Ask an Anglican: Something About Mary

0205searchlosticonSeveral questions have been coming in about the Blessed Virgin Mary and her place in Anglicanism. Derek writes:

I have been studying the articles, and have a question about the invocation of the Saints. Now, even as someone who identifies as “Anglo-Catholic”, who is closer to a “Prayerbook Catholick”, I have never, ever thought that st. joseph will sell my house, st. clare would clense my t.v., or st. jusde would find my missing keys. I have also never thought that “flying to the patronage” of the Blessed Mother would “save me”. But, what is doctrinally wrong with the Hail Mary in regards to asking for prayer? How is it different than me asking you for the same?

And Ian writes:

I love the Blessed Virgin Mary and pray the Angelus everyday. There are two versions that I use, one where the refrain goes:  “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”. The other refrain is “Son of Mary, Son of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”. There are a few other variations in the prayer also. Would you say these prayers contradict classical Anglicanism, and if not, why did they become less popular until the Oxford Movement?

There have also been a smattering of more general “What do Anglicans believe about Mary?” type questions as well. Clearly this is something of interest to many Christians, for a variety of reasons. The more Catholic minded folk tend to ask because they already have some degree of devotion to the Blessed Mother and they do not wish to see that diminished. Many Evangelicals, on the other hand, worry that any kind of devotion to Mary would be a sign that Anglicanism has become a bastion of latent popery, ready to swallow us whole into the belly of the beast.

A Cautious Embrace

The concerns that people have about Mary are not new. Anglicanism has always accepted the first four Ecumenical Councils as authoritative, which means we accept the decree of the First Council of Ephesus in 431 that Mary is to be regarded not merely as Christotokos (the bearer of the Messiah) but as Theotokos (the God-Bearer or the Mother of God). To deny the special place that Mary holds in the history of salvation as the one whom God chose to bear His Son, the one from whom God took human flesh, is to deny the Incarnation itself. Moreover, we affirm what Scripture says in Luke 2, that Mary is “full of grace” and that “all generations shall call [her] blessed.” The Magnificat which is said or sung at Evening Prayer is a daily reminder that Mary is no ordinary woman but a great Christian saint, perhaps the greatest, and certainly the Blessed Virgin Mother of God.

That said, early Anglicans were somewhat careful about what they said about her, out of fear that veneration of one sort or another could easily lead to worship which would be entirely inappropriate. King James I wrote:

For the Blessed Virgin Mary, I yield her that which the Angel Gabriel pronounced of her, and which in her Canticle she prophecied [Sic] of herself, that is, That she is blessed among women, and That all generations shall call her blessed. I reverence her as the Mother of Christ, of whom our Saviour took His flesh, and so the Mother of God, since the Divinity and Humanity of Christ are inseparable. And I freely confess that she is in glory both above angels and men, her own Son (that is both God and man) only excepted. But I dare not mock her, and blaspheme against God, calling her not only Diva but Dea, and praying her to command and control her Son, Who is her God and her Saviour. Nor yet not, I think, that she hath no other thing to do in Heaven than to hear every idle man’s suit and busy herself in their errands, whiles requesting, whiles commanding her Son, whiles coming down to kiss and make love with priests, and whiles disputing and brawling with devils…

This was a popular sentiment among early Anglicans, the rather strange insinuation about Roman priests wanting to have sex with her notwithstanding. Mary was to be honored, above all other saints and even above the angels, but there must not be even a hint that she could be called upon or otherwise related to because to do so would be to open the door to calling upon her instead of her Son for our salvation.

Quite Contrary Thoughts About Mary

Though this is an overreaction, it is an understandable one. Neither Rome nor the East have ever taught that Mary is in any way a kind of second savior. Nonetheless, the popular cult of Mary persists in those communions and at times it seems that there is very little said about Christ that differs from what is said about His mother, particularly in the Roman Church. Medieval Marian piety led prominent theologians such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Duns Scotus to conclude that Mary was not only sinless but that she had been conceived without original sin. Centuries later, this would become dogmatized by papal decree, much to the chagrin of all other Christians. It may not be the last problematic position that Rome takes on Mary either. There continues to exist in the Roman Catholic Church a movement to dogmatize the popular belief that Mary is “Co-Redemptrix” with Christ. It should not be a surprise then that the reformers wished to be cautious.

Mary Makes a Comeback

The Catholic Revival that took place during the Oxford Movement helped to re-establish Marian piety within Anglicanism. Anglican spiritual manuals were produced containing the prayers of the Angelus and other similar Marian devotions. Groups like the Society of Mary were established. Pilgrimage to the Marian shrine at Walsingham became popular amongst Anglicans once again. Many Evangelicals and other Anglicans were scandalized by this, of course, worrying that the same Marian idolatry that they see in Rome might be coming home to nest in the supposedly Reformed Church of England. There is room for disagreement about whether or not any particular element of the Marian revival goes too far.

But on an official level, does adoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary contradict both Scripture and the Anglican formularies? Not necessarily. Certainly the idea of referring to Mary as “Co-Redemptrix” is beyond the pale, but what about a simple prayer like the Hail Mary which is mostly scriptural and which asks the Blessed Mother to pray to her Son on our behalf? As I have written elsewhere, there is a great difference between invocation of saints and advocation of saints. The former involves making a saint into a kind of demi-god who must be appeased in order for you to find your car keys, sell your house, cure your cancer, or whatever it is that a particular saint is supposed to specialize in. The latter, however, is nothing more than what Christians do every day when we ask our friends and loved ones to pray for us. No one should ever be forced to ask a saint to offer a prayer, and all our official collects for various feasts are written directly to God accordingly, but there is also no Biblical warrant to anathematize the same.

One of the best spots to see a modern Anglican understanding of Mary at work is in the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) document produced in 2005 called “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ.” There were dissenting voices when this document was released, but by and large it does a nice job of showing the places where Rome and Anglicanism agree and where we disagree about Mary, without any unfortunate insinuations attached.

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About Fr. Jonathan

Your average traditional crunchy Christ follower with a penchant for pop culture, politics, and puns.
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26 Responses to Ask an Anglican: Something About Mary

  1. Pete says:

    Not going to lie, I was hoping for a little bit more on this topic… felt a little shorted on a topic of such importance, I hope you write a part two.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      What particularly did you want to know that isn’t covered?

      • gonzalezcaa says:

        Well, not that I don’t enjoy the article, but I feel it was more about what Mary isn’t, than what she is. You mentioned the thing about Theotokos vs Christotokos, which is great, but then didn’t give too many definitive answers. I can imagine it’s probably a smart move on your part to be a little vague, but actually this (by “this” I mean the role of the Blessed Virgin in the life of the Anglican, or the saints/angels in general) is something I’m currently wrestling with. I know you wrote on the subject elsewhere, but maybe a little more on the topic of Mary specifically might help. What we DO believe, instead of what everyone else thinks and why they may or may not be right–Which, I understand is hard in a Communion with no specific confession. In any case, thanks again Fr. Jon for a good post. Just trying to work all this out.

    • Aaron says:

      I think its very hard from a purely Protestant perspective to understand the veneration of the Virgin Mary.. Early Protestantism viewed faith and justification in more juridical or scholastic terms, and not appreciate the deep spiritual significance of Catholic and Orthodox devotion to the Mother of God, and to dismiss, hard-heartedly, Mary as some kind of symbol of Romanism. Such a view doesn’t do justice to those Christians who have had a deep devotion to Mary and the degree to which their lives were conformed to the image of Christ (figures as diverse as Seraphim of Sarov or Maximilian Kolbe). Not everything about faith should be so calculated and rationalistic, sometimes spiritual practices have more to do with the inherent beauty or propriety that inspires people, things that cannot be grasped when we are viewing them from a perspective or emnity or polemicism (which is the negative side of the term “Protestant”). It’s not a case of choosing between Mary or Christ, really, since there is no Jesus Christ apart from Mary, and no Mary without Jesus Christ.

      • peteihs says:

        I have to disagree, on two points.
        First, (and I don’t blame you necessarily, since there’s no way for you to know) it isn’t because of rationalism or scholasticism that I’m hesitant. In fact, quite the opposite. Saintly, Christ-like witnesses of true faith, people like Dorothy Day, Miguel Pro, Max Kolbe, etc are also people who devoted themselves to Mary. It is the example-not the reasoning-of these people that have encouraged me to seek her intercession when things got really rough for me. Having said that, Anglicanism is a reasoned faith. I want to rightly handle the Word of God, and have a reason for the hope that is in me. It isn’t wrong to seek reason from the Scriptures in making judgement, even on matters of faith and beauty. Universalism, a much “prettier” theology where everyone wins and there’s no pain, isn’t right just because of the hope it inspires; the Scriptures need to be the rule.
        Second, I need to remind you that as a matter of fact, there can be a Jesus without Mary. Before the first Breath was released and commanded light to be, there was Jesus. He wasn’t called Jesus, but the Trinity of the Godhead didn’t suddenly develop when Christ was born of a virgin. She, in obedience and purity and love, said that eternally ringing “yes,” but it’s not like the whole plan of God to save creation rested on the response of a girl from first century Palestine. Yes, the Incarnation was pivotal in God’s redemptive plan, and specifically being born a man, taking on the flesh of man from a woman, was the foundation of everything else that happened. But don’t ascribe to Mary a status beyond her; salvation is of Christ alone. He would have found, or rather made, another way.

  2. DJ says:

    Forgive the long comment. I promise there’s a question in here:

    As a Protestant this post and the recent “Either the Saints Are Alive…” have helped me come a long way in disabusing myself of falsely conflating veneration and prayer with those acts of worship to be ascribed to God alone. My question about the Hail Mary or any other prayers to the saints is less about idolatry or heresy but more a question of, “Is this really happening?” The common analogy used (again mentioned in the above post) in equating prayers to the saints with asking loved ones to pray for us minimizes its most stark difference: I can be sure that my friends can hear my requests for prayer, and in many cases, witness them praying for me in ways that I cannot with the saints. No such faculties exist to be certain that Mary prays for us as a direct result of us petitioning her to do so. And since the scripture appears to be silent on this (albeit, this could be argued), there’s no solid support to accept it even on faith. I believe it was right around here that we came to an impasse in the “Either the Saints Are Alive…” post and the comments that followed, so I’ll try not to replicate that discussion.
    If we can agree that venerating Mary asking for her prayers are both permissible and effective, then great. Let’s do it. However, if veneration and prayers to Mary are permissible, but are ineffective, then we have a problem. If the later is true, it makes perfect sense that the scriptures do not prohibit such practices since the scriptures don’t go out of their way to prohibit things that are nonsensical (I’m thinking of the comment in the epistles regarding baptism on behalf of the dead – mentioned, but neither explicitly condoned nor forbidden). Necromancy is forbidden, but it is not nonsensical, it is evil. Or, to a less mystical extent, theft, idolatry, murder (pick your favorite prohibited commandment). On one hand, if veneration of Mary and prayers to her aren’t prohibited, but are also not acts that sanctify us or draw us closer to Christ, we can say, No harm no foul, right?
    Except that I would challenge any of us to identify act of worship in our daily life (either corporately or privately) that we believe neither sanctifies us nor glorifies God; that is, anything that we believe is a waste of time. Nor would we recommend or uphold any act of worship of a mysterious nature of which we ourselves unwilling to rest in or be comfortable in that mystery. (As opposed to a vain kind of wishful thinking without conviction or hope – a Hail Mary, if you will, colloquially speaking. Example: “I hope baptism is efficacious, but I’m not sure, so I’ll do it anyway.”) This is precisely what made the Puritans the Puritans: a surgical removal from the church all those things that were either heretical, fantastical, or useless (harmful, innocuous, or otherwise). I’d be willing to say that they were right to do so if, it turns out, they were right about these things being heretical, fantastical, or useless.
    Likewise, is it beneficial to continue to uphold a practice that may not be … beneficial? I suppose this is an area of Christian freedom, but one that seems too divisive to be on the same level as diet or birth control or styles of worship music, etc. But then again, I guess this brings us back to that previous post.
    Here’s a question:
    Fr. Jonathan – Could you comment on the following 2 passages in Revelation I hear often from Roman Catholics: 1) prayers of the saints coming up from the earth and delivered to God and 2) the woman robed in light as Mary?

    Disclaimer: In no way am I opposed to Marian theology. Moreover, in observing the RC Liturgy of the Hours, I will occasionally recite the Marian antiphon that closes Compline – specifically the Hail Mary for its scriptural nature, simplicity, and appropriateness for the hour. I do this without conflict of conscience; however, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m participating in the adult Christian version of sitting on Santa’s lap and asking for a toy.

    • Father Thorpus says:

      The question of effectiveness is a just-so story: the proof that the Blessed Virgin’s advocacy is ineffective consists of nothing more than the assertion that it is ineffective. For that matter, how many of our prayers to God the Father are ineffective? by what measure do we account efficacy? If it has to do with the thing you pray for being granted, then anecdotal evidence is king and perhaps we ought to re-visit the burial of St. Joseph to sell a house! If the measure is whether we can see the Holy Mother mouthing words on our behalf, as we can with our earthly friends, then the neatly circular Santa argument works, but is unhelpful. Of course you can’t see the Blessed Virgin! For all we can SEE, she may have ghost-written this post for Fr. Jon, for goodness’ sake!

      The source of Marian devotion from day one has never been effectiveness; it has always and only consisted of appropriateness. Even the Roman Marian dogmas such as Mary ever-virgin and the immaculate conception have nothing whatever to do with the historical/physical world and everything to do with the even-more-real world (depending on how Platonist you are) of theological propriety. They believe she was ever-virgin for no other reason than that is was appropriate that she be so, not for any historical evidence for the fact. They believe she was immaculately conceived not because we have any hard historical evidence for the fact but because they just couldn’t imagine a sinless Savior being generated by the flesh of a sinless mother. Such a thing, to the Platonist, would have been entirely inappropriate. Every extra-biblical aspect of Marian devotion rests on the Church’s concept of theological propriety. Hence the argument for prayer to her: just as it would be appropriate to ask your friend for prayer, so it is appropriate to ask the Saints; just as, if you knew the mother of the President of the United States, you might ask for her to set up an private tour of the White House for you; so also it’s appropriate to ask for her special level of intercession with her Son (the same special intercession displayed in the water-to-wine story, by the way). Effectiveness really doesn’t enter the discussion; whether we can SEE Mary mouthing the words we wish her to say is irrelevant. It’s all about the eyes of faith – “seeing” what’s real behind the physical world. Fits neatly with Transubstantiation. This kind of faith is the basic skill of Roman Catholic devotion.

      But as the ground of Marian devotion is theological propriety, so also the source of its failings is in that same flawed, human theological reasoning. What seems appropriate to the ancient Platonist Christian may not seem appropriate to the contemporary post-modernist Christian, because different philosophies and theologies underlie that sense. The reason to be cautious about Marian devotion is not its efficacy: it may or may not seem to be effective in daily practice. There may or may not have been an apparition at Walsingham that healed many people: the question is irrelevant. Rather, the reason to be cautious is that human philosophy such as Platonism is not coterminous with Christianity; as close as they may be, somewhere the two part ways; and if we require loyalty to such philosophies for salvation, that’s the juncture where human corruption is introduced into Divine truth. And our loyalty is only demanded for Divine truth. The heart of the Protestant protest is that “Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to life and salvation; such that whatever is not to be read therein, nor proved thereby, is not to be required of any man for salvation.” Anything else – any lowering of the standard for dogma (which is my criticism of Rome here) beneath that level of divine inspiration which Holy Scripture only can be attested to display – is “teaching as doctrines the traditions of men” and must be avoided at all costs. It’s counterfeiting the Word of God with something less.

      So Marian devotion may exist, for Anglicans, as a devotion, even as a doctrine; but it may never be allowed to reach the level of dogma until or unless it is somehow disentangled from the web of Platonist philosophy that gave it immaculate birth. This the Roman church cannot do, nor may she admit the need to do it. But we Anglicans can do this in our daily practice. Making pilgrimage to the healing shrine at Walsingham makes all the sense in the world, especially if it is effective to heal us; praising God and the Blessed Virgin for those miracles makes all the sense in the world. Our God works in such ways. But making a dogma of pilgrimages to Walsingham is simply not Christian. Praying the Angelus or the Hail Mary makes all the sense in the world, if we do it because we believe in the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; but making a dogma of the Angelus is simply not Christian.

    • gonzalezcaa says:

      I am so grateful for this post; it literally expressed my thoughts perfectly. Fr. Jon disregard my post above, this is exactly what I wanted to say!

  3. FatherThorpus says:

    sinless savior from a “sinful” mother, it should read.

    • DJ says:

      FatherThorpus,

      Thank you for your thoughts. In response, I should clarify that it was never my intention to claim that we must first have some kind of empirical and tangible evidence that Mary prays for us before we can proceed on asking her to do so. And to answer the question about how I know, and by what measure can I discern, that my prayers to the Father are effective…that’s easy. The scriptures unequivocally tell is this is so. Over and over. Further evidence to prove this to me is unnecessary. Not so for the saints. Not much has been revealed to us about the goings on in the afterlife in the divine and revealed Word, so I’d have to stand by my claim that my question is both relevant and not absurd.
      I would never claim for certain that Mary cannot hear us nor does she pray for us, but by the same token and the same reason, I can’t say with certainty that she most certainly does either (recognition of seeing the fruit of our prayers to her notwithstanding – for all I know, God, being omniscient answers all our prayers – even those we believe are being addressed to Mary … Perhaps much in the way we may place a present under the tree for our child and sign it “from Santa” …?). This, for me, is at the heart of my question. I’m certainly not at total odds with your response; however, this subject is less clear, intuitive, and obvious for me, and I think with good reason.

      • FatherThorpus says:

        Thank you for your graciousness. I had, as a secret purpose, the hope to encourage your (and others’) prayers and relieve the Santa-oriented doubt. James says that what we pray to God in faith is effective, but whoever doubts should not expect to receive anything. I do recognize that I got a little far afield there.

        I like the original form of the question: “Is this really happening?” As nice as the idea is, is it true? As neat as the Roman theologians can wrap it up in the ribbons and bows of Platonist propriety, is it real? Are there actually spiritual mechanics, attested to by Holy Scripture, that allow the Mother of God to hear prayers and intercede on behalf of Christians with her Son? Is there any argument for this other than appropriateness? Any evidence more solid than extra-biblical reasoning?

        Certainly a legitimate question. I recognize that you’re not approaching it from an empirical perspective. The question isn’t “Does this ever work?” – asked that way, we’d all be afoot to Walsingham and burying St. Joe. That would be a typically pagan and typically Roman approach, relying on the experience of the Church over the centuries. It was an effective Evangelism method, as St. Paul says, our faith is not in words or philosophies but in demonstration of the power of the Spirit. Today’s Evangelicals would probably also prefer this approach, relying on our experience of Christ to lead us into truth.

        But you’ve asked a very Western, post-enlightenment question: regardless of anecdotal and experiential evidence, regardless of whether the thing we ask for is granted, regardless of those things held by Church and churches over the centuries, is there any textual evidence in Holy Writ to prove it is what the Romans say it is? Can we, from the pages of Holy Scripture, say with certainty whether Mary does or does not function as intercessor, such that her intercession makes a difference in our prayers that wouldn’t happen if we prayed to the Father alone? If Mary does intercede, but it makes no practical difference, then we might as well say she doesn’t. She might as well be Santa, keeping a list.

        The question of textual evidence depends mightily upon how you use the text. Mary’s intercession at the wedding at Cana would be enough for a Roman Catholic to say the text supports the prayer-mechanics in question; but a Protestant has to ask, “Is this text enough for me?” Especially in isolation from experiential data and the context of Sacred Tradition, the textual question can indeed be a confusing one. But it seems to me less a matter of whether the text is clear, intuitive, and obvious and more a matter of whether our hermeneutics and epistemology are clear, intuitive, and obvious. Where we have ready answers to the questions, “How do we know what is true?” and “How do we understand the Bible?” then we also have ready answers to the question, “Does Mary intercede for the Saints?” However, it’s a sad fact that among Christians there is disagreement about hermeneutics and epistemology – your question serves to highlight our divisions over how to use the text.

        And the second question is a more clearly theological one: does it really matter whether Mary intercedes or not? We know Jesus does, and that Omniscient God hears all and answers all. Is there really any room in that system for a third wheel? And even if Mary does intercede, is there any warrant for saying things are different for her efforts than they would be otherwise, with Jesus and the Omniscient Father functioning as they do? And if Mary doesn’t make a difference, why even make the assertion?

        To this we can only answer that if there is no necessity in the economy of prayer for Mary to intercede, there really is also no necessity for Jesus to intercede; nor for you and I to intercede. Yet the Scripture does teach us to do so. It teaches that Jesus does intercede, and it demands that we should imitate Him. Mary, too, is under compulsion to imitate Him. If there is any intercession going on at all (and we know there is) then “necessity” is not the rule of it. This is a place where God in His super-abundance prefers to do things inefficiently. He makes no Occam’s assumption that the machinery of prayer must run as effectively as possible with the fewest number of actors. It is rather the opposite: He demands there be numberless, numberless Saints lifting prayers at all times and in every corner of the earth, and a vast multitude that no man can count in heaven, and a Universe proclaiming His glory, and a Mary, and a Jesus (firstborn and elder brother) – all interceding constantly, praying without ceasing. The inefficiency of the Marian intercessions is an argument FOR the truth of it, not against. And all these millions upon millions of prayers over centuries and centuries do not make a difference – not one iota; for God is love and acts that way; and yet they do also make a difference, for if we ask anything in His name it will be done, and no Father, if his child asks for bread, will give a stone. The question of prayer making a difference has to be referred to the mystery of God’s economy of salvation – we can quote scripture verses on both sides of that one forever and never rule the other’s verses untrue.

  4. Thomas says:

    I’m curious… where did the line “Son of Mary, Son of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death” come from. Never heard it before, but I love it as it fits the cadence of the prayer. I’m looking for a bit of history of it. Google searches don’t come up with an immediate answer (drat them). I’ll likely dig a bit more, but I don’t want to re-dig if someone has already done the hard labor.
    I will likely incorporate this into my own person prayers. I pray my rosary (gift at birth from my gpa- a member of the ACC at the time) using the standard “Hail Mary” three times at the beginning, but the Jesus prayer on the decades.
    Invocation of saints is a non-issue for me… I would never argue for it or against it, but I absolutely believe that in the end, Christ is my mediator to the Father.

    • The alternate version comes from the Daily Office book from the Society of Saint Francis. I havent been able to find out where it originated before that book. Here’s the whole prayer if you are interested:

      The Angel brought good news to Mary
      The Holy Spirit will come upon you

      Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with you
      Son of Mary, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

      Here am I the servant of The Lord,
      Let it be with me according to your Word

      Hail Mary…
      Son of Mary, Son of God…

      The Word became flesh
      And lived among us

      Hail Mary…
      Son of Mary…

      Blessed is she who believed
      Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

      The rest is the same as the regular Angelus.

      God Bless
      Ian

  5. MichaelA says:

    “Nonetheless, the popular cult of Mary persists in those communions and at times it seems that there is very little said about Christ that differs from what is said about His mother, particularly in the Roman Church.”

    That is a wise point – much of what Protestants object to in Marian teaching is more what individuals may believe, rather than the official doctrine of the RC or other churches. This is a two-edged sword – if we blame the RC church for what each of its individual members believe, then we have to accept similar criticism of our churches for what each individual member may believe!

  6. Eugene says:

    Hi, Fr. Jonathan — me again, the Orthodox “lurker” who’s perpetually trying to convert to Episcopalianism, but not having any success.

    My only comment would be: why all the fuss? Why wouldn’t anyone WANT to talk to the Mother of God, or any of the saints? Do Episcopalians think they’re dead or something? It’s the most natural thing in the world to talk to brother and sister Christians on the other side, and ask for help. It’s also natural to praise the righteous. And sure, some people get over-zealous and clingy to particular saints. But I’m sure priests like you are aware of the danger of over-zealous and clingy people, and minister to them anyway. Even they don’t think you’re God… I hope…

    Eugene

    • Well put, Eugene! Thanks!

      -ian

    • All of the fuss comes from the emphasis some Episcopalians/Anglicans and nearly all protestants place on the bible. I know that Sola Scriptura can be abused (and am not myself the SS type anyway) but the fact is that no where in the bible do we see, or are commanded to, any requests for prayer by the early church to the patriarchs, or martyrs, or Mary. I’m not fighting the idea of it, but explaining to our Orthodox friend that, whereas tradition is important, Protestants and Anglicans (I don’t consider anglicanism protestant, but this is another issue for another day) want to view tradition through the Rule of the Scriptures. If it’s not in there, it isn’t binding, and for people like me who have had to struggle to accept the more catholic side of Anglicanism after arriving to it from protestantism, it just isn’t so easy or obvious.

      • Aaron says:

        Well, nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to wear any particular vestments, either. Or to use incense in church services, or candles. Or to celebrate Jesus birth or resurrection on a particular day. Nor are we told exactly how to structure a religious service. All that is tradition. The logic you are talking about leads to the Baptist or Puritan position- Protestantism can deconstruct itself if it is divorced from the Catholic faith. The wanton deconstruction of the Great Tradition is one thing that should, in itself be critiqued, semper reformanda.

      • Aaron says:

        I’d also add that Article 24 of the Articles of Religion makes it clear that Anglicans have traditions and ceremonies of the Church that are binding, short of reasoned biblical arguments to the contrary, and that these are not matters for private judgement. This is more like the Lutheran understanding, that what the Scriptures doesn’t expressly forbid should be permitted provided it is part of the traditions of the Church.

        The Puritan view that statues, religious art, feast days, vestments, and so on were “optional” was an much due to political compromise of the English Establishment than it was due to an attempt to be faithful to the religious sentiments of the Articles of Religion.

  7. Eugene Durkee says:

    Hmmm, Carlos, I can see that. It may be a matter of personality, or something. I came to Orthodoxy from Calvinistic-type Protestantism, and for some reason found it easy. But then, in Orthodoxy there are a lot of pictures/icons and stories around. One is enveloped in this huge community, some of whom have passed on; and their icons are all around, which become great teachers and illuminate a lot of the world of righteousness that we can’t normally see. When there was no division between Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, and the Christian world (at least in the West) was one big Church, there was a council of the entire Church that found that icons are not only okay but necessary for worship (although some like lots, and some very few, in their homes). But maybe with that kind of teaching done away with in the Reformation, the sense of community with the saints faded as well.

    I’m sure there are superstitions surrounding the saints which ought not to be practiced; superstition can get in the way of a good relationship with God. But then, I think there are probably a lot of superstitions about God Himself, that can get in the way of that relationship. We humans tend to screw things up.

    For me, the saints seem like very loving and venerable friends of my family, and I have no trouble talking to them in prayer. But that’s only because of Christ, Whom I always hope to find as the heart of my heart.

    • I’m almost jealous of people who so easily embrace the catholicity of Anglicanism but who come from a Protestant/Calvinist background. I do sometimes ask the saints for intercession, but have reservations because I don’t want to go against my conscience. With asking individual saints for prayer, or especially angels (since they are not sanctified deceased in the Body of Christ in the sense saints are), or even the Theotokos for prayer I constantly struggle. I can try to accept it because of its catholicity (universal acceptance by the church for the centuries before the Reformation) but not its biblical presence–there is none. I especially struggle with prayers of praise to the Blessed Virgin. When I pray the rosary, I often pray the Hail Mary’s and all the appropriate prayers , but the Hail Holy Queen at the end is almost idolatrous to me. I still can’t convince myself that the Hail Holy Queen, or the Marion Antiphons, or various titles and honorifics (Queen of Heaven? Our Lady of …..? Our Star of the Sea?) are legitimate parts of the faith. Still praying and thinking though.

  8. Eugene Durkee says:

    I’m jealous of Anglicans sometimes because everything seems so simple — it’s all in one book! I benefit greatly from our (e.g.) twelve-volume Menaion (and all our other full service books); but the Menaion is something not most of our people pray through. I like the simplicity of the Daily Office, and the Collects, in the Episcopalian church — they’re beautiful. Also there’s an Anglican church on every corner (it seems), and finding an Orthodox church that isn’t entirely ethnic can be hard. So we all have something to be jealous about!

    But I’d always encourage discussions with the Mother of God. I really would. And if the Hail Holy Queen bothers you, I’d just drop it.

    But who am I to give suggestions? I can’t even develop my own spiritual life!

    • peteihs says:

      True, very true. And I do appreciate your suggestions, keep ‘em coming. If I have learned anything on my journey to Canterbury, it’s that I know less than I think, and my brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers in the faith (both here and in heaven) have a lot to teach me.

  9. acilius says:

    You’ve brought a paradox to my mind. We worship Christ; the church is the body of Christ; yet we do not worship the church. This comes to mind because Mary, during her pregnancy, in a very literal sense was the church. She was at that point alone in the belief that the child to whom she would give birth was the Savior. Her uniqueness in that way meant that, in a way, she by herself constituted “the blessed company of all faithful people.” And of course, she was in an even more literal sense the body of Christ. So if our relationship with Mary is paradoxical, it is the same paradox that informs our worship when we give thanks for our membership in that same company today.

    • Pete says:

      Definitely don’t follow. Mary was never alone in believing Jesus to be the Coming Hope and Savior (The wise men at the Nativity? Simeon the priest at His presentation at the temple? John the Baptist, who danced in the womb when Jesus came near? I mean, Joseph?)
      And the problem Protestants (or at least more reform minded people) face, for better or worse, is not “was/is Mary part of the church,” but can the faithful departed still function in the church in such a way that our petitions for intercession don’t fall on deaf (dead) ears.

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