10 Things I Love about Mary


I remember the interior as being darker more drab. Click image to enlarge.

I’ll never forget being inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It’s a dreadful place really, the smoke of oily candles have over the centuries stained the interior into a dank, dark and dingy medieval black, the razzle dazzle of gold embellishments decadently drip off every painting and altar lending the church a feel that at best could be described as somewhat kitsch and the black cowled monks represent an ascetic religion far removed from my own.

And yet it wasn’t these images that sickened me, made me want to cry out and left me pondering faith gone awry long after. As I lined up to descend into the holy grotto, said to have been where Jesus was born, I noticed a second file of people waiting in front of a heavy ornate painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God.

This row was comprised mainly of South American Catholic pilgrims. They had a poor look about them. The small carved wooden mementos and artefacts from Bethlehem, which are renowned, jam packed into the white plastic packets which hung from their arms, purchased from roadside souvenir vendors, probably with Made in China stamped on the back of them.

Truthfully this is one of the most abominable things I’ve ever seen in my life. Steve graciously pointed out that my beef wasn’t with the icon but with the perceived worship of it. Click image to link to source.

Once they got to the front of the queue they reverently bowed to the painting of Mary, kissed her golden hand, offered up a prayer and then pressed their packets against the picture committing the contents of it to her. The priests walked up and down the row selling candles to the ignorant as part of the sacred charade.

I was mortified. I felt betrayed. I felt like leaving the building.

I give Mariology a hard time because of the excesses, the fantasies and the heresies that are tagged onto it but this weekend I’ve been thinking about Mary and I’ve realised that there are at least 10 things that I love about her. In no particular order and by no means exhaustive here’s my list:

1. Her humanness: In front of her stands the Archangel Gabriel delivering a message from God on high and her initial response is about as human as could be expected,

29 …she was very perplexed at {this} statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.

Want to hear the verse in context? Luke 1
What is this about?

2. Her maternal memories: My mom kept a shoe box of things that she thought I’d one day find important. My Scout badge, a plague my dad painted for me as a baby, the silver broach I wore at my christening. Mary wasn’t that different,

51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all {these} things in her heart.

Want to hear the verse in context? Luke 2
What is this about?

3. Her purity: Unlike Rob Bell I really believe that I Mary’s virginity is critical to sound Christian doctrine. When Gabriel declares to the girl, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,” I can imagine the furrow on her brow and her innocent questioning voice asking,

34 …”How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Want to hear the verse in context? Luke 1
What is this about?

4. Her bubbly spirituality: When she visited her cousin, Elizabeth, she just can’t contain herself and under the power of the Holy Spirit bursts into song and praise in Luke 1:46 – 55.

5. Her husband: Joseph gets the short end of the stick. He, by his own admission, wasn’t Jesus’ natural father and he drops off the scene rather fast but he remains to me a fine example of a man who unswervingly followed the Lord’s command. I like that.

6. The results of her child rearing: As Christians I know we’re to bring our children “up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” But that’s easier said than done. My two kids are living proof that we are all totally depraved even from our mother’s womb. But Mary got it right. OK, granted He was God and sin could never have tainted Him which would have made the obedience issues I have with my two a little easier. Listen again to Luke’s account, speaking of Jesus,

40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Want to hear the verse in context? Luke 2
What is this about?

7. Her devotion to Jesus and to His Church: Mary was there at the beginning of the story, she witnessed Jesus Christ the whole way through. She stood at the foot of the cross when most others had deserted Him and she was among those praying in the opening scene of Acts when Matthias was chosen to replace the traitor.

8. Her Pain: As she stood at the foot of the cross she saw Jesus, tortured, bleeding, dying. He was not a spiritual fiction or a fanciful idea to her, He was a man, who walked and talked and bled and died. Mary saw that and stood as a witness to the truth.

9. Her focus: Mary didn’t disappear after Jesus’ death but rather witnessed our Blessed Saviours resurrection. And she was found amongst the number praying at the start of the book of Acts. Like the conversion and martyrdom of our Lord’s brothers Mary’s testimony points to the veracity of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection.

10. Her Son: God, made man, in Jesus Christ, was her son. In Him dwelt the fullness of deity in human form and likeness. The child who was born from her womb is the Lord to whom I owe my allegiance. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Gabriel announced,

30 “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Want to hear the verse in context? Luke 1
What is this about?

I do believe that Mary’s words of prophecy spoken to Elizabeth rung true then, ring true now and will ring true forevermore,

46 …”My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

Want to hear the verse in context? Luke 1
What is this about?

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7 thoughts on “10 Things I Love about Mary

  1. It’s true that Mary wasn’t sacred. She was a good woman, but she’s not someone to pray to. We should pray to God only.
    Also, the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin is unfounded, the Bible says that Joseph didn’t “know her” until after Jesus was born. So, she and Joseph were a natural couple.
    I do wonder why the Catholics have those ideas.

  2. Hi Mark, I remember the very same feelings welling up within me at the visit to the Church of the Nativity. I think I remember turning to you and saying something like “let’s get out of here.” Nevertheless, as I am sure that you did, I stopped short and began to acknowledge the memory of the visitation to Mary and her subsequent response through what has become known as the “magnificat” and then the characteristics that you applauded in her came flooding in. For these reasons I give thanks to God for his choice of one who whose witness to us would increase our own desire to live a righteous life in our humanity with purity, exciting spirituality, obedience and all the other 10 characteristics you applauded. Thanks for the article.

    • I’ve thought about what I’ve written here and elsewhere and it might sound as if I’m not grateful for the opportunity of having gone to Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe I need to write of some of the joys of having been in the Holy land?

  3. Truthfully this is one of the most abominable things I’ve ever seen in my life. Click image to link to source.

    Why?

    It’s not particularly well done, a little bit kitsch, perhaps over-sentimental, but you don’t have to go to Bethlehem to see oversentimental Christian art. You can see it in abundance in most of the Christian bookshops right here in Gauteng. So why “most abominable”?

    • I’m conscious that this article could well be offensive to you. A trusted advisor of mine, who grew up a Roman Catholic, has been pulling me to pieces for the last few days. I’m beaten, bloody and sore.

      “Abominable” was not referencing the picture which might not have been appealing to my Westernized narrow vision but I could have lived with it. “Abominable” only related to what I perceived as a worship or deification of Mary.

      At the same time I sincerely wished to balance my handling of Mary, the virgin, who’s blessed and so the 10 things I love about Mary flowed out of that mindset.

      Yes, the inspiration for the article flowed out of the discussed and thinking from the comments you and I made on Pete’s blog.

      Sorry. I picked up what you meant and have changed the caption.

  4. Hey Mark,

    “Unlike Rob Bell I really believe that Mary was a virgin and furthermore I believe that her virginity is critical to sound Christian doctrine. ”

    I guess I should read all your articles pertaining to Bell, but he affirmed in Velvet Elvis that he DOES believe in the Virgin birth. The point he was making is if the Virgin birth was proved wrong, would we still believe in JESUS, or does our faith fall apart if some of what we believe is proved to be wrong. The point is that this is supposed to be about WHO we believe, not WHAT we believe. I think it was a good point.

    Bell may have some other errors and I don’t follow him closely enough to know, but this is worth mentioning I think because many people claim he said something he didn’t.

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