It’s interesting that the prayer is not just asking for Mary’s intercession, but asking her to intervene in an angelic manner. It’s a request for her to “Save us from every danger.”
This prayer request appears to parallel early Jewish prayers invoking angels for protection. In Jewish tradition Elijah was considered in charge of the angels. He was also actively engaged in earthy affairs. For example, the Jewish Encyclopedia states:
To the pious, Elijah is in many cases a guardian angel, for whom no
place is too remote, and who leaves nothing undone to help them in
their distress or to save them from misery. (1906 Jewish
That being said, the intercession of saints in Jewish tradition is still being debated. For example, in wikipedia, the following statement is given:
In modern times one of the greatest divisions in Jewish theology
(hashkafa) is over the issue of whether one can beseech the help of a
tzadik – an extremely righteous individual. The main conflict is over
a practice of beseeching a tzadik who has already died to make
intercession before the Almighty. This practice is common mainly among
Chasidic Jews, but also found in varying degrees among other usually
Chareidi communities. It strongest opposition is found largely among
sectors of Modern Orthodox Judaism, Dor Daim and Talmide haRambam, and
among aspects of the Litvish Chareidi community.
Those who oppose this practice usually do so over the problem of
idolatry, as Jewish Law strictly prohibits making use of a mediator
(melitz) or agent (sarsur) between oneself and the Almighty.
Those Jews who support the use of intercessors claim that their
beseeching of the tzadik is not prayer or worship, or alternatively
that they are still praying to God and through God, but secondarily
communicating with the tzadik. The conflict between the groups is
essentially over what constitutes prayer, worship, a mediator
(melitz), and an agent (sarsur).
It is interesting how, in the late 16th century, the Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople wrote about the Lutherans in Northern Europe being influenced by Jewish (Hebrew) views:
The schisms of the Lutherans there, which are many and various, were
indeed caused and spread by some Hebrews, as it has been broached
abroad feigning piety. (Augsburg and Constantinople: The Correspondence between the Tubingen Theoligans and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession, p. 306)
Rightly or wrongly, in light of certain early Jewish practices, it is likely that Mary replaced the role of Elijah in charge of the angels. It makes theological sense, as Elijah must decrease and the blessed mother of Jesus must increase. That would explain the early apparition of the prayer.
My response, as a Lutheran, is to point out that many of the early 2nd century church fathers also taught historic pre-millennial eschatology. This idea was also, rightly or wrongly, taught in Jewish tradition. See the Jewish Encyclopedia article here.
So, to be entirely consistent, Roman Catholics & Eastern Orthodox folks need to take that into account.
From what I have read, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (676) rejects the teaching of pre-millennial eschatology. In the 1940’s the Holy Office judged that premillennialism “cannot safely be taught,” though the Church has not dogmatically defined this issue.
From what I have also read, the Eastern Orthodox Church tends to teach against pre-millennial theology. Although, in that Church, it appears to be more of an open question. For example, the late charismatic theologian Archimandrite Eusebius A. Stephanou taught pre-millennial theory. He noted that the church father, Ireneaus, appears to have held to a pre-tribulation pre-millennial rapture.
The point being, especially for Roman Catholics, is that if one can allow for one alleged error (pre-millennialism) to creep into early tradition, how can one appeal to other early church traditions as necessarily reflecting a passing on of apostolic teaching?
Lutherans would feel that invoking Mary directly to provide angelic assistance could lead to supplanting Jesus as the focus in prayer. But if people do invoke Mary, it’s not for us to judge that it’s idolatry. She might very well be involved with the angels in helping rescue people or just interacting in general for some Kingdom purpose. It’s just to be on the safe side, of avoiding the temptation to idolatry, that it’s not done in a liturgical setting.
As far as I can tell, the argument about an absolute prohibition on calling upon the departed saints for prayer was not raised by early Lutheran reformers, but first by Zwingli and then by later Reformed Protestants. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession article 11, states:
Since neither a command nor a promise nor an example can be produced
from the Scriptures about the invocation of saints, it makes sense
that conscience remains uncertain about this invocation. Since prayer
should be made from faith, how do we know God approves this
In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (12:3, 4), the early Lutherans admitted that the angels pray for us, and the saints, too, "for the Church in general"; but this does not imply that they are to be invoked.
Perhaps the earliest testimony about such an event after the apostolic era is recorded in The Martyrdom of Ignatius. This is an eyewitness account concerning Saint Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch, who was thrown to the lions by the Romans in about A.D. 110.
The writers of this account relate:
Having ourselves been eyewitnesses of these things [his martyrdom] . .
. we spent the whole night in tears within the house, and having
entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer . . . it came to
pass, on our falling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the
blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us, while
others beheld him again praying for us, and others still saw him
dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labor, and
standing by the Lord. When, therefore, we had with great joy witnessed
these things, and had compared our several visions together, we sang
praise to God.
There is a helpful comment from the year 1530. It can be found in the minutes of an early meeting (August 16th & 17th) in which the representatives of Rome heard from the representatives who subscribe to the Augsburg Confession in the 16th century. The quote comes from the book, Confessing One Faith: A Joint Commentary on the Augsburg Confession by Lutheran and Catholic Theologians. It runs as follows:
They agree in the first place that all the saints and angels in heaven
intercede for us with God. Secondly, that it is both pious and right
to remember the saints and observe festivals on which we pray God to
let the intercession of the saints avail for us. But whether the
saints are to be invoked by us was not agree on. Indeed, they say that
they do not prohibit it, but since Scripture does not teach the
invocation of the saints they themselves do not wish to invoke them,
not only because Scripture does not teach it, but also because it
seems to them to be a dangerous abuse.
As a final thought, there are a number of other practices that were done in the early 2nd century church that are no longer practiced in liturgical settings - e.g. baptisms done without clothing, praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit along with praying for charismatic gifts, flashy charismatic gifts like prophecy uttered in a Mass, etc. The later does happen in Catholic charismatic contexts, but my point remains that there has been and will be a lot of diversity.