My soule doth magnifie the Lord
I was going to post one of my Brief Musical Interludes today and completely overlooked the fact that yesterday was Pentecost. I usually like to post something about the day I’m discussing on the day in question, but I came across an article on another site that’s gotten me thinking. Over on Steadfast Lutherans aka the Brothers of John the Steadfast (aka the Lutheran Taliban as my husband calls it) there is a post titled Caricatures of Catholicism: Mary. The post and the discussion that follows does a good job of explaining the Lutheran perspective on the Church’s relationship with the Virgin Mary. I wonder if it was purely coincidence that the author of this post put this up on Pentecost. There are so many illustrations of the Pentecost with Mary as the central figure.
The post got me wondering about just what the rôle of Mary is. What can we say about Mary that is supported by scripture?
Dear is to me the holy Maid
Dear is to me the holy Maid,
I never can forget her;
For glorious things of her are said;
Than life I love her better:
So dear and good,
That if I should
It moves not me;
For she my soul will ravish
With constancy and love’s pure fire,
And with her bounty lavish
Fulfil my heart’s desire.
She wears a crown of purest gold,
Twelve shining stars attend her;
Her raiment, glorious to behold,
Surpasses far in splendor
The sun at noon;
Upon the moon
She stands, the Bride
Of him who died:
Sore travail is upon her;
She bringeth forth a noble Son
Whom all the world doth honor;
She bows before his throne.
Thereat the Dragon raged, and stood
With open mouth before her;
But vain was his attempt, for God
His buckler broad threw o’er her.
Up to his throne
He caught his Son,
But left the foe
To rage below.
The mother, sore afflicted,
Alone into the desert fled,
There by her God protected,
By her true Father fed.
I was shocked. Perhaps Luther wrote this while still an Augustinian, but the melody is that of Ein Feste Burg. Luther regarded Mary as the Queen of Heaven, however he was wary of the power that that name may imply. There may be people whose piety allows them to call Mary higher than the cherubim, or more glorious than the seraphim, but these expressions do not have a root in the solid ground of scripture. (Though my husband would argue that the fact that she is the Theotokos, the God-Bearer, naturally makes her higher than the cherubim and more glorious than the seraphim. What Seraph ever gave birth to God?)
Another bush that grows without having it’s root in scripture is the title of ever virgin. The Bible clearly states that Jesus had siblings.
Is not this the Carpenters sonne? Is not his mother called Marie? and his brethren, Iames, and Ioses, and Simon, and Iudas?And his sisters, are they not all with vs?
Is not this the carpenter, the sonne of Mary, the brother of Iames and Ioses, and of Iuda, and Simon? And are not his sisters heere with vs?
But other of the Apostles saw I none, saue Iames the Lords brother.
In the Pentecost account in Acts:
And when they were come in, they went vp into an vpper roome, where abode both Peter & Iames, & Iohn, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, Iames the sonne of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Iudas the brother of Iames.These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Iesus, and with his brethen.
The Assumption of Mary cannot be found in the Bible. Neither can Mary as Intercessor, Mediatrix, or Co-Redemprtix. In fact, there are scriptures that point to the falacy of these doctrines:
For there is one God, and one Mediatour betweene God and men, the man Christ Iesus,
…there bee some that trouble you, and would peruert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an Angel from heauen, preach any other Gospel vnto you, then that which wee haue preached vnto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now againe, If any man preach any other Gospel vnto you, then that yee haue receiued, let him be accursed.
The doctrine of the immaculate conception is problematic as it is contrary to the scriptures which state that all were conceived and born in sin. This seems to be significant, and even more beautiful as it allows any of us to share in the blessings of Mary which are the Grace of God.
So what am I comfortable saying about the Virgin Mary?
She is the Blessed Virgin Mary; all generations call her blessed; she is the Most Highly Favored Lady, the Theotokos, the Mother of God. All of this is backed up in Scripture. (My husband would also point out what Luther said in his Christmas sermon of 1529: “Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees…If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.”)