Mary, the Mother of God
Sources: Keating, Fundamentalism and Catholicism; Scott Hahn, audio, "The Holy Mother;" Sheed & Ward, Catholic Evidence: Training Outlines; Rumble & Carty, Radio Replies; Newman, Mary, the Second Eve; CCC 963-975.
Questions concerning Mary: Do Catholics worship Mary? What about the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption? Did she really remain a virgin after Christ's birth or did she have other children? Why do Catholics claim that she is our Mother?
To answer these questions we must first understand that Mary is not God and that God called Mary to a special role for which we honor her highly.
The Catholic Church forbids anyone to ascribe any attributes of deity to Mary… However holy she might be by grace, she still remains a creature… But she certainly did receive graces that no other woman ever received or ever will receive, an in supernatural dignity and power surpasses them all. In bringing forth Jesus Christ she brought forth the life of my soul, and she is as much my mother in the supernatural order as my earthly mother in the temporal and natural order… As Eve was the mother of all the living, yet brought us forth to suffering, misery and death, so Mary, the second Eve, between whom and Satan God promised to put enmity, brought me forth to the happiness and life of God’s Grace.” (Radio Replies, #75)
What is the role given Mary by God? Mary is the Theotekos, the Mother of God (CCC 495). This was the subject of the Nestorian controversy. It was defined by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD.
As Mother of the God/man, Jesus, she is also Mother of the Mystical Body of Jesus, the Church (John 19:26-27, Rev 12:17, CCC 963).
As Mother of Jesus, King of Heaven and Earth, of the Davidic line, she is also the Queen Mother. This was an ubiquitous concept in the Old Testament world (see I Kg 12) This concept was well known at the time of Jesus but is completely lost in democratic America. Her role was to be the king’s wisdom counselor. The king would bow to the queen-mother. She had a throne at his right hand (Hahn).
This is the theological paradigm of Mary’s Queenship.
As the Mother of Jesus, the Messiah, Mary is the new Eve (Gen 3:15, Jn 2:4, Rev 12).
“As St. Iranaeus says, ‘Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.’ Hence, not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert…, ‘the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.’ Comparing her with Eve, the call Mary ‘the Mother of the living’ and frequently claim: “Death through Eve, life through Mary’” (CCC 494). Note that God talks about the “seed” of the woman (Gen 3:15ff) and that Eve was also held responsible along with Adam for the original sin. Mary is responsible by her obedience in faith for the salvation of the world.
Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, her Virginity, and her identity as the Queen Mother all derive from her role as the Mother of God, our Savior, King and Second Adam. “To become the mother of the Savior, Mary ‘was enriched with gifts appropriate to such a role’ (Lumen Gentium #56).
The Immaculate Conception. The key term is “full of grace,” kecharitomene in the Greek as opposed to pleres charitos (cf. Lk 1:28). Theologically this denotes an actual perfection of grace of a permanent and singular kind. This favor denotes a transformation of the subject, not just a regarding with favor. This word is used in the New Testament only to describe Mary (see Keating, p. 269). It is also appropriate that Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant, the vessel holding Jesus, be completely free from sin.
Objections to this doctrine:
That Mary was but a creature and “all have sinned…” (Rom 3:23). Answer: This passage could refer to actual sin and be a general statement for the mass of mankind or it could refer to all being under original sin. A special action of god was then necessary to preserve Mary from it.
The this doctrine was “invented” in 1854. Answer: It was believed since earliest times. It was defined in 1854 because it was challenged at that time.
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (CCC 491).
St. Augustine said, “All have sinned except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, for the honor of the Lord, I wish no question to be raised at all, when we are treating of sins.” (de Nat. et Grat. 42).
This doctrine was implied in early times, and never denied. In the Middle Ages St. Thomas and St. Bernard denied it but they took it with a different sense from that in which the Church now takes it. They understood it with reference to Our Lady’s mother.
This contradicts that Mary needed Jesus for a Savior. Answer: No, Mary was saved in anticipation of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus was her Savior, also.
Mary’s Assumption (See CCC 966,974). First note that “Assumption” (being taken into heaven by God) is used of Mary while the term, “Ascension,” (rising on one’s own power) is used of Jesus (See 1 Cor 15:23ff, cf. Mt 27:52-53). There is no tradition of her having a tomb nor relics related to her burial. Neither Ephesus nor Jerusalem nor any other city ever claimed her remains like they did for many other holy people. The Greek traditions of the “dormition” of Mary points to her assumption. (This was the earliest recorded feast of Mary). Corruption of the body is a result of original sin so God did not let her body experience corruption. References to Enoch (Gen 5:24, Heb 11:5) and Elijah (II Kg 11:1-13). Note that Mary is not the only human assumed into heaven.
The Virginity of Mary.
1. The virgin birth of Jesus is scriptural (Lk 1:34,36 and Mt 1:18-25).
2. Did Mary and Joseph have other children? No, there is no Hebrew term for cousins or other close relatives. The word here is clearly used in the Old Testament to identify those who were not literally “brothers.” The reference to the “brethren of the Lord” in Mt 13:55 was understood to be cousins. For example, James was called the brother of Jesus, yet he is said to be the son of Alphaeus, and Mary was never described as the wife of Alphaeus.
3. This James was the blood brother of Jude. Jude’s epistle begins with, “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and the brother of James.”
4. None of these persons are described as “sons of Mary” (See St. Joseph’s ed. Footnote for Mk 6:3
5. At the cross, Mary of Cleophas is called the mother of James and Joseph (Mk 15:40).
6. Jesus commits Mary’s care to John (Jn 19:26,27), one of the “sons of Zebedee.” If he had had other brothers, this action would have disgraced them.