Ave Maria, Gratia plena!

This blog is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is my hope that all Christians who visit this site - Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or evangelical - will be encouraged, filled with joy but also challenged by the fact that they have not just a Father, but a Mother in Heaven.

For all who are seeking the deepest possible intimacy with God, with our Lord Jesus Christ, may we look nowhere else, in the end, than the one human being who has, since the Incarnation of Christ, experienced the most superlative closeness - physically and spiritually - to God-in-human-flesh. She is the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of Jesus Christ herself: the Daughter of God the Father, the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of God the Son.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The walk of dark faith. . . Marian apologetics

The devotion to Mary is an invitation to the dry, dark faith of our Blessed Mother - the faith that won her the singular grace of becoming the Mother of Jesus Christ.

Venerated so highly by saints and mystics, the Blessed Virgin is in fact the great hidden gem of the Christian faith: over the centuries, she has truly tended to elude the grasp of the wise and scholarly, even as she has won the affection of legions of childlike devotees.

Take, for instance, the view of Mary as Queen of Heaven, her identity being that of the woman in Revelation 12:1-6, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. Apparently, it wasn't until the late 4th century that a single scholar of St. John's apocalyptic writings identified the woman as the Virgin Mary: then, as now, the vast majority of commentators identify the woman as the Church, or the nation of Israel. Granted, Revelation wasn't included in the sacred canon until the 5th century, and Mary herself wasn't officially declared Mother of God or God-bearer until the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, but it's really striking that ancient scholars were rather slow to attach to Mary the singular centrality of her role in salvation history that much later medieval Christians took for granted.

Similarly with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception: though it was a long-established item of faith for rank-and-file believers for generations, even throughout the High Middle Ages it wasn't accepted by such strong devotees to Mary as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas. Throughout those centuries, it was decidedly the minority view of learned Catholic minds: no surprise, then, that it wasn't until 1854 that it officially became dogma.

What does this seem to illustrate? Like the nature of her faith in God, Mary's true significance to the Church is far more a matter of childlike trust than logical sense. All devotees to Mary who wish to spread the devotion to her should recognize this: the odds are probably stacked up against us in the realm of apologetics, because if we're honest with the history of the interpretation of scripture as concerns Mary, we'll find that even Catholics can take much issue with certain high views and doctrines of her. We who wish to defend such high Mariologies must be prepared to cling to the lowest common denominator: so long as scripture can be demonstrated to not contradict what we believe about our Mother, the rest is a matter of pure, dark faith for us.

There's a certain beauty to this: this walk of dark faith is a very dark walk, indeed!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mother of God, pray for us

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners in this season of Lent: that we will earnestly seek and practice the virtues you so perfectly embody, as the one and only Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, singularly worthy to intercede on behalf of poor sinners who need your mercy. . .

May this be a season of self-sacrifice in place of self-centeredness, penance in place of presumption, humility in place of self-sufficiency, godly sorrow in place of frivolous worldly happiness, desperation for lost and dying sinners in place of complacency.

So little time, so much at stake. . . don't give our souls rest, Holy Mother, in the wrong way - inflame us with love and tender mercy, that we will earnestly desire those who seem furthest away from your Son to be put first in line to reach paradise and attain His promises.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spotless Immaculate Virgin, I love you!

This is just one of those moments, I must admit that I'm such a guy :-)

God is a guy, after all - three guys, Father, Spirit and Son - so how natural it is that the focus of His passion and affection is a young woman!

If only motherless Christians knew just how much they're missing out on to not deeply love and be loved by our Holy Mother!

Monday, February 1, 2010

What a difference it makes to have a sinless mother

It becomes increasingly clear to me that Catholicism simply can't be understood without the well-established doctrine of Mary being sinless. After all, if there is such a creature who is perfectly free from sin and perfectly devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ, this means that the only standard we are to strive for is this same sinlessness and perfection. Indeed, the aim of every saint over the ages has been exactly this - to die sinless or as perfectly free from sin as possible.

This has stunning implications for every aspect of spiritual life - it means that if we don't view the eradication of our sins and the attainment of sanctity as the only true evidence of our salvation as members of Christ's Church, we're in danger of falling into some kind of heresy. For Mary herself wasn't only preserved from the stain of Original Sin, but throughout her life she always chose to turn her back on sin and temptation, and always chose the way of perfect obedience to God. Of course, no other creature before or since has been born free of Original Sin, but the choice to live completely free from sin - or as close to it as possible - is always ours to make, and on this basis we are very much in the same boat as the Blessed Mother. Or to put it in more practical terms: Mary herself never lived a single moment of her earthly life with the thought, "I'm saved, so it's okay if I don't fully resist the temptation to sin if it arises, and I don't really have to deny myself - spiritually as well as physically - in order to avoid the near occasion of sin."

Consider this simple fact: If Mary had wilfully sinned or had even an inclination to sin, she would've blocked the salvation of the human race and the redemption of the entire universe via her baby Son! Not that this would've stopped the fulfillment of God's plan, but can you imagine how horrible a price Mary herself would've paid?

Which leads to the crucial point: the closer and more intimate our relationship with God, the more our sin will expose us to the very fires of hell.

One doesn't have to be Catholic to have this understanding of sin and salvation: but if this isn't at the very crux of the Christian life on a daily basis, well, one runs the risk of not fully appreciating what sin is - and therefore not fully appreciating what mercy is. It sounds very unloving to many if not most Christians that God demands such absolute perfection from us, because it's so much more soothing to think that Christ's death for us is sufficient and all we have to do is believe in Him, and our sins will automatically be washed away. But of course, the reality begs to differ: the more we try to be right with God and serve Him worthily, the more our total depravity shows up and renders ourselves unfit to see Him face-to-face. Am I just trying to pull everyone down? Absolutely not - I am obliged before God to pray that everyone I know and meet will attain sanctity and perfection ahead of myself. But if this is how we're obliged to pray for one another, we can't be wishy-washy about the awful truth of how despicable and deserving of hellfire our sins are, even so-called "small" sins.