One of the most beautiful prayers in the New Testament is the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which tells of the holiness and mercy of God. In that prayer, Mary proclaims (v. 46-49):
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Mary’s statement, “behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” is both prophetic (she’s saying what will happen in the future, for all generations) and prescriptive (she’s saying that this is what should happen, since she’s saying it happens on account of the holiness of God). Let’s consider the Magnificat, then, both as a prescription, and a prophesy.
The first point here is an obvious one: Mary is saying that all generations are right to call to her blessed, because God has done great things for her, and holy is His Name. I brought this passage up to an Evangelical I was speaking to recently, and asked how all generations call Mary blessed. The person I was speaking to immediately conceded, that for Evangelicals, “we don’t.” A number of other Protestant converts have noticed the same thing:
|Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato,
The Virgin in Prayer (1640s)
It was a startling paradigm shift to realize we treated her so allergically-and one which, I have since noticed, isn’t unusual for converts. Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, told me once that when he was still hanging back from the Church because of Mary, a blunt priest he knew asked him, “Do you believe her soul magnifies the Lord? It’s right there in Scripture.” Ahlquist reflexively answered back, “Of course I do! I know the Bible!” But even as he replied he was thinking to himself, “I never really thought of that before.” It can be a disorienting experience.
But, in fact, it is right there in the Bible. Her soul magnifies the Lord, and from that day to this all generations have called her blessed. So why, when we Evangelicals looked at Jesus, did we never look at Him through the divinely appointed magnifying glass? Why were we so edgy about calling her “blessed” and giving her any honor? That realization was my first clue that it was, perhaps, Catholics who were simply being normal and human in honoring Mary, while we Evangelicals were more like teetotalers fretting that far too much wine was being drunk at the wedding in Cana.
There are very few passages in the New Testament that explicitly address the way that future generations are to act. One of those passages is John 17:20-23, in which Jesus explicitly prays that the Church would remain One in subsequent generations. Another is this passage, calling all generations to bless Mary. To the point that Protestants can recognize that they’re in violation of this call to honor Mary, it should be a wake-up call that perhaps they, rather than Catholics, are the ones with a Mary problem.
|Virgin and Child with Balaam the Prophet,
Second century Marian art on the walls of the Catacombs.
|A 6th century icon (a century before Muhammad)
depicting Mary and Jesus
And from those who say, “We are Christians” We took their covenant; but they forgot a portion of that of which they were reminded. So We caused among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection. And Allah is going to inform them about what they used to do.
And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?’” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.”