The following blog is what I wrote down in my Lectio Divina Meditation several months ago.
I had to swim in the pool at Premier Gym in Tallahassee, Florida. A particularly loquacious former minister was holding court in the pool, telling people what they believed, as someone who fancied himself judge, jury, and executioner. The subject turned to Mary, and he asked about my religion, which I told him. He said, and I quote, “Oh, you belong to the cult of Mary.” I told him I did not consider myself in a cult, but his opinions did not change, accusing me of worshiping Mary and not God. I told him, “If, as you say, I am of the Cult of Mary, and you don’t accept that it is not what I believe, then, by the same logic, you must be from the Cult of John Wesley.” He said he was not a member of any cult. I replied, “and neither am I.” He immediately changed the subject. This encounter got me thinking about how many people can hear the words, Mother of God, and not have an appreciation for the role of Mary in our salvation.
How can Mary be the Mother of God? Mary was the mother of Jesus. Her role was like St. John the Baptist, to prepare the way for the Lord. Mary has a primacy of honor in the Church, not the primacy of authority (that belongs to St. Peter). An unlikely place that helped me explain the role of Mary was the U.S. Army Chaplaincy. As an Army Chaplain, I was assigned to many commanders in my short stint. I learned that the religious program was for all soldiers, not just Roman Catholics. However, I had direct responsibility for the Roman Catholic services for Roman Catholics and their families. It did not matter if soldiers believed or did not. In fact, the religious program belonged to the Commander, who had a responsibility to see whether soldiers had the opportunity to workshop or not. Some Chaplains got along with the Commanders, and some did not. From the wise advice of a great Command Sergeant-Major, I learned early on that I did not have any authority whatsoever as a Chaplain, but I could have tremendous influence if I did not make an ass out of myself. That was some of the most remarkable advice I ever received, and it worked.
When you think of it, Mary was not God and did not have any authority, but, like the Chaplain, she could be a tremendous influence on Christ (and still does). The great advice Mary has for us is, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
Take a few minutes and do this exercise. Just answer the questions.
2. How many natures does Jesus have? Name them.
3. How many natures does Mary have? Name them.
Mary cannot be the Mother of the God the Trinity, but she is the mother of Jesus, both God and Man. This controversy was very intense in the early centuries of our formation. The mother of God’s side won this argument. The heresy of Nestorius was based on the belief that Mary was just the mother of Jesus and not God. Mohammed, the Prophet, got his notion of Mary from a Nestorian traveler and incorporated this idea into his religion.
Do Catholics worship Mary? We do not adore Mary, but she does have primacy of honor among believers. Mary is not God; she is a human, like us in all things but sin (God’s grace overshadowed her, and she was filled to the brim of her humanity with the Holy Spirits.
Do Catholics pray to Mary? We only pray to God, through, with, and in Christ. We honor those who have patterned their lives after Christ, such as early Church martyrs. We ask those living as the Church Triumphant before the throne of the Lamb to pray for us to the Father. Some people will never accept this, whether someone should even rise from the dead. (Luke 16:30-31)
From the 11th century, Cistercians and Lay Cistercians had Mary as their Patroness and celebrated that fact on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Why does any of this matter? Here are a few of my assumptions.
DID YOU JUST MAKE ALL THIS MARY STUFF UP RECENTLY?
Here is a Marian prayer from the early beginnings of our Catholic Universal Church, c 250. It was in use well before that date.
We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.