Skip to comments.How I Changed My Mind About Mary
Posted on 05/05/2002 11:30:36 PM PDT by nickcarraway
by Mark Shea
How I Changed My Mind About Mary
It once seemed perfectly obvious to me that Catholics honored Mary too much. All those feasts, rosaries, icons, statues and whatnot were ridiculously excessive. Yes, the gospel of Luke said something about her being "blessed" and yes I thought her a good person. But that was that.
No Mary, No Salvation
People who celebrated her or called her "Mother" or did all the million things which Catholic piety encourages bordered on idolatry. It was all too much. Jesus, after all, is our Savior, not Mary.
However, after looking at the gospel of Luke afresh and thinking more and more about the humanity of Jesus Christ, some things dawned on me. For it turns out that Luke said more than "something" about Mary. He reports that God was conceived in her womb and thereby made a son of Adam! This means more than merely saying that Mary was an incubator unit for the Incarnation. It means that the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity derives his humanity--all of it--from her! Why does this matter? Because the entire reason we are able to call Jesus "savior" at all is because the God who cannot die became a man who could die. And he chose to do it through Mary's free "yes" to him. No Mary, no human nature for Christ. No human nature for Christ, no death on the cross. No death, no resurrection. No resurrection, no salvation. Without Mary, we are still in our sins.
Too Much vs. Just Enough
This made me see Mary very differently. The Incarnation is vastly more than God zipping on a disposable man-suit. He remains man eternally. Therefore, his joining with the human race through the womb of Mary means (since he is the savior of us all), that she is the mother of us all (John 19:27). Moreover, it means that her remarkable choice to say "Yes" to the Incarnation was not merely a one-time incident, it was an offering of her own heart to God and us. Her heart was pierced by the sword that opened the fountain of blood and water in Christ's human heart, for it was she who, by the grace of God, gave him that heart (Luke 2:35; John 19:34).
Seeing this, I began to wonder again: If Catholics honor Mary "too much", where did we Evangelicals honor her "just enough." Mary herself said "henceforth, all generations will call me blessed." When was the last time I had heard a contemporary Christian tune on the radio sung in honor of Mary? Or a prayer in church to extol her? How about a teensy weensy bit of verse or a little article in some magazine singling out Mary as blessed among women? Aside from "Silent Night" was there anything in Evangelical piety which dared to praise her for even a moment? I was an Evangelical for seven years and I never saw so much as a dram of it.
St. Luke? Is That You?</>
So the question became for me, "How could we talk about something being 'excessive' when we had virtually no experience of it ourselves?" What if it was we Evangelicals who were excessive in our horror of Marian piety and Catholics who are normal? Judging from the witness of the early Fathers and even of Martin Luther (who had a very robust Marian devotion and whose tomb is decorated with an illustration of the Assumption of the Virgin into Heaven) it seemed to me that it was we Evangelicals who were excessive in our fear of her rather than Catholics who were excessive in their devotion.
"Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
There. That didn't hurt a bit. In fact, I think I heard St. Luke pray it too!
Outstanding post. BTW, if you take requests, I'd love to see something this month on the Immaculate Heart of Mary (hint, hint;)
1Jo 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
1Jo 1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
1Jo 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Mary is deserving of at least the respect we afford a John the Baptist or an Isaiah. She truly was used by God.
That, however, is far different than making her captive to a doctrine of "original sin" that requires us to "remove" that kind of sin from Jesus by postulating a "sinlessness" for Mary. Do you realize that the only support for the "immaculate conception" of Mary is a logical argument....there isn't a bit of scripture. The support is that since God knew his Son would be born to Mary wouldn't it make sense for him to have had her "born pure?" That's it. No other support.
The same is true of the Assumption of Mary. There is no canonical support for her being taken into heaven in an "Elijah-type" uplifting/translation. It is a logical argument only. It says, "Jesus was Mary's son. Son's love their mothers and would do what they can to keep them from pain and suffering. Therefore, Jesus in heaven prevented pain and suffering for his mother by "translating" her into heaven."
These are logical arugments based on a form of piety. There is nothing, though, that REQUIRES them to be true.
AV - Mary the mother of Jesus 19, Mary Magdalene 13,
Mary the sister of Martha 11, Mary the mother of James 9,
Mary the mother of John Mark 1, Mary of Rome 1; 54
Mary or Miriam = "their rebellion"
Since every woman (and man) since Eve had been stained by Original Sin, the only way for Mary to have the same freedom of choice that Eve did to obey or disobey God's Will, would be for her also to be created free from Original Sin, as Eve was.
To comment on Mary's role here is also to comment on the nature of the Trinity, the nature of the Incarnation, and especially the nature of the hypostatic union. I'm no theologian -- others here are surely more qualified to comment, but I believe the council that defined Mary as "Theotokos" (Mother of God) argued to the effect that to do otherwise would imply only a mechanistic connection between the person of Jesus and the Second Person of the Trinity (I'm sure they didn't say it that way, but I can't think at the moment of a better phrase).
These are all very great mysteries, opaque to human reason -- but they are all involved here.
(You are aware that Catholics do not worship Mary?)
I hope someone with a better theological background than mine will add to this.
If Mary had god-like status in the Catholic Church they would have just focused their attention on her - instead due to Mary's humility and handmaiden-of-the-Lord status the feminazis felt compelled to invent a new goddess.
Thanks for the post, Nick. It amazes me that one of the most beautiful prayers ever written affirming our love and respect for Mary and asking for our Blessed Mother's intercession is a mere two lines long.