Clement, Loving, and Sweet

July 15, 2008

So, just in case I haven’t been controversial enough,  I thought I’d write a little about Mary!

Our love for Mary is so often misunderstood by non-Catholics. I’m constantly being asked, “Why do you worship Mary?” or other questions of the sort. So, to set the record straight – We don’t. Keep reading and I’ll explain what we really do.

(These thoughts are from my notes on a lecture by Dr. Mark Mirivalli at the Defending the Faith Summer Conference 2007 at Steubenville University in Steubenville, Ohio.)

First of all.

WHO is Mary? Specifically, WHO is she to each member of the Trinity? Let’s take a look.

What would God the Father call her? Maybe:

 “My masterpiece,” “My favored daughter,” “My joy,” and “My perfect creation.”

He chose her to be the vessel in which our Saviour would become incarnate. He chose her to nurture and to raise the Messiah. She is blessed beyond compare, and therefore He is protective of her.

When the angel Gabriel addresses Mary he says, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace.”

But, what does it mean to be “full of grace?” To Catholics, “full of grace,” can mean nothing else but, “empty of sin.” If she IS full of grace (or empty of sin), then she is God’s greatest creation (Since Christ, our Saviour, is not a creation of God, but one with God.) If she is God’s greatest and purest creation, then wouldn’t it make sense for God to use her to be the vessel for the Word made flesh? And if He had the choice (which He always does, because He is God and can do all things) then why wouldn’t He? How could a person with the stain of sin on her soul carry the fullness of God Himself in her womb?

In the Baltimore Catechism, Grace is defined as a “supernatural gift of God bestowed on us through the merits of Jesus Christ.” Mary did indeed need redemption, but she was redeemed by God with Jesus’ blood before she was conceived. Mary was created by God specifically to be the mother of Christ. God created her knowing that she would say, “Yes.” So, Mary is Full of Grace and without sin not because she has her own righteousness, but because God made her that way. Her total “yes” to God’s will for her completed his plan for her to bear his son. This is possible because God is completely outside of time. Since He is the beginning AND the end He was able to make Mary righteous before the coming of Christ.

God the Son, Christ our Savior might call her:

“My mother,” “My flesh,” “My nurturer.”

A love between child and parent is indescribable. Any mother will tell you that. No matter how much we are at each other’s throats, the love present cannot be dissolved. It is unconditional to the core.

Scripture says, “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his home.”

This passage tells us that Christ delights in our love for Mary. He has given her to us and He loves to see us love her, and our love for her pleases Him. At that moment, He told us that she is not only His mother, she is mother to each of us and we should take her into our own homes. She is there to comfort us as a mother does, to love us as a mother does, and to serve us as a mother does. Her relationship with Christ incarnate is far beyond what any of us can imagine. Think about it for a moment. She cooked His meals and made His clothes and she tucked Him in at night! He ran to her when He scraped his knee!  Isn’t that crazy!? She was a model servant and friend. And she is available to us today.

God the Holy Spirit might describe her as:

“My spouse,” “My human advocate.”

Together with the Holy Spirit they will prepare for the second coming. Mary will nurture as the Spirit lives within us. The Holy Spirit works through Mary as He once worked inside of her.

Isn’t it somewhat awe-inspiring to think about this? The immense love of Father and Son that creates Spirit and becomes the Trinity. And then – the immense love that the Blessed Trinity must have for Mary who said “Yes” to God’s call and became the vessel for the Incarnate Lord! This concept, this love, this master plan is awesome in the truest sense of the word! And the more we stand in awe – the more we grow in reverence.

Now that we’ve covered some basic reasons WHY the Catholic Church honors Mary, lets take a closer look at exactly WHAT the Church holds true about the Blessed Mother.

It is important first to establish that when Catholics “pray” to Mary, we do not worship her. We venerate her and we acknowledge her as a role model, as our mother, and as our queen. We do not worship her.

To “pray” means “to ask”. We ask Mary to pray for us, just as we ask each others to pray for us. Mary, the Saint’s, and all our loved ones who have gone before us live in heaven. They are sharing in eternal glory and join with us to make a great communion. I ask Mary, or St. Benedict, or St. Cecilia to pray for me in the same way I ask my earthly mother, or my earthly brother, or my earthly friend to pray for me. We are all God’s children and it is good for us to pray for one another.

Mary is the closest person to Christ – She knew Him better than anyone else did and He prepared a seat for her at His right hand in Heaven. We ask Her to pray for us not only because she is part of that great communion of saints, but because Christ loves her and she loves Christ. Of course Christ rules over her as He rules over us, but He has a special respect for her opinion – it was Mary who convinced Christ to work His first Miracle at the Wedding at Cana wasn’t it?

The Church accepts, as Doctrine, that Mary is the Spiritual Mother of all humanity. This is why Jesus gave His mother to the apostle at the foot of the cross. Mary was His final gift to His people. The statement “Behold, your mother.” is considered a theological statement and a fact.

She is the Spiritual Mother of all humanity in 3 ways:

1) She suffers for her children – Mary shared in Christ’s suffering. Any mother who has watched her child suffer can catch a glimpse at Mary’s pain as she saw her son crucified. Her deep love for Christ made her suffer with Him.

2) She is a mother nourishing – She is a mediatric of grace and works with the Holy Spirit to pour grace upon her children.

3) She is a mother pleading – Mary intercedes for us. She is our Queen and will ask Jesus to give us the desires of our hearts.  

The Church has also spoken 4 Dogmas concerning Mary. (Dogma is established by Papal authority or an ecumenical council.)

1) Council of Ephesus (431) – “Mary is the mother of God made Man.”

This was specifically discussed to protect the teaching of the Church from the Nostorian heresy that made God and Jesus two separate persons. It established that *Jesus is God and *Mary is the mother of Jesus and therefore *Mary is the mother of God.

2) Lateran Council (649) – Perpetual Virginity of Mary before/during/after the birth of Jesus.

Before the birth of Jesus: The council highlights the prophet Isaiah in 7:14.

During her pregnancy: The council resolved that as Mary carried Jesus in her womb there was no damage – it was as though light passes through glass.

After the birth of Jesus: The council stated that those whom Christ calls “brothers” were not biological brothers, but close relatives or friends.

3) Pius IX (December 8, 1854) – Infallible statement on Immaculate Conception

This statement (remember infallible statements are rare and only acknowledged as such under specific criteria) defined the feast of the Immaculate Conception as the celebration of Mary being conceived without original sin (not Jesus, as is often misunderstood). It resolved that Mary was full, completely, of grace and defined her as the only creature ever fully perfected (by God!) in grace.

(Remember that Mary’s sinlessness what not considered divinity, but rather a complete outpouring of God’s Grace. Mary is perfected in the Grace of God, but only Jesus Christ is divine.)

4) Pius XII (December 1, 1950) – Infallible Statement on the Assumption

This statement resolved that Mary was assumed into heaven, fully in body.

(This teaching suggests, though it is not written as dogma, that Mary experienced limited separation of body and soul for 3 days as an act of discipleship.)

This is a somewhat poorly organized and skeletal outline of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Blessed Mother. If you aren’t Catholic please don’t be insulted or angered by this position, but feel free to question or share your thoughts. I hope that this is indeed in line with the Churchs teaching.

I receive questions about Mary all the time, and I often feel terribly inarticulate when trying to explain. All I really can say is that I have a deep love for the Blessed Mother and I thank God for sending her as a role model and Spiritual Mother.

Please comment! Let’s discuss!


2 Responses to “Clement, Loving, and Sweet”

  1. Ryan said

    For years, fractures have been driven between friends, relatives, fellow believers because of differing views on this subject. It saddens me greatly. As a believer in our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, I remember that “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40)

    I am what most people would refer to as “protestant” by means of doctrine. Though I don’t necessarily agree with everything posted here about Mary, I refuse to let disagreements about doctrine sour relationships between “catholic” friends and me.

    Regarding my own views on Mary based on my own instruction and study, I’ve come up with a slightly different viewpoint. Again, I’m merely presenting perspective and do not wish to send rifts. I agree that Mary is not to be worshipped, but instead looked to as an example. However, I don’t go so far as to call her “God’s perfect creation”. The reason is that I don’t find such a title related to Mary in the Bible. When she was initially approached by the angel, Mary was frightened, as any normal person would be. Once the message was delivered, and her questions answered, she proclaimed herself “the handmaiden of the Lord”. In context, if she was truly God’s perfect creation, I would think that she would not have had any questions at all regarding God’s power. She portrays herself as a humble servant girl, not understanding fully but willing to be a vessel. Thus, I put Mary in the same category as I do Samuel or Gideon or Jeremiah. God had a marvelous plan set for her as he sets a plan for all who truly follow Him. Mary is a wonderful role model for us to emulate, respect and admire. But I do stop short of elevating her to the level of sinless or perfect. If it was possible to be perfect without being God, Jesus would never have needed to come and sacrifice himself to make us so.

    Jesus’ view of Mary is interesting, but I do disagree on having love for Mary in any way close to our love of the Savior. I look at the passage stated above and can easily see the train of thought towards Mary as the mother of all believers. However, if that were so, I’m curious as to why Jesus’ comments were directed at one specific disciple. Also, why then would Mary live in his home, instead of all the disciples pitching in? Just looking directly at the text, it seems much more likely to me that Jesus was simply entrusting his earthly mother’s care to one of his closest friends. But, that’s just the way the text reads to me. I just try to believe what I read, not read what I believe. If I have to stretch my imagination to explain the text, it makes me nervous that I may miss the intended message.

    One very interesting point that I wanted to touch on was the above stated views on communing with Mary or other deceased individuals. I found your viewpoint fascinating if nothing else. We tread on centuries of argument regarding this issue. Can the dead really intercede for us? If they do, do they hear us if we “pray” to them? In Revelation it speaks of the martyrs who call out for justice before the throne. Clearly the dead have their own voices before God in Heaven. I’ve often wondered if the saints who passed on before me can or would take an interest in my present life. I don’t really have an answer for that one, and so I won’t do any criticizing on this point. However, I personally believe that my prayers are better suited going directly to God himself. Why would I ask someone to speak to my Father (Mary included) when I can do it personally? I don’t know if it’s wrong to ask someone else, but I prefer doing the talking. 😉

    I’m one of those people who depend entirely on the Bible to establish doctrine. Teachings from old pastors, popes, church leaders, or anyone else should be measured directly against the infallible Word of God. Any doctrines not clearly defined in the Bible should be taken as debatable. This doesn’t mean that they’re not important. The Bible doesn’t necessarily outline every jot and tiddle for us, but gives us exactly what we need to be in fellowship with God and with each other. The Lord knew exactly what he was doing when He gave us his Word. Questions about Mary’s role outside the gospel narratives are speculative because we aren’t told. We make assumptions and try to draw out from scripture those specifics. Perhaps our assumptions are correct, perhaps correct to a point, or perhaps wrong entirely. As long as we recognize our different doctrines for what they are, there should never be any reason to break fellowship with other believers.

    Thank you, Liesl for outlining your thoughts for everyone. I pray that my own perspective was not too harsh or abrasive. As long as you recognize that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the only way to have fellowship with God, you are my sibling and fellow warrior. I’m proud to stand by you and pray for your needs.

    God grant us wisdom and kindness.

  2. Alex said

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

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