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January 20, 2008 / vivator

Luther on “Hail Mary”

In his Personal Prayer book written in 1522, Luther wrote his commentaries about “Hail Mary” prayer (English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 43).  While he was against over-venerating of Mary, whom he referred as Mother of God, he believed that she was without sin, a privilege given only to her by God.

Take note of this: no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him. Rather praise and thank God through Mary and the grace given her. Laud and love her simply as the one who, without merit, obtained such blessings from God, sheerly out of his mercy, as she herself testifies in the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55].

It is very much the same when I am moved by a view of the heavens, the sun, and all creation to exalt him who created everything, bringing all this into my prayer and praise, saying: O God, Author of such a beautiful and perfect creation, grant to me…. Similarly, our prayer should include the Mother of God as we say: O God, what a noble person you have created in her! May she be blessed! And so on. And you who honored her so highly, grant also to me….

Let not our hearts cleave to her, but through her penetrate to Christ and to God himself. Thus what the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: “Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee [Luke 1:28]; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor. Similarly there is no petition in the first words of the Lord’s Prayer but rather praise and glorification that God is our Father and that he is in heaven. Therefore we should make the Hail Mary neither a prayer nor an invocation because it is improper to interpret the words beyond what they mean in themselves and beyond the meaning given them by the Holy Spirit.

But there are two things we can do. First, we can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her [as one blessed by God].

In the first place, she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin-something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.

In the second place, God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her.

In the third place, she is blessed above all other women, not only because she gave birth without labor, pain, and injury to herself, not as Eve and all other women, but because by the Holy Spirit and without sin, she became fertile, conceived, and gave birth in a way granted to no other woman.

In the fourth place, her giving birth is blessed in that it was spared the curse upon all children of Eve who are conceived in sin [Ps. 51:5] and born to deserve death and damnation. Only the fruit of her body is blessed, and through this birth we are all blessed.

Furthermore, a prayer or wish is to be added-our prayer for all who speak evil against this Fruit and the Mother. But who is it that speaks evil of this Fruit and the Mother? Any who persecute and speak evil against his work, the gospel, and the Christian faith, as Jews and papists are now doing.

The conclusion of this is that in the present no one speaks evil of this Mother and her Fruit as much as those who bless her with many rosaries and constantly mouth the Hail Mary. These, more than any others, speak evil against Christ’s word and faith in the worst way.

Therefore, notice that this Mother and her Fruit are blessed in a twofold way-bodily and spiritually. Bodily with lips and the words of the Hail Mary; such persons blaspheme and speak evil of her most dangerously. And spiritually [one blesses her] in one’s heart by praise and benediction for her child, Christ-for all his words, deeds, and sufferings. And no one does this except he who has the true Christian faith because without such faith no heart is good but is by nature stuffed full of evil speech and blasphemy against God and all his saints. For that reason he who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Haft Mary and all other prayers because to such a person the words apply: Let his prayer be sin [Ps. 109:7].

Luther’s Works, Vol. 43, pages 39 to 41



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  1. George Devasia / May 18 2012 4:03 am

    Joseph, after the birth of Jesus, upon seeing her together with God Incarnate, knew well who she actually is !!. Yes he (Jospeh) knew not who she was till HIS birth. Now he know (not understood but know for sure) that SHE is the Mother of God – the VIRGIN – as exactly prophesized much ago and further more SHE is the exact resemblence of the HOLY SPIRIT – the SPIRT that gives birth.

    • Raj / May 24 2012 1:45 pm

      The allusion here to Hebrews 1:3 is no mistake I’m sure:
      “…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

      This is the kind of thing so common in lay Catholicism, that reminds me of why I am no longer a Catholic.

      Shouldn’t we let her own words speak about who and what she is:
      “And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my SAVIOR…”
      She needed a savior like everyone else.

      • vivator / May 24 2012 3:26 pm

        Thank you for your comment. The Catholic Church NEVER teaches Virgin Mary does not need Saviour – you were misinformed or you jumped into conclusion without trying to seek explanation from the Church. For more detail refer to my post:

      • Raj / Jun 7 2012 8:11 am

        The point being: you allow a post by someone (George Devasia – May 18, 2012) who likens Mary to God himself: “the exact resemblance of the Holy Spirit – the SPIRT [sic] that gives birth,” and you have no problem with it. No rebuke. No correction. Nothing.

        You are quite right that Mary needed a savior. The bigger question is: at what point did she require this Savior: at conception, or while she uttered the words of Luke 1:47 “…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Only one of these two options coheres with Romans 3:23, ” for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

        No doubt you will claim that the “all” in Romans 3:23 doesn’t mean ‘all’. But when it suits you, as when you cite Titus 2:11 and 1 Cor. 15:22 against Calvinism, the “all” DOES mean ‘all.’ Who can trust a hermeneutic like that? The Roman Catholic church has always molded the truth to suit its purposes.

        I am forever thankful to the Lord for saving me out of the Roman system.

      • vivator / Jun 7 2012 5:37 pm

        First, I have no obligation to response to every comment in my blog – if I don’t it does NOT mean I agree with that particular comment.
        Second your critic of Catholic interpretation of “all” in different verses can easily backfire you. As Calvinist you will interpret the second all in 1 Cor 15:22 to mean “all Elect”. You may not realize that by doing so, you exempt not just one person, but BILLIONS of people from “all”. If you have no problem with that then why you are so mad when Catholics exempt just ONE person, the mother of our Lord and Saviour from “all” in Romans 3:23?
        To answer your question (which you can find in my post on her Immaculate Conception):
        Dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

        The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

      • Raj / Jun 8 2012 1:20 pm

        Nevertheless, utter blasphemy from a fellow Catholic goes untouched.

        You wrote: “…why you are so mad when Catholics exempt just ONE person, the mother of our Lord and Saviour from “all” in Romans 3:23?”

        First, this is about being logical, consistent, and honest – not being “mad.”

        Second, the “all” in 1 Corinthians 15:22 proceeds from the context, i.e.: “all in Christ” ;
        your interpretation of “all” in Romans 3:23 does not.

        My interpretation of “all” in 1 Corinthians 15:22 is as coherent as the way another writer here put it: “ALL those drinking the poison will die; ALL those drinking the antidote will live.”

        Completely irrelevant to the discussion is how many might be drinking the poison, or how many might be drinking the antidote.

      • vivator / Jun 11 2012 8:58 pm

        You wrote that “all” in 1 Corinthians 15:22 proceeds from the context, i.e.: “all in Christ” This is a good example how you “tune” the Scripture to meet your predefined belief. 1 Cor 15:22 says (RSV): “For as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive.” There are two “all” here – if you interpret the first one to mean absolute all with no exception, then it is ridiculous and definitely not in context to interpret the second one as “all Elect”, thereby exempting BILLIONS of people. Note that the verse does NOT say “all in Christ” but “in Christ shall all”. You tried to draw parallel with “ALL those drinking the poison will die; ALL those drinking the antidote will live.” It does not work here – the first “all” does not imply everybody but only those who take the poison and the second one always corresponds to the first one. The word “all” (Greek pas) in New Testament can either mean “absolute all” or “mostly”.
        Matthew 3:5: “Then went out to him Jerusalem and ALL Judea and ALL the region about the Jordan”. Does this means everybody, including Pontius Pilatus and king Herod went to see John the Baptist?
        Romans 11:26: “and so ALL Israel will be saved”. Does it mean all Jews will go to heaven?
        Coming back to Rom 3:23 even some Christians (non-Catholic) will exempt babies and children below age of reason from “all”. Catholics have scriptural reason to exempt Virgin Mary from Rom 3:23 by relating her to the woman in Gen 3:15 – she cannot be enmity with the devil if she committed sin, even only once, because Scripture says whoever sins belongs to the devil (1 John 3:8).

  2. Raj / Jun 12 2012 12:30 pm

    Re.: your comment from above, dated June 11, 2012…I cannot think of a way to respond to most of this politely.

    However, I do love it when you accuse people of committing something you yourself are doubly guilty of: ” ‘tune’ the Scripture to meet your predefined belief”. There is no greater incidence of “tuning the Scripture” than what the Roman Catholic church has done with its corruption of Genesis 3:15, which you continue to promulgate.

    “With regard to the phrase, ‘He shall bruise your head,’ Jerome correctly translated the Hebrew masculine pronoun (he) with the Latin masculine pronoun ‘ipse’ (he). Yet, in later versions of the Vulgate, the masculine pronoun ipse (he) was corrupted by various copyists to read ‘ipsa’ (she)…

    …Although modern day Roman Catholic scholars have identified this corruption in the [later] Latin Vulgate(1), it has been ignored by Mariologists who seize upon it as proof of Mary’s cooperation with her seed in the crushing of the head of the serpent.”
    p. 159 Holy Scripture – The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume 1, David T. King.

    (1). See Dom Bernard Orchard, M.A.., ed., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953), p. 186, which reads: ‘It can hardly be doubted that the feminie pronoun had its origin in the error of an early copyist of Vg.’

    “Today, the officially approved edition of the Vulgate by Rome, the Nova Vulgate Bibliorum Sacororum Editio, translates the Hebrew masculine pronoun (he) with the Latin neuter pronoun ‘ipsun’ (it), which seems to be a compromise between the masculine pronoun ‘ipse’ and the feminine ‘ipsa.’ But the text remains incorrect compared to the accuracy of Jerome’s original translation. Moreover, the corruption appears in the Roman Catholic English translation of the Douay-Reims Bible, which reads, ‘she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel’ (Gen 3:15b).”
    p. 159 Holy Scripture…, David T. King

    “These are blatant examples of anachronistic reading back into a text – a corrupted text at that! – of a later development and elevation of Marian accretions by a Roman Catholic pope and theologians. It is nothing less than the exploitation of a corrupted text used to support and facilitate later Roman Catholic doctrinal deviations and notions regarding Mary.” ibid, p. 161

    • vivator / Jun 14 2012 6:44 pm

      Gen 3:15 (RSV): “I will put enmity between you [devil] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” There is enmity between the woman and her seed with the devil. According 1 John 3:9 whoever sins belongs to the devil, i.e. he/she does not have enmity with the devil.
      You still don’t want to admit that by interpreting “all” in the second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 you simply tune the Scripture to match your predefined belief and therefore exempting billions of people from the word “all”.

      • Raj / Jun 15 2012 8:05 am

        Regarding your continued insistence on Gen 3:15 as support for a sinless Mary…
        Your argument is the same as that used by Juniper Carol, who wrote:

        “The privilege of Mary’s absolute sinlessness is implicitly revealed in the Book of Genesis in the words spoken by God to the serpent (Gen. 3:15): ‘I will put enmities between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed…The enmity that is set up between the woman and the serpent MUST BE ABSOLUTE AS THE TEXT DEMANDS. Now, were Mary even for a moment a slave to sin, she would not share in the complete victory of her Son over the devil.”

        There is a big problem with that view…

        “How can Carol claim that the text absolutely demands this, when he himself observes in his footnote that the text states otherwise: ‘Though the pronoun “she” in the Hebrew text is MASCULINE and stands for the posterity of the woman, there is no essential difference between it and the Vulgate ‘ipsa,’ since the woman is to achieve perfect victory in association with her seed’? This is a leap in logic and an overt disregard for the context.
        The woman referenced is Eve, not Mary, and relies on a perpetuated textual error!”
        Holy Scripture, The Ground and Pillar of Our, Faith. Vol. 1., p. 159, 160.

        To repeat: “The woman referenced [in Gen 3:15] is Eve.” It is not referencing Mary, which depends on a perpetuated textual error.
        And you want to talk about “a good example [of] how you “tune” the Scripture to meet your predefined belief”?

        Regarding your difficulties with 1 Cor 15:22…
        22: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
        23: But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
        There cannot be a one-to-one correspondence between the two uses of ‘all’ in verse 22, because even the Catholic church denies universalism, i.e.: the idea that all people go to heaven!
        Suggesting “BILLIONS of people” would be EXEMPT from salvation is as silly as suggesting a view that INCLUDES “BILLIONS” of pagans and atheists, including such luminaries as Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler.

        Therefore there must be a limiting factor at work here, according to the context: those “in Christ” shall be made alive. Verse 23: Christ was first, then all those “who belong to Christ.”

        The greater question is: how are you “made alive” and “belong to Christ”?

        5 “even WHEN WE WERE DEAD in our trespasses, MADE US ALIVE together with Christ— BY GRACE you have been saved—
        6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
        8 For by grace you have been saved THROUGH FAITH. And this is not your own doing; it is the GIFT of God,
        9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:5-9.

        12 “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him THROUGH FAITH in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
        13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:12-14.

        Notice nothing there about a mediating Mary, priesthood, sacraments, or cooperation from man.

  3. Debbie T. / Jun 14 2012 11:35 am

    I must admit that these quotes from Luther and Calvin have me thinking about accepting Mary as “without sin”. As a Protestant who grew up Catholic, I was more inclined to believe otherwise.

    • Raj / Jun 15 2012 8:31 am

      Dear Debbie,
      We need to be careful of what Luther wrote 300 years before the doctrine of the immaculate conception was codified (in 1854).
      His later writings clarify:

      • vivator / Jun 18 2012 8:19 pm

        Long before Luther was born and In response to this Pelagians teaching, Augustine replied that all of them were sinners, with the exception of Virgin Mary.

        We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin. Well, then, if, with this exception of the Virgin, we could only assemble together all the fore-mentioned holy men and women, and ask them whether they lived without sin whilst they were in this life, what can we suppose would be their answer? Would it be in the language of our author, or in the words of the Apostle John? I put it to you, whether, on having such a question submitted to them, however excellent might have been their sanctity in this body, they would not have exclaimed with one voice: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us?”[1 John 1:8] But perhaps this their answer would have been more humble than true!
        Augustine, On Nature and Grace 42 (36

      • Raj / Jun 19 2012 7:42 am

        Nice try,

        Augustine did not teach the immaculate conception.
        Note to reader: diligence demands that we read Augustine’s quote carefully and objectively:

        Neither did Aquinas:

        Neither did a number of popes believe in the immaculate conception:

    • Greg / Jun 17 2012 9:46 am

      Who are we to totally understand God’s plan for us? We see a mere dot on a vast picture landscape. Nonetheless, there is no Jesus without Mary’s yes, a point that many fail to truly grasp. God planned from the beginning for His son to save all of us from sin. He chose to enter this world through a most blessed woman. Billions have been on this planet and only one created his own mother and that one was Jesus. He made her perfect in every way as any normal human being would if he or she could. Being God Jesus was fully capable and did in fact save his mother from sin. The “all have sinned” bible quote from St. Paul is a rather narrow way of thinking if you intend to put Mary in the sin category. If we put her in sin then we fail to acknowledge that Jesus could and did create his Mother free from sin and perfect in every way from the moment of her conception. Ponder this in your heart without disdain for Jesus did make his mother. She is the Mother of the 2nd person of the Trinity which says more about Jesus than her.

      • vivator / Jun 18 2012 8:29 pm

        You are entitled to apply the woman in Gen 3:15 to Eve. The issues are: (1) was she in enmity with the devil? and (2) her seed refer to her descendants. In other words Gen 3:15 has no messianic prophecy, something that Jews believe.
        Catholics do not believe in universal salvation but we can explain 1 Cor 15:22 without tuning the verse. God offers salvation through Christ to all; thus who freely reject His free offer will end up in hell. In contrast in Calvinism God chose from eternity to regenerate some (the Elect) and bypassed the rest (passive reprobation). Thus you have no choice other than tuning the verse to make the second “all” to mean “all Elect”, which means you exempt billions of people from the word “all”.

      • vivator / Jun 23 2012 9:10 am

        Nice try too, but don’t laugh too soon. I did check Turrentin articles and obviously I also checked what Aquinas really wrote directly from his work, Summa Theologica. It is available online through, courtesy of Calvin College. For your convenience below is the link to the relevant part, i.e. Third Part of Summa Theologica, Question 27
        If you read those short works, written in Q & A format, you will note that Aquinas, like Augustine, believed in sinless-ness of Mary. Do not confuse her being sinless with her Immaculate Conception – they are related but not the same. In Article 4 Aquinas wrote:
        We must therefore confess simply that the Blessed Virgin committed no actual sin, neither mortal nor venial; so that what is written (Cant 4:7) is fulfilled: “Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee,” etc.
        Interestingly in the same Article 4 Aquinas cited Augustine statement of Mary’s sinlessness, the same one I and Turrentin cited, but which Turrentin tried to prove otherwise. Obviously I trust Aquinas more than Turrentin for simple reason – Turrentin is not comparable to Aquinas. Like you he simply attempted to tune Augustine statement to meet his predefined belief.
        Thus both Augustine and Aquinas believed in her sinless-ness. One cannot be sinless unless he/she is cleansed (by God) from Original Sin and its stain. The question is when did God do this, before or after she was conceived? According to Aquinas she was cleansed before her birth but after she was conceived and as far as I know Augustine was silent on this issue. Aquinas wrote in Article 2:
        But the Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original sin, but was cleansed therefrom before her birth from the womb.
        To conclude Augustine and Aquinas believed in Mary sinlessnes. Aquinas did not believe in Immaculate Conception but he lived and died long before the dogma of Immaculate Conception was promulgated.
        Again nice try but you (and Turrentin) failed miserably!

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