Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


There's Something About Mary

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (the official instrument of theological dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion) is now issuing a statement called Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ as part of an ongoing dialogue first called for by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey in 1966. The statement is not the official policy of either church, but a position paper for study by both denominations as a means toward establishing greater unity. The statement says in part
The scriptural witness summons all believers in every generation to call Mary 'blessed'; this Jewish woman of humble status, this daughter of Israel living in hope of justice for the poor, whom God has graced and chosen to become the virgin mother of his Son through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. We are to bless her as the 'handmaid of the Lord' who gave her unqualified assent to the fulfilment of God's saving plan, as the mother who pondered all things in her heart, as the refugee seeking asylum in a foreign land, as the mother pierced by the innocent suffering of her own child, and as the woman to whom Jesus entrusted his friends.
The official announcement of the position paper is online at the Anglican Communion News Service website. As noted in that announcement,
The text stresses that Marian devotion and the invocation of Mary are not in any way to obscure or diminish the unique mediation of Christ. It concludes:

“Affirming together unambiguously Christ's unique mediation, which bears fruit in the life of the Church, we do not consider the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us as communion dividing.... we believe that there is no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division on these matters.”
The language is, no doubt, quite intentional. The practices of personal piety need not divide the two denominations. This does not mean that Anglicans and Roman Catholics who do not pray to Mary, or other saints, should do so. It means that this practice need not be viewed as contrary to scripture. As Steve Rice notes at Dancing on the Head of a Pin, the blog of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, Georgia,
The idea of asking saints to pray for us is typically rejected immediately by Protestants, but think about this: do we not ask others in our church, family and friends to pray for us? Upon close reflection, we might come to the conclusion that there is not much difference. Furthermore, most everyone I know has talked to a deceased loved one - either at their grave site of in some other context. If we think our deceased love ones can hear us and care for us in heaven, surely Sts Peter, Paul, Stephen, and the rest (including the Virgin Mary) hear and care for us as well.

For Anglicans, this is certainly not required and will never be imposed on anyone. But it is the traditional practice of the church, and deserves a second look.


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