~by Louis Templeman
March 29, 2017: How I Came to Honor Mary
Years ago, when I heard my daughter, Faith, praying the rosary I became so angry I nearly blew a gasket. She was about 9-years old and was being influenced by her best friend who was a Catholic. I decided against confronting the girl’s mother and risking bad feelings, but I demanded Faith stop that nonsense right away.
Today, sixteen years later, Mary is one of the brightest stars in my sky and the rosary is an integral part of my prayer life. What happened to me that I went from dismissing Mary to honoring her? The change began about two years after that incident as I journeyed in my spiritual pilgrimage from Pentecostalism to Anglicanism. After that, things Catholic no longer were automatically anathema to me. Some things I found attractive, such as Holy Communion. Other matters were merely a curiosity, like Mary. Or, remained an irritant like the rosary.
Shortly after my youngest daughter, Michal, was born I came across a pamphlet, “A Novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” I knew little about novenas but I was inspired to try one. So, I led my family in a ten-minute prayer for nine consecutive evenings. I was too embarrassed to read aloud the devotional section where Mary was honored. I prayed that part in secret, during the part dedicated to silent prayer. It was rather uncomfortable to my Protestant sensibilities.
We had a list of “prayer intentions,” or prayer requests that we mentioned each evening and we were all amazed that each was answered precisely. I was certainly impressed and I embarked on a secret admiration and investigation of the claims of the Ancient Faith regarding this virtuous and mysterious woman, Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
The hunger I had for reading material on Catholic spirituality started increasing and I began to enjoy a deepening satisfaction. I certainly had a lot of in-bred anti-Catholicism to overcome. I grew up Southern Baptist and hold degrees from two Baptist seminaries. As I studied and prayed, I found myself honoring Mary on a quite personal level. It came not through study but rather by inspiration, because it began to feel right. For me, belief preceded understanding. I found myself wanting to honor Mary no more, but certainly no less, than Jesus honors her. In time, I discovered a Scriptural basis for holding her in high esteem:
- She’s the “woman” mentioned in Messianic prophecy; or, the new Eve.
- She is the intercessory attendant to Christ in at least five key moments in the Gospel record.
- She is the prototype of the Church.
Mary is the “woman of Messianic prophecy. The first mention of this woman is Genesis 3: 15 where God addresses the serpent in the Garden of Eden: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he will strike your head and you will strike his heel.”
This “woman” could not have referred to Eve. This prophecy speaks of Mary and her offspring, Jesus. Nearly all Christian scholars agree this passage refers to Satan and Mary but in a larger, fuller sense, Satan and the Church. The victory over Satan would come through Christ alone but Mary is an attendant to the struggle even as the Church today is involved with Christ in the struggle between good and evil.
At the wedding in Cana where Jesus saved the day by turning water into wine, he at first resisted his mother’s intercession to intervene. He addressed her prophetically as “woman”. There is no other example in either Hebrew or Greek literature of a man addressing his mother as woman. That such a unique usage of this word should come from Jesus indicates a prophetic key to her role as the New Eve. Many Church fathers writing in the 1st and 2nd centuries referred to her as the New Eve. When Mary told her son, “They have no wine,” he replied: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
Obviously, she disagreed with him. His hour had indeed come. She spontaneously chose this wedding as a good place for her son to come out, a good time for a miracle. We don’t know that she expected a miracle. Or, if she knew her son would be a miracle worker. I think we can assume she knew her son was capable of and bound for astounding greatness. I always imagine Jesus’ reply to her as a flash-back, as it were, alluding to the incident when he was 12 and she’d spent three days searching for him. At that time, she insisted he go home with her because at the age of 12 his hour certainly had not yet come. However, 18 years later at the wedding at Cana she determined his hour had come.
We see the prophetic contrast here. The woman in Eden’s garden drawing the man towards disobedience. And, here at the wedding the woman drawing the man to work God’s righteousness.
At Calvary Jesus also refers to Mary as woman (John: 26): “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman here is your son.” Then, he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
Christ, here, gives his mother an expanded role. She would continue her work of intercession, comfort and support with John. The prophetic drama here is amazing. In Eden there was a tree. At Calvary, also a tree. In Eden there was Eve the mother of all living. At Calvary there was a woman appointed by Jesus as mother of John who represents God’s new creation, the new people of God. In other words, she is the mother of the new creation. Eden was the beginning of the old creation. Calvary is the beginning of the new creation.
In Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2 we find a prophetic word on the vocation God gave to Mary. She was appointed to be the intercessory partner to Christ in his ministry. When he said, “A sword shall pierce through your own soul also,” we see her partnership so intimately woven into his that she even suffers with him. She who felt his first breath and heard his first words was also there for his last. In five ways I find she served as an attendant to her son’s life and work:
- His conception. Her “yes”, started it all. In whose arms but Mary’s did God place himself as an infant – fragile, vulnerable and totally dependent? Mary is a role model for all believers who say, “Yes,” to God’s call.
- His miracle at Cana. By fulfilling his mother’s wish at this wedding feast he transformed marriage into a covenant of divine love, thus making marriage a sacrament.
- Calvary. Jesus said to John, “Here is your mother. And, from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” Since that day many Christians, if not the majority, have followed John’s example on a spiritual level, and taken Mary into their hearts and homes.
- Pentecost. This is considered the birthday of the Church. How could Mary not be present at Pentecost? How could the mother not be at the birth? “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” (Acts 1: 14).
- John’s Apocalyptic vision. Revelation 12: 1-17: “A great portent appeared in the heaven, a woman clothed with the sun . . . she gave birth to a son . . . who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron . . . then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children . . . who hold the testimony of Jesus.”
As is typical of most apocalyptic literature, this passage has many rich layers. The “woman” in this picture is both the Church and the individual person, Mary. She serves as such an accurate prototype of the Church that I find those who honor her also honor Christ’s Church. On the other hand, those who dismiss the importance of one usually also dismiss the importance of the other.
I found that once I received a deeper understanding of who Mary is I also became more aware of what the Church is. And, once I came to better understand the Church, I began to find out who I am. So, I honor Mary. Jesus honors her. Scripture honors her. She has been a great benefit to me in my continuing Christian pilgrimage. My desire is that I may honor Mary even as Jesus honors her.
Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.
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