Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Her Only Son, Our LORD
St. Luke is not only the Scripturally extolled "beloved physician;" he is also very much a beloved historian, one who has been compared favorably with Thucydides, by secular academics. The opening lines of his Gospel attest to a thorough, careful and meticulous mind, one critically attuned to precise fact-gathering. He provides the most intimate details of the Theotokos' interactions with the young Christ ... exceptional details not found in the other, most holy accounts of the Kingdom of God realized in the flesh.
There is strong reason to believe that Luke researched the recollections of Mary of Nazareth, or perhaps those of her appointed caretaker, John of Patmos, in compiling his thrilling written witness to Theophilus (and ultimately to the simple us, too, thanks be to God). In the Authorized Version, Luke refers to the invaluable and reliable testimonies of many dear saints, "those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word (Lk 1:2)." But who else but gentle Mary was an eyewitness to the stunning announcement of Gabriel ... that now, right now in the dusty space and time of a marginalized Roman province ... was the start of the fulfillment of the Promise to crush the serpent's head, by the Seed of a woman? Who else, and from the very beginning of a divine birth, ministered to the infant Word with the milk of her breasts ... and continued to succor her Son, ministering to Him with a mother's presence, even to point of Golgotha? Who else but Mary?
A unique, and I believe a most telling, curiosity of St. Luke's Gospel is its compassionate focus on a grieving parent blessed with an only child. This emphasis is not encountered in any other Gospel account. The instances in Luke are three in number, and are found in Luke 7:12 (entailing the bereft widowed mother, citizen of Nain), Luke 8:42 (describing an imploring father and synagogue leader, Jairus) and Luke 9:38 (detailing a distraught father of a lad, inflicted with a convulsive disorder of demonic origin). Surely a mother who agonized at the foot of her Son's cross, would have the memory of these other parents' travails empathically seared deeply into her consciousness ... had she crossed their paths in the course of ministering to her only Son! Is it utter foolishness to think, then, that she with the pierced heart would have been inclined to share these emotional memes with the consulting "beloved physician," memories arising from ponderings to which she returned, again and again, for very personal reasons? Returned to, say, because she herself had an "only Son?" Not foolishness, no; I don't think it's nothing but a pious fantasy, at all.
Many modern exegetes scoff at the notion of semper virgo, but it's a notion which the theologian Dr. Francis Pieper acknowledges to be the "default position" for Lutheran orthodoxy. The three separate but closely grouped accounts of Luke are not frequently cited, as offering a Scriptural apologetic for this position. But I think the implications they possess are altogether heart-warming and compelling, neatly bundled as they are in a good doctor's testimony, and are consistent with those traditional understandings of the ancient Church which closely link together the lives of Mary and Luke (e.g., examine closely that iconic rendering of St. Luke, above, for yet another understanding, or rendering). The truly orthodox Lutheran Church, and its teachers, do not in any fashion reject or despise those understandings held by our spiritual fathers, ones which do not detract from the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord. Do consult the Lutheran Confessions, for proof.
Posted by Michael L. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D at 7:11 AM