I thought Catholics were worshipping Mary.
I remember the day I first started to look into the subject of Mary. I felt like I was already defeated in my journey into Catholicism. I had watched Catholics in their prayers and worship of Mary over the years. How could they not see that they were worshipping someone other than Jesus? How could they not see that they were praying to someone other than the Almighty God? Scripture is clear on these things. It says you will not worship anyone other than God himself. It says that Jesus is the Mediator to God the Father, so how is it that in this area, the Catholics could have gotten it so very wrong? How could a faith who worships anyone other than Jesus still call themselves Christian?
I will say that we have learned that it is not worship that is done to Mary. The praying part is also more like “praying with” or “talking to.” However, to explain this in a way that you -our Protestant friends and family- can see how we would allow ourselves to accept the Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I will need to go deeper than a simple cookie cutter answer. I need to explain Scripturally where this is supported and how and why the Catholic church has venerated Mary. There are complete books written on these subjects, so please accept my simple attempt to explain such a complex issue.
To start learning about Mary, we need to begin in Genesis and the Old Testament
To begin learning about Mary, we must go back to the beginning, all the way back to the third chapter of Genesis. It is here that we find the first reference to Mary as a virgin, and to Jesus. We read about the temptation of the Serpent that is Satan in the garden. There are two things that happened here. First, Adam did nothing. He was there, he was present, and yet the Scripture does not give us any hint that he said anything to defend his wife who was dealing with Satan. So it is by his silence, and his apparent disregard for his role to protect the life of his wife, that brought about her acceptance of that which was forbidden and subsequently, her death. This in turn, subjects all of humanity to lifelong bondage to Satan, who in a sense, holds the power of death.
So the First Eve, was abandoned by her covenant husband, who should have told the serpent to leave his wife alone and depart, to be willing to stand up for his beloved and trust that God, the Creator, would vindicate him on any (perhaps deadly) results that may come about from defying Satan in the garden. This is in fact, what the second Adam does for the second Eve, the Church, which is exactly the drama that unfolds in Revelations Chapter 12, but more on that later.
So after Adam and Eve sinned they were to be confronted by God. In fact it says in Genesis 3:8 “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Then the Lord calls to the man and says “where are you?” Adam explains why he hid and acknowledges his nakedness. God asks him how does he know this, did he eat from the tree that he was commanded not to eat? Adam not only then tries to point the blame to Eve, he also goes further, and tries to blame God. He says “The woman YOU gave me” Then God asks Eve what she has done, she tries to blame the serpent. In the punishment that God lays out on all parties involved there is something to note. When he is laying judgement on the serpent he says “HE will strike your head, and you will strike HIS heel” God also says he will put enmity between the woman and the serpent and between the serpents seed and her seed. The Greek Old Testament word for seed is spermatos. This may seem trivial, except no other place in the Old Testament does this expression show up. It is always listed as man’s seed, the father’s seed, the husband’s seed. This is weird, right? That is because what God is saying here is that he is going to elevate that woman and give to her some unique sense, a seed through which the serpents head will be crushed. As we continue on, keep that in the back of your mind.
The second place to find reference to Mary is in Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This word virgin is of some debate. Some translations have it as “young woman” and others as “virgin.” However, if we look at the targums, that is the ancient Jewish interpretation, it was decided in favor of virgin. In these ancient Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament, the targums saw this as a kind of Messianic prophesy, as the ritual technical term for an embodiment of a divine mother, a fertile mother, as well as a perpetual virgin. We see the confirmation of the acceptance of this understanding when we look at Mt 1:23, where Isaiah 7:14 is quoted by Matthew when describing the virginal birth of Jesus by Mary.
Finding Mary in the book of Revelations
Now that we have looked at some references to the virgin Mary from old texts, we need to go the other direction. We need to understand her role. The Catholic church venerates her as the Queen Mother. The Mother of the Church. Why is this? Where does this come from? I will do my best to lay this out step by step, so bear with me.
We started with Genesis, now lets look at Revelation. Specifically lets begin with Revelation chapter 11. It begins by telling of a holy city that will be trampled for 42 months. This great city that has become like Sodom in Egypt. This place that was so bad that Josephus described Jerusalem and the temple’s destruction by saying that there was never a generation of his people more ripe or worthy of such a fate. As a note, the siege of Jerusalem began in 66AD. and ended around three-and-a-half years later in 70AD.
Then in verse 13 there is an earthquake and a collapse, which revolves around the seven trumpets. Around the seventh trumpet to be specific. You see, this event in Revelation correlates with an older story in the Bible. I of course, would be referring to the fall of Jericho. In this story Joshua, who was under the command of the archangel, the angel of the Lord, commanded the priests to blow on trumpets, (seven priests to be exact) and to march around the city seven times, and on the seventh day, with the seventh blow, the city fell. This city would be in retrospect like Moscow in all its power. In the promised land this was the greatest and most intimidating military force, and with the blow of the trumpet it fell. The thing that is important to note here, is that the priests who walked around the city blowing the trumpets, did so behind the ark of the covenant. In fact that was a specific requirement of the priests as they marched around the city.
John, the author of Revelation knows his Hebrew Bible well. He expects the reader to connect this event in Revelation with something else. This is why understanding the Jewish traditions of the time is so important. If we, people of the twenty first century, from whatever culture, do not look at these writings from the viewpoint of the writers and their audiences, we may miss something. Sometimes that something is huge. For John, in writing about this seventh trumpet and what follows, he knew that his readers would know their Hebrew bible like the back of their hand, much like many people today know their favorite TV shows. We however in this century, would miss all of this, since we are so far removed from this place and time in history. This is why Mary tends to be so misunderstood or disbelieved by people today. Hopefully as we go forward you will begin to see it piece together as I did.
Revelation 11:19 – Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple;…
Not that big of a surprise, right? We are reading from Revelation by all means. Yet for the Jewish Christians of John’s time, that know the tradition of that one verse, would have been extremely surprised. This is the “real temple.” The tabernacle that Moses built, and the instructions that Solomon followed in building the temple on earth, both corresponded to the heavenly temple. Imagine John’s surprise as he looked upon the original temple, seeing that it was real. Just as Jerusalem is about to be trampled and the temple destroyed, John sees this and realizes that the true, eternal temple is standing strong, safe from harm. What a joyous thing that must have been for him, something that would have removed all despair.
He sees the temple opened and sees all the way through, right to the holy of holies. We know this because this is where the ark of the covenant rests, in fact it is the ark that makes it the holy of holies. What a thing for a Jewish Christian of John’s time to consider. The ark has not been seen for over five centuries by any Jew. Jeremiah had taken it and hidden it right before Nebuchadnezzar had come to destroy Jerusalem in 586BC. When the second temple is built there was nothing. No Ark of the Covenant, no mercy seat, no cherubim, and no shekina. Shekina was the dwelling place of God, where the glory cloud was, where one would see the thunder and lightning. In fact, once the Ark had been consecrated even Moses could not enter the tabernacle because the glory cloud filled it. When Solomon built the temple, he afterwards offered sacrifices that were burnt up from heaven’s fire, and everyone fell on their faces shouting “Glory!” The shekina comes and stays. In fact it isn’t until Ezekiel that the shekina leaves the temple. That is where Ichobod gets his name, it means “the glory is departed.” To this day the Ark, cherubim, mercy seat, and shekina have not returned to Jerusalem. In fact the prime purpose of the Wailing Wall to this day, is to bewail the loss of the shekina, the glory cloud, God’s very presence in Israel.
That is what makes this vision of John so important to his readers. He sees that which has been lost for so long, the Ark of the Covenant, right where it should be, in God’s temple in heaven. Before we continue though I want to remind everyone that divisions in the text were not added until the middle ages. When the Book of Revelation was written there were no page numbers, no verse numbers, and no chapters. It was a single scroll that would be read from beginning to end. So often, we try to look at the Bible in chapter sections, but the truth is the book is a whole, not separated by chapters. So when we read Revelation 11:19 we should allow it to flow into 12:1. I would like us to look at just what that looks like in light of what we are saying.
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.”
It then goes on to talk about the second sign, the dragon, that turns out to be the same serpent who deceived the first Eve in the garden, that ancient serpent, the dragon Satan. She then gives birth to a male child who will rule the nations with an iron scepter. This is another reference that would be understood by someone of the same tradition as John the writer, it refers to Psalm 2 verse 9: “With an iron rod you will shepherd them, like a potter’s vessel you will shatter them.”
Now before we can truly focus on these texts we must look back again into the Old Testament. In order to fill out the picture more clearly.
Understanding the Ark of the Covenant
I want to start with the creation of the Ark. What exactly it was. In Exodus 25:10-22 we learn that the Ark is made out of acacia wood, covered in pure gold. Gold being the symbol of royalty. We also read about what is placed into the Ark. It is the stone tablets, (10 commandments) Aaron’s staff, and a jar of the manna which God fed the Israelites with while in the wilderness. The description of what will be built later in Exodus 37, is that they are to make two cherubim that spread their wings, overshadowing the mercy seat while facing each other. But why was the Ark built, and why a tabernacle?
Before the golden calf incident in the wilderness, God wanted Israel to be a kingdom of priests. Each tribe would be involved. In fact each father would have been like a high priest, and each son a priest under him. In a world that sought out kingdoms of warriors, politicians, and economists, God wanted them to be a kingdom of priests. To teach the world what righteousness means. So what happens? God tells Moses that he wants all the people to come up, to be in his presence. He instructs Moses to have them wash, stay clear from the mountain for three days, and to abstain from sex during this time. This apparently is too much for them, and ask Moses to go up without them. So they decline this priestly kingdom that God wanted to create among them. So Moses goes up, and after returning selects seventy elders that claim they will cooperate. They go up, sacrifice some offerings, throw blood on the altar as well as on the peoples representatives in order to seal the family covenant with God. They then sit and eat a meal in God’s presence and the Scripture says “they did not die.” So with this, perhaps this new attempt to create a priestly kingdom with the seventy elders, instead of all of the people, may just work, right?….wrong!
Moses goes up on a long fast, and around the thirty-ninth day they figure he is dead. So they entice Aaron to make them a Golden Calf. Why a golden calf? Because it was one of the prime symbols of the Egyptian caste cult of Apus. This was a fertility cult that worshipped sexual pleasure, political power, and economic prosperity. This was one of the primary religious functions of the Egyptian priests, which meant that this event was the Israelites falling back into their old idolatrous behavior. This is big, in fact in Exodus 32 God officially disowns Israel. Moses then goes down and finds them doing what? He finds that they have changed the liturgy to include sexual orgies. This is when Moses smashes the tablets and calls to him those on the Lord’s side. In steps the Levites, who then slay 3000 of the Israelites that afternoon. This is when the levitical priesthood begins.
During this interim of the Golden Calf incident and the new system being put into place, Moses would pitch his tent outside of camp, in fact far away, and this is what was called the tent of meeting. God still wanted to be in the midst of his people, but because of their sin they were no longer able to be in his presence. So in the books of Leviticus and Numbers we find an arrangement that was made. The four clans of Levites would make a box around the tabernacle and then the other tribes could gather around the Tribe of Levi that had formed this human box. This was the only way for God to be in the midst of his people, to have the Levites on all sides of the tabernacle. So prior to the Golden Calf, every family would have been able to have a tabernacle that had God’s Presence, as they would be a kingdom of priests. However, now this was no longer the case, and so this is why the tabernacle is constructed and the Ark put into the holy of holies.
The people at this point no longer wanted Moses, but Aaron to be the high priest. God then tells them ok, my punishment to you is this, I will give you what you ask for. There was a difference that takes place between Moses and Aaron though. Moses used to enter daily into the holy of holies, but now Aaron could only enter once a year on what is know as Yom Kippur. Now, before he goes in he has to slaughter a calf. Every year from that point on the high priest, (an Aaronite) before entering the holy of holies, had to kill a calf as an act of repentance for leading the people into idolatry. So from the Golden Calf incident until the coming of Jesus, there was no more face-to-face access with God.
The Ark of the Covenant couldn’t be touched but was very powerful. Whenever the Israelites went into battle, the Levites could handle the breakdown of the tabernacle, but only the Aaronites could actually handle the Ark. It is documented that the Ark brought fear to their enemies. In fact, once it was captured by the Philistines. This was a great victory, the weapon of the Israelites. They place this Ark into their Temple of Dagon, however the next morning they find their idol of Dagon facedown and smashed before the Ark. A plague then breaks out among them and they decide to return it out of fear. On the way back some men peer inside it and many were slaughtered immediately. Even when David is bringing the Ark to Jerusalem from Baal Judah there is an incident where Uzzah, who is not an Aaronite, tries to straighten the Ark when it is jostled by the oxen. He immediately dies, prompting David to leave it in the house of Obededom for three months because it says David was afraid, and so did not bring the Ark into the city of David.
Once David finds out how the house of Obededom is being blessed however, he changes his mind. David goes and retrieves the Ark and brings it back rejoicing, sacrificing an ox and a fatling every six paces. It says David danced before the Lord with all his might. the Hebrew word that is used to describe “dance” is a whirling and twirling type of dance that was often used in the liturgy by the priests in ancient time. David was also girded with a linen ephod, something only the Levites were to wear. David was overjoyed and saw himself as a type of priest-king. He enters Jerusalem so excited some might say crazily excited. He puts up a tent and hands out bread and wine and a cake of raisins. So with this, an ultimate covenant is established with the way David treated the Ark.
What was an Ark in the ancient Near East?
Alright, so we have been talking about the Ark for some time now. So what really is an Ark? In the ancient Near East it was found in many other cultures, not just among Israel. It was a throne box. It would have cherubim, angels, or whatever on top, and there normally sat a queen, a female figure enthroned in some type of an armchair. The cherubim thrones were popular in Cana and Phoenicia during the late Bronze and early Iron ages. The difference with Israel’s throne box (Ark) was that their throne was empty. Other cultures would go off to battle with the Queen Mother who sat on top of their throne, inspiring their great victories. Not Israel though, for them the Ark alone was enough. It being empty was like admitting that the Messiah had not yet come, and that everything was not as it would one day be.
The mercy seat remained empty throughout the Old Testament as long as they had the Ark of the Covenant. With this understood, lets go back to Revelation 11 and 12. Let’s consider that the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and crowned with twelve stars is the one who has taken the throne of the Ark of the Covenant. So how is it, that this mere human woman is able to take her place on the Ark, the mercy seat, and not God himself? To answer this we must look at Ezekiel Chapter 1 and 10. In these chapters Ezekiel sees a heavenly vision of a rainbow, and cherubim that look like an ox, a lion, an eagle, and a man. and on a throne above the cherubim is a figure like the Son of Man. Ezekiel sees a vision of Christ even before he became human. This ties in with Revelation 4 and 5 which describes the same throne, encircled by a rainbow. There is a sapphire throne that sits above the cherubim and on it sits the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is found sitting above the cherubim. The cherubim are stationed where they are above the ark, as in there is another throne with another place for another ruler. And as soon as John sees the Ark, in the same breath, he describes the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown, just as a woman enthroned would be.
To look even further, lets go to Luke 1:35: The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.” The word used for overshadow is a very Greek word, it is epischiadze. Never in the Old Testament did the Holy Spirit epischiadze a person. It was always an object or a building meant for sacred functions. Such as when Moses could not enter the tabernacle because the cloud was covering it, overshadowing it, epischiadze it. So this verb indicates that just as the Holy Spirit descended on the Ark of the Covenant, on the tabernacle, on the creation in the beginning, over the waters after the flood; the Holy Spirit also descended in the same way on Mary in this verse.
Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant
In this descending upon Mary, she has become the new Ark of the covenant. So how can this be? How can a person be the Ark? Well let’s look at what purpose Ark served. It was the vessel where God was. Where the shekina was. In the ark were three items. The tablets that had been written on by God’s own hand. So in fact it was the Word of God. The second item was the manna. The manna was the bread that kept the Israelites alive while in the wilderness. The third item was Aaron’s staff. this was a symbol of the high priesthood. So the Ark of the covenant of old, was that which carried all these items. Mary was the mother of Jesus. The overshadowing of the Holy Spirit announces her as the new Ark of the Covenant. In carrying Jesus in her womb she also carries three things. First, she carries the Word made flesh as is revealed in John chapter 1. Second, she carries what is revealed as the bread of life. Third, she carries in her womb the High Priest. She carries Jesus who is all these things. She literally is the new Ark of the New Covenant.
In fact there are some other parallels that press upon Mary being the new Ark of the Covenant. in Luke 1:39 Mary makes the journey to the hill country. While in 2 Samuel 6:2 we see the ark make a similar journey to the hill country of Judah. Remember the shouts of joy that took place when David entered Jerusalem upon returning with the Ark. Likewise, Mary is greeted by Elizabeth with the word “anafametzen,” which is very rare. It was only used in connection with the Ark in Old Testament liturgical ceremonies. David says in 2 Samuel 6:11 “How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Just as Elizabeth states upon Mary coming to visit, “Why should the Mother of the Lord come to me?” Also just as the Ark stayed in the home of Obededom for three months, so also Mary stayed in the home of Elizabeth for three months.
With all of this expounded on, lets now return to Revelation 11 and 12 again. We now understand Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant, she is the true tabernacle. She is also the figure for the New Jerusalem. In the end of Revelation the New Jerusalem is described as two things. A bride that is pure, and yet also the mother of God’s children. So how can one be virginally pure, and yet also maternally fruitful?
In Revelation 12:17 it says: Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Now, if for some reason, even at this point you struggle with the idea that Mary has a place of honor, even though John clearly has depicted her as the New Ark, enthroned in heaven next to her Son as the Queen Mother, let us go just a little further so that we can understand why she would be enthroned as one called the Queen Mother.
Why is Mary called the Queen Mother?
So what is the Queen Mother? It is not something that the Catholic’s made up as a title to Mary. It was actually a role within the ancient monarchies of the Near East as well as the Middle East. The Queen Mother was known by the Israelites in Hebrew as the “gebirah.” She occupied a unique and powerful position throughout the history of ancient Israel’s monarchy. In all of these ancient Near East monarchies the Queen Mother sat beside the king on a throne. Even in the death of the king, she was not disposed. She had an essential role in political, economic, and military affairs of the royal court. Evidence of this is found in the Egypt Marri tablets, Uhr Hittite records, Arabian and Assyrian documents, and the Eplah tablets. Even during the reforms by Hezekiah and Josiah, the institution of the Queen Mother stays.
We find examples of this in the Old Testament. First there is Maacah in 1 Kings 15:13. Then there is Jezebel, in 2 Kings 10:13. Athaliah, the wicked Queen Mother that reigned for six years is found in 2 Kings 11. Then there is Mehushta over Johoachin in Jeremiah 13:18.
While these are all great examples, I want to focus on one that most people who have read the book of Kings can relate with. That is the function and authority of the Queen Mother that we see in Kings chapter 1. In this chapter there is a rivalry going on between David’s sons Jedidiah, who’s throne name is peace – Solomon, and his half-brother Adonijah, who is older and born of one of David’s wives prior to Bathsheba, therefore holding more claim to the throne. However Bathsheba had gotten an oath already from David that her son would get the throne.(Psalm 110) So just as the Queen Mother is also the advocate to the king, Adonijah comes to Bathsheba and asks her to approach Solomon about the ongoing rivalry. She then goes to the king and reminds him the oath he gave her to put her son on the throne. He confirms this even though the people and key priests were going for Adonijah at the time.
In the next chapter starting in verse 13, after Solomon has been given charge of the kingdom by David, Adonijah comes to Bathsheba to ask a question. He reminds her that the kingdom had been his, but then it changed by David’s will, and went to his brother Solomon. He says he has one request of her, and not to deny him, because he knows that the king will do whatever she asks. He asks for Abishag to take as his wife. This is were palace politics comes in. Abishag was David’s last wife. She is the one who kept him warm in his old age, sleeping next to him at all times. To have David’s last wife, would be to have official claim to the throne. This is the same reason that Absolom slept with David’s concubines publicly, because whoever has the Queen Mother, the kings wives, is who is seen as the king.
Now when Bathsheba the Queen Mother, comes to Solomon, The king of Israel, son of David, supreme head of God’s covenant people, (according to Psalm 2) he stood up to meet her, bowed down to her, and then sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought in for the Queen Mother and she sat down at his right hand. Psalm 110 says “sit at my right hand.” That is a position of authority. There is no evidence that the prophets ever suppressed this role, that God ever condemned it, or of it ever being seen as meaningless and removed from practice.
So why is this all important? Because the jews who had been waiting almost 600 years for the Davidic line to be reestablished when the Messiah came, knew all this. Remember back when we looked at the traditions that the Jews of Christ’ time knew like the back of their hand that we don’t. This is one of them. Now I know this has been a long reading but bear with me just a little longer, this is about to get exciting….from a jewish perspective.
I say this because the exciting part is the lineage we read in Matthew 1. The Jews up until this point had suffered in oppression waiting for the Messiah. This very list was a shock, could it be proven? Was there really still a lineage of the Davidic line? Matthew reminds us of four women in this lineage. Not only was it rare for women to be named in tracing ones lineage, here was Tamar who had sex with her father-in-law, Rahab the harlot, Ruth the foreigner and Moabitist, and the infamous wife of Uriah whom David committed adultery with before killing Uriah. He points these out because he is making clear that God is preserving his promise through means that are controversial to say the least. Just as we all know the pregnancy of a young unmarried girl would be. Mary’s “controversy” was why it was so derogative when people referred to Jesus as “the son of Mary.”
So this list shows that David’s line had continued. So why was this so shocking? Why had nobody come out to claim this lineage before now? Well, either the Babylonians, or the Persians, or the Greeks, or the Romans would be out to kill those claiming to be of a divine royal bloodline. Just think about how Herod slaughters a multitude of infants in the attempt to kill the Messiah when he learns that the Davidic bloodline is flowing.
But then things really turn out different than the religious leaders think. The Messiah is born and the lowest of the low come to pay him homage. We tend to call them the wise men, but they were never called the wise men, they were called the Magi, these were eastern sorcerers. In fact, there is a Rabbinic Maxim that says “If anybody learns anything from a Magi, one of the Magi, let him be accursed.” They were practitioners of the Black arts. They used gold for all of their magical pages that their incantations were written on, they also used frankincense, and myrrh as basic tools in the black arts they performed. So when they bring these things to the Lord as a child, what are they doing? They are renouncing it, they are laying their darkness at the feet of Jesus. The shepherds whom the angels visit, what of them? shepherds were lower than even women. They were not allowed to give testimony in court, and according to rabbinic sayings, they were dishonest and perverted. Think of it this way. You give birth to your child, you look out your bedroom window, and you see people coming to your door, lots of people. Not just any people, but whore’s and junkies. This is what was happening with Jesus as a baby. Those that came to him were not the proud and religious, but the humble and sinners, those most in need of a Savior.
I want us to now look at Luke chapter 1. In verse 26 we see the angel Gabriel come to Mary. He address her “Hail, full of grace.” This is also translated as “Oh highly favored one.” In the New Testament the grace of God is a kind of substance, not just an attitude. When God gives you grace, He gives himself to you. Another thing, is the unique address of “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The angel doesn’t name Mary as in “Hail Mary, full of grace” no, the angel states “Hail, full of grace,” as a title. The angel then proceeds to tell her that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her, which we learned earlier the significance of.
Now then Mary (being understood as the Ark of the Covenant) goes to meet her cousin Elizabeth. As she walks in the house John the Baptist leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb and she says “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Mary then says “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
Now, even though this may come off as a proud and conceited thing to say, it is not. For humility and modesty does not mean you make yourself a doormat by disowning God’s graces and privileges. It means owning these in order to serve Him and others. It would be false modesty to say, “no, I did nothing, I am just his mother, I am nothing.” No instead she says “All generations will call me blessed.” this is such a truthful statement, because she IS the Queen Mother of the son of David. She is acknowledging that on her own she is nothing, but that the Lord has filled her with everything. She is full of grace, but it’s God’s grace and because of this all generations will call her blessed. She continues on in Luke saying “for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Yet instead of patting herself on the back or tooting her own horn, she does what any Queen Mother does, she uses her position to point the people to the king. She continues..”His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made his ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Jesus addresses Mary as “Woman”
Continuing on in Mary’s awareness of her place in things, lets go to John 1. John the Baptist says “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In John 2, the Lamb goes up to a wedding feast. Hmm…A wedding feast that is attended by a lamb? This is exactly how John ends the book of Revelation, by inviting all of us to the wedding supper of the Lamb. Ok, back to the wedding feast at Cana. This is where many Protestants make a fatal error in reading the Scripture. It is one of those errors that comes from 2000 years of displacement, of time and culture. We read where Mary tells Jesus they have run out of wine and he says “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come.” For a person reading this with no background information in today’s understanding – the word “woman” may come across as demeaning, insulting. In fact I have heard many preachers teach that this phrase is why Mary should be treated like any other person, because even Jesus rebuked her. I have also heard that it was to be taken as an endearing word. Both are far from accurate.
Mary assumes a different posture here, now. She is going to have to distance herself from her son as her son. The time has come. He is no longer addressing her as Mother, but as woman. He is saying to her that she is not just his mother anymore, what she is talking about is a miracle that will begin a new economy of salvation. He says “woman” because that is what she is to be, the New Eve, a Mother to all of humanity redeemed. She then turns to the servants and tells them to do whatever he tells them. I want to make note here for those that may still think that Jesus had meant the word “woman” as a rebuke – why then does he do the miracle without question? After he says “woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come.” she does not say anything to him, she merely turns to the servants and says, “do whatever he tells you.” Not only does this action by Mary make no sense if Jesus had just rebuked her, but then he immediately goes and performs the miracle. Jesus does not say anything else, he does not show any sign that he and his mother are in disagreement in what is to be done. That is because there was no rebuke. Again, one must understand that Mary is the New Eve, this statement by Christ can only be understood in that context. She was the Queen Mother of the son of David, and she was stepping into the role of the Queen Mother of us all. She understood what was to be done. She knew what must take place. This first miracle begins by Mary fulfilling the role of the Queen Mother, to point the world to her Son.
Now I have to share some humor that is often missed here. The barrels of water that Jesus tells the servants to fill the cups with, are used in the Jewish Rite of Purification to wash feet. I just wonder what those servants thought as they took those barrels of stinky, dirty water, that was used to wash feet and filled the drinking cups for the people. They must have sat back trying to hold in the laughter as the people were about to drink the foot water that the friend of the groom had said to give to people. Now the servants knew where this water came from, but have you ever wondered why the point was made in the story how the steward of the feast had no idea where the wine came from? That is because it came from the dirty foot water, and it becomes that much better of a testimony to this miracle, when he tastes it and states how the best wine was saved until the end. This was the first miracle that Jesus did at Cana in Galilee.
This is what this little woman started, a woman who understood what grace was all about, “do whatever he tells you,” and you won’t even begin to be able to anticipate the glories that are about to be revealed to us. This is what she said in these few words. If you will do whatever he tells you, you wont have to figure out how to make things happen from your own human resources. Mary is the best example to us of how God can make that which is least into that which is great. God desires to use the least, the small, the poor, the humble, to do his greatest works, and that is what Mary is, she was nobody… despised, poor, humble, outcasted, fugitive…and yet God lifted her up to the greatest position, the Queen Mother of us all.
Jesus wanted us to give devotion to His mother
We give glory, and honor, and devotion to Mary because we do whatever Jesus tells us to do. We also do it because as Christians we are to imitate Christ, therefore we do whatever Jesus does, and Jesus is best of the best when it comes to Jesus being a son. Not just a Son of his heavenly Father, but a son of his earthly mother. When Jesus takes on the mission of the Father, he does so in full obedience, better than any of us could ever do. and when it comes to the commandment “honor your mother and father,” that word honor in Hebrew is kabodah, it means to bestow glory. So he honors his Father and obeys his command of bestowing unprecedented glory on the woman who was chosen from all eternity, to be his mother.
So we are to honor Christ by imitating him, by giving honor and bestowing glory upon his mother. Not his mother instead of him, it is not undermining to Christ to give devotion to his mother, it is how we express our devotion to Christ by imitating him in this matter. If we do, then we will see in her face, the face of our mother, because Jesus has taken on her flesh and blood and given us his own Divine nature. Peter tells us that “we are partakers of Divine nature through Christ,” so then his mother becomes our mother, supernaturally, spiritually, but also really and actually. and so in devotion to him we can also have devotion for her without compromise. Love is not finite, remember that God is love. Love grows from itself and continues and reproduces, the more a person loves, the more love a person has to give. The more we love Christ, the more love we have that is available to honor and love his mother who has become our mother. Think about at the foot of the cross, it doesn’t say John, behold your mother – No, it said “to the disciple he loved, behold your mother.”
Which disciple did Jesus love? Was it just John? Did he not also love Peter, or James, or Bartholomew? He loves all of his disciples, those from the past and present. So then, since we are all his beloved disciples, we are all called to look upon Mary as our mother. If we go back again to Revelation 12 – remember it says “She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations,” the Messiah against whom the dragon makes war.. and then at the end it says after she has been delivered up to heaven, “Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keeps God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” These are the beloved disciples, since we are the brothers and sisters of Christ, we are the offspring the dragon is coming to make war against. We are also the children of the woman, the Queen Mother of the Son of David.
Remembering that we are all God’s disciples, I would like to end this blog by repeating the very words of Christ……..Behold your Mother.