Why magnify Mary?
God honours her. How sad to see Christian disagreement about Mary! That despite the Bible saying ‘all generations will call [Mary] blessed’ Luke 1:48. Its biblical to magnify Mary because God himself honoured her in making her Mother of his only Son Jesus Christ, God with us. That he had this well in hand is shown in the writings of Isaiah seven centuries before Mary’s day: ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel [God with us]’ Isaiah 7:14 God keeps his word!
Jesus loves her. You can’t love Jesus without loving his Mother. The idea that magnifying Mary diminishes Jesus misses the point. Jesus and Mary aren’t in competition. Jesus is our Saviour. Mary’s love and prayer draws attention to our Saviour as it did especially on Good Friday when out of his love for her Jesus gave Mary to John’s care: “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27. She can be our Mother too! ‘Shall we not love thee, Mother dear, whom Jesus loved so well?’
The Spirit fills her Art over the centuries has attempted to capture the radiance of God-bearer Mary. As the Archangel promised; ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God’ Luke 1:35. It is a widely held view, as expressed in the Church of England Prayer Book, that the Holy Spirit kept Mary ‘a pure Virgin’ freeing her from sin to be fitting instrument of bringing our Saviour to birth. There’s no better reason for magnifying Mary!
The Creed acclaims her Week by week we honour Mary as we profess that ‘the only Son of God… for us and for our salvation… came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man’. Salvation came into the world through the unique partnership of God and Mary. Though the choice of Mary is God’s and her cooperation is inspired by God it remains an astonishing truth that without that cooperation the cosmos would not be redeemed! ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women!’
Her perfect obedience In her ‘Yes’ to God given to Gabriel and confirmed in the hardships she bore Mary models to us an unselfish obedience. Simeon prophesied her heart would be ‘pierced with a sword’ in Luke 2:35 and we see this fulfilled in Mary’s presence at the foot of the Cross, obediently following her Son in his sufferings. She is model Christian, one with us, exemplifying obedience to God in sorrow and in joy. At Cana she gives advice to the servants we take for ourselves: ‘Do whatever [Jesus] tells you!’ John 2:5
Her perfect prayer Who on earth or in heaven pleads for us as effectively as the Mother of Jesus? She above all knows what Jesus wants. ‘There is one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus’ we read in 1 Timothy 2:5. Jesus made clear Christians gain a share in that unique mediation so that ‘anything we ask in his name he will give to us’ John 14:13. The only qualification we have as his intercessors is a close abiding in him, a quality few would question of Mary. Invoking her prayer undoubtedly furthers God’s will.
Her prophetic role Over the last two centuries apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been welcomed. These have come with prophetic messages which call for repentance and deeper trust in God in the face of hardship and persecution as well as apathy and indifference towards God. These appearances to simple folk, often very poor, as at Lourdes and Fatima, resonate with Mary’s own calling at Nazareth. Miracles associated with these apparitions amplify Mary’s thanksgiving to God recorded in the Bible: ‘the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’ Luke 1:49
She’s normal It’s you and I who’re not as we’re meant to be, not Mary! If trust, obedience and Holy Spirit empowerment flow from Mary’s purity our own distrust, disobedience and spiritual apathy flow from our impurity. Visions of the Virgin Mary show her normality in an infectious display of warmth, joy and radiance. At Lourdes the smiling Virgin charms Bernadette, draws pilgrims in their thousands and helps humble both church and civic authorities. God’s norm is humility, as stated in Mary’s Magnificat: ‘He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly’. Luke 1:52