Monday, December 6, 2010

On the Virgin Mary

I once heard a pastor say that 'The Virgin Mary would have been like any regular thirteen-year-old. In our time she probably would have talked incessantly on her cell phone about boys, giggled all the time, not wanted to do her homework, and been rebellious against her parents.' The pastor continued to say that Jesus, in His teenager years, probably paraded his new camel up and down Main Street in Nazareth to show off His new ride. I could hardly keep my seat.

It was the very worst case I had ever seen of a belief prominent in the Protestant psyche. In a worldview based upon the premise of being anti-Catholic, the Protestants have so degraded the saints from the Catholic reverence that they have become idols of a different sort. These idols are insistently proclaimed to be 'just like us.' They supposedly have the same struggles and failures that we have, and therefore we should fight against any guilt, because God's grace covers all of our sins, no matter how persistently we do them––for we are all, apparently, equal in God's sight. It is a self-centered standpoint held in antagonism against the Catholic and Orthodox view of the saintliness of the saints, the holiness of Mary, and the respect, remembrance, and imitation that they thus deserve.

Though we are all equal in that we are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ from our sins, the legacy of these heros of the faith are such that we ought to strive to emulate their good works and thus glorify God. No doubt, the reverence given to Mary and the saints is vastly abused by many people who turn to superstition and idolisation instead of to Jesus, our only intercessor. But have the Protestants not protested too far?

Looking back to the very first chapters of Genesis, we see the embryonic beginning of the work that God completed through Jesus. Eve, the first Woman, and Adam, the first Man, fell. God established a new Covenant with them, through which their Fallen nature might be rectified: the Family. The Family would be the cell that would sanctify the fallen human through its emulation of Love. Just as God is a triune Being, built upon the love and unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Family was to be a unit in which Man and Woman unite in Love and bear the fruit of Love: the Child. Sacrifice becomes the working of salvation in their lives. The Man sacrifices for the Woman and Child by working the soil to provide for them; the Woman sacrifices for the Child by the hard work of childbirth and the devotion of her life to the service of her Child and her Husband. The Child then grows up in this sacrificial love and goes out to begin a new family in which Love may multiply.

God, in this establishing of the way of salvation, prophesies the coming of the Second Adam and the Second Eve. He speaks to the snake, 'I shall put enmity between you and the Woman, and between your offspring and Her offspring; He will break your head and you will bruise His heel.'

This prophesy is fulfilled thousands of years later. God, His eyes roving to and fro over the earth to find hearts that are turned toward Him, picks Mary out of all the women of all the ages of the world to be the 'Mother of our Lord'. Rather than Sarah, Rachel, Leah, Rebekah, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Susanna, Judith, Esther, Mary and Martha, Joanna, Joan of Arc, St. Lucy, St. Monica, St. Teresa of Avila, Mother Theresa, or countless other choices, God sends His archangel Gabriel to a thirteen or fourteen-year-old girl in one of the most politically tortuous times in history. Paul Johnson, in his very enlightening biography of Jesus, states that Mary's whole life, as an average woman in that time, would have been built upon being a useful helpmate to her husband. She would have known how to read and write, how to manage the household finances, how to provide with food and clothing a large family out of very raw resources. We see, too, from the words that Mary speaks, that she was a quiet and sensible soul, with an intelligent mind and a poetic turn of phrase.

The angel proclaims to her that she is 'highly favored of God'. That the Lord is 'with her'. He informs her that she is to be the 'virgin with child' spoken of in Isaiah's prophesies. That she is to be the one in all humanity which Yahweh would come upon and 'cover with His shadow' and thus impregnate. That she is to be the pinnacle figure in the Holy Family, fulfilling the establishment of the family in Genesis 3. That her womb is to be graced with El Shaddai. That her body is the body which will nurture and feed the Creator of the world. That the divine cells of the Son of the Most High will live in her body, fighting disease and enhancing her health even after she has given birth, and indeed until her death. That her breasts will provide the milk which will feed Elohim, and that the strong bond of love thus created will be a bond held between herself and Yahweh. She will be the Second Eve, through which the Second Adam will be born.

Yet this outstanding proclamation is one that Mary knows will bring extreme unhappiness for her in the short term. She knows the consequences of a pregnancy out of wedlock. She could lose the support of her family. She could lose the love of Joseph. She could suffer an ignominious divorce from her betrothed. She could be shunned by mankind. She could even be stoned, and, if the stoning did not kill her, pushed off a cliff. She could be the refuse of society. But Mary, the young girl with wonderful faith, says, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.'

From this moment she was to see many miracles. She was to observe the handiwork of God in the reunion of Joseph and herself. She was to birth the Savior of the world, and to hush the cry of the Creator who spoke the worlds into being with her breast. She was to be waited upon by wise men and kings from foreign countries along with lowly shepherds. She was to flee across deserts from the wrath of evil leaders searching for her infant King. She was to be the shepherdess of her child's growth. She was to behold the miraculous works of Jesus. She was to hear His eloquent and Earth-shaking words. She was to feel a 'sword pierce her soul', as Simeon had prophesied. She was to witness His final words, securing the Apostle John as her son and protector in the stead of Himself, and she was to be present at the death of her son, the Son of God, who would wash clean her sins and the sins of all mankind. She was to see His Resurrection, which gave her the power along with all the world to conquer death.

This woman, the Second Eve, the Mother of Elohim, is a powerful figure. She is the one woman in all history whom 'all generations shall call blessed'. And so we bless Mary.


Briana Monet Mahoney said...

Amen! Amen! Bravo! I definitely think we have protested too far. We girls were just talking about there being some very good “Catholic” things that we have lost in our Protestant churches. We also remembered the very bad “Catholic” things that were the impetus for the Reformation. Our family has always felt that God’s people are “the church” and no one denomination is necessarily the all correct doctrine. My Dad was raised Catholic and my Mom was raised Mennonite. When they married, they decided to use the Bible as the source and authority of all their doctrinal information. Since then, in searching for churches that preach “The Bible” in it’s entirety, the main problem seems to be camping out on a couple of verses and then ignoring the rest of the passages that put those verses in balance. We have been to quite a few different denominations and found true Christian brothers and sisters along the way. Christianity seems to be a great balancing act, and the Devil is always anxious for us to swing off one side or the other. It is encouraging to me to read your posts!

Camille Rose Wolaver said...

I completely agree with you, Briana. The schism between the Catholics and the Protestants and amongst the Protestant denominations is very unBiblical. We ought to be followers of Christ and the Bible, not of factions or of those factions' leaders. Both sides have their Biblically solid beliefs and their misguided beliefs… but what we are called to do is to believe what the Bible has said: the Truth of God and Biblical theology, not any man-ordained theology. That is very interesting about your parents' different backgrounds and how they came to the decision to follow Jesus by the Bible and not by denomination. Very inspiring! Thanks for commenting!

Katelyn LaRee Mahoney said...

Clap, clap, clap. Right on!
O my, what wonders you must hear on your travels!

Jessica Hall said...

I remember Ben telling me about the pastor telling about Jesus being a normal teen at FASA. I hope you're having a good day! We're about to go out and play for a Christmas party! Eekers! =P

Camille Rose Wolaver said...

Have a great time playing at the Christmas party, Jessica! I wish I was there to hear it! :) Merry Christmas!