Wednesday, August 11, 2010

That Woman

You know, the, ahem, other Mary.

We do hope that you will observe next Sunday's commemoration of St. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord. Trusting as we do that our readers are both theologically astute and internet-enabled, we will bother you neither with any "defense" of the occasion (good God, what has become of us, that anybody feels the need to defend a remembrance of St. Mary?), nor with many references. We offer only a few teasers to provoke the preacher's imagination. We invite your contributions as well.
  • From Luther's Explanation of the Magnificat: "One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ."
  • Luther and Zwingli disagreed about the Eucharist (or hadn't you heard?), but they agreed about the perpetual virginity of Mary. So did Heinrich Bullinger. And John Wesley. All believed it, and Zwingli wrote a book on it. Zwingli!
  • Apparently, Anglicans dig Mary, too. There are more churches named for her in England than in any other country, and 206 PECUSA parishes (among +/- 7,500). Out of roughly 10,200 ELCA congregations, we count ten named for the BVM, one of which may be misleading because it is in the town of St. Mary's, Pennsylvania.
Newman, in his Anglican days, gives a very Protestant spin:
[T]he more we consider who St. Mary was, the more dangerous will such knowledge of her appear to be. Other saints are but influenced or inspired by Christ, and made partakers of Him mystically. But, as to St. Mary, Christ derived His manhood from her, and so had an especial unity of nature with her; and this wondrous relationship between God and man it is perhaps impossible for us to dwell much upon without some perversion of feeling. For, truly, she is raised above the condition of sinful beings, though by nature a sinner; she is brought near to God, yet is but a creature, and seems to lack her fitting place in our limited understandings, neither too high nor too low. We cannot combine, in our thought of her, all we should ascribe with all we should withhold.
His case is that the Anglican calendar only observed Marian occasions that are also events in the life of Christ -- Annunciation, Purification, etc. In other words, no Dormition or Assumption, which of course is the root of our Sunday observance. We assume the future cardinal rethought his conclusion, but we are also struck by how he here describes Mary's powerful grip on the imagination, a "danger," perhaps, but then so is fire if used unwisely.

Of course, there are other perspectives, typically represented by the deepest thinking and classiest writing. One Episcopal preacher observes,
I don't think I have ever seen a clearer example of this than a friend of mine, a very devout and one-eyed evangelical Protestant, who positively refused to buy any Christmas cards with "that woman" pictured on the front.
(Somebody has to say it: We thought "that woman" was "That Girl" after she married Donald, had some kids, and moved back to Scarsdale).

This guy hates Mary, and he hates Luther, and he probably hates you, too. But he's pretty funny about it:

The heresies of the Lutheran FALSE religion can be traced back to the heretic, Martin Luther. I realize that Luther made a public profession of faith in Christ, but he also publicly ADDED the holy mass and baptism to his faith as well.

According to the Bible, Martin Luther is burning in hell today. ... [M]artin Luther in his large and small catechisms blatantly declared that NO ONE could go to heaven without being baptized or partaking of the holy mass.

The Lutheran church in NO church, but a bastard child of the Mother of harlots (Roman Catholicism). Luther prayed..."O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, what great comfort God has shown us in you..."

Listen folks...if you hail Mary, you are hailing Satan!

Err, yes. That was what we meant to say.

1 comment:

Diane said...

oh, I SHOULD have gotten this on the calendar. sadly, not preaching on Mary this year. It would have been great.