The Church Fathers and Mary in the 3rd Century

In the 3rd century, one finds a definitive tenet of the faith concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, consigned in the Symbol of the Apostles: Mary, virgin and mother. Her presence is necessary for the Church and her role is necessary and crucial in God's saving plan.

Significant developments in the 3rd century are:

  • The Virgin Mother's presence in the Eucharistic Anaphora (canon of the mass or Eucharistic prayer) and the baptismal rite; 
  • The mariological interpretations of the Psalter; 
  • Imitation: Christians understood the evangelical examplarity of the Blessed Virgin Mary toward the Church and therefore the Church encouraged the imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
  • Invocation with the famous prayer of the Sub tuum praesidium. The first Christians understood that the Church must not only consider the Virgin Mary in her earthly evangelical life but also in her presence within the time dimension of the Church in her communion as a transfigured creature and her intercession for our salvation.

Key words and figures of the 3rd century Church are:

  • Apostolic Tradition;
  • Hippolytus of Rome;
  • Origen;
  • Clement of Alexandria;
  • Tertullian

Great themes and new horizons are:

  • The theological aspect: what happened to Mary in her unique relation with God.
  • The anthropological aspect: Mary's moral character and her journey of faith.
  • The relations between Mary and the Church with a reciprocal doctrinal enrichment.

Actually, many solutions were temporary; there was never any shortage of hesitations. Some interpretations were almost divergent. We are dealing here with theology in the process of being made.