I apologize for the delays between posts. Life has a way of becoming busy when you least expect or want it to be.
I had a problem with Mary. Not as the woman, but as who I perceived the church made her out to be. I’ve heard her called the Queen of Heaven. Blameless and pure. Ever-virgin. Theotokos. They asked her to save them in prayer. In my own understanding I thought that Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy had elevated Mary to a position that she had no purpose in holding.
I had to first explore what I knew the Bible said of Mary. She was obviously (to a Christian) a virgin before her betrothal to Joseph. The whole gospel breaks down if this is not known as truth. The second place I went to was the gospel of Saint Luke. In the first chapter, we get two very important facts about Mary.
Fact #1 – Luke 1:41-43: “…Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’”
Elizabeth, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit makes two prophecies. One that Mary would be blessed above all woman. And two that the fruit of her womb would make her the mother of God.
Fact #2 – Luke 1:48: “…For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
Mary’s song, The Magnificat, is also traditionally seen as prophetic. And right at the beginning of the song, she makes it known that she will be blessed for the rest of time. This was not the vain boasting of a prideful woman (as some might think or claim). We’ve seen from earlier how humble Mary has been through her quiet acceptance of the Lord’s message to her through Gabriel.
I had to struggle through this. Before I had ever known what Orthodoxy was, I had some misgivings about this passage. Because growing up in protestant churches, Mary is only lightly touched upon, if at all. Great focus is given to the letters of Paul and the Gospels. Every once in a while the pastor might touch upon greats from the Old Testament, like David, or Moses. But Mary is relegated to a side character of the gospel message.
I didn’t know how to feel about this. Here we have that in first chapter of Luke that Mary was to be called blessed by all generations. Yet I had not once done that at a church service. I felt uneasy, but not knowing what else to do, I went along with it.
The first thing that I decided to do was to give Mary her proper due and declare in my heart and on my lips that I would bless her. I didn’t have a prayer or an image of her, I simply prayed for her and repeated her own words from Luke.
The second thing I did was try to understand more of why she is called the Queen of Heaven. If James and John would not be given seats at the right and left hands of Christ when he entered heaven, because that role was for others, could Mary claim royalty status in heaven?
One thing I was pointed to was the Old Testament tales of Solomon. In 1 Kings 2:19-20, Bathsheba goes to Solomon with a request. Bathsheba was Solomon’s mother, and he defers to her, telling her to tell him her request and that he will not refuse her. In the Old Testament, the queen was often the king’s mother, and not his bride.
So it then made sense to me to call her Queen of Heaven. Not that she has any power in heaven on par with Christ, but that she, as his mother, has a special place of honor, and that she can bring requests to her Son. We all can make requests of Christ as the veil was torn, but in her role as Mother of God, she has the right to make special requests of him. How do we know?
From the wedding at Cana. Though Christ says to his mother, “My hour has not yet come,” he still listens to her and then does as she requests. She did not badger him or beg him. She simply made a request, and then he acted.
I thought about it for a while and it made sense, and I was willing to call Mary the Queen of Heaven, recognizing that she, as Jesus’ mother has the right to a special place in Heaven.
What about being blameless and pure? This was more difficult for me. I know there are passages like Romans 3 that states that we are all guilty. The only righteous and blameless person to exist was Christ Jesus. How could I make sense of this, it clearly to me was a reason not to call Mary blameless or pure. There was nothing special about her humanity, so why give this honor?
To be honest, I still don’t have a great answer to this. Even after speaking with Father Phil, his response was, “There are those who say that she didn’t commit any major sins. There are those who say she didn’t commit sins at all. But I leave that to the church to decide.” I wasn’t satisfied with this answer, but I knew he had a point. There are some things that we just can’t know.
So why can I feel comfortable calling her blameless and pure? Because of one specific man in the Old Testament. A faithful man named Enoch. For 300 years Enoch walked faithfully with the Lord and then was taken away. 300 years a man managed to live faithfully to God. Why did I have a problem with a woman living faithfully to God for maybe 70-80 years? So I let the matter rest, not that I had any perfect answer about Mary’s blameless state or purity, but that I was going to take it as a matter of faith that God in His mercy and grace blessed Mary with a pure life, like Enoch.
The next three things I would conquer were Mary’s ever-virginity, title of Theotokos, and prayers to Mary, and these will come when I am able to write again.
Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us!