Mother Mary - Why do Lutherans and Catholics view her differently?
QUESTION: I grew up Roman Catholic but have been a member at Christus Victor for years now. I always wondered about the difference in the way the two religions view Mary, Jesus' mother. The Catholic church reveres Mary (Hail Mary prayer, etc.) but I see nothing like that at all on the Lutheran side. Why is this?
ANSWER: Lutherans view Mary as the theotokos, the God-bearer, the mother of God. As we confess in the Apostles’ Creed: “He (Jesus) was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary” and also in the Nicene Creed: I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, who, for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.” August 15 is the day set aside to honor and commemorate her.
Yet, coming from the Roman Catholic Church where she is “Queen of All Saints” and a chief intercessor on our behalf, this must seem like a small deal. The difference lies in our understanding of saints. For Lutherans, we become saints at our baptism, and remain so. As Martin Luther says, “We are at the same time both saint and sinner.” Whereas in the Roman Catholic Church there is a whole list of requirements to become a saint, and the saints intercede for us, etc. Instead of such a hierarchy, we as Lutherans pray to God and to God alone with our own intercessions.
If you want to pray to Mary or use a rosary, go ahead. I’ve heard that a rosary is a great meditation on the passion of Christ. For Lutherans, praying to Mary is adiaphora—not necessary for salvation.