The icon above was instrumental in helping me overcome a very Protestant mindset about Mary.
And, as usual, it was in answer to the question Christ put to His disciples that brought me to this epiphany: "Who do you say that I am?" If Jesus is fully God and fully man, then His mother is Theotokos, as the 4th Council at Chalcedon declared.
And if Jesus IS God in the flesh, then the womb of this woman was "more spacious than the heavens." I truly love the theology tied to the Incarnation and Mary precisely because it fills up my realization of Who Jesus IS.
Evangelicals worry that devotion and contemplation of Mary will detract from Jesus, and this is a danger, but since when did we allow truth to be sacrificed for "safety?" Doing theology is inherently dangerous. We handle truths that are always too big for us, any of us. We deal with the "fire" of the Uncreated energies of God Himself. It is always dangerous to do theology. Always!
But that authentic danger should not keep us from the sublime theology that expands our souls and calls us to deeper faithfulness to Christ.
And the danger is not diminished if we retreat to perceived "safe" positions. In fact, the danger there is that we will open the door to a watered down Christology just as we were working hard to "protect" our devotion to Jesus alone.
But Christ is never concerned about devotion and honor shown to His Mother. In fact, His last act from the Cross was to give her as mother to all His disciples when He entrusted her care to St. John. In that act Jesus shared His mother with all His disciples through the ages.
Thankfully, some Evangelicals and even some Pentecostals are re-discovering the value of Mary in devotion and honor. A TV preacher I heard recently was strongly admonishing his audience to remember the faithfulness of Mary, and the fact that she was the most unique woman who ever lived. He commented that Jesus was "with" the disciples, but He had been inside Mary. That bond lasted right up to Calvary's cross. As he put it: "From the Manger to the Mountain." But then this Pentecostal preacher added something else that brought tears to my eyes.
He went on to talk about the day of Pentecost and how the Holy Spirit descended on all the Apostles. He said for them it was a first time experience having the Holy Spirit overshadow them and fill them, but Mary looked around and said "I know this Presence."
This certainly is a less theologically precise way of saying deep theological truths, but the very fact that it is being said at all is such a source of joy.
As we approach the Manger, dear ones, let's stop and sing with the Church:
O Virgin Theotokos, Rejoice, O Mary full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women And blessed is the fruit of your womb For you have borne the Savior of our souls
Holy May, Mother of God, pray for us that we too might conceive in our bodies the Lord Jesus, and that we might also attain unto God. Amen