Friday, April 20, 2012

Luther's View of Mary on Catholic Answers Forums

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Apr 13, '12, 7:26 pm
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Default Martin Luther on Mary

1- Martin Luther seemed to have believed in the Immaculate conception (yes, even before it was infallibly been defined by a Pope), as he wrote:

“It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin"

-Martin Luther (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527 Luther).

2- Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God) as he wrote:

"Christ, ..was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him... "brothers" really means "cousins" here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers."

-Martin Luther (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4.1537-39).

"He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb.. .This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that."

-Martin Luther (Ibid.)

"God says... "Mary's Son is My only Son." Thus Mary is the Mother of God.".

-Martin Luther (Ibid.)

"God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary's Son, and that Mary is God's mother...She is the true mother of God and bearer of God...Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus. not two Christs. . .just as your son is not two sons...even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone."

-Martin Luther (On the Councils and the Church, 1539)

"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil."

-Martin Luther (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522)

3- Perhaps he believed in the Assumption of Mary too. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated:

"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith... It is enough to know that she lives in Christ."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Assumption of Mary, 1522)

4- Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language:

"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, September 1, 1522).

"[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

"No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation. 1537).

"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace.. .Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ...Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God.".

-Martin Luther (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)
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Apr 13, '12, 8:06 pm
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Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

I forgot to put the 5th point....

Luther goes even further, and gives the Blessed Virgin the exalted position of "Spiritual Mother" for Christians, much the same as in Catholic piety:

"It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother. God is his father."

-Martin Luther (Sermon. Christmas, 1522)

Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees...If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.

- Martin Luther (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).

Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation.

-Martin Luther (Sermon, March 11, 1523).

Our prayer should include the Mother of God.. .What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor.. .We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her...He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary.

-Martin Luther (Personal Prayer Book, 1522).
Apr 15, '12, 9:40 am
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Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
1- Martin Luther seemed to have believed in the Immaculate conception (yes, even before it was infallibly been defined by a Pope), as he wrote:
“It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" -Martin Luther (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527 Luther).
This quote made its way into a cyber space when a popular Roman Catholic apologist about 10 years ago began posting it after he took it from Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar's book, Luther Vol. IV (St Louis: B. Herder, 1913). Grisar though points out that "The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther’s approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in later editions which appeared during Luther’s lifetime they disappear." The reason for their disappearance is that as Luther’s Christocentric theology developed, aspects of Luther’s Mariology were abandoned. Grisar also recognizes the development in Luther's theology. In regards to the Luther quote in question, Grisar says (from a Roman Catholic perspective): As Luther’s intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works. The most one can conclude from this Luther quote is that Luther held to some form of Mary's sinlessness in 1527. According to Grisar, the comment was stricken from the sermon, and Luther abandoned his earlier view. I've detailed this quote here:

[quote=Jacob50;9180967]2- Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God) as he wrote:

While Luther could call Mary the “Mother of God,” he was far more concerned to say something about the work of God in Christ than about her. Grisar also points out that for Luther: "That she " has a greater grace," viz. a higher dignity as the Mother of God, " is not due to any merit of hers, but simply because we cannot all be Mothers of God ; otherwise she is on the same level with us."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil." -Martin Luther (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522)
This quote indeed appears to treat Mary as entirely sinless. This statement was made in 1522. If Grisar is correct, Luther's later view does not reflect such sentiment. Even in this early Reformation writing, Luther began changing the emphasis on Mary, and de-emphasizing the importance of her attributes:

“Take note of this: no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him. Rather praise and thank God through Mary and the grace given her. Laud and love her simply as the one who, without merit, obtained such blessings from God, sheerly out of his mercy, as she herself testifies in the Magnificat.”


-continued-

Apr 15, '12, 9:41 am
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Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
3- Perhaps he believed in the Assumption of Mary too. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated: "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith... It is enough to know that she lives in Christ."-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Assumption of Mary, 1522)
I've got this sermon in front of me at the moment. Here is the context of this quote. You tell me if it has anything to do with Mary's Assumption. Luther says:

"Today the festival of our dear lady, the mother of God, is observed to celebrate her death and departure above. But how little this Gospel corresponds with this is plain. For this Gospel tells us nothing about Mary being in heaven. And even if one could draw from this text every detail about what it is like for a saint to be in heaven, it would be of little use. It is enough that we know that departed saints live in God, as Christ concludes in Matthew [Matthew 22] based on the passage in Exodus [Exodus 4] where God says to Moses, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob," that God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.'"

Then if you skip down to the third paragraph Luther states:

"Now since here on earth God deals with us in this meager prison (that is barely half a life), in such a way that we barely perceive how we live here, how much more can He give life in heaven where it is spacious and where is true life. So we cannot set up any definite limits or establish a rule as to how the saints live there since even here dreaming and crazy people live, but we can't imagine how. It is enough to know that they live. But it is not necessary for us to know what that life is like. That is why I have always said that our faith always must rest upon what is known. We do not make articles of faith out of what doesn't rest squarely on Scriptures, else we would daily make up new articles of faith. For this reason, those things that are necessary to believe which you must always preserve, which Scripture clearly reveals, are to be markedly distinguished from everything else. For faith must not build itself upon what Scripture does not clearly prove. So since the Scripture clearly says here that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all believers live, then it is necessary for you to believe that the mother of God lives.."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
4- Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."
-Martin Luther (Sermon, September 1, 1522).
Now here is the quote in context:

"You know, my friends, that deep in the heart of men is inscribed the honor with which one honors the mother of God; yes, it is even so deep that no one willingly hears anything against it, but extols her more and more. Now we grant that she should be honored since we are enjoined by the Scripture to receive one another with honor, as Paul says (Romans 12:10); so man must also honor her. Above all she must be rightly honored, but the people have "fallen" so deeply in this honor that she is more highly honored than is right and there are two harmful results of all of this: a rupture with Christ inasmuch as the hearts of men are more directed to her than to Christ himself. Christ is put behind in darkness and entirely forgotten!"

And now, off to church I go. Perhaps I'll go through the rest later.

James
Apr 15, '12, 5:46 pm
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Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures." -Martin Luther (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).
This quote comes from William Cole’s article “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970, p.131). Cole states:

“In a Christmas sermon of 1531, Luther speaks of Mary as the ‘highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. He goes on to claim that ‘she is nobility, wisdom and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures” (WA 34, 2, 497 and 499).”

Note, the quote as cited by Cole is actually two quotes from two different pages, separated by an entire page. The question that needs to be asked is what exactly is Marian devotion? In other words, what does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to Mary?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity."-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation. 1537).
This quote is probably taken from William Cole's article, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary [Marian Studies XXI, 1970, p. 132]. The quote as frequently cited in cyber space appears in this form in Cole's article:

"Five years later, likewise preaching for the Feast of the Visitation, he marvels at Mary's humility in the face of Elizabeth's great praise, which he makes equivalent to 'No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sara, blessed above all nobility, wisdom and sanctity' " (July 2, 1537- WA 45, 105, 7 to 106, 1].

Max Thurian provides some further context as well as an alternate translation:

"...then on another Feast of the Visitation, July 2.1537, Luther said: 'When the Virgin received the acclamation of Elizabeth as being the blessed Mother of God, because she had believed and because all was coming to pass as the angel had spoken, she was not filled with pride by this praise which no other woman had ever yet spoken to her—this immense praise: "No woman is like unto thee! you are more than an empress or a queen! you are more than Eve or Sarah; blessed above all nobility, wisdom or saintliness!" No, she was not filled with pride by this lofty, excellent and super-abundant praise ...' " [Weimar, 45: 105, 7 to 106, 1].

Source: Max Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church (London: The Faith Press, 1963), p.80. Again, what does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to Mary? I submit these are two different things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace.. .Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ...Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God.". -Martin Luther (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)
It's not so much that Luther didn't say what's purported in the quote, it's that he said what he said in multiple places, in different contexts, not in this one quote. You see, this is another quote from William Cole's article. Cole's Luther quote here is actually a rather "loose" compilation of a few Luther quotes, from different treatises, with an emphasis on Luther's exposition of the Magnificat. If you count it all up, Cole provides around 20 references for 7 lines from Luther. 20 references? Something, obviously, doesn't add up. William Cole's documentation is somewhat free-style (for lack of a better phrase).

Luther's exposition of the Magnificat is not representative of his lifelong Mariology. As to "coming through her to God," Luther eventually abandoned the intercession of the saints. By 1522 things had changed. Erfurt Evangelists questioning Luther on the intercession of saints received this response from him:

"I beseech in Christ that your preachers forbear entering upon questions concerning the saints in heaven and the deceased, and I ask you to turn the attention of people away from these matters in view of the fact…that they are neither profitable nor necessary for salvation. This is also reason why God decided not to let us know anything about His dealings with the deceased. Surely he is not committing a sin who does not call upon any saint but only clings firmly to the one mediator, Jesus Christ."

Apr 19, '12, 9:49 am
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Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
4- Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."
-Martin Luther (Sermon, September 1, 1522).
I took some time this morning to look this quote up again.

The first thing to note is the date is wrong. Rather than the correct date is September 8, 1522. This sermon was part of Luther's Kirchenpostille (festival sermons). I am extremely grateful to the translation work of Joel Baseley who put together a fresh English translation of these sermons, many of which had not been translated into English previously.

Baseley explains in his introduction to these sermons, "Luther's goal in issuing the festival sermons was to wean his people away from the adoration and veneration of the saints which had crept into the church in order to lead them back to venerate Christ alone and to serve not the dead but the living saints in need, according to Christ's command" (Baseley, introduction). In other words, this Luther quote that says "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is actually part of a collection of sermons intended to wean people away from venerating saints! Amazing. Here's Baseley's translation of the paragraph this quote comes from in the sermon, "The Day of the Nativity of Mary (Matthew 1)". The sentence bolded is that which states "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" :

"Today's feast of the blessed Virgin celebrates her birth. We also read today in the beginning of Matthew the accounting of part of the family tree including the great ancestors of Jesus Christ. But you know, my friends in Christ, that the honor given to the mother of God has been rooted so deeply into the hearts of men that no one wants to hear any opposition to this celebration. There is rather a desire to further elevate it and make it even greater. We also grant that she should be honored, since we, according to Saint Paul's words [Romans 12] are indebted to show honor one to another for the sake of the One who dwells in us, Jesus Christ. Therefore we have an obligation to honor Mary. But be careful to give her honor that is fitting. Unfortunately, I worry that we give her all too high an honor for she is accorded much more esteem than she should be given or than she accounted to herself. So from this comes two abuses. First Christ is diminished by those who place their hearts more upon Mary than upon Christ himself. In doing so Christ is forced into the background and completely forgotten. The other abuse is that the poor saints here on earth are forgotten. I would allow a high regard for Mary and her praise, just so long as you do not get carried away and consider making a law out of it so that she must be honored as a condition for your salvation. For the Scriptures have recorded nothing about her birth or life. So your hearts must not be placed upon her and she must not be exalted above her proper status. The monks invented all this abuse. They wanted to praise the woman. They have used Mary as an excuse to invent all kinds of lies by which she could be used to establish their twaddle. They have used Scriptures to drag Mary by the hair and force her to go where she never intended. For the Gospel that is read today reveals Christ's nativity, not Mary's. See how many lies have come out of this which we can in no way tolerate. I can surely allow her to be honored but not in a way that belies the Scriptures."

Luther's point is that whatever respect and honor Mary was due to her, the Church of his day had collectively had gone far beyond it."The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is not a positive statement, but a negative statement. In other words, this sentence placed back in its context is in regard to excessive Marian devotion.

James Swan

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