Mary may be one of the most controversial topics in Christendom. Catholics of both Western and Eastern Rites love her. Christians of other stripe usually have at least respect for her, though they often deride the Catholic love of this woman as over the top, or as even blasphemous.
What follows are some thoughts that would strike me from time to time regarding the reasonability of the Church's veneration of Mary, which were later confirmed by sources I trust.
First thing we should do is clear up a little terminology here. There are a number of key terms which are not used consistently in any dialog, which cause most of the confusion. They deserve a bit more attention, but for the time being these are the rough working definitions, and comments.
In no particular order:
- To ask or beseech
- -Appropriate to Mary (like asking a relative - living or dead - to pray for you)
- To assign worth, treat as divinity.
- -Due to God alone. Reverence for God as God.
- Adore Admire [Updated 1/6/2012 12:02 AM]
- To be in wonder of another, or of that-which-is, to be marveled by something.
- -I confusedly wrote adoration in the first release of this, but the concept I was thinking is actually called admiration in my translated copy of Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe's book Retracing Reality: A Philosophical Itinerary. I apologize for any confusion I may have caused. Adoration is directed to God alone, and is a topic upon which many books could be written.
Now that we have that clear, let me move on to the real thoughts that led me to post this.
It strikes me that for every person, there are three major relationships that are (or at least can/should be) deeper than anything else: parent, spouse, & child. Yes, friendship is important, and I deeply value the intimacy I have with my friends, but there is something special about your parents, your spouse, and your children. For Mary, all three of these are God.
First off is the fatherhood. God is of course the Father of us all, but he is especially that to the Jews, and even moreso to Mary, who tradition tells us was a promised temple virgin. She was dedicated to the "family business." That's fairly obvious.
Similarly the motherhood is obvious, as "to the wonder of creation a creature gave birth to her creator." Mary is Θεοτοκος (Theotokos - literally "God Bearer") - not merely the mother of Christ, or mother of Jesus, but the Mother of God. Anyone accepting that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of God, the Word Incarnate must accept that Mary, as His mother, is therefore mysteriously the Mother of God.
But what about her spouse? Obviously, she was betrothed to Joseph, and we acknowledge him as her spouse, but see how we do it in the Divine Praises - "Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse."
Many people think (mistakenly) that Mary & Joseph's marriage was "ordinary," in the sense that after Jesus was born they had normal marital relations, and at least a few children (the "brothers" of Christ). What bugged me about this was quite simply that Joseph couldn't be Mary's husband, she already had one. Scripture tells us that at the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel told her that the Spirit of the Most High would overshadow her as it did the Ark of the Covenant in ancient days, and create life within her.
She's already having a child with God, how could she have children with any mere mortal man?
Joseph's role in salvation history was to be the protector of the Mother of God, and the best way that he could do this was to be her "legal husband" as it were. Tradition tells us that even before the Annunciation there were no plans for them to live as a normal wedded couple, as she was a promised temple virgin. But even moreso afterwards, how could any man dare to take as his wife the woman who had literally given birth to God?
So there she is, Mary, Beloved of the Trinity. She sits at the heart of the ineffable and unfathomable mystery which is the Triune yet Single God, being the Daughter, Spouse, and Mother of God in a way shared by no other mortal. And yet, by the virtue of our humanity, we are connected to her, and she is in fact a prefigurement for us of the desire of God.
Mary's position is the position desired for all mankind by God. Christ said to the crowds, "Who is my Mother? The one who does the will of the one who sent me." Of course, Mary was the most perfectly obedient to that will, but Christ shows us that we are to follow her example that we too may become "the Mother of God," "the Radiant Spouse, the Church," and of course, "Children of the Most High, Heirs to the Kingdom of God."
We love her for we see in her the Love with which she was enveloped. We see her as the most perfect role model of how to accept the Love and the Will of God into our lives, and to make that Love present to the world.
So when you are asked why you pay so much attention to Mary, reply with a smile of joy, "Because God did!"