December 13, 2017

The Annual “Mary” Discussion

Giotto-Madonna2

MOD: Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who has participated in this discussion. No way we will resolve the major disagreements among us, but I hope you learned something from the conversation and will go forward with a greater appreciation for the Biblical picture of Mary.

Today’s post is by guest blogger, Chaplain Mike Mercer. We continue to value your prayers as Michael awaits further tests and test results.

Today in our Lutheran church we read The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) as our primary lectionary text, a soloist sang a version of “Ave Maria,” and our pastor talked about how, by God’s grace, Mary “magnified” the Lord despite the earthly obstacles that stood in her way.

It’s that time of year again. Time for Protestants to talk about Mary.

Evangelicals tend to ignore or downplay Jesus’ mother, in reaction to what they perceive as overemphasis or even heretical devotion to her by the Roman church and other traditions. However, the Gospel of Luke gives her great honor, portraying her as the true and ultimate matriarch of our faith. Mary joins and surpasses Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, Ruth, and Hannah, and is presented as the mother through whom God brought his redemption promises to pass.

Her canticle, The Magnificat, draws from the song of Hannah, who gave birth to the great prophet Samuel (1Samuel 2:1-10). In her song, Hannah praised God for the gift of a son and the greater promise of a king for Israel, a promise brought to pass in David and later reiterated by God with regard to the future King of kings. “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth,” Hannah sang, “He will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed [messiah].”

Mary’s song revisits these same themes, as she praises God for giving his son, the greater son of David, who will reign as King over all the earth. Her canticle recognizes that what God is doing in and through her is nothing less than the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham that through his seed, all the nations on earth will be blessed. The part she plays is so significant that she sings, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”

Mary’s unprecedented blessedness happens in a context of significant obstacles. All the stories of the matriarchs have this theme. Whether barrenness, conflict, poverty, sinful reputation, lack of power in a male-dominated society, or difficult societal circumstances that they faced, all the mothers who bore children of promise fought serious uphill battles in trusting God for his work in their lives.

And so with Mary:

  • Mary was probably a young teenager at the time, limited by her age.
  • Her pregnancy marked her as an immoral, unwed mother-to-be.
  • She was forced from her home to travel to Bethlehem by the decree of an unfeeling government that cared only about keeping its records straight.
  • Away from her home and family, Mary could not even obtain a comfortable place to bear her child.
  • A short time later, according to Matthew’s Gospel, she and the rest of the holy family hit the road again, this time as refugees to Egypt, running for their lives.
  • All her life, she struggled to grasp the magnitude of what had happened to her and the significance of the one she bore, and yet she continued in faith to the end.

Many times throughout her life, the powers of the world overshadowed, pressured, and threatened this woman. yet in her song she expresses what people of faith in all generations have learned—God is not with those who wield earthly power. His heart is with those who look to him in simple faith and entrust their destiny to him.

Mary is the true and ultimate matriarch of our faith. Though there are many women saints in the Bible, she excels them all. Every generation should call her uniquely blessed. How sad that our discussions about Mary are so often focused on dogma and disagreement when there is so much upon which we can agree. In particular, as Scot McKnight says, honoring and respecting the true Mary always leads us to Jesus.

And so, may God grant us grace to give special honor to Mary, the mother of God, and follow her example during this Advent and Christmas season, and every season throughout the year.

Comments

  1. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what it means to be the matriarch of Christianity. Are you saying she’s the new covenant version of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Are you even trying to make a distinction between her and other heroes of the faith? Or are you simply saying that she should be mentioned in the same way that the writer of Hebrews wrote about Old Testament saints in Hebrews 11?

    • There is a theme throughout the Bible of women who became mothers of the children of promise. The Jews have always considered these mothers “matriarchs”—spiritual heroes (“saints”), people of greatness, specially chosen and exemplary in their faith, equal to the “patriarchs” like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

      For example, in the final chapter of Ruth, the community gathers around Boaz and Ruth and gives this blessing: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.” Rachel and Leah are set apart for honor because of their unique role in salvation history.

      I use the term in this Biblical sense.

  2. Christopher K. says:

    As a non-denominational Christian, I can honestly say that Mary is one of the very few things that keep me, and probably many others, away from any roads leading to Rome. However, Chaplain Mike, you have made some wonderful points that are undeniable, including the quote from Scot McKnight. My only question is about calling her a matriarch. Wouldn’t that title be given to a person of authority? How could the be the leader if the head of the Church is Christ? Thank you for this wonderful and thought-provoking post.

  3. Nice article. I’m surprised that the pastor at your Lutheran Church was cool with having Ave Maria sung at worship. While it’s a nice song, it is technically a prayer directed to Mary.

    • Ave Maria quotes Luke 1:27 and Luke 1:42. Hardly inappropriate for ANY Christian Church.

    • Feliz Navidad says:

      I am a Lutheran, and happy to say tha tfrom time to time, I have been at Church services where we sang the Ave Maria — in Latin. Gorgeous! A Lutheran minister once pointed out that while many argue that the Catholic Church may put too much emphasis on Mary, he thought perhaps that the Lutheran Church put too little emphasis. This article beautifully points out a path back to Mary — a path that leads to Christ, the son to whom she was devoted. Restoring a proper understanding of Mary also helps to rebalance and restore the feminine in the Church. We also pray the Magnificat — a prayer by Mary — to God.

  4. Someone please tell me what Revelation 12 is all about if it is not about the exaltation of Mary.

    • I saw an exhibition of some fantastic artwork from 16th and 17th century Spain about a year ago. One of the most popular depictions of Mary was with the moon at her feet, the twelve stars around her head and her clothing giving out rays like the sun. While I’m a little wary of bringing a Roman Catholic interpretation of Mary into this discussion, I thought that point of datum might be interesting.

    • Israel, either the ethnic version or the spiritual version (meaning the church). I’m not trying to enter into a debate about this—just saying that this is a common understanding of the passage that does not involve Mary. The symbolism is that the nation of Israel (ethnic or spiritual, and the exalted symbols tie back into Old Testament symbols about Israel) brings Christ into the world and suffers persecution from Satan (which could be said both of Israel and the Church).

      • Jeff ,

        you said:

        “…just saying that this is a common understanding of the passage that does not involve Mary.”

        I think you meant to say “there is” vs “that this”. “There is” implies there is more than one way to look at the passage. Quite true. Taking your text as is it would seem to indicate that one should not seek another interpretation ( like the one in question ). Did I read that correctly or did I miss your point?

        I am saying It can be both and the two are not mutually exclusive.

        It also depends on how you defining “common”. Did you mean common as it relates to your denomination / church / prayer group / circle of associations or “common” to expanse of Christemdom spanning thousands of years and billions of souls?

        I would posit that nations and allegories don’t give birth to persons – people do.

        Respectfully,

        Bill

        • sorry for the typos :

          It also depends on how you are defining “common”.

        • Bill,
          I’m really not trying to get drawn into a discussion on this, but just wanted to give one possible answer to the original poster’s question. If you read commentaries on the interpretation of Revelation written by Protestants of many different backgrounds and denominations, a common (in the sense of frequent) view of this passage which one would find presented is that one I described. I meant nothing more than that. I happen to agree with that view personally, but that’s not my point, and I very much do not want to be or sound dogmatic here.

          Peace

    • Catholic Answers has a good article on the Woman in Revelation 12 and how she can be understood _on multiple levels_: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1997/9705chap.asp

      “The Woman in Revelation 12 is part of the fusion imagery/polyvalent symbolism that is found in the book. She has four referents: Israel, the Church, Eve, and Mary.”

  5. Thanks for your post, Chaplain Mike. Though I was brought up Catholic and remain Catholic, I was uncomfortable with what I saw as an over-abundance of “devotion” to Mary by Catholics. As I have gotten older, though, I understand it a bit better and I do appreciate the central position she has played in the salvation of the human race.

    In regard to Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem…I came across this article last year and found it interesting:

    http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/11/The-Manger-and-
    the-Inn.aspx

    You likely have heard many of the things before. Basically, it says that though we have heard that there was “no room in the inn” so Jesus was born in a stable, the fact is that the word used for “inn” can also be “guest room.” The author goes on to say that it would have been unthinkable, given the Middle Eastern hospitality ways, that room would not have been made for Joseph and pregnant Mary to join a family in their home. Especially because they would have had relatives in that town.

    And, Bethlehem was a boondocks kind of place that would not have been apt to even have had an inn. Homes at that time (and often still) have their stable as part of the house, on a lower level. They bring their animals in at night to keep them warm and the animals warm the place up as well. Then the animals are taken out each morning. The manger is often a hole in the rock floor of the family room in which food is stored for the animals (the homes were often in caves) or it can be like a hanging basket.

    So, Mary and Joseph took up residence in the main part of a house and Mary did lie Jesus in a manger and there were animals around. It makes more sense to me.

    I also read something recently where it said that actually only Joseph would have legally been required to go to Bethlehem to register, not Mary. The article wondered why she went, being so close to giving birth. But we do know that Jesus being born in Bethlehem satisfied scripture, so I guess it had to be!

    • JoanieD-That link doesn’t seem to work, but the site looks interesting.

      • Kat, I see the link got “broken” when I copied and pasted it, but if you click on it anyway and then type in the part that didn’t get carried over, the-Inn.aspx then you will be able to see the page. I am glad it is still there! I will have to re-read it myself. It was something I had saved on my computer as a link.

        • I don’t have time right now to go to the link but would like to mention that the book “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” by Kenneth Bailey goes explains this very well. This is a great book and very eye opening.

          Tim

    • I’m not sure we will ever be able to know the exact circumstances of Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, the manger, and so on. I think it is pretty clear, however, that Luke intended for us to read this as an evidence of Joseph and Mary’s poverty and the difficulty of their circumstances.

    • I also read an interesting commentary along these lines recently. It included a mention that when the shepherds and wise men visit, no one says that Jesus should be moved. Surely the shepherds had houses nearby. But if their houses were no better than the house in which Jesus lay, they would not suggest a change. The wise men surely could have purchased lodging of some sort for Jesus, but they did not, most likely because he was in a family home.

      Either way, I agree with Chaplain Mike. The point is that Jesus did not enter the top of society, but most likely near the bottom. Not destitute, but most likely a life where survival was a day-to-day job for the family.

      Thanks for the very nice post, CM.

      • JAy…actually I just read something saying that Elizabeth’s home may not have been too far from Bethlehem so Mary may have stayed for her a while after having given birth to Jesus. So they were able to register like they had to and also have a nice extended visit. And it would make sense, then, that Mary went along to have the visit and the help of Elizabeth. She helped Elizabeth out when Elizabeth was pregnant with John.

      • Todd Erickson says:

        1. The Shepherds wouldn’t have had homes. They were essentially migrant farm workers/vagrants, and weren’t trusted with much of anything.

        2. The wise men didn’t come to visit until after the event with the Shepherds, probably about the time that Jesus was 2.

        • Todd, I don’t think the story said anything about the shepherds having homes, did it? There were other people who lived in Bethlehem that did have homes though. But I would think, actually, that the shepherds had homes somewhere, wouldn’t they?

          And yes, I have heard that the wise men (scholars) came maybe when Jesus was around two which is why Herod was killing all the baby boys age 2 and less.

    • Am I the only one who has seen speculation that the real Bethlehem where Jesus was born was actually in Galilee, near Nazareth? This would make Mary’s presence less weird, and for that matter be less odd in the case of Joseph, who is being asked to travel a long way in a time when that was not so routine.

      • Todd Erickson says:

        If it was known that Mary had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, she would have no family to stay with other than Joseph. Certainly it was evident that she was pregnant; had Joseph left her behind, there would be nobody to protect her or look after her, and it’s not like she had income. The only way for her to survive was to stay with Joseph, whether or not she was pregnant.

        Remember, by law, Joseph should have had her stoned as soon as it was evident she was pregnant. Both her family and his would consider it blasphemous for him not to have done so, and they might do it for him while he was gone.

  6. Just last week, I read the book Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate by Longenecker and Gustafson (inexpensive and easy to come by via Amazon). I thought the tone throughout was very positive and respectful on both sides and the content was very thorough. As a Protestant myself, I was definitely much more in tune with the Protestant’s arguments and mode of thinking in the book, but I did learn some useful things from the Catholic side and in some cases thought that the Catholic view actually was at least as sensible or possibly more so than the Protestant’s (not generally on the “big” issues but some of the smaller ones). WIthout opening up “arguments” on the subject, I’d just like to recommend the book (I’m sure it’s been recommended before) because I think it does honestly cover not just the facts but the real perspectives behind the scenes for both sides, and I think it does so in a very respectful way. I may not venerate Mary as Catholics do, but as the statement about Mary being the “matriarch” of our faith indicates, she is at least worthy of respect and consideration. (I would probably say “mother”, thinking of her as simply the first Christian rather than “matriarch” which as others indicated, indicate some authority)

    Peace this Christmas.

  7. Interestingly, Sarah, not Mary, is presented in Scripture as the woman/wife that Christian women/wives are to consider, and it is the women from FORMER TIMES that are presented as the holy women (i.e., the matriarchs of the faith, both physically and spiritually) that Christian women are to emulate. 1 Peter 3. Sarah is also the only woman mentioned by name in the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith.” Jesus’ mother Mary is NEVER pointed to as an example of anything – devotion to God, piety, submission to God’s will, reverence, obedience, holiness, etc. Nothing. Paul doesn’t even mention her name, but only refers to her as “a woman,” and not even as a special woman. Galatians 4:4. The same can also be said about Joseph, her husband. I.e., he’s NEVER presented in Scripture as a model or example of anything. Neither Joseph nor Mary are mentioned in Hebrews 11, where one might think that their faith and obedience would be stated to be the capstone or crown of the faith and hope in the promises held by all who had come before them. The later venerated “holy family” seems to have very little place in Scripture. Only the Son.

    • Your comment exposes a few common errors in thinking among evangelicals.

      First, the epistles were written during a time when the Scriptures of the church consisted only of the Old Testament. They are not “later” letters that look back upon the Gospels and draw examples from their stories. None of the apostles are mentioned as examples or role models in the NT letters, either (not even in Heb 11). That doesn’t mean they aren’t.

      Second, the Gospels were written to the church every bit as much as the epistles. And in the Gospels, especially Luke, we do see Mary being portrayed as the ultimate “matriarch” of the faith.

      Evangelicals regularly downplay the Gospels in favor of the epistles. I think this is a mistake.

      • Paul points to himself as an example to be imitated.

        FWIW, I’m not an Evangelical. In fact, I’m not sure what I am, but I’ve been a little bit of everything, including being Eastern Orthodox for 3 years (including my catechumenate), during which we faithfully venerated the Theotokos in all our prayers and liturgies.

        • My main point is that the Gospels are as legitimate a source for examples as the Epistles are. In fact, in my view, even more fundamental.

          • So does that mean that the Gospels started incorporating and reflecting the church’s elevation of Mary, doing thinks like putting OT prophetic words in her mouth, etc., since we don’t see this kind of treatment or regard of her in the Epistles and Acts?

          • I don’t think so. Remember that the Epistles were by and large written to address specific situations and concerns in local church settings. There is a lot that is NOT in the epistles, not just references to Mary. For example, you don’t really even find many specific references to Jesus’ earthly ministry of miracles or quotes of his teachings. Does that mean the Gospels elevate Jesus beyond what the epistles say? I don’t think so.

          • Touché!

        • Hopefully, you have a personal relationship with Jesus and just call yourself a Christian. Honestly fellow brothers and sisters of the faith, we have got to quit categorizing each other. We are allowing the world to define who we are via stereotypes and God expects us to rise above the fray and ways of the lost. We should be more concerned about our daily relationship with God as the Spirit is the revealer of the meaning of all scripture and truth. If we were, there would be no divisions as the Spirit is not divided against Himself.

          I say, if you know Jesus, call yourself a Christian, not a Catholic or Baptist or non-denomination, and not some sort of stereotype like evangelicals etc. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the truth than belonging to a particular stereotypical mindset or group?

          • I think the answer to your last question is an unqualified “Yes.” The problem is we have to be able to determine the answer to Pilate’s question: Qui es Veritas? (What IS truth?) I will try to keep a NPOV (Neutral Point of View) with respect to the answer to this question for purposes of answering yours (Disclosure: I am, in fact RC, and very much believe in the truth of Catholic Doctrine). The answer depends on the truth: Does the truth point towards Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury, Augsburg, etc when it’s all said and done? Figuring out what the truth is is probably the biggest challenge. If you’re going to “walk with Jesus” isn’t it best (really mandatory) that you follow the ones He sent? The difficulty will be determining who He truly sent.

            It comes down to these few basic premises, in no particular order.

            1. Determining who was truly sent by Him as an authority, such as in Luke 10:16 and in Matthew 28:18-20.

            2. What is meant by “The Church?” What did Jesus mean by “The Church?” How do we know what He meant? Does the Bible tell us ALL that we need to know about the Church? What did the Apostles teach? What did their sucessors teach, and so on? Did that change,? If so, when and how? Did those changes fundamentally/doctrinally alter the church?

            3. Does the bible truly teach “Sola Scriptura?” and WHO is qualified to interpret it (this likely takes us back to question 1.)? How does the answer we come up with affect the unity of Christians (doctrinally and in a corporate sense)? How does that (real or perceived) unity, or lack thereof affect our relationship with God, and our mission to evangelize?

            I suggest to everyone, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, whatever, to analyze Scripture and Christian history (especially the Patristic era) and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Then go where you are lead unafraid.

            In my personal, and fallible opinion, in the words of John Henry Cardinal Newman, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

          • Addendum to my No 3: How does that affect not only our relationship with God, but also with other Christians AND non-Christians?

      • I agree, Chaplain Mike, that the Gospels are downplayed by some people. To me, they are central to Christianity more than anything else in the Bible. Again, I was brought up Catholic and that could help to explain my thinking, but I find it hard to understand why anyone who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world would put the Gospels as anything other than the greatest of our holy scriptures. That is not to say that Isaiah, the Psalms, letter to the Hebrews and other books are not wonderful and needed, but without the Gospels presenting Jesus in his flesh and blood with his own words and his own acts and with his disciples seeing him after his resurrection…well, I cannot even consider it.

      • Christiane says:

        Hi Chaplain Mike,

        I think you are right when you say that the Gospels are ‘played down’ by evangelicals in favor of the epistles. As a Catholic, I have seen this done in varying degrees: with one extreme being that ‘red letter Christianity’ was ‘exposed’ and the Lord’s Prayer was no longer prayed.

        As it was a shock, it took a while for me to absorb learning about this;
        and now I am trying to figure out it’s impact on the evangelical world. My own opinion is that it cannot be ‘healthy’, although I have listened with respect to reasons for doing it.

        • Interesting–and off the subject of Mary, but we’ll get back to her.

          Chaplain Mike, and Joanie and Christiane: this is news to me, the idea of evangelicals favoring the epistles over the gospels. I have seen the opposite in bible studies because Paul often offends people where Jesus rarely does, unless someone can’t get past his miracles or claims to deity.

          In a discussion once about Paul’s teaching on the role of women, one indignant woman in our group finally gave up and said, “Well, I’ll just conlsole myself knowing these are the words of Paul and not the words of Jesus!” (So much for the inspiration and authority of the full bible.) She also said that if she could take as her bible the red-letter sayings of Jesus she would do that. I have always assumed that she speaks for others too.

          • Ted,

            When I was a Baptist, I noticed that the Pauline letters were preached on much of the time. Since there is no sense of a church calendar, each preacher can and does choose his favorite topics. I know that my memory is very imperfect, but I remember hearing sermon series on going through an epistle section by section multiple times. NEVER do I remember a similar thing for the Gospel.

            My observations were two very different states and several places in each state. (counting only the churches I attended as a grad student or later)

          • I see it slightly differently. It’s easy to do what Paul says, very difficult to do what Jesus says. Americans don’t want to hear how hard it will be for rich people to enter heaven, or how we will be sorted into sheep and goats based on how our health care system heals the sick (for example).

            Paul, even with his traditional Jewish attitudes on the subordinate role of women, is a cakewalk compared to that — especially for us men. If you’re a heterosexual man, you have nothing to worry about based on Paul. Jesus is a different matter.

          • Thanks, Anna and Jjoe. I’ll keep my eye out for this phenomenon. I’m lately a Baptist, in a pretty conservative evangelical church, and maybe I’ve been sheltered for the last 15 years or so. With us it’s Jesus or we’re wasting our time. Paul serves only to point to Jesus, as Paul himself would agree, for example in 1 Cor 1:10-17 or in Gal 1.
            But back to Mary.

          • JJjoe: Americans don’t want to hear how hard it will be for rich people to enter heaven, or how we will be sorted into sheep and goats based on how our health care system heals the sick (for example).

            I would submit to you that BIBLICALLY, WE, not our health care system, are called to take care of the sick, poor, otherwise disadvantaged. Consigning it over to “Caesar” was not “Commander’s Intent” to put it in GI parlance. We are NOT to distance ourselves from Jesus, which is what happens when we consign over to “Caesar” our responsibility for the poor. Jesus didn’t ask us when “Caesar” fed Him, clothed Him, etc. He asked when did WE do that. “Fixing” the Health Care System fails to answer that question is a HUGE way.

  8. Very nice piece Chaplain Mike. This piece focuses on Mary, in a very respectful way, in a tone reflective of the scriptures. Some part of me understands the sensitivty of non-Catholic/Orthodox when it comes to this subject (I am Catholic), but many times, reading Protestant material or opinions on this subject, my perception is that there is a very negative view, a view that does not even grant her a place in History.

    For example, I read discussions, sermons, exhortations about, any of the great women of the Old Testament and come away with a focus on those attributes that helped them contribute to the faith. Mary on the other hand is treated almost with contempt, a mere person, with little importance.

    And yet, if you were to read the Gospels like a play, with actors vying for parts, Mary’s role would be considered a lead in the amount of attention and lines of dialogue (more than 11 of the 12 apostles). My point is that the communities that wrote the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John must have considered Mary to be important in the whole Jesus story to write as much as they did. There were many things that were not written in, yet they felt the need to include those things important about Mary. Couple this with the continued focus in all the ancient churches Catholic/Orthodox/Oriental through history, and even the continued focus by the reformers like Luther and Calvin and this supports the point that Mary should at least be elevated to a role of respect in the Protestant faith and not a source of indifference or negativity.

    No one is asking evangelicals here to buy into the Communion of Saints. But Chaplain Mike does do a good job in emphasizing Mary as a great role model for all Christians, through here deeds and actions, her humbleness and her unwaivering faith. Mary earns the right to be mentioned favorably among the great names of the Old Testament. (Besides – this is the one person closest to Jesus during his time among us – I certainly would not want to be downplaying that).

  9. I think another title for Blessed Mary would be Prophet wouldn’t it? She did prohesize that all generations would call her blessed right?

    • Not necessarily. Acts 2 says that prophesying by God’s people would take place, and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12-14 that all the believers can prophesy. Not everyone who prophesies is by default or definition a prophet, and Paul there also distinguishes between prophesying and being a prophet.

    • Mary’s statement does not equal prophesy. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if they gave birth to God’s one and only Son, that the world(or should I say Christian world) would look fondly upon her from a historical standpoint. At the same time, one of the interesting aspects of Mary’s recorded comments in Luke Chapter 1 does address her own understanding of herself as a sinner also in need of a savior. A truth totally lost on the Catholic church that holds her up as deity and not the sinner she was. Of course, this wasn’t the way Mary was always viewed by the Catholic church but is really a more recent elevation of her status. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that Mary status was changed by referring to her as the mother of God. I know calling her this may seem logical to you and interchangeable with calling her the mother of Jesus but it is hardly the same thing. The difference in the slight change in this statement leads to the premise that Mary is deity and thus preceded God Himself though we know Mary was a sinner by her own recognition. Catholics pray to Mary and others they deem ” saints” and this is clearly a form of idol worship. That Catholics actually expect these past human beings (sinners) as intercessors between them and God or worse yet actually capable of answering these prayers themself borders on heretical cult-like thinking. The Catholic church, by and large, is a christian version of the Jews of Jesus’ time that he taught against. They are full of idol worship, rules, and traditions that have no foundation in scripture or truth. Of course, what the Catholic church has made of God’s word and their religion is exactly like the Pharisees and Saducees. A quick study of the history and politics of the days during and after Jesus’ time on earth make it easy to understand the correlation between the two groups, mindsets, and religions. And for truth’s sake, someone needs to tell the Catholic powers that be that all those that come to Christ through salvation by faith are called SAINTS. For goodness sake, go to the biblegateway.com and do a sear of the term “saints”.

      By the way, going back to the transition of Mary being called the Mother of God vs. the mother of Jesus was a precursor to the feminist movement that allowed women to say that God is a woman thus separating themselves from the need of men and to usurp the power structure of the family and the church as laid out by scripture. This is not to say that men have the right to dominate their wives as clearly this was not the intent of the scripture that speaks of wives submitting to your husbands which is so commonly taken out of context and misused. It is just to say that there is a responsibility structure in the family and church which begins and ends with men and the undermining of this structure has clearly led to the demise of the family and the effectiveness of the Church in America and around the world for that matter.

      • I am a big fan of this website but have never posted. But this drivel crossed a line and is not typical of the normal type of fruitful dialogue that is a trademark of this amazing community. If I recall from previous discussions the iMonk would intervene and cut off posts like this that are filled with a complete misrepresentation of the Catholic faith (or any other Christian faith) such as this. Troy, you have no idea what you are speaking about. Can you take this garbage to another website please? iMonk get well soon!

        • Kurt, you are right. This comment is not conducive to fruitful dialogue. I’ll let it stand only as an example of the difficulties we Protestants often have in having conversations with those who differ from us.

          I will also post a warning. No more. Any further disrespectful and unhelpful comments will be deleted.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Hey, Troy, you forgot about the Nimrod/Semiramis/Tammuz trinity from Hislop’s Victorian-era anti-Catholic screed!

        And as for “responsibility structure in family and church which begins and ends with men”, you can find that straight on the rocks in modern Islam. Why are you drinking the watered-down stuff?

      • If I recall correctly, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that Mary status was changed by referring to her as the mother of God…. By the way, going back to the transition of Mary being called the Mother of God vs. the mother of Jesus was a precursor to the feminist movement that allowed women to say that God is a woman thus separating themselves from the need of men and to usurp the power structure of the family and the church as laid out by scripture.

        1950’s?

        Have you never heard of Nestorius or the First Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.)?

        Here’s a multiple-choice quiz:

        What is the most appropriate designation for Mary, Jesus’ mother:

        a. Christotokos
        b. Theotokos
        c. Anthropotokos

        ( Hint: Two of them are heretical. 🙂 )

      • “If I recall correctly, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that Mary status was changed by referring to her as the mother of God.”

        You don’t recall correctly; it was at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. that Mary was decreed to be “Theotokos”(“God-bearer”) because her son Jesus is both God and man, divine and human. It was done precisely in answer to those who were willing to venerate her as “Christotokos”, the bearer of Christ in His human nature (but not in His divine), which was perceived as a dangerous view because it could lead to denial of the full divinity of Christ.

        The event in 1950 you are thinking of is the formal promulgation by Pope Pius XII of the Doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. However, please do not confuse the modern date of the *formal* declaration with a modern ‘invention’ of the notion, or that prior to this no-one had ever said, thought, believed or taught that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven.

        My brothers and sisters on the other side of the Bosphorus may not hold it as dogma, but they won’t agree with you saying that the Dormition is a modern invention, either.

        See, Chaplain Mike, this kind of thing is why I refrained from commenting beforehand. Nothing gets the hair-pulling started like discussing the role of Mary! 😉

      • “Catholics pray to Mary and others they deem ” saints” and this is clearly a form of idol worship.”

        No, Troy, I believe that technically it’s necromancy (thanks to several sincere Protestants who have enlightened me on why it’s so, so wrong to pray to the dead). Worshipping the *statues* of the saints is the idol worship part. We also indulge in ritual cannibalism! (at least according to Richard Dawkins).

        • Christiane says:

          Martha, you have me laughing. Yes. Out loud.
          I just got this thought that Troy is going to believe every word you wrote.
          Oy !!!

          Poor Mary. She is much misunderstood.

          I saw a very moving picture ( I can’t remember where) that even Troy might like:

          The picture’s imagery shows Mary, pregnant with the Messiah,
          gently embracing and consoling a weeping Eve.

          • Thank you both, Christiane and Tim. You will probably also appreciate what I saw somewhere, where another Catholic was being shown the error of his ways regarding idol worship, and answered as follows:

            “Oh, Catholics don’t worship statues anymore.

            Nowadays we worship felt banners.”

            If you’ve been in a Catholic church anytime in the past thirty years, you’ll get that one perfectly 😉

        • Martha-

          your comment gave me a good laugh. Just wanted you to know that 🙂

  10. Okay, here’s my comment from 2.5 hours ago, but without auto-linking Scripture references:

    Interestingly, Sarah, not Mary, is presented in Scripture as the woman/wife that Christian women/wives are to consider, and it is the women from FORMER TIMES that are presented as the holy women (i.e., the matriarchs of the faith, both physically and spiritually) that Christian women are to emulate. Chapter 3 of Peter’s First Epistle. Sarah is also the only woman mentioned by name in the “hall of faith” in the Eleventh Chapter of Hebrews. Jesus’ mother Mary is NEVER pointed to as an example of anything – devotion to God, piety, submission to God’s will, reverence, obedience, holiness, etc. Nothing. Paul doesn’t even mention her name, but only refers to her as “a woman,” and not even as a special woman. The Fourth Chapter of Galatians, verse 4. The same can also be said about Joseph, her husband. I.e., he’s NEVER pointed out in Scripture as a model or example of anything. Neither Joseph nor Mary are mentioned in the Eleventh Chapter of Hebrews, where one might think that their faith and obedience would be stated to be the capstone or crown of the faith and hope in the promises held by all who had come before them. The later venerated “holy family” seems to have very little place in Scripture. Only the Son.

    • I posted too soon! I see iMonk freed up my post as I was retyping it without Scripture links. Oh, well… 🙂

      • Sorry Eric. This is Chaplain Mike, and I am moderating in the midst of my work responsibilities. Sometimes it takes a little time to get here to read through things. Thanks for your patience!

  11. I suggest that it’s difficult for a protestant, especially, to understand the Church’s teaching about Mary without delving into the history of doctrine. Besides books cited elsewhere here, I encourage reading Jaroslav Pelikan’s “Mary through the Ages,” and his 5-volume history of Christian Doctrine, particularly volumes 1-3. What the Church believes and teaches about Mary is tied to what it teaches about, for example, original sin and the incarnation of Christ. Doctrines, based in Scripture, developed nonetheless over time, eventually finding expression in the conclusions of the great ecumenical councils. Anyone who cites the creeds recognizes that doctrine indeed developed.
    Pelikan’s book on Mary should be read at least by any Lutheran; Martin Luther’s beliefs about Mary (conception and assumption) remained, I submit, rather Catholic.

  12. I see some of “us” protestants have a hang up with the word “matriarch”

    To “romanish”, I guess.

    Perhaps it would be easier to call her a “hero” of our faith? Someone who, with limited background/ability, simply said yes to God. Someone who was intrusted with perhaps the most important event in Human History, outside of what Jesus himself did?

    also, compare her response to so many of our other “heroes” of the faith, say, Moses.

    on a side note, it may just be our language usage that is throwing people. My wife is the matriarch of our family. Just ask the French Government – she is officially the matriarch, with the passing of her mother.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Perhaps it would be easier to call her a “hero” of our faith?

      Careful, Dac, that’s getting too close to the Romish idea of Saints…

      “And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room;
      Christian dreadeth Christ who hath a newer face of Doom;
      Christian hateth Mary whom God kissed in Galilee…”
      — G.K.Chesterton, “Lepanto”

    • “matriarch” is more of a Jewish term, since we use the word “patriarch” to describe Abraham, etc.

  13. Dan Crawford says:

    Chaplain Mike, thank you for a wonderful meditation on Mary. Protestantism’s irrational attitude toward her is beyond comprehension. (Interestingly, one does not find a similar irrationality on the part of some Protestant lay persons, as I discovered several years ago when some women in an Evangelical Free Church approached me after I gave a talk on Mary to tell me that they prayed to her after every Sunday church service that she might help them be a better disciple of Jesus and better mothers to their children. Had their pastor know, God only knows what might have happened to them.)

  14. Growing up as a Lutheran, I always was taught (and knew) that Mary was special.
    She was the woman God chose to bear His Son, to be the Theotokos. She has an undeniable place in salvation history, and to take that aways from her would be depriving her of her honor.

    That being said, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to have a deeper appreciation and honor of Mary. She truly is an exemplar of the Faith (dare I say the exemplar?), and we should take our cue from her to say, “May it be as you say”, and “to do as He commands you”.

  15. I’ve seen a few mentions on the blog about health concerns for iMonk, but I think I must have missed the main “I’m going to be away for a while” post. Can somebody fill me in? I can’t find any more info. What’s going on? When is he due back?

    • Thanks for your concern, Jen. Right now, Michael is posting updates on his Facebook page.

      • For those of us who do not use Facebook nor wish to, is there any way of posting these updates on the web site?

        • I have asked Michael what he would like me to share, and at this point he is more comfortable using the Facebook page for updates. You are welcome to email him personally and ask him for information…there is a link at the top of the page. I understand that many would like to know more details, but at this point there really isn’t anything new to share. Michael is still undergoing tests to “fill in the blanks” as he puts it, and I’m sure as soon as he knows something specific, he will let us all know about it. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

  16. Donald Todd says:

    If one reads the early Church Fathers, they recognize Mary as the new Eve, and as the Ark of the new Covenant. They call her “Theotokos” (Greek meaning “God-bearer”).

    The relationship of Mary to Jesus also is the relationship of the mother of the king of Israel to the king Himself, as is recognized in the Books of Kings. It is the mother of the king who is the queen in Israel, not the wife of the king as is found later in places like England and France. (Even a cursory reading of Kings will bear this out. For those who are inclined, an effort to understand how the queen of Israel was supposed to work in practice in regard to both the King and the people would be in order.)

    Paul’s letters, like Paul’s travels, start with the Jews. In his travels, in any city or town where there is a synagogue, he goes to the synagogue before going to the Gentiles. In every letter but Hebrews (which is after all written to the Jews and not the Gentiles), he starts by addressing the Jews. (If you read Romans, when Paul writes about the Law, he is writing about the Hebrew law, not the Roman law. Paul is writing about Moses and not Seneca.)

    Interestingly enough, the Jews of Paul’s time would be familiar with Sarah, but not with Mary. If the apostles are bringing the good news about her Son, it is unlikely that the hearers will be aware of her. Even Jews converted to the faith will not initially be familiar with Mary, but if called upon to lead congregations, they will be familiar with Sarah and can use her example in preaching and teaching. The Jews will however be familiar with the king and the queen mother. They won’t have the discomfort of much of Protestantism over this relationship.

    The grasp of who Mary is and how she is to be thought of occurs over time, even as does the grasp of Who Jesus is and how He is to be thought of. The various councils of the Church attest to the fact that our understanding of Jesus matures over time as facets of His divinity or His humanity or His purpose in the Incarnation, death and resurrection come into question. She is used in some of those Councils to grasp how we should see Him. We get to see Him through her.

    Mary is part of what drew me from evangelical Pentecostalism to Roman Catholicism. She is not all of the reason, but she is one of the most attractive reasons. She is a wonderous woman who is greeted by the angel with the words, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Note that as an evangelical Pentecostal I would read those words and find them practically denied by my peers who liked to believe themselves literalists when it came to scripture.)

    Her son’s first miracle is worked at her behest and the Author of “honor your father and your mother” (where honor means glorify) glorifies His mother to the benefit of the newly married couple.

    When He is virtually abandoned, she is there and does not abandon Him. And a sword shall pierce your heart. She has a share in His sufferings.

    Mother, behold your son. Son behold your mother. If she had other children, how is it that He gave her to John, brother of James, rather than to a sibling or half-sibling? If she had other children, they surely would have been expected to make a home for her?

    The same Church Fathers who recognized the new Eve and the Ark of the Covenant, recognized that she was being given not just to John, but to all of us. The Queen of Israel is our queen as well. She is the queen and mother of all Christians.

    Thank you Lord.

    Merry Christmas.

    dt

    • In every letter but Hebrews (which is after all written to the Jews and not the Gentiles), he starts by addressing the Jews. (If you read Romans, when Paul writes about the Law, he is writing about the Hebrew law, not the Roman law. Paul is writing about Moses and not Seneca.)

      While the Eastern Orthodox Church ascribes the authorship of Hebrews to Paul, I don’t think most Protestant or Catholic scholars assert or affirm that Paul wrote it.

      And I don’t think that when Paul uses nomos (or dikaiosunê) in Romans, he is only using it with reference to the Hebrew Law (or the Hebrew meaning of “righteousness”). See, e.g., “Justification by Faith in Pauline Thought: A Catholic View” by Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, S.J., in Rereading Paul Together – Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification.

  17. Donald Todd says:

    It appears that I deleted the angel’s greeting to Mary which was followed by the greeting of the Baptist’s mother. My apology. dt

  18. I agree that my camp [ Reformed Evangelical] can down play the significance of Mary be being reactionary to Romes abominating idolatry of Mary. However, we are not to overstep the mark with anyone else other than the Messiah.

    What I will say is that she is infact the mother of Jesus, not the “Mother of God” nor a perpetual virgin. And that the picture used in this post depicts a Mary that is not biblcial – the halo type thing around her head is a mystic form of saying that Mary is divine. She needed a Saviour like all of us.

    Just a quick interjection.

    In Christ,

    Matthew

    • With all due respect Matthew, how is Mary being the Mother of Jesus mean she is not the Mother of God?

      The term Thetokos (God-bearer; what we in English commonly refer to as the ‘Mother of God’) was declared an appropriate title by the (First?) Ecumencial Council, held at Ephesus. She was given this title not to elevate her for the sake of elevating her, but to protect Chirstological doctrine. At the time there was a heretic name Nestorius, who was claiming that basically Jesus was held two distinct natures (human and divine), but they weren’t united.
      An analogy would be that Jesus was the human vessel, and the Christ was the divine inhabiting him. Consequently, he was saying that Mary couldn’t be Theotokos, but Christokos (Christ-bearer), because giving birth to God is an absurdity. However, to claim that Mary did not give birth to God would be denying that Jesus wasn’t God fully Incarnate, and therefore would that would infringe on the doctrine of the Incarnation, and therefore the doctrine of Atonement.
      So, calling Mary “Mother of God” is a perfectly Biblical title- it gives her honor that is due, but more importantly it protects Jesus’ status as the God-Man Incarnate- 100% God and 100% Man, fully united in Him. Hope this helps.

      • We can only speak about this as far as the Bible allows us to. Mary was never referred to as the Mother of God, but rather the mother of Jesus.

        And yes, I agree with your pointed logic [“how is Mary being the Mother of Jesus mean she is not the Mother of God?”] However, we cannot conclude that she is the mother of God. The Bible does not say that.

        • The Bible says Jesus is God and the Bible says Mary is the mother of Jesus. You are simply playing games with words. Mary birthed Jesus, whom we worship with the Father and the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity.

          To imply that Jesus is not God is one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard a Christian say.

        • Matthew, would it help if I said that by the term “Mother of God” no-one is implying that Mary is equal to God, or a deity, or mother of the Second Person of the Trinity from all eternity and before time?

          Jesus is True God and True Man; His mother bore Him as one baby, not a human baby that was then ‘infused’ with the Godhead, either shortly after birth or at the time of His baptism in the Jordan or any of the other heresies that floated around in the first five or six centuries about the person of Jesus and the relation of His two natures to one another.

          Jesus was not the mortal son of Joseph or any other man; He wasn’t a good man who ‘deserved’ to become the Son of God by a form of adoption because of His obedience and faith; He was God made Man. He has no human father, but He has a human mother. Mary is God-bearer/Mother of God as human mother of the human and divine child. She is not the mother of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit; she is not the mother of the Trinity; she is mother of the Son of the Most High.

          • Hi Martha,

            I really think it comes down to this: God does not have a mother.
            Jesus’ mother was Mary.

            God cannot have a mother – He is YHWH.
            Jesus the man can.

          • Jesus Christ the man and Jesus Christ the God are inseparable. They are not two distinct beings, but one being. Your distinction is not valid.

          • maybe we should revisit some of those “heresies”…

          • I meant to write:

            While Jesus called God his Father, he never called Mary His mother in any way that can be shown to be referring to her bearing (in the sense of in utero nourishing and birthing) his divine nature….

            (i.e., delete “him” after “birthing”)

          • Matthew, that is what we are agreeing on.

            The point I was attempting to make is the very phrase you use: “Jesus the man”. That is the danger Ephesus was trying to guard against; that the two natures of Jesus would be split, as in the various heresies running around, or even that the divinity of Jesus would be denied. *That* is why they settled on “God-bearer” and not just “Christ-bearer” as a title of Mary.

            And this is still a concern in modern times; I’ve seen liberal Christians pooh-poohing the notion of the Virgin Birth as absurd and even some going so far as to say that Jesus was only a man – a very special man, but human – and divine only as we are all going to be divine, having God within us.

            For an example of what I’m talking about, there is an Anglican church in New Zealand which has stirred up some controversy recently with their idea of what constitutes a suitable Christmas message for a billboard:

            http://www.stmatthews.org.nz/nav.php?sid=498&id=999

            And this is the Reverend Glynn Cardy’s notion of an Advent sermon from 2007:

            “Although scholarship today is less concerned about historicity than about what the texts actually say, it is possible to assert the following: Firstly that Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived between betrothal and home-taking. Secondly the circumstances of his conception were scandalous. Thirdly, Mary was not blamed. Fourthly that Joseph, despite not being the biological father, legitimated the child. Lastly, that the child was not accounted as inferior or cursed, like an illegitimate offspring. Rather the opposite.

            Who then was the father? For those who like to use God, as the movie does, to explain the supposed unexplainable please note the words used by the angel “come upon” and “overshadow” have no sexual connotations. In the ancient world divine and human paternities were not mutually exclusive. As with King David being called “Son of God”, it was possible to have human parents and still be hailed as of divine origin.

            Today there is growing acceptance of the validity of the work of Jane Schaberg, Professor of Religious Studies and Women’s Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy. She posits that within and behind the nativity stories is an illegitimacy tradition. Mary was seduced or raped.”

            That is the attitude we are strugglling against when we maintain that Mary is the Mother of God.

        • Sam Urfer says: December 22, 2009 at 2:10 am Then why do you persist in denying the divinity of Jesus, Matt? You can’t have it both ways. Either Mary is the Mother of God, or Jesus is not God. There is no middle ground.

          But there is a middle ground.

          While Jesus called God his Father, he never called Mary His mother in any way that can be shown to be referring to her bearing (in the sense of in utero nourishing and birthing him) his divine nature. Jesus received His human nature from His mother. He received His divine nature from His Father via the Holy Spirit. While the two natures are inseparable, Jesus does have two natures. While Theotokos preserves the teaching that Jesus was God in the flesh, and that the one that Mary bore was really, truly God, one has to hold this in tension with the above fact – i.e., that Mary was Jesus’ mother as far as His earthly/human constitution was concerned. That’s why Theotokos if not carefully qualified can be misleading. Calvin expressed his reservations about the term.

          Or so I think. Now I’ll duck for cover.

          • I meant to write:

            While Jesus called God his Father, he never called Mary His mother in any way that can be shown to be referring to her bearing (in the sense of in utero nourishing and birthing) his divine nature….

            (i.e., delete “him” after “birthing”)

          • Nobody ever argues that Jesus received his divinity from Mary. However, he did receive his humanity from her, and this is truly significant, because Jesus is one person with no division.

            More from the Catechism:

            ” IV. HOW IS THE SON OF GOD MAN?

            470 Because “human nature was assumed, not absorbed”,97 in the mysterious union of the Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ’s human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. In parallel fashion, she had to recall on each occasion that Christ’s human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from “one of the Trinity”. The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity:98

            The Son of God. . . worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.99″

          • I don’t know that I’m fully persuaded by the argument here, but this explains why the author (Philip
            Schaff) considers his translation of Theotocos as “Mother of God” (versus, e.g., “God-bearer”) to be the most appropriate one:

            Excursus on the Word Θεοτόκος .

            See esp. “(2) Meaning of the Word Θεοτόκος.”

            http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.x.ix.ii.html

    • Donald Todd says:

      As a practicing Roman Catholic with an evangelical background, I agree that the normative Protestant position toward Mary is reactionary, and unscriptural.

      As a practicing Roman Catholic, I have never met a practicing Roman Catholic who worshipped Mary. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I’ve not heard of her replacing any of the three Persons of God. She did not create us, she did not redeem us, she does not inhabit us working to bring about our sanctification.

      “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Jesus is a single Person with two natures, human and divine. That Person acquired a mother when, out of obedience to God the Father, He became human in the womb of His mother. She is the mother of a Person who has the completeness of divinity and the completeness of humanity. He existed before His mother came into existence. She is the mother of a Person Who preceded her.

      The perpetual virgin consideration was addressed above when Jesus gave her to the Apostle John. If there were stepbrothers or stepsisters, they seem not to have been there.

      The halo appears in many drawings and pictures of many people, Mary among them. It is an indication of holiness. A review of sacred art would display that fact. Proclaiming a halo as “divine” indicates a lack of understanding or a blindspot.

      Mary did indeed need a saviour and her Son fulfilled that role perfectly.

      Just a quick response.

      dt

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        As a practicing Roman Catholic, I have never met a practicing Roman Catholic who worshipped Mary.

        WIth the exception of flake cults like the Baysiders.

        When Protestants flake out these days, it’s usually some form of End of the World obsession.

        When Catholics flake out, it’s usually some form of Marian obsession.

      • I would suggest that there is often a gulf between official doctrine and actual practice, in all churches. In the Catholic case, I recently had a patient tell me that “St. X did Y” after she prayed to the saint. OK, I’m pretty sure that in the official manual, God actually did Y, not St. X., but she doesn’t process the subtlety. There’s a lot of that out there, I’d say.

    • joel hunter says:

      Matthew, you described yourself as a “Reformed Evangelical.” I’m not sure what that means, but I have two questions for you. (1) Do you recognize the ecumenical Chalcedon creed as a statement of orthodox doctrine? (2) If we were to set aside the theological language of Theotokos for a moment, would you instead agree that Mary is the mother of your Lord?

    • From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

      “The Immaculate Conception

      490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

      491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

      The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

      492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.137

      493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”

  19. Are you saying Jesus is NOT God? Is that what you believe? I’m confused.

    • No not at all Andi. 🙂 I believe that Jesus was God totally.

      • Thanks for that confirmation. I guess I’m just with Jjoe in regard to that previously deleted comment…if Mary was Jesus’ mother, and Jesus is God…what’s the problem with calling her what we all believe she was??

        • FollowerOfHim says:

          Christians of all major traditions hold that 1) Jesus is fully God and , 2) Mary bore Jesus. The first is a matter of general, if hard-won, consensus(Thank-you-Athanasius!); the second is completely uncontroversial.

          It would thus seem to me that the rejection of the term “Mother of God” arises, not from any specifically theological problem, but rather from the perception that by using the term one is suggesting that 1) Mary is herself somehow divine, and 2) Mary somehow is co-eternal with the Father. Neither belief, of course, is normative within any major tradition, and is not, in fact, what is intended by the term.

          In short, I think people don’t use the term because they’re simply afraid of how OTHERS will take it, not because they deny either the divinity of Jesus or the fact that he had a mother. (Similarly, many Christians steer clear of terms like “evangelical”, “born-again”, etc., not because they don’t think that these terms describe themselves, but because of the way OTHERS view the terms.)

          • Sure, sure…and I do understand various reasons people reject the term. It was just the specific logic that was being used in a particular argument (no longer posted) made it sound like the poster didn’t believe Jesus was God…and some people don’t…I just wanted to know if that was the motivation or if there was miscommunication.

      • Matthew, I am moderating closely tonight. Keep your comments respectful or you will be blocked.

      • So then, logically, Jesus mother is the Mother of God. Direct correlation, simple, straight-forward, Biblical.

  20. There is a great speech/paper by Catholic Theologian James Alison about why it is proper to honor Mary for her role in Jesus’ birth and life. You can read it here: http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng30.html.

  21. I think that ultimately it boils down to the old, old question. Do the Early Church Fathers have anything to say to us or do they not? If the Early Church Fathers have anything to say to us, then Mary’s position in the Church is quite different from that in which many descendants of the Anabaptists hold her.

    The position of the Protestant Reformers themselves was much much closer to that held by Church history than that of the Anabaptists. Part of the problem is that most Christians in the USA have never read about nor heard what the Reformers themselves said about Mary and thus assume that the Anabaptist opinions are those that were also held by the Reformers.

    For instance, John Calvin believed that Mary was Ever-Virgin and in his catechism stated that she was to be called the Mother of God, if you read his commentary on Luke 1:43. The Helvetic Confession (Calvinist) insists that Mary was Ever-Virgin. I could write similar things about Martin Luther.

    Much of the modern American Protestant low views on Mary would have been considered wrong doctrine by the Reformers. So much have the Anabaptists influenced USA evangelical theology.

    • Calvin & Luther whilst being some of the greatest theologians ever were merley men.

      • joel hunter says:

        Matthew, you described yourself as a “Reformed Evangelical.” I’m not sure what that means, but I have two questions for you. (1) Do you recognize the ecumenical Chalcedon creed as a statement of orthodox doctrine? (2) If we were to set aside the theological language of Theotokos for a moment, would you instead agree that Mary is the mother of your Lord?

      • So, right as long as they agree with you?

    • THE SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION

      CHAPTER XI
      Of Jesus Christ, True God and Man,
      the Only Savior of the World

      CHRIST IS TRUE MAN, HAVING REAL FLESH. We also believe and teach that the eternal Son of the eternal God was made the Son of man, from the seed of Abraham and David, not from the coitus of a man, as the Ebionites said, but was most chastely conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the ever virgin Mary (original Latin: natum ex Maria semper virgine), as the evangelical history carefully explains to us (Matt., ch. 1). And Paul says: “he took not on him the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.” Also the apostle John says that woever does not believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God. Therefore, the flesh of Christ was neither imaginary not brought from heaven, as Valentinus and Marcion wrongly imagined.

      Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke – Volume 1 by John Calvin
      (Scripture references removed so as not to trigger “awaiting moderation”)

      Luke Chapter 1 verse 43:

      43.

      She calls Mary the mother of her Lord This denotes a unity of person in the two natures of Christ; as if she had said, that he who was begotten a mortal man in the womb of Mary is, at the same time, the eternal God. For we must bear in mind, that she does not speak like an ordinary woman at her own suggestion, but merely utters what was dictated by the Holy Spirit. This name Lord strictly belongs to the Son of God “manifested in the flesh,” who has received from the Father all power, and has been appointed the highest ruler of heaven and earth, that by his agency God may govern all things. Still, he is in a peculiar manner the Lord of believers, who yield willingly and cheerfully to his authority; for it is only of “his body” that he is “the head,” And so Paul says, “though there be lords many, yet to us,” that is, to the servants of faith, “there is one Lord,” By mentioning the sudden movement of the babe which she carried in her womb, (ver. 44,) as heightening that divine favor of which she is speaking, she unquestionably intended to affirm that she felt something supernatural and divine.

  22. Thanks for that note, Fr. Ernesto. I would guess that Matthew’s is struggling to keep his comments and his theology in line with “new” Reformed thought, so he’s rather caught up in that. As a former Protestant, I had to unlearn a lot of my Sunday School perceptions of Mary – the first was that Mary was rather haphazardly chosen among any number of other women who would have been up to the challenge, as it were, and were equally worthy of the task. Once you question if that simple statement is true, then you can be truly open to what it might mean to be Blessed among women.

    • I think Matthew – and I do accept that he’s being honest and trying to be faithful – illustrates what Chaplain Mike is trying to get at in this post; that in running in fear lest they fall into the same error as the extreme of Romish idolatry (ahem) regarding Mary, the reformed/Reformed run from Charbydis into the Scylla of ignoring, downplaying, and even disregarding Mary.

      The worst examples of this I’ve seen have been the (hyper?) Calvinist view of her as a “human incubator”, i.e. okay, God needed someone to give birth to His Son, but anyone would have done, and once the baby was born, that was it for Mary. She had nothing else to do with Him and didn’t influence Him at all. Moreover, there is no merit in her “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word” because she had no choice at all. There was absolutely no way she could have said “No” (whether you want to put it down to irresistable grace, predestination, or God’s absolute sovereignty).

      Me, as both a Catholic and a woman, I feel vaguely insulted by that. It’s Mary as a robot, as a flesh puppet, as a thing and object, not a person. I think God respects our choices. Of course, being Catholic, I do accept the existence of Free Will, so there you go 🙂

      And to throw more fuel on the fire, while saying the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary (the Annunciation) the other day, it came into my mind that Mary’s “Be it done unto me” was the mirror, echo, and foreshadowing of what Christ said in Gethsemane: “Not my will but thine be done”. As to whether or what influence Mary had on Him when He was growing up, or what she taught Him, I think this shows He was His mother’s son in this.

      🙂

    • Thanks for assuming what you perceive me to be.

      • Thanks for assuming what you perceive me to be ** Trooper.

      • joel hunter says:

        Matthew, you described yourself above as a “Reformed Evangelical.” I’m not sure if that means you subscribe to any of the Reformed confessions or not, but in any event, I have two questions for you. (1) Do you recognize the ecumenical creed of Chalcedon as a statement of orthodox doctrine? (2) If we were to set aside the theological language of Theotokos for a moment, would you instead agree that Mary is the mother of your Lord?

        • The creed also uses the term “Mother of God” concerning the Virgin Mary. In the creed itself it should be noted the term is directly limited by the words “according to the human nature. ” The creed does not teach that Mary is the mother of the divine nature. The Creed likewise explicitly teaches that the person of the Son of God is “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead.” It is the human nature which the Son of God assumed which is alone ascribed unto Mary from whom, after the flesh, the Savior was descended and born.

          The term itself, while it has given rise to Mary worship in both the Eastern church and western Romanism, has also a specific purpose in the creed. Against the error of Nestorius who taught two distinct persons, a human and divine, it was necessary to maintain that it was truly the Son of God united to the human nature who was born of Mary. Mary did therefore carry in her womb the Son of God united to the human nature, and in that sense only may be said to be the mother of God, when she brought forth her first born son after the flesh and laid him in a manger, Luke 2:7.

          The Son of God did not come upon the man Jesus as a distinct human person. Nor did the Son of God leave Jesus on the cross in His suffering and death. Both of these errors have repeatedly troubled the Christian church and are a denial of Jesus Christ as the true Savior. It belongs to certain Gnostic heresies, already found in the early church, with which John contends in I John 4:1-4. The denial of the true incarnation of the Son of God in the human nature is according to I John 4:3 of the spirit of Antichrist. This corrupt error, in a garbled form from the Nestorian sect, has also made its way into the Koran. It is not authentic Christian doctrine.

          At the same time the perversion of the role of Mary which developed in both East and West justly gives rise to reservations about this expression however it is limited. It is, in part, for this reason that the creed is not named in the Confession of Faith. The sound doctrine of the creed is taken up in the Confession of Faith, rather than the creed itself.

          • [taken from; “The Creed of Chalcedon: Historical Notes”]

            • joel hunter says:

              Matthew, I’m trying to understand what common ground we might have. It’s difficult to tell what you believe about some common doctrines. Above, I’ve tried to ask you two questions, but perhaps you haven’t seen them. Here they are again: (1) Do you recognize the ecumenical creed of Chalcedon as a statement of orthodox doctrine? (2) If we were to set aside the theological language of Theotokos for a moment, would you instead agree that Mary is the mother of your Lord?

              • Joel Hunter,

                I have a comment awaiting moderation – hence the [ taken from ” The Creed of Chalcedon: Historical Notes”] sorry if that seemed confusing.

                1) I have looked over the Creed very briefly. It seems orthodox.

                2) Mary is the mother of Jesus who is also my Lord, correct.

                I am reformed in my theology but not a cessationist. A Calvinist if I may 🙂

  23. I’ve got to go to bed, folks. Keep it civil. We’re on the same team and all on a journey to understand and follow better.

    • With all due respect Mike, we are not all on the same team.
      These words for Dr. R. C Sproul should suffice;

      “At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution.”

  24. What do you guys and gals make of Luke 11: 27-28? In that passage some unnamed woman in the crowd yells out to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.” Jesus replies: “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.”
    I could be wrong, but it seems like Jesus is correcting this woman for putting her focus in the wrong place (or on the wrong person). Now, I’ve got nothing against Mary, and I certainly don’t think God picked her randomly from a hat. At the very least, she was probably the most righteous, pure-hearted young woman of her time — and maybe of all time.
    But when it comes to the ritualized adoration of Mary and praying to Mary for intercession, this passage in Luke gives me pause. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. If Jesus wasn’t discouraging religious adoration of His mother in this passage, what was He doing and what did He mean?

    • RonP…it’s interesting that a couple other Bible translations have Jesus’ reply being:

      “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” NLT

      “Even more blessed are those who hear God’s Word and guard it with their lives!” (The Message)

      Neither of those translations are from a “Catholic” Bible. And even though Eugene Peterson’s translation is a paraphrase, he is highly respected and he did have some other well-respected translators review his translation prior to his publishing the book. So they are not saying “On the contrary” or “rather” but “even more blessed” which I don’t think even Catholics would have a problem with. Jesus’ mom, Mary, and we are BOTH blessed because we hear God’s Word and put it into practice or guard it with our lives.

    • JoanieD says: …So they are not saying “On the contrary” or “rather” but “even more blessed”

      Actually, the verse is saying “on the contrary” or “rather.” The Greek particle is menoun (μενουν) [some mss. have menoun ge (μενουν γε)]. Max Zerwick, S.J., defines it as “rather, more truly.” Pershchbacher defines it as “emphatic particle, ‘rather, on the contrary, nay rather, much more in fact.'”

      See also Romans 9:20 μενουνγε as a single word = “on the contrary”; Romans 10:18 μενουνγε as a single word = “on the contrary”; Philippians 3:8 αλλα (but/rather) + μενουνγε as a single word = “rather on the contrary.”

    • I did it again (i.e., included too many Scripture links). Sorry.

    • Well, to follow in line with what JoanieD says, doesn’t that make Mary doubly blessed, in this case, since she, in giving her “fiat” (let it be done, in latin) to the Angel Gabriel, heard the word of God, and observed it, both in giving birth to the Christ, but in her everyday actions? Perhaps “on the contrary” is a deficient translation.

      • No, it’s not a deficient translation. It’s the correct translation. Unfortunately, my response to her comment is being held up “awaiting moderation” because it contains more than one Scripture link. It will show up eventually when Chaplain Mike sets it free.

        • Let me put it to you this way: Whether “on the contrary” is the literal translation or not isn’t as germane as what the word used at the time meant to the speaker and His hearers. Woud the Lord publicly humiliate His mother by being disrespectful toward her? Highly unlikely. That is why I say “on the contrary” is a deficient translation as regarding what it should mean in 2009. I’m no Heb/Gk/Lat scholar, but the subtleties of words getting “lost in translation” are no less a problem in going from Gk/Heb to any other language as in going from US English to British English or vice versa.

          • Well, let me put it to you this way:

            I am saying that the word at the time meant to the hearers: “On the contrary.” And so do lexicographers and scholars. I am away from my resources (except for Zerwick and Perschbacher), but I can look up other sources when I get home. Here is LSJ on men oun:

            2. μεν ουν is freq. used with a corresponding δε, so that each Particle retains its force, Od.4.780, Pi.O.1.111, S.OT244, 843; Ph.359, D.2.5, etc.: but freq. also abs., so then, S.Ant.65; “ταῦτα μὲν οὖν παραλείψω” D.2.3; esp. in replies, sts. in strong affirmation, “παντάπασι μὲν οὖν” Pl.Tht.158d; κομιδῇ μὲν οὖν ib.159e; πάνυ μὲν οὖν ib.159b; ἀνάγκη μὲν οὖν ib.189e; also to substitute a new statement so as to correct a preceding statement, nay rather, κακοδαίμων; Answ. βαρυδαίμων μὲν οὖν! Ar.Ec.1102; μου πρὸς τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποψῶ wipe your nose on my head: Answ. ἐμοῦ μὲν οὖν . . nay on mine, Id.Eq.911, cf. A.Pers.1032 (lyr.), Ag.1090 (lyr.), 1396, S.Aj. 1363, El.1503, OT705, Ar.Ra.241, Pl.Cri.44b, Grg.466a, 470b, Prt. 309d, etc.; also “μὲν οὖν δή” S.Tr.153; “καὶ δὴ μὲν οὖν” Id.OC31; cf. οὐμενοῦν: in NT μενουν and μενουνγε, to begin a sentence, yea rather, Ev.Luc.11.28, Ep.Rom.9.20, etc., cf. Phryn.322, Hsch.—In Ion., μέν νυν is used for μὲν οὖν, Hdt.1.18, 4.145, etc.

            and to make it simpler, here is “Middle Liddell”:

            II. μεν before other Particles:…
            4. μεν ουν or μενουν, a strengthd. form of ουν, so then, id=Soph.; in replies, it affirms strongly, πάνυ μὲν οὖν Plat., etc.; also it corrects a statement, nay rather, like Lat. imo, imo vero, μου πρὸς τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποψῶ wipe your nose on my head, Answ. ἐμοῦ μὲν οὖν . . , nay on mine, Ar., etc.; μὲν οὖν δή Soph.:—so in NTest., μενουνγε, to begin a sentence, yea rather, Lat. quin imo.

            I.e., to correct a statement is how it is used in the NT in that passage in Luke.

          • I still submit that He is NOT saying His mother is NOT blessed BECAUSE she bore Him, but that it’s more important HOW and WHY she bore Him (hearing of and obedience to God’s Word) and that WE TOO are blessed by HEARING and OBEYING as she did. She’s doubly blessed. It goes against everything in the Bible that we believe as regards to children being a blessing to their parents. In this case, perhaps she is TRIPLY blessed. In increasing magnitude: 1st by bearing a Child. 2d by bearing the Lord Himself, and 3d (perhaps most important) by hearing and obeying the Word of God.

          • Interestingly, while BDAG (2000), the authoritative NT lexicon, says re: menoun

            μενοῦν (also μὲν οὖν) Lk 11:28 (for negative s. οὐ μὲν οὖν) and μενοῦνγε (also μενοῦν γε), particles used esp. in answers, to emphasize or correct (B-D-F §450, 4; Rob. 1151f), even—contrary to earlier Gk. usage—at the beginning of a clause (Phryn. 342 Lob. [322 R.]) rather, on the contrary (Soph., Aj. 1363; Pla., Crito 44b; X., Cyr. 8, 3, 37) Lk chapter 11:28 v.l. Indeed Ro chapter 10:18. ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε more than that Phil 3:8. μενοῦνγε σὺ τίς εἶ … ; on the contrary, who are you … ? (or, who in the world are you to [take issue with God]?) Ro chapter 9:20.—M-M.
            Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (630). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

            i.e., agreeing that its meaning in Luke chapter 11 verse 28 is “rather, on the contrary,” Frederick Danker’s new (2009) Concise Greek-English Lexicon (Danker is the “D” in BDAG, the just-cited lexicon) is now saying that the words/particles mean “particle used in response with emphatic feeling indeed! (i.e., he lists no sense of “rather, contrary to”) and translates Luke chapter 11 verse 28 as: “all the more blessed.”

            Dr. Ann Nyland, who has done a lot of work with the papyri, notes in her translation of this verse that the word is “a compound particle to indicate agreement with preceding statement but virtually correcting it in the sense of, “That may be true, but…””

            I. Howard Marshall’s NIGTC Commentary on Luke goes with “nay, rather”

            Darrell Bock in his Baker Exegetical Commentary on Luke writes:

            The connective μενοῦν (menoun) has three possible senses (Fitzmyer 1985: 928): (1) an adversative meaning “on the contrary,” thus rejecting the previous remark (Manson 1949: 88; Marshall 1978: 482); (2) an affirmation meaning “indeed” (as in Phil. chapter 3 verse 8); or (3) a correction meaning “yes, but rather” (Luce 1933: 216; Arndt 1956: 302; Plummer 1896: 306; Danker 1988: 235; Schneider 1977a: 269). The first meaning is not likely, since Luke has already affirmed such a blessing (Luke chapter 1 verses 42, 48) and elsewhere uses οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν (ouchi, legō hymin, no, I say to you) to express rejection of an idea (12:51; 13:3, 5; Fitzmyer 1985: 928). The sense is not complete affirmation either. Rather, the woman’s remark is correct, but not exhaustive. The recent examples provided by Jesus’ teaching about the Samaritan, Mary, and prayer are but three illustrations of what is expected of disciples (Schneider 1977a: 269). Blessing resides in obedient response, whether in care for others, in attention to Jesus, or in discourse with God.
            Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (1094–1095). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

            The New American Commentary says:

            11:28 Blessed rather. The meaning of the Greek term “rather” (menoun) is unclear. It is used only four times in the NT, but it has three possible meanings: (1) adversative—“on the contrary,” or “no, but rather,” as in Rom 9:20; 10:18. This would repudiate the blessing of Jesus’ mother by the woman in the crowd. (2) Affirmative—“indeed,” as in Phil chapter 3 verse 8. This would agree with the woman’s blessing and identify Jesus’ mother as an example of one who hears God’s word and obeys it. (3) Corrective—“yes, but rather.” This would show that although the blessing is correct, there is a greater blessing available to those who believe. Usually if Luke wanted to express the adversative meaning (1), he used ouchi and legō hymin (cf. Luke chapter 12:51; chapter 13:3, 5), and if he wanted to express the affirmative meaning (2), he used nai (cf. 7:26; 10:21; 11:51; 12:5). The third meaning is therefore more likely. An expanded translation of this sentence would read: “What you have said is true as far as it goes. But Mary’s blessedness does not consist simply in her relationship with me, but in the fact that she heard the word of God and kept it, which is where true blessedness lies.”74
            Stein, R. H. (2001). Vol. 24: Luke (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (333). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

            Thus it appears to me that I was premature in earlier insisting that it meant “rather, contrary to.” While this may be its meaning here, other resources (as I said, I had access to only a couple during the day) suggest other possibilities, including the defense of Mary’s blessedness in Jesus’ remark.

          • (reposted with linking verse references removed to avoid “moderation”)

            Interestingly, while BDAG (2000), the authoritative NT lexicon, says re: menoun

            μενοῦν (also μὲν οὖν) Lk chapter 11 verse 28 (for negative s. οὐ μὲν οὖν) and μενοῦνγε (also μενοῦν γε), particles used esp. in answers, to emphasize or correct (B-D-F §450, 4; Rob. 1151f), even—contrary to earlier Gk. usage—at the beginning of a clause (Phryn. 342 Lob. [322 R.]) rather, on the contrary (Soph., Aj. 1363; Pla., Crito 44b; X., Cyr. 8, 3, 37) Lk chapter 11:28 v.l. Indeed Ro chapter 10:18. ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε more than that Phil chapter 3 verse 8. μενοῦνγε σὺ τίς εἶ … ; on the contrary, who are you … ? (or, who in the world are you to [take issue with God]?) Ro chapter 9:20.—M-M.
            Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (630). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

            i.e., agreeing that its meaning in Luke chapter 11 verse 28 is “rather, on the contrary,” Frederick Danker’s new (2009) Concise Greek-English Lexicon (Danker is the “D” in BDAG, the just-cited lexicon) is now saying that the words/particles mean “particle used in response with emphatic feeling indeed! (i.e., he lists no sense of “rather, contrary to”) and translates Luke chapter 11 verse 28 as: “all the more blessed.”

            Dr. Ann Nyland, who has done a lot of work with the papyri, notes in her translation of this verse that the word is “a compound particle to indicate agreement with preceding statement but virtually correcting it in the sense of, “That may be true, but…””

            I. Howard Marshall’s NIGTC Commentary on Luke goes with “nay, rather”

            Darrell Bock in his Baker Exegetical Commentary on Luke writes:

            The connective μενοῦν (menoun) has three possible senses (Fitzmyer 1985: 928): (1) an adversative meaning “on the contrary,” thus rejecting the previous remark (Manson 1949: 88; Marshall 1978: 482); (2) an affirmation meaning “indeed” (as in Phil. chapter 3 verse 8); or (3) a correction meaning “yes, but rather” (Luce 1933: 216; Arndt 1956: 302; Plummer 1896: 306; Danker 1988: 235; Schneider 1977a: 269). The first meaning is not likely, since Luke has already affirmed such a blessing (Luke chapter 1 verses 42, 48) and elsewhere uses οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν (ouchi, legō hymin, no, I say to you) to express rejection of an idea (12:51; 13:3, 5; Fitzmyer 1985: 928). The sense is not complete affirmation either. Rather, the woman’s remark is correct, but not exhaustive. The recent examples provided by Jesus’ teaching about the Samaritan, Mary, and prayer are but three illustrations of what is expected of disciples (Schneider 1977a: 269). Blessing resides in obedient response, whether in care for others, in attention to Jesus, or in discourse with God.
            Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (1094–1095). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

            The New American Commentary says:

            11:28 Blessed rather. The meaning of the Greek term “rather” (menoun) is unclear. It is used only four times in the NT, but it has three possible meanings: (1) adversative—“on the contrary,” or “no, but rather,” as in Rom chapter 9 verse 20; 10:18. This would repudiate the blessing of Jesus’ mother by the woman in the crowd. (2) Affirmative—“indeed,” as in Phil chapter 3 verse 8. This would agree with the woman’s blessing and identify Jesus’ mother as an example of one who hears God’s word and obeys it. (3) Corrective—“yes, but rather.” This would show that although the blessing is correct, there is a greater blessing available to those who believe. Usually if Luke wanted to express the adversative meaning (1), he used ouchi and legō hymin (cf. Luke chapter 12:51; chapter 13:3, 5), and if he wanted to express the affirmative meaning (2), he used nai (cf. 7:26; 10:21; 11:51; 12:5). The third meaning is therefore more likely. An expanded translation of this sentence would read: “What you have said is true as far as it goes. But Mary’s blessedness does not consist simply in her relationship with me, but in the fact that she heard the word of God and kept it, which is where true blessedness lies.”74
            Stein, R. H. (2001). Vol. 24: Luke (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (333). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

            Thus it appears to me that I was premature in earlier insisting that it meant “rather, contrary to.” While this may be its meaning here, other resources (as I said, I had access to only a couple during the day) suggest other possibilities, including the defense of Mary’s blessedness in Jesus’ remark.

    • What St. Augustine had to say on the matter:

      http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2009/11/st-augustine-on-mary-and-our-becoming.html

      “Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Saviour was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her – did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.”

      The view is that it is not the mere physical maternity of Mary that makes her worthy of veneration, it is her faithfulness, obedience, and hope that makes her first and greatest of disciples.

      Now, to quote Dante (yet again!) from Canto xxxii of the “Paradiso”, in the sphere of Heaven outside of time and space, St. Bernard instructs Dante to look at Mary before he attempts to look at the vision of God:

      “Look now on the face that most resembles Christ,
      for nothing but its brightness
      can make you fit to look on Christ.”

      There are two elements here: (1) physically, the face of Mary will most resemble Christ because after all, He took His human nature from her and so of course He is going to look like her. But the important one is (2) Mary ‘most resembles Christ’ of all humanity because of her faith and her obedience to the will of God. Therefore, with the help of Mary, Dante will be enabled to look on Christ because by imitating her and asking her help, he too will increase in faith and holy submission.

      • Argh, in case I was unclear in that last, if we are to imitate Christ (and that is our aim, as we have been instructed in Matthew 5:48), then our exemplar *as a human* is the one who most resembles Christ and that is Mary.

    • Thanks everyone for your replies to my question, especially Eric — I wasn’t expecting anyone to do in-depth research on Greek conjunctions, but I do appreciate it. And it definitely shows how larger doctrinal constructs can turn or hinge on small details of interpretation. Though some might disagree, I think it’s good for us believers to explore and consider interpretations of scripture that differ from the set answers that our particular religious traditions have handed down to us. I know you’ve given my pea brain something to chew on for a while.

  25. To expat: the only thing Michael Spencer has posted on his Facebook page about his illness and treatment is: “Denise and I thank everyone who has prayed for us. Today I received a non-specific cancer diagnosis. More tests will fill in the blanks, but I anticipate entering into treatment in the near future. I am not bitter but determined to live with cancer, fight it and if God so wills, beat it. My prayer is to experience God’s love and peace in Christ. We will post more as we know more that will help you to pray.”

    That was back on Dec 16, I think. He probably does not want anything Chaplain Mike is posting to get “highjacked” talking about Michael’s illness, so maybe it’s best not to respond to this reply to you, but I did want you and others to have SOME information if you are not on Facebook. Thank you.

  26. How about picturing God as a woman while you are praying? Not Mary, God.

    While God is neither man nor woman, the Israelites were a totally male-dominated society (Jesus was truly counter-cultural in his treatment of women) who would no more think of praying to a feminine figure than they would an animal.

    Am I the only one who finds comfort in occasionally thinking about God the Mother in addition to God the Father? Or is it official doctrine somewhere that God has a penis?

    • Actually, they thought of praying to animals, quite a bit actually. It was a significant problem for Israel.

      On your question, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

      “238 Many religions invoke God as “Father”. the deity is often considered the “father of gods and of men”. In Israel, God is called “Father” inasmuch as he is Creator of the world.59 Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, “his first-born son”.60 God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is “the Father of the poor”, of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.61

      239 By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood,62 which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. the language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard:63 no one is father as God is Father.”

    • As a Catholic I don’t think of Mary as a feminine aspect of God. She is fully and only human. When I pray the Rosary I see her responses as models for me as peson: I see her response in the Annuciation, “be it done to me according to your word,” must be my response to faith; her visit to Elizabeth to celebrate the good news must be my rsponse to my family and friends; her Assumption to Heaven is like my death and judgement at the end of my life; and her coronation is hopefully like my sharing in the divine Kingdom. Catholics don’t see Mary as a replacement for God, but as a human model for the Christian life.

  27. How about we just give Mary her due? If we can talk about the women of the old Testament and their contributions, we can talk about Mary the same way. Remember, Chaplain Mike is not a Catholic and he was able to write this article without magically appearing on the other side of the Tiber. My point is that all of us Catholics/Orthodox/Angican/Lutheran/Protestant/free-spirit-follow-no-man-rules-Christians can appreciate Mary’s humblemness and faith.

  28. Since I’m on a Dante kick, Chaplain Mike, here’s the imagery of Mary as the head of a line of Jewish matriarchs. Dante in Heaven sees the blessed seated in a vast colosseum that appears to him in the form of a white rose, and St. Bernard who now is his guide names for him all the ones he sees:

    PARADISO CANTO 32

    “Though he had been absorbed in his delight,
    that contemplator freely undertook
    the task of teaching; and his holy words

    “The wound that Mary closed and then
    anointed was the wound that Eve—so lovely
    at Mary’s feet—had opened and had pierced.

    Below her, in the seats of the third rank,
    Rachel and Beatrice, as you see, sit.
    Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and the one

    who was the great-grandmother of the singer
    who, as he sorrowed for his sinfulness,
    cried, ‘Miserere mei’—these you can see

    from rank to rank as I, in moving through
    the Rose, from petal unto petal, give
    to each her name. And from the seventh rank,

    just as they did within the ranks above,
    the Hebrew women follow—ranging downward—
    dividing all the tresses of the Rose.”

  29. Paul Fisher says:

    This year, for the first time, I’ve been following the Christian Year. For the first time the Christmas story has been coming alive. Recently I watched the movie, “The Nativity Story”, my thinking was so radically changed as I realized what Mary endured carrying Jesus. The beauty of Mary and the birth of Jesus. I have begun to understand why the Orthodox faith calls her the Mother of God and holds her is such high esteem. I wish we protestants could talk about Mary openly and learn to enjoy the Christmas season like so many of our Orthodox brethren. “From now on all generations will call me blessed.”

  30. Matthew’s blog is very instructive for those people involved in this conversation. I don’t just perceive, I read.