Mary Part 3

I thought I would have to write about a dozen posts about Mary in order to work my way through all these things that were at the very least foreign to me, and at the very most concerning to me regarding Marian Theology. Who knows, I may still end up with that many. But for now I’m at a point where I can say:

Ok, Teachings of the Catholic Church in Regard to Mary. Ok.

I can nearly promise that I will have additional questions about this issue for a while to come. But ok.

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This picture is very cool. Some of my friends posted it around Christmas time. This does a good job summing up the New Eve line of thinking the Catholic Church upholds.

Mostly because there has been a logical answer for everything so far. Though my heart is far from being at total ease with it, mostly I think at this point due to the utter unfamiliarity of this line of thinking.

Here is a very, very brief overview on the issues I struggled with and what has helped me.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary: The idea of Mary as the Ark of The New Covenant, and the parallels to the necessity of flawlessness in the original Ark. The idea of Mary as the New Eve, and the parallels to the original Eve being conceived without Original Sin. The idea that all Christians acknowledge the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in someone until their sins have been washed away by the grace of Jesus, and the logic that sin would have needed to have been washed away in Mary before Jesus could physically dwell inside her.

Mary’s Ever Virginity: I haven’t looked into this a ton yet, but my main argument against this as a Protestant has been the Bible verse that says Mary didn’t have union with Joseph “until” Jesus was born. Then, learning about the meaning and usage of that particular word “until” in other places in the Bible and that it wasn’t a given that the word meant what we use it as in most instances today.

Mary Queen of Heaven: The Jewish concept of the Queen Mother, and the passage in Revelation describing Mary are compelling.

Praying the Hail Mary and other Prayers to Mary: Catholics believe in the Communion of Saints, that as a whole body of believers, those of us here on earth and those in heaven consist as the Communion of Saints. Just as I ask my girlfriends to pray for me, asking others in the Communion of Saints that might not be so distracted (because of being in heaven) as we are with the day to day burdens we face to pray for us isn’t that much of a stretch. The Hail Mary is quoting scripture and giving Mary the acknowledgement of her special place in God’s redeeming plan, and then asking for her prayers for us on our behalf.

Mary’s Life-Long Sinlessness: Again, another one I haven’t looked into intensely yet. But, knowing how much our parenting affects our children’s human brains, the idea of Jesus needing to grow up in a home where his human mind wouldn’t be at all stifled, and would be allowed to flourish fully makes sense. Mary did provide Jesus with the human side to his nature… Also, I might be wrong on this, but in John chapter 1, Jesus is referred to as “Full of grace.” So is Mary in Luke chapter 1. To the best of my knowledge, no one else is described like that… and I think that could be an argument for this conclusion as well. That her life was so full of God’s grace, like a cup full to the brim with water, that there wasn’t room for anything else, including sin in it. I’m sure there is more to it, and when I get to that, great. But I doubt I’ll be the one to stump the Church on this one.

So… ok. And “ok” is a whole lot farther along from where I was when I started. I’m looking forward to learning more as time goes on, but it’s no longer one of my main pressing concerns. And, in fact, I could see how this understanding of Mary could be an asset to my faith in Jesus and my prayer life as well.

Mary Part 2

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again… coming from where I am coming from the focus on Mary sometimes weirds me out. And I’ve kind of been avoiding it for a week or so because I’m concerned this will be the one thing that I can’t come to terms with. But I’m also not afraid to wrestle with it and try and understand.

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This is kind of how I felt tonight. Literally. Like I’m halfway there in understanding the Immaculate Conception.

This post will focus on the Immaculate Conception.

Protestants believe that God chose Mary to have Jesus and used her, a normal person in need of God’s saving grace, in part of His salvation plan, just like he used a lot of other sinful people in his salvation plan. David did a lot of bad stuff, Moses, Paul, etc. The Protestant tradition doesn’t believe that Mary was special outside of being chosen to be Jesus’ mom. I guess that would mean that theoretically God could have chosen any faithful woman to bear His son…

What I have learned is that Catholics believe Mary did, indeed need God’s saving Grace, but that God imparted that grace to her, in anticipation of her role, at the moment of her conception. Hence, Mary was Immaculately Conceived.

Interestingly, it seems as though Martin Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception at least during the early years of his separation from the Catholic Church, but omitted some of those references in later editions of his writings, so his opinion might have changed, or it got edited out somehow. The reason I know this is I was curious to find out what the early Protestants believed on the matter. If you agree with the Reformation, then you would probably be inclined to assume Luther’s change of opinion was due to emerging more accurate theology… or if you are Catholic, you would perhaps say he lost the ability to correctly interpret theology outside of the authority of the Church. Either way, it is thought-provoking.

Also interestingly, I was in a college class on Modernity and Poetry when the professor indicated the Immaculate Conception was in reference to Jesus’ conception, and I knew enough to correct him. I still find that amusing. We engaged in some interesting emails about God after that, but I’ve known this teaching of the Catholic Church for a while now. Just has never made any sense to me.

Here’s the thing that got me tonight to make at least some progress. Hence the Bon Jovi quote. It’s like I’m halfway there and livin’ on a prayer to understand the rest. I’m tired. 🙂

I think that all Christians agree the Holy Spirit, the way that God resides in humanity today, can only reside in a person once they have received the saving grace of Jesus. For Protestants, the belief is that grace comes to you upon a decision to follow Christ, for Lutherans and Catholics, at least part of that saving grace is given to you at your baptism. The moment when the stain of Original Sin is wiped away.

Ok, so if God can’t spiritually reside in us while we bear the stain of Original Sin, it does make sense that Jesus (both God and Man) could not reside in Mary while she bore the stain of Original Sin inside herself. And the Catholic teaching that saving grace was given to Mary ahead of Jesus’ actual life on earth makes sense.

However, I’m only halfway there because I’m not sure why that grace had to be given to Mary upon her conception, instead of upon Jesus’ conception. And that is my current question, one I will have to work through at a later time.

Mary Part 1

One of the most difficult things for me to wrap my head around is the Catholic view of Mary’s role in the church.

Before I even say these things, I am clearly not a Marian theologian. Or any theologian. But the issue of Mary’s role in the church is a sticky one for us Protestants. Real sticky. It was one of my main issues why I couldn’t become Catholic when I went through RCIA 10 years ago. And I’m trying to work this all out at a level I can at least, for the most part grasp, with enough reason and understanding to make a decision, Lord help me.

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It is a whole bunch easier for me to picture Mary like this… because she was a real person…
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Than it is to picture her like this.

This post will focus on the Assumption of Mary.

Ok- if the Assumption of Mary really was a belief held by the early church… which the following articles make some good points about… maybe ok, maybe.

Catholic.com Article

Also what is the standard that the Protestant church uses in determining that the period is past for defining beliefs of the faith… I know the assumption was believed via official doctrine in the 1900’s, but why would the Holy Spirit stop working after the first few centuries of the Church to help the Church work things out even further?

As the following article states, “The Church imposes no time-limit on what God may teach her.” Ok. Fine. I can get behind that. The time in which we live has different needs and different questions than the Church did 1,500 years ago. Maybe this belief was just understood to be true and just needed to be formalized… maybe the need for a formalized belief on the subject didn’t need to be found until more recently.

First Things Article

The Protestant church doesn’t touch this, to my knowledge. It isn’t in the Bible. But I also know that the Bible said Jesus did many more things during his ministry and life than were recorded in the gospels (John 21:25). So it is kind of interesting that the default for Protestants is that Mary wasn’t assumed. She had a really special role in God’s plan… God could do what he wanted, and He had a history of assuming some of the other very holy people to Heaven in the Bible.

This isn’t definitive. It can’t ever be for a Protestant because of Sola Scriptura. The Bible doesn’t define this. But at least I think I can understand the reasoning the Catholic Church uses in making a statement of belief on the subject. It’s based on oral tradition in church history, basically. Just because it wasn’t formally stated as a belief, doesn’t mean it wasn’t held as a belief by the majority of early Christians. It’s possible, even, that the issue wasn’t even much up for debate until quite a bit into church history hence the late formalization.

That’s about all I can get through tonight. Other posts about Mary will include my thoughts and struggles and questions on:

Mary, Queen of Heaven

Mary, Mother of God

The Hail Mary Prayer

The Immaculate Conception

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Mary, friend of Christians and Intercessor

Oh my, this is going to be a long ride. This is very much one of the most difficult hurdles for me to get through. I hope to give it an honest and faithful and open-minded look. I don’t even feel like I would need to develop 100% confidence to make the leap to Catholicism. After all, I’m currently attending a church where a decent percentage of the attenders are Calvinist. I don’t agree with that theology, but people are pretty cool about it. But, in this, I have to be able to at least wrap my head around this and fit it into the larger context of the Catholic faith.