A Complicated Approach to God
“I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” said Jesus Christ. He added: “Most truly I say to you, If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name.”—John 14:6; 16:23.
For centuries, however, religions of Christendom, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, with its hellfire, purgatory, and Trinity doctrines, have confounded “the way.” Jesus was portrayed, not as the willing intercessor for sinful men, but as a babe in arms or as a fearsome judge, more given to condemning and punishing sinners than to saving them. How, then, could a sinner approach God?
The book The Glories of Mary (1750) explains. Comparing Jesus to the blazing sun of justice, the 13th-century pope Innocent III declared: “Whoever is in the night of sin, let him cast his eyes on the moon, let him implore Mary.” In Mary, the mother of Jesus, another intercessor was invented. Perhaps through her supposed motherly influence, a favor might be gained from Jesus and from God. Thus, in the words of Laurence Justinian, a 15th-century cleric, Mary became “the ladder to paradise, the gate of heaven, the most true mediatress between God and man.”
With all the adulation given her, in time she was no longer viewed as just the “Virgin Mary” but became the “Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,” styled as so immaculate and exalted that she also was too sacred for direct approach. Could yet another intercessor be found? What about her mother?
Since the Bible is silent on the subject, the answer was sought elsewhere. The Apocryphal book Protevangelium of James tells the story of Anne (or Anna), the wife of Joachim, who was childless after many years of marriage. Finally, an angel appeared to her and announced that she would bear a child. In due time, she became the mother of the “Virgin Mary,” it was claimed.
Thus there arose a cult of “Saint” Anne. Shrines and churches were built in her honor. Veneration of “Saint” Anne became widespread in Europe in the 14th century.
“How complicated religion had become!” observes the book The Story of the Reformation. “People prayed to Anna who interceded with Mary who interceded with her Son who interceded with God for sinful men. It was fantastic, but that was the kind of superstitious belief on which the souls of men were nourished.” Here, then, is another case to which Jesus’ words aptly apply: “You make the word of God invalid by your tradition.”—Mark 7:13.
[Picture Credit Line on page 21]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913. (14.40.633)