Thursday, December 6, 2012

How not to make the holy mother an idol --

Granted, I do not hold to the ideologies that Mary remained a virgin her entire life, that she was without original (or any other) sin, or that she is the queen of heaven by way of being Jesus’ mom.  However, I think evangelicals veer too far toward over-analytic caution when they approach the passages in which she dwells.  It’s as if the non-Catholic portion of the body feels the need to gloss over her very existence so that potential veneration of the holy mother not eclipse the Savior Himself.  Thus we do much to shrink her from a revered position in our efforts to keep her our size.  And most of the time this is a good thing.  Jesus is the only human who was ever worthy of our adoration – because he was also completely divine. 

But some of our attempts at belittling Mary can be mistakes in themselves. 
For God told her, and her alone, that the Messiah was coming.  Yes, Mary needed to know; but in a time when a woman had little control over her condition, it would have been so much easier if God had told her when she was with Joseph or even her father.  Easier, and expected.  But God, knowing the cost of what He was asking, gave Mary the task of telling the people who would be most affected, second only to her.  Thus, it was for her obedience that she was elevated over Zachariah.  It was her willingness to be the handmaiden of the Lord, to accept this task, to literally carry this burden that we should remember and emulate.       

For we must recall that Gabriel, an angel who daily stood [stands] in the presence of the Lord said to her, “Greetings to you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you!  In a time when the Lord’s presence was supposed to reside in the holy of holies in the temple, the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary.   The only woman of her day to experience this continue presence of the Godhead; the only woman to know of the impending arrival of God’s Messiah (though she could not have known what that meant or would look like).  The only woman in the whole of human history to carry within her very body Christ.    
Let us not forget, beloved friends, that God did choose Mary to be the mother to His One and Only Son.  And though she was still fully and completely human, sinning just like all the rest of us, she remains the only person in all of history who carried Divinity in her womb, who nursed the Messiah at her breast, who kissed the downy softness of the head of one-third of the Trinity housed in flesh.  And it was so because God ordained it thus.  He picked her out of all humanity and history.  It is because of this that she should be highly venerated, as even her angelic messenger told her that she had found favor with God.   

No, we mustn’t elevate her to a position which she cannot fill: intercessor on our behalf in the heavenly realms.  Person who stands between us and Christ.  Yet we do her, nor womanhood, nor God’s very decision to let her be the mother of the Messiah, no favors when we diminish this truth by making her smaller than she is to topple our perceived pedestals on which the idea of Mary rests.
If we can seek to emulate Paul’s evangelism after being left for dead by the people he was trying to reach, if we can marvel at the powerful rhetoric of Stephen as he was being martyred, if we can marvel at Abraham’s obedience as he took his only son up the mount to sacrifice Isaac to the Lord, we cannot ignore the young woman who was picked by God to care for His only Son incarnate.  The woman who wiped the boy’s tears, the woman who sang the songs of the Israelites to her son, the woman who did what mothers do: tirelessly care for the heart living outside of her person. 

We mustn’t ignore her, gloss over her in fear that we will misplace our worship.  Instead, we have to tell her story, again and again.  Learn her words as she praised God for what was to be the hardest and most crucial task assigned to humanity: raise the Messiah, and then let Him go.  And we have to emulate her obedience, her understanding of the scriptures and God’s promises.  We have to hold the truth of God breaking into humanity, so that we all might be save; and run into the world with this news.  Nurture this truth, rear it in our hearts, care for it with all of ourselves.  And then, let it go.  Watch its wild and beautiful truth change the whole world. 

       For God’s Kingdom Is Come.



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