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Blessed Art Thou Among Women

What about the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Why ask?

For two reasons.

Firstly, because there is a breed of activist Roman Catholic (RC) that delights in imposing its Marian faith on others; and scorning all who don't agree with a triumphalism that is unbecoming. Secondly, because Lutherans need to re-think the importance of the Blessed Virgin. Indeed, all generations must call her Blessed, and not in theory only. We are those generations.

Lutherans historically venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM). This is in keeping with Scripture, and the practice of the church of the ages, including our Reformation fathers. Nearly every liturgy the church ever prayed commemorated the BVM, and still does, with the exception of sectarians for the last 500 years. Neither of those traditions can be safely ignored.

Somewhere along the line, however, veneration turned into intercession. I don't know when. I suspect it had to do with the Christological debates of the 4th and 5th centuries in which Mary was declared by the church to be Theotokos (431 AD The Council of Ephesus) and not simply Christotokos. Mother of God, that is, and not simply Mother of Christ. Lutherans have always affirmed the Theotokos. Nonetheless, Lutherans neither pray to the Virgin, nor ask her to pray for them. We believe that Jesus himself is our only intercessor and High Priest. We have no other, nor want any other because the crucified, risen and glorified Lord, into whom we are baptized, is at the right hand of the Father always interceding for us.

At this point in the debate the RC often asks: but don't you ask other people to pray for you? It's no different than that. To which we answer: yes it is. Though time does not allow, let me simply say that the subject of Christian intercession is deeply misunderstood. To make long discussion short: no Christian ever prays alone even when when he is alone. Instead, every prayer a Christian offers is offered in conjunction with the entire church of heaven and earth: of which the BVM is a part. And not an insignificant part. But to hear the voice of the church she is the saint of all saints. The Queen of Heaven. But even with that exalted title Lutherans don't pray to her, or single her out to make intercession for them.

Recently I heard a RC theologian expound their rationale for Marian intercession. He began with the sentimental argument: If a king won't hear your plea isn't it best to approach him through his tender mother, who always has his ear, and whom he will always honor? But this begs the question. It assumes that our Lord must be coerced, before he will grudgingly give us our desire. But as we sing in our hymn:

Come my soul thy suit prepare,
Jesus loves to answer prayer...
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and pow'r are such
None can ever ask too much.

Next came biblical argument. The wedding at Cana was referenced, of which all I can say for the moment is that this account is one of the most misinterpreted portions of the New Testament; and the speaker did not disappoint. From there he went on to 1 Kings 2:19 "So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king's mother, and she sat on his right."

None of this is convincing, which makes me grateful for the Lutheran Reformation, especially in this case Article 21 of the Augsburg Confession

Yet however far afield Lutherans believe Rome and the East have gone with their Marian dogma, there is much significant faith and theology that is summarily dismissed by Lutherans, but should not be. I'm not prepared to outline the entire discussion at this time, but simply to call the attention of Lutherans to the words of Holy Scripture, "From this time forth all generations shall bless me." (Luke 1:48) This means more than assenting to the words here spoken. It implies an activity on the part of all generations. We are those generations. (This was most elegantly accomplished in the Eucharistic Prayer, which has been in constant use from the beginning of Christian time: but wrongly rejected by the Reformation.)

No one who bears the name of Christ may ignore her; and no Christian who takes his faith seriously can remain ignorant of the subject. As a cure to a widespread lack of knowledge among Lutherans I offer this informative article. As always your comments and questions are welcome.  

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