Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's an Honest Question (Mary, Did You Know?)

On our Christmas concert repertoire, one of the best received songs this year is also a surprisingly controversial one, at least in some limited Catholic quarters. Written by a Protestant (Mark Lowry), the song invites us to contemplate the life of Jesus through Mary's eyes. Lowry doesn't leave us at the manger with the shepherds, but seems to envision what the Vatican II dogmatic constitution "Lumen Gentium" spoke of as Mary's "pilgrimage of faith."

Mary did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know 

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the Lamb. 

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am.

Naturally, the anticipation of Christ's public ministry and even the unabashed confession of Chalcedonian faith in the full divinity of Jesus does not raise too many Catholic hackles. Instead, some people seem to be personally offended by the references to Mary as needing any sort of deliverance, given that she was (as we must affirm in faith, and as we celebrated liturgically just this week) conceived without sin.

I'll admit that the lyrics could be more doctrinally precise. When we sing them, I have to obey St Ignatius' advice to "make every effort to interpret the expression in the most orthodox manner possible." This is not so very hard to do; we just have to play with the mystery of time, the way Blessed John Duns Scotus did when he came up with a way to reconcile the Church's ancient conviction that Mary was never under the dominion of sin with the obvious fact that she needed to be redeemed by Jesus, the redeemer of all. She was, Scotus realized, more perfectly redeemed, in anticipation of the merits of Jesus.

I'm willing to give the Protestant Lowry a break for not hitting on a theological solution that did not even occur to Thomas Aquinas. And I'm delighted that he is willing to engage Mary in an earnest conversation.


Fred Kaffenberger said...


Paul Aveni said...

Brilliant as usual Sister Anne!

Simon White said...

Thank for the insights, irrespective of everything this is an emotional version of that song, sung by 12 year old girl


Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Nice find, Simon! That girl has a lot of talent.