Many modern Protestants object to devotion to the Virgin Mary, or at least, to such devotion as is shown in such feasts as that of our Lady of Sorrows or the Seven Sorrows of our Lady. They claim to find it "disturbing" and seem unable to understand it.
Well, they had better have it out with the founders of their Protestant movement because the founders believed in the special position of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The evidence is not far to seek. Let us examine some of it.
The Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God
Luther maintained this belief throughout the whole of his life.
"She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God ... It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God."1
The Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
He also believed in and taught that Mary's perpetual virginity ought to be held by all Bible-believing Christians and, tellingly, he interpreted Galatians 4:4 to mean that Christ was “born of a woman” without the seed of a husband.
"It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a Virgin."2
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Luther defended this doctrine, now seen by most to be a specifically Roman Catholic doctrine, until his death. Like St Augustine, he believed that Mary's divine maternity necessarily implied her perpetual virginity and conception without Original Sin.
"But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..."3
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven
Luther said of this doctrine:
"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know."4
Due reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary
Luther opposed the idea of human mediation and intercession but nevertheless continued to proclaim that Mary should be revered and made a point of preaching on her feast days.
"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."5
In his last sermon at Wittenberg, Luther preached:
"Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing."6
Calvin always referred to the Blessed Virgin Mary as La Sainte Vierge, the “Holy Virgin”.
He wrote of her:
“Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.”7
“Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ.”8
Calvin translated “brothers” just as the Catholic Church does, to mean cousins and other relatives.
“It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honour.”9
“To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son.”10
Even Ulrich Zwingli, had this to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary:
“It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God.”11
"I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the Gospel, as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.”12
Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.
“I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”13
“Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin.”14
“It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother.”15
“The more the honour and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honour given to Mary should grow.”16
The Protestant Reformers rejected Marian mediation because of their rejection of all human mediation but they did not reject most of the other Marian dogmas which were then taught by the Roman Catholic Church.
The simple reason for this is that they could not avoid the fact that the honour and reverence due to the Blessed Virgin is plainly evident, to any objective eye, from Scripture.
1 Pelikan, J (ed), The Works of Martin Luther, Concordia: St. Louis, volume 24, 107.
2 Ibid, Volume 11, 319-320.
3 Ibid, Volume 4, 694.
4 Cole, William J, The Works of Martin Luther, 10, p. 268.
5 Ibid, 10, III, p.313.
6 Pelikan, J, Op. Cit., Volume 51, 128-129.
7 Calvin, J, Opera, Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, Volume 45, 35.
8 Leeming, Bernard, “Protestants and Our Lady”, Marian Library Studies, January 1967, p.9.
9 Calvin, J, Op. Cit., Volume 45, 348.
10 Calvin, J, A Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Edinburgh: St Andrew’s Press, 1972, p.32.
11 Zwingli, U, In Evangelii Lucae, Opera Completa, Zurich, 1828-42, Volume 6, I, 639.
12 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volum 1, 424.
13 Stakemeier, E, in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, Balic, K (ed), Rome, 1962, p.456.
16 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.
Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, to thou only has it been given to destroy all heresies in the whole world
[From The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary]