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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (St Matthew xii.47-50)

Many Protestants would use this incident in St Matthew's Gospel to present an obstacle to Our Lady being the Queen of Heaven. If we can all be mothers of Jesus, then surely Mary is not special. If we can all be Mary, then we can all be queens of Heaven.

There is an obvious problem with this. First, there is the obvious fact that each one of us has only one biological mother. There is only one person who actually gave birth to us. and thus there can only be one such person. There is only one mother of Jesus and, if Jesus is God and King of Heaven, Mary must therefore be the unique Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. If the Protestant balks at this simple piece of logical deduction from Biblical premises, then he must not make in his faith any similar use of logic for fear of committing the same offence!

However, the Protestant, as always, has a very good point to make in that we cannot allow our veneration of the Virgin Mary to spill over into idolatry. We can quite easily do that if we put her up on so high a pedestal that she loses her humanity. Unlike her son, Our Lady has only a human nature - a nature which is damaged by the sinfulness of human beings. Although many in the Early Church affirm that Our Lady is sinless, the presence of sin in human nature means that she, too, requires salvation. One can easily see the effects of sin in her life when we see her watching her son crucified upon the cross. The sin of those who had Him crucified affects her, but it is her choice whether or not to allow this sin to cause her to sin. If the Early Church is to be believed, it did not.

The Protestant is right to force us to remember the humanity of Our Lady. . Indeed, St Augustine of Hippo says:

Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and my sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her - did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Thus, as the Protestant must recognise, the Blessed Virgin Mary is a woman of faith, indeed a complete faith in God. She is free to make the decision to bear Jesus and God who knows not only what must be but also what could be, what might be and what might not be, rewards her with the gift of His Incarnation. 

In full agreement with our Protestant, we can say categorically that Our Lord's words show us very clearly that we share in her motherhood of Christ if we do as she did and do the will of the Father. St Augustine goes on to say:

Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

We are charged with bringing to birth the Christ that is in us and in that sense we become mothers of God. What we will not do is become His mother as Our Lady did. Christianity does not believe in reincarnation. We are born once, die and then go to judgement. Likewise, neither Our Lord, nor Our Lady will be born again save that we put on Christ in our living and become members of the Church, the Body of Christ.

We venerate Our Lady best when we seek to share with her in her motherhood of Christ, for where Christ is, Our Lady is never far away. We venerate her best when, in seeing her ikon, we resolve to live as she lived and obey as she obeyed and love as she loved. We venerate her best when we recognise her as the Queen of Heaven and worship her son who is God Himself. While we may bow the knee to her, with her we fall prostrate before Christ the King and are raised up by Him through His death and resurrection. 

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy...

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