07 August 2009

Luther on the Blessed Mother

Below are some quotes I've assembled from the sermons of Martin Luther on the topic of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we approach her day in our calendar (August 15, traditionally observed as the day of her falling asleep and her being taken to heaven) I thought they'd be a blessing to meditate upon:

She was without doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in birth, and after the birth, and she was neither sick nor weakened from the birth, and could certainly have gone out of the house after giving birth, not only because of her exemption from the Law, but also because of the uninterrupted soundness of her body. For her son did not detract from her virginity, but actually strengthened it. -- House Postils 3:256 (sermon from 1541)

Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we are. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are....For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy, pure fruit, at once true God and truly man, in one person. -- House Postils 3:291 (sermon from 1532)

The purpose of the pope's celebration (of the Visitation) is to invoke Mary; but our purpose is to praise and thank God, in accordance with the example of the beloved Virgin, so that we celebrate just as she did.... She thanks God and sings a beautiful song of praise for us, so that we might learn to live godly lives, both inwardly and outwardly in this world, with joyfulness, thanksgiving, and faith before our God, which is our reasonable service. -- House Postils 3:324 (sermon from 1532)

If the high, holy mother of Christ has done it, why should I not want to do it [serve my neighbor] as well? And were I to do ten times more, it would still be nothing; for this person is so great; she is queen and empress among all women and for that reason outstrips me far when she humbles herself, just as a width of straw compared with my humility stretched a thousand miles wide! To our scorn and shame, therefore, her example stands as a rebuke of our arrogance, pride, and disobedience. -- House Postils 3:345 (sermon from 1532)

No doubt, the Virgin Mary is the greatest and most excellent of all women, above queens and empresses. This eminence has not made her one hair's breadth more proud. She remains humble, lowers herself to be a maid, places herself in the service of her aged cousin, Elizabeth, remaining with her until John the Baptist is born. -- House Postils 3:362 (sermon from 1533)

1 comment:

David Jay Webber said...

Here's another interesting statement by Luther concerning Mary - the "great doctor and prophetess":

The second thing in this Gospel [Luke 1:39-56] is the Magnificat which Mary sings. By this she manifests the prowess of a doctor or master of theology and teaches us how we should comport ourselves toward God ...she teaches us how to comport ourselves before God, with praise and thanksgiving. ... "My soul," says she, "doth magnify the Lord," that is, I praise and extol God, not just with my mouth but with my heart and my life, with all my strength and members; and with all my soul I want to sing and praise God. ... "My spirit," she says further, "hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." My "spirit," that is, my innermost being, all the faculties with which I perceive God rejoice not in the temporal things but in God. ... Therefore, let all the learned on earth come together and try their hand at composing even a single verse equal to this verse, and then they will see the extent of their skill. Mary sets high her focus, and yet is humble, so humble, that she, a great doctor and prophetess, who is more learned than all the apostles and prophets, becomes governess and handmaiden for Elisabeth. ("[First] Sermon for the Day of Mary's Visitation" [1532], Complete Sermons of Martin Luther [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000], Vol. 7, pp. 347, 350-51)