Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Problem of Mary

The problem of Mary is made more difficult by the fact that Lutherans stand between Rome which has made too much of her (contrary to her own words) and Protestantism which has ignored her (contrary to Scripture). Lutherans have a rich Marian tradition but we seldom have the guts to face up to it. We give her grudging honor and place because, since we honor Scripture, we must... but our hearts are seldom in it... The issue becomes more pointed when you come to the Fourth Sunday in Advent and Mary is all over the place.

We call her Mary rather casually but our history is to address her as the Blessed Virgin Mary. We call her blessed because her own words prophetically point to this address as the intention of God in choosing her of low estate whose willing trust and consent to His will are both her humility and her glory. All generations shall call her blessed... not because of Scripture demands it but because to honor her in this way is to honor the God who chose her. To give her this glory is to give glory to Him who is her glory, the fruit of her womb, Jesus.

The Confessions call her semper virgo -- ever virgin -- and Luther even late in life refers to her immaculate conception. Modern day Lutherans eschew this as a medieval anachronism which we gladly ditch. If you think this, try reading Martin Luther's Commentary on the Magnificat and see if these are merely eccentricities of the past hanging on in our Confessions and in Luther. In addition the festivals of Mary were kept on the calendar (when many were not).

Hymns well describe her place, without the title but with the role as queen of heaven, "O higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim, lead their praises, Alleluia. Thou bearer of the eternal Word, most gracious, magnify the Lord... Alleluia!" She is the "Most Highly Favored Lady" of all Christendom and she is the leader of our praises, the first who pondered in her heart what it meant that the Son she would bear would be the Son of God in flesh and blood. Her trust and consent to the Lord's will is the model for all Christians to follow.

Her own contribution to the hymnody of the Church is the Magnificat. Surely there is no hymn so eloquent in its humility and so uplifting in its glory than these words of Mary!

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus! Can we at least learn to be comfortable in saying of her what Scripture says -- not with the duty of something required but with the heart of appreciation for her place and role as the Theotokos -- the Mother of God?

In preschool chapel we were going over the Christmas story with the large creche and I asked the 3s and 4s to tell me who the various figures were. When I got to Mary, one little girl said with great enthusiasm. "She is the Mother of God!" Ah, out of the mouths of babes! Would that we all could say with the same wonder and enthusiasm. "Mary, Blessed Virgin Mother of God!"

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a Christless home. We only went to church for weddings and funerals. Occasionaly we'd go for Christmas eve or Easter. We never went for anything else. Yet, when my mom was around 20, she bought herself a nativity scene. She put it out every Christmas. I would look at that thing and I was SO confused. "If Jesus was God and God created the earth and all people, who created Joseph and Mary?" I thought Jospeh was Jesus' father. I knew nothing of the trinity. Personally, I think it's unclear to children to call Jesus "God" without making sure they first understand Him as "the Christ, the Son of the living God". I wanted to expose the thoughts of one confused kid. If there was one, then there are many more out there and they just might be in your school.

William Weedon said...

Amen to your wonderful post, Fr. Peters! All except the title: The Blessed Virgin isn't the problem. WE are the problem; we modern Lutherans who dislike what the Holy Spirit in the Sacred Scriptures spoke about her. More the shame on us. "Most highly favored Lady, gloria!"

Chris said...

Exactly, Fr. Weedon. The problem with Mary is what Lutherans, unfortunately, have chosen to make rather than what she herself makes. Some have even questioned calling Mary even a saint! Many Lutherans I know refuse to even call her the Mother of God preferring instead to call her Mother of Jesus which reeks of Nestorianism (which was condemned at the third ecumenical council of Ephesus in 431).

Anonymous said...

Amen, Fr. Peters! We sang the most glorious hymn "The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came" this morning. Most loved this hymn as they said on the way out of church, but I had a few who saw this as "Mary worship". So much for hearing the Gospel lesson, my sermon, or the words of the hymn.

American Lutherans, ugh!

Anonymous said...

Yes, this all highlights the problem quite well - you are focusing on . . . Mary!

christl242 said...
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christl242 said...
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christl242 said...

Holy Scriptures? The fact is that most of the Marian piety of east and west comes from tradition, not Scripture. In the RC Maria semper virgo has served very nicely to support clerical celibacy and consecrated virginity in the monasteries and religious orders and it is no surprise at all that Luther accepted it.

Should we Lutherans also adopt the Protoevangelium? It is not at all difficult to trace how every defined dogma about Christ soon had a parallel teaching about Mary following suit. Just as Jesus was conceived without sin, so Mary must be immaculately conceived. The Sacred Heart of necessity had to be followed by the Immaculate Heart. Just as Christ ascended into heaven now Mary must be assumed into heaven, having lived a perfectly sinless life. Now there is a push among some Catholics to declare Mary "co-mediatrix" -- intercessor is no longer sufficient.

Yes, Mary is rightly called Mother of God and Blessed because of the pure grace of Him who chose her to be blessed among (among, not above)women. Her example of a life of faithfulness with its ups and downs is one that every Christian also encounters and should emulate.

When we start using language like "queen of heaven" we're heading into dangerous territory. I saw as a Catholic how the centrality of Christ was too often lost to Mary, which I doubt would please her very much. The RC liturgical calendar is very crowded with Marian feasts and the Name and Circumcision of Jesus have been given the boot since Vatican II.

Until someone can definitively prove to me that when Scripture says "she had no relations with him until the birth of her firstborn son" the natural meaning is NOT that Joseph and Mary lived a natural married life I'm not buying it.

Christine

Arturo said...

I would agree with Christine. I am too coming out from a Traditional Roman Catholic background where there was much devotion and emphasis to Mary. Much of Marian dogma comes from tradition and not the Holy Scriptures.

Pastor Peters said...

Although I thought I made it clear about the excesses, surely you can also see that the denial of what Scripture says about the BVM is just as objectionable...

I think that we are hardly in danger of too much devotion to Mary among Lutherans... maybe one or two on the fence leaning to Rome but not many... But we are truly in danger of those who treat her as the one who must not be named...

Jeff said...

Pastor, I am always inspired by reading your posts. By today's terms I would call myself a "confessional Lutheran". However, with all due respect, I can not believe unequivocably, based solely on what I read in scripture and regardless of the opinions of Luther,Chemnitz or Walther, in semper virgo if it means "always a virgin" including after Christ's birth.(forgive me if that's not what you're saying) I totally agree that as Lutherans we don't always give Mary the esteem she deserves. I can not believe(as some add to semper virgo) that she was sinless or that she was received into heaven differently from any other believer or saint. As this belief is not relevant to our salvation and I think it remains a mystery, I look forward to finding out the answer when I reach my heavenly reward.

Carl Vehse said...

The Problem of Mary:

Blessed Virgin Mary? According to Scripture, not a problem.

We and all generations call her blessed? According to Scripture, not a problem.

Most Highly Favored Lady? According to Scripture, not a problem.

The Theotokos (God-bearer)? According to Scripture, not a problem.

The Mother of God? According to Scripture, not a problem.

Her immaculate conception? That is a problem because Scripture states to the contrary that all were conceived and born in sin.

Queen of heaven? That is a problem because it is not in Scripture nor in the Lutheran Confessions. And while to Luther, Mary was "queen of Heaven," he warned against making that name say too much (WA 7, 573). Perhaps Jewish custom might imply Mary would have the title, "queen mother", but not all Christians are Jewish in the Jewish sense.

O higher than the cherubim? That is a problem because it is not in Scripture; but it might be a pious opinion of some. And yes, it and the next phrase are in Lutheran hymnals, but so are "loud rushing planets" and "loud boiling test tubes."

More glorious than the seraphim? That is a problem because it is not in Scripture; but, as previously, it might be a pious opinion of some.

The Confessions call her semper virgo -- ever virgin? That is a problem since it is not in Scripture, which suggests in several places that Mary had children after Jesus. Furthermore the "semper virgo" statement is not in the authorized Book of Concord of 1580. From Rev. Scott Yakimow (http://www.lutherquest.org/cgi-bin/discus40/show.cgi?tpc=41821&post=156667#POST156667):

"Semper virgo" was added by Selnecker to the 1584 Latin Leipzig Edition of the Book of Concord. It did not appear in Selnecker's private 1580 Latin Leipzig edition (which also contained the 1531 Latin Octavo of the Ap). To repeat, it was not written by Luther, but by Selnecker between 1580 & 1584, and was included in the 'Official' 1584 Leipzig Latin edition of the BoC.

As for the German phrase, "gebleiben ist," (FC SD VIII.24) that was discussed previously in Confessional Gadfly's "Tradition and its decay"
(http://confessionalgadfly.blogspot.com/2009/10/tradition-and-its-decay.html).

And the Rev. Dr. Carl Beckwith concludes from his discussion (http://www.lutherquest.org/discus310f/messages/14130/14160.html?FridayFebruary2020041029am#POST58705) of the Latin grammar of the Latin phrase, "et tamen virgo mansit," (FC SD VIII.24) that the verb tense used seems to only point to the Virgin birth of our Lord.

And just in case some Lutheran readers here are considering wading into the Tiber or Bosporus:

Mary's Assumption? That is a problem since it is not in Scripture and there is no physical evidence to indicate it occurred.

Mary as Intercessor? That is a problem since it is not in Scripture.

Mary as co-redemptrix? That is a problem since Scripture declares such a claim to be anathema.

Arturo said...

Excellent post Carl! It's because of things like Mary's Bodily Assumption, Immaculate Conception, etc. that goes beyond what Scripture talks about Mary, that this was one of the things that led me out of the Roman Catholic Church. My family and I were just received into the LCMS a week and half ago. Here is a link to what I beleive is excess devotion to Mary:
http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/ap/bona/PSALTER.htm

Soli Deo Gloria!

christl242 said...

But we are truly in danger of those who treat her as the one who must not be named...

And that, of course, is excess in reverse but understandable in light of the fact that Rome and the Orthodox have said far too much about her.

I certainly have no objection to naming Lutheran parishes after Saint Mary. If we can name churches after the Apostles we can certainly name them after the woman who became the Mother of God. Like John the Baptist before her she received a specific calling from God and in trust and humility obeyed.

Our Lord Himself praised Mary as having "heard the Word of God and kept it."

As His followers we would do well to emulate her and do likewise.

Arturo, welcome and blessings in the Lord to you and your family!

Christine

Pastor Peters said...

Carl has proven my point! Not that Scripture explicitly says these things of Mary (ever virginity) but that the early Lutherans (apparently well past Luther) were still comfortable enough with Mary to have Selnecker include it. Luther himself mentions the every virginity and immaculate conception even to the very end of his life. Pieper, the great dogmatician of the LCMS, also held to the ever virginity (see His Christian Dogmatics), as did every Lutheran dogmatician before him.

The point of my post was not to argue for or against these (that could be done elsewhere and has been) but to show how comfortable the Lutherans were of this and how uncomfortable we are today.

It should be noted here that we are obviously still a little on edge by this whole topic... which, I believe, was my point.

Carl Vehse said...

Luther himself mentions the every virginity and immaculate conception even to the very end of his life... The point of my post was not to argue for or against these (that could be done elsewhere and has been) but to show how comfortable the Lutherans were of this and how uncomfortable we are today.

"Mentions"? "Mentions"?!? Let's look at Martin Luther's "mentions" on immaculate conception:

In1518 (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 31:173) Luther mentions: “[T]he Roman church along with the general council at Basel and almost with the whole church feels that the Holy Virgin was conceived without sin. Yet those who hold the opposite opinion should not be considered heretics, since their opinion has not been disproved.”

In 1521 (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 32: 79-80) Luther mentions, “In regard to the conception of our Lady [the papacy has] admitted that, since this article is not necessary to salvation, it is neither heresy nor error when some hold that she was conceived in sin, although in this case council, pope, and the majority hold a different view.”

In his 1532 sermon (Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p. 291) Martin Luther mentions: "Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood."

In 1534 Luther mentioned (Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, 294) that Christ was “born of a young maiden, as you and I are born of our mothers. The only difference is that the Holy Spirit engineered this conception and birth, while in contrast we mortals are conceived and born in sin.”

In his 1538 sermon (D.Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Abteilung Werke 45:51 quoted in Martin Luther, What Luther Says, Vol. I, 152), Luther again mentions that Mary was conceived in sin, but Jesus was not:

“In our Christian Creed we confess that Christ was conceived and became man or was incarnate (if I may so speak), that He became a real human being by assuming a body. We confess that He assumed genuine flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary that He did not pass through her as the sun shines through a glass but brought her virgin flesh and blood with Him. If this had taken place only with the co-operation of Mary, the Babe would not have been pure. But though Mary has been conceived in sin, the Holy Spirit takes her flesh and blood and purifies them; and thence He creates the body of the Son of God. This is why it is said that 'He was conceived by the Holy Ghost.' Thus He assumed a genuine body from His mother Mary, but this body was cleansed from sin by the Holy Spirit. If this were not the case, we could not be saved.”
[Emphasis added]
to be continued...

Carl Vehse said...

Continued...

In his February 27, 1540, Disputation On the Divinity and Humanity of Christ, translated from the Latin text, WA 39/2, 92-121, by Christopher B. Brown (http://web.archive.org/web/20030813090438/www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/luther-divinity.txt), Dr. Luther mentions in response to Argument X: Every man is corrupted by original sin and has concupiscence. Christ had neither concupiscence nor original sin. Therefore he is not a man: Response: I make a distinction with regard to the major premise. Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ. Every man who is not a divine Person [personaliter Deus], as is Christ, has concupiscence, but the man Christ has none, because he is a divine Person, and in conception the flesh and blood of Mary were entirely purged, so that nothing of sin remained. Therefore Isaiah says rightly, "There was no guile found in his mouth"; otherwise, every seed except for Mary's was corrupted.

And a year before his death, some claim Luther did refer to the immaculate conception when he mentioned in a pamphlet, "... the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more." But the pamphlet was a diatribe agains the pope, whom Luther refers to as "Your Hellishness," and in fact the "...the pure Virgin Mary..." quote is a mocking reference (among others) to the pope himself (Against the Roman Papacy: An Institution of the Devil, 1545; translated by Eric W. Gritsch, in Luther's Works, ed. Pelikan, 41, 263-376; quote from p. 264):

What is the use of spending such great pains and effort on a council if the pope has decided beforehand that anything done in the council should be subjected to him, that nothing should be done unless it pleased him very much, and that he wants the power to condemn everything? To avoid all this trouble it would be better to say, “Most Hellish Father, since it makes no difference at all what is or will be decided before or in or after the council, we would rather (without any council) believe in and worship Your Hellishness. Just tell us beforehand what we must do; “Good Teacher, what shall I do?” [Mark 10:17]. Then we shall sing the glad hymn to Your Hellishness, “Virgin before, in, and after childbearing,” since you are the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more. If not, then tell us, for God’s sake, what need or use there is in councils, since Your Hellishness has such great power over them that they are to be nothing, if it does not please Your Hellishness. Or prove to us poor, obedient “simple Christians" whence Your Hellishness has such power.

So, at best, one might find "mentions" of Mary's immaculate conception Romanist fairy tale by Luther from early days. But after 1529, there is no solid indication of Luther holding such a view, especially at the end of his life.

[Emphasis added]

Arturo said...

Thanks for the awesome post, Carl. You certainly have done your homework. I don't see how one can say that was ever-virgin when Scriptures seem to indicate that she wasn't.

Pastor Peters said...

[But] Calvin, like Luther and Zwingli, taught the perpetual virginity of Mary. The early Reformers even applied, though with some reticence, the title Theotokos to Mary . . . Calvin called on his followers to venerate and praise her as the teacher who instructs them in her Son’s commands. {J.A. Ross MacKenzie (Protestant), in Stacpoole, Alberic, ed., Mary’s Place in Christian Dialogue, Wilton, Conn.: Morehouse-Barlow, 1982, pp.35-6}

Martin Luther
Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. {Luther’s Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }

Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that ‘brothers’ really mean ‘cousins’ here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539)}

A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . . {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523)}

Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . . When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom. {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523)}

Editor Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran) adds:
Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary. {Pelikan, ibid.,v.22:214-5}

Pastor Peters said...

John Calvin
Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s ‘brothers’ are sometimes mentioned. {Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin’s Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55}

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called ‘first-born’; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. {Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107}

Under the word ‘brethren’ the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. {Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, (7:3) }

Huldreich Zwingli

He turns, in September 1522, to a lyrical defense of the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ . . . To deny that Mary remained ‘inviolata’ before, during and after the birth of her Son, was to doubt the omnipotence of God . . . and it was right and profitable to repeat the angelic greeting - not prayer - ‘Hail Mary’ . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. Prayer, however, must be . . . to God alone . . .

‘Fidei expositio,’ the last pamphlet from his pen . . . There is a special insistence upon the perpetual virginity of Mary.{G. R. Potter, Zwingli, London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp.88-9,395 / The Perpetual Virginity of Mary . . ., Sep. 17, 1522}

Zwingli had printed in 1524 a sermon on ‘Mary, ever virgin, mother of God.’ Thurian, ibid., p.76}

I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity. (Thurian, ibid., p.76 / same sermon}

Heinrich Bullinger
Bullinger (d. 1575) . . . defends Mary’s perpetual virginity . . . and inveighs against the false Christians who defraud her of her rightful praise: ‘In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God.’ She is ‘the most unique and the noblest member’ of the Christian community . . .

‘The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.’
{In Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2, London: Sheed & Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5}

John Wesley (Founder of Methodism)

The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin. {“Letter to a Roman Catholic” / In This Rock, Nov. 1990, p.25}

Like it or not, no Protestant theologian taught or believed other than the ever virginity of Mary until the 19th century...

Pastor Peters said...

he was without doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in birth, and after the birth, and she was neither sick nor weakened from the birth, and could certainly have gone out of the house after giving birth, not only because of her exemption from the Law, but also because of the uninterrupted soundness of her body. For her son did not detract from her virginity, but actually strengthened it. -- House Postils 3:256 (sermon from 1541)

Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we are. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are....For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy, pure fruit, at once true God and truly man, in one person. -- House Postils 3:291 (sermon from 1532)

Pastor Peters said...

And to stir up the pot a bit more... (I am not advocating but simply letting Luther speak on things we as Lutherans are not so comfortable with today). . .

Martin Luther seems to have retained his belief in the Immaculate Conception:

"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/beliefs/immaculateconception.shtml )."

"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin-something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. (Personal "Little" Prayer Book, 1522)."

"Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are. For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy pure fruit, at once God and truly man, in one person."

And Johann Gerhard: Thus the pure Virgin Mary alone among all women, through the working of the Holy Spirit, received the heavenly Christ-dew, about which Isaiah 45:8 states: Drip down you heavens from above. Later, this dew came upon the entire earth, that is, the fruits of this birth pertain to all mankind; however, Mary once more became a dry pelt, that is she remained a pure virgin after the birth, just as she was before. - Postilla I:51

Another later sermon by Luther: When the wise men came from the east, they found the child with Mary, his mother, still at Bethlehem. As I see it, this would have taken place at the end of six weeks. For the Law of Moses needed to be kept which required that a woman who had given birth to a son had to stay indoors forty-two days, that is, six weeks, and be considered unclean, meaning that she was to have no social intercourse with anyone, nor could she go out in public; for everything she touched would be unclean. ... Now, although Mary was not required to do this – the Law of Moses having no claim over her, for she had given birth without pain and her virginity remained unsullied – nevertheless, she kept quiet, and submitted herself to the common law of all women and let herself be accounted unclean. She was, without doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in birth, and after the birth, and she was neither sick nor weakened from the birth, and certainly could have gone out of the house after giving birth, not only because of her exemption under the Law, but also because of the uninterrupted soundness of her body. For her son did not detract from her virginity but actually strengthened it; but, in spite of this, not only the mother, but also the son, both allowed themselves to be considered unclean according to the Law.

“The Day of the Holy Innocents” [Sermon on Matthew 2:13-23], 1541 The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000],
Vol. 7, pp. 255-56)

Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Peters, the 1522 and 1527 quotes you provided from Martin Luther on the immaculate conception confirm what I had said earlier that “one might find 'mentions' of Mary's immaculate conception Romanist fairy tale by Luther from early days. But after 1529, there is no solid indication of Luther holding such a view, especially at the end of his life.”

Regarding the many quotes you provided dealing with the perpetual virginity of Mary, I have not denied in this thread or elsewhere that Luther held such a opinion, though he did manage to rid himself of other Mariolotrist doctrines.

As for the united view of such Protestants as Calvin, Zwingli, and Wesley regarding semper virgo, it has no more weight to a Lutheran than their (and Luther's... and the pope's) unified view supporting the geocentric model of the universe.

There are numerous passages in Scriptures that refer to the marriage of Joseph and Mary, the (half)brothers and sisters of Jesus, or to other later children of Mary. And while one may speculate (with no contextual reason) that a broad or less common meaning of pertinent words in each Scripture passage is theoretically possible (and consequently that the normal, literal meaning is also exegetically possible), a doctrine of semper virgo would require that ALL the pertinent words in ALL the different passages, written by ALL the different apostles, Gospel and OT writers at ALL the different times, under ALL the different circumstances present in Scripture, use the less common, broad, and literally-exclusive definition. Such a claimed doctrine is eisegetic nonsense.

As you, Rev. Peters, have also noted that Scripture does not explicitly confirm it, whether one favors semper virgo or that Mary had other children after Jesus, one can at most rightfully claim either view as a pious opinion and open question.

In his The True Visible Church: an essay for the convention of the general Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, for its sessions at St. Louis, Mo., October 31, 1866 (translated by J.T. Mueller, Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961, p. 107) C.F.W. Walther quotes Johann Conrad Dannhauer (1603-1666) from his Hodosophia christiana sine theologia positive (11, p. 667):


“An article of faith is not a gloss, assertion, or opinion for which there is no clear and definite passage in Holy Scripture. Such, for example, are the questions concerning the time of the world’s creation, whether it took place in spring or in fall; the day and year of Christ’s birth; the perpetual virginity of the blessed Virgin after His birth; the soul sleep, and other matters in which men might exercise their wits. But these dare not be forced upon others as sacred teachings of the church. Such excrescences occur in scholastic theology by the wholesale, where one tries to milk a he-goat, while another endeavors to catch the milk in a sieve.”

Pastor Peters said...

Carl,
I do not think we are necessarily debating the same point. I was merely pointing out that our Lutheran fathers were far more comfortable talking about Mary, blessed Virgin Mother of our Lord, that nearly all Lutherans are today. While I hold to the pious opinion of the ever virginity of Mary, I do not classify it is a doctrinal, that it elevates or honors Mary in a non-Scriptural way, or that it is out of keeping with Lutheran (and generally all Protestant theologians prior to the 19th century)... My point in the post is exactly that...

Anonymous said...

If Luther came back, he would not recognize Lutheranism today. It has strayed so far from what he intended. Yes there were abuse in the Catholic Church by individuals but the Doctrine has always been sound for 2000 years.

scredsoxfan2 said...

Pastor,

just stumbled upon this old post, how beautiful! I do wonder, in light of certain comments, how some can reject the clear Scriptural lessons about Mary and not be thus defining themselves the authority on their own dogmas and doctrines...have you not then (in self exaltation) claimed the effect of the Papacy for oneself? This question continues to seem insurmountable to me, could you comment?

Cary

Theodore said...

In facts, there is one clue of the Assumption : there is no relic known of the Blessed Mother of God.