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.
"Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. This is strait from scripture. Catholics and Evangelicals should take this seriously. She is blessed. This is a loaded theological point.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." This is "man made" and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Luke 1:43 "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me."
41 And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.God bless!
42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
To a Catholic "Full of Grace" is what God commanded Gabriel to say to Mary, calling her not by her mere name, nor even by her title, but by her REALITY! God doesn't give titles without infusing the reality of the title. Mary alone, of all humans, received that title; she alone has that reality. If you are full of Grace, or full of anything that means there is not room for anything else. If Mary had had sin, she would not have been FULL of grace, and Gabriel would have been speaking error. Thus this small phrase points very clearly to Mary's Immaculate Conception. In fact, the phrase doesn't make sense without it.God bless.
The Mother of God
In his commentary on the Magnificat, Martin Luther wrote:
"Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase, 'the Mother of God'. No one can say anything greater of her or to her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees . . ."
To many Christians the role of Mary as Mother of God and also their Mother finds no support in the New Testament. But Martin Luther from his study of the scriptures could write in 1529:
The simple gospel fact is that Jesus had a mother and that that mother had a mission in the plan of Salvation. In our human history there would have been no Fatherhood of God without the Motherhood of Mary, for God became man in the normal way of men through a mother. Had He been only a man who lived and died and was forgotten then she too could be ignored and forgotten.
But the Jesus who was born of Mary expanded into mankind, making Mary the mother of mankind. Jesus is Christianity - Mary, the mother of Christianity.
Anyone who honestly considers this basic Christian truth can never say Mary is irrelevant, for nothing that mattered to Jesus can be irrelevant.
And Mary mattered to Jesus. The person who sets his life on being one with Jesus, of following His teaching and imitating Him oftentimes overlooks the very first act of Jesus in the plan of Redemption: He first gave Himself to Mary.
And in the end, from the cross, He gave her to us.
The great goal of the Christian is to be identified with Jesus, to be one with Him. In this sense Mary was the first Christian and her purpose, now, is to bring that same Jesus to His fullness as He lives on in us. "For we," says St. Paul, "are the Body of Christ."
The role of Mary as Mother of God is in fact found in the Bible. In Luke 1:41-45 we find the following:
In John 19:26-27 we read that Jesus gave Mary to us (represented by John the Beloved Apostle) as our mother also:
Contrary to an often-heard criticism of the Catholic Church based on a lack of understanding, Catholics do not worship Mary; we worship God alone! Veneration of Mary and the other saints and prayer to them are quite different. What many non-Catholics mistake for adoration is a very profound love and veneration, nothing more. Traditional theology has sharply distinguished the reverence accorded to Mary and the saints ("dulia") from the worship and adoration that are due to God alone ("latria"). Mary is not adored, first because God forbids it, and secondly because the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which is based on Divine Law, forbids it.
If you would like to know more about Mary and her place in the Christian life, or about the Catholic Church in general, complete our REQUEST FOR INFORMATION form or contact the Legion of Mary at:
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How could she be "full of Grace" if He weren't?
I never noticed that before. Gabriel did not address her by name, but by description. "Hail, full of grace."
Mary is full of Grace because of what God did at her conception (the immaculate conception). The Angel Gabriel said this to her BEFORE she said YES to God. So, she was full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. Obviously, everyone needs the Lord. Mary was a human being. She believed with her whole heart in God. She devoted her life to Him even before the Angel Gabriel came to her.
Then, the Angel tells Mary what God is going to do, and she is humble, reflecting how all humans should be. Even Jesus in His humanity was humble.
So it wasn't her saying YES that filled her with grace, she was full of grace and then said YES.
Luke 1:28-38Mary is the ultimate Christian: she said "be it done to me according to thy word", acknowledging that God is doing something great and wonderful to her, of which she has no ability to accomplish. Nothing is impossible with God. Why is the Immaculate Conception so difficult a concept to grasp? To me, it makes perfect sense. Mary is the Second Eve, and would be sinless like Eve prior to the Fall. God can preserve Mary from Original Sin and have Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, born in a clean and pure "vessel". Jesus' humanity came from Mary alone, because there was no earthly father. If you can accept the Virgin Birth, why is the Immaculate Conception so difficult to accept?
28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
31 Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.
33 And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?
35 And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren.
37 Because no word shall be impossible with God.
38 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Early Protestants had no problems with the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of Mary. Early church fathers from the first, second, third centuries all acknowledged Mary's special role in our Salvation. I hope that you will think and pray on this.
I am a lifelong Catholic and have yet to meet a Catholic who worships Mary.
Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary
Daily, daily sing to Mary,
Sing, my soul, her praises due.
All her feasts, her actions worship
With the heart's devotion true.
Lost in wond'ring contemplation,
Be her Majesty confess'd.
Call her Mother, call her Virgin,
Happy Mother, Virgin blest.
She is mighty to deliver.
Call her, trust her lovingly.
When the tempest rages round thee,
She will calm the troubled sea.
Gifts of heaven she has given,
Noble Lady, to our race.
She, the Queen, who decks her subjects
With the light of God's own grace.
Sing, my tongue, the Virgin's trophies
Who for us her Maker bore.
For the curse of old inflicted,
Peace and blessing to restore.
Sing in songs of peace unending,
Sing the world's majestic Queen.
Weary not nor faint in telling.
All the gifts she gives to men.
You don't see this as a hymn of worship?
Christ is Risen!
Then you are a Nestorian. That heresy was condemned at the 3rd Ecumenical Council.
Held in Ephesus, Asia Minor in 431 under Emperor Theodosius II (grandson of Theodosius the Great). 200 Bishops were present.
The Nestorian Controversy
It concerned the nature of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Nestorius taught that the Virgin Mary gave birth to a man, Jesus Christ, not God, the "Logos" ("The Word", Son of God). The Logos only dwelled in Christ, as in a Temple (Christ, therefore, was only Theophoros: The "Bearer of God". Consequently, Virgin Mary should be called "Christotokos," Mother of Christ and not "Theotokos, "Mother of God." Hence, the name, "Christological controversies".
Nestorianism over emphasized the human nature of Christ at the expense of the divine. The Council denounced Nestorius' teaching as erroneous. Our Lord Jesus Christ is one person, not two separate "people": the Man, Jesus Christ and the Son of God, Logos. The Council decreed that Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Logos), is complete God and complete man, with a rational soul and body. The Virgin Mary is "Theotokos" because she gave birth not to man but to God who became man. The union of the two natures of Christ took place in such a fashion that one did not disturb the other.
Don-o says: If you relegate Mary to being a "chosen vessel" used by God to get a body, you are Nestorian. The fact that He rose up from the dead in a body that Thomas could handle; the fact that He ate, and at the same time walked through walls; the fact that his glorified human body ascended; all these facts support the historical understanding of the Incarnation.
It is indeed foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.
I'm sure that if you look deep enough you can find many things that make Catholics look bad, and anything taken out of context can "look" bad. Catholic devotion to Mary, Mother of God, is not worship. We respect and love her as our Mother, the Mother of Jesus Christ, full of grace, who devoted her life to God and her Son, Jesus Christ. She is to be respected as the mother of us all, the Second Eve.
You think she was used by God as some cheap tool?
If you don't believe in immaculate conception, then you believe the Gospel is wrong.
Huh? New one on me.
- singing to Mary
- praising Mary
- praying to Mary
- devotion to Mary
- thanking Mary
is not worship of Mary.
Does the Catholic Church have an official definition of worship?
I've never sung that song in Church...I'm sure that if you look deep enough you can find many things that make Catholics look bad...
Just for the record, I pulled that hymn out of the US Armed Forces Book of Worship, which is a compilation of Catholic, Protestant and Judaic Hymns. I'm assuming that the song is pretty mainstream since a panel of Catholic chaplains would have had to put it there. (Maybe someone else can attest to how common the hymn is.) I admit that the language in this hymn was the worst, but the language in the other hymns weren't all that different.
- sings to his wife
- praises his wife
- is devoted to his wife
- thanks his wife
does he worship his wife as God or is he a good husband?
I fail to see how this song elevates Mary to divinity, and if Catholics thought Mary was divine, why do they hide it? Wouldn't that be blasphemous. These arguments sound like what a Pharisee would say to Jesus.
You don't have to "elevate Mary to divinity" in order to give her worship that is due to God alone. I agree that there are earthly aspects of praise, thankfullness and devotion that I would heap upon my wife, but this song does not have in mind those earthly aspects:
She is mighty to deliver.
Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Call her, trust her lovingly.
Psalm 31:1 In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness.
Gifts of heaven she has given...All the gifts she gives to men.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (Did James forget the step where the gifts go through Mary?)
1 Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
There is no one else in the mediation process.
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