Note by Phil Scovell.
     The following article was posted just as you read it here on bulletin
     boards  systems  (BBS) before the days of the  internet.  My rebuttal
     is also posted on this website so the reader may judge.  the  contact
     information listed at the end of this article may not, therefore,  be
End Of Note.

                           FACING UP TO MARY

                        by Fr Peter E. Gillquist

             reprinted with permission from Conciliar Press

                Is  it  safe  to say  that  no  woman  in  history is  more
          misunderstood by modern Christendom than the Virgin Mary?
                And is it  also probable  that in  a discussion  concerning
          Mary  between   two  Christians,  if  their   differences  remain
          unresolved, most  likely it  will be due  to stubborn  refusal to
          deal with the biblical data?
                If I have  heard him say it once, I have heard Billy Graham
          say  it  at least  a  half a  dozen  times over  the  years:   We
          evangelical Christians do not give Mary her proper due.
                There  is no doubt in my mind that  he is correct.  But his
          statement  raises a  crucial question  about Mary.   What  IS her
          proper due?  Before  we look to the Scriptures for  some answers,
          let us acknowledge right up front a problem which  makes our task
          much more  difficult than it should be.        The highly-charged
          emotional atmosphere which surrounds this subject serves to blunt
          our objectivity in facing up to Mary.  Therefore, those of us who
          were  brought up  to question  or reject  honor paid  to Mary  in
          Christian worship or art often have our minds made up in advance.
          That  is why  we have  allowed  our preconceptions  to color  our
          understanding even of the Scriptural passages concerning her.  We
          have not let the facts speak for themselves.
                As we attempt  to face up to Mary honestly  and openly, let
          us turn first to the Bible, the source-book of all true Christian
          doctrine.  We will consider  what the New Testament teaches about
          her, and then we will turn to the Old Testament.
                To  understand how  the biblical  record  has been  applied
          through  the years  by Christians, we  will look  specifically at
          Church  history to  understand  both how  she  has been  properly
          honored, and  how excessive  beliefs concern-ing  her have  crept
          into the picture.
                Lastly, we will look at how we must face up to her in light
          of the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
                What  is it, then,  that the New  Testament clearly teaches
          concerning the Virgin  Mary?  The Gospel of  Saint Luke, the book
          of the beloved physician, gives us at least four crucial answers.
          1.  Mary is the greatest woman who ever lived.
                Whereas our Lord Jesus Christ  tells us there is no greater
          man to  walk the earth than John  the Baptist, both the Archangel
          Gabriel  and the saintly Elizabeth  confess to Mary, "Blessed are
          you among  women" (Luke  1:28 and 42).           She is the  most
          blessed of  women for several  reasons, the greatest of  which is
          that she conceived, carried, gave birth to, and nurtured the very
          Savior of  our souls.   The One Who  today occupies  the heavenly
          throne of  David, seated  regally at  the right hand  of God  the
          Father, entered the human race  and became our Savior through her
          womb.  She  was sovereignly chosen by the Father to bear His only
          begotten Son.
                In that role,  Mary is the  first person in all  history to
          receive and accept Christ as her Savior.  You and I are called to
          enthrone the Lord in our hearts and lives - to follow her example
          in doing so.  Early in Christian history she is called "the first
          of the redeemed."
                I remember  entering a Church  some years ago and  seeing a
          painting or icon of  Mary with open arms front and  center on the
          wall (the apse) just behind the  altar.  My first impulse was  to
          wonder why Christ alone was not featured at that particular place
          in the Church,  though He was  shown in a  large circle that  was
          superimposed over her heart.
                When I  asked  why she  was  so prominently  featured,  the
          Christian scholar with me explained, "This is one of the greatest
          evangelistic icons in  the entire Church.  What you see is Christ
          living as Lord  in Mary's life, and her outstretched  arms are an
          invitation  to you and me to let Him  live in our lives as He has
          in hers."  The power  of that icon stays in my mind  to this day.
          For she has  set the pace for  all of us  to personally give  our
          lives over fully to Jesus Christ.
                Mary is also  blessed because she found favor  in the sight
          of God.  Gabriel's words  of encouragement to her were, "Rejoice,
          highly favored one, the  Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28).   Then he
          comforted her  by saying, "Do not be  afraid, Mary, *for you have
          found favor with God*" (Luke 1:30, emphasis mine).
                What does one  do to become one  of God's favorites,  to be
          favored by Him?  Remember Cornelius in Acts 10?  He was the first
          Gentile convert to  Christ, "a devout man  and one who gave  alms
          generously to the people, and  prayed to God always" (Acts 10:2).
          Two verses later he is told  in a vision, "Your prayers and  your
          alms have  come up  for a memorial  before God."   The  Lord took
          notice of his deeds of devotion and  brought him salvation.  In a
          similar  way, Mary's  purity found  favor with  God, and  she was
          chosen to bear His Son.
                You say,  "Wait a minute!   Are you suggesting  human merit
          earns salvation?"  Not at all!  As commendable as it is for us to
          live in purity, a devout life  never merits salvation.  Else  why
          would  Mary  be  called  first  of the  REDEEMED,  or  why  would
          Cornelius be  BAPTIZED into  Christ by Saint  Peter?   Prayer and
          devotion, however,  do gain  God's attention.   When we  seek Him
          with all our hearts, we do  find Him!  Do you want to  be favored
          of God?   Then give Him everything  you have, give Him  your very
          life.  This  is precise-ly what  Mary did, and why  she is to  be
          considered the greatest woman who ever lived.
          2.  Mary is our model for Christian Service.
                While God certainly knew Mary desired to please Him, He did
          not take her  servitude for granted.  The angel explained how she
          would bear Christ.  "The Holy Spirit will come upon you,  and the
          power  of the  Highest  [God  the  Father] will  overshadow  you;
          therefore, also, that Holy One Who  is to be born will be  called
          the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
                Now Mary had  a decision to make.   Was she willing?   Hear
          her  answer, for  it  is the  doorway to  the  life of  spiritual
          service for all of us.  "Behold the maidservant of the Lord!" she
          said.  "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).
                Even if we are totally sincere about wanting to follow God,
          He will  never conscript us apart from our  consent!  This is why
          He is called  "the God of all grace"  (I Peter 5:10).   We are to
          choose  freely to obey  Him and do  His will.         Some thirty
          years later, by the way, Mary again had opportunity  to exalt her
          Lord.  She was with Jesus at  a wedding in Cana of Galilee.   The
          servants who  were in charge  of the celebration  discovered they
          were out of wine.   Mary had no doubt as to who could solve their
          problem.   Referring  to  her  Son, the  Lord  Jesus Christ,  she
          advised them, "Whatever He says to you, do it" (John 2:5).
          3.  Mary is the Mother of God.
                Now  things get a bit more touchy for  some of us.  Here is
          one  of  those  emotional  trouble  spots  I  mentioned  earlier.
          Whether we like to face it or not,  the Bible teaches Mary is the
          mother of  God.   First  let's look  at the  text,  then we  will
          discuss why this title is so important to our lives as Christians
          in the Church.
                After Christ  had been conceived  in her womb, Mary  paid a
          visit to the  home of relatives Zacharias and  Elizabeth, soon to
          be  parents of John  the Baptist.  When  Mary greeted her cousin,
          Elizabeth called  her blessed and  said, "Why is this  granted to
          me, that  the mother of my Lord should  come to me?" (Luke 1:43).
          Elizabeth knew that her Lord, the  Messiah of Israel, was in  the
          womb of Mary.
                This  title took on great importance in the fourth century,
          when a heretic  named Nestorius - a  man who held high  office in
          the Church - claimed  that the one  in Mary's womb was  certainly
          man, but  that He  was not  God.  Orthodox  Christians, with  one
          accord, said,  "Wrong!"   To see Jesus  Christ as  something less
          than God in  the flesh is sub-Christian.   For unless the  one in
          Mary's  womb  was  and is  God,  we are  dead  in our  sins.   To
          safeguard  the  full  deity  of  Christ, the  Church  has  always
          insisted that Mary  be rightly called -as Elizabeth  called her -
          the Mother  of God.  This title, of  course, does not mean mother
          of the Holy Trinity, for the Holy Trinity has no mother.  Neither
          does  it mean she originated  the Person Who is God  the Son.  It
          refers instead to  Mary being the Mother  of the Son of  God, Who
          assumed full humanity in her womb.
                Just as  we insist on the  Virgin birth of  Christ, we also
          insist  that for the nine months she  carried Him in His humanity
          He was at every moment fully God as well.  Thus we say boldly and
          with great insistence that Mary  is the Mother of God, Theotokos,
          God-bearer.  To say anything less is to side with those  who deny
          His deity.
                When a man buys a large  plot of land and turns cattle  out
          to graze on it, he fences in  his acreage.  He does so to protect
          his cattle,  to keep them  from wandering off, and  to discourage
          rustlers.  Similarly, the Church sets doctrinal fences around its
          foundational truths.  And nothing  is more basic and important to
          us  than the deity  of Christ.   Because Christ is God,  we set a
          firm   and  non-negotiable  fence  around  His  divinity  by  our
          unmovable confes-sion that Mary is Mother of God.
          4.  We are to honor Mary and call her blessed.
                Now comes  the toughest test of all.   Not only is Mary the
          most blessed of women, our model for obedience, and the Mother of
          God, we  are called to  honor her and  to bless her.   How do  we
          know?   The Bible tells us so.        During her three-month stay
          at  Elizabeth's  house, Mary  offered one  of the  most beautiful
          prayers of praise  to the Lord in all the Scriptures.  It begins,
          "My soul magnifies  the Lord,"  and thus it  has become known  as
          "The Magnificat."
                In  that  prayer,   inspired  by  the  Holy   Spirit,  Mary
          prophesied,  "hence-forth, all generations  will call me blessed"
          (Luke 1:48).  Essentially, all generations in Church history have
          done  so;  only  the  last  two centuries  have  faltered.    Our
          generation of American Christians is filled with those who refuse
          to bless her,  and we must change  our ways.  For  some Christian
          bodies have come to stand dogmatically against Christ and the New
          Testament by refusing to bless her.
                From the beginning of recorded Christian  worship, Orthodox
          Christians have taken  special care to venerate of  honor Mary in
          the Liturgy.  There is an ancient hymn which begins, "It is truly
          right to bless  you, O Theotokos (Mother  of God)."  she  is also
          called in this  hymn "Ever-blessed and most pure."   The biblical
          injunction to honor Mary is  followed and taken seriously.       
          We do not, of course, worship  Mary, for worship is reserved  for
          the  Trinity:   Father, Son, and  Holy Spirit.   But she  is most
          certainly to be honored and venerated.  And because Christ is our
          elder  brother, the  first born  of many  brethren, we  honor the
          Virgin Mary as our  Mother, our lady, as  well.  Just as  Eve was
          mother of the old Adamic race, so Mary is the true Mother of  the
          new race, the Body of Christ, the Church.
                Perhaps  in  part  because we  refuse  to  honor  Mary, our
          generation seems to struggle with  honoring anyone.  For example,
          next time a  Presidential news  conference comes  on T.V.,  watch
          closely  how most  of the  press-corps behave!   Far  from merely
          trying  to get  the  story,  many are  out  for intimidation  and
          willful dishonor.
                While God's word  tells us to honor the  king (Daniel 4:37)
          and  to  give  preference  to  each  other  (Romans  12:10),  our
          generation  seems to delight in challenging and humiliating other
          people, especially those in authority.   Not only are we  who are
          Bible-believing Christians urged to "give  honor to whom honor is
          due" (Romans 13:7), we are called by God in no uncertain terms to
          bless the Mother of our  God.  We cannot get around that point in
                We  know  that the  Old  Testament  is  more than  just  an
          inspired  account of  the history  of  mankind, or  of Israel  in
          particular.  In  its pages - indeed  central to its message  - is
          also the prophetic  record concerning our Lord Jesus  Christ.  He
          is typified throughout.   Moses is a  type of Christ, in  that he
          leads the people  out of bondage into the land of promise.  David
          typifies Christ as King of Israel.   Adam was a type of Christ as
          head of the human race.
                Often overlooked, however, is the fact that the Virgin Mary
          is also  seen in the prophetic pages of  the Old Testament.  Most
          Christians  are aware  that the  Prophet  Isaiah predicts  Mary's
          virgin conception of Christ when  he writes:  "Therefore the Lord
          Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, the  virgin shall conceive
          and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah  7:14).
          But  there are  numerous other  passages which  speak of  Mary as
                From the  very early years  of the Church, Mary  was called
          not only Virgin, but  Ever-Virgin.  She was seen  as never having
          had  a sexual  union with  Joseph, before  or after the  birth of
          Christ.   Ezekiel 44:1-2 is  a passage  often referred to  by the
          early Fathers in  this regard.  It  states:  "Then He  brought me
          back to  the outer gate  of the sanctuary which  faces toward the
          east, but it was shut.  And the Lord said to me, 'This gate shall
          be  shut; it shall not be  opened, and no man  shall enter by it,
          because the Lord God  of Israel has entered  by it; therefore  it
          shall be shut.'"
                In  traditional interpretation of this passage, Mary is the
          temple and Christ  is the Prince of Peace.  The gate mentioned is
          seen  as a picture of Christ's passage through the door of Mary's
          womb.  You  might not find that interpretation in some of today's
          commentaries,  but it  was held  by the  great majority  of early
          Church Fathers, as well as many of  the Reformation leaders.     
          At this point, however, a very valid  question can be raised.  If
          she  remained a virgin,  why does the  Gospel of Matthew  tell us
          that  Joseph  knew not  his  wife  until  after Christ  was  born
          (Matthew 1:25)?
                From  a Scriptural standpoint,  the presence of  the phrase
          "until  she  had  brought  forth her  firstborn  Son,"  does  not
          automatically mean  that Joseph  must have  known her  afterward.
          This is because in both Greek and Hebrew the word 'until' or 'to'
          can have  several different  meanings.  We  find it in  II Samuel
          6:23: "Michal, daughter of Saul, had not child to (until) the day
          of her death."  It is used again in Matthew 28:20 where the risen
          Christ says "Lo, I am with you always, even to (until) the end of
          the world."   And in Deuterono-my 34:6 we  read "Moses was buried
          in a valley  in the land of  Moab, but no one knows  his grave to
          (until) this day."
                Obviously the  use of the  word in these passages  does not
          imply that Michal had a  child AFTER her death, that Christ  will
          DEPART at  the end of the world, or  that Moses' burial place was
          discovered THE  DAY Deuteronomy  34:6 was written.   By  the same
          token, the word 'until' in Matthew 1:25 does not mean that Joseph
          and Mary  began a  sexual union after  Christ was  born.   Such a
          teaching is  found nowhere  in Scripture and  is contrary  to the
          consistent voice of the entire early Church.
                But  doesn't  the  Bible also  mention  other  brothers and
          sisters of Christ?  Who are they and where did they come from?
                For one thing, they are  never directly called the sons and
          daughters  of Mary  and Joseph.   In  several passages  the Bible
          speaks of the  children or relatives as "brothers."   Abraham and
          Lot  are called  brothers, although  Lot  was actually  Abraham's
          nephew.   And Jacob  and Laban are  called brothers,  even though
          Jacob was the son of Rebecca, Laban's sister.
                Scripture is therefore silent concerning the nature of this
          relationship  between  Christ  and these  brothers  and  sisters.
          Early  Fathers differed slightly  in their understanding  of what
          the terms meant.  Some, such as Saint Ambrose, believed that they
          were children of a  former marriage between Joseph and a wife who
          died prior  to Matthew chapter 1.   Others taught that  they were
          cousins.   But  on one  point, almost  everyone is  in agreement:
          Mary and Joseph  had no sexual union whatsoever,  before or after
          the birth of Christ.
                I must  say in  all candor that  had my betrothed  been the
          woman chosen by the Father to bear His eternal Son in  the flesh,
          my view of her  would have been utterly transformed and  my honor
          for her  infinitely heightened.   Imagine being betrothed  to the
          Mother of  God.  It was so with  Joseph.  His betrothed was ever-
                If we  as  the Church  are called  to be  "without spot  or
          blemish  or any  such thing,  but holy and  blameless" (Ephesians
          5:27), does  it not follow that she who  is the progenitor of the
          Lord of that Church  should be of that same holy  character?  Not
          only has Mary  by the mercy and  power of God conquered  both sin
          and death, the Psalmist  sees a glimpse of her in  heaven through
          prophetic eyes.  For in Psalm 45:9, Christ is King and Mary is at
          His side as Queen -  and rightly so.  If  God can make us  "kings
          and priests" (Revelation 1:6) for all eternity,  certainly He has
          the prerogative to crown her  with higher honor in heaven's royal
                Little did John and James realize the day they argued about
          which of them  might occupy the  seat of honor at  Christ's right
          hand in  the Kingdom,  that God the  Father had  already reserved
          that space  for the marvelous woman He chose  to bear His Son for
          our salvation.  The honor is  appropriate for the most blessed of
          all women, the one who  is our very icon of holiness.    Who else
          could be more rightly rewarded?  Thus the Psalmist is well within
          the mark when he writes of Christ,  "At Your right hand stand the
                There are  two other beliefs  concerning Mary that  must be
          briefly mentioned  and  addressed.    The  first  is  her  bodily
          assumption into heaven, the other her immaculate conception.
                It was  widely reported  in the  early Church  that shortly
          after her death,  Mary's body was assumed into heaven.   In later
          centuries, the Roman Church ratified this belief as dogma,  while
          the Eastern  Church withheld such  an official imprimatur.   Most
          Christians agree  that such a miracle is within the realm of firm
          biblical   precedent,  Enoch  and   Elijah  being  two  examples.
          Further, there is  no known record of any gravesite  or relics of
          the Holy Virgin.  The assumption of the Virgin is safely  seen as
          an  historic  Christian  tradition, though  not  recorded  in the
                The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a  doctrine unknown in
          the ancient Church and unique to the  modern Roman Church.  In an
          effort to  distance Mary (and  protect Christ) from the  stain of
          sin, the Immaculate Conception holds  Mary was conceived and born
          without sin.   This teaching has no basis  either in Scripture or
          in the Creeds of the Church.
                Whatever other excesses may have cropped up in history, the
          Roman Church has  never believed or  officially taught that  Mary
          was in any way coequal with  the Trinity or was to be  worshipped
          with the  Trinity.  Such  allegations are sometimes set  forth by
          critics of the Roman Church, but without basis in fact.
                Near  the  end  of  Vespers  in  the  Orthodox  Church  the
          officiant says, "O  holy Mother of God, save us."  What does this
                The Orthodox Church has taught from the very beginning that
          Mary is the supreme  example, or proto-type, of what happens to a
          person who  fully places trust and  faith in God.   Everything we
          aspire  to  become in  Christ, she  already  is.   We are  all to
          "receive" Christ (John  1:12).  And as we  noted previously, Mary
          was  the first human  being who did  receive Christ.   Out of the
          millions of "decisions"  made for Christ,  Mary's was the  first.
          Therefore, whatever  promises the  Holy Scriptures  hold for  us,
          Mary already  possesses.        If the  sacred Scriptures declare
          that we are all kings (Revelation 1:6), is it so strange that the
          Church refers to  Mary as Queen?  If the Holy Bible promised that
          you and I  shall judge angels (I  Corinthians 6:3), is it  so odd
          that the Church should sing that Mary is "More honorable than the
          cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim"?
                If  we  who are  called  holy  brethren (Hebrews  3:1)  are
          commanded to be holy as God is  holy (I Peter 1:15,16) and are to
          present  our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), is it so
          unthinkable that  she whose  holy body was  the recipient  of God
          Incarnate should be  called "most holy" by the Church?   If Saint
          Paul  instructs  us   to  "pray  always...for  all   the  saints"
          (Ephesians 6:18), is it so  outrageous to confess with the Church
          that holy Mary (along  with all the  saints who have passed  from
          death to  life and continually  stand in the presence  of Christ)
          intercedes before  her Son  on behalf  of all  men?          Mary
          volitionally  relinquished  her will  to  the will  of  God, thus
          cooperat-ing  fully with  the purpose  of God.   So  the original
          question, "Can Mary save us?"  leads to another question: "Can we
          save  others?"  Again, the  Holy Scriptures speak with resounding
          clarity.  Here are some examples:        "Pay  close attention to
          yourself and to your teaching;  persevere in these things; for as
          you do this, you will save both  yourself and those who hear you"
          (I Timothy 4:16).
                "Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the  error of
          his way will save his soul from  death and will cover a multitude
          of sins"  (James 5:20).            "Have mercy  on some  who  are
          doubting;  save others,  snatching them  out  of the  fire" (Jude
                Fire saves (I Corinthians 3:15), prayer saves (James 5:15),
          angels   save  (Isaiah  63:9),  baptism  saves  (I  Peter  3:21),
          preaching  saves (I  Corinthians 1:21),  the  Apostle Paul  saved
          (Romans 11:14).
                New life  in Christ, or  salvation, is both  personal union
          with Him and an incorporation into the wholeness of the Body, the
          Church.  Salvation is a  Church affair, a Church concern, because
          we are  all affected  by it.          In another  biblical image,
          salvation  is seen  as a  family matter  - God's  family ("...the
          whole family in  heaven and earth..." - Ephesians  3:15).  Every-
          body gets in to the act, so to speak.  Therefore, under Christ we
          each have a part to play in the corporateness of His saving act.
                We  do not  save alone;  Mary does  not save alone.   Jesus
          Christ is our wellspring of salvation.   And He said, "Apart from
          Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).  But "If you abide in Me, and
          My words  abide in you,  ask whatever you  wish, and it  shall be
          done  for you (John 15:7).         Mary has a  unique role in our
          salvation because  she provided  the body  of Christ and  thereby
          became the "mother" of all those who would be saved.  That is why
          Jesus, while  on the  Cross, said to  His mother,  "Woman, behold
          your son!"  and then said  to Saint John, "Behold,  your mother!"
          (John 19:-26,27).
                Many Christians have  been grossly misinformed in  the last
          150  years concerning  the  historical  Church's  view  of  Mary.
          Therefore, I would  suggest that you keep this booklet [textfile]
          and use it to help others when the question arises.  And remember
          also, that there are things  that are unique to the  Virgin Mary.
          She was the only  one who gave her  flesh to the Son of  God, and
          she is  uniquely to be "blessed throughout all generations" (Luke
          1:48).       What we do about Mary is  connected directly to what
          we  do about  Church.   The  community of  Christ's followers  is
          called to act together.  Taking action with regard to Mary is not
          simply personal or private; it has  to do with responding as  The
                And  where  in   Christendom  has  the  fulness   of  truth
          concerning  Mary been preserved?   Even  most Protestants  - both
          liberal and conservative -know she is slighted in their  circles.
          The answer for Protestants  who take the biblical and  historical
          evidence seriously  lies neither within  the Protestant  Churches
          nor in the Roman Church with its questionable late dogmatic addi-
          tions concerning Mary.
                I urge  you to visit and get  to know the historic Orthodox
          Church which has maintained the biblical fidelity concerning Mary
          and  Christian  faith  in  general.   Within  the  boundaries  of
          Orthodoxy,  the faith and  practice of the  Church safeguard true
          commitment to the Lord Jesus  Christ together with God the Father
          and  God the Holy  Spirit.   It is there  that the truths  of the
          Bible are taught in their  entirety, where the worship of  God is
          experienced in Spirit and  in truth, and where Mary and the great
          cloud of witnesses for Christ throughout the ages are honored and
                The hour is at hand for all of us who love  Christ and take
          seriously  the Holy  Scriptures to  set our  hearts and  minds to
          giving Holy Mary her proper  due in the proper Church.   We do so
          because  God has  done great  things  for and  through her  (Luke
                As Christians we do not live by feelings, we live by faith.
          Let us once for all rise above those things the devil has sown in
          our hearts to neutralize us  against this precious woman who gave
          birth  to our Savior.   Bless her  in the midst  of God's people.
          Follow her example in exalting Christ.  Confess her as the Mother
          of God.  Come home  to the Church that  has kept intact our  holy
          faith.   And may  we help turn  our generation  back to  Mary the
          honor and blessing which God has commanded.
                                           END OF TEXT
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                Conciliar Press
                10090 A Highway 9
                Ben Lomond, CA  95005-9217
          or call 1-800-967-7377.

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