Comments: background to debate on Mary

I rarely agree with what Fulcrum have to say but in their comments on ARCIC and Mary they are spot on.

The problem with ARCIC is that it almost inevitably has agreement built into it, sometimes to the point of a disambiguation that few Anglicans other than those on the catholic wing really believe.

Over the years ARCIC has made some extraordinary claims about how much Anglicans and Roman Catholics have in common. If they were really true we should all be queuing up for the ordinariate.

Posted by Anglican Observer at Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 1:10pm GMT

A disappointingly superficial reading of the ARCIC document, which is on my nightstand right now, from Fulcrum, not that we should be surprised after what passes for profound reflection on the Covenant from their corner. For all that Bishop Kings pleads not wanting to give away the game, by adopting RC language of "dogma" he implicitly does so. He also seems to conflate "consonance" (which the Assumption, as a poetic illustration of the general resurrection hoped for all, certainly passes muster) with "mandate," implying a sort of regulative principle (if it's not sanctioned, it's forbidden). As for the addressing of private devotions, this again may not date all the way back to the Bible but is exceedingly ancient nevertheless and certainly well established centuries before the controversies of the Reformation. It can hardly be numbered among the high mediaeval accretions shorn by the same. If Bishop Kings is really convinced it is wrong he is going to have to go one better than the CoE and go much farther back in theoretical history to find his pristine version of Christianity - certainly before 250, when the earliest recorded prayer to the Theotokos is dated. Of course, by the same logic, he must renounce the decidedly later Nicene Creed as an equally "post-Biblical development." Or, of course, he could recognize the futility of his project and admit that all Christendom has always looked to the living tradition of the Church in its walking with Scripture.

Posted by Geoff at Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 3:33pm GMT

"Luke is also conscious that Mary was reflecting on what was happening and it may be that a lot of what we know about the birth narratives somehow comes from Mary's reflection. In this sense Mary is also the first theologian, if you like, not just the first Christian but the first theologian who was thinking about the things that God was doing with her and for her and in her."

- Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali -

T omy suprise, I am very much in accord with Bp.Nazir-Ali's summary of the recent ARCIC deliberations on the place of Mary in God's plan of salvation - very Catholic and very Orthodox.

One is not too spurpised at the niggardliness of Bishop Graham King's response to the matter. He is typically reluctant to give the Mother of Christ her due - unlike the Anglican Office of Evensong, which repeats the biblical assumption that 'All generations shall call (her) Blessed'.

I have problems with the concept of Mary's personal nomenclature of 'Immaculate Conception' - and consequently her accolade of sinlessness (did not Jesus come into the world to share our sinful human nature, and if his Mum was sinless, then that would put the spanner in the works on that issue, at least). but I have no problem with the notion of Mary being God's agency of the Immaculate Conception of Jesus.

About Mary's 'Assumption'; there is a Biblical precedent in the Assumption of the Prophet Elijah on a whirl-wind! Should not the Mother of God (for Jesus is fully God) be given the came dignity - if that's what God decided to accord to his spoecailly Blessed One?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 11 February 2011 at 12:15am GMT

Did Mary, in fact, become a Christian ? Seems unlikely.

Should we be in such an unrealistic and romanticised rush to see her (and others) to abandon her Judaism ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 13 February 2011 at 8:40pm GMT

"Did Mary, in fact, become a Christian ? Seems unlikely" - Laurence Roberts. -

Is this a serious question, Laurence? Or are you pulling the corporate leg?

At the time of Mary's earthly life, apart from bearing the Incarnate Christ (one might see this as a priestly action), she became one of his most devoted followers - to the Cross; and afterwards the surrogate 'mother' of St. John, his Beloved Disciple. Mary is also thought to have been a friend of St. Luke, the Physician, who gave us the infancy narratives about Jesus.

All the liturgical Christian Initiation formulae in the world cannot do better than than - to prove Mary's allegiance to Christ, and a fully paid=up member of his Body, The Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 14 February 2011 at 5:28am GMT

Where is the evidence that she did anything more than follow her son to his bitter end as any mother would, and then returned home to be a normal wife and mother, still not understanding what he was about, far less becoming an ardent follower?
And every now and then, when John turned up, she gave him a home and treated him like one of her own while he was there.

I know that this admiration and elevation of Mary is hugely important to Anglo-Catholics and to all of Roman Catholicism.
But it's not actually grounded in any kind of solid testimony. And, more importantly, it doesn't form part of the creeds.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 14 February 2011 at 9:41am GMT


I am aware that the protestant soul finds it difficult to accede to any sort of devotion to Mary, the mother of Christ - even though the Magnificat - which is said or sung at every Anglican Evensong - echoes the phrase: "All generations shall call me Blessed!"

Without Mary's 'Yes' to God, The Incarnation might have been something rather different from the reversal of the sin of Adam (disobedience).
Her nurture of the Infant Christ is a treasured tradition of the Church Universal East and West - her title 'Theotokos' being acclaimed by both traditions.

Simply put: the humanity of Mary was shared by the Divine Son - thereby infusing our common human with the quality of divinity. This is at the heart of our devotion to Mary, than, in her, God was 'pleased to dwell' - as God is pleased to dwell in all who share the life of Christ.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 12:19am GMT

I have no doubt that this is good theology.
What I do question is that it is part of what Christians have to believe.

You seemed surprised that Laurence questioned whether Mary did become a Christian. Obviously, as an Anglo-Catholic, you do not even entertain that idea.
But I don't think there is any cause to be surprised by it. To question the elevation of Mary is fairly standard stuff and also supported by good theology.
It’s one of those things were Christians can disagree without any difficulties.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 8:55am GMT

Erika, you seem to equivocate between questioning the "elevation" of Mary (as Protestant thinkers long have done) and questioning whether she was a Christian at all. The latter is hardly a specifically Anglo-Catholic notion; all of Christendom regards Mary as a saint - i.e. she said Yes and consented to God's plan, and remained by Christ's side to the end. That's hardly controversial stuff and Fr Ron's bemusement at its questioning (which I share) can hardly be chalked up to Anglo-Catholic scruples. If it's simply a reworking of the "Jesus wasn't a Christian" meme (i.e. Mary was an observant Jew and is not recorded as having undergone Trinitarian water baptism) well and good, but if the suggestion is that she was not a believer in the message she herself bore, then surely you must admit that is a novel interpretation - indeed, one I've not heard pressed by even the most Reformed anti-Mariolater. I don't imagine anyone would "require" you to believe it on pain of forfeiting the name of Christian - if you want to look at the catholic faith as a bare minimum of what you can get away with - but then the same could be true of any saint. What "evidence" do we have that any of them 'became Christians' as a matter of historical fact, other than that the tradition records them as models of sanctity in the faith?

Posted by Geoff at Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 3:05pm GMT

My question has nothing to do with 'Protestantism
';and everything to do with history. Particularly the histories of Judaism and Christianity.

Historically it is unclear, but it seems that 'Christianity' or something resembling it came into being some time (decades?) after the death of Jesus.

But with Judaism's tragic history, in which we played such a decisive and terrible part, it is very important not to rush in, hoping for and investing emotionally and theologically, in a Jewess's abandonment of her ancient Faith. Many Jews have been treated this way down through 'Christian' history.(Please don't make me spell this out in terms of its terrible twentieth century denoument).

Yes,of course, we have our own devotional richness of prayer and pious legend, but the history and integrity of the Jewish faith and People must not be sacrificed to these our needs - yet again.

This is about real people. Only this week, it turned out that a funeral I was taking was for a person who was, in fact, Jewish. I only found this out as we went in with the coffinand his friend asked to say the Kaddish at The Comittal. So this person's funeral was almost - for whatever reason - 'taken over'. The prayer recited in Hebrew was terribly moving.

We must remain vigilant to the sensibilities and feelings of Mary's People.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 5:04pm GMT

The article by bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is most comprehensive and compelling. Thank You for making us aware of it. It's one of the most interesting pieces I've read since the publication of "Mary For All Christians" by John (Ian) Macquarrie (Collins-Erdmans 1990 & 1991). I'd like to encourage folks so interested to look for a copy of Macquarrie's book. A gem in the book is the devotional appendix "An Ecumenical Office of Mary the mother of Jesus." Like so many Christians, the traditional Ave or "Hail Mary" is an indelible part of my faith formation. I frequently make use of this my "aggiornamento" adaptation of the Ave. I pass it on to others who may find it useful at times.

(Alleluia). Rejoice with gladness daughter of Divine favor. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is Jesus the child of your womb. (Alleluia). Mary sanctified, bearer of God, pray for us that we may be filled with new life.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 3:16am GMT

the Protestantism I was brought up in allowed the possibility that Mary remained embedded in her Jewish faith.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 8:51am GMT
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