Monday 8 December 2008

8 December: Yo soy la inmaculada concepción...

On the great Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary we remember the words first said to St Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes only 4 years after the decree Ineffabilis Deus, infallibly promulgating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, was issued by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

Our Lady spoke to St Bernadette in her own Occitan patois, the language of the Languedoc region of Southern France. This was what surprised the Parish Priest - none of the ordinary Occitan-speaking people of that part of France had heard or used this glorious title because, in an unbelieving and scoffing age, this and other great titles of the Blessed Virgin had fallen into disuse.

It is a simple historical fact that the original Protestant Reformers accepted almost every major Marian doctrine and considered these doctrines to be both scriptural and fundamental to the historic Christian Faith.

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 the Immaculate Conception. They often seem unable to understand it.

The founders of the Protestant movement believed in the special position of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

For example, Martin Luther defended the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 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..."1

John 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.”2

“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.”3

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.”4

"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.”5

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.”6

“Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin.”7

“It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother.”8

“The more the honour and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honour given to Mary should grow.”9

The Protestant Reformers 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.

Pelikan, J (ed), The Works of Martin Luther, Concordia: St. Louis, volume 4, 694.
2 Calvin, J, Opera, Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, Volume 45, 35.
3 Leeming, Bernard, “Protestants and Our Lady”, Marian Library Studies, January 1967, p.9.
4 Zwingli, U, In Evangelii Lucae, Opera Completa, Zurich, 1828-42, Volume 6, I, 639.
5 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volum 1, 424.
6 Stakemeier, E, in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, Balic, K (ed), Rome, 1962, p.456.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
9 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.

Gaude Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses tu sola interemisti in universo mundo

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]

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