My recent time at Kopua Monastery and my reading this morning of ‘The Church of Mercy‘ (a lovely collection of addresses and ecclesiastical excerpts from Pope Francis) have me pondering the role and place of Mary in Christian faith. Given that modern protestants say more about the role Mary does not have, than the role she does have, the question arises: What is the most largest role a Protestant could attribute to Mary?
Theologically, there is a bewildering and striking contrast concerning the role of Mary and God the Father in the Incarnation of God the Son. It goes like this. In that the Christ the Son was eternally begotten of the Father, he is fully divine; and in that Jesus of Nazareth was temporally begotten of Mary, he is fully human. What a contrast this is! The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, who is one person with two natures, fundamentally depends on both the willful fathering of his divine Father, and the willful mothering of his human mother. Here we see up close and in focus the gentle omnipotence of God, who would not force Mary to comply; instead she cooperated with the announcement, saying “Let it be unto me according to Your word.”
So we have Mary’s human willingness as a necessary condition for the Incarnation. That gives her a historical, past-tense, role in the faith. Way back when, she was willing. And so, indeed, she said, “Henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed.” But what of an ongoing role in the faith? And not just in the sense of ongoing acknowledgement of her “blessed” state (though could that acknowledgement be more – pardon the pun – pregnant than we Protestants have admitted?), but is there more to Mary?
Two Johannine scenes from Scripture, one from John’s gospel and the other from John’s apocalypse (or the ‘Revelation’), rise to the fore. John’s gospel (19:26-27) has Jesus declaring a new state of relationship between his mother and the disciple he loved. The disciple is the ‘son’ of Mary, and Mary is the ‘mother’ of the disciple. There is an either-or concerning the interpretation of this declaration. One sees this new state of relationship as restricted to these two humans; Jesus wants them to have support after he departs. The other extends this to all disciples being ‘son’ (and daughters) of Mary, and Mary being the ‘mother’ of all disciples. John’s apocalypse (12:17) speaks of her according to the latter interpretation, identifying “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony of Jesus” as “the rest of her offspring”. Are we therefore intended, biblically, from the lips of Jesus, to view Mary, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1), as our mother?
Consideration of Mary’s role as “co-redeemer”, “mediator” or “advocate” will have to wait, and I admit here my skeptical outlook to those considerations. But for now, it seems, tentatively, that Protestants, theologically and biblically, can see Mary as not only the God-bearer (Theotokos), but also as ‘our mother’. Thoughts from other Protestants (or Catholics/Orthodox)?