As long as I can remember, I have had always had a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but never fully understood Mary’s role in Salvation History till I studied Mariology in graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Although devotion is important – I am going to focus the foreseeable “Mondays with Mary” on this topic, my devotion to her increased, which in turn increased my relationship with Jesus Christ, when I learned the scriptural and dogmatic teachings on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Praying the Holy Rosary is important and it’s probably the primary devotion to Our Lady in the West, but if you have the capability to study about her, to learn who she was and is for us today, I would suggest doing this as well. I recommend you read two of my very early posts from this series to begin – The Importance of Studying Marian Theology and The Importance of Studying Marian Doctrines.
When it comes to devotion to Mary, there are a few camps that exist today. Some will say that there is never enough of Mary. She is the Mother of God and she should be given great devotion and honor for her “Yes” at the Annunciation. Then there is the other side that thinks Marian devotion separates the hierarchy of Christian truths, which is rooted in Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. Mary belongs on the side because she divides us from the ecclesial communities that stem from the Reformation. These communities have no need for her and simply want to focus on Christ. On the other hand, when it comes to the Eastern Church (the Orthodox), there is no tension at all, except if we decided to focus on her less.
It can be said that both of these camps can be one-sided. The first camp – “never enough of Mary” is not just about the amount of things dedicated to her, such as dogmas, feasts, and devotions. It can’t be measured in quantitative ways. This camp really just wants to show how important Mary is in Salvation History. It is true however that her role as the Mother of God is deeply centered on the teachings of Christ and the Holy Trinity.
Moreover, in response to the critique given by the second camp, there is no other woman in the whole of Scripture that is spoken about with such fine detail. Although the stories of Judith and Esther are explained in some detail, the difference between Mary and them is that their stories are much more episodic. Mary is closely united with the Incarnation, the childhood of Jesus, the public ministry of Christ (most especially the Wedding at Cana), his Passion on the cross, and his resurrected life as the Church begins to grow. Even though the clips of Mary in the Gospels are distributed throughout, there still remains a uniting factor among each one – they each bring us closer to Christ and deepen our relationship with both of them.
Whoever is going to listen or read the Scriptures has to take note that the Gospel scenes Mary are apart of are just as important as the rest of the Scriptures. This person must gather the Marian mosaic together and examine it as a complete whole – for it brings us in union with her and which gives us the proper illumination for the disposition we must have with Jesus Christ. If one fails to do so, by simply refusing her role in the life of Christ, it must be questioned on how well they actually hear the Word of God. Marian devotion is not something done on its own, but always with Christ and his Church in mind and with Christ and his Church as the center. All Marian piety, which is properly ordered as Catholic, is therefore rooted in Jesus Christ, the Holy Trinity, and the Universal Church.
In places that have the ability to catechize their faithful properly and with catechesis in line with the Church must show that although popular Marian devotion is good, it can never turn Mary into simply a divine person who overlook’s the work of Jesus Christ. Although we pray to Mary, in truth, we are asking for her intercession. In the end, all Marian prayers although directed towards her, in the larger context, are directed towards God, Christ, and to the Church.
A danger lies in places where the catechesis is not done properly. The aforementioned scenario from above can be easily mistaken where Mary becomes the end all. Marian prayers directed towards her are just that – they are directed towards her as if she is a divine creature and does not share in the work of Christ. For these individuals, Mary is salvation as a whole. When we are faced with such thoughts, we must remedy it with prudence and gentleness for she is a piece of the big picture and not the picture itself.
What must be remembered in the end is that the core of Marian devotion can be practiced by both the catechized and non-catechized as long as the training is correct and the articles of faith given to us in the Creeds are the groundwork for such formation.
As we celebrate the fourth anniversary of my “Mondays with Mary” series, I am going to continue to focus, at least for the foreseeable future, on the importance of Marian devotion/piety, through the writings of Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI).
Next week, we will examine the Veneration of Mary.
This is the 200th blog post and the fourth anniversary of my “Mondays with Mary” series and the 650th blog post overall.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Mary, the Church at the Source. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2005. Print.
All Glory, Praise, and Thanksgiving to Jesus Christ Now and Forever. Amen.
Mary, Holy Theotokos…Pray for Us.