The Marian Cult

Piepkorn*, at the beginning of his devotion, mentions the Roman Catholic excesses of the cult of Mary, which as they developed clearly began to parallel the Christological doctrines until finally arriving at the doctrine of Mary as the mediatrix of all graces and the co-redemptrix (and also we mention the cult of Mary's heart.) These things not only perplex some pious Catholics, but even Rome looks askance at them!** But this is all the necessary outworking of the cult of Mary in the ancient and medieval church, which many people regard as harmless. Indeed, the poetic, beautiful and highly religious spirit of the simple Marian piety of the past was the road to Christ for many who came out of paganism, just as, for example, Arianism was the road to the orthodox Christian faith for the Germanic peoples; but this does not justify the cult of Mary, which is an aberration of the Christian faith. Our Lord himself rightly limited the veneration of Mary, which was beginning already in his time, when he responded to the woman in the crowd who blessed his mother with the words, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:27-28, cf. 8:21 & 2:19).

From Liturgy and Confession: A Brotherly Warning Against the High Church Danger, first published in Lutherische Blaetter, Christmas 1959.

*See previous post for biographical information on A.C. Piepkorn.

** It is difficult to know exactly what Sasse means here, since it would seem that Rome has seldom officially sought to quell the excesses of Marian devotion; perhaps he is thinking of private conversations with Roman prelates or theologians. Only five years after Sasse wrote this, Rome officially acknowledged the place of Mary as Mediatrix of graces in Catholic devotion:

"This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." [Lumen Gentium (Nov 21, 1964), Ch 8, paras 61 & 62].

In this statement of Vatican II, one can clearly see the undertones of synergism that accompany the cult of Mary throughout history and which Sasse criticised elsewhere.

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