Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Do You Think Of Mary?

What do you think of Mary, the mother of Jesus? Is she important in your faith walk? I’d really like to know. I’ll probably revisit this question once my blog gains more viewers. Is she the Blessed Virgin Mary to you? Do you conveniently think of her only at Christmas time? Or at the Passion? We are told by both the Catholic Church and Orthodox, who venerate Mary that we are forbidden to worship her. That may come as a surprise to my Protestant brethren who interpret any bowing before a stature of Mary or kissing a figure of her is worship. I won’t go into detail at this time, but you can find reference to this if you look up on the web for the Roman Catholic Catechism and read for yourself. Do the same in the Orthodox churches. Now, I realize many Catholics themselves, especially in other countries do worship Mary. They are going against the teaching of the church.
My problem with the Catholic Church on Mary is that they assume too much of her and give her attributes that I cannot biblically support. I, along with the Orthodox, do not accept the concept of the Immaculate Conception. By the way, for Protestants are often confused over this doctrine. The Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with Jesus per se. The doctrine states that Mary was conceived without sin in order to fulfill the type represented in the Old Testament of the Ark of the Covenant that was made pure by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I know there are varying interpretations of this, but basically that is what it means.
I also do not accept the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven. I’m not saying it could not have happened. I’m just saying I don’t see where there is enough support for that other than the fact no one has ever found her bones. Remember, bones, relics, are held in enormous esteem by the church, especially the early church. Bodily relics were treasured. Mary was extremely honored by the early Christians. If there were remains of Mary, you can be certain there would be relics of her body scattered in churches around the globe. So, while the fact that no bones have been saved, that doesn’t present a strong enough argument for me to accept the bodily assumption. And the fact she’s pictured in Revelation twelve with a body is not a strong argument.
Be that as it may Mary is one of the women I hold in very high esteem, if not veneration. I even have a small five inch statue of her in my home. I can hear the sudden intake of my friends’ breath. Relax folks. Smooth your Protestant feathers. Mary represents to me a very important reminder. Every time I look at that little statue, I think of Mary standing before the Angel Gabriel, say, “Be it unto me, according to your word.” She reminds me to say yes to Jesus, whenever he calls me to his service. Obedience is a part of living the life of Christ. Mary trusted and obeyed out of a heart of love. She was not coerced, she wasn’t bound to anything. She heard the call and said yes. So when Jesus asks me to do something, she reminds me that yes is the best answer.
Remember the wedding at Cana when Jesus turned water into wine? Mary, after telling Jesus about the lack of wine, hears the words of Jesus to fill the water jars. (Don’t get hung up over is use of “woman”. He was showing her respect. After he spoke to her she simply turned and said, “Do as he says.”
So when I walk past or sit in front of that little statue, I hear her words, “Do as he says.” And I say, “Yes, mother.”
Yes, I said mother. Get over it. Ask yourself, “Was she the mother of Jesus”? Yes. Is Jesus God? Be careful! Your answer will identify you with truth or an ancient heresy. Yes, of course Jesus was God. She was the mother of Jesus who is God. That’s what the whole argument was over at the Third Ecumenical Council held in Ephesus in 431. By calling Mary the Theotokos, the mother of God, the council set forth the doctrine of the Trinity. It was a very important statement that Protestants and Catholics alike share to this day. But is she our mother? Think about it.
Who is Jesus? He is God, the second person of the Trinity. He is also the head of the church. The Church is what? The church is his BODY. He is our head. We have been grafted into him and he actually says we have been made one with him. Whoa…!! Yes, he even prayed to the Father in John 17:21, “20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. NIV
Folks, if I am united with Christ my head, who is God, and Mary is his Mother, then in a very real sense I can say she is also my mother. That begs the issue, Do we then pray to her? Ha Ha… That’s for another discussion. But for this discussion, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, then she deserves extreme honor or as the term is called, veneration. Veneration is not worship. You venerate pictures of your parents or children all the time. If I were to come into your house and spit on your parent’s pictures or took pictures of your children off the wall and smashed them to the ground, you’d probably…uh…”crucify” me. Certainly, I’d come out of that house the worse for wear. That is what veneration means. I hold in high honor Mary. I believe we should do likewise. Get to know our mother. Read the Magnificat (the song or Canticle of Mary) in Luke 1:41-45, daily until you appreciate just who she is. I think you will come to the same conclusion as I have.
One other point and I’ll finish. Mary always, always points to Jesus. That is her mission. The Orthodox iconography is very helpful in this. Orthodox icons/images are two dimensional depictions of various saints or aspects of the biblical narrative. Whenever you see a depiction of Mary, she is always with Jesus. The only exception I am aware of is Mary at the annunciation. But then that is to be expected. Other than that, she is always with Jesus in various stages of his growth and ministry. The message is very clear. Mary’s role is subordinate. Her role is to present to us Jesus. She reminds us that our focus is always on Jesus. So she takes the focus off herself and onto Jesus. So when we see Mary represented, always remember that she is reminding us to look to Christ as our reason for hope. Also, it is a reminder that Jesus as God, has been made present to us on earth as the Son. She was the instrument who brought heaven down here. Jesus is present to us here on earth. This is the good news. The kingdom of God is here. Jesus dwells within us. Mary would want us to know that.

I hope you have a better appreciation of Mary. We are still in the Easter season. Take this time to place yourself into the passion of Christ and see it through the eyes of Mary. You’ll get a whole new perspective.
God Bless

2 comments:

  1. A very thoughtful presentation. From the perspective of someone who spent half her life as an evangelical, and the last half as a Roman Catholic, the whole issue of Mary was quite a sticky point. It seemed that sometimes the church of my youth would relegate Mary as far down the line (of people in the Bible) just so we would not be that "those" people who so clearly were (in our minds) worshiping Mary. It might be said that I probably had some sort of veneration of Paul the Apostle going on. But that was okay in that environment (as long as I did not look at any pictures!).

    So Mary is obviously a person of importance. As you point out so well, what does Mary have to tell/show us? She was willing to obey God in this outrageous proposal. Give birth to my Son. And she just says this pretty simple, "yes". Either she's just fruit cakes, or she one of the most obedient and faithful souls that ever lived.

    So I guess as far as thinking about Mary and saints, all of my ancestors (my family) in the faith, I find their lives fruitful in thought and prayer. But I realize I'm some sort of strange composite Christian, because I can meditate on the life of Corrie Ten Bloom as well as Mother Theresa without a thought in-between.

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  2. There is so much to say for Mary. There are tons of Old Testament scriptures that can be related to her. All the Queen mother passages in the history of Israel are quite compelling. Thank God, mainstream Protestants are beginning to pay more attention to her.
    Thank you for your comments pennyyak. Pray this medium can soon grow to include more seekers and joiners to this site. I'll keep trying to improve it as I go along.

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