Mary, Mother of God

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Sunshine Mary recently wrote a blog post explaining why she has a picture of Mary on her blog despite being a Protestant herself.  She focused on how Mary is an excellent counter-example to feminism today, through her humility, trust, and especially her perfect submission to God’s will when she gave her fiat — “let it be done.”

She didn’t get into the issue of praying to Mary, and just stuck to the idea of following her example.  Apparently the comments blew up anyway, as she more-or-less expected, so she removed them before I got a chance to leave one — or even read the others — so I’m riffing on it here.

I’ve never understood why Protestants have a problem with Mary.  I understand not wanting to slip into the error of worshiping her.  The Catholic Church is wary of that too, and has reined in groups that strayed over that line throughout history.  But virtually ignoring her seems like a huge mistake in the other direction.

This is the woman God chose to give birth to Himself.  She is the new Eve, who succeeded in faith where Eve failed.  She is the one about whom God said to Satan, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”  (That’s why many statues of Mary show her stepping on a snake, by the way.)  There in the middle of Satan’s victory dance at getting Adam and Eve to foul things up, God prophesied evil’s ultimate defeat at the act of a woman — and that act was Mary’s acceptance of His will.  This is the woman whom the angel called, “Full of grace,” meaning she was as filled with God’s grace as it’s possible for any mere human being to be.  She carried the Son of God in her womb for nine months, and the scripture tells us He was obedient to her (and Joseph) as He was growing up.  Dying on the Cross, Jesus said to Mary and St. John the Apostle, “Mulier, ecce filius tuus … Ecce, mater tua.”  “Woman, behold thy son … Behold thy mother.”  He used some of His last few words to give Mary to John — and by extension, to all of us — as his own mother, so they would care for each other.

Even if you stop there, and don’t get into Catholic traditions or dogmas like the Assumption or the Immaculate Conception or numerous apparitions, isn’t the paragraph above enough?  Aren’t those enough reasons to respect Mary, to think of her often, to follow her example, to turn to her in time of need and say, “Mary, my mother, please help me”?  Who better to intercede with Jesus on our behalf than His mother?  That doesn’t mean worshiping her; it just means showing her the deference due to the position God gave her.  It’s crystal clear that God loves her; shouldn’t we?

Christianity without Mary isn’t just less interesting; it doesn’t exist.  Oh sure, Jesus could have been found under a cabbage leaf, or appeared from nowhere as a full-grown adult.  But it would be a very different religion.  Without His birth to a woman in the Incarnation, you don’t have the parallel with Eve, the same redemption story.  You don’t have the same emphasis on free will that’s essential to Christianity, so there would probably be more of a sense of God’s will pushing people around like chess pieces, which leads to heresies as diverse as Islam and Calvinism’s extreme of predestination, come to think of it.

So it’s nice to see a non-Catholic Christian showing some appreciation for Mary, especially knowing she was going to take heat for it.  Since I couldn’t compliment her there, I am here.


17 thoughts on “Mary, Mother of God

  1. Thank you for this essay. I don’t think I understood the parallels between Eve and Mary before, but of course that makes perfect sense. As I wrote, I am no theologian, nor am I terribly well-versed in Catholic doctrine, despite being raised nominally Catholic (baptized, confirmed, went to Mass with Grandma once or twice a year), so this is informative. I don’t cry out to Mary in times of need, but rather directly to God, but I simply don’t have the animosity toward this practice that many of my fellow Protestants seem to have. Of course, I had hoped that reactions to my little essay would be focused on contemplating Mary’s lovely example of submission, but alas, I underestimated how deeply passions would run.

  2. The usage and meanings of words have changed since the Protestant Reformation/Revolt. Catholic theology recognizes two kinds of Worship; Veneration and Adoration. Adoration is reserved for God. The Worship of Veneration has historically been given to mortal men and women and this is the kind of Worship that Catholics have for Mary. To illustrate that Worship is misunderstood in the modern world, remember that judges are addressed as ‘Your Worship’ in the United Kingdom instead of ‘Your Honor.’ It means the same thing. The Worship of Veneration is giving honor to that person.

    You said, ”Christianity without Mary isn’t just less interesting; it doesn’t exist.” This truth was established over 1500 years ago. The First Council of Ephesus in 431AD established that Jesus was a Divine Person with a both a human nature and a Divine nature. Mary was recognized as Theotokos (God Bearer) also known as the Mother of God. These issues are intertwined and interdependent. Those that negate Mary as Theotokos are actually affirming some of the teachings of the heretic Nestorius.

    Additionally, Protestant Christians are confused between Prayer and Worship. Prayer is just asking. Prayer is not Worship and certainly not the Worship of Adoration. To illustrate this point, a person can file a prayer to a civil court. It is just a request to be heard.

    Words in the English language have taken on different definitions in the modern world. People don’t know history and thus the Protestant accusation that Catholics engage in idol worship is farcical and erroneous.

  3. sunshine — “I underestimated how deeply passions would run.”

    i was raised a catholic too, and even in the fifties devotion to mary was widespread

    of course as an adult i understood that there’s no scriptural nor factual evidence for mary’s assumption, nor praying to her (which is a sacrilege against Christ and the Father)

    john paul 2 devoted his office to her, credited her with saving his life after the hit attempt, and essentially spent his years as pope deifying mary …. eventually claiming that mary co-redeems human beings from sin, which is untrue, blasphemous, and unfair to her, for she never claimed any such thing

    the job of every “pope” is devotion and service to CHRIST, not mary, his birth-mother

    Peter was chosen by Christ as model for future church leaders, and peter never elevated mary

    cail corishv —

    “I’ve never understood why Protestants have a problem with Mary.”

    well, now you know — a little

    no lover of christ “has a problem” with mary — you make it sound like she’s being attacked

    the OT chroincles the constant backsliding of ancient Israel to veneration/worship of female figures, but the women of the tribes always found ways to reverence them anyway — so did males who wished to please their wives, and keep the peace, and seem very forwardthinking, expansive, and tolerarnt

    “I understand not wanting to slip into the error of worshiping her. The Catholic Church is wary of that too, and has reined in groups that strayed over that line throughout history. But virtually ignoring her seems like a huge mistake in the other direction.”

    not at all, theyre trying to keep denominations from falling into the same goddess-devotional error as the catholics

    i liked sunshine’s post, and also find mary a fine model for femininity — problem is, focusing on her always ends up at the same bad place, as women naturally will tend to rely on her psychologically, wanting someone who is like them and “knows them”

    but only Christ actuallly knows

    writing what i have above enrages catholics and others, b/c strikes at the heart of something they ve been trained to believe, and very much WANT to believe, but which is wrong (and worse) nevertheless

    it’s a shame it’s divisive, but in this case it cant be helped, and folks will just have to be Offended, it seems a proper deity for the age

  4. I missed all the fooferah. By the time I saw her post all the comments were deleted. I’m wondering what could have happened that was so extreme. I’m kind of wishing she had left the comments, so I could see what sort of direction or tone underlaid them, but given some of the crap people have dealt her there, I can’t really blame her for flushing some of it.

    Until now, i didn’t know Protestants HAD a problem with Mary.

  5. Ray, thanks for lumping many common misconceptions into one place for easy handling.

    “Devotion to Mary was widespread” (and hopefully will be again) because it’s a good thing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with devotion to Mary — or to the saints, or to your Aunt Sally if she’s a particularly holy person. Husbands and wives should be devoted to each other. Devotion isn’t worship. Neither is veneration worship, as 7man helpfully points out.

    I assume your remark about John Paul II (not my favorite pope, but if he preached outright heresy on this topic I’d know about it) has to do with the doctrine that Mary is the Mediatrix of all Graces. People sometimes picture this as if Mary is sitting up in Heaven with a basketful of grace, deciding when and on whom to dispense it. That’s not the case. It’s not one of the easier doctrines to explain, but here’s the logic as I understand it:

    • We are only saved by grace. (I think Protestants can all agree with that.)
    • All graces are embodied in the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ. There is no grace without Him. (Still good?)
    • Jesus was only able to come in the Incarnation through Mary’s consent. (“able” here obviously doesn’t mean “capable,” because God is all-powerful and could use any method He wanted. But as I said before, to draw the parallel between the Fall and the Incarnation and have the latter be a redemptive act for the former, He “needed” her consent.)
    • Therefore, every grace we receive, in some small way is thanks to that consent. Had she said no — and she was free to do so — we could not be saved.
    • So we say that all graces come “through” her as a mediator.

    So it’s not that she’s saving us or giving us anything directly, or being a “co-redeemer.” But is she involved? Absolutely.

    Thanks to 7man for touching on some of the other points.

  6. cail, that is the most tortured, cyclical “logic” i’ve ever seen to justify praying to an entity (mary, who is currently quite dead) that YOU desire, and God’s will be damned

    God doesnt need mary’s consent for anything, and the grace we receive from God is NOT dependant in ANY way on the Goodness of Mary, nor on her consent, nor on her holiness, nor is she a link in the chain of grace

    she is D-E-D just in case you didnt get the prior spelling

    you are determined to glorify her, therefore by all means, cleave to your idols

  7. So, where in the Bible does it say Mary is dead? Could you be any more offensive? What a disgrace you are, going around insulting the Mother of Our Blessed Lord! Those that have preceeded us in earthly death now reside in Hell, in Purgatory (for purifcation prior to Heaven), and in Heaven. The dead in Christ are very much alive in Christ. Remember also the words of Elizabeth: “Who am I that the MOTHER of my LORD should visit me?” This is the basis for Theotokos (God Bearer).

    7man already explained that prayer and worship are not the same thing, but obviously you are stuck on your own error and determined to behave like a raving nutcase. That you don’t have the mind to discern the difference between an idol and veneration (as distinct from adoration) doesn’t make what you say right or true.

    Since the Bible says that Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven, we know it is possible. The fact that the Bible does not say it did happen with Mary cannot be used to say absolutely that it didn’t happen.

  8. CL– So, where in the Bible does it say Mary is dead? Could you be any more offensive?

    tha’s the same question women have been asking me for 20 years now

    each time i say something that women and their male enablers dont like, i am told — just like the feminists tell me — that i am OFFENSIVE (the step immediatly following is complaint to the Authorities to have me silenced and stopped from Offending with the truth

    your question, appropriately, plays the Devil’s Advocate — since the bible doesnt specifically say mary is dead — no more than it can recount the deaths of billions of others and still have a readable text — you and the catholics feel free to claim, without ANY SCRIPTURAL BACKING OR PROOF — that mary ascended into heaven, and now sits as Queen of Heaven, hearing prayers from mortals and accepting their devotions and reverences

    that is simply twisting God’s word to suit your very human desires and demands, particularly the human desire for a female deity, which goes back to Eden

    hating on me, little lady, doesnt change a thing — except to show you have no argument, and thus must attack the messenger

    . . . gee, i havent seen THAT behavior from women the past 50 years! LOL

  9. ray, that was predictable. No addressing the points and making a big to-do out of the word “offensive”. Well, some things are offensive. How’s about you show me where I have overused the word, rather than complaining about “women and feminists” that overuse it?

    This is not even an argument; you are the one arguing like a woman here. The Bible can’t contain everything, and it is not meant to provide “proof” of everything but to disprove and rebuke. Can you show me scriptural evidence for your assertion that Mary was NOT assumed into Heaven and is now just dirt in the ground?

    The truth does not always need scripture to support it and the Bible never states that scripture is required to support the truth. The Bible does say that scripture is suitable for reproach, so give some thought to using it that way.

  10. if an incident as earth-shattering (and heaven-affecting) as mary ascending into heaven had indeed taken place, the bible CERTAINLY WOULD have recorded it somewhere — it would have been prophesied in the OT, possibly by more than one prophet, and would certainly have been recorded in the acts or epistles, if not

    if the future Jesus were going to share his crown with his mommy, he’d WOULD have said PLENTY about it during his life (unless, of course, the Evil Patriarchy covered up his words anointing mary!)

    if mary was meant by God to ascend into heaven to act as Co-Redeemer with Christ, SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE in scripture most assuredly WOULD have done a lot more than mention it, given that it takes rulership of the universe OUT of the hands of Jesus alone, and places authority in SHARED STATUS . . . which, indeed, is exactly the “equality” between male and female that satan offers us on earth . . . hmmm…. what a strange and inexplicable coincidence….

    mary’s assumption and power in heaven is just satan offering what he’s already established on earth (a feminist world) and extending it to the celestial/eternal realm

    as eve demonstrated, women desperately want “equal power” with men, b/c “equality” turns out to be the exact opposite — the iniquity we see before us in our feminist cultures

    no matter what i say, this world demands its endless goddesses, operating under endless names, and claiming mary’s assumption and redemptive power is just another attempt by the world to deny its true King, and force him to share his throne with a female, because that is what females WANT, God be damned

  11. I’m going to leave it up as an example, but in the future I will delete comments like this last one of Ray’s. It has three big strikes against it:

    1. I, the blog owner, am Catholic. That doesn’t mean non-Catholics and their thoughts are not welcome here, but when you’re in someone’s home, you have respect for his beliefs. I don’t go to Protestant blogs and tell them their practices are from Satan, and I don’t expect to hear that here about Catholic dogmas like the Assumption. There are places for that, but this is not one of them. I haven’t stressed that yet, because this blog is new and the free version doesn’t give me a way to add guidelines to the comment template, but that’s one limit I’m going to have.

    2. Ray ignores the points others have made and just repeats his tired rants, only with more shouting. He allows for no possibility that his debate opponents might have something useful to say, or might even have a little common sense; he’s totally right and they’re idiots. That won’t wash here either.

    3. Lack of capitalization. If your English skills aren’t great, that’s fine, just do your best. But when you have the ability to type capital letters — as Ray clearly does, to judge by all the shouting — then refusing to do so shows contempt for your reader. Proper capitalization, punctuation, and grammar make things faster and easier to read and comprehend. It’s not that hard to capitalize the first word of each sentence; even public schools still teach it. If you can’t be bothered to make it easy for me to read your stuff, I can’t be bothered to waste my time (or my readers’ time) on it.

    So in short, sloppily written, obnoxious, anti-Catholic comments will be deleted in future. Don’t waste your time or mine.

  12. By the way, for Protestants who feel strange about considering Mary their mother, here’s what Martin Luther had to say on the subject:

    Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of us all. If Christ be ours . . . all that he has must be ours, and His Mother also must be ours.

    He also proclaimed her perpetual virginity, her Immaculate Conception, and her Assumption (without getting into the mechanics of it). More on the subject here:

  13. Wandered over here from your comments at Dalrock’s blog. I don’t have the time or understanding for a full-fledged debate (not that it would be useful, when others have been arguing over the same questions for hundreds of years), but I do want to point out that your Genesis quotation is incorrect. Here’s how the ESV translates it: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (More translations:

    It took a little looking, but I found an explanation in the notes to the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition: “The Latin Vulgate has the reading ipsa conteret, ‘she shall bruise.’ … It could be due originally to a copyist’s mistake, which was then seen to contain a genuine meaning—namely, that Mary, too, would have her share in the victory, inasmuch as she was mother of the Savior.” ( A copying error or mistranslation is no basis for a point of doctrine, however.

  14. Well, I’m not Catholic, but I don’t have a problem with Mary (either Sunshine Mary or Mary the mother of Jesus). As far as praying to Mary and to the saints generally, I’ve come to understand it as an extension of intercessory prayer that Christians do for one another. That is, just as we might ask a friend to pray for us, so too we might ask St. Mary or St. Bartholomew to do the same, the idea being that though they are dead, they are with the Lord and so in some sense alive and very much a part of the ongoing communion of saints. Is that a correct understanding of the concept?

  15. TBC, that’s my understanding. We can also pray to our dead friends or relatives if we like. The thing about saints is that the Church has declared that they are in heaven with a direct hotline to God, so to speak, so there’s no chance that we’re praying to someone who can’t help us.

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