From an introduction to the document "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ", the work of the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC),
How does the Mary document approach the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (defined in 1854) and the Assumption of Mary (defined in 1950)? What agreement is ARCIC able to reach in this regard? What can we affirm together?
The convergence which is set forward in the first two sections of the text provides foundations within which to approach the two dogmas. The third section begins by looking at Mary and her role in the history of salvation within the framework of ‘a theology of grace and hope’. The text appeals to St Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:30), wherein he sets forward a pattern of grace and hope operative in the relationship between God and humanity: ‘those whom God predestined he also called; those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (Romans 8:30).
This pattern is clearly seen in the life of Mary. She was ‘marked out from the beginning as the one chosen, called and graced by God through the Holy Spirit for the task that lay ahead of her’ (paragraph 54). In Mary’s freely uttered fiat – “let it be done to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38) – we see ‘the fruit of her prior preparation, signified in Gabriel’s affirmation of her as ‘graced’” (paragraph 55). In paragraph 59, the text links this affirmation to what is being professed in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary:
“In view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One (Luke 1:35), we can affirm together that Christ’s redeeming work reached ‘back in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings. This is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture, and can only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize in this what is affirmed by the dogma – namely ‘preserved from all stain of original sin’ and ‘from the first moment of her conception.’”
In turn, the document proposes that just as grace was operative and the beginning of Mary’s life, so too does Scripture offer foundations for trusting that those who follow God’s purposes faithfully will be drawn into God’s presence. While ‘there is no direct testimony in Scripture concerning the end of Mary?s life’ (paragraph 56), ‘when Christians from East and West through the generations have pondered God’s work in Mary, they have discerned in faith … that it is fitting that the Lord gathered her wholly to himself: in Christ, she is already a new creation…’ (paragraph 58). Again making a connection between this understanding of grace and hope operative in Mary’s life and the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, the text notes:
“we can affirm together the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture and that it can, indeed, only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize that this teaching about Mary is contained in the dogma” (paragraph 58).
The Commission does not entirely resolve the differences between Anglicans and Catholics regarding the two dogmas, for the above conclusions pertain to the Marian content of the dogmas, not the authority by which they were defined. Nonetheless, ARCIC’s drafters feel confident in proposing that if the arguments laid forth in the Mary document were accepted by the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church, this ‘would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context’ (paragraph 78; cf. paragraphs 61-63)