Friday, 6 January 2017

A Biblical Defence of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

The other day on Twitter,  the Holy Father tweeted: Let us entrust the new year to Mary, Mother of God, so that peace and mercy may grow throughout the world.

In response to that, some (I assume) well-meaning but (certainly) ill-informed protestant tweeted:

The Roman Catholic practice of Mary worship is a violation of the 1st Commandment. RCs must repent of this idolatry for the glory of Christ.

I responded: Is it wrong to ask others to pray for us? Our repeated request to Mary is: 'pray for us sinners...'

He did not directly answer my question, but replied:

Hello Ben, we seek to engage in humility and kindness in a way that pleases the Lord. Can you show an Apostolic example of petitioning Mary?

I replied No, but you are making assumptions that I don't share. We are not called to follow the Apostles so much as Christ Himself. He, obeying the commandments, honoured His Mother. So do we.

Receiving no reply to this, I later tweeted him again: You are quite mistaken to think that we worship the Blessed Virgin. We offer the Sacrifice of the Mass to the triune God.

And there the matter rests.

But it does seem to me to illustrate a real problem, a great misunderstanding about Catholicism, held by many sincere protestants. I have blogged very briefly about the fundamental problem before, but in this post I want to take a more protestant-friendly approach, by making a Biblical case for praying to the Blessed Virgin.

The Annunciation:

The Angel Gabriel, sent by the Father, greeted her: Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee!

The Visitation:

Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Ghost to recognise her, greeted her: Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!

These two direct quotations from the Bible form the first half of that most typical of all Marian prayers, the Hail, Mary.

Mary herself, in response to Elizabeth, prophesied that all generations will call me blessed, for He that is mighty has done great things for me.

The Finding in the Temple and the Hidden Life:

At the close of this account, we read that He was subject to them. For the next eighteen years, Our Lord lived subject to His mother and His foster father. The implications of that are many. One is that whatever they asked, He would do in obedience, humility and love. Another is that He honoured his Mother in accordance with the Commandments which the Father gave Moses on Sinai. From these, and because He is truth itself, we can conclude that she was worthy of His obedience and worthy of His honour. The depth of humility in the Incarnation never ceases to amaze; but I cannot imagine that it would include stooping to obey and honour somebody unworthy of either.

The Miracle at Cana:

Here we see clearly the power of His mother's intercession: although His hour is not yet come, Our Lord responds to her request, and sets out on the road to Calvary.

Then comes the line that should put the protestant unease to rest. Mary's command: Do whatever He tells you! Those of us who have sought her intercession, and meditated in her rosary, know that her will is united to His: and her answer is always the same: Do whatever He tells you! That is one reason why there is no spiritual danger in devotion to the Blessed Virgin (along with the fundamental reason, which is that we do not offer her the adoration due to God alone).

The Foot of the Cross:

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then he said to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her into his own home. There is the apostolic example which my interlocutor desired. The beloved disciple took the Blessed Virgin into his home; and so do we.

In summary, when we pray to Our Blessed Mother, we draw on the words of Scripture; we fulfill the prophesy that Scripture records; we follow Christ in loving and honouring His blessed Mother; we recognise the power of the Blessed Virgin's intercession, as demonstrated in Scripture; we find again and again that she points straight back to her Son; and we respond to Christ's command to the beloved disciple to take her into our homes.

What we do not do is adore her. She is worthy of the highest honour of any created being: indeed, we recognise in her the woman crowned with stars in the Apocalypse; but Catholicism always distinguishes between the honour it offers to Our Lady (and any of the saints) and the adoration of the Triune God, to whom alone the supreme sacrifice of the Mass is offered.

1 comment:

Patricius said...

The best scriptural example, I think, of the Church and Our Lady's intercession is in the Acts of the Apostles Ch. 1 vv.13-14. The apostles and disciples were "in continuous prayer" with her.