Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Devotion to Mary is for all Christians

Recently I've been doing some research on the great Protestant reformers. While I obviously disagree with them on many points of doctrine, their lives and works have much to recommend for inspiration and imitation. I'd like to share some quotes from their thoughts on Mary, since this aspect of their preaching rarely gets attention. Agree or disagree with the reformers' actions, but their intent was to purify a Church made ugly by sin, a Church which was supposed to be as spotless and holy as Mary, mother of Christians, after whom it was imaged. For just as Jesus dwelt in the womb of our Lady, so too must he dwell in the womb of his Church--the hearts of his faithful ones.

Martin Luther

But [Mary's] conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin... [1]

The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. [2]

Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing. [3]

John Calvin

Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God. [4]

It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. [5]

To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son. [6]

Ulrich Zwingli

 I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin. [7]

I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary. [8]

It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother. [9]

The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow. [10]

Naturally, one should stop short of giving Mary the adoration due only to God. No doubt many abuses and excesses have arisen in circles of her devotion. Like the rest of us, Mary is human and relies totally, from moment to moment, on Jesus' grace to even remain in existence. But this is no cause to downplay her role in the plan of salvation. Because unlike most of Jesus' disciples, she stayed near her Lord to the bitter end of his death, suffering with him in her heart and thus fulfilling Simeon's prophecy: and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed (Luke 2:35). Justice demands that we give her due honor as the holiest of God's prophets and saints. We should constantly ask her prayers and pattern our lives after her example of loyalty and devotion to her Son. In the spirit of the beloved disciple, John, let's make a lasting home for Mary in our hearts (see John 19:27).

[1] Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 11, p. 319-320.
[2] Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, (Translation by William J. Cole) Volume 10, p. 268.
[3] Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, Volume 51, 128-129.
[4] John Calvin, Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 35.
[5] John Calvin, Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 348.
[6] John Calvin, A Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke (St. Andrew's Press, Edinburgh, 1972), p.32.
[7] Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 424.
[8] E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., (Rome, 1962), 456.
[9] Ibid.
[10]  Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.

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