In this week's blog our abbot Fr. Paul Mark explains for us Cistercian dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Did you know that already in the first century Christians were divided in their understanding of who Jesus Christ was? Was Jesus divine or human and how could Jesus be both? The Letters of John and Paul address these divisions.
Likewise, from the beginning of Jesus’ proclamation his mother Mary held a place of great respect among his early followers (cf. John 2 and 19, Luke 2, Acts 1). By the fourth century Christians reverently referred to Mary in Greek as the Theotokos meaning God-bearer rendered in English as Mother of God.
Some Christians objected to this title for Mary stating that she could only be called mother of the human Jesus and not of his divinity. A church council was called at Ephesus, Asia Minor, in 431 to define the person of Jesus Christ in response to this title of Mary.
The conclusion was that Jesus had two natures, divine and human, joined in the one person Jesus of Nazareth. The distinctions between the two natures remained but not suppressed. In the final document of the Council Christians were reminded that because the Word (God) became flesh so Mary is called Theotokos and Christians rightfully reverence her under that title.
The 11th and 12th centuries in Europe saw a renewed devotion to Mary. Countless churches and cathedrals were dedicated to “Our Lady”. We Cistercians, our origins being these same centuries, naturally dedicated ourselves, our renewal (the Order), and our churches to Mary’s love and protection. St. Bernard was dubbed “Our Lady’s troubadour” because of his eloquent praises of Mary. Today our Marian devotion is publicly expressed by the Marian antiphon sung at each office, the praying of the angelus, and the singing of the Salve Regina every night.
Every time I pray to Mary, Mother of God, I not only acknowledge her role in salvation history but acknowledge Jesus Christ, as human and divine, Savior and Redeemer of the world, whose love for me is everlasting.