Mary’s Day

Evangelicals find it pretty hard to handle Mary. On the one hand we reject the Roman speculation that is the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into heaven or the nonsense of the Immaculate Conception, the first of which only emerges in the 5th century and is denied by prior fathers, the latter of which is a direct contradiction of Romans 3:23. On the other hand, in throwing these things out we guard ourselves (for fear of appearing heretical) perhaps too much from the truths about Mary which speak of her Son.

Mary is the Theotokos , the God Bearer. She became the physical embodiment of what later become true of us spiritually, Christ dwelling within by the power of the Holy Spirit. For us who are born again that is a spiritual presence, for her it was physical. She literally bore God and that is a remarkable thing to think of – God being biologically present in someone’s womb. Astonishing.

Some don’t like the title “Theotokos” or “Mother of God”, but really it’s a statement about Jesus not Mary. The Theotokos points to Jesus constantly, whether instructing the servants at the Wedding in Cana to listen to her son, or whether in the many pieces of artwork of her carrying her infant son. She has no power of her own to save or sanctify, rather she is dependent for her own salvation (as we are) on the one she carries. Her reward for all this? The agony of seeing her son die one of the most brutal deaths ever devised, and then the joy of seeing the empty tomb, the physical reality of his victory over sin and death. She then vanishes from the face of Scripture, together in prayer with the disciples (Acts 1:14) before the coming of the Holy Spirit and then heard of no more, a model of humility from the first to the last, letting God be the author of her life – “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

To speak of Mary as Theotokos is to affirm that great Christian truth, the Hypostatic Union. Christ was totally human and totally God. A man and yet also divine. Mary is therefore literally iconic – she is in herself a glimpse of the truth of how God united fallen humanity to himself. To big up Mary is by implication to big up Jesus. To venerate her icon, while acknowledging that she was as fallen as we are, is to venerate Jesus.

And where does that leave us? The Anglican collect today is appropriately subtle on the subject. It reads:

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I guess at a pinch you could read that as an acknowledgement of Bodily Assumption (“taken to yourself”) but it’s far better read as a simple acknowledgement that the one who bore God is now, as we all are, borne by him, that we share with her the same destiny of the glory of God’s kingdom – nothing more and nothing less.

A final question. Given that Mary (XX) would have provided the X chromosome for Jesus’ XY, does that mean that God supplied the Y? I guess today’s the day to ask…

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