Martin Luther on the Blessed Virgin Mary

Note: Throughout the month of October, leading up to the 500th anniversary of the legendary date of the outbreak of the Reformation on October 31, 1517, Pray Tell is publishing writings of Martin Luther reflecting his beliefs on worship and church reform at various points in his life.

“A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ, but that she conceived Christ through Joseph, and had more children after that.”

(That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, 1523. Feature image: Cologne, 15th century)

2 comments

  1. Great quote. Luther’s comments on the “Hail Mary,” which appeared in his Betbuchlein from 1522 – 1545, also bear repeating. Note that the Hail Mary did not yet have, officially, at least, the added invocation, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray….” This was something added officially in the Breviary Reform of Pius V in 1568.

    “Hail Mary, full of grace
    The Lord is with thee.
    Blessed art thou amongst women.
    And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ.

    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….You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor….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].”

    It is said that Luther kept two images in his study throughout his life: A crucifix and an image of the Virgin. How different might Lutheran piety have been through the ages had it followed his example here both in terms of images and the use of the Hail Mary.

  2. Lifelong Lutheran here, initially Missouri Synod but now Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Lutheran pastors and teachers all over my family tree. Can’t name one who ever thought of the Virgin Mary being without sin, being a perpetual virgin, or not having had children after she conceived our Lord by immaculate conception. While Luther and other reformers of the day may have held onto some Marion thoughts (perpetual virgin) I have never in 70 years heard such a view from another protestant. Am I living a sheltered life? Wikipedia, by the way, needs some serious updating on Lutheran views of Mary.

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