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Showing posts with label Mary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary. Show all posts

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Pentecostal Christian takes a second look at Mary

The Mother of Our Lord

I suppose one of the most distracting Catholic practices that continues to annoy the Protestant community is the adoration (which they see as excessive, and for all intents and purposes unwarranted) ascribed to Mary.

Doctrinal issues aside for a moment; however, let me see if I can help by suggesting that this prejudicial view of Marian devotions is, in my opinion, the same as judging Pentecostals by the practices of their snake handling cousins.

Next, may I also suggest that devotion is not necessarily adoration or worship; it may also result from fear as we seen present as a result of the Fatima aberration—also known as the aberration of Our Lady of the Rosary— when Mary supposedly appeared to three peasant Portuguese children and entrusted them with three secrets which reportedly involved Hell, Hell, World War I and World War II, and the attempted assassination by gunshot of Pope John Paul II (the details of which would be discursive at this point). However, providence would have it, the Lady of the Rosary (Mary) offered a way out which (not so surprising to the critics) included not just wholescale repentance, but a rigorously praying of the rosary, as well. Of course, we all know the results. Apparently, the faithful did not pray the rosary enough; because, God forbid that Our Lady of the Rosary could fail at such a crucial time as that. 

So, in my opinion—because of so far unproven practices such as this, we must set devotional practices aside when considering Marian theology. As someone remarked long ago, “What is, is not necessarily what ought to be.” However, after having made that comment, it should be noted that the Lady of the Rosary cult has a huge following, including the late Pope, now saint, John Paul II who credits her with saving his life.

On the same token, for instance, even a distorted and fearful worship of God although wrong does not necessarily negate the worship of God all together—any more than an excessive Mariolatry, rules out  a proper respect for the role of Mary, The Mother of Our Lord, in the Church.

The problem, however, for the Protestant community (although, not all non-Catholics or Orthodox like high Anglicans; and, yes, even Luther and Calvin) is rooted not in who she was, but who she is. For those that pray to her, she is very much alive—as a matter of fact, more alive than ever. Now, if to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, as Paul said, then we must believe that death for the saint is only a move; and in her case, a move upward.

Now, if these saints—modern or otherwise, are alive and present with the Lord, the reasoning goes, then why can we not also pray to them? Furthermore, they continue, the book of Hebrews tells us that we are surround by a great cloud of witnesses, those heroes and heroines of the Faith that have gone on before us—people like: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and Moses; and, yes, a prostitute named, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, and the list goes on and on to include Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets. Oh, my, quite a cloud, I would say. None-the-less, it is needless to say, that any one of them was saintly than Mary, the Mother of God’s only begotten Son.

Furthermore, is she not the second Eve, if contrasted with Jesus, the new Adam who is God incarnate? If not, the reasoning continues, then who is the woman in the book of Revelation, chapter 12, that was clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, who was pregnant and gave birth to a son, if not Mary? Neglecting, of course, to see that even though the vision appears in Heaven, it is on earth that all the action takes place. None-the-less, they are able to get around this by saying that Mary, since she embodied the Son of God—which makes her the Theotokos, the mother of God, also gave birth through Christ in a spiritual sense to all of God’s children. So, if you are able to follow this line of reasoning, since the Church is the Body of Christ, she is also the Mother of the Church which is composed of all the saints living and dead.
Convoluted to say the least; however, this is in essence what is believed.

So, when Protestant theologians say that the lady mentioned in above reference is the Church, they, of course will hardily agree, but they are not willing to stop there.

How then, do make sense of all of this?

We don’t, unless we are willing to admit that it is extra-Biblical, as it were to the naked eye. It makes perfect sense, however, if one is willing to accept the testimony of sacred history. There we find as early as the latter half of the second century. Here is what Father Matthew R. Mauriello writing on the behalf of The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute[i], Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, has to say—
The first insight regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given by the Church Fathers was the vision of Mary as the New Eve. The earliest patristic texts regarding the Eve-Mary parallel begin in the latter half of the Second Century. St. Justin, the Martyr, (+165) in his work, Dialogue with Trypho, states that, "Christ became a man by a virgin to overcome the disobedience caused by the serpent the same way it had originated."
The name Eve is taken from the Hebrew word, HAWAH, a verb which means "to live." "The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living."(Gen. 3:20) Eve, the first woman, was a virgin at the time that she was tempted by the serpent in the garden. Thus, Eve, a virgin, conceived disobedience and death, whereas, Mary, a virgin, conceived the Word in obedience and brought forth Life.
St. Ireneus, Bishop of Lyons, (+202) is considered the first theologian of the Virgin Mary. He took up St. Justin's Mary-Eve theme and further integrated it into his theology. Therein, Mary is treated as the New or Second Eve who is the beginning of the second Creation or re-creation of humanity through the Redemption.
He wrote, "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosened by Mary's obedience. The bonds fastened by the virgin Eve through disbelief were untied by the virgin Mary through faith." (Adv. haereses, 3:22)
Jesus Christ is the New Adam, the Lord of the New Creation (I Cor. 15:45-49) and Mary the New Eve who undid what the first Eve had done. The first Eve disobeyed God and thereby brought sin and death into the world. The New Eve, Mary, obeyed and believed God's message which was given to her at the Annunciation (Lk .1:26-38), and brought salvation and life to the world in her son, Jesus, who crushes the head of the serpent. Mary, like us, shares in this victory.
Tertullian (+220), another Church Father, used the Eve-Mary parallel as a secondary argument in favor of the virginal conception of Jesus Christ and emphasizes the act of faith involved. Building on the insights of Justin, Ireneus and Tertullian, the theme of the Eve-Mary parallel was expanded upon after the Council of Nicaea in the year 325.
St. Ambrose of Milan (+397) writes, "It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God." St. Jerome (+420) succinctly stated, "Death through Eve, Life through Mary." (Epist. 22, 2 I). St. Peter Chrysologus (+450) picked up on this theme in his writings, "Christ was born of a woman so that just as death came through a woman, so through Mary, life might return."
In our own century. Pope Pius XII is responsible for the principle papal contributions on this theme. In the Encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam. Dated Oct. 11, 1954, he wrote: "Mary, in the work of Redemption was by God's will, joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death."
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council recall the Eve-Mary parallel in the document on the Church. Lumen Gentium, Chapter 8, the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They quote from the Church Fathers, Sts. Ireneus, Jerome, and Epiphanius: "What the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”(L.G. 56)
In the same document, the Eve-Mary parallel is treated in relation to the Church: "For believing and obeying, Mary brought forth on earth the Father's Son. This she did, knowing not man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the New Eve, who put absolute trust. not in the ancient serpent, but in the messenger of God.( L.G. 63) We, the faithful of the Church are called to follow Mary's example of trusting faith and fidelity to the Holy Will of God."
Further, we find that—
Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296 – 373) was the main defender of the deity of Christ against the 2nd century heretics. He wrote: “O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O (Ark of the) Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which Divinity resides.” Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.
(Thus, I find it ironic that we can trust [and quote] Athanasius on matters as delicate as the Holy Trinity, but ignore him on matters pertaining to Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.)
Gregory the Wonderworker (c. 213 – c. 270) an early Christian teacher wrote: “Let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, “Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou, and the Ark of Thy sanctuary.” For the holy Virgin is in truth an Ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.[ii]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words from the earliest centuries, “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God . . . with men.”  (CCC 2676).

In summary, the strongest argument for the Old Testament type that prefigured Mary is The Ark of Covenant over which the Spirit hovered. Contained inside the Ark was the golden jar of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the table of Commandments—foreshadowing, some feel Christ as the Bread of Life, The  Eternal High Priest, and The body of Jesus Christ—the Word of God in the flesh. Thus, in the true sense Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant—which is illustrated in the charts below:
Mary as the Ark Revealed by the Items inside the Ark
Inside Ark of the Old Covenant
Inside Mary, Ark of the New Covenant
The stone tablets of the Law—the word of God inscribed on stone
The body of Jesus Christ—the word of God in the flesh.
The urn filled with manna from the wilderness—the miraculous bread come down from heaven.
The womb containing Jesus, the bread of life come down from heaven (Jn 6:41)
The rod of Aaron which budded to prove and defend the true High Priest
The actual and eternal High Priest

Mary the Ark as Revealed in Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth
Golden Box: Ark of the Old Covenant
Mary: Ark of the New Covenant
Traveled to House of Obed-Edom in the hill country of Judea (2 Sam 6:1-11)
Traveled to house of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country of Judea (Lk 1:39)
Dressed as a priest, David danced and leapt in front of the Ark (2 Sam 6:14)
John the Baptist of priestly lineage leapt in his mother’s womb at the approach of Mary (Lk 1:41)
David asks “Who am I that the Ark of my Lord should come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9)
Elizabeth asks “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43)
David was shouting in the presence of the Ark (2 Sam 6:15)
Elizabeth “cried out” in the presence of the Mary (Lk 1:42)
The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months (2 Sam 6:11)
Mary remained in the house of Elizabeth for three months (Lk 1:56)
The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark (2 Sam 6:11)
The word “blessed” used three times and surely the house was blessed by God (Lk 1:39-45)
The Ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the Temple (2 Sam 6:12; 1 Ki 8:9-11)
Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem where she presents God enfleshed in the Temple (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22)

The Virgin Mary, too, is easily thought of symbolically as the New Ark of Covenant also overshadowed by the Holy Spirit who miraculously infused God into her womb, after which she gave birth to Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father,  who became the Chief Architect of the New Covenant, Jesus, the Christ, and so-forth.

There are many quotations, comparisons and charts that I could provide because the early Christians taught the same thing that the Catholic Church teaches today about Mary, especially about her being the Ark of the New Covenant.[iii].

For sure, Scripture is full of types; however, we as Protestants without a clear exegetical insight must not accede to our imagination in this regard—unless, we are willing to concede to sacred tradition and take the Catholic Church’s word regarding on this matter. Be that as it may, however, I do not see how we can take the Scriptures serious if we are not willing to concede that Mary was prefigured in the Old Testament by the Ark of the Covenant.

The remaining task, for me—at least, is figure out just what the role of Mary is in contemporary Christianity. That task, I am sure, will begin with a clear understanding of what we are to believe when we recite the Apostles creed and repeat the words—
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
And, further, how all of this is to be acted out as Christians.


[i] The International Marian Research Institute (IMRI) was founded in 1975 in affiliation with Marianum, a pontifical institute in Rome, allowing students to study in America instead of having to travel to Rome to complete their studies. IMRI's programs include a doctorate in sacred theology (S.T.D.) and licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.); students can also earn credits towards a master's degree through the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Dayton.
[ii]Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VI : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the Third Century: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius The Great, Julius Africanus, Anatolius and Minor Writers, Methodius, Arnobius. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.