Something about Mary

Mary Did You Know (what the church would turn you into?)
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.””Luke‬ ‭1:46-55‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One of the many quotes from contemporary author Michael Bassey Johnson reads; “You can believe in whatsoever you like, but the truth remains the truth, no matter how sweet the lie may taste.”

During this season of Advent, in preparation to celebrate the incredible, miraculous truth of the incarnation, I’ve been surprised to come across a few strange understandings about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Apparently there are some in the church who find these ideas very sweet, however false to the scriptures they are.

First there’s the idea that Mary was God. This view has been propagated by a few clergy within the Roman Catholic Church. They declare that The Blessed Virgin is the “soul of the Holy Spirit” and Co-creator with God. The Vatican was swift to condemn this heresy.
It is true that Mary was a virgin who conceived Jesus by supernatural means. (Matthew 1:18) She was the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:43) and every (Christian) generation since has affirmed her as a unique and supremely blessed person.(Luke 1:48)
According to the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, (1) Mary was not divine. Neither is Mary to be worshipped. Rather, as one of “the offspring of Adam”, she was in need of Salvation by Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23)

Then there’s the notion that Mary was really a first century June Cleaver. Evangelicals seem to prefer this view of Mary as a woman whose only (and temporary) importance was in being a human incubator for God but otherwise assumed her proper place as a mother and obedient wife to her husband Joseph.
However, from the gospel accounts, it’s Mary, not Joseph who is the more assertive parent. Joseph is a faithful, good man, and caring husband. (Matthew 1:18-24). I think it’s safe to assume he was also a good dad. But in relation to Jesus, any scriptural evidence of him in an active fatherly role is absent. And in the very few scriptural instances in which we see something of Jesus’ family dynamics, it’s Mary who takes the lead. (Luke 2:48, Mark 3:20-35) Mary was also a high-order spiritual contemplative. The gospel writer Luke takes note of her remarkable quality to ponder and meditate on the mystery of her life and place in relationship to the divine action unfolding before her. (Luke 2:19) She takes in and treasures the angelic revelation, the shepherd’s testimony and the prophetic voices of Simeon and Anna. (Luke 2:51)
At Cana she responds to an embarrassing social situation (John 2:1-11) by dropping a hint to her son as if she knew this as an opportunity to reveal his glory (which he does).
And if you’re looking for where the redemptive action is, Mary is there. She was at the crucifixion (John 19:25-26). She was among the original group of post-resurrection followers (Acts 1:14) which implies she was there to experience the Baptism of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4) Clearly the scriptures show her not as just a humble rent-a-womb for the Word made flesh, but a remarkable, main stage character.

Finally there’s the fantasy that Mary was the church’s original Socialist revolutionary. This distortion may be best represented by artist Ben Wildflower’s image of a scowling Mary with fist raised and her boots (yes, boots) trampling a serpent. (She apparently left her AK-47 at home, otherwise she could just shoot it). She is surrounded by slogans; “Cast Down the Mighty” “Fill the Hungry” “Lift up the Lowly” and “Send the Rich Away”. She is depicted as an angry champion for social justice.
Of course, the faithful recognize that these slogans are adapted from the “Magnificat” or “Song of Mary”, found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1:46-55. And the faithful also recognize that these words are not her own demands for social justice, but Mary’s celebration of the reality of the truth of divine justice.
In her song, Mary identifies with and vividly expresses God’s heart for the poor and oppressed. Convinced of God’s refusal to condone and sure judgment upon human exploitation, greed, and pride, she rejoices in anticipation of God’s now and future salvation. She sees God’s favor upon her as a milestone in the fulfillment of His historic promises.
In “The Magnificat”, the angry Social Justice Warrior is not Mary. The SJW is God. And as the late great music artist Curtis Mayfield reminded us, “…have pity on those whose chances grow thinner; for there’s no hiding place against the Kingdom’s Throne”. (2)

In pursuit of truth, I need to be careful not to recruit the Bible into the ranks of my own favorite cause. The scriptures say what they say. The only way they can be made to say what I want them to say is by adding the sweetness of my own exaggeration to one part and my suppression to another. (3)

Indeed, we may believe whatsoever we like. But the plain texts of scripture are our written rule and reference for truth; not the honeyed deceptions of our own constructs. When it comes to the mother of Jesus, or any biblical figure, the truth remains the truth, however sweet the lies may taste.

  1. Lumen Gentium 53 of the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church.
  2. From “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield 
  3. Adapted from C.S. Lewis 

2 thoughts on “Something about Mary

  1. Mike, I have read and read and reread this devotion on Mary. My best friend growing up was Catholic . I was Baptist, I learned to pray the rosary with her when we were very young. I always asked her why she had to pray to Mary when I prayed to Jesus. She said Mary had to give messages to Jesus, and she had to pray extra to Mary d prayewhen she told the priest about her sins. I had trouble figuring out exactly who she thought Mary really was. I worked with Nuns at St Vincent’s when I was doing group counseling…all sister Mary something’s who met twice a day for reciting of the rosary…enforced prayer. Strange that I never entered into any dialogue with them about their faith. I was told not to, but that kind of directive never stopped me getting to know people on a personal level. I remember consulting with a’Mother Superior’ who was going to move a troubled and troublemaker nun rather than refer her to long term counseling with a nun in private practice. This girl had been moved all over the country whenever she caused a work problem. This Methodist girl said Sister Mary ***** needs to stay here and get help. Mother Superior had come from the Mother house in Maryland and they had to have a special Mary’s Rosary prayer service with all the nuns at the Mother House to make the decision. So I was never sure who made that decision, but Sr ***** stayed here working, in counseling, made less trouble, is now good friends with her counselor who lives in a retirement community. Sr ***** used to be angry with me for the decision to make her stay and work it all out. Older now and some better off for counseling, we’re ok. BUT SHE STILL PRAYS TO MARY!!? This is an excellent piece Mike. Merry Christmas my friend. This has not been much of a church Christmas. I’m living very much in the Christmases past at St Paul. Covid and Covid fear has wrecked everything. Months ago Simon told me he wanted an old fashioned Carol sing in the garden with the Christmas lights for those unable to attend inside worship Christmas Eve. Someone took that simpleCarol sing and had to turn it into a production so that it became too cumbersome to do outside when it looked like it might rain. So all those who were going for outside service didn’t go when it was moved inside. That included us. We can’t go Christmas Eve inside. Humbug. Love you guys, jackie

    Sent from my iPhone. Blessings, Jackie Baucom



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