Friday, June 4, 2010

Meeting the Mother of God, Part I

This is the first in a five-part series on my personal encounter and relationship with the Mother of God.

When I was younger, I only thought of the Virgin Mary here and there. She didn’t really stand out in the Bible as other people did. First, people like David, Moses and Daniel were more active, more prominent in my eyes. Second, being a guy, I didn’t really pay attention to women of faith in the Scriptures. Third and last, bluntly said, Mary just doesn’t stand out in the Bible; you don’t see her doing anything glorious, anything that shows glory like Deborah or the wicked Jezebel. I’ll comment on that later on in my story.

A lot of time, Catholics don’t realize how hard it is for other Christians of Protestant traditions to swallow Marian dogma, doctrines, and devotions. Very hard for me to swallow. Here’s my account of how I eventually did. The stories will contain holes, due to space, due to my inability to remember every detail. One day, the Holy Spirit will remind me of that little, tiny, detail that made all the difference to the story’s conclusion. I’ll tell you more about that in the life of the world to come. : ) For now, please do forgive me, if I left out the part you played, or made it hard to understand the psychology of my journey.

Where to begin? Let’s start in March 26, 1998. I was only eleven years old. My sister Tammy and I were at St. Luke’s hospital. My little sister was about to be born that night. Tammy and I were in the waiting room. There was a Hispanic couple there. Being arrogant as I probably am today, I asked them if they were Catholics. They affirmed so. Then I went to challenge them on the doctrine of Mary being the Mother of God. Boy, would you look at that, an eleven year old boy thinks he knows more than the whole two-thousand year old Catholic Church, thinks Catholics are in error for saying that God has a mother.  The Hispanic couple was polite. They tried to explain that Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God, therefore, Mary is the mother of God. My eleven-year-old mind could not understand it. How can a human give birth to God? God is eternal, Mary isn’t.

Fast forward to spring 2008, my junior year, I spent some time reading Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Spe Salvi, “In Hope We are Saved.” At the end of the letter, Benedict spoke of Mary, the star of hope, the one who guides us to hope. I didn’t finish reading that part. Call me close-minded, but I just thought to myself, “oh, that’s just Catholic speak,” so I just skipped that part.

A couple days later, I went to see my old professor, Dr. B. I told him I read Spe Salvi. Then I told him about my concerns on Mary toward the end. I didn’t verbalize it, and I still don’t think I can today. It was just an uneasy feeling. Let me try my best here: The Catholic Church emphasizes on the unity of all Christians under one roof, namely, the Catholic Church. Why put a foot down on divisive Marian doctrines like the fact that she was conceived without sin or that she went to Heaven (both body and soul) or calling her with these fancy titles like Mother of God or Holy Queen of Heaven? Would not more Christians be united if it were not for these doctrines?

Dr. Budziszewski explained to me what “Mother of God” meant. Its meaning was to affirm the divinity of Christ. Jesus is both fully God and fully Man. Budziszewski knew what I was thinking already. “It does not mean that Mary gave Jesus His divine nature,” he said. In the same way a mother doesn’t give her child his soul.

My objection? Well, “Mother of God” is misleading. Perhaps, the professor thought, but it's a misunderstanding the Catholic Church can deal with. I don’t think fast on my feet, so I brought up other objections, titles like Redemptrix or Mediatrix. This one Professor B. agreed with me. In the English language, it would sound like Mary is equal to the Son by being a co-mediator or co-redeemer.

I wasn’t looking for an argument when I stepped into Dr. B’s office, but he said, “I didn’t bring this up; you did, but I tried explaining the best I could the Catholic Church’s teachings.”

Fine with me. I had to go. Running late for the next class. So I said my good-byes and left.

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