“Some Anglicans”

Over the last 30-some years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my Church.  I love The Episcopal Church, but sometimes it drives me crazy.  I love our liturgy, but hate it when our liturgy becomes the object of or worship.  I love our flexibility, but hate it when it feels like we believe nothing at all.  I love our tradition, but hate that tradition means the 1950’s American Church , the 1549 Prayer Book, the 11th century Sarum Missal, or any number of other dates to which we affix undue import.  All in all, however, I love The Episcopal Church.  Hell, I wouldn’t invest so much of my time and energy in seeing it flourish in the 21st century if I didn’t.

I was reminded of that love this afternoon as I went about doing research on the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I started out by trying to track down a legend I thought I had heard once that Mary laid hands upon John of Patmos to make him a Bishop.  I never found that particular legend, but I did end up on my favorite source of theological wisdom, Wikipedia.  In the section entitled “Christian Doctrines” there is a list of the various doctrinal statements made by the Church about the Virgin Mary.  Some are rather innocuous: The Mother of God and the Virgin Birth.  While some are widely speculative: the Assumption and Perpetual Virginity.  And then there’s the one that everybody misunderstands, Immaculate Conception, which isn’t about the Virgin Mary conceiving Jesus in her womb, but instead that Mary was conceived without “original sin,” which thanks to the stain of Augustine means here mommy and daddy didn’t have sex.  What I found fascinating was the chart that goes along with all of this, indicating which Christian denominations subscribe to which doctrine.

some anglicans

I like that the tree more hotly contested doctrines: Assumption, Immaculate Conception, and Perpetual Virginity are said to be accepted by “some Anglicans.”  The BVM is perhaps the most bifurcated soul in the Biblical Christian tradition.  It seems as though she is treated either as an object of worship, the Theotokos on par with Jesus Christ himself, or entirely ignored after Christmas Eve.  If you are a Presbyterian or Baptist or Congregationalist, Mary plays no role in your religious life whatsoever.   If you are Roman or Orthodox, she is at the forefront of your religious practice.  But in the Anglican Tradition, that bridge between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism, our Marology runs the full spectrum.

I love my Church because there is room to struggle with Mary and what she means for our lives.  “Some Anglicans,” indeed.

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2 thoughts on ““Some Anglicans”

  1. Thanks so much. Although my Roman Catholic friends and family say they don’t worship Mary, it sometimes frightens me that they sound as if they do at times.. It does seem that the most important question is not which BCP we prefer or use or whether or not we prefer formal or informal worship, or which language we prefer to use in our worship or what the proper length of time for a sermon or an offertory hymn should be. It seems to me the most important thing is not our beliefs about Mary but the most important of our beliefs is WHO WE SAY JESUS IS. However, I can’t help but be fascinated by Mary, also.
    The angel Gabriel announced two births and told Zechariah that he stood in the presence of God. Wow! God sends his trusted messenger to Mary. This time Gabriel says “Greetings, you who are highly favored!
    The Lord is with you.” (Emmanuel) But Mary’s reaction is a troubled one and wonders what kind of greeting this might be. Why? She doesn’t say “I knew it, I’ve been a pretty good girl.” She doesn’t ask anything for herself at this point. She doesn’t say “As God knows I’m engaged and he knows what the divorce rate is and how bad the economy is (heavily taxed) and that you know we can’t trust this Roman government at all these days.” Yet I like to think of her as human just like the rest of us and I can’t help but contrast her with Eve who seemed to “believe everything everyone told her”, even a snake! Mary asks “How will this be?” She doesn’t ask any favors or ask the angel to explain to her betrothed and her parents. Mary says “I am the Lord’s servant”. Mary’s choice. Later Mary tells people “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary, the Lord’s servant, believed God; obeyed God. God was at the center of Mary’s life. He came first. She doesn’t worry about what people think of her. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” Because of Jesus we too, stand in the presence of God and God is with us.

    Sorry if I bored y’all. I shouldn’t try to comment on clergy’s blogs.

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