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Section 8B ... Controversial Issues

 

003white Index To Section 8B... Controversial Issues       >    Martin Luther Part III

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Martin Luther
 

Martin Luther Part III -
Luther’s Beliefs About Mary, The Mother of Christ.

Carol Brooks

Part I:
 Martin Luther [1483-1546] Background. Theses, Indulgences, and A Man Named Tetzel. Wittenberg Church Door Posting - Fact or Fiction?. The Intention Behind and Reason For The 95 Theses. Popular Fallacies About The Theses. Rome's Reaction and Luther's Counter Reaction. The Five Solae of The Reformation: Luther's Theology - Salvation By Grace Alone and Faith Alone OR Salvation Through Grace AND Baptism. Luther's Reasoning Behind What We See As a Blatant Contradiction.

PART II
 Luther's Doctrine: Luther’s views on Infant Baptism, Consubstantiation, Purgatory, The Ten Commandments etc. differed very little from Rome’s beliefs. Luther's Vitriolic Polemics against those he considered to Be 'enemies' of the faith - The Jews and how Nazi Germany Viewed Luther, Catholic Bishops, The Anabaptists. The Peasants War.. Summary and Conclusion


Part III
L
uther and Mary: Unfortunately, in order to prove Luther was an impostor who worshipped Mary until he died, numerous people dishonestly and deceptively quote him out of context. In reality, Luther disagreed with the Catholic position on almost every count except for one. He retained a lifelong commitment to Mary's perpetual virginity.

Introduction & Quotes and Misquotes

The Veneration of Mary

Devotion to and Praise of Mary
More Than Eve Or Sarah?
Nobility, Wisdom, And Holiness Personified

Mary Does Not Wish That We Come To Her, But Through Her To God

The Woman Who Crushed The Serpents Head

The Assumption

The Immaculate Conception

The Rosary

Mary's Perpetual Virginity
 


Martin Luther and Mary The Mother of Christ.

Introduction
Lutherans usually claim that "Martin Luther himself spoke of Mary with great reverence and respect" [01] However, because of of the great reverence afforded Luther by Protestants, Catholic apologists claim that he was an ardent supporter of Mary -  his opinions exactly or substantially the same as Rome's.

One Catholic apologetics web site says the following "When Fundamentalists study the writings of the "Reformers" (or founders of their particular sect) on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, they will find that the "Reformers" accepted almost every major Marian doctrine and considered these doctrines to be both scriptural and fundamental to the historic Christian Faith". [02]

In order to 'prove' Luther's supposed devotion to (and veneration of) Mary they repeatedly quote Martin Luther himself. In fact, these quotations said to be from his voluminous writings and numerous sermons have spread far and wide finding their way into numerous articles and books. It is sad to say that some Protestant web sites have picked up these very excerpts in their effort to show that Luther's robust Mariology was clear evidence that he never broke away from Catholicism - that he was an impostor who worshipped Mary until he died.


Quotes and Misquotes
Quotations from other people's writings are used for a variety of reasons - most often to illuminate the meaning or to support the arguments of the work in which it is being quoted. The most reliable quotations are those that are explicitly attributed to their original source. However, this is not always possible in the case of authors who wrote a long time ago in languages that we personally have no knowledge of.

The Bible being a prime example.

As Christians we arrive at many of our beliefs when someone (teacher, preacher, leader, author pastor etc.) tells us that this is what the word of God says and points to the appropriate verse in Scripture for supporting evidence. The problem is that we are a lazy people who do not take full advantage of the fact that the Bible has been translated into virtually every language under the sun. We pick up our Bible to see whether the verses pointed to have been quoted out of context. - the part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning. Being the masters of cherry picking we see in the  written word only what we wish to see - glossing over the parts that do not completely agree with what we have already decided to believe.

See Context is Crucial   and The Bible, Then and Now

Although the Bible is the book most often misquoted by those who have their own agenda to promote, in our age-old desire for kings we can put on pedestals, we have done exactly the same thing with Luther. However, we have taken it to extremes when it comes to what Luther thought and said about Mary the mother of Christ.

If you have read the first part of this article, you should know that I am not exactly a Martin Luther fan.

However, what we cannot do is misquote people in order to convince other as to the truth of what we are telling them. Quoting text out of context is a dishonest and deceptive way to make it seem that the original author had an entirely different opinion than the one they actually held. One cannot know what Luther actually said or meant, unless one reads the original writings in context

All too many of the statements attributed to Luther are quoted from secondary sources that 1) have very sparse (eg. "Sermon 1522"), shoddy and often incorrect documentation and 2) are truncated and usually wrenched from their original context . They are used to 'prove' that Martin Luther thought one way when, in reality, if you read all the relevant contextual material, he thought just the opposite. This is something that I realized when I came across a blog entitled Beggars All - Reformation and Apologetics. For more information see Martin Luther's Mariology

If you are truly interested in Martin Luther's beliefs on the matter, I urge you to look them up in English translations of his original writings. The problem is that, in order to verify them all, one has to either be able to buy some of Luther's voluminous writings for oneself, know someone who did, or have access to a very good library (none of which I have the time, inclination, or wherewithal to do).

However, thanks to Beggars All here are a few examples of the unreliability of Luther's supposed Marian quotations most of which are online and thus verifiable. In my opinion, these examples throw all Luther's supposed pro-Mary statements into doubt.


The Veneration of Mary
The afore mentioned site - catholicapologetics.info quotes Martin Luther as saying "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart (Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works (Translation by William J. Cole) 10, III, p.313)".

    Note that the Weimar edition, also known as the Weimarer Ausgabe (WA), is a complete edition of all Martin Luther's written and verbal work in Latin and German.

Assumed to mean that Luther was in favor of the much ado that surrounded Mary, both the quotation and citation have been repeatedly copied and pasted into numerous online articles, and even found its way into several books. In fact, Christian Smith (the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Center for Social Research at the University of Notre Dame) wrote in one of his many books that Luther insisted on Mary being venerated..

     "Even Martin Luther, despite criticizing the Catholic doctrines of Mary's intercession and mediation, insisted on venerating Mary." [03].

    Note: Christian Smith's citation is the same volume and page number as the catholic apologetic site)

Paul Haffner, who has lectured at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Duquesne University Italian campus in Rome, worked with various Vatican departments, and is theological and editorial director of Gracewing publishing, says exactly the same thing on Pg. 6 of his book The Mystery of Mary. [04]

However, if you read for yourself the material that surrounds Luther's oft-quoted words, "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart", you will see he could not possibly have insisted on any such thing. In fact, much the opposite. In a sermon preached on September 8, 1522, Luther said, (All Emphasis Added)

    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!

     The other result is the harm done to the common folk; for when the Mother of God and her service are held in such high esteem, poor, indigent Christians are forgotten. I gladly allow you to hold her in high respect, to praise her greatly, but only insofar as there is no law made about it. Thus the Holy Scripture itself has described nothing about her birth so that no one should set his heart on her. But now the priests and monks wish to extol the honor of women and have so highly extolled Mary that they have made out of this humble servant a goddess after the manner of the heathens. To arrive at such a position they have to use lies and to turn Scripture around to say things which do not belong to it. You see that the gospel which was read today refers to Christ's birth and not to Mary's ... yes I willingly allow that one honors her, but I ask that those who honor her should not make lies out of Scripture! WA 10 (3) 313, 15 to 315, 16. [05]

Luther also wrote,

    Now we have placed Mary so far above all the choirs of angels, next to her son and Lord, that dishonor and harm is done to her loving child. This is a great injustice and I claim that if she were on earth that she would weep blood about such dishonorable honor. Man should leave her in the honor which has come to her and respect her as a child of God. Yes, even see her as mother of God and praise God in her the same way that she herself has done in Magnificat. Grimmental, Oetigan, Einsiedein, (pilgrimage centers) ach, and so on, but go into the house of the neighbor who is in need and what you would spend on a pilgrimage, give to him! This I say about the honor of the saints. WA 10 (3), 325 13 to 326, 17.

    Note: Grimmental, Oetigan, Einsiedein were all pilgrimage centers.

While there is little question that Luther honored Mary - even seeing has as the 'mother of God', he roundly condemned the excesses and hoopla that surrounded her - people, as I have often seen, paying far more attention to her than her Son. Yes, he said "we have an obligation to honor Mary" but as part of the obligation we have to honor each other for the sake of Christ who dwells in us. As he said (All Emphasis Added)

    "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.

    It is by Him we have the surety we are just as holy as Mary and the other saints, no matter how great they are, when we only believe in Christ. For this faith makes all of us brothers and sisters, even Mary herself. Her being given great grace is not done so that we should venerate her, but out of God's mercy for her. For we could not all be God's mother, but apart from that she is just like us and must also come to grace through the blood of Christ as we do " (p. 158). [06]

These words should make it pretty obvious that, as Basley wrote in his introduction,

    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. [07]


Devotion to and Praise of Mary
More Than Eve Or Sarah
Although Luther never brought up the subject in his Catechisms, he is said to have shown his devotion to Mary in the most effusive language, as this oft repeated quote appears to show.

    No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537)

As said by Beggars All - Reformation and Apologetics, the quote probably came from William Cole's article, Was Luther a Devotee of Mary [Marian Studies XXI, 1970, p. 132]. In reference to Luther Cole wrote,

    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, subprior of the Taizé community (an ecumenical monastic order) in France wrote

    "...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. [08]

In other words, Luther was not praying to Mary, but was expanding on what Elizabeth said to Mary in Luke 1:42-45.. (See original article)

Nobility, Wisdom, And Holiness Personified
One other quote used to 'prove' Martin Luther's devotion to Mary is,

    [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. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

These words also come from William Cole's article "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970, p.131). In Cole's words,

    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, Pgs. 497 and 499).

Although Cole does mention that it was a "Christmas Sermon", No one ever brings up the fact that these words were said in the context of a sermon preached by Luther on the Festival Of Christ's Nativity, i.e. Christmas Eve. Nor that the focus of the sermon was on Christ, not Mary. In fact, he barely mentioned Mary until point 16 which reads,

    Ah, Lord God, everyone ought open his hands here, take hold of and joyfully receive this child, whom this mother, the Virgin Mary, bears, suckles, cares for, and tends. Ah! for shame, that I do not exult and glory in this, that the prophet says, This child is mine, it was for my sake and for the sake of us all that he has been born, to be my Savior and the Savior of us all! Really we all ought to be ashamed with all our hearts. For what are all the maids, servants, masters, mistresses, princes, kings, and monarchs on earth compared with the Virgin Mary, who was born of royal lineage, and withal became the mother of God, the noblest woman on earth? After Christ, she is the most precious jewel in all Christendom. And this noblest woman on earth is to serve me and us all by bearing this child and giving him to be our own! It is about this that this beautiful festival preaches and sings: ... [09]

However, the above link is an edited version that does not include point 24

    Under the papacy only the mother has been praised and extolled. True it is, she is worthy of praise and can never be praised and extolled enough. For this honor is so great and wonderful, to be chosen before all women on earth to become the mother of this child. Nevertheless, We should not praise and extol the mother in such a way as to allow this child who has been born unto us to be removed from before our eyes and hearts and to think less highly of him than of the mother. If one praises the mother, the praise ought to be like the wide ocean. If either one is to be forgotten, it is better to forget the mother rather than the child. Under the papacy, however, the child has all but been forgotten, and attention riveted only on the mother. But the mother has not been born for our sakes; she does not save us from sin and death. She has, indeed, begotten the Savior! for this reason we are to wean ourselves away from the mother and bind ourselves firmly to this child alone!


Mary Does Not Wish That We Come To Her, But Through Her To God
Another quote circulating through cyber space is

    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. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)

These words, supposedly a direct quotation from Luther's exposition of the Magnificat, have even found their way into books, including Volume 13 of Lutheran Woman Today published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Michael Leach's Positively Catholic: 25 Really Good Reasons to Love the Faith, Live the Faith, and Share the Faith.

However, these words are from a secondary source. Where? You guessed it - William Cole's article Was Luther a Devotee of Mary? Pages 132-133. And that is not all

     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, William Cole's quote 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. [10]

Note, Cole's "loose compilation" immediately follows his "No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sara, blessed above nobility, wisdom, and sanctity." referred to in the section immediately above. Also James Swan was able to track down the contexts for almost all Cole's references with the exception of one. For more detailed information see HERE.


The Woman Who Crushed The Serpents Head
Interestingly, in their respective books, both authors mentioned earlier (Christian Smith and Paul Haffner) immediately went on to say,

    In his very last sermon at Wittenberg, in January 1546, Luther preached; "Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the Holy Mother of God rather not to be honored? This is the woman who crushed the serpents head. Hear us, [Mary]. For your Son denies you nothing".

These words, used to show that Luther worshipped Mary to the end of his life, are also found on many Catholic websites. But if you read them in context, they do no such thing.

    when we preach faith, that we should worship nothing but God alone, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we say in the Creed: "I believe in God the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ," then we are remaining in the temple at Jerusalem. Again, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him" [Matt. 17:5]. "You will find him in a manger" [cf. Luke 2:12]. He alone does it. But reason says the opposite: What, us? Are we to worship only Christ? Indeed, shouldn't we also honor the holy mother of Christ? She is the woman who bruised the head of the serpent. Hear us, Mary, for thy Son so honors thee that he can refuse thee nothing.

    Here Bernard went too far in his "Homilies on the Gospel 'Missus est Angelus.'" God has commanded that we should honor the parents; therefore I will call upon Mary. She will intercede for me with the Son, and the Son with the Father, who will listen to the Son. So you have the picture of God as angry and Christ as judge; Mary shows to Christ her breast and Christ shows his wounds to the wrathful Father. That's the kind of thing this comely bride, the wisdom of reason cooks up: Mary is the mother of Christ, surely Christ will listen to her; Christ is a stern judge, therefore I will call upon St. George and St. Christopher.

    No, we have been by God's command baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews were circumcised. Therefore, just as the Jews set up all over the land their own self-chosen shrines, as if Jerusalem were too narrow, so we also have done. As a young man must resist lust and an old man avarice, so reason is by nature a harmful whore. But she shall not harm me, if only I resist her. Ah, but she is so comely and glittering. That's why there must be preachers who will point people to the catechism: I believe in Jesus Christ, not in St. George or St. Christopher, for only of Christ is it said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]; not of Mary or the angels. The Father did not speak of Gabriel or any others when he cried from heaven, "Listen to him" [LW 51:375-376]. [11]

As you can see, Luther was actually mocking people who insisted on honoring the woman who bruised the head of the serpent. As he said, they came to their conclusion by way of faulty reasoning that Luther called "a harmful whore".


The Assumption
In regard to the Assumption, the Catholic apologetic website quotes Luther as saying

    There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know." [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works (Translation by William J. Cole) 10, p. 268]. [12]

Catholic apologist Fr. Peter Stravinskas writes that, as far as the assumption goes, Luther "did not pronounce clearly on this subject, but was content simply to affirm it." [13] Whether he knows it or not, Rev. Stravinskas was simply echoing William Cole's thoughts on Page 23 of "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" (1970). In Cole's words,

    "For Luther the Assumption seems not to be so much a matter of doubt as of little importance and this is perhaps the reason, as Max Thurian affirms, that Luther did not pronounce clearly on the subject, but was content simply to affirm it."

Cole was, in turn, citing a third party - Max Thurian. Now read what Thurian actually wrote,

    "On the issue of the Assumption Luther does not speak precisely but is content to assert on August 15th, 1522: 'From this gospel one cannot draw any conclusion about the fashion in which Mary is in heaven- it is not necessary any more to know the fate of the saints in heaven. It is enough to know that they dwell in Christ as God says in Matt. 22: 32: "God is not a God of the dead but of the living' making reference to the text of Exodus 3. 6: "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob"' (ibid., 55)." (Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church, p.197)

It is true that Thurian said that Luther never spoke precisely on the Assumption, but note carefully that he did not say that Luther "affirmed" the Assumption. What Thurian said was that, in 1522, Luther asserted that one cannot draw any conclusion from the Gospels as to how Mary reached heaven

But here is are Luther's words taken from his Sermon on the Visitation on the day of Mary's Ascension, 1532, WA LII, pp.681-88

    The feast of the ascension of Mary is completely papist, that is, full of blasphemy and established without any grounding in Scripture. For that reason we have let it lapse in our churches and have used the day to preach about how Mary went over the mountain to visit her relative Elizabeth and what happened there. In the first place there is no sign in Scripture of the feast of the ascension of Mary so that the papists themselves just use a saying from Jerome, who is supposed to have said: "I do not know whether she ascended into heaven in her body or out of her body." And how is anyone supposed to know this when there is nothing in Scripture about it? The most annoying and dangerous thing about making this ascension into a feast is that people honor the Virgin Mary and call to her, as they sing in the response: "O you pure Mother of God, we ask that you, because you were taken up to heaven, be gracious to us and make us citizens in heaven."

    But we Christians do not know of any ascension that we can enjoy except for that of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, and intercedes for us. For that reason we can console ourselves in his Ascension and know that we will enjoy this, that we will also come to heaven and shall be heard here on earth by him in everything we ask for in his name. for that reason it is a wonderful, exalted and comforting feast, the Ascension of Christ, that the Virgin Mary enjoyed just as we do. We however, even if she has already gone to heaven, cannot enjoy her ascension, and should not for that reason call to her or to take comfort in her intercession as the pope teaches and through this shames and dishonors the Ascension of our Lord Christ, because he wants to make the mother equal to the son in everything. [14]


The Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the conception of Jesus as many think, but to Mary's conception. The doctrine that Mary was conceived just like everyone else was, but God made her free of inherited sin came into being in 1854 when Pope Pius officially stated

    The blessed Virgin Mary to have been, from the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Christ Jesus the Savior of Mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 1854).

See Original Sin.. Fact Or Fable?

The following quotes floating around in cyber space are often used to show that Martin Luther acknowledged the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception,

    "... she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. ... God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. ... God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her" (Luther's Works, American edition, Vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968). [Martin Luther, Luther's Works, 43:40]

    "But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..." [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 4, 694.]

In regard to the second of the two quotes, James Swan tells us that,

    "Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, volume 4, 694" is a bogus reference. Volume 4 of LW does not have a page 694. Luther's Works volume 4 is entitled "Lectures on Genesis 21-25.” Why would a volume dedicated to Luther's Genesis lectures include "Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," since in fact selections from Luther's sermons appear in volumes 51 and 52? " [15]

It should also be noted that in 1518, Luther also said "The Roman church along with the general council at Basel and almost with the whole church feels that the Holy Virgin was conceived without sin. Yet those who hold the opposite opinion should not be considered heretics, since their opinion has not been disproved.” [Martin Luther, Luther's Works, 31:173.]

As Luther's theology developed, the statements concerning the Immaculate Conception that existed in a 1529 printed edition were not included in later editions published during his lifetime. Additionally, In 1532 he preached (Emphasis Added)

    Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood.  The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are…For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy pure fruit, at once God and truly man, in one person. [16]


The Rosary
There is little question that Martin Luther included the 'Hail Mary' in his 1522 Personal Prayer Book. However, at that time the traditional Hail Mary consisted of a repetition of the angel's greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28, concluding with Elizabeth's words, "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus" in Luke 1:42. It was taken directly from the Scripture and contained no petition.

As Luther said in his Personal Prayer Book:

    You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor. Similarly there is no petition in the first words of the Lord's Prayer but rather praise and glorification that God is our Father and that he is in heaven. Therefore we should make the Hail Mary neither a prayer nor an invocation because it is improper to interpret the words beyond what they mean in themselves and beyond the meaning given them by the Holy Spirit (LW 43:39).

He went on to suggest that while one shouldn't use the Ave Maria as a prayer,

    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 [as one blessed by God] (LW 43:39-40).

For those interested, the petition "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen" was framed by the Church itself.

    "The Church Council of Trent (1545-1563) embraced the "Hail Mary" as we know it, applauding it as the organic effort of the Church to complete what the Scripture initiated. The sense was that this prayer was a natural progression from the role of Mary as the mother of Jesus, the mother of God, to her being one who could continue to intercede on our behalf with God." [17]

It was only after this that the "Hail Mary" appeared in the Roman Breviary in its present form.

Incidentally, the Council of Trent was called because of the growing Protestants Reformation. "The primary purpose of the council was to condemn and refute the beliefs of the Protestants, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, and also to make the set of beliefs in Catholicism even clearer". [18] The council reaffirmed the doctrines of transubstantiation, purgatory, and the validity of the Apocrypha. It also rejected Sola Scriptura, condemned as heresy the doctrine of sola fide - justification by faith alone, and damned those who claimed that indulgences were useless. Canon 24 stated

    If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

Although I have seen no direct evidence, one can hardly think that Luther would have endorsed the second half of the 'Hail Mary' considering that he didn't consider her intercession any more valuable than that of his fellow Christians.

    Gladly will I admit that she prays for me, but that she should be my confidence and life, that I will not admit and your prayer is as agreeable to me as hers! Why? Because if you believe that Christ is likewise in you as he is in her, you can likewise help me, as she does! WA 10 (3), 322


Mother of God
There is little question that Martin Luther called Mary the "Mother of God". However, if you go into the matter a little more deeply, you will find that Luther's understanding of the phrase was far removed from how Catholicism understood it.

Article 971 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says

    971 "All generations will call me blessed": "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration." The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary. [19]

In complete opposition to this, Luther wrote

    The devil is very assiduous in trying to divert us from Christ. To invoke the Virgin Mary and the saints may make a beautiful show of holiness; but we must stay together under the Head, or we are eternally damned. What will become of those who rely on St. Barbara and St. George, or those who crawl for shelter under Mary's cloak? To be sure, such people present a fine semblance of worship, but they transform the Son and His love into a judge. Why, then, did God grant Him to us as Mediator and High Priest? The pope has definitely endorsed the invocation of the saints, and by means of false teachers and evil temptations the devil does not cease to rob us of consolation. (LW 22:490-491)

As Max Thurian put it

    To call Mary the 'Mother of God' is to completely recognize that God became incarnate so completely and so really in our human flesh that He had a truly human mother and was a truly human son in a human family. [20]


Mary's Perpetual Virginity
Regarding Mary, the one very Catholic doctrine Luther held onto through his life was Mary's Perpetual Virginity

    According to His humanity, He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb (of which Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to her in Luke 1:42: "Blessed is the fruit of your womb!"). This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. Everything else that a mother imparts to a child was imparted by Mary, the mother of God's eternal Son. Even the milk He sucked had no other source than the breasts of this holy and pure mother. [Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John Chapters 1-4 (1537-39)]

    Then he [Luther] was asked whether Mary also had intercourse with Joseph after the birth of Christ, for Matthew says (1:25) that he knew her not until she had borne a son. He replied, The church leaves this and has not decided. Nevertheless, what happened afterward shows quite strongly that Mary remained a virgin. For after she had perceived that she was the mother of the Son of God, she didn't think she should become the mother of a human child and adhered to this vow. (Table Talk #4435 in Luther' Works, Vol. 54 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967], p. 341)"

 

 End Notes - Martin Luther and Mary

[01] The mother of our church? Living Lutheran. April 1, 2013. https://www.livinglutheran.org/2013/04/mother-church/

[02] The Protestant Reformers On Mary http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/general/mary.htm

[03] Christian Smith.  How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps.
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Pub (June 9, 2011). Pg 127. Citation - "Luther, Works, X:313"

[04] Paul Haffner. The Mystery of Mary. Hillenbrand Books. Pg. 6

[05] As quoted by James Swan in Beggars All - Reformation and Apologetics - Luther's Mariology . Luther: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart".
http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2008/10/luther-veneration-of-mary-is-inscribed.html. James Swan found the  broader context for this quotation in his library.

[06] Joel Basely. Festival Sermons of Martin Luther. The Day of The Nativity of Mary. Publisher: Mark V Publications (June 30, 2005).
 Pgs. 157-158

[07] Joel Basely. Festival Sermons of Martin Luther. Why the Festival Sermons? Publisher: Mark V Publications (June 30, 2005)

[08] Max Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church (London: The Faith Press, 1963), Pg. 80.
https://archive.org/stream/marymotherofallc013235mbp#page/n83/mode/1up

[09] Dr. Martin Luther. Festival Of Christ's Nativity. Preached Christmas Eve, 1532, at the parish church
http://church.polarhaven.net/sermons/reader.php?date=041208

[10] James Swan.. Beggars All. Luther: Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God (Part Two). http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/10/luther-mary-does-not-wish-that-we-come_08.html

[11] James Swan in Beggars All - Reformation and Apologetics - Luther's Mariology - Martin Luther praised Mary and said that she should be honored in his very last sermon at Wittenberg?
http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2007/04/previously-i-noted-difficulties-in.html

[12] The Protestant Reformers On Mary http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/general/mary.htm

[13] Rev. Peter Stravinskas . The Place Of Mary In Classical Fundamentalism. http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/fr94101.htm

[14] Luther on Women: A Source book. Translation from Susan C. Karant-Nunn and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks. (Cambridge University Press, New York: 2003), p. 46-47. https://goo.gl/sqwXUg

[15] James Swan. http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/10/luther-infusion-of-marys-soul-was.html

[16] Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 291

[17] Rev. John Stephens. Sermon preached on Sunday, December 20, 2015 at St. Philip's Anglican Church in Vancouver.
https://www.stphilipsdunbar.com/blog/advent-4-2015

[18] Joe Carter. 9 Things You Should Know About the Council of Trent. The Gospel Coalition. December 5, 2013.
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-the-council-of-trent

[19] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p6.htm

[20] Max Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church (London: The Faith Press, 1963), Pg. 80.
https://archive.org/stream/marymotherofallc013235mbp#page/n83/mode/1up

 

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