Author Topic: Questions about Mary  (Read 6648 times)

Charles Austin

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2021, 02:01:33 PM »
It is speculation about whether the Lord’s birth was unlike a normal human birth, that is, without blood, pain and the trauma often connected with a delivery that bothers me. If he were to be fully human, why should his delivery be anything but?
Retired ELCA Pastor. Former national staff Lutheran Church in America And the Lutheran world Federation, Geneva. Former journalist. Now retired and living in Minneapolis.

Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2021, 02:02:11 PM »
Peter, I concur. There have doubtless been many female saints who held this tradition to be true. Here’s Luther from a different sermon addressing the same topic:

Opening the womb is said only of those who have lost their virginity and who have got a child from a man. That did not happen with this mother, for she remained a virgin during the birth and after the birth, just as she was before the conception and the birth [lsa. 7:14]. And she suffered no harm to either body or virginity. The childbearing of other women does not arrive with laughing or amusement; instead, they have to feel fear and pain, as God said to Eve: “In pain you shall bring forth children” [Gen. 3:16]. But in this case it took place without pain or injury, and there was nothing but joy when she had borne the child. That is why the law of purification and the requirement to redeem the firstborn son did not apply to this mother and her Son, and likewise neither was she unclean. But over all other women, as over Eve, stands the law: “In pain you shall bring forth children.” They have to feel fear and pain, but for Mary the birth came without bitterness, fear, hardship, or pain. Although she is pure and the Law cannot bind her or her Son, nonetheless she submits herself and her Son to the Law. She obeys the commandment, though Moses had commanded nothing that pertained to them; and both mother and Son voluntarily submit themselves to and obey the Law, even though they were under no obligation to follow or obey it. For this command applied neither to the mother, Mary, nor to her Son. In the same way also He demonstrates His obedience to the Law in the circumcision, an obedience that He did not owe the Law in this case either, and there He shed His holy blood. For He was not born in sin like other children, and His mother also remained a pure, chaste maiden. (“Sermon for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple,” delivered in Eisleben in 1546, sixteen days before his  Luther died, Luther’s Works, Vol. 58 [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010], pp. 433-34)

« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 04:24:40 PM by Weedon »

Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #17 on: March 31, 2021, 02:03:51 PM »
Pr. Austin,

Humanity existed before the Fall. And Christ’s human nature is of a piece with that: with no sin. So to invert your question: why would you assume that a sinless child would give His mother pain in childbirth when pain in childbirth, according to Genesis 3, is a consequence of sin?

peter_speckhard

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2021, 02:20:07 PM »
On the other hand, we keep a family tradition from when I was little of reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to the kids in December, and that story hinges on the idea Jesus being born the normal way. Obviously it doesn't go into the actual details of the birth, but it talks about Mary being exhausted, etc.

I can go either way on the birth. If it really mattered, it would have been revealed. I do think the reasoning a tad suspect, though, to assume an unfallen, perfect baby would not cause pain to its mother by being born. The curse was on Eve. It wasn't pain in childbirth because the babies were sinners, but because the mothers were sinners. I think the underlying issue is the Immaculate conception of Mary and whether she, too, were unfallen by a special dispensation of God.

Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2021, 02:31:03 PM »
Pete,

That brings you to Luther’s thoughts on Mary’s sinlessness (by grace, not by nature) which is another can of worms... He affirmed quite late in his sermons: “Sie ist ohne alle Sünde.” He always attributes this not as an achievement of the Virgin, but as a gift of her from the Spirit. It was, I suppose, his way of wrestling with the whole question of how the sinless Son can be born of a sinful woman:

“But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed [Weedon comment: code words there for tradition, not Scripture], was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin.” (Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, trans. and ed. J. Pelikan. Concordia: St. Louis, Volume 4, 694)

And from the Personal Prayer Book (a relatively early writing, but reprinted throughout the 16th century: AE 43:40), his meditation on the Ave Maria:

“In the first place, she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.... In the third place, she is blessed above all other women, not only because she gave birth without labor, pain, and injurty to herself, not as Eve and other women, but because by the Holy Spirit and without sin, she became fertile and conceived, and gave birth in a way granted to no other woman. In the fourth place, her giving birth is blessed in that it was spared the curse upon all children of Eve who are conceived in sin and born to deserve death and damnation.”
« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 03:26:30 PM by Weedon »

peter_speckhard

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #20 on: March 31, 2021, 02:53:32 PM »
Pete,

That brings you to Luther’s thoughts on Mary’s sinlessness (by grace, not by nature) which is another can of worms... He affirmed quite late in his sermons: “Sie ist ohne alle Sünde.” He always attributes this not as an achievement of the Virgin, but as a gift of her from the Spirit. It was, I suppose, his way of wrestling with the whole question of how the sinless Son can be born of a sinful woman.

“But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin.” (Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, trans. and ed. J. Pelikan. Concordia: St. Louis, Volume 4, 694)

And from the Personal Prayer Book (a relatively early writing, but reprinted throughout the 16th century: AE 43:40), his meditation on the Ave Maria:

“In the first place, she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.... In the third place, she is blessed above all other women, not only because she gave birth without labor, pain, and injurty to herself, not as Eve and other women, but because by the Holy Spirit and without sin, she became fertile and conceived, and gave birth in a way granted to no other woman. In the fourth place, her giving birth is blessed in that it was spared the curse upon all children of Eve who are conceived in sin and born to deserve death and damnation.”
You can learn a lot, depending on the guide, on a Holy Land trip by asking the guide about the various monuments and churches you don't go into (there are way too many to visit them all). Catholics, branches of Orthodoxy, Armenians, Copts-- all have competing places where various extra-Biblical events took place by tradition. One every tour does go to because of the amazing acoustics and architecture, and the fact that it is right next to the pool of Bethesda is the Crusader-built Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem. It was built on a more ancient Byzantine church, which in turn was on the site of a grotto believed to be Mary's childhood home, Anne and Joachim being her parents. When people ask how anyone knows that or what difference it makes, you get a sense of some of the history of Marian devotion and how modern Protestants differ from large swaths of historic Christendom. 

The speculation about her being exempt from the effects of the Fall also lead to various shrines and churches claiming to be the site of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, being exempt from the curse, could not have died, either. Other places purport to mark where she died. 

Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #21 on: March 31, 2021, 03:02:22 PM »
It gets to the Lutheran distinction: traditions which can be congruent with Scripture; or traditions which contradict the Scriptures. Piepkorn defended the possibility of the assumption *as a tradition*, but denied that it could ever be elevated—as Rome did in the mid 20th century—to dogma, and dogma that must be professed upon pain of damnation! Lutherans as a whole, holding to the inversion of the Calvinist regulative principle, were perfectly free to receive whatever in the tradition did not contradict the Scriptures; but they still noted: tradition, not Word of God for sure. Peter crucified upside down; Paul beheaded outside Rome; Mary as ever Virgin; Mary taken to heaven in body and soul by her Son; and so on. All of a piece.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 03:04:34 PM by Weedon »

John_Hannah

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #22 on: March 31, 2021, 03:08:04 PM »
Just what important and vital teaching is affected one way or the other if Mary is "Ever Virgin" or not? I am grateful for the wisdom of our fathers and the boundaries set by their confessions.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

peter_speckhard

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #23 on: March 31, 2021, 03:20:24 PM »
Just what important and vital teaching is affected one way or the other if Mary is "Ever Virgin" or not? I am grateful for the wisdom of our fathers and the boundaries set by their confessions.

Peace, JOHN
I think for some the connection is simply a matter of logical necessity. For example, when people say Mary must have given birth in pain because Jesus is truly human, they make the Flacian error, as Will pointed out, of confusing the effects of the fall with human nature itself. A lot of it seems to go back to Second Adam considerations, with Mary, the type of the Church, as the new Eve. Just as Eve was taken from the unfallen Adam's side by a special, unique act of God unlike any other birth, so Jesus, in reverse of that, was taken from Mary (necessarily unfallen) by a special act of God unlike any other birth.   

Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #24 on: March 31, 2021, 03:38:24 PM »
John,

See my opening post on this thread. St. Basil confesses that NO vital teaching hangs on the ever-virginity of Mary; Luther mocks those who make too much of it. But both men held it as a *tradition* that they regarded (and preached) as true and not being in conflict with the Sacred Scriptures themselves. But to dogmatically declare the tradition as out of bounds because it *could not* be true, is to fall into the ditch of Nestorianism, which would deny the possibility of the communication of attributes that would allow our Lord to leave His pure and kingly hall with the door still very much “closed.”

If it’s not clear, all I’m trying to do in this thread is to preserve the space in Lutheranism for those who HOLD to the tradition as a true tradition. To close that space to such is to disinvite Luther, Rhegius, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Lossius, and sundry others (and that would include me) from the Lutheran Church or to declare their allegiance to our Symbols somehow suspect. It’s also to part company with the overwhelming majority of our beloved ancient Fathers.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 03:53:03 PM by Weedon »

mariemeyer

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #25 on: March 31, 2021, 03:54:39 PM »
Pr. Weedon writes.....
And from the Personal Prayer Book (a relatively early writing, but reprinted throughout the 16th century: AE 43:40), his meditation on the Ave Maria:

“In the first place, she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.... In the third place, she is blessed above all other women, not only because she gave birth without labor, pain, and injurty to herself, not as Eve and other women, but because by the Holy Spirit and without sin, she became fertile and conceived, and gave birth in a way granted to no other woman. In the fourth place, her giving birth is blessed in that it was spared the curse upon all children of Eve who are conceived in sin and born to deserve death and damnation.”

I respond....
Might we say that Luther offered different thoughts on Mary during his life? 

In the Magnificat Commentary Luther writes, "For though she experienced such an exceeding great work of God within herself, yet she was ever minded not to exalt herself above the humblest mortal being.....She finds herself the Mother of God, exalted above all mortal, and still remains so simple and so calm that she does  not think of any poor serving maid as beneath her....

"Mary confesses that the foremost work God did for her was that He regarded her ....

"Note that she does not say men will speak all manner of good of her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility or sing of what she has done. But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed.  That is to give all the glory to God as completely as it can be done.  Therefore she points to  God's regard and says, 'For, behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed: That is, beginning with the time when God regarded my low estate, I shall be called blessed."  Not she is praised thereby but God's grace toward her. 

"Here she sings in one breath of all the works God has done for her and observes the proper order.... In giving us the gifts He gives only what is His, but in His grace and His regard of us He gives His very self.  In the gifts we touch His hand, but in his gracious regard we receive His heart, spirit, mind and will....Thus God would not have His true children put their trust in His good and gifts, spiritual or temporal, however great they may be, but in His grace and in Himself, yet without despising the gifts....

"Nor does Mary enumerate any good things in particular, but gathers them all together in one word and says, 'He has done great things for me.' That is: 'Everything He has done for me is great.'  She teaches us here that the greater devotion there is in the heart, the fewer words are uttered..

"The 'great things' are nothing less than that she became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such good things are bestowed on her as pass man's understanding....

"In order to be the Mother of God, she had to be a woman, a virgin, of the tribe of Judah, and had to believe the angelic message in order to become worthy, as the Scriptures for told....

"For it is better to take too much from her than from the grace of God. Indeed, we cannot take away too much from her, since was created out of  nothing like all other creatures." 

It is not without good cause that Luther's Magnificat Commentary is considered a key to understanding Luther's theology of the cross...something for all to ponder this Holy Week. 

Marie Meyer

Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #26 on: March 31, 2021, 03:58:18 PM »
Marie,

I, for one, see no tension between the Personal Prayer Book of 1522 and Luther’s commentary on the Magnificat from the year prior. What happens if the words are not read in tension but as complementary, which is how I believe the author of both intended?
« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 04:00:11 PM by Weedon »

John_Hannah

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #27 on: March 31, 2021, 04:16:26 PM »

If it’s not clear, all I’m trying to do in this thread is to preserve the space in Lutheranism for those who HOLD to the tradition as a true tradition. To close that space to such is to disinvite Luther, Rhegius, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Lossius, and sundry others (and that would include me) from the Lutheran Church or to declare their allegiance to our Symbols somehow suspect. It’s also to part company with the overwhelming majority of our beloved ancient Fathers.


Yes. Not only is it parting company with our beloved fathers, it feeds modern anti-Catholciism and places American Lutheranism where we do not belong.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #28 on: March 31, 2021, 04:49:05 PM »
I think for some the connection is simply a matter of logical necessity. For example, when people say Mary must have given birth in pain because Jesus is truly human, they make the Flacian error, as Will pointed out, of confusing the effects of the fall with human nature itself. A lot of it seems to go back to Second Adam considerations, with Mary, the type of the Church, as the new Eve. Just as Eve was taken from the unfallen Adam's side by a special, unique act of God unlike any other birth, so Jesus, in reverse of that, was taken from Mary (necessarily unfallen) by a special act of God unlike any other birth.   

Very well stated.
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Charles Austin

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #29 on: March 31, 2021, 05:02:57 PM »
I guess I am really not with it.
This whole thread of discussion answers a question that I have not asked, that I do not understand, and that doesn’t seem to me to matter very much when it comes to understanding the gospel. All that we have clear in scripture, it seems to my obviously inadequate understanding, is that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. Beyond that, we have suggestions in scriptures that she had other children.
How Jesus emerged from the womb or whether that womb was the site for other births seems to me to be not very important In helping people understand the gospel or inspiring them to respond to it.
But then, I’m just an almost-heretical progressive.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Former national staff Lutheran Church in America And the Lutheran world Federation, Geneva. Former journalist. Now retired and living in Minneapolis.