It's a sleepy Wednesday night and I'm the only one left in the office, on the top floor of CTI's modest Carol Stream, Illinois facilities, across from the Aldi's grocery store and the MacDonalds restaurant. I've been looking through the images on the layouts for this issue—picture after picture of scenes starring Mary, the mother of Jesus—until they have all begun to blur together in one big scene; kind of like Memling's "Seven Joys of Mary" on our opening pages.

And I'm wondering: Do I know the mother of Jesus—the theotokos, or in Jaroslav Pelikan's phrase, "the one who gave birth to the one who is God"—any better now than when we started this issue?

I'm just not sure. Part of me still feels like a kid in a museum: The Renaissance masterpieces, the Byzantine icons, the 15th-century German wood carvings … these are all too lofty and alien—something from a different age and a different religious sensibility. Can all of this really mean anything to me: a college-educated twenty-first century suburbanite, an "evangelical," used to thinking of Mary for only a few days around Christmas?

Honestly, I'm a bit frustrated with myself: I'm a historian—I should be able to leap these distances and penetrate to the meanings and emotions beneath. I should be able to peel away the shell of historical particularity and get to the nourishing kernel of my spiritual heritage, enriching my devotional life.

At least, that's the burden of most of our authors. And it has been mine since we began to work on this issue. Yet for some reason, I'm just not quite able to jump the confessional fence and embrace Mary in even pale imitation of my Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters.

Although I haven't become any more "Catholic" through my close journalistic ...

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