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Posted by on May 22, 2015

Why Mary is Important

Why Mary is Important

Hail Mary - F Fong

When we think or speak of Mary, the Mother of God, it is always important to keep in mind that she is best understood in the context of her relationship with her son, Jesus. Said formally, Mariology is always constructed in the context of Christology. This is so because Christ is the redeemer and the sole source of salvation. Everything in creation came to be through him. Mary, because of her role, participates in the creative and redeeming action of God in a special way.

Mary’s exceptional conception as sinless affords her the choice to live fully for God. She was not programmed to be good, but rather, Mary did not carry the deep fear of interference and resistance against God that exists in all other human beings. The rest of the human race has the grace and possibility to work with and overcome fear and anger, but we must work to limit our desire for control and instead surrender to God’s grace. We often do not choose right away to stop being resentful or angry. We often project onto others the responsibility for our own self-inflicted injuries. Mary had a clear vision of her place in life. She was born totally honest and prepared to grow. She chose to say “yes” over and over to these qualities, even when they brought suffering.

According to the Scriptures, Mary grew in her understanding of her son, herself, and the work of God in the world for salvation. We read more than once in the Gospel of Luke that she “pondered” how their lives were unfolding and what God was doing. She did not have a road map to reassure her of where they were going, but she had given her consent at the Annunciation and she trusted over and over. Her pregnancy was unexpected and controversial. The choices that Jesus made had consequences. His declaration in the synagogue that he was the Messiah brought immediate violence and ejection from the community. We find him and Mary later in the Gospel living in a completely new town, Capernaum, not a hill village like Nazareth but a fishing village.

Icon of the Wedding at Cana - Lucia 398 - CCWhen Jesus began his itinerant preaching and healing ministry we know that Mary, her sister and a group of women accompanied him as well as the crowds. This was not a normal lifestyle for first century Jewish women. Mary had to give up her reputation, village, old friends and the comforts of a house. In all of these ways she was an excellent listener of God as he called her out of the usual, the expected. She had to be quite aware of the danger that Jesus was in. In the Gospels, in village after village, the rage and jealously grew in the scribes and Pharisees. They hated his penetrating honesty, his clear perception of their air of superiority. They despised Jesus’ humility and closeness to the cast-offs of society. Mary must have constantly had to put her worries in the hands of God. She modeled an exceptional surrender to God and acceptance of His will. No one could have gone through this without being in deep prayer and interior connection to God all the time. She stood by Jesus from Cana to Golgotha and we have no reason to believe that she knew that “everything was going to be all right.”

Throughout the centuries Mary has been understood as the second Eve who reversed the willfulness and disobedience of the first Eve. Even when this story is understood metaphorically, Mary still is understood as the first human to be perfectly and happily obedient. She is also appreciated as the mother of the Church because she remained as the center of the early church community and loved them as her own. But it is her maternity of Jesus which stands out as the most important role she has because of its eschatological (future reaching) character. What is meant by this is that she is not just a person who did something unique in the past. Mary was and is “full of grace.” In the spiritual relationship which she has with her son and the whole of creation, Christ’s grace pours through her as the first disciple to all of humanity. Mary mothers us (protects and strengthens us) if we let her. Catholicism understands all of humanity, living and dead, to be in spiritual solidarity, a mystical body. Because of this solidarity or communion, Mary can help us to have a readiness to commitment, trust even in unbearable loss, and unimaginable joy when we are united to her son.

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Posted by on Aug 15, 2008

Why Mary is Important

Marian Theology: The Feast of the Assumption – August 15

The Assumption by Murillo

The Assumption by Murillo

August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, dates to the 6th and 7th centuries. The official proclamation of the Assumption by Pope Pius XII in Munificentisimus Deus as an article of faith for Catholics occurred recently, on November 1, 1950. Objections to this teaching cite the absence of support for it in Scripture and in the Fathers of the Church. These same arguments are also made against the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which states that Mary received the benefit of the redemption in advance from the moment of her conception. However, since the theological significance of Mary is intertwined with that of Christ, as mother and son, much of what we say about Mary (Mariology) derives from what we say about the identity and meaning of Christ (Christology).

For most Catholics, Orthodox, Coptics, and Anglicans, images and veneration of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, are part of the very fabric of their faith. This emotional and doctrinal emphasis on Miriam of Nazareth gives many in the Anabaptist and Calvinist traditions emotional and doctrinal heartburn. Some evangelicals are strident in their belief that Marian devotion – at best – detracts from the key act of salvation, which they formulate as “accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.”

The notion of salvation in the apostolic churches is centered on the church community. Christ’s death and resurrection has saved all and we enter into this paschal mystery embodied in the church. Our salvation is entering the faith community, the Body of Christ. From the earliest days, the Fathers of the Church identified Mary as the model of the Church. The following excerpt, taken from Wikipedia’s article on Roman Catholic Mariology, summarizes the position and importance of the Blessed Mother. Please note that the words in parentheses are my own.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses the issue, why Mariology is related to ecclesiology (the theology of the Church). On first sight, he argues, it may seem accidental, that the (Second Vatican) Council moved Mariology into ecclesiology. This relation helps to understand what “Church” really is. The theologian Hugo Rahner showed that Mariology was originally ecclesiology. The Church is like Mary.[96]

The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learns, that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary on the other hand is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She is carrying the mystery of the Church.[97]

Pope Benedict XVI lamented that this unity of Church and Mary was overshadowed in later centuries, which overburdened Mary with privileges and removed her into a far away distance. Both Mariology and ecclesiology suffered under this. A Marian view of the Church and an ecclesiological view of Mary in salvation history lead directly to Christ. It brings to light what is meant by holiness and by God being human.[98]

It is interesting to note that Pope Benedict XVI laments the removal of Mary “overburdened … with privileges.” This is also the image of Mary lamented by the reformation. However, the close identification of Mary with the Church, in the sense that “Mary is carrying the mystery of the Church,” represents a notion of church that many of the reformers rejected. Consequently, they rejected the image and role of Mary, and with it, the redemptive grace and power of the feminine.

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