Monday, May 02, 2005


Wayfaring Strangers, Part 6

(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)

Notes Toward Answers On Mary
I said I'd post again when I had answers... or at least responses... to the questions I posed about Mary. I hoped to talk to Father Ken last Thursday night, but Willow got sick and we missed church. Thanks in part to conversations I've since had with Jamie and Father Ken and to an audio-taped lecture by Scott Hahn, I feel like I have those responses. Here's where I am now on these issues:

Does this passage from Mark imply that Mary was no more important in the eyes of Christ than anyone who does the will of God?

From the third chapter of Mark:
31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
32 A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers (and your sisters) are outside asking for you."
33 But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and (my) brothers?"
34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.
35 (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

This passage is actually intended to show that anyone who follows Gods will has as much importance to him as anyone else, and is really an indication that the "family of God" is larger and more important than any earthly family. I'm fine with that. I guess, as a protestant who's struggling with the theology of Mary, I sited this passage as something of a challenge. I'll probably continue doing that, and that's natural.

Protestants see Christ's command to John from the cross ("This is your mother") as an example of Christ's selflessness even during the passion. Does the Catholic church see this verse as a command for Christians to exalt Mary?

Well, yes, Catholics do see it as a command to honor and praise Mary. As Scott Hahn puts it, part of being a Christian is to try to imitate Christ… and as Christ glorified his mother, so do Catholics. I can accept that, but I still feel some degree of discomfort about it.

Mary never sinned? Not even a venial sin?

No, according to Catholics, Mary never sinned. This is a mindblower to me, and I have a real hard time struggling with it. Part of my protestant faith is the belief that Christ was the sole sinless person who ever walked the earth. Right now, I'm not even close to embracing this Catholic belief about Mary. I may find an avenue to accepting this at some point, but in the meantime I'm going to continue reading and turning to the Bible, and see what God will reveal to me about this tenet of Catholicism. I'm going to put it on the backburner, let it cook, and check on it later… so to speak.

Mary's assumption seems to imply a corporal view of Heaven. Is this correct? I can not imagine Heaven as a corporal existence as we'd imagine it. Is this an area where I'd be in conflict with church teaching?

Still can't get around this… although Jamie rightly pointed out that if I can accept the ascension of Christ and if I can accept that Elijah physically went to heaven in a whirlwind, that should provide an avenue of belief about the assumption of Mary. That makes sense, but at the same time, it forces me to admit that I've never really been able to grasp (or completely believe) that Elijah physically went to heaven in a whirlwind… and that I also ascribe a mystical, non-physical quality to my understanding of the ascension of Christ. I suppose that if I really examine what I believe about it, I usually picture Christ's ascension as sort of a transfer of matter into energy. I find some common ground in B.F. Westcott's assertion that "the change which Christ revealed by the ascension was not a change of place, but a change of state, not local but spiritual." Again, the Evangelical idea of a corporal heaven is not at all comforting or inspirational to me, and doesn't ring true for me. The assumption of Mary is something of an affront to what I believe about the matter of Heaven. If Mary is my "sticking-point" with Catholicism, then the Assumption of Mary is the main reason why.

With regard to my confirmation, will it be sufficient for me to still believe that the Lord will reveal to me the understanding of the assumption of Mary that he wills for me in time?

It seems that this will likely be the case. Catholics who've been raised in the church struggle with ideas like transubstantiation, Mary, etc, for years and years.

If Mary was born without original sin, it seems to me that she couldn't help but be obedient to God. This seems to de-emphasize her role as "co-redeemer." It implies that she didn't really have free will.

This is explained by my misunderstanding of what original sin is, as I wrote about yesterday.

There is still much to learn, much to study, much to meditate and pray about, and much to do. I feel now that I will need to use every second of the next year in order to be able to convert with confidence or to move on to the next faith I pursue with confidence that I'd studied Catholicism exhaustively.

"There is still much to learn, much to study, much to meditate and pray about, and much to do. I feel now that I will need to use every second of the next year in order to be able to convert with confidence or to move on to the next faith I pursue with confidence that I’d studied Catholicism exhaustively."

Too much study, not enough faith. I am a studier by nature also. I asked questions, I seek answers. But if any of the answers add to or interpret the Bible, then they are false answers. Because when it comes right down to it, faith is all that matters.

I point readers to my comments on Wayfaring Strangers, Part 6 for more on the subject.
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