Mariology, Catholic Theology, Virgin Mary, Mother Mary
"When we admire the Mother's eminent gifts and rightly praise them, we are admiring and praising the divinity, the goodness, the love and the power of Her Son." (Pope Pius XII)
"When we admire the Mother's eminent gifts and rightly praise them, we are admiring and praising the divinity, the goodness, the love and the power of Her Son." (Pope Pius XII)
The Divine Maternity
Those who would relegate the Blessed Virgin to an incidental role in salvation history would do well to pay special attention to God's Holy Word, the Bible. St. Luke, the Evangelist who took the greatest pains to research the pertinent events of Our Lord's early life, records the following words of St. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, to the Blessed Virgin: “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (St. Luke Chap. 1 vs 43)
A brief footnote in the Haydock Bible makes this simple point: "The Mother of my Lord. A proof that Christ was truly God, and the Blessed Virgin Mary truly the Mother of God". It is this same Divine Son, born of Mary, who will later astound His countrymen by declaring that He came not to abolish the Law, but to FULFILL the Law. Note the wording of the Fourth Commandment as set down in the Book of Deuteronomy:
“Honor thy father and mother, as the Lord they God hath commanded thee, that thou mayest live a long time, and it may be well with the in the land, which the Lord thy God will give thee.” (Deuteronomy Chap.. 5 vs. 16).
This is the only Commandment which offers a blessing as a reward. Other Commandments offer curses as the inevitable fruits of non-compliance. The Israelites were not to serve idols, lest God visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children. They were not to take the name of the Lord in vain, for he shall not be unpunished that taketh His name upon a vain thing. But look at the tenderness with which the Almighty respects Fatherhood and Motherhood. It is plain throughout Scripture that Jesus honored His Father as only a Perfect Son could have. Every one of His actions, every one of His sorrows and glories were directed towards the glory of His heavenly Father. But, would the God-Man leave the Fourth Commandment only half observed? If He were to fulfill the Law perfectly, would He forget that the Fourth Commandment enjoined the honor of both Father and Mother? Could the Son of God be so forgetful?
Some Protestants are fond of describing Our Lady as a glorified "incubator", a creature used by God and then shoved unceremoniously aside. In this strange view, God become the ultimate "consumer", picking humans at random for certain tasks, using them up and tossing them into the rubbish when their usefulness is over. One wonders how the proponents of this view would react if you were to inform them that their own mothers were mere "vessels", meant only to be "used" by their fathers as a means of generating offspring. Sacred Scripture tells us something different. It tells us that the unique spiritual bond between mother, father and child is so beloved and cherished by the Almighty that He went so far as to COMMAND that it be honored. This is a simple matter of Scriptural record. Anyone wishing to denigrate the place of the Blessed Virgin in the life of her Son does so in defiance of both Sacred Scripture and the Commandments of the Holy Trinity. One would be hard pressed to find in the entire Bible any occurrences where mothers are viewed as mere "incubators".
Our Lady's Divine Maternity therefore, isn't a mere "aspect" of the Gospels, and unimportant element that one can safely ignore at will, but a critical part of them. Obviously, if GOD thinks the bond between Mother and Child is important, then WE are bound to view it likewise.
Many Protestants seem to take a peculiar delight in snubbing the Blessed Virgin. In a twist of logic which manages in one swoop to deny both the Fourth Commandment and Our Lord's claim to be the fulfilled of the Law, they posit themselves as the exponents of a "pure" form of Christian worship, a worship which is free of the Holy Virgin, Saints, and Sacraments. They conveniently forget St. James' teaching that "the prayer of a just man availeth much", a clear Biblical endorsement for the Catholic belief in intercession. They also believe that, somehow, Jesus Christ, True God and True MAN, takes pleasure in seeing His holy Mother despised. It's no wonder that Cardinal Newman wrote these word about their misconceptions: “. . . few Protestants have any real perception of the doctrine of God and man in, one Person. They speak in a dreamy, shadowy way of Christ's divinity . . .They cannot bear to have it said, except as a figure or mode of speaking, that God had a human body, or that God suffered.”
Perhaps this is why one finds no "Stations of the Cross" or "Sacred Heart" devotions in Protestantism. What Catholics understand as they hear the Gospels read each Sunday is that Christ was like unto us in every way except in sin; He was and is the God-Man. If someone ignorant of the Gospels could go back in time with a camcorder and tape a series of days in the life of the Holy Family prior to Our Lord's public ministry, he would little suspect that he was watching a god, let alone the One and Only God. He would find a pious family, obviously loving and at peace. He would find the Son obedient and prayerful, but otherwise engaging in very mundane activities: working, conversing with family and acquaintances, eating, praying. This is the life that GOD lived for thirty years on earth! There is a reason for this. GOD does not waste time. If the hierarchical structure of the human family, with it's sacred bonds and implicit obedience to authority, as reflected in the Fourth Commandment, were of no value to the Christian understanding of Faith, God would not have bequested the legacy to us. Therefore, any time the Mother of God appears in Scripture or is the subject of doctrinal teachings, it is for a very good and important reason.
The Immaculate Conception
Many volumes can and have been written about the pivotal Christian dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin in the womb of Her mother, St. Anne. The early Church Fathers understood it as a matter of course that Our Lady was sinless. In the early centuries of the Church, as they battled the various heresies arising to confuse the faithful, these pious and learned scholars didn't engage in a detailed scrutiny of the Virgin's sinlessness. They understood that She was free from actual sin, and they knew that she had somehow been sanctified in the womb of Her own mother. As far back as the 4th Century, we find the following thought expressed in a poem by St. Ephrem of Syria, addressed to Our Savior, which echoes the Canticle of Canticles:
“Thou and Thy Mother are alone in this: you are wholly beautiful in every respect. There is in Thee, Lord, no stain, nor any spot in Thy Mother.” Such expressions are far from rare in the early Church. In the 5th Century, Theodotus, Bishop of Ancyra in Galatia, described Mary as: “A Virgin innocent; immaculate; free from all guilt; spotless; undefiled; holy in spirit and body; a lily among thorns.”
We must remember that there was no ill will in the intentions of the later writers . . . such as St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. . . who questioned the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Since dogma hadn't as yet been formulated and defined, a "pre-natal sanctification" of Our Lady seemed to them a safer course to steer in order to safeguard the Scriptural teaching of Our Lord's unique Mediatorship. It was never a question of doubting our Lady's sanctity, but of placing Her sinlessness into the larger context of the Redemption. Of course, being a human woman, the Virgin Mary was redeemed by Jesus Christ, but how was this accomplished? St. Paul wrote these words to the Catholics in Rome: "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as according to His purpose, are called to be saints" (Romans Chap.. 8 vs 28) This sublime teaching found abundant justification in the history of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, for it was the very opposition to this Dogma, an opposition sparked by no less an authority than St. Bernard of Clairvaux, that caused scholars from the 12th Century on to begin studying this unique privilege of the Blessed Virgin in detail. The debate would ultimately manifest itself along definite lines, with the Dominicans opposing the Dogma, and the Franciscans defending it with vigor. Two of these Franciscans scholars in particular are credited with solving the "riddle" of the Immaculate Conception, a solution which would bear fruit 600 years later when the Dogma was solemnly defined by Pope Pius IX in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus.
These men, to whom the Church owes a solid debt of gratitude, were William of Ware ( died c.1308), lecturer at Oxford and Paris, and his student, John Duns Scotus (died 1308). These great scholars exemplified the common sense approach to the study of the Mother of God. William of Ware, one of the first university instructors to teach the Immaculate Conception, offered this observation on Our Blessed Mother: There is another opinion, that She did not contract original sin, which I wish to hold, because, if I am to be mistaken, since I am not certain of either side, I prefer to mistaken by excess, giving Mary some prerogative, than by defect, lessening or taking from Her some prerogative which She had.
To Duns Scotus is given the honor of clarifying the Dogma in terms which defend Our Lady's sanctity, while also raising the Redemptive work of Our Lord to a new degree. He pointed out that there was restorative Redemption, whereby tainted Mankind was cleansed from the stain of Original Sin, and a preservative Redemption, by which Our Lady, through the merits of Christ, was preserved from the stain of Original Sin.
A simple analogy could be presented from this teaching. To prevent someone from falling into a mud puddle would be better than to lift that person out of the puddle once they have already falling in and are smeared with filth. Reason in defense of the Immaculate Conception: Either God was able to do this, and did do it, or, He willed to preserve Her and did do so. If able to it for Her, God was merciful towards Her. For no one who is able to honor his mother would fail to do so.
Again we are reminded of the Fourth Commandment and the perfect manner in which the God-Man fulfills it, with a generosity and elegance that seem to have no place in non-Catholic "theology". This would be a good time to speak of intent. Mankind, endowed by its Creator with the gift of Reason, desired to know, to explore, to investigate matters in detail. If the study of Mariology is NOT ultimately undertaken for the greater glory of the Holy Trinity, then it becomes little more than an academic exercise. The anti-Catholic "scholars" who claim to study the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception do so with a degree of contempt for it, with suspicion, seeing in it a threat to the majesty of Christ. The traditional Catholic view, in contrast sees in this Dogma the depths which Our Lord's salvific power will plumb in the work of restoring a fallen world. Notice the antithesis. The anti Catholic position sees the Immaculate Conception a threat to the unique Mediatorship of Jesus Christ. The Catholic view sees in it an exaltation of and thanksgiving for Divine mercy, a reason not to scorn Our Lord's Mediatorship, but to rejoice in it even further. Which view, according to everyday common sense would be more pleasing to God?
Mary's Perpetual Virginity
The Protestant objection to Our Lady's perpetual virginity provides any observer of history with a perfect test case on the nature of "contrariness". While rejection of this perpetual virginity isn't a Protestant "tenet," many sects teach as a matter of course that Mary gave birth to other children after our Lord was born. when the common sense arguments are laid out and examined, it becomes clear that Protestant objection to this doctrine is based not on Scriptural or philosophical ground, but on "contrariness . . . i.e., these sects teach that Our Lady bore other children simply because this idea is the direct opposite of what the Catholic Church teaches. Are there examples in the Bible of places or objects that are considered "holy", that are set apart, intended to be treated with a measure of respect and deference beyond that accorded to other places or objects? In the Second Book of Kings (Chap. 6) it is related how, after the defeat of the Philistines, King David retrieves the Ark of God and carries it away in procession, in the accompaniment of rejoicing and music. one of David's men, Oza, seeing the Ark leaning in it's cart, put up a hand to steady it, so that it wouldn't fall. The moment Oza grabbed the Ark, he was struck dead by God "for his rashness".
Again, in the Book of Genesis (Chap.. 3) Moses, going to the spot where he spied the burning bush, is warned by God: "Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place hereon thou standest is holy ground". Is it possible that a construction made of earthly metals and wood or a clump of rocky earth could be more holy that the womb wherein the Second Person of the Holy Trinity dwelt for nine months? If the womb that housed God Himself were not a sacred and sanctified object, than what would fit that definition? The mentality that imagines "business as usual " for Joseph and Mary after the Incarnation of the Savior fails to recognize that God often calls people to consecrate themselves to His service in unique ways. We see Him set certain people apart, whether it be the Prophet Elias, St. John the Baptist or St. Paul. Surely if the Incarnation of the Word was in the Divine Plan from the "beginning", so was the Mother to whom this Son would be born.
The Scriptural arguments in favor of Our Lady's perpetual virginity have been well documented. Any reliable book on the Blessed Virgin will spell them out clearly, in the very same arguments used from the first centuries of our Faith. Writing in the 4th Century, St. Jerome pointed out, in practical fashion, that:"We believe that God was born of a Virgin because we read it; because we do not read it we do don't believe that Mary wedded again after the birth of Her Child". In a letter to a certain Helvidius, who denied Mary's perpetual virginity, St. Jerome didn't mince words in Our Lady's defense:
“You have set on fire the temple of the Lord's body, you have defiled the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit from which you are determined to make a team of four brethren and a heap of sisters come forth. In a word, joining in the chorus of the Jews you say, "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not His Mother called Mary? and His brethren James and Simon and Judas? and His sisters, are they not all with us? The word 'all' would not be used if there were not a crowd of them". Pray tell me who, before you appeared was acquainted with this blasphemy?”
Most Protestants of our day reject the perpetual virginity of Mary; they think it contradicts the Bible. Many of them will be shocked to find out that the first Protestants, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and others all believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. The idea that Mary ceased to be a virgin and had other children besides Jesus was invented many generations after the original Protestant “reformation.” Thus, the Protestant position on this matter not only contradicts ancient Catholic tradition and the Bible (as we will see), but their own Protestant “tradition.”
The first thing that Protestants usually quote against Mary’s perpetual virginity is Matthew 1:25.
Matthew 1:24-25- “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.”
According to Protestants, this proves that Mary ceased to be a virgin after the birth of Jesus. This is quite wrong. The Greek word for "until" or “till” (heos) does not imply that Joseph had marital relations with Mary after the birth of Jesus Christ. It simply means that they had no relations up to that point, without saying anything about what happened after that point. This is proven below by many passages. We should also bear in mind that the Bible was written several thousand years ago. It was written at a time and in languages which don’t express and imply things the same way that they would be expressed and implied in modern English.
For instance, in 2 Samuel 6:23 (2 Kings 6:23 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible), we read that God cursed Michal, David’s wife. He cursed her because she mocked David for the manner in which he rejoiced before the Ark of the Covenant. As a result, Michal had no children “until” the day of her death.
2 Samuel 6:23- “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death.”
Does this mean that Michal started having children after her death? Obviously it does not. This verse demonstrates that when Scripture describes something as being true “until” or “before” a certain point, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it ceased to be true after that point.
EVIDENCE FROM MATTHEW 27:56 SHOWS THAT THE “BROTHERS” OF JESUS WERE NOT HIS SIBLINGS
Matthew 13:55- “Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?”
James and Joses are two of the names given as “brothers” of Jesus. It can be shown, by the following points, that these were children of another woman and not siblings of Jesus. Please follow this carefully.
There were three women at the foot of the Cross: 1) the Blessed Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus); 2) Mary the wife of Cleophas (who is said to be the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sister); and 3) Mary Magdalene.
John 19:25- “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus  his mother, and  his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and  Mary Magdalene.”
Mary, the wife of Cleophas, is also described as “the other Mary” in Matthew 28:1. The Bible tells us that James and Joses are the children of this Mary:
Matthew 27:56- “Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children.”
Thus, James and Joses (who are called the “brothers” of Jesus) are not His siblings, but at least His cousins. However, they are probably not even first cousins. This is because Mary of Cleophas (the mother of James and Joses), who is said to be the “sister” of Jesus’ mother (John 19:25), is also named Mary. It’s extremely unlikely that two siblings in a Hebrew family would be given the same name. Most likely they were not sisters, but members of the same clan who were called “sisters” in the same way that James, Joses, Simon and Judas were called “brothers” of Jesus. All of this shows that none of the statements in the Bible about the brothers and sisters of Jesus disproves, in any way, the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now we must look at the proof that Mary had no other children and that she was perpetually a virgin.
Writing to the Bishop of Thessalonica and the end of the 4th Century, Pope Siricius called the denial of Mary's perpetual virginity "that Jewish falsehood which holds that He (Jesus Christ) could not have been born of a virgin".
Recall Cardinal Newman writing of the Protestants' lack of insight into the two natures (Divine and human) found in one Person of Christ. Just look at the manner in which the body of a normal mother is honored by her son. It is made sacred by motherhood, set apart and meant to be protected. Imagine then the womb of the Mother of GOD, the first Tabernacle upon which all other tabernacles are modeled, espoused to the Holy Ghost, chosen by God the Father and inhabited by God the Son. It is an amazing fact that the sanctity of Our Lady's body should even have to be defended. Cannot even the densest intellect understand, via simple intuition, that Mary's perpetual virginity is the only rational condition for the Mother of GOD, after She gives birth to the Incarnate GOD-MAN? Is the denial of Our Lady's perpetual virginity the conclusion of careful Biblical study, or a mere projection, an attempt by sinful men to justify their own inability to observe Chastity?
After the seventy-two disciples returned to Jesus, flushed with excitement of their first missionary forays, Our Lord offered this prayer to his Father: I confess to Thee O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because Thou hast hidden these the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones, (St. Luke Chap., 10 vs.21)
There are "scholars" who spend their days and nights try to disparage the Marian dogmas taught by the One True Church Armed with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, alternate translations and volumes of dubious commentaries, they spend valuable hours trying to drag the Holy Mother of God down to their own level. This is sin at work. What else could drive someone to devote himself not to the honor of the Blessed Virgin, but to the task of placing Her in carnal scenarios?
The Catholic Church has never even toyed with the idea that Our Lady bore other children. The Lateran Council of 649 A.D. anathematized anyone who refused to confess that the virginity of Mary remained "inviolate also after parturition". The Sixth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (680 A.D.) decreed that "The virginity of Mary . . . remained before, during and after parturition." Ultimately, the Catholic understanding of Mary as "Ever-Virgin" rests on a combination of revealed Truth and common sense on man's ability to observe relationships in the natural sphere and translate his findings into the supernatural one, an ability described by St. Paul as a coming to a knowledge of God through His works. When all the treatises and essays are put aside, it's the power of old fashioned Reason, illumined by Faith and a sincere good will, that touches the heart with certainty and conviction. The best defense for any Catholic doctrines is ultimately the most simple and straightforward one. This is clearly seen in the following works of St. Ambrose (339-397) in defense of the Blessed Virgin's perpetual virginity:
“And Joseph, the just man, assuredly did not so completely loose his mind as to seek carnal intercourse with the Mother of God.”
The renowned Bishop of Milan obviously understood that, sometimes, a good one two punch hits the mark better than a dozen learned commentaries could. Our Lord Himself, when He evicted the money-changers from the Temple, taught us that Truth isn't always best served by being "nice" in the face of sacrilege. Following this divine example, St. Hilary of Poitiers angrily called those who rejected Mary's perpetual virginity "irreligious, perverted, knowing absolutely nothing of spiritual truth."
Try to imagine for a moment the mind-set that resents Our Lady's bodily Assumption into Heaven. Imagine the Catholic world rejoicing at this wonderful vision of an eternity with God, joining their gratitude to that of the Heavenly Court and the Mother of God Herself. Imagine the smiles of joy on the faces of both clergy and laity as they set aside the tribulations of earthly life for a day to celebrate the definition of this Dogma.
Now imagine if you will, the grim, angry visages of the anti-Catholic "Christians" to whom this glorious privilege is a source of nagging resentment. Imagine the outrage and muttering of ministers and "scholars" as they flip through their incomplete, butchered Bibles in the hopes of halting the Mother of God at the gates of Heaven and dispatching Her back to the grave. If the mark of a Christian is "joy". which of the above scenes will please the Holy Trinity?
It is further ironic that the "technical" approach to Our Lady's privileges actually confirms the teachings of Catholicism rather than those of the anti-Catholics. One example of this confirmation is found in the Gospel of St. Luke, in the Angel Gabriel's salutation to the Blessed Virgin. The phrase familiar to us as "full of grace" was rendered in the Latin Vulgate as gratia plena. However, in the original Greek, the Angel addresses Mary as Kecharitomene. Although "full of grace" is an acceptable translation for the word, the term itself expresses much more and is untranslatable into English. The root of this word is charis ("grace") and, as this term expresses the perfect tense in Greek, the meaning is not only "full of grace", but an abiding state of grace. The term implies that the one addressed thusly has always existed in a state of grace and that this plenitude is permanent and stable. Thus, Kecharitomene, the name given to Mary by God( and passed on to the messenger Gabriel), is not only a designation, but a word that reveals something essential about the one who bears it, just as "Isaac" meant "laughter" or "Peter" meant "rock". So, in the end, the "technical" or scientific" approach to the study of Our Lady confirms the Traditional, common sense Catholic teachings, such as the sinlessness of Mary or Her Immaculate Conception. This is something to keep in mind when dealing with non-Catholic "scholars".
Few men have written as exquisitely of the Virgin Mary as Bishop Jacques Benigne Bossuet of Meaux (1627-1704). Writing of the Assumption I his classic "Substance of All the Sermons for Mary's Feasts Throughout the Year," Bossuet says:
“Mary's sacred body ---the throne of Chastity, the temple of Incarnate Wisdom, the Instrument of the Holy Ghost, the seat of the Power of the Most High---could not remain in the tomb. Her triumph would be incomplete if it took place apart from Her holy flesh; for this, expressly sanctified to form the body of Christ, had been as it were the source of all Her glory.”
Simple logic tells us that the respect paid to the immaculate body of Mary will be a measure of our respect for the Body and Person of Her Son. What does the image of the Mother of God suffering the corruption of the grave say about those who hold it? How does this bodily corruption, this idea of decomposition, reflect the message of the Angel Gabriel to the Woman who is "full of grace"?
Any normal man will consider a slight or insult to his mother as being done also to himself. Likewise, he will consider any act of kindness shown to his mother as a favor to himself, even considering himself in "debt" to the one who extended this kindness to the mother. Ask the common sense question: How can Jesus Christ be pleased when His Mother is despised? How can he possibly be pleased when centuries upon centuries upon centuries of pious beliefs concerning Our Lady are discarded with contempt? It is staggering to suppose that the Incarnate Truth could ever act with such ill-will. Yet, "churches" have been built on this bizarre supposition.
We can also carry this understanding over into the larger picture. Is it logical for God to view a "church" founded by men as equal to the one founded by His own Son? One morning in the 16th Century, a man wakes up and decides that the Church which preserved the Apostolic Deposit of Faith for over a millennium and , in the process, educated the world, is no longer acceptable. He decides then that he and his cohorts will simply take over the authority of that Church, or barring such a coup, merely cast it aside and begin their own. How would the God Who said "I am the Truth" view this series of events, if one of the enduring hallmarks of Truth is consistency.
Listen to St. John Damascene on Our Lady's Assumption: “Of old the Lord God banished from the garden our first parents after their disobedience, when they had dulled the eye of their heart through their sin, and weakened their mind's discernment, and had fallen into death-like apathy. But, now, shall not paradise receive Her, who broke the bondage of all passion, sowed the seeds of obedience to God the Father, and was the beginning of life to the whole human race? Will not Heaven open it's gates to Her with rejoicing? Yes, Indeed.”
He also addressed the Virgin in these words: “O what a blessed departure this going to God of Thine. If God vouchsafes it to all His servants---and we know that He does---what an immense difference there is between His servants and His Mother.”
It is not only un-Christian to reject the Dogma of the Assumption, by implying that Christ would follow the 4th Commandment improperly or in a miserly fashion, it is unreasonable to do so. Obviously, Our Lord considers this Dogma so important that, with the proclamation of the Bull Munificentissimus Deus in 1950, the members of His True Church are COMMANDED to believe it. In the text of this Bull, Pope Pius XII quotes this memorable passage from St. Robert Bellarmine: “Oh, who should bring himself to believe it is fallen in ruins, this ark of Holiness, this home of the Word Incarnate, this temple of the Holy Ghost? Does not the mind recoil from the very thought of it, this virgin flesh to be breeding ground of dust, the prey of worms, that had gendered and born, had suckled and nursed a God?” Once again, solid Catholic Doctrine doesn't mince words with a scowling face, but comes out swinging in the defense of Our Savior and His Mother.
Mary our Mediatrix
The doctrine of "Mary Mediatrix" seems to present the greatest anguish to those who reject God's True Church, when, in reality, it is probably the easiest to comprehend of all Marian doctrines. For the entire history of Salvation is filled with example after example of God choosing human instruments to cooperate with Him in carrying out His divine plan.
From the moment God assigned to Adam the task of naming the animals, to Noah building the Ark, Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Joshua storming the walls of Jericho, Jonah preaching repentance to the people of Nineveh, St. John the Baptist calling Our Lord's contemporaries to penance or St. Paul preaching to the Gentiles, the principle of "cooperation" has been a consistent method of operation for the Holy Trinity. Time after time, God chooses His human collaborator, endows him or her with the graces and strength needed for their task, and allows events to run their course. It's truly an amazing thing to see the Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and earth, putting such trust in mere human creatures, inspiring His Prophets to stand firm against entire civilizations, and His Apostles to spread the Gospel and establish His Church throughout the world.
Viewing Sacred Scripture as a whole, can the Virgin Mary be though of as an "incidental" character? Is it a coincidence that She was the only human being to be present at all of the major events of Our Lord's earthly life: His Incarnation and Birth, His Escape into Egypt, his first public miracle, His Death on the Cross and the Birth of His Church during Pentecost? Is any coincidence that She played an active role in these events . . . giving Her fiat to the Incarnation, carrying Our Lord to safety in her arms when His life was threatened by Herod, causing Him to inaugurate His public ministry at Cana (after which His disciples "believed" in Him), receiving the command to view all men as Her "sons "beneath the Cross on Calvary and praying with the Apostles when the Holy Ghost came upon them at the birth of the Church.
The Gospel of Luke relates an awesome fact that is too easily overlooked amidst all the other Scriptural narratives. After Mary and Joseph find the young Jesus teaching in the Temple, after searching for him for three days, St. Luke tells us that, "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subjected to them". Now here we have the inspired word of God telling us that God Himself, the One who destroyed the earth with flood waters, vanquished Pharaoh's army with a mere thought and caused the sun and moon to stand still for one day at the request of Joshua . . . this God subjected Himself to the authority of a human man and woman.
This divine revelation is echoed in The Imitation of Mary by Alexander De Rouville (published in Valencia, Spain in 1588): “It was fitting that She to whom Jesus had given authority even over Himself should have the right to command the Angels and Saints. How eagerly they vie in giving You the obedience and honor that is Your due!”
The Catholic understanding of the "Woman Clothed with the Sun" from the Apocalypse (chapter 12) is incomplete if taken out of the Marian context. As we have already noted, The Catholic Church looks at the Scripture as a whole, making connections and references which illuminate the story of our salvation. Andre Feuillet, in his book Jesus and His Mother, writes: “There is no question that chapter 12 of the Apocalypse does make reference to Chapter 3 of Genesis, and more specifically to Gn. 3:15. The great dragon who makes his appearance in the Apocalypse is the old serpent (12:9), to wit, the tempter of Genesis . . . Just like this prophecy, the Apocalypse describes violent opposition between the Woman and the serpent-dragon. In the Apocalypse the dragon appears standing in front of the Woman who is about to give birth in order to devour her child; this trait corresponds to what is said of the serpent in Gn. 3:15: he watches . . . for the seed of the Woman, ready to attack.”
Of course, the Woman represents the persecuted Church, struggling throughout the ages. But without the Marian element which ties the Apocalypse to the prophecy of Genesis, we are left with a vision, albeit a potent one, which is somewhat detached from the concrete history of our salvation as recorded throughout Sacred Scripture.
Our Lady is an active player in the struggle against the Serpent. Scripture, understood properly and thoroughly, is eloquent in it's presentation of our Blessed Mother as Mediatrix. We can return to the Fourth Commandment for one last argument in favor of Mary's Queenship. Though by no means the strongest such argument, it causes us to be careful lest we slight Christ in the slighting of His holy Mother. It was only the death of the Son of God that could adequately pay the ransom for a fallen Mankind, since only a Sacrifice of infinite merit would do where an "infinite" offense had occurred. Our lord, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, paid this ransom perfectly and fulfilled the Law perfectly. Now, how would the King of Heaven and Earth, to whom nothing is impossible, honor His Mother?
In the Third Book of Kings (Chap.. 2), we read of King Solomon's behavior to his mother Bethsabee. A man named Adonais approaches Bethsabee and asks her to intercede with her son, the King, so that Adonais may be permitted to marry Abisag the Sunamitess. This is how Scripture describes the ensuing scene: Then Bethsabee came to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonias: and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne: and a throne was set for the king's mother, and she sat on his right hand. And she said to him: “I desire one small petition of thee, do not put me to confusion. And the king said to her: My mother, ask: for I must not turn away thy face.” (3Kings 2:19-20)
Are we to believe that the Divine King of Heaven and Earth would be less generous in fulfilling the Fourth Commandment that the earthly Solomon? If Scripture itself presents us with this venerable image of the Queen-Mother, how are we to rationalize the Protestant view, supposedly based on the Bible, which treats the Mother of the Divine King and Savior as not only menial, but unimportant, in contradiction to Scripture and Sacred Tradition?
Honoring the Blessed Virgin
We honor the Virgin because, not only does She deserve our honor, but we imitate Jesus Christ when we honor Her. And even such and imitation is a weak one, for can any man give the Blessed Virgin even a fraction of the honor that the Holy Trinity did by making Her the Mother of God? Our Lord said, "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart". Rather than resent or doubt the glorious Marian heritage of the One True Catholic Church, we should be outdoing each other in praising God's Mother and ours.
As Catholics, it is not only our duty, but our privilege, to know the doctrines and dogmas of our Faith, these divine legacies given so generously to us for our sanctification, enlightenment and ultimately, for our salvation. God doesn't lie. Scripture tells us that there are times to be submissive, and there are times to be angry. Even before Our Lord forcibly evicted the money-changers from His Father's House or called the Pharisees "whitened sepulchers", we read in the Book of Ecclesiates: “All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under Heaven . . . A time of love and a time of hatred. A time of war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,8)
The Book of Ecclesiasticus admonishes us to hold in our hearts a special place for our mothers: “Honor thy father, and forget not the groanings of the mother: Remember that thou hadst not been born but through them and make a return to them as they have done for thee.” (Ecclesiasticus 7:29-30)
If these are the sentiments that sacred Scripture enjoins upon us to hold toward our earthly mothers, how much more so should we honor and love Our Blessed Mother, with out whom we would not be reborn as Children of God. And what better "return" can we make to her than to defend Her whenever She is attacked and, in so doing defend also the honor of Our Savior and our Church as well?
The next time you hear the Blessed Virgin demeaned, dishonored or slandered, don't be nice about it. Get zealous about it. It's the Christian thing to do.
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, Pray for us!!!
The Biblical basis for Catholic teachings on the Virgin Mary