Mary is Not About Mary. Mary is all about Jesus.
Homily for St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord (2010)
from Weedon’s Blog by William Weedon
The artists get it right. When you see the Blessed Virgin holding her Child, you will notice that she tends to be looking either at Him or right at you, and with her hand she gestures toward Him. Mary is not about Mary. Mary is all about your Jesus.
And when the Lutheran Church puts into her calendar a day to commemorate the Mother of God, it is not in the spirit of Rome or of the East – a glorification of Mary that pushes beyond the bounds of Scripture, announcing the dogma of her bodily assumption into heaven and her enthronement at the right hand of her Son and her taking her place there to manage your prayer requests. Um, no.
As to whether or not Mary was bodily taken to heaven, we have to confess our ignorance. We don’t know. Scripture doesn’t tell us. Might be – we grant that that would be rather like her Son to do such a thing. But if He wanted us to know about raising his Mother from the dead, He’d have seen fit to have His apostles write it for us in the Sacred Scriptures. Alas, not a word. So as Lutherans, we’re content to confess: He has taken her to be with Him and that is all we need to know. That’s how Dr. Luther wisely dispatched that question. Not our business.
As to enthronement at the right hand of her Son, same story. May be. After all, St. Paul says that WE are enthroned with Him in the heavenly places. But it’s speculation not firm faith stuff. And as to her handling the prayer requests of all believers, well, there’s no promise of her doing any such thing in Scripture, and what would be the need for it? After all, we have revealed in Scripture that both the Eternal Son – the only Mediator between God and Man – and the Holy Spirit directly intercede for us. We readily grant that Mary prays along with the whole body of the Church triumphant for the good of the Church still on pilgrimage; it’s a reasonable assumption given the way the Church works and that heaven is the fulfillment of love, and we know from Scripture that the angels intercede for us. Our Confessions even point to 2 Maccabees where the long-dead Jeremiah was seen in a vision, praying for God’s people. But beyond that, we’re just not going to go.
So why this day as a festival in the Lutheran Church then, if we’re not all about glorifying the Blessed Virgin? Because we’re not about ignoring her either, or being afraid of her place in the Church and in the good news of our redemption. Today we remember what she herself sang, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, in her hymn of praise, the Magnificat. “For behold, from this day, all generations will call me blessed.”
We set aside this day not to magnify Mary, but to join Mary in magnifying the Lord and rejoicing with her in the Savior He showed Himself to be for her and for us. We set aside this day to extol the One – Holy is His name! – who has done great things for her, lowly though she was. We set aside this day to remember that in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive adoption as sons. (Epistle)
So what’re the great things that the Mighty One has done for her? He looks on the humble estate of His servant. That is, He regards her with kindness and favor. He takes on flesh and blood from the likes of her in order to offer that flesh and blood back to His Father in perfect, unfailing obedience – even to death on a cross. That’s how He’s her Savior and yours too. He is the God who has mercy. The One who does not stand aloof from us in our humanity, in our messes, in our pain. He comes down to us. How far down? All the way down to being fetal matter in His mother’s womb, his tiny heart beating beneath her own, and being flesh and blood nailed for you to Calvary’s tree! The God who has mercy and remembers to keep His promises.
But note that His mercy is for the lowly, the weak, the despised, the hungry. Mercy isn’t wanted by those who are proud, strong, famous and full. They think there’s nothing more that they need. They can’t imagine going begging before God – praying, Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy.
But Mary’s not of that sort. And that’s a miracle right there. The Mother of God, you would think she’d give herself airs, wouldn’t you? I mean, wouldn’t YOU, if YOU were so chosen? But she remains a person who confesses herself of no-account, among the weak, the looked-down-on, and the hungering. Last year a friend asked me: “Why Mary? Why did He choose Mary and not some other?” I said: “I think it was because He knew that it wouldn’t destroy her.”
Rather than proud, she becomes a model of humility for us. We too have been blessed by her Son with blessings that could easily turn our heads. He has made us His sisters and brothers via the waters of Baptism. He has given the promise of sharing in His eternal Kingdom. We have a place set for us at the Table on the day of the Great Feast and receive into ourselves already now the guarantee of that in His body and blood. It would be exactly wrong for us to look at all the Lord’s blessings to us and conclude: “I must be something special then, mustn’t I?” Instead, with Mary we look at the huge size of the gift given and we shake our head in astonishment and awe that He would do that for the likes of us? The outrageous size of the gift given leads not to pride, but to humility and awe. Even to tears. We are so unworthy of such love – how could we ever deserve it? Never in a million years. Yet there it is.
Mary invites us today into such marveling. She would say to us: “He has loved you with a love everlasting, deep, divine. And so He took on flesh in me. That’s how He came to us who could not come to Him. He came to bring us mercy because He remembered His promise to Abraham. He came to pour out the blood that He took from me to blot out all this world’s sin. He came to offer His body to the Father so that we could have a way back home to the Father’s house. He came to pour out His Spirit into us so that we could be His temples. He came to take everything was ours by nature and give us everything that is His by grace. Who are we that He should love us so? But He has! He has! Let us glorify Him together, for He who is mighty has done great things for us all and holy is His name.”
“Hail, Mary, full of grace!” the angel cried. “The Lord is with you and blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” And she was troubled that the angel could say such things about her. That she should be so utterly given to and blessed by the Lord. For who was she? The Church joins the angel in calling Mary blessed and in praising God for what He gave us through her: the gift of her Son in whom we have redemption, and in whom, lowly though we are, we are made children and heirs of the Father to whom be all the glory with His Son and the Holy Spirit now and to the ages of ages. Amen.