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Mary, Mother of God

on Tuesday, 01 April 2008. Posted in Virgin Mary

Scott Hahn was born in 1957, married Kimberly in 1979 with whom he has six children. He is now working as a Professor of Theology and Scripture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he has been teaching since 1990. He is also the founder and director of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

Dr. Hahn received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a triple major in Theology, Philosophy and Economics from Grove City College, Pennsylvania in 1979, with his Masters of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982, and his Ph.D. in Biblical Theology from Marquette University in 1995. He has over ten years of youth and pastoral experience in various Protestant congregations, and is a former Professor of Theology at Chesapeake Theological Seminary. He was ordained a minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia. He entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 1986.

She Gave the Word Flesh

For many years, I considered Marian doctrine and devotion to be symptomatic of a mortal infection within Catholics; indeed, it represented what was most wrong with Catholicism. Paradoxically, my former anti-Marian views have resulted in an appreciation for the common objections frequently raised against the Church's teachings about Mary.

Cradle Catholics often have no idea of the repugnance "Bible Christians" feel for Marian doctrines and devotions. It was then that someone mailed me a plastic Rosary. As I opened the package, I felt I was facing the toughest obstacle of all. Yet, by that time, so many doctrines of the Catholic Church had proven to be biblically sound that I decided to step out in faith on this one. I began, hesitatingly, to pray my first Rosary, offering it for a specific intention, a situation that seemed hopeless by human standards. Wonder of wonders, my prayers were answered. The seemingly impossible situation was reversed.

(Editor`s note: After a conversation with a Protestant friend named Chris who asked him if he was praying to Mary, Scott began researching the Bible regarding Marian doctrine.)

First, I reminded Chris that, as a man, Christ fulfilled God's law perfectly, including the commandment to honor one's father and mother. The Hebrew word for honor, kabbed, literally means "to glorify." So Christ didn't just honor His Heavenly Father. He also perfectly honored His earthly mother, Mary, by bestowing His own divine glory upon her.

Our veneration of Mary, then, is an essential part of our imitation of Christ. We follow Him not just by honouring our own mothers, but also by honoring whomever He honors and with the same honor that He bestows.

Here was the greater miracle I gained through the Rosary. From that moment, I sensed how praying the beads deepened my own theological penetration of Scripture. Mary was no longer an obstacle to faith; she was opening its mysteries to me.

Do we detract from Christ's finished work by affirming its perfect realization in Mary? On the contrary, we celebrate His work precisely by focusing our attention on the human person who manifests it most perfectly.

Mary is not God, but she is the Mother of God. She is only a creature, but she is God's greatest creation. Just as artists long to paint one masterpiece among their many works, so Jesus made His mother to be His greatest masterpiece.

Pope John Paul II has stated: "God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love." The story of our redemption, then, unfolds precisely as a family history, with a Father, an older Brother, and many siblings, united in a bond of love. Only one more person remains to make the correspondence perfect: a mother. No family is complete without a loving mother, and every motherless family feels this absence as an aching need.

A well-trained theologian, Pope John Paul II has introduced the compact phrase "maternal mediation" into the Church's theological vocabulary. And it seems to capture the very heart of Marian doctrine and devotion.

As an Evangelical, I used to rush to the one verse that seemed to snuff out this seemingly heretical spark: Saint Paul's categorical assertion that Christ is the only "mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5). How dare we refer to Mary's maternal mediation!

First, the Greek word used here for "one" is eis, which means "first" or "primary," not monos, which means "only" or "sole." Just as there is one mediator, there is also one divine sonship, which we all share, by way of participation with Christ (Filii in Filio, Sons in the Son). Christ's mediation does not exclude Mary's, but rather establishes it, by way of her participation.

Furthermore, the Epistle to the Hebrews explains Christ's high priesthood in terms of His being the first-born Son of God (Heb. 1:5-2:17), which serves as the basis for our divine sonship (Heb. 2:10-17), as well as our priestly sanctity and service (cf. Heb. 13:10-16; 1 Pet. 2:5). Once again, there is no tug-of-war between Christ's one priesthood and our participation in it.

As first-born Son in God's family, Jesus mediates as the High Priest between the Father and His children, whereas Mary mediates as Queen Mother (cf. 1 Kings 2:19; Rev. 12:1-17). Mary mothers the Son. For us sinners, she mothers our Savior. And for her Son, she mothers His siblings. When it comes to Mary's role in God's saving plan, "mother" is not only a noun, but a verb, and hence an office.

As the Mother of God and His children, Mary shows us how to glorify the Father, not by grovelling, but by receiving the gift of His Son in the fullness of the Spirit. That is how God's sovereign grace enables us to share in His glory, and so become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). So if you want to judge how well a person grasps the Gospel in its essence, find out how much they make of having God as their father - and Mary as their Mother.

As we begin the third millennium, I believe that God wants to use Mary to bring a deep grace of conversion to all Christendom, not only Protestant and Orthodox, but Catholic as well. This fits with the Holy Father's call for authentic ecumenism to be based on a "dialogue of conversion."

Such a conversion might seem improbable by human standards, but it's one that I know can take place, because I have known it myself as a singular grace from God, mediated by His mother.

By Scott Hahn

Used with permission of Emmaus Road Publishing, ( "Catholic for a Reason II" pages 17-27.

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