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C.S. Lewis summed up a very Anglican perspective of the Virgin Mary in the preface to Mere Christianity (it’s a bit wordy and a bit heady): “There is no controversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as this [that is, the question of Blessed Virgin Mary]. The Roman Catholic beliefs on that subject are held not only with the ordinary fervour that attaches to all sincere religious belief, but (very naturally) with the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honour of his mother or his beloved is at stake. It is very difficult so to dissent from them that you will not appear to them a cad as well as a heretic. And contrariwise, the opposed Protestant beliefs on this subject call forth feelings which go down to the very roots of all Monotheism whatever. To radical Protestants it seems that the distinction between Creator and creature (however holy) is imperilled: that Polytheism is risen again. Hence it is hard so to dissent from them that you will not appear worse than a heretic — a Pagan.” (p. ix-x) Bottom line: According to the Roman Catholic view, if you do not give the Blessed Virgin Mary due reverence you are a “cad as well as a heretic.” From a protestant perspective, if you do give her reverence, you are a “pagan.” Based on those two options, I am a delightfully – Hail, Mary, Full of grace – happy pagan. I don’t plan on solving this conflict today, we don’t have the time for this one, so I’ll very briefly tell you why I believe as I do by looking at the beginning and the end. If in the end you vehemently disagree, I’ll be OK with you calling me a pagan.
At the beginning, the conception of Jesus, God becoming Man – the Annunciation – the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary by saying, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you.” “Highly favored one” is an indication to us that Mary is someone of great worth and significance to Our Father and His plan of salvation, and if she is of great worth and significance to Him, then I believe that she should be viewed likewise by us. We do not receive our salvation from her, but we did receive salvation through her and her “Yes” to God; therefore, we should see her in a highly elevated status.
Next, from John’s Gospel at the scene of the crucifixion – Yes, we are moving fast – Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold your son!” and in so doing, gave the disciple, and also the Church, us to His Mother. We have been given to Mary as her children. Then Jesus said to the disciple – and in so doing said to us – “Behold your mother!” In saying this, Jesus gave his mother to John, to the Church, to us. “And from that hour that disciple – John, the Church, us – took her to his own home.” That is, Mary was given a place in our lives and in the Church.
For me, in those two events, God points out how significant Mary is and that we have been given to her as her children and she has been given to us as our mother. Not everyone will see it that way, but I ask that you meditate on it, and if anyone calls you a pagan, I’ll say a Hail Mary for them.
Let us pray. This is the Salve, Regina a Marian hymn from the middle-ages: Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.