Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mary, Mother of Christians

I joined the Catholic Answers Forums, and I think I got myself into more than I can handle.  Well, normally it wouldn't be crazy on those forums, but I managed to start writing on the one that compares different beliefs.  Naturally, there are many Protestants who want to debate about various Church doctrines.  So I decided to join in.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

For a few nights now, I have been typing away like mad trying to respond to queries and debates on the faith.  Let me tell you, it is hard.  The latest was about Mary and her spiritual motherhood of all Christians.  It all started when I claimed that John 19:26-27 when Christ gives the Beloved Disciple Mary as his mother, the Beloved Disciple was representing all Christians.

Someone wondered where my basis for that interpretation came from, and the conversation went as follows:


I apologize if I have assumed that most Christians believe “the beloved disciple” of John’s Gospel represents all those who see to follow Christ and have a relationship with Him.

If we think about it logically, though, we should look at the context of this scene at the Cross. These words are some of the last Jesus spoke as he was dying. On the surface, yes, they show his incredible love and care for his mother in His last moments of life. But don't you think it logical that, as these were only one of seven "last words" of Christ on the cross, there would be more significance that only what is on the surface?

All the words of Christ on the cross have serious implications for all Christians. They are:
Luke 23:33-34 "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
Luke 23:39-43 "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
John 19:25-27 "Woman, behold your son." "Behold, your mother."
Mark 15:33-34 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
John 19:28 "I thirst."
John 19:29-30 "It is finished."
Luke 23:46 "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

These words of Christ to Mary and the Beloved Disciple are only one of the three found in John's Gospel. As you know, the other two, "I thirst", and "It is finished", have very strong symbolism (much more than the fact that Jesus was literally thirsty and that he was about to die), as does much of John's Gospel. It seems unlikely, then, that these words to Mary and the Beloved Disciple were meant only as care for his mother. Instead, the Beloved Disciple, who is never named in the Gospel, has been seen as representative of all who seek to have an intimate relationship with Christ. He is the "disciple whom Jesus loved", as we all are.

This article covers this in much more detail than I have space for here: http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net...ingmary/06.asp

The truth is, we as Christians, are all sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Christ. If God is our Father, who, then, is our Mother? Mary. She is the Mother of Christ, and we are all members of the Body of Christ. This does not mean she is in any way equal to God; she is merely an instrument of God's will.

The Catechism puts it this way: "She is 'clearly the mother of the members of Christ... since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head." (CCC 963)

We could never honor Mary as much as God did when He made her the Mother of His Son.

Think about that for a minute. She bore Christ in her womb. Christ as an unborn child lived on her blood--how intimately connected can you get? God honored her; so can we.

So, tell me, how does your church call Mary blessed? 


Sorry if I snipped your post a bit.. I just wanted to narrow it down after reading through your documentation.

This is just an example of speculating without any evidence. Mary is entrusted to John, not the other way around. As John explains in verse 27, he took care of Mary after Jesus' death. If either figure is portrayed as being protective in this passage, it's John, not Mary. Even if that wasn't the case, why should we assume that John is representative of the Christian church, whereas Mary is just Mary? The Catholic choice to see John as symbolic, while not seeing Mary as symbolic, is arbitrary. It's unprovable. The most plausible explanation of this passage is the one that John himself gives us in verse 27. To read some spiritual motherhood of Mary into the passage, an interpretation that nobody advocated during the earliest generations of Christianity, is going beyond the evidence.
We most certainly consider Mary to have been blessed. We also consider every one that has been used by God throughout redemptive history to have been blessed. This doesn't mean we venerate them.


Okay, one by one: You say “Mary is entrusted to John...” Well, yes, that is true. (I do want to point out that the Beloved Disciple is never named in this Gospel, and many scholars disagree on exactly who wrote it; there is some significance in the generic term of Beloved Disciple). The Beloved Disciple, John, takes care of her. Assuming the Catholic interpretation the Beloved Disciple represents all members of the Church, Mary has certainly been entrusted to the care of the Church in as much as we honor her and protect her memory as Jesus, her Son, would want us to. “…not the other way around.” You forget that Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son.” Mary takes the Beloved Disciple as her son as well; naturally this means she will care for him as she would her own natural-born son. (Note the strong language of Christ in these passages. He did not say “Mom, let John take care of you.” Or “John, take care of my mother." He used “Behold, your mother.”)

“As John explains in verse 27, he took care of Mary after Jesus’ death.” Yes, he took care of her, but there’s more than that. If we look at the Greek text “the disciple took her eis ta idia” While most translations, including the NAB that I use, interpret this as “into his home” or, as others, “into his care”, these translations are more specific than the Greek allows for. The Greek word for house is oikon, not used here.

To quote from a Catholic Answers tract:

Eis is a preposition with five general meanings, expressing place, time, measure, relationship, and end, purpose, or goal. (The last two meanings--relationship and end, purpose, or goal--frequently converge in a given sentence.)

Ta idia is the neuter plural substantive use of the adjective idios: "private, one's own." John has used the plural, although the singular to idion is often found with no difference of meaning. According to context, the meaning may be "one's own, my own, your own, his own, her own, our own, their own."

One’s own what?

Eis in John 19:27 is used to express end, purpose, or goal, a frequent usage in John's Gospel (1:7, 4:14, 4:36, 6:9, 9:39, 12:7, 13:29, 18:37). In this usage eis translates into English as "for" or "as." That the disciple took Mary eis ta idia means only that he took her as his own.” http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1992/9210fea2.asp

So, yes, Mary is entrusted to John’s care, but as he takes her “as his own”. There is a sense of belonging.

“Why should we assume that John is representative of the Christian church, whereas Mary is just Mary?” We don’t. Mary is not just Mary is this passage; she is also an archetype of the Church (both she and the Beloved Disciple are). She is the first Christian, a model of faith and charity for the whole Church and her motherhood here symbolizes also the role of the Church as mother of Christians. She is also seen as the New Eve (Eve, the mother of all, disobeyed God; Mary, the mother of all Christians, followed His will, etc.) Christ’s reference to her as “Woman” the two times she is mentioned in John’s Gospel—which is a very usual term for a son to use for his mother—points to this, as it points to Revelation. (This interpretation sheds light on Rev. 12:17)

I realize I haven’t explained each of these in detail, but I just want you to know that the Church sees it as having more significance than you allow for.

“an interpretation that nobody advocated during the earliest generations of Christianity”
St. Augustine, On Holy Virginity, paragraph 7, circa 399: “the fruitfulness of Mary in the flesh should be more excellent, that she gave birth to the Head Himself of these members… through this, that in a spiritual manner she is the mother of the members of Christ, of Whom also after a spiritual manner she is the virgin.”

Even if you still say no one specifically labeled her as the Mother of Christians during the earliest generations, you cannot prove that anyone denied it. There are plenty of doctrines that have developed over the years as we came to better understanding, such as the Trinity. In fact, many Protestant doctrines were developed later on that were not advocated during early years (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, etc.)

Not only that, but Catholics are not the only ones who believe in the spiritual motherhood of Mary. Martin Luther, Christmas Day 1523, “I believe that there is no one among us who would not leave his own mother to become a son of Mary. And that you can do, all the more because that has been offered as a choice to you, and it is an even greater joy than if you embraced your mother with real embraces."

The Anglican de Satge agrees, as do the Eastern Orthodox Christians. See http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1992/9210fea2.asp

Well, I probably opened up more cans of worms… 

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