May – The Month of Mary

This, by Peregrinus, from his excellent blog Peregrinations:

May – The Month of Mary

To honour Blessed Mary, the mother of Our Lord, the month of May is traditionally acknowledged as the month of Mary in the Church's calendar. She is also honoured especially on Saturdays throughout the year and on her several solemnities and feast days e.g. Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Victory, etc.

No other saint is accorded such devotion. It is the source of great spiritual strength for the majority of Christians who understand and accept that an appropriate, biblical and thoroughgoing Mariology is the most important support for understanding the role of Christ (Christology) upon which the entire Christian enterprise rests.

"You are either Marian or you are Arian." This is a blunt but not inaccurate way of stating the case. What does it mean?

To be Marian is to believe that the mother of Jesus is truly the Theotokos (as defined by the Council of Ephesus, AD 431) or mother of God in that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine and so his mother is the God-bearer or the mother who brought the incarnate God into this world. Nothing less really does justice to who Jesus is as the second person of God the Holy Trinity.

The Arian heresy (which had and has many variations including semi-Arianism, etc.) is stuck to one degree or another on the idea that the humanity of Jesus cannot co-exist with the divine nature in the single person of Jesus. The doctrine that Christ has two natures was and continues to be a problem for many who want, to some degree, to claim Jesus and a limited 'Christianity' without what they consider the troublesome baggage of dogma.

In other words, Arians and many modern so-called 'liberal Christians' want a good Jesus, a human Jesus, a blessed Jesus, a spirit-led Jesus, a prophetic Jesus, a holy Jesus, even a sinless Jesus but not a divine Jesus.

Catholic Christianity teaches that it is really Mary that they should be looking for in this regard: a good woman, a blessed woman, a holy woman, a sinless woman. Yes, the doctrine of Immaculate Conception (often confused with the Virgin Birth of Jesus) applies to Mary and means that though she had an earthly mother and father she is immaculate i.e. preserved from the taint of sin so that she was prepared to be the mother of the divine Jesus Christ. Nothing less than a sinless immaculate vessel would do for the unique entry of God into our humanity.

If Mary does not occupy this position as the Blessed Virgin Mary, immaculate, the first Christian of the human family (i.e. Catholic Mariology) then Jesus will logically and likely be forced into this category in the minds of many well-meaning but doctrinally misled people.

Blessed Mary is not divine; she is sinless. She is not worshipped she is the object of our love and devotion. She is honoured in order to direct all worship, praise and adoration to her divine Son.

We do not pray to her as a god; rather the Catholic Church teaches that in a real sense she is our mother as well — the Mother of Christians and Queen of Heaven — and just as we ask our own earthly mothers to pray for us so we ask Mary's prayers. As the universal invocation goes: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee . . . pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."

Has devotion to Mary been exaggerated and has she sometimes been seen as a substitute for prayer to God in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ? Yes, just as with any good thing or any good idea, devotion to Mary has been and can be abused. However, the abuses associated with the lack of a proper understanding of Mary's role in the history of salvation are arguably far more dangerous because they undermine a proper understanding of the divine nature of Jesus and his saving action and mission as the incarnate God.

Mary is in the divine presence having been received body and soul into heaven and so intercedes unceasingly as our Blessed Mother. Why would we expect anything less. She is alive to God but united to us through her divine Son whose body we are part of by virtue of our Baptism.

As someone said to me: If you meet a person, liked them, respected them and honoured them, you would naturally want to know their mother and speak with her as well. If we know Christ, why would we not want to know and speak with his mother?

Yes, there are all sorts of historical hang-ups people have over devotion to saints as we have mentioned on this blog. These and the problems with devotion to the Blessed Virgin are largely misunderstandings of the Church's actual teachings or conclusions drawn from abuses which often have not been at issue for generations or centuries in most places. In short, misunderstanding the Church's teaching with regard to Mary and the saints is often simply a matter of prejudice not based upon fact or real practice but upon impression, rumour and ignorance.

What do we need to do? Ask Mary's prayers for her misguided children and for the rest of humanity which is fallen and needs her Son. Many approach her Son, Jesus, supported by the maternal love which she offers. Blessed Mary's acceptance and compassion is unlimited because she is sinless and "full of grace". She dearly wants to love us in the service of her Son's mission, the salvation of humanity.

So "the merry, merry month of May" is much merrier in the truest sense of the word for those who devote themselves to the Blessed Mother and join her in giving all worship and praise in the power of the Holy Spirit through her Son to the God the Father.

"My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour."

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

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