survived in four extant manuscripts from the latter half of the fifteenth century: Biblioteka Narodowa Warszawa III 3021, III 3022; Archiwum i Biblioteka Klasztoru paulinów Jasna Góra Częstochowa II 17; and Biblioteka PAN Kórnik 53. Individual sermons can also be found in several other manuscripts. They serve as a source basis for this book. The book presents several key issues for Marian teaching in the light of these sermons and against the backdrop of medieval Mariology. The series of sermons under study constitutes a veritable apology of Marian devotions and a soaring hymn of praise and adoration, virtually devoid of any meditative aspects, uncertainties, polemics, or contrarian sentiments. The themes discussed in the sermons derive from the cult of the Virgin Mary as a refuge, which is best seen in her two appellations: Mediatrix and Adiutrix (as indicated in the title). The sermons elevate the Virgin as a role model and an ideal, most notably to be followed by women. The teachings presented in the sermons reveal a variety of didactic themes that were intended to promulgate and explain the intricacies of Marian devotions. These themes include Marian folklore, popular customs related to the tradition of Candlemas and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, herbs and crops consecrated for the Feast of the Assumption, social contexts in which the Virgin is featured as an ideal of womanly behaviour and the role model for women in society, family, and culture; and the ideological interpretation on the emerging dogmas of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. All these themes were presented in the form of didactic discourse for the laity. The sermons reveal a multi-coloured image of medieval preachers as exponents of Marian piety, which in turn goes well beyond the dogmatic contexts and into the domain of unofficial Marian devotions and the social reception of the Virgin Mary as an ideal of womanly virtues. The sermons reveal a multi-layered nature of this most affective of all the trends in Christian devotions and the most popular form of Christian piety in Poland. On the surface of expected dogmas and theological commentaries, these teachings hide a more quotidian form of piety, with a human being at its centre, including human spiritual needs, anxieties and the need for affirmation and empathy. Marian preachers were trying to address the religious needs of the faithful in that they evoked the affective values of Marian religiosity and delved deeper into the polisemantic treasure trove of Marian symbolism and recurring motifs dominated by the representations of the Virgin Mary as a refuge or a shield (scutum). These teachings elevated the Blessed Virgin Mary to a position that began to spark dogmatic controversy among theologians. For preachers, Marian devotions served as a large arena from which they could satisfy the likings of the faithful and an impressive scene which they also used as a bulwark of the Faith, especially in the times that saw a massive surge in Hussite iconophobia, which was targeted against Marian cult, most notably at the visual representations of the Virgin Mary. The series of six sermons from the latter part of the fifteenth century compels one to conclude that Marian preachings are not only an underrated yet exquisite source basis for the study of the religious culture of the Middle Ages in Europe, but also a cognitively intriguing document from the era which might encourage researchers to study the position of women in the society and the cultural environment of their time, together with its interplay of ideological determinants. Such studies, one is tempted to conclude, still remain in the sphere of mere postulations rather than scholarly reality.