Mary, Holy MotherSCOTT HAHN
There is probably nothing more disturbing to Protestants than the profound devotion which Catholics have for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We are also going to be able to touch lightly and briefly upon some historical data, but our focus this morning will be primarily scriptural. Now non-Catholics also are concerned with historical evidences for Marian doctrines and devotions. But I would say the vast majority of non-Catholic questions and objections stem from scripture and the seeming silence from the holy writ. So that's what we are going to be focusing our attention, our energy and our time upon this morning.
Before I go on, I want to make the same admission that I do at every point and that is, we don't have time to cover everything. We don't have time to cover even half of what we need to cover. I'll do my best and you know how fast I can get going and you know how long I can go. I have to candidly concede the fact that you need to be reading scripture. You need to be asking our Lord for extra time to study, to ponder and to pray. Let me recommend some books to you, some secondary sources.
One of my favorites is by one of the top biblical scholars in France, Andre Foulier. It's entitled Jesus and His Mother, the Role of the Virgin Mary in Salvation History and the Place of Women in the Church. This, I believe, is a masterpiece, and it's published by St. Bede, and it's only about two or three years old. The other book I want to recommend, and I am not sure is in print. In fact, I suspect it might be out of print, but you can find it in libraries, and I have found it in used book stores because that's my favorite haunting place, to travel to used book stores. But this is by Max Durien who is a reformed brother in the Taesec community over in Europe. It's entitled, Mary, Mother of All Christians.
What makes this distinctive is that when he wrote this, he was a Reformed Calvinist Christians. You don't find Christians much more non-Catholic than that! I know. I was one! Now, rumor has it, and I have only heard it from two or three persons, and I've not confirmed this, that Brother Max Durien has converted. He is considered to be one of the wisest Reformed Protestant theological sages of this century, not only for his theological depth and his scriptural understanding, but especially for his spirituality in guiding the Taesic community in worship and community and in ecumenical environment.
Another classic, Joseph Duer, a Jesuit by the name of Joseph Duer. I believe it was originally written in German. It's entitled, The Glorious Assumption of the Mother of God. This goes through the biblical and the historical, the patristic and the magisterial data and evidences for the doctrine, or the dogma, I guess we could say, of the bodily assumption of our Lady. Now this is an old copy, but I was just recently informed that the book is back in print. I'm not sure who publishes it, but my suspicion is Christian Classics.
Here's another book, and I'll tell you the story behind this a little later. Remind me; I might forget. It's entitled The Assumption of Mary by Father Killiam Healey, a Carmelite theologian up in New England, in Massachusetts. This is published by Michael Glazier. I'm not sure if you can get it from them, but if you want to try, you have to contact Liturgical Press, because Glazier and Liturgical Press just merged up in Collegeville, Minnesota, which is their new address. But this is superb. This is for popular consumption. This could be like a primer, a first reader in Marian Doctrine and Devotion. He is very fair and even handed. And I might add, he's a marvelous priest. I heard him preach, right after I joined the Church, but I'll tell that story later on. It was a delight in my own life.
The real magnum opus on the subject was written by one of Great Britain's top Biblical scholars, Father John McHugh entitled, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament, published by Doubleday, and it's in many public libraries that I have seen as well as college or high school or seminary libraries. I don't believe it's in print, but it is all around, so you could find it if you looked hard enough. This is just a copious study of all of the relevant passages in the New Testament, and McHugh looks at these from the perspective of the writers of scripture themselves, how the Fathers of the Church interpreted it, how Jewish and Rabbinic interpreters and commentators understood certain passages from the Old that were fulfilled by the New, all the way up until the present day. It's very thorough but readable, very readable. I think anybody named McHugh has something good to say. I'm buttering up my host and hostess here.
Scriptural View of Mary
Well, here we go. What I would like to do now is to begin to change our focus to scripture itself. Of course, the place we have to begin in order to see what the scripture says about the Blessed Virgin Mary is found all the way in the beginning of the Bible. Let's turn to Genesis, chapter 3. There we see the first Eve having been seduced and, I believe, brutally intimidated into a kind of disobedient submission. You can go back and listen to this tape that I think we made two or two-and-a-half days ago about how often we distort what really happened in the temptation narrative, because we don't know how to read Hebrew narrative. There is a literary artistry there at work that's very hard for the Western mind to grasp, understand and appreciate. But I believe, just to sum it up, that Adam was called to be a faithful covenant head in a marital covenant, and he was called to show forth, as the representative of the covenant, the love, the hessed, the loyalty of the covenant to the fullest degree. And, as our Lord says, "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his beloved."
So, if he is truly going to love his covenant partner in marriage, he has to be willing to lay his life down. Now, how does God, the Father, test his son's loyalty and love? Well, that's what the serpent is there for. The serpent, nahash in Hebrew is, I believe, misunderstood to be a snake. Medieval art work, and this has been carried on into the modern tradition where you have Eve depicted as some dumb, perhaps blonde, but some dumb air-head who just basically is tricked by some little snake, hanging from a branch in a tree, to eat the apple. All right, and so all men just kind of sit back and say, "Yeah, it's still the same way." And they congratulate themselves on being so worldly wise that they wouldn't be so dumb as this air-head.
Total misreading, I believe. This is my own hypothesis. This is my own interpretation. You don't have to abide by it, but my view is that the nahash, the serpent is deliberately depicted as a kind of, I'd say mythical figure but I don't want to deny the historicity of this text. It's just that Hebrew historical narrative can often use mythical imagery to communicate historical truth. In Daniel 7, I mentioned four gentile kingdoms are described as being "four beasts." So, I believe, here we have the serpent as a kind of dragon. The word is used and used and used in Hebrew to connote or denotes a dragon figure like Leviathan or Banmuth or Rehab, the monster later than Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Revelation 12:9 in the New Testament confirms this translation of nahash, not as serpent/snake, but as serpent/dragon, because there Satan is described as the "ancient serpent" and then it goes on to describe a seven-headed dragon.
So she is being confronted and brutally intimidated by a dragon who is intent upon producing disobedience, come hell or high water. So in the cross-examination, in the interrogation that goes back and forth, Satan uses the truth in a clever, deceptive, but intimidating way to kind of force this woman to see, in effect, that if she doesn't eat that fruit, she will die, at least in the biological, physical sense because Satan will see to it.
The question, then, as you read through this narrative is not based upon anything that is explicitly stated, but rather that which is so conspicuously unstated, and that is, where the heck is Adam in all this? By the end of the narrative you discover that he's right by the woman because she just turns and gives him the fruit to eat; but the question is, where was he all along? This loving covenant head, this loving covenant partner who is to show the great love that he's willing to lay down his life for his beloved? Well, he was probably rationalizing his silence by saying, "Well, if I oppose such a serpentile monster as this, I stand no chance."
So in Hebrews 2:14-16, the New Testament tells us that Christ had to take on our flesh and blood to free us from the devil, from Satan, who held us in life-long bondage because of the fear of death and suffering we all have. So it seems as though Adam's response, or lack of response, is due to his fear of suffering and death, which in turn subjects all of Adam, humanity, to life-long bondage to he who holds the power of death, Satan, in this sense.
So the first Eve, then, is abandoned by her covenant partner and husband who was presumably to tell that dragon where to go, and then, in a sense, stand up for his convictions and possibly even suffer martyrdom and to lay down his life for his beloved and trust that God, his Creator, to whom he is loyal in love would raise him and vindicate him in proper covenant judgment. Which is exactly what the second Adam does on behalf of the second Eve, the Church, which is the whole dramatic encounter we read about in Revelations 12. I'm going to have to talk about that later on this day, so I'm not going to get into it too much this morning. You're all invited to that. It's at 1:30. We're going to be talking about Mary, Ark of the Covenant, focusing upon the woman of the Apocalypse who is clothed with the sun, a crown of 12 stars, and the world under her feet. I think it's the deliberate symbol of the second Eve for whom the second Adam lay down his life. Mary, the Church, Israel, and all New Testament believers in a sense.
But having sinned, Adam and Eve were now confronted by God. You can go all the way back, I believe, to verse 8, Genesis 3:8, "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and the man and his wife hid themselves." Now, this is, I think, perhaps somewhat of a mistranslation. We often have this kind of romantic, bucolic picture here of God kind of walking through the woods. You can hear the crushing of the leaves and the snapping of the twigs as he says, you know, "Adam, Eve, where are you?" Poor God, just doesn't really know what's going on!
But when you actually look at the Hebrew, what the people hear, verse 8, it says, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God." We're tempted to hear that as the crushing leaves and snapping twigs, this poor unwitting God is saying, "where... weren't we supposed to meet, you know. Isn't this the time? Isn't this the place?" But no. The word in Hebrew for sound is qol. Now, what kind of noise does the qol of the Lord make? Well you can find out by reading Psalm 29. Keep your finger on Genesis 3 and take a look at Psalm 29 because there we discover an entire psalm devoted to describing what Adam and Eve must have heard when they heard the qol of the Lord, the sound of the Lord.
Verse 1 of Psalm 29, "Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings or sons of God. Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name and worship the Lord in holy array. The qol of the Lord is upon the waters. The God of glory thunders. The Lord upon many waters. The qol of the Lord is powerful. The qol of the Lord is full of majesty." Verse 5, "The qol of the Lord breaks the cedars. The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf in Sirion, like a young wild ox. The qol of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The qol of the Lord shakes the wilderness. The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The qol of the Lord makes the oak trees to whirl and strips the forest bare and all in his temple cry, 'glory'!"
What do you think they heard? It wasn't the snapping of little twigs and the crunching, you know, of leaves. They heard a thunder and shattering roar, and they hid themselves. Quite understandably. Goes on, "They heard the qol of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day." That word in Hebrew, cool, is ruah, normally translated spirit or wind, and that phrase could easily be translated as scholars have argued, "They heard the thundering, shattering roar of Yahweh Eloheim as he was coming into the garden as the spirit of the day!" What day? The day of judgment. We've got a primo parousia on our hands. The second coming in advance in a sense.
So they flee from the sound that they hear. They hide from the Lord God among the trees in the garden. "But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'" Now he doesn't talk about geographical location. The deity here, in order to meet the job description of the divinity is omniscient. He knows where they are. He's asking, "Where are you in terms of your covenant standing before me. Where are you? "He answered, ' I heard you in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid. Who told you that you were naked?" What does the man say? "The woman! Have you eaten of the fruit that I told you not to eat?" And what does he say? He immediately starts passing the buck. Verse 12, "The man said, 'The woman.'" But it gets worse, "The woman you gave me."
Not so subtle, huh? He's not just faulting her. Who's he really faulting? Some help, some assistant you gave me! He's not just blaming her. He's implicitly blaming God. And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you've done?" The woman said, "The nahash deceived me and I ate." Now, if you go back, the serpent never actually told a lie, but what the serpent did was to use a kind of blunt, brutal intimidation to get her to submit to the evil. "So the Lord said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this cursed you above all the livestock, etc." But here we look at verse 15, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel."
Now some other translations render, "She will crush your head." And so we have statues of our Lady crushing the head of the serpent. That's an interesting but kind of tangential issue for us right now. At any rate, we see here the woman. "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed." Now you don't have to be a scientist to wonder what they're talking about here. The serpent's seed, okay. But her seed? The Greek Old Testament translates this spermatos, that's the term for seed. Now so far, so good, but wait a second. What is it doing in connection with the woman? The woman's seed? Nowhere else in the Old Testament do you ever come across an expression like that. It's always the man's seed, the husband's seed, the father's seed. This is weird. The woman's seed? Yeah, God's going to elevate that woman and give to her in some unique sense perhaps a seed through which the serpent's head will be crushed. Keep that in the back of your mind because that is going to be crucial.
We're going to move on now to, of course, what is probably the second most famous Old Testament passage for understanding our Lady, Isaiah 7, verse 14. Isaiah 7, verse 14: here we have an interesting episode between Isaiah and King Ahas who is king of Judah, and he's worrying about the national stability of his people in his country of Judah, his kingdom, because he is surrounded by stronger neighbors and so he's toying with the idea of entering into all kinds of wrong-headed alliances. So, through Isaiah the Lord says to King Ahas who's always beginning to kind of stumble with doubts, he's beginning to wonder with fear who he should rely upon, Verse 3, "Then the Lord said to Isaiah, 'go out'" and it goes on in verses 3 through 10, where the Lord speaks to Ahas through Isaiah and says, "Ask of me and I will give you a sign."
In other words, let's admit it. Your faith is weak. You need to have it shored up and strengthened. That's what signs are for. Go ahead and ask me for a sign. Verse 12, with false modesty Ahas says, "Oh, I won't ask. I will not put the Lord to the test." Give me a break! Isaiah said, "Hear now, you House of David, is it not enough to try the patience of men. Will you try the patience of my God also?" He sees your need. He's got the gift that you need. Now don't play strong. You're weak, admit it and receive the gift that he's got in this sign." "Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel."
That word, almah in Hebrew translated by the Greek Septuagint parthenos has been the subject of incredible debate. Is it young woman or is it virgin? You could stack up scholars who advocate either position, but I am persuaded, not only by the targums, that is the ancient Jewish interpretation of this was decidedly in favor of "virgin." They saw it as some kind of Messianic prophecy in the targums, these ancient Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament.
Now there are a lot of scholars who debate, "Well, are the targums before Christ or after Christ or whatever?" But I think there's a lot of evidence for them being before Christ, but even if they were a little bit after Christ, the fact remains that Jews from earliest times saw a Messianic reference with regard to parthenos, a virgin. A recent scholar whose article I just read by the name of Professor Wyatt argues that the Alexandrian Jews who rendered almah by parthenos were being entirely faithful to the Herogamic tradition. He goes on to talk about how Isaiah borrows all his pagan mythical imagery, only then historicizes it with reference to the coming Messiah, as the ritual technical term for an embodiment of a divine mother, who is both a fecund mother, a fruitful mother, as well as a perpetual virgin.
In other words, Isaiah in using this language is tapping into a well-known ancient outlook on what humanity needs for deliverance, that is, God is going to have to send an incredible figure, the likes of which humans have never seen, a creature, a human but in a sense possessed by God in an absolutely unique way. And this, by the way, is not unique to the Hebrew tradition. It's shared throughout. Now maybe it's because Genesis 3:15 was channeled out throughout the world as the human race spread, whatever you want to believe.
There are other ways to explain it, but the fact remains that this translation, this rendering of almah as virgin is strong and sure and is very reliable. At any rate, we know one thing for sure, the New Testament applies it to Mary and the virginal birth of Jesus. So in terms of the inspired narrative, what do we have? In Matthew, we have in a sense, the answer in the back of the book really, or at least we can treat it that way for this morning's time together.
What is going on here? The Davidic line is almost at an end and the only way out for King Ahas in his own mind is to begin to move away from Yahweh and to begin to trust in all of these pagan neighbors who want to form alliances with him. Only, in order to form those alliances he's going to have to submit as a kind of vassal. So Isaiah says, "Don't do it. If you are weakening in your faith, ask him for a sign. He has one ready." The problem is the Davidic line could be crushed. Well, the faithful were saying, "But God has sworn an oath: there will always be an heir on the Davidic throne."
But now what happens if the king is deposed and if the royal family is murdered? Well, God will take a virgin and produce a son of David. In other words, we're not dependent exclusively upon human resources, political power, economic wealth and all of the rest. So Isaiah 7:14 stands in line with Genesis 3:15 as in a sense the second key text with regards to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Mary as Ark of the Covenant
Now I might add that later on today at 1:30 in this talk on "Mary, Ark of the Covenant," we're going to be focusing upon another set of Old Testament passages related to the Ark of the Covenant, which was, in a sense, the most sacred object in all of ancient Israel on the one hand. It's what made the temple holy, it's what made the Holy of Holies the holiest thing around for that's what the Ark was, but it also, in a sense, was the most strategically powerful weapon that Israel possessed because whenever they went into battle, they had the Ark lead the way. When they encircled Jericho for six days and on the seventh day they blew this trumpet seven times, it was the Ark of the Covenant that led the priests and the soldiers.
So the Ark of the Covenant is very significant and most scholars say that what it is, is a kind of throne because many other cultures had temples with arks. The only thing weird about Israel's Ark is that it was empty. It was a throne with two cherubim over the top, but nobody sat on it. In fact, you can actually discover, and I'm going to unpack this a little bit more later on, that in the Ancient world, it was usually the throne for the Queen Mother. For instance, one of the greatest German scholars in his book, Symbolism in the Biblical World, speaks about the great popularity of cherubim thrones, box thrones with cherubim angels over top. It goes on, in Canaan and in Phoenicia during the late Bronze and early Iron Ages, excavators describe it "as a female figure sitting in a square armchair." Odd? Why would these ancient cultures have an ark on which sat this female figure on kind of a throne posture? And why did they also just like Israel often lead that ark out into battle ahead of the troops? Because it was a kind of Queen Mother figure perhaps.
I mean, let's face it, ladies and gentlemen, if your mother was out in the front lines, would you be tempted to fight a little bit harder? Yeah. So consistently, the Ark of the Covenant was what produced all of these miracle victories. Jericho, which was sort of like the Moscow of the ancient world — it was the central stronghold of the Promised Land and it went down like a house of cards, with the Ark going around it seven times and the seven trumpets of the priests blowing.
So there is clear evidence that Protestant, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, as well as Catholic scholars acknowledge that the New Testament deliberately depicts Mary in terms related to the Ark of the Covenant. And we'll discover in Revelation after 580 years without an Ark, Jewish Christians look up and see a sign. It's the Ark of the Covenant in heaven which had not been seen in 580 years approximately. This is where "Raiders of the Lost Ark" comes from. It's been lost for that long. John sees it in Revelation up in heaven and the very next thing he sees is a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars, a Queen Mother. The Ark is no longer an empty throne.
Mary as Queen Mother
So I just want to throw this out to tantalize and perhaps tease a little bit because we don't have the time to go through all the Ark of the Covenant passages, but there's a great deal of exciting and, I think, impressive evidence from the literary artistry of Hebrew narrative as it prepared the way for the Davidic kingdom being fulfilled with the Son of David, Jesus Christ, and his Queen Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
What do I mean by this Queen Mother stuff? Now we will take a look at a key passage. Let's turn now to 1st Kings, chapter 1. This, I believe, is the missing link. I really am convinced that this is the most important exegetical Biblical piece of evidence that we have to go on. It was one of the best-known institutions in ancient Israel's monarchy or after the Civil War ancient Juda's monarchy and in fact, the idea of the Queen Mother was ubiquitous. You don't find ancient monarchies in the Near East or the Middle East that don't have Queen Mothers. I'll refer you to a key article written by N.A. Andrieson in Catholic Biblical Quarterly in 1983, pages 179 through 194. It's entitled, "The Role of the Queen Mother in Israelite Society." This note card, incidentally, comes from about six years ago because it was right after the article came out that I was beginning to do some Old Testament research and opening my mind up to some Catholic ideas. Even though I had been very anti-Catholic I had already begun to accumulate some evidence for this Queen Mother tradition, but it was all piece-meal and scattered.
When I read this article, it was like a thunderclap striking me. I knew I had to really pay close attention to the evidence. What evidence? Well, this is known as the gebirah. The gebirah is the Hebrew term for the Queen Mother. I found in another book, The Graphic History of the Jewish Heritage, that the gebirah, the Queen Mother "occupied a unique and powerful position" throughout the history of ancient Israel's monarchy. He gives as an example Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, who was enthroned, which we will look at in just a moment.
Also, another example, Maacah, in 1st Kings 15:13; Jezebel, who is the only Queen Mother in the rebellious northern kingdom of Israel. In fact, the northern kingdom of Israel is conspicuous because it lacked the Queen Mother. Father DeVoe, one of the greatest Old Testament scholars of the century said, "This was due to a lack of dynastic stability." They kept getting overthrown up north. They didn't have the Davidic covenant to anchor the claims of these potential kings. That's in 2nd Kings 10:13. And then Athaliah, the very cruel and wicked queen who ruled for six years, trying to suppress the cult of Yahweh in the Temple. Mehushta over Johoachin in Jeremiah 13:18. Another scholar in Scandinavia, Ostrum says, "The Queen Mother's position was essentially cultic in nature," that is she actually had a position or a role to play in worship. It wasn't priestly but it was important and it was cultic. It's still left undefined.
In the ancient Near East it goes on talking about how, "The Queen Mother throughout all these ancient Near Eastern monarchies sat beside the king on a throne, survived the death without being deposed. If the king died, the Queen Mother continued to reign without being deposed. There was a cultic role for her in leading the songs and so on in worship but also she had an essential role in political, military and economic affairs of court. In fact there are records of where the Queen Mother could oppose the king on issues of state. This is found in the Eplah tablets and Uhr Hittite records, Egypt Marri tablets, Assyria and other Arabian documents, as well. And the Queen Mother usually began her reign, just as an interesting incidental detail, after menopause.
What's really interesting from Andreason's perspective is that even after the prophets are sent by God to purify the Jerusalem cult and the kingdom of all of these pagan encrustations, the institution of the gebirah continues with reforms by Hezekiah and Josiah. The fertility cults are suppressed and these ashora poles and so on are torn down, including sacred snakes, you know the nahushta and so on, but never the Queen Mother, that's allowed to remain. The central role for Andreason's research is that she was to be the king's wisdom counselor. Lady Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs is sort of like a personification of the Queen Mother, or visa versa.
It goes on listing several other examples. I won't bother you with all these examples but of the sixteen Queen Mothers named, seven explicitly seem to be Jerusalemites. It just runs throughout the whole gamut, the whole historical span of the monarchy and actually, the only chapter of the Bible that we know was written by a woman, Proverbs 31, was written by a Queen Mother as instruction for her son before he accedes to the throne and finds himself a wife, she says, "This is the kind you've got to find." Andreason concludes that "This is the theological paradigm for Mary's Queenship. Jesus is the Son of David and the genealogy in Matthew links Mary to the Davidic line. Being the Son of David makes her the Queen Mother." There are some other works too, The Nature of the Queenship of Mary, published in 1973, The Royal Son of God, published in 1979 and so on. But I can share these sources with you , if you are interested, afterwards.
Let's take a look at an example of the function and authority of the Queen Mother in 1st Kings. In chapter 1 there is an intense fraternal rivalry between Solomon or Jedidiah, whose throne name is Peace, Solomon, and his half-brother, Adonijah, who by the way is older and was born to one of David's wives whom he had married before Bathsheba. So Adonijah seemed to have a kind of prima facia claim to the throne before Solomon, except that Bathsheba had exacted from David an oath to the effect that her son would get the throne. You can get it in Psalm 110 especially. So, anyway, Adonijah approaches Bathsheba in order to approach Solomon. We're going to see how this goes. But first of all we see King David asking Bathsheba, verse 17, " What is it you want the king asked? She said to him, 'My Lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God, Solomon your son shall be king after me and he will sit on my throne. But now Adonijah has become king and you my Lord, the king, do not know about it.'" And it goes on talking about this palace coup attempt.
Then King David says over in verse 28 and 29 calling Bathsheba. "So she came into the king's presence and stood before him. The king then took an oath, 'as surely as the Lord lives,'" and he goes on promising and swearing that "Solomon, your son, shall be king after me and he will sit on my throne in my place," even though the majority of the people were going after Adonijah at the time, several key priests, as well. And so she rejoices.
Now turn over to 1st Kings 2. There's where David gives his royal charge to Solomon and Solomon asks for wisdom, but just browse and just go through that as quickly as you can and just see what is going on here because it is very unusual. Let's take a look in particular at verse 13. "Now Adonijah, the son of Haggith, went to Bathsheba, Solomon's mother. Bathsheba asked him, 'Do you come peacefully?' He answered, 'Yes, peacefully,' then he added, 'I have something to say to you.' 'You may say it, she replied.' 'As you know,' he said, 'the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But then things changed and the kingdom has gone to my brother for it has come to him from the Lord. Now I have just one request to make of you. Do not refuse me.' 'You may make it she said. So he continued, 'Please ask King Solomon, he won't refuse you, to give me Abishag, the Shunamite as my wife.'" If you understood palace politics, you'd see what this was. "Very well," Bathsheba replied. "I will speak to the king for you."
Abishag happened to be David's last lover and wife. She was the one young woman who kept him warm in his old age, sleeping next to him at all times. To have David's last wife would be to have official claim to the throne. This is why Absolom publicly slept with David's concubines after he threw his father out of Jerusalem, because if I have the Queen Mothers, if I have the king's wives, who do you see as your king? Solomon is no fool. When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, look what happens. The king of Israel, the son of David, the supreme head of God's covenant people in the whole world, according to Psalm 2 stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne and he had a throne brought for the king's mother and she sat down at his right hand. "Sit at my right hand," Psalm 110. That's the position of authority. I have one small request to make of you. She goes on and makes the request. Solomon sees through it. Says no, of course, and executes Adonijah.
But look at the beginning of the institution of the gebirah. It's something that continues. When the Queen Mother walks in, the king, because he is her son, pays filial homage to her and establishes her at his right hand, upon a throne as Queen Mother. If I am the father of the family of this kingdom, if I am the shepherd of this flock, that makes you the mother. Not only my mother but the grandmother of us all. That institution persisted down through the ages of the Judaite monarchy. There is no evidence of it ever being suppressed by the prophets or criticized by Yahweh or ever falling into hard times and being replaced because it was seen as something that was meaningless.
So what? So the Jews who had been waiting and waiting and waiting for five hundred years for the Davidic line to be reestablished at the time of Christ's coming knew all this. They knew it like the back of their hand. We don't. Many Biblical scholars aren't even aware of it. But every Jew did. I mean Joe Six-pack or Joe Sixpackstein, they all knew it. They all knew that God had sworn an oath that there would always be a Davidic king and that the kingdom of David would be restored in its former glory, and in fact, greater glory.
But the last time we hear about the Davidic kingdom, it's fallen upon hard times. We won't go through all the passages in Chronicles and Kings but when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 586 and even prior to that, they had captured the king. They had killed all of his sons before his eyes, they drilled out his eyes and they sent him into captivity in chains. From there on the fortunes of the Davidic dynasty only went down and for hundreds and hundreds of years, for decades at a time, the Jews wondered, "Is there even a Davidic descendent?" I mean sure the Hasmonians claim some Davidic dynastic relations and so on, but never was it sure and whenever any claimant to Davidic authority would rise up, what would happen? Like Jerubabaal in coming back from Babylonian captivity, he went straight to Jerusalem and the High Priest is there and all the people were saying, "At last the Davidic throne is going to be restored." Only what happens? He's recalled to Persia and we never hear from him again. The Davidic kingdom is not restored.
So for centuries and centuries the Jewish people keep reading Psalm 2, keep reading Psalm 89, keep reading Psalm 110, keep reading Psalm 132 and all these other Davidic Messianic psalms that promised an ongoing, unbroken line of Davidic succession and glorious, glorious power. It would be sort of like if all of us took a refresher course on the promise that Jesus gave to Peter about the rock and the keys and the gates of Hades not prevailing and we reminded ourselves and we reinforced our conviction that the papal line would always be unbroken. Then all of a sudden we hear that the Pope has been assassinated and all the Bishops have been rounded up and assassinated as well.
What would happen? I'll bet you some people's faith would be shaken. I'll bet you mine would be, and if yours isn't, I don't understand. I mean that's an oath that Jesus swore, in effect. It was an oath that God swore in effect. Is there a Davidic line? Has God forgotten? Has he fallen asleep at the wheel? What is going on? Turn with me now to Matthew 1.
Now all of a sudden, it gets really exciting, maybe not for us but for those Jews who were expecting the Messiah, the poor, the humble, the faithful who were no longer out for political power or economic prosperity. They were allowing themselves to be impoverished and oppressed because they knew the Messiah would come and establish justice not by force and violence but by an incredible act of self- sacrifice as both suffering servant and son of man. Then, all of a sudden, in Matthew 1 we read what for the Jews is the most exciting passage of the New Testament, perhaps and what for us is by far the most boring. Oh, no! The begats, the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Jews gasped, "What? Can you prove that?" The son of Abraham, double gasp." Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob." I'm not going to read the whole thing, I promise you, okay?
But notice a few things. For instance, notice in verse 3, Tamar. Notice in verse 5, Rahab. Notice in verse 5, Ruth and notice in verse 6 "David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. Four women are mentioned in this genealogy which is very unusual to have women mentioned at all. But what do all four women have in common? Tamar had sex with her father-in-law, Rahab was a harlot. Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabitist, and the wife of Uriah was just that, the wife of Uriah, before the wife of David, before he committed adultery and then committed murder to get rid of Uriah.
In other words Matthew is reminding the Jews of the legacy of David's line. Why? Because what was the scuttlebutt about this young 13-year-old Jewess named Mary getting pregnant before she was married? Messing around, right? Whenever you see in the New Testament, Jesus called "the son of Mary," that's derogatory. Why? It was an illegitimate birth in the eyes of the townspeople, probably. What's Matthew doing? What's new? The appearance of sexual immorality or even the reality of infidelity has never thwarted God's purposes. In the case of sex with the father-in-law, and in the case of a harlot, in the case of a foreign woman and in the case of an adulteress. I mean what more is left?
In other words if God's purposes had been fulfilled through the Davidic monarchy up until now and he didn't complain about David coming from such women and there was Solomon, then this seeming scandal should not throw you too far off. And it goes on, verse 11, "Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the deportation of Babylon." And now all of a sudden some very good information that we never really had absolute certainty about anywhere in the Old Testament, "After the deportation of Babylon, Jechoniah, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel," well, we know him. We don't know what happened after him, Abiud, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Natthan, Jacob, "Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born who is called the Christ." In other words, we have now the proof that they didn't lose the line. It didn't fizzle out. God didn't forget.
But what was happening? I mean if you were in the Davidic line and you realize it, you stood up and said, "Hey, I'm Davidic!" What would happen? The Babylonians would go squash or the Persians would go squash or the Greeks or the Romans. Why? Because you are a pretender to the throne. Don't give us this Davidic promise, this Davidic authority stuff. Your line is over. So if you have royal blood, not just any old royal blood, but I mean divine right royal blood flowing through your veins, what had you better do? Zip up. Right? You better shut up.
What happens as soon as the word gets out that the Messiah is born? What does King Herod do? "Oh gosh, gee willickers, I've got to go worship." What a stinking liar. He ends up slaughtering dozens and maybe hundreds of infant males to do anything, no matter how diabolical, to put an end to the Davidic line. And Mary knew it all along. And you could actually see a Davidic line as far as she is concerned as you correlate the Mathian and the Lukan genealogies. Now we, I think, understand a little bit better how important and perhaps exciting this must have been to those faithful, humble, poor Jews who had been waiting and waiting and waiting for hundreds and hundreds of years, wondering if God had forgotten. He hasn't. Verse 18, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph before they came together, she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph being a just man not wanting to put her to shame resolved to divorce her quietly. But then the angel appears to him in a dream, 'Joseph, son of David,'" in other words, I want you to begin to figure things out here, Joe. Remember who you are? You're a son of David. Weird things happen to Davidic sons. Okay? "'Joseph, son of David, don't fear to take Mary for your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called, God with us, Emanuel.'"
Joseph probably knew this as well as he knew any verse in the Old Testament because this is one of those few key texts, those few key prophecies on which the anawim hung their hopes. "So he knew her not until she had born a son and he called his name Jesus." And here we go on and we discover that the Magi are sent by God. Now, three Wise Men, it doesn't say they were Wise Men. It calls them the Magi. What are Magi? They are Eastern Sorcerers, probably Persian. There's an old Rabbinic maxim, "If anybody learns anything from a Magi, one of the Magi, let him be accursed." Because they were the practitioners in the Black Arts and some of the tools of their trade, according to Brown and some other scholars, is that they use gold for all their magical pages on which the incantations were written. They used frankincense and they also used myrrh.
These were some of the basic tools of the trade as practitioners in the black art did it. And when they give the stuff up to our Lord in the manger, what are they doing? They are renouncing it. They have followed the light, they have found the truth. But what of the Jews? What about the most knowledgeable of the Jews? The most powerful Jews, the priests in Jerusalem who are in cohoots with Herod, giving him all that he needs to track down the Messiah? Now maybe they didn't know about Herod. Yeah. Maybe they didn't know about Herod. Sure, the guy who kills his mother, kills his brothers, his cousins, murdered 35 members of the Sanhedrin? You trust a jerk like him? Something's wrong.
The Magi and the shepherds, we discover of course, in Luke that the shepherds come to visit. Do you know that the shepherds were looked down upon as the lowest of the low in Hebrew society? Women and shepherds were not allowed to give testimony in a courtroom, but especially shepherds. They were dishonest and they were perverted according to Rabinic sayings. It would be sort of like having a baby and then, all of a sudden your neighbors look out the window as they see the whores and the junkies and the pushers come to your front door. What's going on? You know, property values are decreasing! God has taken the humble and the sinners, those who are in most need of your mercy, and giving mercy and insight and wisdom and so much more. In a sense turning upside down the wisdom and the power of this age and this world.
It goes on, "And Mary is pondering all these things." I mean Magi from Persia, shepherds. God, what are you doing? Well we don't have to go very far to learn. Let's take a look at Luke, chapter 1. We could have lots of fun, by the way, going through the rest of Matthew. You know, chapter 2, we didn't even touch upon all that really — their flight down into Egypt and coming out of Egypt as well. But, let's turn now to Luke, chapter 1. I know we don't have that much time but let's just focus here for a moment.
Here we have Luke who is much less Jewish in his intentions than Matthew. Matthew is writing the gospel for the Jews and the Jewish Christians. Luke is the only Gentile author of a New Testament book. A trained physician, a rather skilled historian, scholars tell us. He is writing all about Jesus, the Son of Man, the son of Adam. Not so much like Matthew, the son of David. He's concerned in his genealogy to take Jesus all the way back to David? No. Abraham? No. Adam — to show that this man is the one who is to redeem the whole world, all nations! After all, Luke's not a Jew.
So it goes on talking about in verse 5, the birth of John the Baptist foretold. We have here the annunciation to Zechariah. And then we have, after the birth of John the Baptist is recorded, the birth of Jesus foretold in the annunciation in verse 26, "In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, 'Hail, full of grace.'" Now that Greek term is translated in various ways. Oh highly favored one, but the grace of God in the New Testament develops and it becomes a kind of substance and not just an attitude; that when God gives favor, it isn't just a feeling. It isn't just a thought. It isn't just a subjective posture or attitude. It's God's own life. So that when God favors you, he didn't just stand back and say, "Eeh, I like ya." He gives himself to you.
So when she is full of God's favor, she is full of God's life and that's the term grace as it develops in the New Testament. So, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you," an absolutely unique address. Never before has an angel addressed somebody almost naming them full of grace. It doesn't say, "Hail, Mary, full of grace." It says, "Hail, full of grace," and it says it almost like a title. Scholars have torn this apart to show the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the address. "The Lord is with you." We could do so much with that, but we have to move on. "She was greatly troubled at this saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 'Don't be afraid, Mary,' the angel said to her, 'for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.'" It goes on, "'He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end.'"
"Mary said to the angel, 'How shall this be since I have no husband?' And the angel said to her. 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you,'" or literally it goes on, "'the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'" This is what we are going to develop in the 1:30 talk, but I'll mention it now. That word "overshadow" is a rare verb. It's used to describe what the Holy Spirit does over the top of the Ark of the Covenant. And so it doesn't take much scholarship to see the connection that is probably intended by Luke as he recounts this.
The Ark of the Covenant was so sacred because the tablets were in the Ark and the tablets were the decalogue, the word of God, the ten words of God. Now why is Mary the Ark? Because the word has been made flesh and is dwelling among us, but within her. She is the true Ark, the true Ark of the Covenant, the New Covenant. "Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." And then some more and she replies, "'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her." And she makes haste to go visit cousin Elizabeth. And as she walks into the house, John the Baptist, it says, "leaps for joy." And look at 43, "Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
People protest about the phrase theotokos "mother of God." They should see it's got a Biblical precedent in verse 43, "the mother of my Lord. For behold when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." And then, the song of Mary, the magnificent Magnificat! I want you to listen to this like you never heard it before. "My soul magnifies the Lord." All right it's built upon Hannah's song, but it goes far beyond that song in 1st Samuel. "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For henceforth, behold all generations will call me Blessed."
Now just stop a second. It I stood up and said to you, "My soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his manservant and henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." Wouldn't you wretch? You'd say, "What's this guy come off. Who is this guy to stand up here and say, 'Henceforth all generations shall call me, not us, me — get that — blessed.'" Now we usually think of Mary as just being humble and poor and faithful and so on — and she is. Humility and modesty do not consist in making yourself into a doormat or disowning God's graces and privileges. It means, in fact, owning them as God's graces and privileges that are given to you to serve others and him.
But with false modesty you say, "Awe, gosh, shucks, gee willickers, I did nothing. I'm just a doormat. Walk on me, you know?" Not Mary. "Henceforth, all generations shall call me Blessed." Who do you think you are, woman? You really want to know? The Queen Mother of the Son of David, because I have been so humble and poor before the Lord. On my own I've got nothing, but the Lord has filled me with everything. I am full of grace, but it's grace that I'm full of. It's not personal power and Anthony Robbin's "Secrets to Success." It's God's grace. It's all a gift. It's icing. It's gravy, but it's now mine and so all generations shall call me blessed.
That's what we do in the rosary, isn't it? We just echo the angel, "Hail Mary," which means gift, "full of grace. The Lord is with you." And then we say, "You are blessed amongst all women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. For behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed, for he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name." Why? Because he has done great things for me. I am a humble, lowly handmaiden and we're thinking, "Yeah, if you don't say so yourself, you know? Tooting your own horn. Patting your own back. Come on, give other people a chance."
Well, that's what the Church has had for 2000 years, a chance to toot her horn and to pat her back. But she starts it off. "His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." Now you may be thinking that she is being proud in her imagination, but she is just being downright honest. "So he has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away." We could spend an hour on every phrase. It's just so packed! "He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy."
Take a look at chapter 2, verse 22, "And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. As it is written in the law of the Lord, every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord and offer sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," which was the sacrifice for childbirth that was incumbent upon the poorest of the poor, for those who could not afford a real sacrifice. It suggests that Mary really was a handmaiden and so was Joseph humble and poor.
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him." It goes on, "And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ, the Lord's Messiah." This shows than anybody full of the Spirit, meditating upon the Old Testament would be expectant, waiting for a Messiah. This is Messianism. "And inspired by the Spirit, he came into the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 'Lord, now letest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word for mine eyes have seen the salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to thy people Israel. And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him." I love him. "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, 'Behold this child is set for the fall and the rising of many in Israel.'"
It isn't just unmitigated blessings. If you go back to the prophecy about the 77s in Daniel 9, you realize that the temple will be reconsecrated. A strong covenant will be made. Sacrifices shall cease and the holy city will be completely destroyed and desolate. And so at the same time that Christ comes after 490 years to reconsecrate the temple, there is a doom pronounced upon those who have accumulated in Jerusalem all kinds of wealth and political power and have corrupted the temple, because whose temple is it? Is it Solomon's? No. Is it the second temple that Ezra and Nehemiah helped rebuild? No. It's Herod's temple. A half-Jew Edomite who was murdering half his family. The downfall of those who wanted power and prosperity and wealth more than faith and love and grace and justice. "A sign of contradiction and a sword will pierce through your own soul also that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."
John 2 — Wedding Feast at Cana
Now we have other passages to look at. We won't spend any time on them. I'm just going to mention them to you and just draw conclusions briefly from them and then conclude. Of course, we should go to John 2. The first of the seven signs in the Book of Signs, the fourth gospel. The first of Jesus' miracles is to turn water into wine, just as the first miracle of Moses was to turn water into blood, so Jesus turns it into the blood of the grape as it is called in Genesis 49. Here we have, I believe, something that is fraught with all kinds of rich literary and theological symbolism. In John 1, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," says John the Baptist. In John 2, the Lamb goes up to a wedding feast. Now does that sound familiar? A wedding feast where a lamb attends? That's how John is going to climax his book of Revelation, by inviting all of us to the wedding supper of the Lamb. And then along with the wedding banquet of the Lamb, we are also going to be introduced to a Virgin Mother Queen's city, the new Jerusalem, which is both virginally pure but maternally fruitful.
Theologians have suggested that John has deliberately just loaded the first few chapters of his gospel with the symbolism and the keys to interpreting his Apocalypse and the more you soak and meditate and ponder, I think the more you will find. So, she approaches him and says, "They've run out of wine. 'Woman, what is this between you and me?'" It's a very interesting phrase. I would recommend for your study a book by a top Biblical scholar in America, Manuel Miguens, who wrote a study on what does it mean, the Semitic idiom, what to me and to you, woman?" He actually shows that there is nothing caustic or irritated about Jesus' reply at all. It's basically, "You know, there's nothing between you and me."
So anyway, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what is it between you and me? My hour has not yet come." Jesus is thinking that the best wine will be given at the hour. What does Mary say? Mary is assuming another posture, now. She is going to have to distance herself from her son as her son. Now he's addressing her not as Mother, but as Woman. It sure connotes in my mind Genesis 3:15 and other key passages. Now all of a sudden, you are not just my mother anymore, what you are talking about in this miracle would initiate a whole new economy of salvation, woman, because that's what she is to be, a New Eve, a Mother to all of the renewed and redeemed humanity. "Woman, my hour has not yet come." What does she say, "Awe, come on, what are you going to do this for your mother, and now we're friends." No. She turns to the servants and says to them exactly what she says to us and all those who are truly devoted to our Lady, "Do whatever he tells you."
We should never allow ourselves to be so exclusively focused upon Mary that we don't hear her primary utterance. Do whatever he tells us! That's why Marian devotion does not take us away from Christ. It refocuses our eyes and our ears on whatever he tells us and that's what she is passionately concerned about now as then. "Do whatever he tells you." And it goes on and he tells the servants to take these six stone jugs full of water that were used for the Jewish Rite of Purification to wash feet. Can you imagine, if you were one of those servants? Well she said to do whatever he told me and you're taking these big, I mean, literally hundreds of gallons of dirty water and you take those jugs and you fill the cups with this dirty, smelly water used to wash feet and wash the dirt off these people and you hand — laughter — these guys don't know what to do with this man. What are they going to do when they taste the foot water?
There's so much humor in this stuff that we miss, you know. And they're sitting back there saying, "We're going to get in trouble. No, no. She said, 'Do whatever he tells you.' We're just doing what the friend of the groom said, you know? We're just following orders, you know?" And all of a sudden they just kind of sit back there cracking up, waiting for all hell to break loose and all kinds of problems. And then all of a sudden, what does the host say when he tastes the water? The steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine and didn't know where it came from though the servants who had drawn the water knew. The steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, but when men have drunk freely and have become drunk, then the poor wine. But you have kept the best wine until now. This, the first of his signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee."
Now who is this steward of the feast called the bridegroom? Well, if you go over to John 3, you discover that that is what John the Baptist thinks about himself. Look over at verse 27. John answered, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I have said I am not the Christ but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom, the friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice." Now John has deliberately joined together what the steward at the feast, the friend of the bridegroom has said about this great wine with John the Baptist, the last and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets who identifies himself as the friend of the bridegroom, the steward of the feast, as it were. This last and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets has said, "Hey, look, I'm baptizing you with water" and by the way the water in those six stone jugs goes back to Numbers 19. It was for the Jewish Rite of Purification in Numbers 19, the word is "baptizein." It was for Jewish baptism purification. John the Baptist says using that kind of water to purify the people and get them ready for the Messiah, that same kind of water is all of a sudden transformed into the best wine by the Lamb of God and John the Baptist is saying, "The New Covenant has come." And when you go into the Apocalypse, you see this thing just kind of thrown open to the whole universe in Technicolor. Because there the Lamb of God in Chapter 5 is enthroned and he leads all the people in worship and he invites all the universe to the wedding supper of the Lamb where he presents the blood, the wine, the best of the New Covenant at his banquet.
This is what our Lady triggered. Just a humble little Jewess who knows what grace is all about. "Do whatever he tells you," and you won't even begin to anticipate the glories that will be revealed to us. That's what she said. If we will do whatever he tells us, we will not have to calculate what we can produce with our own human resources. Why? Because if Mary tells us anything, she tells us that God can do the greatest with the least. If we are tempted to say, "I'm really not that smart. I'm not that eloquent. I'm not that powerful. I'm not that rich. I'm a nobody." I'd say, "Bingo. You're qualified. You have just proven yourself to be the most qualified of all because who does God love to use?" The lowest, the least, the poorest, the humblest, the ones who know they are nobodies, so that when God does something great through them, everybody would look and say, "It had to be God," and He gets all the glory. And that's what Mary wants to do, to give God all the glory.
Conclusion: Why Give Glory to Mary?
So we say, "Well then, why give glory and honor and devotion to Mary?" Because we do whatever Jesus tells us. And we do whatever Jesus does because the fundamental axiom of Christian morality is the imitacio Christi, the imitation of Christ, and he is the best of the best when it comes to being a son. Not only a Son of his heavenly Father but a Son of his earthly mother. When he accepts the mission of his Father to become a man and to obey the law, he obeys it more perfectly than anybody could have ever imagined it being obeyed. And when he gets to that commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," that Hebrew word, kabodah, means bestow glory, comes from kabod weight, glory. So he honors his Father and obeys his command by bestowing unprecedented glory upon the one that he has chosen from all eternity to be his mother. The only time that the Creator created a human creature, created the one destined to be his mother. And he filled her with his own life and grace because he began honoring as soon as she was created his mother.
So what do we do? We honor Christ and we glorify him and we imitate him. If we really imitate him, we do what he does and we honor and bestow glory upon his mother. Not instead of him. It isn't undermining devotion to Christ. It's to express our devotion of Christ, our worship of Christ by imitating him. And if we do it we're going to be able to see in her face, the face of our mother, because Jesus has taken on her flesh and blood and given us his own Divine nature. Peter says, "We are partakers of Divine nature through Christ" so that his mother can become our mother, spiritually, supernaturally, but actually and really. And so in devotion to him, we can be devoted to her without any compromise, without any tug of war, without any diminution or decrease of our honor to Christ.
Love is not a finite substance. God is love. Love just keeps multiplying and reproducing itself, and the more we love, the more love we have to give. And the more we love Christ, well, we know if there were 90 percent that goes to Christ and 10 percent that goes to Mary, 100 percent of it goes to God and the God-man and therefore 100 percent of it and more is available for us to give to others and especially his Mother who has become our Mother. Isn't that what Jesus is trying to say at the Cross when he says to the beloved disciple. He didn't say "John," he said "to the disciple he loved, 'Behold your Mother.'"
We See Mary as our Own Mother
Now which disciple did Jesus love? John as opposed to Peter? Not James, Bartholomew? He loves all his disciples then. He loves all his disciples now. Who is the beloved disciple who should look upon Mary as his Mother? All of us who are beloved disciples. This is why in Revelation 12, "The woman who gives birth to the male child who is to rule the nations, the Messiah against whom the dragon makes war." At the end it says, after she has been delivered up into heaven, kind of assumed bodily, as it were, "The dragon makes war against the rest of her offspring, that is, those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus." They're the beloved disciples. We are the brothers and sisters of Christ, the firstborn among many brothers, and guess what that makes us? The children of the Queen Mother of the Son of David. That heavenly temple is our home. That new Jerusalem is our birthplace. The daughter Zion is our sister and she is our mother and she is our bride and she is our homeland.
Thank God that we don't have to undermine or take away anything from the glory of Christ. Rather we behold the ultimate masterpiece of Christ in Mary. And like any artist, you know if an artist takes you into his room with all the masterpieces hanging on the wall and you could stand there staring at him saying, "Oh my. You are such a great artist. You're fantastic." He'd say, "Hey, look at my work." He wouldn't feel offended if you went over to his greatest work and said, "This is awesome. Wow! Thank you!" He would say, "Hey, come on. Check out my pants and shirt. Look at my face." No. Christ wants us to fall head over heels in love with his Mother because that's his masterpiece. Exhibit A, that he can really accomplish salvation. She was saved from sin. That's why she is sinless. Because some people are saved from sin and other people are saved from sin and she was saved by Christ from sin from beginning to end. It's the work of Christ and we extol and praise our eldest brother, our Lord and Master and our Redeemer as we love and as we follow his Mother and do whatever he tells you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we pray: Father in heaven we thank you for our Mother in heaven. We thank you Lord, Jesus Christ, for filling her up with your grace, for giving to her spotless flesh and blood so that we, through her, might have a perfect gift to express our thanks and praise to you in giving you human nature that was unspotted to enable you to make the perfect sacrifice, uniting that spotless human nature to the glorious divine nature of the Second Person, the Eternal Son. Thank you for making us sons and daughters of the Most High. Thank you Lord Jesus for making the Blessed Trinity our family. Help us to renew our appreciation and devotion to our adopted status but help us see that it's more than just a legal standing. That you have filled us to overflowing with the same spirit that filled Mary. Through her intercession increase our devotion in all propriety but in all magnitude and help us with joy to spread that. We thank you for Mother Church, called to be a virgin, a bride and a mother. Help us, O Lord to see that we who are your Church are called to accept the fullness of grace that Mary has. You chose her through whom to give Jesus to the world and now still that pattern remains. You are continually giving the life of Christ through Mary. Help us to always remember that in our hearts and to store it up like she so that we might do whatever he tells us, that we might do whatever pleases you, Lord Jesus. That we might sacrifice ourselves in union with your Eucharistic sacrifice continued perpetually in heaven forever in praise, honor and thanksgiving to our Father and your Father. And hear us as we pray that family prayer you taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, etc.
Scott Hahn "Mary, Holy Mother." from Answering Common Objections St. Joseph Communications.
Reprinted with permission of Scott Hahn.
Scott Hahn received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a triple-major in Theology, Philosophy and Economics from Grove City College, Pennsylvania, in 1979, his Masters of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982, and his Ph.D. in Biblical Theology from Marquette University in 1995. Scott has ten years of youth and pastoral ministry experience in Protestant congregations (in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Kansas and Virginia) and is a former Professor of Theology at Chesapeake Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1982 at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia. He entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, 1986.
Copyright © 2001 Scott Hahn <
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