Blessed Mary


By Lawrence Bausch

Why do so many Protestants, as well as many evangelicals who are being led into Anglicanism, have no personal interest in the Mother of our Lord? Of course, I cannot pretend to give a satisfactory answer to this question. There are too many variables and many exceptions. What I will attempt to do here is look at several aspects of this issue, with the hope of providing some thoughts which can be used to further conversations about Mary.

In the Articles of Religion, XXII includes a renunciation of the “Invocation of Saints” as “repugnant to the Word of God”. However, the definition of the word “invocation” must be understood in its historical context to appreciate what this Article is actually saying. As A. M. Allchin wrote, “In modern usage, to invoke means to ask for the prayers of the saints. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was different. Those who repudiate ‘invocation’ may at the same time strongly affirm their belief that the saints do pray for us, and may even be willing that we should ask them to do so (The Blessed Virgin Mary, p. 57).” Allchin quotes Bishop William Forbes (1585-1634), who clarified this distinction quite clearly: 

“The mere addressing of angels and saints, inviting them to pray with us and for us to God, in the same way that we ask good people during their lifetime here to intercede with God for us… we with those Protestants who prefer to speak more clearly and carefully in this matter, call advocation, rather than invocation, a calling unto rather than a calling upon (ibid, p.58).” 

At the very least, this clarification demonstrates that a living relationship with saints is not forbidden to Anglicans. Indeed, to ask a saint who has passed from this life to pray for us may well be both wise and appropriate. If we can get this far in agreement with those who have no interest in Mary (or other saints), other than gratitude for how they glorified God in their lifetime, we may take this matter further in exploring a phrase in the Apostles’ Creed: “the communion of saints”.

In our Anglican Catechism, there are several questions and answers pertaining to this phrase. Question 99 asks “What is the ‘communion of saints?” The answer is, “The communion of saints is the unity and fellowship of all those united in one Body and one Spirit in Holy Baptism, both those on earth and those in heaven (Ephesians 4:4-5; Hebrews 12:1).” Question 100 asks, “How is the communion of saints practiced?” The answer begins, “It is practiced by mutual love, care, and service….” The words “fellowship” and “mutual love’ in these answers mean that all “saints,” on earth or in heaven, are in active relationship with one another. If we assume that we cannot have a living relationship with persons who have died, we are rejecting the weight of Scripture and the Church. Jesus said, “…(A)s for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22:31-32).”

It would take too long here to discuss how we might come into a living relationship with individual saints, but I will share words of wisdom from the late Bishop Donald Parsons, who counseled us to “make friends with the saints.” Here, we will look only at the importance of having a relationship with Blessed Mary, Mother of our Lord.

Historical teaching about Mary has always been inseparable from the Incarnation, from her connection with Jesus Christ. It is equally important to acknowledge that teaching about our Incarnate Lord is inseparable from his connection with Mary. When this is added to what we have seen about our living fellowship with all saints, it is evident that to ignore Mary personally and confine her relevance to history is to reject a primary means of getting to know Jesus, not simply as “fully human’, but as the unique individual he is. Since his entire human genetic code (nature) came from Mary, how can we really be interested in a deep “personal” relationship with Jesus without getting to know his mother? What would we say of a man who fell in love with a woman, but was not interested in meeting her family? 

I listened to a talk recently given by a young Roman Catholic priest to what seemed to be an audience of college students. He recalled a conversation between a young Roman Catholic student and an evangelical female student. She said that she valued having a “personal relationship with Jesus”. He said he wanted more: “I don’t just want a personal relationship with him; I want intimacy.” He then went on to describe the importance of the Eucharist in this regard. This is a great insight in and of itself, but it also opens the door to see how short-sighted the idea of a “personal relationship with Jesus” can be. If we truly want, as the famous hymn says, “a closer walk with thee,” we would be remiss if we isolated Jesus from his Body, the Church, or from his Mother in particular.

Mary was the first person to receive Christ. She is therefore the first Christian. Christ came to be in her by the Holy Spirit, only with her consent. For the rest of her earthly life, she continued loving him in submission to God’s will, pondering this great mystery in her heart. In all of this, she is our best role model for living as a Christian. We, who received Christ in Baptism, are to continue loving him in submission to his will, pondering in our hearts the mystery this involves. Each of the saints shows us a way to do this in their context, and can be of help to us in prayer as we find similarities with the challenges we face. Mary is of unique value for each of us as the prime example of cooperation with God’s will, and is the appropriate “role model” for all Christians.

As St Ambrose prayed, reflecting on the Magnificat, “May Mary’s soul be in each one to magnify the Lord, may Mary’s spirit be in each of us to rejoice in God….” In her inspired hymn, Mary says “all generations shall call me blessed,” a word already used to describe her by Elizabeth (Luke 1:42) and, in some accounts, Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:28). Believing these Scriptures, may we not just call her Blessed but also love her as our Mother in Christ, bidding her to pray for us as she does all her children. And, as we get to love and know her better, so too may we love and know more intimately our Lord Jesus Christ, not only as God but also in his full humanity.

Fr. Lawrence Bausch is President of FIFNA.

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