The Coptic church celebrate St Mary’s Fast this month, and Catholics celebrated Mary’s assumption last Wednesday. Thus I thought it a suitable time to make this public. This certainly comes with much trepidation, and I didn’t seriously expect it to happen either, staunch Protestant that I am (contestable) but, here I am, and there’s no denying it now. I better just come out and say it,
Hail Holy Queen!
What are all the maidservants, manservant, gentlemen, ladies, princes, kings, monarchs on earth compared with the Virgin Mary, who is of royal lineage and, moreover, the mother of God, the noblest lady on earth? After Christ she is the fairest gem in all of Christendom.
Never can she be praised enough: the supreme empress and queen far exalted above all nobility, wisdom and holiness.
-Martin Luther, Formula of Concord, Article VIII, Section VII
Virgin of the Lillies, Bouguereau
Yes, you may have noticed that conspicuous surprise at the end of that lauding, soaring praise of the Virgin too: It was Martin Luther, a Protestant super-hero, and not Pope Pious, or any other Catholic, who said this.
The virgin Mary, that humble Nazarene-come-Queen mother, is everywhere. Just last week, she made TV when a group of Russian activists called Pussy Riot stormed a church and published themselves beseeching her for the deposition of President Putin- in a viral youtube video.
Her help is sought for whole countries. She’s often crying somehwere, her statues are in virtually every city of the world, as are images of her, which, incidentally, pretty much make most European art.
Our lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lebanon, our Lady of Ecuador, our Lady ofEdo. It seems that every nation loves her. Protestants and even Muslims, have a soft-spot for her.
Why such passion toward Mary?
Is it some primeval yearning for a glorious, shining woman figure? Or perhaps some need to mitigate the Father’s sharp, hard searing perfection through notions of the soft, warm familiarity of the domestic- through a heavenly mother perhaps?
And, this leads me to my most important question yet, is it right? That’s the issue, when it come to the crunch. Though I love talking to Mary, that pure-heart, that humble maidservant, that Holy Queen- I can’t shake the vague sense that it’s somehow self-indulgent, somehow excessive. Yet, and you can tell by my erratic fluctuations that I am still in two minds about this, it simply seems too right, too proper to praise her, and, through it, to praise Him.
How could I not thank this harbinger of goodness? For through her perfect submission, her “Yes,” she showed me to her son, the prince of my heart and the Captain of my soul. He is perfect, and, similarly, I find his mother to be pretty wonderful as well.
The Adoration of the Magi, Sebastiano Ricci
The notion that Mary’s “Yes” makes her the mother of God is a self-evident truth. If not for Mary’s act of humble submission and her statement “be it unto me according to thy maidservant,” she could not have been chosen to be the Theotokos or “God-bearer.” Yet, there is much more to her than the mere notion of passive, easy consent, of a reckless, indifferent “have it your way!” with which some, incorrectly endow her.
She made it through, you see, with her “yes” she cut through. She broke through this stagnant inertia, the heavy, sedative cloud, this cloud that separates us from the truth, from Him and his perfection.
What was she saying yes to? Contempt and stigma, Yes. Pain and suffering,Yes, torment of soul, her mother’s heart rent in two, Yes. Through this efficacious, sincere Yes, He saves me.
It’s written of the Christ that he set is face like a flint toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) He was as steady at the outset as he was at the sticking point, when the thorns pierced and the shame cut. So too, she carried some of that pain, severe by any measure, right to the bitter end. She is there at the temple for his circumcision, she is there at the cross for his torment. She said Yes.
What bitterness she had to sometimes drink from the cup the father gave her! Simeon, that shrewd old prophet, said it clearest at Christ’s presentation,
….Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
A sword pierced through her soul. Schlink, a Protestant nun (yes, apparently they exist) and author of “Mary mother of God” makes it seem a continuous torment, she claims that the sufferings that reached their terrible climax at the cross, started much earlier. She claims that Mary felt his pains more acutely than anyone else, as only a good mother can of her child’s suffering.
She is, in ways my impatience and eagerness fail to express, surely, his most competent servant.
Part 2 published in two days….