Having been raised in a traditional Protestant atmosphere. I was led to believe that Catholics placed far too great an emphasis on the Virgin Mary in their faith and practice and that such an emphasis deflected from the centrality of Christ.
But in some 30 years of ministry in a Protestant tradition I have learned that just the opposite is true. By upholding the importance of the Blessed Virgin. Catholics do not minimize the importance of Christ, but actually emphasize and underline His mission.
In order to understand what outsiders often refer to as “all the fuss about Mary.” We need to take a quick glimpse back into Church history. This historic perspective will help us see how the importance of Mary was lost by some of the reformers amid the debates and struggles of the 16th century and why it needs to be recovered by all Christians.
"WHEN THE CHURCH CEASES TO FOCUS ON MARY, IT LOSES IT'S FOCUS ON CHRIST." A figure of great stature during this time was a Dutch theologian named Desiderius Erasmus, who was born in Rotterdam in 1466, some 17 years before the birth of Martin Luther. Erasmus was a supporter of reform in the Church of his day, but he was also a loyal Catholic and remained so throughout his life. He was a first-rate scholar who produced a revised edition of the New Testament in Latin and edited the first Greek edition of the New Testament for the western world.
Erasmus is recognized as one of the leaders of the Renaissance. While he remained a loyal son of the Church, he didn’t hesitate to write essays criticizing those areas of Church life which he felt needed to come under scrutiny. But he never criticized the teachings of the Church. He maintained a friendship and a dialogue with Luther, Zwingli, and other reformers, but never joined their movement. Erasmus felt that nothing good could come from a revolt against the Church because he deeply believed in its basic unity.
He remains of particular significance to modern—day Christians because of his warnings against removing the Virgin Mary from her importance in the Church’s devotional life.
Between 1524 and 1529 he wrote several letters to both Luther and Zwingli in which he expressed concern over radical elements of the reform, which sought to do this very thing. He viewed this as the first step to a denial of Christ.
This denial of Christ is exactly what happened in later Protestant history. when leaders of the liberal Protestant movement emphasized Jesus as a teacher of morals and a model for social action rather than as the Incarnate Son of God.
Each step in the process seemed to naturally follow on the heels of the one before it. Once they dispensed with the Virgin Mary, the Incarnation was unimportant, and when the Incarnation became unimportant, the uniqueness of Christ was lost.
When the Church ceases to focus on Mary, it loses its focus on Christ. That’s the reason for “all the fuss about Mary.”
As Protestant theologian J. Gresham Machen admitted, “The overwhelming majority of those who reject the Virgin Birth, reject also the supernatural content of the New Testament.” Without a right focus on Mary and the Incarnation of her Divine Son, the Church loses its unique position of proclaiming God’s salvation through the sacrifice of her Son on the Cross. It’s that simple — without Mary, the entire Christian message is lost.
When a pastor administers the Eucharist, he is not bringing us mere symbols of the life of a good teacher or social reformer, but the Body and Blood of the Son of God who gave His life for our salvation. When the Church gathers for worship, study, or fellowship and when it works to alleviate human suffering, it does so not in the name of a social reformer any human organization can do that — but in the name of’ the Divine Son of God born of the Blessed Virgin.
"DEVOTION TO MARY LEADS US TO HER SON, NOT AWAY FROM HIM."
By proclaiming the unique position of Mary in history, the Church is not detracting from the importance of Christ: it is really emphasizing that importance. Devotion to Mary leads us to her Son, not away from Him. Protestants need to appreciate this fact about Catholic tradition. The celebration of Marian festivals is just one of the ways in which the Church celebrates the Christ event. Mary is worthy of our homage because God chose her as the means of presenting us with the greatest gift in history.
So, why all the fuss about Mary? Because at stake is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the Resurrection. Without these, the Christian faith is just another religion among the many.
The Church needs to continue focusing on the importance of Mary. In so doing, it will be remaining faithful to the commission given it by her Son.
Rev. Charles Dickson has been a Lutheran parish pastor for more than 30 years. He is active in ecumenical affairs and writes extensively religious periodicals. Dr Dickson is a college chemistry instructor,Lutheran pastor and author of the book, "A Protestant Pastor Looks at Mary"
This entire article is from Marian Helpers Bulletin