"While we may disagree on certain points of doctrine," Pastor Wolf said, "I think we can agree that Mary is to be honored and respected for the role she played and the example she set."
By studying the scriptural account of Mary, Olson added, "we can better recognize the facts that are important, the doctrines that are then made more evident, and personal applications that are appropriate."
An example and sign
The scriptures to which Olson was referring are the four gospels of the New Testament. But there are also references to Mary in the Book of Mormon (the pre-Christian-era prophet Nephi sees her in vision and calls her "a virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins") and in the Quran.
"Many people may be surprised that Muslims love Mary, the mother of Jesus," said Juan Galvan, who identifies himself as a Mexican-American Catholic from Texas who converted to Islam. "In the Quran, no woman is given more attention than Mary. Mary receives the most attention of any woman mentioned in the Quran even though all the prophets with the exception of Adam had mothers."
Indeed, the nineteenth chapter of the Quran is named for Miriam, which is Mary in Arabic.
"The Virgin Mary plays a very significant role in Islam," Galvan said. "She is an example and a sign for all people."
Although Muslims embrace the concept of Jesus' virgin birth, they do not view it as evidence of his divinity. Rather, they see it as a sign, referring to Mary as "she who guarded her chastity" who, along with her son and the rest of the prophets, was created to confirm "the oneness of God."
From a Christian perspective, however, the Bible usually refers to Mary as a way of drawing further attention to her son, Jesus Christ, Olson said. As Mary herself proclaimed in a powerful passage of exultant scripture attributed to Mary and known as the Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55), "My soul doth magnify the Lord."
"Through her experiences," Olson said, "Mary invites us to see our Savior more clearly. Her example as a mother and as a disciple heightens our perspective as we grow in awe of God's almighty goodness and power in our daily walk with each other."
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