Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Marian Mission Re-envisioned

When reading a story or watching a movie, it is fun to make predictions about the plot and to be right in the end! It is perhaps more interesting, however, to be kept guessing and to have events unfold in an unexpected way. Such is the case with my mission to bring Protestants to Mary and to find an ecumenical, Protestant-Catholic hybrid of Marian theology that could work. Things are not turning out as I had originally planned, but the journey certainly is intriguing (at least for me)!

For instance, it is apparent that Mary intended for me to follow her to the Catholic Church, rather than for me to remain in a Protestant church and carry her there, so to speak. However, I still think that perhaps reading about my particular path could encourage non-Catholic Christians to be more open-minded about the issue of Mary and to do some investigating into the beliefs of the Catholic Church on their own. I think it is a feasible idea to incorporate Marian devotion into a Protestant life, as some have already done.

As far as "blending" Catholic and Protestant teachings about Mary, well, a person could certainly do this if he chose to, but as for me, being Catholic does not provide such freedom. There is the issue of dogma, which is an article of faith revealed by God, which the magisterium of the Church presents to be believed and declares as binding. Mary's perpetual virginity is dogma, so I must believe this teaching on faith, even if I don't intellectually understand it yet.

The Divine Motherhood of Mary is the first dogma, which basically states that Jesus was born of a human woman, and that He is one person whose nature is both fully divine and fully human. This is where Mary's title Mother of God comes from; since these two aspects of Jesus are not separate, Mary is mother of both the divine and human natures contained within the incarnated Son of God, who is one with God. This dogma primarily defines who Jesus is and protects against heresy. All Christians should share in this belief. All Christians should also support the virginity of Mary at the time of Jesus' conception up till the time of his birth, even if they do not hold that Mary remained a virgin after. To say otherwise opposes the Bible and is heresy.

In addition to these beliefs about Mary common to all Christians, there should be no one who does not call Mary "highly favored by God", "blessed among women" and "blessed by every generation", as these descriptions come straight from the Bible. Furthermore, under no circumstances can anyone rightly argue that Jesus did not honor his mother, as He must have perfectly done so in obedience to the Ten Commandments. Therefore, He would not have rebuked her, scorned her, or rejected her in any way, as some have suggested, going so far as to say that Jesus did not even like His mother! Since we are to imitate Jesus, we have no choice as Christians but to honor her as well.

An unfortunate fact is that there are so many biblical interpretations out there, depending upon the Protestant denomination to which one belongs. There are some 40,000 Protestant denominations, showing a huge divisiveness in belief, even regarding what would seem to be the most basic tenets of the faith. This is the result of no clear authority. There is, in contrast, only one Catholic Church, so there is much less confusion over doctrine. As a result, there is a much clearer interpretation of Biblical events, understood through the lens of Tradition. Although there is some room for individual interpretation, in which a person reads the Bible and decides for himself what is meant and how it applies to one's life, this cannot be in opposition to official Church teaching. However, there is some latitude in areas in which the Church has not given detailed, decisive revelation. Some things can be believed one way or another and still be within the parameters of official Church teaching.

What I would like to do in future articles is to consider the scenes of Mary's life, particularly those in which it is argued that Mary is trying to interfere with Jesus' mission or is otherwise thought to be pictured in an unflattering light, and to spin a more likely, accurate portrayal. My hope is to bridge some of the gap between Protestant and Catholic thinking on Mary. Some of that depends upon understanding the basis for the authority of the Catholic Church, which Protestants by nature reject. But even if I can show that the Catholic interpretation of Mary is supported by scripture and is viable and valid, then I will have fulfilled my mission successfully!

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