It’s been almost a week since the church celebrated the Feast day of the Theotokos, the young virgin who bore God. No other person played such a significant role in the salvation that our Lord brings to us. The blood that was shed and the body, which was broken came from her willing response to God’s summons.
Apart from her there is no Incarnation.
There is much that could be said in her honor, and of course limitless gratitude that ought to be expressed, but I want to comment on the zealousness of the protests against many of the traditions that have attached themselves to this dear lady. Nothing seems to draw the ire of Evangelicals like a sincere belief in The Holy Virgin’s Immaculate Conception, her sinless life, or her physical Assumption. That puzzles me.
If you were to conduct an informal poll, I think you’d find that Americans are divided on whether George Washington really destroyed his father’s cherry tree and then came clean about it because he refused to tell a lie. Maybe he did; maybe he didn’t. I know I have my opinion, but the point I’d like to make is that the historical question doesn’t generate a lot of heat. In contrast if opposing positions were maintained about whether or not Americans (especially American Presidents) were even capable of admitting to wrong doing, then you might have a fight on your hands. The historicity and the implied issues of possibility are two different kinds of questions, or so it seems to me.
I can understand people not believing in any of the extraordinary events reported of the Virgin Mary, but I don’t understand why any orthodox Christian would argue that they couldn’t have possibly taken place. The stories of her life are not treated as interesting (and significantly encouraging) points of historical enquiry; rather their affirmation is viewed as an attack on the integrity of the gospel. This appears wrong headed to me. It’s also discouraging because it reveals a very inadequate understanding of what Christ has in store for every one of his children.
By all accounts- including her own testimony- The Virgin Mary, as an heir of our first parents, was in need of a savior. Because of her Son’s work on her behalf, she lived a sinless life- or so the story goes. Is this really as scandalous as some would make it? Do they not know that one day each of us, because of Christ’s work on our behalf, will freely and continually spend an eternity of days without sin?
Christ raised her physically to be with him. Whether this occurred before or after her death is a matter of debate, but many believe she was taken bodily into her son’s presence. Is there anything here that can be ruled out as a possibility? Do we not know that each of us looks for the resurrection of the dead?
I’ve remember a favorite blogger of mine mockingly quoting her ancient veneration, “More honorable than the cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” Where, he asks, does scripture teach that? Does he not know that both he and I- indeed every one of Christ’s people- have been lifted above the angels? We reign and rule with our big brother. We will fully share in his exaltation.
It seems to me that those who want to fight over the possibility of these things only reveal an impoverished understanding of the salvation that plain bland vanilla Christianity affirms.
Relegate it to the realm of legend, but please smile when the notched cherry tree is mentioned. There’s nothing in the tale of young Washington that ought to offend a good American, and it’s entirely in keeping with what we believe about our first President. No harm; no foul. In a similar way, even if we decide to chalk it up to simple naiveté (and I don’t believe we should), the idea of the Virgin being lifted to meet Christ in the clouds ought to please us at some level. It shows that the work of her Son has been understood; it’s the denial of the possibility of a fully redeemed human being that ought to make us sad.