The GodFearinFiddler writes about his struggles with Mary's place in Catholic Tradition and devotion.
That was terrifically honest!
Oddly, as my own appreciation of Mary has grown, I've become less angry at folks who vocally reject her or her place in Catholic faith and devotion. Since the reason for her brightness is her perfect humility, it’s easier to understand why her queenship is so hidden. We are dumb sheep, and if we were to truly see Mary for what she is, there would be a temptation to bow down and worship. Since hers is the body from which and in which the Son of God was knit, her reflective radiance would be too much for us if it was revealed fully. Think of John in Rev 19:10 - so overwhelmed by the glory he was being shown that he flopped down to worship the angel. And this was a man who was at the foot of the cross! A man who ran to the empty tomb! If he got star-struck by the messenger, how backwoods will we be when the veil is lifted?
I think a component of the confusion in Protestant understanding of Mary (and most Catholics for that matter) stems from what is really a limit that we place on the power of God. Among those Christians that still believe in Satan and hell, there's a pesky dualism slithering below the surface of their approach to faith which needs to be expunged. The “God vs. Devil” dichotomy is completely false. God has no opposite. And there’s certainly no created being that should be placed in opposition to God in the human heart. This is a lie propagated by Satan, and it handicaps our full acceptance of the Father.
But if the Good, Truth, Beauty, and Life of the Trinity has no opposite, who is Satan, the created being, at war with? He is at war within the confines of creation with the perfect creation – Mary. Her humility and her fiat are the opposite of Satan’s pride. She is “full” of God’s grace and love, while he is void. Her acceptance of life in Christ via Christ’s life in her is the covenant of the New Creation. Satan’s rejection is the pathway to second death.
Rather than placing her as an obstacle to God, elevation of Mary in the heart and faith journey of the Christian is acknowledgement that chapter 21 of Revelation is our future! She is the perfected creation, and it is with her help that we too can be perfected. Giving praise to that reality is truly giving praise to the Word and will of the Father. In fact, participation in the sacramental life of the Church by any Christian unknowingly acknowledges a personal devotion to Mary. We're clued to the reality of this mystery in Christ's dialogue with a perplexed Nicodemus:
3: Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
4: Nicode'mus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
5: Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7: Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.'
8: The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit."
The new life we are being called to is a mystery, and the means by which we get there is a mystery as well – but a mystery that we are given the key to understanding, requiring that we first accept it in faith.
14: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up,
15: that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."
16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17: For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Is this an answer that Nicodemus understood? I doubt it. We have the whole of revealed truth at our disposal, but we have loads of trouble. So it shouldn't surprise us when we fail to connect the dots from one mystery to another. And there are two mysteries at play here: Christ's salvific mission, and the mystical economy of his bride, the Church.
The first (and only) real question that Nicodemus asked Christ…
"How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
…is actually answered from the lips of our Lord as he hung on the cross.
26: When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
27: Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
When we take Mary into our home – into our hearts – and let her name ring in every corner of the House of the Lord, we are heralding our own rebirth, and we plead for protection from her opposite. Saints have prodded the Church into giving her titles, pronouncing on her nature and destiny, and acknowledging that she is the distributor of all graces. This is scandalous to Protestants, but that is tied into their obstacles in recognizing that there is one true Church on heaven and on earth. When you accept this, it is easier to start seeing its parallels in Mary and its dependence on her to nurture and protect the Mystical Body of Christ in the logical extension of her calling as Theotokos. She made it clear as a bell in her words to Juan Diego:
Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish?
The radical (and hidden) message from John, chapter 3 is this:
It is from the womb of the Blessed Mother that we must be “born anew”.
Try preaching that one at a Pentecostal revival!