June 29, 2007

Be Our Guest / Rev. Donald Lacy

Mary: The key to Christian unity in our day and time

The Blessed Virgin will not be denied her special and unique place.

The struggles, prejudices and fights over where she belongs in the Christian religion cover virtually 2,000 years.

Having been a part of this dialogue for most of my 50 years of ministry, I have witnessed better understanding taking place. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, difficult doors have opened and fresh healing winds have been blowing.

It has become obvious to some of us that she is a key to Christian unity in our day and time for a number of reasons. I wish to cite seven of them.

First, the past is filled with Protestants and Catholics relating to one another solely on the basis of stereotypes, devoid of real flesh and blood. Have we missed the fact that, from the beginning, the Christian faith was and is linked to the historical Jesus and his mother, Mary? In recent years, many are finally getting better acquainted with the one woman and mother whose influence is universal and hardly measurable.

Second, the Second Vatican Council’s teaching specifically indicates Mary’s primary place in the faith is to bring others to her son and not to be a goddess to be worshipped. It is very difficult for many Protestants to accept this because of long-standing biases which said “Catholics worship Mary.” Progress is being made here as minds and hearts experience the foundational belief of her place as a means to an end, and not an end within itself.

Third, a few of us have persisted for decades in the face of not only disinterest but outright vociferous opposition that included threats. For some years, organizations embracing various viewpoints, such as the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have met in small but very committed numbers on a semi-annual basis. In the fall of 2006, the meeting was held at North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis.

Fourth, a closer reading of

Luke 1:26-38 gives biblical credence for Mary’s special, even miraculous, place in the faith. It even helps to see why the “Hail, Mary” is so important to our Catholic friends. Additionally, the ancient phrase “Mother of God” certainly implies that if Jesus is God in the flesh—as Protestant fundamentalists insist—and Mary is his mother, the title is accurate.

Fifth, a re-reading of Church history finds both Calvin and Luther, as well as other reformers, upholding the magnificence of her singular place. John Wesley, even though no friend of the papacy, had an intriguing word to say in his “Letter to a Roman Catholic” in 1749. In regard to Jesus, he said, “born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.”

Sixth, in an age of being caught between “anything goes” in sexual activity and traditional discipline, we discover the Blessed Virgin Mary offers poverty, chastity and obedience. To lives with a series of relationships and marriages resulting in brokenness that ensues into future generations, she offers an ideal of faithfulness. She points the way for imperfect and sinful people to regain ideals mostly lost in today’s world.

Seventh, perhaps most importantly, she models a healthy and healing feminism that moves professing Christians to a powerful spiritual reality. Her power comes from her holiness as an uncompromised woman and devoted mother who invites us to unite under the banner of Jesus Christ in repentant joy and ongoing relevance.

She invites men and women, clergy and laity, to join hands so that the world will believe.

(The Rev. Donald Lacy is a retired United Methodist Church minister who lives in Muncie, Ind.) †

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