Saturday, February 5, 2011

Marian devotion or Marian "worship"

I've mentioned a lot, but I'll say it for my new friends, I grew up in the Bible belt south. I'm a cradle Catholic so life was a bit hard for me. I learned real fast how to explain common misinformation about Catholicism including Marian devotion. Right now, I'm happy to say, I live in Catholic country. I like it because it feels more like home. I don't have to defend the faith so ardently to other Christians and I can devote more of my time to increasing my personal walk with God. But I'm getting off track a little.

One of the common misconceptions among many of my friends was Marian devotion or as they put it Marian worship. I will say that I do have non-Catholic friends who understood what Marian devotion was. I think it's because they have family members who were Catholics. One of my closest friend's brother is Catholic. My friend is Southern Baptist. We got along really well. I think if anyone questioned my beliefs, he would be the first to say that I'm a Christian too. But again digressing. Suffices to say that while it's a common misconception, there are great Protestants out there who understand what it means.

Mary is the Mother of God. Bottom line. I don't think anyone would disagree. She was there throughout Jesus's life. She never left his side even when he was hung on the cross. It must have been agonizing for her to see someone she carried in her womb for 9 months, nursed, and loved hanging a painful and humiliating death that was set aside for criminals. But did she turn her back on Jesus; nope.

She is also called the first Christian. She was the first one told that God was reincarnating himself or manifesting himself as Christ Jesus. Was she scared of the angel who asked this of her? Nope. She asked him some questions first.

She was chosen. Of all the people; of all the women. God could have decided to come fully adult. He could have chosen to reside in the womb of a wealthy woman. No. He choose a lowly + or - 15 year old girl. She wasn't even married. God choose her and he also made her for this purpose. But he also gave her the choice to carry himself. We're thrilled she said yes.

Jesus also respected and loved his mother. He intended for her to be taken care of long after his death (John 19:26).

These are all the reasons why Catholics are devoted to her. Not in the sense that they treat her as God. But in the sense that we have a deep respect for her and use her life as an example of how to live our own.

Oh the prayers.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace
The Lord is with you
Blessed are you among women
Blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus
(comes from Luke)
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us, sinners
Now and at the hour of our death
Amen. (a simple prayer request)

The first part sounds a bit worship-ish to the untrained. It's from Luke in the Bible. It's the angel, Gabriel's, words to Mary. The last part is simply a prayer request. I mentioned that all Christians will ask for a person to pray for them. Catholics ask dead people too. This comes from Revelations 5:8 and Revelations 8: 3-4 where prayers from the "holy ones" are offered to God as incense. Holy ones can also be translated as the deceased saints in heaven. Revelations also mentions people robed in white standing around the throne of God (Rev. 6:11, 7: 13-14). Judging by the text, these were people who were dead and they knew about the goings on on earth.

What about 1 Timothy where it talks about us only needing Jesus as our mediator? Yes, Catholics believe that you only need Jesus to be your bridge to God. However, Christians are mediators to the world. Jesus repeatedly in the Gospels sent Christians out to evangelize. So too are saints mediators to those who are alive. They are mentors, for lack of a better word. They help us understand God as much as a Christian knocking on doors and handing out pamphlets helps an unbeliever understand God.

I also urge you to read the entire passage of 1 Timothy because the first part is talking about prayer and intercession among fellow Christians.1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

It would seem contradictory if Paul says that only Jesus can be our mediator but also asks people to pray and intercede on behalf of all people. I think Paul meant that because Jesus died on the cross we are saved from sin in God's eyes. Jesus is our savior and mediator. I don't think it means that we can't ask others to speak to God on our behalf.

And the Rosary, it's basically a meditation on the life of Jesus. Let me repeat that it's not about Mary; it's all about Jesus. A lot of people think the Rosary is about Mary and there is some things about Mary in there, but it's in relation to Jesus's life. I'd post the text, but you can read how to pray a rosary here.

Therefore, one can conclude that we can ask saints and especially Mary to pray for us.

Don't get me wrong; there are Catholics who go a little Mary crazy. Personally I find it disrespectful to see a person praying the Rosary during Mass. Mass is supposed to be the time where we, as a community, come together to worship Christ and partake in his miracle. The Rosary is meant for individual devotion and prayer.

I want to make a very big distinction here. (I apologize if I wasn't clear throughout because I'm tired). Devotion and worship are two different things. I am devoted to my husband, but I don't think he's God incarnate. (Did a light bulb go off? Do you see the difference?) Catholics love/are devoted to Mary, but they do not worship her. Capisce? As I said, some Catholics love Mama Mary a little too much and forget to thank Jesus, but we know who our God is.

Next up: The Common Misconception about memorized prayer.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this article, Deltaflute; I enjoyed reading it. I'm a Catholic (faithful to the Magisterium) and I'd go so far as to say we worship Mary. Here's why:

    The same word can often have more than one meaning. This is the case with the English word "worship".

    One meaning, perhaps the principal meaning, is "to honor or revere as a supernatural being or power" (OED). This is not what we mean if we say we worship Mary.

    Another meaning, related to the first, but not the same as it, is "to regard with extreme respect or devotion" (OED). I don't see anything wrong with saying Catholics "regard Mary with extreme respect or devotion". In fact, this is precisely what you argue in your post.

    A third meaning, very close to the second is "to regard or treat with honor" (OED).

    There are other meanings in the OED, but these should suffice to make the point.

    Example: if you've ever been to an English (i.e., Anglican) wedding, you may have heard the following vow said by both the bride and the groom: "With my body, I thee worship." This is probably using the third meaning, "to treat with honor". No one would argue that the bride and groom are vowing to regard each other as gods; they're vowing to treat each other with honor in their carnal relationship.

    So there's nothing wrong with saying that we worship Mary, as long as we know the meanings of our words. Anyone who argues that because we say we worship Mary means that we regard her as a divine or supernatural being simply doesn't understand English sufficiently well.

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