“Without Mariology, Christianity threatens imperceptibly to become inhuman. The Church becomes functionalistic, soulless, a hectic enterprise without any point of rest, estranged from its true nature by the planners. And because, in this world, all that we have is one ideology replacing another, everything becomes polemical, bitter, humourless, and ultimately boring, and people in their masses run away from such a Church,” Wrote Balthasar in his ‘The Marian Principle.’ The Marian element in the Church provides the authentic spirit of the Church: “the spirit of the handmaid of service, of inconspicuousness, the spirit which lives only to pass on what it has received, which lives only for others.” It need not be said that this contemplative posture, this receptivity and openness to the Word, is the norm for all Christians – men as well as women. If this “Marian spirit within the Church is weakened or lost, Balthasar states that the Church will become unisexual – that all male!”
The Church as bride is essentially woman, capable of receiving the seed of the Word, bringing it forth and bearing fruit. The structural or sacramental Church, which represents the male aspect, educates its members to such a womanly role. The entire purpose of the male aspect is to “lead the bride to her womanly function and fortify her in it.” Mary is both Mother of God and Mother of the Church. She represents the Body of Christ as Church in a very concrete way: “…the community’s place is occupied by a person, most concretely by the Mother of Jesus: her mission is also to be the Mother of his brothers, of his Mystical Body…”As Balthasar explains: “The truth is that the more personal and unique Mary’s relationship with Christ is understood to be, the more she represents the concrete epitome of what we mean by ‘Church.’ For her mission, and hers alone, is universal; that is, it is Catholic, of the whole Church.” According to Balthasar, it is only when ecclesiology is in a close relationship with Mariology that the hierarchical element of the Church is “relativized.”
There is a wider analogy that encompasses the man-woman polarity: Balthasar situates this dialectic of difference first within the “analogy for the relationship between God and the creature” but ultimately within the analogy of Trinitarian relations. So regardless of Christ’s male gender, all disciples, male or female are to be “femininely” receptive to the missionary call, and all disciples are then to act out of this virtue according to the demands of mission. Being receptive is a potential for men, as it is the necessary orientation for both men and women if they are to become saints engaged in mission. For Balthasar, there is a “letting be” to mission which might be mistaken for passivity. Balthasar assigns this manner to Mary as she had to “let be” her Son’s mission. She had to let His Crucifixion happen, not only for her son’s mission to bear the fruit of salvation, but for her own mission fruitfulness as well. Balthasar would reject a pure passivity, seeking the ‘passivity correctly understood of a being already active in its receptivity, whose basic act consists in being able to receive.’ Active receptivity could apply to the fact that Mary had to follow in her son’s footsteps all the way to the cross. An active receptivity finds its home in the fruit of Trinitarian love caught up in the dynamic relationships among the three Persons for “receptivity characterizes the Son in His relation to the Father.” Mary becomes the exemplar and the prototype for mission fruitfulness, not only for the individual Christian but also for the community who is the Church. She models the receptive attitude necessary to respond with readiness and detachment to the will of God and, thereby, is both an archetype for the Church and the prototype for the saint.
Balthasar gives examples of those where this fruitful “sphere” of freedom and community is opened up: “…we think of theologians like Augustine, founders of orders like Benedict, Francis and Ignatius, popes like Gregory, women like Hildegard, Gertrude and Mary Ward… But behind the great ones, those exhibited to our gaze, there are the countless others whose missions, in God’s sight, are no less far-reaching. Such are the missions of penance, of prayer, of charity, of suffering, which remain unknown or, once known, have now been forgotten.”