St. Mary

The icon of the Theotokos, that is Virgin Mary holding her child, Jesus, in her arms.

Today is the feast of St. Mary the Virgin, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary is far too often overlooked. To the extent that our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters may seem to over-emphasize Mary, Protestant traditions are certainly guilty of all but ignoring her.

I think that’s a shame. What we believe about Mary directly impacts what we believe about Jesus. The virgin birth of Jesus is a central—essential—doctrine of Christianity. And it’s impossible for there to be a virgin birth without, well, a virgin. God’s plan to save creation by becoming incarnate in it hinges on the consent of this teenage girl—a low-status, disenfranchised member of an oppressed people living in the backwaters of the Roman Empire.

Mary gives our savior his human nature. If Jesus is not both son of God and son of Mary, then our human nature has not been redeemed. As St. Athanasius puts it: “What has not been assumed has not been redeemed.” In other words, if Christ is not fully divine and fully human, then the project of restoring human nature to the image of God given at creation has failed.

Could God have redeemed humanity, and indeed the cosmos, some other way? Certainly. But the way God has chosen to act is in partnership with human beings. In particular, God chose to bring salvation by partnering with a human woman named Mary.

Salvation begins when Mary says “Let it be with me according to you word” (Luke 1:38).

All Christians should adore Mary and give thanks for her essential role in bringing to fruition God’s plan to redeem the world. We should learn from her example of quiet trust in the goodness of God and submission to God’s good will for us and all creation. And we should obey Mary by doing whatever Jesus says (John 2:5).

I invite you to pause for a moment today to contemplate the mystery of the incarnation, that God in Jesus Christ became truly human in order to restore humanity; that the creator became a part of his own creation in order to redeem it; that a virgin girl said “Yes” to God and gave birth to God’s Incarnate Self.

Contemplate this mystery and be thankful.

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.