The Mariavites are an independent Catholic movement who were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church in late 1906. This book gives a history of the beginnings of the movement focusing on how the early Mariavites understood the establishment the Kingdom of God on earth (and, more precisely, in Poland). Their history dates to 1893, when the nun, Feliksa Maria Franciszka Kozłowska (1862-1921) claimed to receive revelations from God recommending that she create a monastic order of Mariavites. Due to the fraught political situation relating to the occupation of Polish lands, the Mariavites initially had to act in secret, while their mission was not accepted by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Being outside official church structures, they introduced a number of controversial measures, especially in the interwar period after the death of their founder. Priests married nuns, nuns were ordained, compulsory confession before a priest was abolished, and Kozłowska was understood to be the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. These are just some of the changes that were intended to restore the state from before original sin.
The Mariavites covers these and other central features of their apocalyptic or millenarian theology, including those involving the rapid exaltation of Mateczka after her death, her expected return, and blending of traditions associated with Mary and Jesus. This involved interpreting her death as a sacrifice for the coming kingdom, the seemingly curious identification of Mateczka with the Son of Man of Revelation 1:13, and the seemingly less curious identification of Mateczka as the second Eve and ‘a woman clothed with the sun’ in Revelation 12:1. As Archbishop Kowalski was in no small part responsible for the elevation of Mateczka, there is a discussion of the legacy of his influence and his little known translation of the entire Bible into Polish.
With reference to the original Polish documents, the volume clarifies what has not been properly understood in scholarship: the ideology, logic, motives, and theological tradition underpinning of this new religious movement. To gain a proper understanding of this also means looking at the Mariavites in the context of the influence of nineteenth-century Polish messianism, as well as the ancient Christian sources and Catholic Tradition which the Mariavites used abundantly.
Published: Nov 1, 2024
Remarkably, the Mariavites have not been subject to a serious scholarly examination of their ideas, personalities, and history. Damian Cyrocki is the leading expert on the Mariavites and has now produced the most important book on them to-date. He has worked extensively in Mariavite archives and conducted interviews with those associated with the movement—and it shows. This is a superb book which is also of relevance for anyone interested in the study of millenarian movements, apocalypticism, the reception history of the Bible, and Polish religious history.
James Crossley, Professor at the MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion, and Society (Oslo) and Academic Director of the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements