December 4, 2015

Queen of Heaven: The Errant Veneration of Mary

To my friends who pray to Mary or say I can or even should...I staunchly disavow those statements and offer this Biblical rebuttal.

The issue is often framed as if Mary is somehow superior to Jesus being His parent. Mary, as the Mother of God (note the capitalized proper noun). Because Mary gave birth to Jesus it sometimes causes people to make the fallacious move from esteem to reverence and then from reverence to prayer and worship (often referred to as veneration in a form of religious circumlocution). The Catholic Church's error is seeing Mary in any way similar or even greater than Christ. 

At the root of this error we see the the formulators of Marian dogmas go wrong at the point where they depart from Scripture. The Gospel writers were very careful concerning Mary. Great restraint and very specific language was used when dealing with her so not to mislead people. Mary was merely a human woman, not divine, nor special in her selection as Jesus' earthly mother. As a matter of fact, God chose her due to her exceptional mundane and ordinary nature. She even realized as much as illustrated in some of her replies.

Luke 1:28-30 ~ And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

Far from knowing what was going on, she was totally perplexed to what was transpiring. The word translated "favor" means to "receive grace". Mary received grace from God having been the mother of Jesus. The Catholic church will have us believe that Mary was chosen by God to bear his Son because of something righteous in Mary herself. In this passage Gabriel makes it clear, however, that Mary was chosen by God as an act of grace. It had nothing to do with anything particular in Mary. Like the Israelite people before her and the Christians after her, she was chosen by God's grace alone.

Luke 1:38 ~ Mary answered [Gabriel], “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.”

Here we see Mary is not an active player at this point but rather a passive participant and receiver of God's grace (as we all are) incorporated into the narrative by a divine act of grace according to a sovereign plan.

So why is Mary put on a pedestal when the Bible is clear that prayer should only be directed to God? I suggest that it was her physical proximity to Jesus as His earthly mother, nothing more. Mary being only a flawed human sinner makes it reprehensible to pray to her just as it is reprehensible to pray to the saints. When people pray to her today they are praying to a dead woman, nothing more.

Why is this wrong? I give three primary Scriptural reasons.

First, praying to Mary contravenes the example of the apostles in the New Testament. The New Testament is packed with the prayers of God’s inspired leaders that modern Catholics pray to but never once did they themselves pray to anyone but God including Jesus Himself. When we move on to the early church fathers we see more of the same…except from heretics. Never once does anyone in the Scripture pray to Mary or ask Mary to intercede for them. Mary wasn’t even viewed as the “God-bearer” until the 3rd century and that is according to the Catholic church’s own history.

When Paul prays for his friends at Ephesus he requests that the Father might, “…strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3: 14-21). Paul is articulate enough to mention all three Persons of the Trinity in that prayer. Mary does not arise there because Paul is being completely consistent with the whole New Testament view.

The second reason to not pray to Mary is because it contradicts the attitude, mentality and humility of Mary herself. Mary was specifically selected to be the mother of Jesus because she was specifically such and ordinary Jew of her day that was of childbearing age. If we look at Mary’s Magnificat or song/prayer of praise in Luke 1 we do see that she was a well-learned Jewess though as it is clear she knew her Scripture and her history. If the pray is analyzed closely it shows reference to both Old Testament Scripture and history.

Regardless, we can easily point to her modesty and her dependence upon the God and Jesus in her life. Her obedience and her discretion even as Jesus’ mother is exemplary. There are some very clear passages of her speech in Luke 1 that clearly show Mary to be an ordinary human not worthy of prayer or worship and it comes in her own words of the Magnificat.

Luke 1:47-48 ~ “...and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.”

In one verse Mary refers to Jesus as God yet he took the humble estate of humanity. She refers to Him as Savior and denotes herself as His servant. Hardly a person of equality with Jesus worthy of prayer. Far from being associated with God’s saving actions, Mary identifies herself among humanity in need of Jesus’ saving grace. Although highly favored and called blessed…this does not even remotely equate to divinity nor should it be construed as much. The truth is, based on what we know about Mary from Scripture…she probably would’ve recoiled in horror at the thought of what the Catholic Church is doing with her. To claim anything other than being Jesus’ physical mother, is to make claims beyond Scripture and therefore they are heretical.

Lastly, I will state this and then be on my merry way (see what I did there?). This last point is the most important and the reason I hold this Catholic dogma in such contempt. Praying to Mary undermines the Gospel. It assumes something or someone other than Jesus Christ/God is worthy of prayer ad worship. It trivializes the truth of the Incarnation. Let us be honest… the whole point of God taking our form and living among us was that in Jesus Christ we were given the one true Mediator between God and humanity that came in the flesh. To say Mary can do this too is to say what Jesus did on the Cross wasn’t’ enough. It says Jesus didn’t do enough…even after He said, “Tetelesti” or “It is finished”.

Let me be clear…there is need of none other than Christ.

Jesus is the one we can go to directly. That is why the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom. From that point onward we have a hearing at the very throne of God.

Hebrews 7:25 ~ “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[a] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Our access is now immediate through Christ. He is the only Mediator that we will ever need.

1 Timothy 2:5 ~ “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

The only way we could arrive at any other conclusion is to depart from the truth of Scripture.

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