Hello and welcome! If you’ve been following along, you know that I see threads of faith running through everything in life. Those threads are what I’ve chosen to blog about. I find wonderful direction, comfort and friendships in my Christian faith. I hope you can find those things right along with me. So, grab some tea and get comfy!
After I was drawn to the Catholic faith, I had the two usual hang ups- The Eucharist and Mary. The Eucharist resolved itself quite easily and quickly. Mary, well not so quickly nor easily. It’s been quite a journey! Yesterday just happened to be a Marian Solemnity. I won’t explain all that now, let’s just say it was a big Mary day in the Catholic Church.
I came from traditions where ‘praying’ to anyone but God was blasphemous at worst, idolatrous at best. We believed in eternal life, but then said anyone not on earth was somehow dead and we couldn’t talk to them. (Now that doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it?) Some families have no problem talking to a deceased parent or grandparent. That was never a part of my life. It wasn’t spoken against, just never practiced, at least that I knew of.
Then I began the journey toward Catholicism. Figuring out what to do with Mary was a big deal. I’d heard all the stuff about those idolatrous Catholics worshiping Mary and the saints and statues and pictures, etc. There were most likely some folks who practiced extremes, like in any other faith; but what I found in ‘official’ church teaching was all solid and made Biblical sense.
So, I worked at educating my logical and intellectual side. First, I came to the conclusion that Mary was indeed the most honorable woman to ever be born. After all, she is the only one God chose to bear His human/divine Son. The incarnation is a singular occurrence, so she is worth the greatest honor, at least.
But the English language gets tricky here. We don’t have words to correctly express many nuances of things like ‘pray’ or ‘worship’ or ‘reverence’ or ‘honor’ or ‘respect’. We have nothing in our American culture that addresses these issues, by and large. We have no protocol of respect like some other countries, where bowing, let alone kneeling to a state figure-head, or even a parent, is common practice, or at least used to be. So, I had to dig very deep to find answers. I had to have a few encounters, too.
First, I had to expand my definition of the word ‘pray’. Have you ever read a legal document? Many times it will say ‘we pray the court to…’ In this context, it simply means ‘ask’. And with much liturgical language seemingly stuck in antiquity, one has to go to context. So, to ‘pray to Mary’, or ‘pray to a saint’ is not the same as worshiping God. If you carefully read the “Hail Mary” prayer, you’ll see that it is quoting a couple of verses from Luke, then addressing her by a title: Holy Mary, Mother of God. Wait. I know what you’re thinking. But think another minute. Aren’t we all called to be holy? Aren’t the saints (used of all Christians in a general sense in Scripture) often referred to as a ‘holy’ people in the Bible itself? Why not Mary? And, since she’s the mother of Jesus, who is God, then she’s the ‘Mother of God’; not in any sense as creator, but simply as Mother of His humanity. It’s clearly a title of honor, and well-deserved. Makes perfect sense to me. I can get that far. If you go on and finish the ‘prayer’, it asks her to pray for us. Have you ever asked a friend to pray for you? Of course you have. It’s the same thing, except our friend in this case happens to be the Mother of God incarnate. I can’t think of a better prayer partner!
So there you have my beginnings with Mary. I could tell you a few ‘encounter’ stories if you like. But I’ll leave that up to you. Leave me a comment if you want to hear more about the subject. If I don’t get a bit of interest, I won’t impose.
If you want some good resources, the Coming Home Network has a great newsletter on Mary. There are several articles. One of my favorites is the one by Robert Day entitled “A Convert’s Response to Friends”. Hope this helps!
So how does this fit in with Advent? Mary, like us, was waiting for her Savior to be born. Mary welcomed Him into the totality of her life, with a “Yes” that was complete and permanent. I think Advent is a perfect time to prepare our own hearts to give Him that “Yes”.