Tonight we are going to begin our discussion of Mary. Growing up Methodist, Mary only makes a limited appearance in church – in the manager at Christmas, at the foot of the Cross on Palm/Passion Sunday, and in the Creed. For me, Mary was merely an historical character in the Scriptures not unlike the other Marys and her only relevance for a modern Christian would be her example of perfect obedience to God’s request.
However, for the apostolic churches of Rome or in the East or some Anglicans, Mary is more than simply a character in Scripture. She is the intercessor and mediator between the Divine and Us, for it is in Mary and through Mary’s willful consent that the Incarnation, and therefore our salvation, comes about. For example, writing in the late 2nd century in his book Against Heresies, Irenaeus of Lyon states that Mary, as the second Eve, is the cause of our salvation and an advocate before God. Autobiographically, Irenaeus tells us that he learned the gospel from Polycarp who learned it from St. John himself, to whom Jesus entrusted his mother. Drawing off of Paul’s reasoning of Jesus as the new Adam in Rom. 5:12-21, Irenaeus says that Mary is the new Eve. Just as Eve caused sin to enter the world, so Mary caused the salvation of humankind to enter the world. I have attached two excerpts from Irenaeus where he makes this argument for Mary’s exalted status. (Book III, Ch.22.4, Book V, Ch.19.1)
Under your mercy,
We take refuge, O Mother of God:
Do not reject our supplications in times of trouble:
But rescue us from dangers,
Alone pure and only blessed one.
This prayer is presently used in the liturgies of both Rome and the East. The first record of the prayer is found on a papyrus of a Coptic (Egyptian) Christmas liturgy dating from c. 250. Prayers to Mary (which still make me uncomfortable) are part of our earliest liturgies. For these early Christians, Mary was not a historical figure but a very present reality.
Tuesday, December 1: Mary 1
Sunday, December 6: Christmas drop-in from 5-8
Tuesday, December 8: NO GATHERING
Sunday, December 13: Beer and Carols at Liberty Broadway (see me for details)
Tuesday, December 15: Mary 2
Dinner is at 6. The menu is Mandarin chicken spinach salad. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,Salve Regina
Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send forth our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.
℣ Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
℟ that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, thy Son.