Peerless in Her Tenacious Presence.
A Feature Review of
The Life of the Virgin
Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Stephen J. Shoemaker.
Hardback: Yale University Press, 2012.
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Reviewed by Jordan Daniel Wood
*** Today, August 13th, is the Feast of Maximus the Confessor …
Translated for the first time into English, The Life of the Virgin is the earliest complete hagiographical biography of Mary the mother of Jesus (1). That fact alone commends and justifies the excellent work Stephen J. Shoemaker has completed. What is more, The Life was almost certainly authored by the currently acclaimed (and justly so) Maximus the Confessor, a towering theological giant for Christian traditions East and West. Shoemaker makes the authorial case cogently in his “Introduction” to the work, citing the “unanimous” attribution of the manuscript to Maximus, highlighting several internal features of the text that place it in the early-mid 7th century (Maximus’s time), pointing to circumstantial evidence in Maximus’s historical-biographical context that contribute to the likelihood of his composing such a work, and even deferring to the seasoned intuition of Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was certainly no stranger to the thought-world of Maximus: for Balthasar, in The Life one finds “a Maximus, who is entirely new but recognizable,…. And is much more accessible than in most of his theological works” (12). Providing such a different portrait of Maximus, then, also commends Shoemaker’s timely translation. Continue Reading…