The Proper Regard of Mary in Relation to Christ

by Spiros Zodhiates

The three main divisions of professing Christianity-Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant-hold different views as to the proper esteem men ought to give to the Lord Jesus Christ and His mother, the Virgin Mary. The Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox ascribe a more exalted position to Mary than do the Protestants. In fact, while Protestants rightly ascribe uniqueness to the Lord Jesus, they sometimes tend to deprive His mother of the esteem that rightfully belongs to her.

Thus the position occupied by these two historical personages, Christ and Mary, has brought about quite a sharp division in the ranks of Christianity. In an age such as ours, when materialism and unbelief threaten the very structure of theistic belief and practice, we as Christians ought carefully and temperately to examine the Scripture to determine where the Lord Jesus and His mother ought to stand in relation to each other in our hearts, our minds, and our veneration. Each one was destined to accomplish a particular task by the Triune God.

Bishop Pearson, an Anglican, whose position on the Virgin Mary must be classified as Protestant, in his studies on the Creed very aptly admonishes his fellow Protestants: "If Elizabeth cried out with so loud a voice, Blessed art thou among women,' when Christ was but newly conceived in Mary's womb, what expressions of honor and admiration can we think sufficient now that Christ is in heaven and that mother with Him! Far be it from any Christian to derogate from that special privilege granted her which is incommunicable to any other. We cannot bear too reverent a regard unto the mother of our Lord, so long as we give her not that worship which is due unto the Lord Himself. Let us keep the language of the Primitive Church: Let her be honored and esteemed, let Him be worshiped and adored.' " (Pearson, On the Creed, Art. III, p. 218, Oxford: 1847.)

Christ and Mary must be acknowledged for what each one is. And the only authoritative source we have for discovering this information is the Holy Scriptures. In the New Testament we have the record of what the Virgin Mary said about the Lord Jesus and her relationship to Him and His work. We also have the words of the Lord Jesus Himself concerning His mother. If we examine these carefully, I believe that we shall arrive at a proper evaluation of the relative position of each, and of what our attitude should be toward them.

Of course, there are numerous traditions about Mary and her Son. But whenever tradition disagrees with the inspired Word of God, we cannot base our conclusions upon it. It is only logical to place more trust in what is written and commonly accepted by all Christians, irrespective of denomination, than in anything transmitted merely by word of mouth, and which is disputed by a great segment of Christendom.

One of the most recent and worthwhile publications on the subject is a book by a French Catholic priest-theologian, Rene Laurentin, entitled The Question of Mary. On the book jacket we read, "Devotion to Mary and speculation about her continue to be activities that divide, rather than unite, Christians. Seeking the roots of this condition, Rene Laurentin, a distinguished French theologian, examines some of the more disquieting aspects of current devotion to Mary, traces the growth of the Marian movement, suggests theological principles that must guide the development of mariology' and faces squarely the serious ecumenical problems in this field

In his book Laurentin deplores the fact that today more pilgrimages are made to the shrines of Mary, such as those at Lourdes and Fatima, than is consistent with the primacy of Christ. He relates that, while in the past the devout declared they had seen visions or appearances of Christ, nowadays it was almost exclusively appearances of the Virgin Mary that command attention.

He reminds his readers that Pius XII was "very guarded" about pronouncing Mary as the mediatrix and coredemptress, because he did not want to detract from Christ's position of sole Mediator. Again he spoke of Pope John XXIII, who warned the Catholic clergy against "certain excessive practices and special devotions in the cult of the Madonna," which led to emotionalism at the expense of true religion, and might even violate the first three of the Ten Commandments.

And then later in the book, this Catholic theologian writes: "Christ alone is God, and the Blessed Virgin is not. He alone died for us, and He alone had the power to dispose of His own life with sovereign autonomy. He alone rose from the dead with a divine power which is proper to Him (John 2:19); and all others, including the Virgin Mary, rise again through Him. Far too often the mariologists seem to relegate these primary truths to second place and to concentrate on minor metaphorical notions, which give them room to gather under the same concepts and the same terms the roles of Christ and Mary." (See pp. 13 and 25 of his book.)

Mary is neither to be idolatrously worshiped nor coldly disregarded. "Which of the two positions is the more dishonoring it would be difficult to say. Both are false to Scripture, and both are dishonoring to our Christianity and common humanity. Yet so bitter has been the controversy that it is difficult to reach that stage of mental and spiritual emancipation in which both extremes are felt to be impossible; in which it is perceived that to lift the mother of our Lord above humanity is to rob her of those very qualities which most endear her to the human heart, and that on the other side to fail to do her reverence is to reveal a nature blinded by the most cruel prejudice to all that is tender and beautiful in her life." (J. Burns, "The Mother of Jesus," in The Christian World Pulpit, Vol. 70, p. 388.)

Taken from Dr. Zodhiates' book, The Song of the Virgin, ©1973 by Spiros Zodhiates. Published by AMG Publishers.

Next in this series: The Angel Gabriel's testimony about the Virgin Mary

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad