Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Of Mary, there is never enough.

The title of this post is the concluding line of this article from Arturo Vasquez (link to article). There are other interesting comments in the article as well. For example, the author concedes that:
My grandmothers have always had at least ten images in the house of just the Virgin of Guadalupe, not counting all of the other crucifixes, statues of Saints Joseph and Jude, and countless other articles of religious kitsch.
Mr. Vasquez takes a firmer line on Marian devotion than one finds from Catholic Answers. For example, Mr. Vasquez insists:
Devotion to the Virgin Mary is not "optional" -- or, to put it another way, it is not something that you can ignore.
Contrast that with Catholic Answer's Q/A:
Q:“Is it required that Catholics be devoted to Mary?”
A: Devotion is an emotional attachment, which cannot be required of anyone. All that is required is assent to those doctrines that the Church has declared to be true and binding upon Catholic consciences. As long as a Catholic gives assent of the will to the Marian doctrines, it is not required that he have any particular emotional attachment to the Blessed Mother.

That said, devotion can be developed just like emotional attachment to any person can be developed, and it is a pious action for a Catholic to develop a devotion to his spiritual Mother. One means of developing such an attachment is to learn more about the Blessed Mother through reading Marian apologetic and devotional literature.
(Michell Arnold in This Rock, Volume 17, Issue 4 - 2006)

But Mr. Vasquez gets even more extreme in his claims and in doing so demonstrates that his devotion to Mary comes at the expense of Scripture and History:
Thus, to be Catholic is not simply to become grafted into an institution in the here and now, but it is also an assent to the being of the Church as it comes down to us from history. In the experience of the Christian people, the motherhood of the Virgin Mary given to us by Christ on the Cross is not a sentimental add-on to the Faith, but part of its very essence. Mary takes care of us like any mother does. She has held back hostile armies, cured the sick, or perhaps just found us work. There is no apostolic Christianity where Mary is not present, no ancient Church where prayers to her are not said. A dream of Christianity sans Mary is like a dream of Christianity without the Cross. For without her, there would have been no Body to be offered on it for the life of the world.
Contrary to Mr. Vasquez' claims, however, we note that the motherhood of Mary was transferred at the cross not from Jesus to all of us, but from Jesus specifically to John.

John 19:25-27
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, "Woman, behold thy son!" Then saith he to the disciple, "Behold thy mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

John understood that he was personally responsible to take care of Mary as though she were his mother, and Mary understood that as well. Notice that the terms are all singular, though two other disciples (Mary the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene) are also there, Jesus does not say, "Woman, behold thy children," but simply "thy son." And Jesus does not say "Behold your (plural) mother" but "Behold thy (singular) mother."

Furthermore, while many churches that call themselves "ancient" today may pray to Mary (the Anglicans would be an exception, "Article XXII. Of Purgatory.: The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."), this is a development - not the ancient and universal practice. Indeed, when one reads through the writings of the apostolic and ante-Nicaean fathers, one finds little hint of this sort of improper devotion to Mary. The first portion of the Hail Mary is adapted from Scripture, but the apostles and the early church fathers didn't pray the Hail Mary. In fact, the form of the Hail Mary that is used among Roman Catholics (including a petition to Mary) is apparently a late 15th century innovation that was more widely adopted in the 16th century due to the influence of the Council of Trent.

Vasquez' comparison between Mary and the Cross is itself pretty shocking. As we saw above, he wrote: "A dream of Christianity sans Mary is like a dream of Christianity without the Cross. For without her, there would have been no Body to be offered on it for the life of the world." One wonders, though whether Vasquez feels the same way about each of the men and women in Jesus' family tree back to Adam and Eve? One seriously doubts it. While a virgin was necessary, God's selection of Mary was gracious (indeed, she was highly favored and blessed by God) not merited. It is not as though God particularly needed Mary and could not have used another virgin from David's line.

Christ's death on the cross, however, is the ultimate sacrifice - the once for all offering that is central to the Christian faith. The cross takes the central place of focus in Paul's gospel, and in the gospel of the ante-Nicaean fathers. If we were going to draw any kind of comparison between Mary and the cross, it would be between Mary as an instrumental means of Christ's nurture and entrance into this world in the flesh, and the physical wood and nails of the cross as an instrumental means of Christ's loss of human life. A comparison between a root from the stock of David from which Jesus sprang after the flesh and a tree upon which Christ's body was hung.

Vasquez continues:
Being a Christian means being part of a family; it means being taken into a way of life that has been going on for centuries. To use another Augustinian axiom: Unus christianus, nullus christianus (one Christian is no Christian). No greater sign exists of this than Mary herself, the most important member of God's own family and the icon of the Church Universal.
Poor Augustine would be rolling over in his grave if he could hear this. But there is worse error in Vasquez' comment than the misapplication of Augustine's words. Notice Vasquez' claim: "Mary herself, the most important member of God's own family ... ." But recall Jesus own words:

Luke 11:27-28
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Matthew 12:47-50
Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Mark 3:31-35
There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

Matthew 18:1-4
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mr. Vasquez offers only a brief response to criticism:
Indeed, more love for Christ's mother seems only ever a good thing. And to all those who think it distracts too much from the devotion that we should have to her Son: I am sure He doesn't really mind.
Perhaps the reason that Mr. Vasquez thinks that God doesn't mind is that Mr. Vasquez is unaware of Scripture. One of God's names is Jealous, and God wishes to be served alone. I realize that Mr. Vasquez may think that God is quite willing to be served along side or together with Mary, but almost everyone can recognize that there comes a time when the devotion to Mary is excessive, where it elevates her to the position of a goddess, even though the word is not used.

Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

1 Samuel 7:3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Deuteronomy 4:23-24
Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 5:8-10
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

Deuteronomy 6:14-15
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

Joshua 24:19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.

Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Matthew 4:10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

-TurretinFan

14 comments:

natamllc said...

Well, of the many points raised with this article, and I find myself a bit irritated, that's another matter though, I have in mind Psalm 71 and great praise for My Lord and His particular promise to me finding it vindicated and confirmed with His graciousness towards her Election as you have noted above and as I do here:::>

"...While a virgin was necessary, God's selection of Mary was gracious (indeed, she was highly favored and blessed by God) not merited....".

Now, the promise is to His people and Mary is one of His people with a more specific Prophetic sense as was foretold by the Prophets. So, it just puts a confidence in me to read those Words you have cited from John, [John 19:25-27]. And for Mary, John became that rock of refuge in her old age; and then these Words of Promise as well, from Psalm 71:::>

Psa 71:1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
Psa 71:2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!
Psa 71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psa 71:4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
Psa 71:5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Psa 71:6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.
Psa 71:7 I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.
Psa 71:8 My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
Psa 71:9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.

and

Psa 71:17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psa 71:18 So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Psa 71:19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?

I must say, primarily, the most of us will find our way to a natural passing out of this life to Life Eternal so these Words comfort the heart that, as He was for John and Mary, so He will be in these days for His people as well.

There has been great persecution brought upon the Church of the Living God, the ground and pillar of the Truth. The odds on favorite though that any one of us shall suffer such troubles as History records in times past is small in comparison to the many who will pass by old age under the pinion of His wings!

Anonymous said...

Tur8infan, in the phrase "John understood that he was personally responsible to take care of Mary as though he were his mother, and Mary understood that as well", I think you meant to say that John was responsible to take care of "Mary as though *she* were his mother". Just a typo on the pronoun which I think you intended to be feminine.

Tony Costa

Turretinfan said...

You're right! Thanks for catching that. Fixed it now.

louis said...

Subilia:

"Mariology cannot be considered as a mere excrescence on the total mass of Catholic doctrine and piety... It has no marginal place in the system; it is not something pronounced in a popular accent; it belongs integrally, inasmuch as it represents the fundamental theological expression of the necessity of co-redemptive mediation on the part of the creature...."

"While 'Protestants wish to see God only as giver'... Catholics lay their stress on the reality of God's gift in us,and this reality finds its symbol and center in Mary, who expresses in the amplest and most absolute manner this co-operation on the part of humanity in the work of redemption. By her "be it done unto me", Mary enters co-operatively into the work of salvation in the name, and in the place, of all humanity."

"In fact it is only in the Virgin that the Church can become a mediator (in the co-redemptive sense) of all the graces.... Not for nothing could Pope John XXIII say, 'He sets in jeopardy his salvation, who tossed in the storms of this world, refuses to clasp her helping hand', since 'It is through Mary that we come to Jesus', and 'to love Christ means to love Mary his Mother and, in the light of redemption, our universal Mother'".

bkaycee said...

Altogether now!

"Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"

Jennie said...

I just read and posted Isaiah 59 on my blog and felt that it was applicable to several issues about Roman Catholicism, including the Mary-worship issue.
Isaiah 59:
1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.


Of course this reminds us that God alone saves us and God alone hears our prayers.

Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay,
Fury to His adversaries,
Recompense to His enemies;
The coastlands He will fully repay.


This reminds us that there is no righteous savior and intercessor EXCEPT GOD ALONE. He is our savior and He is our judge as well. No one else has any right or power in those offices. Mary can't be the kind intercessor and leave God to be the judge.
There are other verses I think are applicable but not on the subject of Mary, so I'll refrain.

Randy said...

"While a virgin was necessary, God's selection of Mary was gracious (indeed, she was highly favored and blessed by God) not merited. It is not as though God particularly needed Mary and could not have used another virgin from David's line."

(In the interest of disclosure, I am not yet Catholic but am on the road away from Protestantism toward Rome. As such, I make a poor apologist, not yet being as intimate with Catholic doctrine as I hope to become.)

The quote above represents a difficulty not only with your logic but with that of Protestantism as a whole: In your zeal to distance yourself from Rome, you open up yourself to flights of fancy and imagination as to what God COULD have done, to the detriment of what God did, in fact, DO.

On the one hand you acknowledge God's choice of Mary as gracious, but then dishonor that graciousness by suggesting that God (being God) COULD have done differently, and in so doing dishonor the graciousness that God has shown you for, surely, He could have done otherwise.

What God COULD have done is immaterial in this (or any other) dispute. What matters is what God HAS DONE.

In the grace and peace of Christ,
Randy

louis said...

"What God COULD have done is immaterial in this (or any other) dispute. What matters is what God HAS DONE."

Randy, I think the point was not about what God could or couldn't have done; it was rather that what God did was gracious. In other words, Mary did not merit God's gift to her. Therefore, the praise should not be to Mary, as if she had accomplished something in herself, but to God. As Mary herself said:

"My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me."

Turretinfan said...

"In your zeal to distance yourself from Rome, you open up yourself to flights of fancy and imagination as to what God COULD have done, to the detriment of what God did, in fact, DO."

My zeal is not anti-Roman. My zeal is for Christ and his Word. It happens that on the gospel and on a number of other issues, Rome is against the Word of God - though she is not against the Word in other areas.

"On the one hand you acknowledge God's choice of Mary as gracious, but then dishonor that graciousness by suggesting that God (being God) COULD have done differently, and in so doing dishonor the graciousness that God has shown you for, surely, He could have done otherwise."

You don't seem to understand that grace is something that, by definition, could not have given. It is always unmerited (with respect to the recipient) favor, or it is not grace. Thus, it is always the case that God could have done otherwise.

"What God COULD have done is immaterial in this (or any other) dispute. What matters is what God HAS DONE."

What God could have done is not immaterial. If Mary earned the right to be Jesus' mother, that's significant - if it was unmerited favor and gratuitous blessing from God, that's significant too.

-TurretinFan

Randy said...

TurretinFan,

"My zeal is not anti-Roman."

There is a difference between the charge that you are distancing yourself from Rome (which I made) and charging you with being anti-Roman, a charge I did not make. I hope you can appreciate that difference.

"You don't seem to understand that grace is something that, by definition, could not have given. It is always unmerited (with respect to the recipient) favor, or it is not grace. Thus, it is always the case that God could have done otherwise."

I know, understand and believe that grace = unmerited favor. On this we agree. Still, I fail to see how what God could have done has any bearing whatsoever on this or any other topic. God could have chosen a different virgin? So? He didn't. He bestowed His grace, His unmerited favor on Mary.

What we should be concerned with is what God has done, what He is doing and what He will do. Arguing that He could have done any number of things differently is a vain and pointless exercise.

"What God could have done is not immaterial. If Mary earned the right to be Jesus' mother, that's significant - if it was unmerited favor and gratuitous blessing from God, that's significant too."

Now we are getting somewhere, but it isn't where you think we're going.

The difference between the questions, "Did Mary merit God's favor?" and "Was God's choosing of Mary due to no merit at all on Mary's part, but purely of grace?" is not the difference between what God could have done, and what God actually did, but rather deals strictly with the latter; what God actually did. And, as I said above, God's choosing of Mary was purely of grace, unmerited favor.

So, it seems to me that you are leveling the charge (rather obliquely, I might add) that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary earned God's favor. Is that correct? As I noted in my first response, I am not as intimately familiar with Catholic doctrine as I hope to be. However, in my study of the Catholic faith I have yet to read anywhere that the Church believes or teaches any such thing, nor have I heard any such teaching in my parish. Is this, then, definitive? No, but I consider it a start.

In the grace and peace of Christ,

Turretinfan said...

"There is a difference between the charge that you are distancing yourself from Rome (which I made) and charging you with being anti-Roman, a charge I did not make. I hope you can appreciate that difference."

I hope you appreciate that my response was intended to answer your charge (which I did understand) in the negative.

"God could have chosen a different virgin? So? He didn't. He bestowed His grace, His unmerited favor on Mary."

We agree that he bestowed this favor on Mary. I'm not sure why you think that is an issue.

"Now we are getting somewhere, but it isn't where you think we're going."

Let me be the judge of what I think. :)

"So, it seems to me that you are leveling the charge (rather obliquely, I might add) that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary earned God's favor. Is that correct?"

I'm not sure whether you are asking whether it is correct that I'm leveling such a charge, whether such a charge would be correct, or whether such a doctrine would be correct. It isn't RC dogma (as far as I am aware) that Mary earned God's favour, nor was I trying to suggest that it was RC dogma - if it were RC dogma, it would be error.

-TurretinFan

Randy said...

"We agree that he bestowed this favor on Mary. I'm not sure why you think that is an issue."

From your original post: "While a virgin was necessary, God's selection of Mary was gracious (indeed, she was highly favored and blessed by God) not merited. It is not as though God particularly needed Mary and could not have used another virgin from David's line."

These sentences are why I thought it was an issue. However, I see that I do not get your point, here, in highlighting grace vs. merit, or that God could have used someone other than Mary.

"Let me be the judge of what I think. :)"

In this instance, fair enough. :)

"I'm not sure whether you are asking whether it is correct that I'm leveling such a charge, whether such a charge would be correct, or whether such a doctrine would be correct."

I was asking if you were leveling such a charge.

In the grace and peace of Christ,

Turretinfan said...

Hi Randy,

Ah ok - my comments were in response to Arturo's comments: "A dream of Christianity sans Mary is like a dream of Christianity without the Cross. For without her, there would have been no Body to be offered on it for the life of the world."

That suggests (but does not say) that God could not have used another virgin.

-TurretinFan

Randy said...

Turretinfan,

"That suggests (but does not say) that God could not have used another virgin."

I (obviously) don't see Arturo's comments in the same light as do you. To me it seems a simple affair; had God chosen another virgin then the adoration that is currently given Mary would go to whomever God had chosen to be the mother of our Lord Jesus. Mary is not venerated because she is Mary but because she is the mother of Christ.

I would also like to comment on some of the Scripture you cited in your original post.

John 19:25-27: In this passage, John mentions 4 people, by name, as having been present (nearby) at the cross of Christ, with himself being the only male disciple, along with the three Mary's. The other Gospel's tell us that the others stood at a distance. Who else, then, was our Lord to call upon?

You say (rightly) that both Mary and John understood that John was to take Mary into his home. But for what purpose? To see to her physical needs, to give her a home in which to live. This in no way implies that Christ did not also give Mary to the Church in a spiritual sense. It simply means that John's physical home became Mary's home. (Also, John's home did not exist in a vacuum where no other disciple was ever present, never came over for dinner, never helped John see to Mary's material well being. As a matter of fact, Acts 1:13-14 tells us that ALL the Apostles were staying together and that Mary was with them. Did John alone see to Mary? No. She was with the Church.)

Luke 11:27-28, Matthew 12:47-50, Mark 3:31-35: These verses have always puzzled me in the sense that I have never understood why they would be pointed to as proof that Mary should hold no special place in the Church. Using them in such a fashion seems to prove more than Protestants wish them to for they seem to imply (in that particular light) that Christ was slighting Mary. Knowing that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the OT Law - in which we are told to honor our father and mother - this, then, cannot be the case.

In the passage from Luke 11, Jesus tells us "...yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." Do you mean to imply that Christ was implying that Mary did not fit that bill? The same Mary who submitted to the will of God in Luke 1?

In Matthew 12, we are told that Mary wished to "speak with" Jesus,but not what she wished to speak to Him about. His reply when told the news was, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Again, do you mean to imply that the Lord Jesus was implying that Mary did not fit that bill? For in using these passages that is indeed what you are implying, although I do not think for one second that you believe such a thing. (This same analysis applies to the passage from Mark 3.)

Matthew 18:1-4: I'm not sure why you included this passage. The disciples ask, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" and Jesus answers the question by ignoring it and, instead, giving them a lesson on salvation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Mary and her place in the Church. (It could also be argued that the disciples were thinking only of themselves in asking the question.)

Let it be understood that I in no way advocate for the worship of Mary. You and I are in agreement that God and God alone is to be worshiped. However, I do believe that Mary, as the mother of Jesus, rightfully holds a dear and special place in the Church and the hearts of its members, as well as in the heart of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. She is a sign-post who, in her humble submission to God's will, and in her love for Him, points us to our Blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ.

In the grace and peace of Christ,