Thursday, January 18, 2007
Zwingli’s’ Mariology: On Mary “Full of Grace”
Because he stands in the shadows of Luther and Calvin, Zwingli (1484-1531) gets overlooked often. His writings can be difficult to track down. One can go to the local bookstore and get a Calvin or Luther bio or anthology, but you’ll do a lot searching to actually get a Zwingli book. When you do read Zwingli, it becomes apparent that he was not on par with either Luther or Calvin.
I’ve always wanted to read Zwingli discussing his Mariology. For the most part, the only people who seem to “care” about Zwingli’s Mariology are Roman Catholics. And really, they probably aren’t interested in actually reading and researching Zwingli. Rather, his writings are used for polemical purposes- to show that an early Reformer had particular beliefs about the Virgin Mary. It does appear that Zwingli did have some similar beliefs about Mary to those found in Roman Catholicism. This is a subject that I plan on exploring. I'd like to see for myself how Zwingli understood the role of Mary. I refuse to be spoon fed Zwingli quotes from Catholic apologetics- for I doubt most of the pop Catholic apologetic writers have actually read Zwingli on this subject.
Well, here's a present from me to the Catholic apologetics community. I did finally track down a piece from Zwingli on Mary. It is a section from the “Sermon on Mary, The Pure Mother of God”. Zwingli preached the sermon in Zurich in the autumn of 1522. In it, you will find Zwingli saying all sorts of things about Mary. He calls her "pure" and "holy", a "spotless virgin" etc. Note though, Zwingli’s explanation of the Greek word "kecharitomene". Zwingli understands the word to mean “favorable”.
“When the angel came in unto Mary, he greeted her with these words: " Hail, thou art full of grace! The Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women." Here it is to be noticed that this word "full of grace" is, translated from the Greek word "kecharitomene," which means beloved, or filled with grace, highly favored, whereby we understand that the word “full of grace " should not be taken to mean that she was from herself full of grace, but that all the grace with which she was so rich and full was from God. For to be full of grace is nothing else than to be highly favored of God and to be chosen before all other women. For grace is only the favor of God. So if I should say that God has given much grace to men, I should say nothing else than God has been very favorable to men and done loving things for them. Therefore is the pure Mary full of grace from God, as she herself sings: "He hath done to me great things." She says not: "I am great from mine own grace," but " the Almighty hath done to me great things." For immediately afterward she adds: "He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden, for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." [Source: Guy Carelton Lee (ed.), The World’s Orators (New York: GP Putnum’s Sons, 1900, 95-96).