Archive for the ‘Mary’ Category

Energetic Procession post: Prayers to Saints in the Pre-Nicene Era

July 29, 2011

It is commonly claimed that the practice of praying to departed saints and to angels is a late development in Christianity, probably post-dating the Council of Nicea. In this post, I will try to argue that prayers to departed saints were relatively common in the pre-Nicene Church. There are 5 to 8 clear post-Apostolic references from at least 3 locations. Some of the references come from official Christian teachers. The earliest reference may be first or second century, and many of the second and third century writers’ beliefs probably reflect the customs of even earlier times.

Read more at Energetic Procession.

Conditional Election in the Incarnation

March 2, 2008

Defenders of unconditional election will generally deny that there are any examples of God choosing a person based on qualities internal to them in Scripture. Many of them will also assert that if God depends on human decisions (if He “waits on man to respond” as it is sometimes said) to accomplish salvation, then this robs God of his glory and sovereignty, because its really man’s choice that counts, not God’s.

Luke 1:28-30
“Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

If defenders of unconditional election are correct about these two ideas, then why does it seem that in Christ’s incarnate economy, the very foundation of our salvation, God elects Mary based on a faith that she chooses to have? Notice the lack of “God elected you to accept grace” language; rather, its “God elected you because you accepted grace”. And if God conditionally elected in something as great as the Incarnation, why not think God conditionally elects in personal election of believers unto salvation?

Veneration of Mary in Scripture

March 1, 2008

The Virgin Mary is honored highly in Scripture:

Luke 1:28-30
Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you… for you have found favor with God.

Luke 1:41-3
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken her by the Lord.

Luke 1:48
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed…

Exodus 20:12
Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

John 2:1-7
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

1 Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

In Luke, the angel Gabriel–a being of power and wisdom far exceeding that of ourselves–praises Mary and singles her out among all women as uniquely full of God’s presence and life. She found favor with God in a way that no other human being had ever found favor before her–through a paradigmatic, unwavering faith in Christ. He gives her the title “full of grace”–a name used elsewhere only of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). God’s act of recognizing Mary by incarnating himself in her is an honor that not even the highest order of angels could even claim.

Then Elizabeth is inspired by the Holy Spirit and praises Mary and exclaims that she is uniquely blessed among women. Note that this precedes her blessing of the Incarnate One who she bears in her womb. It is the sound of Mary’s greeting that brings John the Baptist to leap joyously. And Mary’s faith is commended a second time by an agent of God as uniquely valuable.

To top it all off, Mary is to be blessed by every generation. To say this about oneself in the context of divinely-inspired prophecy about the people of God implies that there is a kind of obligation we have to acknowledge the blessedness of the Virgin Mary.

Think also of how Christ himself honors Mary, granting her requests at the wedding, even going out of his way to command servants multiple times. Christ is simply obeying the ten commandments like we would expect the representative Jew to do in the process of fulfilling the law–he is honoring his mother. As imitators of Christ, we must imitate the honor that he gives to both his heavenly Father and his blessed Mother. She is truly “more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim”–the greatest servant of her Son, who showed the greatest faith and cooperation with grace of any mere human who ever lived.

Mary as Intercessor in Scripture

February 28, 2008

There are two places where Mary acts as intercessor in Scripture:

John 2:1-6
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece…

Acts 1:12-14
Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas [the brother] of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

In the Gospel of John, there are numerous events that are anticipatory of the new creation. This is clearly one such case: note the changing of water into wine, the fact that this is a marriage feast (Christ and the Church), and the manifestation of Jesus’ glory. Mary’s intercession comes in close association with the world to come.

In Acts, the scene is in an upper room, paralleling the Eucharist in Luke. This scene is a manifestation of the unity, authority, and glory of the Church, right after Jesus’ departure at a time of crucial decision and determination. Mary participates in the prayer that begins the first and greatest evangelistic outreach.

We already know that those in heaven are interceding for us (Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4). We already know that they are aware of what is happening on earth (Rev.6:9-11). The Saints have powers that are far beyond our present earthly abilities (Mat 17:1-3). It is okay to pray to (=ask of) angels that they would praise God with us (Psalms 103:20-21). If Mary’s intercession is so intimately connected with the new creation and the inbreaking of the kingdom of God (both of which we participate in) why not pray to her?