Posted by Reed DePace
Up front let me note that the timing of this post, coming on the heels of our RCC friend’s “celebration” of Mary on Dec. 8th, is all God’s fault. He’s the one who has given me faith to believe He uses family worship. He is the one who led me years ago to read and teach the whole Bible verse by verse to my wife and five children. He is the one who in his sovereignty exercised in providence had me reading and explaining Luke 1:39-56 on Dec. 8th (literally Luke was next up in our rotation through the NT.) The timing of this post, in other words, is all God’s doing.
Now, to the extent I’ve misunderstood the passage, that’s solely my fault. Yet to the extent that I have understood the passage (in the context of the Bible alone), then I pray God might encourage you with these considerations.
In this passage it is clear that we are taught Mary is to be given honor. Elizabeth’s response to her much younger cousin is the response of a person who recognizes someone who is their “superior” (in the 5th Commandment sense, see the WLC on the 5th Commandment for background on what is meant by a “superior”.) In this passage the honor due Mary is qualified by (at least) three considerations. Her honor is: derived, directed, and dependent.
V. 43 demonstrates that Mary’s honor is derived. Elizabeth offers an expression of honor to Mary because of her unique relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In other words, Mary is not due this honor because of some inherent quality in herself. Rather she is due it solely because of her relationship with Jesus Christ. She is due the honor derived from her relationship as the earthly mother of the incarnate Son of God.
V. 46 demonstrates that Mary’s honor is directed. In response to Elizabeth’s honoring of her, notice what Mary does not do. She does not respond with, “Well thank you cousin. I’m glad you finally recognize me properly.” No, Mary offers a response that directs Elizabeth’s honor of her to the person from whom the honor is derived, God himself. Mary understands that any honor due her is intended to ultimately be reflected back to its Source. Hence, she directs Elizabeth’s honor back to God.
V. 48 demonstrates that Mary’s honor is dependent. Take a look at the last comment Mary offers. She notes that the honor given to her, derived and directed, will be a perpetual honor, one that the Church in all generations will continue to offer. Yet note the qualification she makes to this perpetual honor in her use of the word “blessed.” The necessary emphasis given by this word is that her honor is dependent. To be blessed in Scripture is to be the recipient of God’s grace and mercy, things that are not deserved and can never be earned. Mary reckons her perpetual honor as being perpetually dependent on the One from Whom it is derived and to Whom it is directed.
Now these three qualifications provide some insight into how we may rightly honor Mary. To the degree we offer her honor consistent with these three characteristics, we rightly honor her. Yet to the degree our offering of honor is not consistent with these three we dishonor Mary. Worse, we dishonor the Lord and Savior from whom her honor is derived, directed and dependent.
May God keep us from such dishonorable belief and practice.
Posted by Reed DePace