Editorial: Honoring Mary

I had not planned to begin posting in 2011 until tomorrow, as my earlier announcement indicated.

But in my morning devotions, I realized that the Christian calendar (for many believers and churches) begins the new year with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the “saint of the day.”  Reading several writings about her has prompted some reflections I want to share with you.

For many Protestants, devotion to Mary–particularly as “the mother of God” (theotokos) is simply going too far.  And a look at church history does reveal illustrations that take the commemoration to excess.

But, the greater danger (in my opinion) is a neglect of Mary, born out of an unrealistic fear that we will reverence her more than we should.  Mary occupies a significant place in the Christian story, and a quick look at that place can enhance our Christian experience.

First, she was the “bearer of God.”  That is the literal meaning of “theotokos.”  There is clearly a physicality to this phrase, for Jesus literally gestated in Mary’s womb, and she gave birth to him in Bethlehem.  But it is her symbolic value that we must not lose, for in a very real sense (and even the early Christians stressed this) each of us can “bear Christ” in our hearts.  This is the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and other “in Christ/Christ in you” passages in the New Testament.  We can represent the spirit of Mary as we repeat her words, “let it be to me according to your word.”

But secondly, and equally important, Mary illustrates a quiet spirituality that is meant for all who follow the way of Christ.  This may be where an excessive adoration of her actually works against what we find about her in the Bible.  She simply does not “stand out” in the biblical narrative, but into the Book of Acts, Mary is present and active.  Another way to honor Mary is to adopt her stance—that of being engaged, but not having to occupy center stage. 

Doubtless there are other valuable connections between her life and ours.  But today, I thought that these two might be enough for us to join with millions of other Christians today who will say “thank you” to God for Mary.  That’s the proper way to do it, and no doubt the way she would want us to express our gratitude.  The ultimate appreciation is always to say, “Thanks be to God!”

 This is exactly what Mary did herself as she looked at her life and exclaimed, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
This entry was posted in Editorials. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Editorial: Honoring Mary

  1. Gary Jackson says:

    Dr. Harper,

    My heart has been strangely warmed by your editorial. 🙂


Comments are closed.