I posted this to my blog last night, I hope ya'll like it...

 

What’s all this Mary nonsense about?

 

One of the most difficult things that Protestants have trouble understanding is the Virgin Mary.  Maybe its because I have a Catholic background but I find the Virgin Mary a very comforting figure.  I’m not necessarily wed to the Immaculate Conception but I’m not necessary opposed to it either.  I don’t have a problem asking her to pray for me for the same reason I don’t mind asking my wife to pray for me, because I believe that she cares about me and wants what is best.  Besides Mary said yes to having Jesus so she must be really important.   Didn’t she have the free will to turn away from Gods task just like I have so many times but unlike me she answered Gods call and in doing so became part of the plan for our salvation.

 

Ok she’s important but don’t people nearly worship her don’t you?

 

That’s a miss understanding she doesn’t get worshipped that gets saved for God alone.  That being said if we look to scripture we can see a great deal of respect shown to Mary.  When we read Luke 1:26-56 we see the Archangel Gabriel show Mary a great honor when he greets her with the statement that she is, “full of grace”.  Elizabeth also refers to Mary as “blessed” twice in just four verses.  Finally in Luke 1 verse 48 Mary prophesies, “all generations will call me blessed”.  Heck, if you’re a “Bible believing” Christian you should be referring to her as the Blessed Virgin Mary just like Catholics do.

 

All right so maybe we should call her “Blessed” but how can people believe she remained a virgin when scripture says he had brothers and sisters?

 

Well in Matt. 13:55-56 the word for brothers and sisters also meant “relatives”.  In fact the same word was used in the Old Testament and is often translated as cousin.    Besides there is a very telling story in the New Testament which may prove her virginity.  When Jesus is on the cross he entrusts his mother to the Apostle John.  If he had siblings this wouldn’t be necessary because she would already have family.

 

But what about James and Joseph, Simon and Judas?

Well at least two of these guys, James and Joseph are the sons of a different Mary (compare Mt 27:56 with John 19:25) it looks like Mary was a pretty common name.  We can probably assume that this usage of brother points to a family relationship that doesn’t involve being blood brothers.

 

Also it’s probably fair to point out that the Protestant Reformers held Mary in high esteem.  Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity.

 

Can you respect and ask for Mary’s help without believing she was born without sin?  Besides Romans 3:23 clearly says, “All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God”.

Heck ya you can.  This is exactly what the Eastern Orthodox and some Anglicans (my Church) do in fact.  Even the Catholic Church argued this until the 19th century

 

So why do you believe she’s without sin?

 

Well to begin with it was a common belief for a long time.  Add to that the fact I think that having a strong female image is good for Christianity and you start to see the attraction for me.  Look at it this way Mary is like the Ark of the Covenant (can you imagine if Indiana Jones went looking for the Ark and found Mary instead boy would he be surprised) she carried the Word of God just like the Old Testament Ark.  That Ark was made of the purest gold then why wouldn’t she be made pure also in preparation for Jesus’ birth?

 

I should note that my views are not the norm for Episcopalians but they are not as strange as you may think.  The Anglican Communion has a number of devotional societies to our Lady and you should check them out.  What I’d like to do is create a devotional society dedicated to her that was more inclusive in nature, one that embraces all the wings of the faith liberal or conservative.  Anyway these were just a few reasons I’m a mama’s boy.

 

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Comment by Christopher Johnson on August 27, 2011 at 7:13am

First off the Episcopal Church is a big tent Church that houses an Evangelical and a Catholic wing.  I've always been drawn to contemplative spirituality so I tend toward the Catholic wing.  While I do not agree with certain teachings like the Immaculate conception I do think you can pray to saints, that MAry had her sin removed and that Christ is present in the Eucharist, I just don't know how.  For me their are two huge pluses to Anglicanism.  First we can experiment with the liturgy while keeping the sacraments and 2) are ecclisilogy (sp) creates Bishops who are equal without making a kingmaker amoung them.

 

Comment by Br. Cletus on August 26, 2011 at 6:17pm

I'm not all that hip on theology of Mary, but it seems the low church stuff is less Marian.  In my region there are two Christian radio stations: Christian Popcopy with loads of suspicious advertising, and EWTN, the global Catholic network.  I generally opt for the Catholic station, cuz on there i'm likely to get some preaching or the Mass, and sometimes (and i consider myself lucky when this happens) the rosary (WITH IRISH ACCENTS, EVEN!)  And I really love driving along and saying the prayers.  It hasn't really even been a question for me of whether its permissible, because I kind of have the suspicion that my attempts at ecumenism may trump the potential theological no-no.  It's a sketchy moral position, i know, but i keep it up cuz it works.  I find traffic doesn't bug me, cut-offs and bad blinkers- no problem, i just float on smiling at the fellow travelers.  I know there are folks within the Episcopal communion who might raise their eyebrows, but it seems to mostly come down to something between God and me, plus there are plenty of other formal positions on which i am gleefully unorthodox.  And, i don't wanna get all worked up over it cuz my thoughts are just continually shifting around like a school of fish and who knows where i'm gonna be tomorrow.  we've always tried to express that being absolutely right is probably less important than moving ever closer to the divine presence.  

 

is it ever fair to look at the questions of faith from the disciplines of other thought systems?  if so, then i'd like to raise the idea that the early popular adoption of veneration of Mary could be a function of just basic human psychology needing to have the feminine aspect of deity.  the cult of Mary arose from the people, maybe as a reaction to Rome's swift dudeifying of God.  i've heard plenty of protestant sermons go on about how hard it is for some folks to accept the AbbaDaddy idea because their personal experience with fathers kinda sucks.  So maybe it's just deeply intuitive in us.  And of course there are all those examples of the feminine aspect in the Hebrew texts, so...

 

and if we do in fact seek to be ecumenical, what are we to do with the Catholic tradition of apparitions of the virgin and such?  i think it inherently insulting to my Catholic neighbors if i casually toss all that out as quaint superstition.  what does it mean to our understanding of Mary?

Comment by Elisabeth Dewey on August 26, 2011 at 4:50am

I also don't believe Mary was immaculately conceived.  Jesus had to be fully man and fully God for the sacrificial work of the Cross to redeem us from our sins.  I completely agree with your comment about God meeting us where we are - that was the great beauty and love of God for mankind - it is a treasure beyond compare to mankind. 

My understanding of what happens at our death is we, as believers, are judged for reward, not salvation.  We then become a part of the 'great cloud of witnesses' spoken of in Hebrews 11.  I am still sold on the Biblical concept that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, and I don't believe praying to saints or Mary helps us in any way.  We are to pray in Jesus' name and I believe he is the one who answers prayers.  Blessings!

Comment by Fr. Bill Burt on August 24, 2011 at 5:32am
In theory, I've no problem with the idea of praying with Mary or any of the other saints; that's what they're there for.  I have a huge problem with Mary being immaculately conceived, though.  This places her on a par with Christ, which is pure heresy.  To say that she was thus conceived opens a whole can of worms about the nature of Christ.  As I'm sure you're aware, the Universal Church teaching on Christ is that he was perfect man and perfect God.  To be a perfect human being is an attainment, not a given, no matter who the person is.  That being said, if Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother's womb, regardless of Roman spin on the subject, it calls into question the very humanity of Jesus himself.  I don't know about anyone else, but I rather like the idea of God meeting us where we are, right in the midst of all our muck.
Comment by Christopher Johnson on August 23, 2011 at 7:09pm
I can appreciate that, but personally I think that anything we do to try and honor Christ probably doesn't appal any member of the Holy Family.  I'm not Catholic so I don't adhere to a belief that she wasn't born sinful however I do believe that the statement of "Full of Grace" meant something.  I also remember something about the the tradition of appealing to Mary having its roots in the Jewish custom begininng with Solomon and his mother who as a reward for getting him named King was honored by having people appeal to her in order to ask him for boons.  Anyway I think the Church is broad tent I definatly belong to the more "Catholic" wing and I think that the customs from the old days should be reborn in a new light.  But hey its my opinion and I could be wrong.
Comment by Elisabeth Dewey on August 23, 2011 at 10:55am
Here's a different perspective.  Personally, I'm a Christian who believes Mary would be appalled if she knew people were trying to pray to her for anything.  Is Mary special?  Absolutely!  But she's dead in Christ just like my grandma is.  Neither have any impact on anything I would pray to them for and the act is futile.  I Timothy 2:5 speaks of the one mediator between God and men and that is the man Jesus Christ.  Mary was born of two earthly parents, and since Adam, every person born is born into sin.  Jesus was born of one earthly parent and the Spirit of God, making him different than humankind.  He was not born into sin, and therefore could be the propitiation for our sins.  For Mary to be anything other than what she was, fully human, a virgin, and willing to be obedient, would change who Jesus is.  If she was in any way 'divine' then the act of Salvation through Jesus would be altered.  Whether or not Mary remained a virgin after Jesus' birth is moot.  It has no actual relevance to the Christian faith.  I don't mind Mary being called blessed any more than I mind Paul being called apostle or Peter being called 'The Rock'   In order for Mary to be saved, she would also have to believe in her Son, Jesus, and have the spiritual rebirth required of all believers.  Is Mary special?  Absolutely.  But upon her death, she joined the great cloud of witnesses that is spoken of in Hebrews.  No more than that.

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