In traveling through Italy, I have been impressed by the usefulness of the GPS. Whether finding a way on the roads to a certain destination, or finding a Church nearby, or trying to encounter a good eating establishment, I just asked Siri or Google and then have them plot out what number to use for a call or what roads to take to get there. I can’t get over how truly useful it is and I wonder how we got on without it! All those stops in the past to ask someone in a gas station and those maps!
As hard as it is to imagine, this got me thinking about the Blessed Virgin and her relationship to our faith. She has been called the Scepter of Orthodoxy, which is a fancy way of saying she is our GPS to Jesus her Son! This may seem farfetched, but hang in there with me. She has a very honored place in our Catholic Faith. In Orthodoxy, she is powerfully invoked as the ‘Theotokos’ that is the ‘Mother of God’ or the ‘Bearer of God’. Historically, it took 4 centuries and a number of Ecumenical Councils to come to this honored place for her. While we give honor to the saints (in Greek, ‘Dulia’), for Mary we give special honor (Hyperdulia).
One has to make a further “Greek” distinction without which we fall into the confusion of many of our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ. During the Reformation, they saw that many Catholic Christians seemed to be ‘worshiping’ the Madonna or Blessed Mother. Much of this was merely exaggerated devotion, but in some cases it could really substitute for belief in Christ and the Incarnation. So many reformers ‘threw out’ any devotion to Mary as, at best, confusing and unnecessary, and at worst, a form of the sin of idolatry.
But they refused to see that in giving Mary ‘hyperdulia’, we are not giving her ‘latria’, which in Greek means ‘worship’. Only God and Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit are worshiped, for only the Triune God is God. Once that theological concern is addressed, then we can see the importance of Mary for our way to Jesus, her Son and God’s Son.
She has been called “The Scepter of Orthodoxy” by the Fathers of the Church. Orthodoxy is used in a general sense as correct teaching of the faith. Whenever anyone for any reason tries to eliminate devotion to Mary, they inevitably fall off the true road to Jesus. This is because Mary grounds the mystery of the Incarnation in our own flesh. Without the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God, we no longer are Christians! She was not just a thing that God used to do this. She is a person to whom an Archangel was sent to ask her whether she would be the mother of God’s only Son. What honor God gave her in asking one of His creatures to voluntarily be part of the salvation of the world! Without Mary, there is no Incarnation. Without the Incarnation, there is no Christianity. And without Christianity, there is no Church or Sacraments and no salvation.
So you see, an attack on Mary, an attempt to lower her prestige in the eyes of the faithful, is the way the devil seeks to undercut the Incarnation. Jesus was not just a prophet (as Muslims contend). Jesus was not just a sage (as the Secularists say). Jesus is the Son of God born to Mary. If that is hard to believe, you can understand why so many will not accept this. Mary, as the Scepter of Orthodoxy, shows us the way to think of Jesus and His role in the life of the cosmos in a correct way. To veer off in other directions is to be heterodox, and that is a long way of saying it is heresy!
True devotion to Our Lady leads us directly to Her Son, Jesus. It never stops with her. And that is so human when you think about it. What mother, proud of her child, does not want the world to share her love and admiration for him or for her! In our recent procession to celebrate our devotion to Our Lady, her statue did not appear at the end of the procession. Rather, her statue led the procession! At the end of this gathering of faith, Jesus Himself walked with us through His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. At the lead was a representation of Mary, but she wanted her beloved Son, not in effigy but in reality, have the place of honor!
I count it such an honor to be associated with a parish under her direct patronage! May we all follow Mary’s advice that she gave in John’s description of the Marriage Feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you to do.” These words were the last words we have from her in the Gospels. How great it would be to follow her advice!