Holy Trinity has a famous icon of Mary and the Child in the nave. The intercessions each week conclude with thanksgiving for the saints—especially those to be observed in the coming week, yet Blessed Mary is named first. Here are six reasons devotion to Mary can enrich the spiritual and liturgical lives of Lutherans and other Protestants.
1. Mary has been honored by Christians through the ages. The vast majority of Christians through the centuries—Roman Catholics and Orthodox—have held a deep devotion to Mary. August 15 is observed as the Feast of the Dormition (“falling asleep”) by the Eastern Orthodox, the Feast of the Assumption by Roman Catholics, and Mary, Mother of Our Lord by Lutherans.
2. Mary is the Godbearer. Amid conflict and controversy in the fifth century, Mary was declared Theotokos, the Godbearer. This affirmation of Mary as the Mother of God was linked to the affirmation of Jesus as truly human and divine. Through baptism we are also called to be Godbearers. Through us, God brings to birth justice, peace, hope and new life.
3. Mary reveals the feminine side of faith. We may not honor Mary as divine, yet she provides some feminine balance to our scriptural and liturgical vocabulary that is saturated with male language for God. A number of religions have some kind of devotion to the Divine Mother, and there is a hunger, among some today, for a sense of the sacred feminine. For Christians, the church’s tradition regarding Mary seems the most natural place to begin.
4. In Mary is space for God. The famous Chora Church in Istanbul has awesome art from the lives of Mary and Jesus. Of several associations with the word “chora,” one is the Greek phrase which describes Mary as the “container of the uncontainable.” In the same way the people of Israel acknowledged the Tabernacle as the dwelling place of God, Christians marvel that the Word was made flesh in the womb of Mary. To make space for God in sacred places or within our very bodies, Mary is an icon of the incarnation.
5. Mary sings of radical justice. Mary’s Magnificat is sometimes described as revolutionary. She sings of God lifting up the lowly, the poor, the hungry, the forgotten, the marginalized. Mary sings a radical song of hope for those on the bottom of life’s heap.
6. Mary models openness to mystery. When the angel Gabriel announces that Mary will bear a child, she utters her most famous words—“let it be.” As Mary responds with trust to this startling word, she is sometimes called the first Christian disciple. In the midst of things she cannot understand, Mary opens her life to divine mystery. Seeking God’s will does not mean there is a predetermined plan for each one of us. As our lives become more technological and programmed, Mary teaches us to let go of control and be open to whatever comes our way.