I don’t do internet fights, especially over theological matters, and this post is in no way meant to start some protracted battle over the veneration of Mary—which practice I oppose. I’m simply writing this out because On That Hill is a better forum for my thoughts than Twitter, and I wanted to give Señor Jamey Bennett, taco-lover and Orthodox food dude, something better than inarticulate 140-character missives.
Mrs. Boychuk’s article, linked above, seems to summarize the Orthodox, and for that matter, the Roman Catholic position in favor of the veneration of Mary… as well as the practice of praying to her, seeking her intercession, etc. At least, it doesn’t introduce anything I haven’t heard before (in various contexts): Mary as the new Eve, Mary as a kind of prophet, as a kind of ark, etc. I’ve heard this from the veneration-of-Mary arguments, but I’ve heard far more of it in my own circles. I sit under Peter Leithart, a man whose exegesis wrings countless riches from any given text—I hear all of this and more every year during Advent and Christmas. Yes, Mary is all these things; she’s also a new Sarah bearing a new Child of promise, a new Deborah singing a new song of deliverance, a new Ruth being lifted from the dust heap, and so on. She is all these things, and more, and together with these other women (and the other women mentioned in the gospels), she looks forward to the ultimate Woman: the church, the Bride of Christ. I’m all for typological readings of Scripture; the Irenaeus quote is a leading candidate for the back tattoo I hope my wife will someday let me get. But this reading of Mary from the above-linked article, you could say, doesn’t go far enough for me.
Then there’s this:
…Orthodox Christians argue that no ordinary woman could give birth to God’s Son and that she was chosen by God because she was a holy young girl whose will was aligned with His Will. Certainly, she was ordinary in that she was a human being like the rest of us, but her submission to God set her apart for the most important job a human could ever fulfill.
“…because she was a holy young girl…”? But the angel said:
“Rejoice, so highly favored! The Lord is with you!… Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor…”That’s from The Jerusalem Bible.
Not, “Hey, rejoice, holy one! You’re the only one up for this job Yahweh has for you…” It’s, “Rejoice, favored one!” Rejoice, you who the scribes and priests couldn’t give a crap about, you who the Romans would kill and rape if they got ornery enough, you poor and meek woman of the earth: God is going to up-end the world the way he always does—through a woman of no reputation.
The New Testament is studded with characters like this—a poor girl who appears to be knocked-up who bears the Christ, a gaggle of illiterate fishermen who preach the gospel before kings, a tax collector who records the Sermon on the Mount, a sonofabitch murderer who becomes the Prince of the Apostles. God doesn’t choose people to do great things because of their merit. He takes strength and makes it weak, and then turns weakness into strength. I can’t think of anywhere where God chooses the person whose “submission to God set her apart for the most important job a human could ever fulfill.” But we could multiply examples of the opposite…
Concerning Mary’s perpetual virginity, even granting all of Mrs. Boychuk’s points, I still don’t see how it’s Biblically necessary for Mary to have remained a virgin. The story of redemption leads to consummation, a wedding scene, a Bride adorned for her husband. As for Joseph thinking of Uzzah touching the ark, he probably would have remembered that Uzzah touched the ark while God was still inside it, as it were. And from Matthew’s account, it’s entirely reasonable to assume that he kept his hands off during her pregnancy, for a number of reasons that may have included grim memories of Uzzah. But afterwards, being a just and righteous and devout Jew who knew the law, he probably would’ve hastened to Exodus 21:10 and her conjugal rights, God having left the ark, as it were.
I know I haven’t answered every part of the article; this is already a hundred times longer than I wanted it to be. Before I conclude, let me hasten to mention that I in no way wish to disparage Mrs. Boychuk or Mr. Bennett. I am also sure I have said nothing that they haven’t heard before, having their Christian origins in Protestant circles (and Mr. Bennett being well acquainted with many of my teachers and sources). Though they’d refuse the bread and wine I as a deacon would serve them (were they to visit Trinity Reformed Church) and I’d be left outside with the Philadelphia hungry at Mr. Bennett’s church, they are not enemies of the cross of Christ, and so I consider them my siblings.
With that out of the way, I can’t really say it any better than the angel who spoke with John near the end of Revelation, when John knelt at his feet to worship him: “Don’t do that! I am a servant just like you and like your brothers the prophets and like those who treasure what you have written in this book. It is God that you must worship.”