Our Lady

I have been very fortunate with my wife’s pregnancies in that they’ve both thus far fallen during the Nativity Fast and Feast. It has afforded me much time for thought and reflection on the Incarnation.

This morning, while reading Douglas’ entry on the Theotokos, he pointed me to the Pontificator’s similar entry. I want to quote both these fine gentlemen and offer my own meager reflections.

Pontifcator captures the essence of my Protestant heritage on this matter:

The Church catholic has always kept Jesus and Mary close together, as evidenced by the ecumenical confession of Mary as Theotokos, “Mother of God.” This title was formally authorized by the General Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), a council convened not to address Mariology but Christology. At a deep intuitive level, the Church has understood that her confession of the Incarnation of the eternal Word is intrinsically connected to the veneration of the blessed Virgin.

Yet for some reason Protestants, including the overwhelming majority of Anglicans, do not intuit this connection. . . .

Something is very wrong with Protestantism. Our ecclesial communities do not generate a devotion to Mary. This absence of Marian devotion suggests to me a theological flaw. . . .

The Protestant, of course, immediately protests: “I believe in the Incarnation as strongly as any Catholic or Orthodox Christian!” But the fact remains that all of Protestantism has lost Mary, and many forms of Protestantism are now on the verge of losing Christ.

This raises a critical question for me: Is a Protestant competent to offer judgment on Marian devotion or Marian titles? I am beginning to suspect that no matter how “orthodox” we Protestants think we are in our doctrine of the Incarnation, we in fact are not. We have not faithfully appropriated the orthodox doctrine, because we have deleted Mary from the Church’s life of worship and prayer. This deletion of Mary is both evidence of our deficiency in our understanding of the Incarnation and a cause of this deficiency. Something is very wrong when our teaching and love of Christ does not generate the kind of hymnody, veneration, and devotion that is common in Orthodoxy and Catholicism. . . .

Within the tradition and history of the Church, a lively faith in Jesus as the incarnate Word has gone hand-in-hand with a lively veneration of his blessed Mother. Yet for Protestants, Mary remains a person of the past, much like Abraham, David, and John the Baptist. One must wonder if we really have understood the mystery of the Incarnation.

I know this has been true of me. I would have fought tooth and nail, indeed, I believe I may well even have died, for the dogma that God became man in the flesh and Person of Jesus, and remained essentially and fully God. But the only time I contemplated Mary was at Christmas Eve during our church’s evening service, and while Grandpa or my dad read from Luke 2. As a pastor, occasionally I would preach on the passages in which Mary appeared, and I would emphasize her faith and obedience. But the Pontificator is right: to me she was an historic person just like Abraham and David.

Oh, I would agree with the title Mother of God, something we came across in my second year Greek class at Ozark Christian College. But it was a theological point. Even after coming to some level of comfort in praying the rosary shortly after I graduated from Ozark, and even after being confirmed in the Episcopal Church, Mary remained essentially a stranger to me. Then I turned to Orthodoxy. I prayed the Akathist Hymn one Saturday evening in October a couple of years ago, and about a month later Anna was pregnant.

Enter Mary.

Douglas sums up in an achingly beautiful way how my reflections on Mary have grown over the last couple of years:

Mary was not just some woman. She was not just a womb to carry Jesus. God did not pass through her womb to enter into time and this world as if through a tube. God united her to Himself and through her took on our human nature. Her flesh became His. Christ had no earthly father, after all. If you want to look at it scientifically, Christ’s DNA was Mary’s. In His human nature, Jesus Christ is accessible to us all because He become one essence with us through Mary, but in all aspects of His humanity He was nearer to and resembled no one more than His Mother.

And not only this, but Mary for nine months bore the Divine Person of the Logos, God Himself, in her womb. God whom the heavens cannot contain was contained in Her womb. With every kick and turn of the unborn One within her, Mary felt the movements and life of her Child and Her God. And when He was born and she nursed and cared for Him, she suckled at once her Child and the God who had fashioned all things, in whom we live and move and have our being.

I once had the Incarnation but did not have Mary. The Pontificator is right. My faith was very different then. I now have the Incarnation and I have Mary. It makes all the difference in the world.

4 thoughts on “Our Lady

  1. Clifton –

    Do you currently venerate the Theotokos? For me and my wife, it is the veneration of the saints which finds its culmination in Mary that was our biggest stumbling block in Orthodoxy. How did you personally come to grips with this?

  2. I do venerate the Theotokos each day, mainly in my morning prayers when, with the Church, I pray, “It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, who art ever blessed and all blameless, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim, who without stain barest God the Word, and art truly Theotokos, we magnify thee.”

    I also ask her prayers for me and my family.

    I have tried recently to begin praying the Akathist Hymn more regularly.

    And, of course, I venerate her icon during worship.

    I came to grips with it, by, as the men I quote indicate, actually thinking through the logic of the Incarnation.

    Part of the problem with Protestants is we have a big Romophobia that caricatures many Christian doctrines. We come at Mary from the standpoint of veneration first, and reacting as we do against Rome, we cry out “Idolatry.”

    What I had to do was start from the Incarnation first and think through the implications of that.

  3. I find your blog very intriquing, fascinating and allows me to reflect upon this veneration in a different format than I have been used to. I tried commenting upon your Nicene blog but was unable to do so…. I agree with your perspective upon the Nicene Council but would suggest that the eccelesiastical political conflicts grew more intense by the time of the Chalcedonian Council. I would be happy to share more of my thoughts should you be interested. I will try to put them on my blog. I will continue to read your blog!

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