Mary and the Art of Prayer

The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought

Rachel Fulton Brown

Columbia University Press

Mary and the Art of Prayer

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Pub Date: November 2017

ISBN: 9780231181686

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£62.95

Pub Date: November 2017

ISBN: 9780231543712

Format: E-book

List Price: $74.99£62.95

Mary and the Art of Prayer

The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought

Rachel Fulton Brown

Columbia University Press

Would you like to learn to pray like a medieval Christian? In Mary and the Art of Prayer, Rachel Fulton Brown traces the history of the medieval practice of praising Mary through the complex of prayers known as the Hours of the Virgin. More than just a work of comprehensive historical scholarship, the book asks readers to immerse themselves in the experience of believing in and praying to Mary. Mary and the Art of Prayer crosses the boundaries that modern scholars typically place between observation and experience, between the world of provable facts and the world of imagination, suggesting what it would have been like for medieval Christians to encounter Mary in prayer.

Mary and the Art of Prayer opens with a history of the devotion of the Hours or “Little Office” of the Virgin. It then guides readers in the practice of saying this Office, including its invitatory (Ave Maria), antiphons, psalms, lessons, and prayers. The book works on several levels at once. It provides a new methodology for thinking about devotion and prayer; a new appreciation of the scope of and audience for the Hours of the Virgin; a new understanding of how Mary functions theologically and devotionally; and a new reading of sources not previously taken into account. A courageous and moving work, it will transform our ideas of what scholarship is and what it can accomplish.
This volume is a stunning accomplishment—beautifully written, scholarly, and inspiring. Using medieval sources, it gives a detailed presentation of how the man or woman of the late Middle Ages may have read a book of hours. The resonances and allusions of each word and image are teased out so that the modern reader is able to engage the ancient devotion from, as it were, the inside. Both secular scholars and theologians will find their work enriched by reading Mary and the Art of Prayer. It leads the reader into the world of late medieval religious practice and sets an excellent example of method for future research. Sarah Jane Boss, director of the Centre for Marian Studies, author of The Spirit of Mary
Deliberately (and often delightfully) provocative, Rachel Fulton Brown’s book takes on Hilda Graef’s classic Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion (1963−65) as its sparring partner. Fulton Brown highlights thirteenth-century Mariological writings that Graef treats only briefly and dismissively: Conrad of Saxony’s Speculum Beatae Mariae Virginis, Richard of Saint-Laurent’s De Laudibus Sanctae Mariae, and the famous Mariale Super Missus Est (until 1952, attributed to Albert the Great). Countering Graef’s criticisms of these works as “questionable,” “popular,” “unhealthy,” and manifesting “signs of decadence,” Fulton Brown endeavors mightily to recover them as reflective of the theological vitality of an age deeply inspired by the Wisdom tradition of the Bible and by the prayer life of the faithful. Ann Astell, author of Eating Beauty: The Eucharist and the Spiritual Arts of the Middle Ages
Mary and the Art of Prayer brings medieval Marian devotions before the readers’ eyes and elucidates the profound meanings in and spiritual preparations for serving the Virgin—Holy Wisdom, Queen of Heaven, and Container of Creation—through observance of her Hours. Rachel Fulton Brown’s historical imagination is informed by brilliant scholarship, and her evocative prose rests easily beside citations of beauteous psalms. Georgiana Donavin, author of Scribit Mater: Mary and the Language Arts in the Literature of Medieval England
Mary and the Art of Prayer is packed with information and insight, inviting the reader not just to examine medieval devotion to Mary but to experience that devotion. Medieval Christians had a rich and ancient tradition of devotion to the Lady of the Jerusalem temple. The reader is deftly drawn into the candle-lit Middle Ages, to read the Scriptures as the faithful read them, and to pray with them, not just to examine their practice of prayer. Based on many years of research, Mary and the Art of Prayer offers a huge collection of devotional material, all translated into English. Much of this is little known outside specialist circles. This book is a labor of love, written with real understanding. Margaret Barker, author of The Great Angel and The Mother of the Lord

About the Author

Rachel Fulton Brown is associate professor of history at the University of Chicago. She is the author of From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800–1200 (2002) and coeditor of History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person (2007), both from Columbia University Press.