Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Response to Mike Burgess on Mary and the Rosary

Mr. Mike Burgess has provided some thoughtful responses to my previous post on following Mary to Jesus (link).

I'll respond to his comments line-by-line, leaving off only the last two sentences in which he states his opinion regarding the wisdom of my posting my previous post. I apologize that the reader will note occasional changes between my addressing Mr. Burgess in the third person and in the second person.

You're stretching a wee bit. Obviously, it's anachronistic to believe the Rosary existed in the New Testament era, so asking if she prayed it (or the Hail Mary or the Gloria Patri or the Apostle's Creed) is what's absurd.
It's not a stretch, of course. It's simply a fact that Mary didn't pray the Rosary. Burgess is quite correct to note that the Rosary is a later innovation, something unknown to the era of the apostles, much like the "Hail Mary" etc.

That she was personally preserved from sin by her prevenient salvation comports with her words in the Magnificat you cited. Of course she had (and needed to have) a Saviour, the one and only Lord. He saved her by keeping her from sinning. He preserved her graciously. Hers is a gracious sinlessness, showing the fulness of the gratuitous theosis given to us by the Lord, who calls us and prepares our works for us to walk in, and is at work in us both to will and to do, according to His good pleasure.
This explanation is one that we widely see used by papists to attempt to explain away the fact that Mary refers to God as her savior, and it is pure eisegesis.

There is nothing in the text to suggest that God was Mary's savior from sin in anything other than the usual way of Christ dying for her sins. There's nothing anywhere else in Scripture that would lead us to think that something other than salvation from sin in the ordinary sense is meant. In short, the only reason to explain this text in that way is by imposing on the text from outside. It is a classic, grievous, and heinous example of reading into the text, rather than reading from the text.

Like the Rosary, this interpretation of the verse is not an apostolic teachings handed down from the fathers, but a theological innovation. When was it exactly invented? We'll leave that for Mr. Greco to opine, but suffice to note that even Thomas Aquinas (fairly late into medieval theology - died 1274) denied (against, for example, Chrysostom) that Mary had actual sin, but admitted that she had to be cleansed of original sin.

Aquinas himself puts on a more elaborate case for his position than Mr. Burgess has, and even attempts to provide some Scriptural justification for his view. On the other hand, when one examines the justification of the view, one realizes that is primarily founded on a particular allegorical explanation of Canticles (Song of Solomon) 4:7, "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." When one examines the proof critically, one discovers that, naturally, there is not much strength to the assertion that the passage refers to Mary, and even less that "no spot in thee" refers to Mary being free from all actual sin.

Furthermore, the position that Mary was free from all actual sin is directly contrary to Scripture, which states:

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Your speculation about Mary praying a complete version of the Lord's prayer is no more problematic than our Lord praying and reciting the Psalms in the liturgy of the intertestamental synagogue and Temple. The Lord was quoting Psalm 22 on His cross. Do you suppose He believed the Father had abandoned Him? Or that He was included in the salvation? He did not even need gratuitous prevenience, since He possessed sinlessness by nature.
As a preliminary matter, it is good that Burgess has pointed out that my comment about Mary praying a complete version of the Lord's prayer is just speculation. I don't know whether she did or not. The Bible does not tell us.
Assuming she did pray the Lord's Prayer (note that this is an assumption), it is more problematic than Jesus praying or Jesus singing the psalms ("reciting the Psalms in the liturgy of the intertestamental synagogue and Temple" being a bit of an awkward anachronism). Jesus praying is not a problem at all. Jesus did not pray the Lord's prayer, instead, he provided the prayer as a model to his disciples for them to use. Jesus is not recorded as having prayed that his own sins would be forgiven, and such a prayer would have been problematic, as it would have implied he had sins.
Jesus singing Psalms is not problematic, because when one sings the Psalms, one is not necessarily adopting the words of the Psalmist. For example, when we sing in Psalm 137,

By Babel's stream we sat and wept,
  when Zion we thought on,
in midst thereof we hanged our harps,
  the willow trees upon

we do not claim personally to have been to Babylon, to have cried into the Euphrates or to have owned or hung harps. In contrast, however, when we pray we do adopt (or we ought to) the words we are speaking, because we are praying to "let [our] requests be made known unto God." (Philippians 4:6)

Providing a full explanation of the significance of Christ's use of "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me," on the cross would go beyond the scope of this post. Suffice to say that we do believe that Christ was not merely saying words that had no personal relevance to him.

Speaking of the complete version of the Lord's prayer, why do you add words to it by appending the doxological ending "for thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever"? (This is part of the prayer in all of the Presbyterian versions, so far as I know.) So often, we're chided for supposedly adding traditions of men and so forth that your ironic example here begs to be pointed out.
The reason for including it is the testimony of Matthew 6:13:

Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The modern critical texts would ask us to drop (with the Vulgate) the portion "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." Perhaps some time it would be interesting to explore the textual testimonies in favor of, and against, inclusion of this text. Nevertheless, it is the presence of this expression in the so-called Textus Receptus that lead to its presentation in Tyndale's Bible and the later English translations (including, of course, the KJV) that relied on the traditional Greek text.

At any rate, we should imitate our Lady, as she said at Cana: "Do whatever He tells you." We should imitate St. Paul, as he said in 1 Corinthians and elsewhere. We should follow them to Jesus. We come to faith by hearing; by living as they and other saints did, we shall come to Him. This is what Scripture tells us to do.
I interrupt this paragraph of Burgess to agree in the main, and to add what is most important: we come to Christ not by works but by faith. It is not by living well that we come to Christ, but by coming in faith to Christ, we will live well.

Mary's words to the servants at the wedding are not directed to us, but they do illustrate the attitude that we should have, namely that we should do whatever Jesus tells us to do. And where is the only place where we can reliably find the commands of our Lord? In the pages of Holy Scripture.

Burgess continued:
Participating in the liturgical life of the Church, and in so doing receiving sacramental grace in both the sacraments and the use of sacramentals such as the Rosary, is an essential part of imitating or following the example of Mary and Jesus.
Again, I interrupt Burgess' paragraph, but this time to disagree. Worshiping Jesus as Mary did is one thing, but following the liturgical novelties of Rome (such as the "sacramentals" including the Rosary, the various Scapulars, etc.) is quite another. Saying the Rosary cannot be essential to following the example of Mary, at least because she (quite obviously) didn't say it. "Participating in the liturgical life of the Church," is too vague to be helpful. We do not participate in the worship life of the Church in the way that Jesus did, as its head, as its sacrifice, as its high priest.

On the other hand, the single example of Mary participating in worship after Christ's ascension is the mention in passing in Acts 1:14 that she was praying (as were Jesus' brethren) together with the other believers immediately before Pentecost. Yes, we should not forsake the gathering of the believers. On the other hand, while we do see the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper in Scripture, we do not see a rigid or complex liturgy beyond the simple liturgical forms found in, for example, post-exilic Jewish worship.

Burgess continued:
He, ultimately, showed us that even the Lord participated in the liturgy of the Church, and so we should, too.
Again, an interruption. Same comment above about the vagueness of "liturgy of the Church." Christ during his earthly ministry didn't engage in the Traditional (or Tridentine) Latin Mass (TLM) or the new liturgy of the Vatican II era. We worship God somewhat differently from the way in which Jesus gives honor to His father, since we are not members of the Trinity. Getting into the nuances of this distinction would go beyond the scope of this post, but it is sufficient to note that our worship of God is more like that of Mary and other believers than like that of the God-man for God the Father.

Christ instituted the sacraments of the new economy of the covenant of grace, particularly baptism (which supplants circumcision) and the Lord's Supper, which replaces the Passover.

Burgess continued:
I'm sure I don't need to remind you of official teaching on sacramentals, their attachment to sacraments, the necessity of the sacraments for the life of the Church, the necessity of the communion of saints in liturgy (service) to the Lord, and so forth.
No, you don't need to remind me of your church's teachings on that point. I suppose I don't need to remind you that "communion of saints" has taken on a highly modified meaning in modern Catholicism from that which it had in ancient times. The Scriptures (from which the creed was obtained) speak of:

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

This is the communion that we, the saints, have. It is the Lord's Supper that we have in mind when we speak of the "Communion of Saints," not attempted communication with departed fellow believers, contrary to what some today seem to imagine.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To place one comment into this debate about Mary, I would admire the attempt to let us see and understand this virgin girl and appreciate her and the awesome reality she grew up within her as she indeed held dear to her heart the things done to her and her husband Joseph.

Remember, as an aside, before I make my point, it was Joseph who "named" Him "Jesus". That is as significant as Zachariah naming "John". Neither family, it appears, had any son after either name before the intervening of the Hands of God by the mouth of announcing Angels!!

To Mary then, to use Mary to lead us to Christ, ok, I accept that, within measure.

Let's understand that she did have that fateful encounter, not of her choosing, with the Angel Gabriel:

Luk 1:28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"
Luk 1:29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
Luk 1:30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Luk 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
Luk 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
Luk 1:33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Remember this, she was a Jew, practiced at the "Ten" Commandments.

And the "first" Commandment is?

Here with Mary, indeed, is a broader sense of God with us, unique to her, granted, especially when He chose to use her natural flesh to come into the world to be the Savior of those chosen for salvation! That did give her an advantage among those being saved by the Faith once delivered to the Saints.

She had good cause to believe and grow in the "Faith" once delivered to the Saints so that she could say: "Joh 2:5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you.""

We are, whether Jew or Gentile, to "have" no other gods before us, and "He too, is God" as she so came to realize and matured in the Faith over time most likely so much so that her words came with more weight than a novice's. This does not make her any more or greater a person. As with all of our callings and election, such was hers, not mine or yours.

Such were the callings of the early Apostles and Prophets.

It seems the deception works to blur the "mission" bogging it down in insignifance because of the signifance assigned by God to His mother, Mary.

So, I do commend any attempt to bring plain meaning and focus on Scripture as these verses do with regards to Mary.

Does this apply His "wisdom"? No, in fact, as this debate readily focuses, it gives opportunity to exercise His "wisdom" making plain the plain meaning of Mary and her place in History.

I place more significance on Joseph naming Him "Jesus" than Mary telling them to do what He says!

That's just where I find importance. I know that is rare in significance, but, for me, that is how it all folds within my heart and mind, that is, Joseph naming Him Jesus!

Mat 1:19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Mat 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Mat 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Mat 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
Mat 1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).
Mat 1:24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,
Mat 1:25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I guess you can humorously say, "it's a man thing"? :)