There is no getting around it: if you grew up as a Protestant or an Anabaptist, Mary is often a confusing figure. Not, I would say, an essentially divisive figure, not a troubling figure, but confusing. The confusion stems from how to accept Mary. There is a sense that Roman Catholics say too much about Mary, whether doctrinally - Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, Theotokos - or visually - too many notes, I mean, statues - and theologically - are they worshiping this woman? Who is she? Yet, this I think can be coupled with a sense that from a Protestant or Anabaptist perspective not enough is being said about Mary given the scriptural record. Does Christ the sole mediator of salvation mean no one else who appears in the New Testament is even worthy of theological consideration or honor? Sometimes it seems that way. Last year in Rome a family member, who is not Catholic, asked my youngest son why the Church of St. Paul-Outside-The-Walls was named in honor of Paul; after all, we did not worship Paul did we? This sort of question is rather constant, as every member of my family and my wife’s family is something other than Catholic, generally Mennonite or Baptist. It is inevitable, too, that if family members accompany the lone Catholics to Church, the Priest will speak about the authority of the Pope, the Tradition of the Church or....Mary...definitely Mary. But if I am to consider Mary from a position not as a convert to Catholicism, but as some sort of generic Christian biblical scholar, Mary cannot simply be ignored. As Paul says, Jesus was sent by God to be "born of a woman" (Gal.4:4-7). Why this woman? We are all chosen, of course, to live out God’s will, but this is a remarkable vocation, to be asked to bear the son of God. Let me suggest, this is an extraordinary woman, indeed, in the true sense of the word, a unique woman. As Luke’s Gospel tells us, Mary was the mother who, upon learning the true nature of her son,"kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Luke 2: 16-21). More than that, she was the woman who knowing all of these things, fed him, changed his clothes, cuddled him, nurtured him and loved him. She was chosen to bring to full human life God’s only son. Think about that and see if that doesn’t take your breath away, at least figuratively or spiritually. The vocation to motherhood, or fatherhood, is a tremendous calling, but Mary’s call is...astounding? Miraculous? Amazing? It is difficult to find the right word. However difficult it is to find the right word, though, I will spend some time reflecting on her and on her life on this day, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I sometimes find myself turning away from her when I enter homes filled with cheap and garish statues of Mary, by my reckoning, and stacks of books detailing ever more and newer apparitions. I find my Mennonite upbringing rising in me and a sort of queasiness with visual religious representations floods over me. Yet, I know there is more than one way to commune with God, more than one way to pray, more than one way to show honor. When I truly consider Mary, I cannot turn away from her. I am drawn closer to her. For she was the Mother of God, in some real and profound way, as Church tradition stated so many years and Church Councils ago, and as Popes proclaimed. And, of course,yes, as Scripture narrates. John W. Martens

Comments

Anonymous | 1/1/2009 - 9:56am
Holy Mary, Mother of God... Do we really need any other reason to honor her?