Through a misunderstanding of the ‘Communion of Saints’ and a failure to recognize that ‘God is glorified in His saints,’ many protestants confuse Catholics’ loving veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the adoration (worship) due to God alone. it is most heartbreaking that this loving mother who has continually done so much for the Body of Christ throughout the Church’s history has become such a stumbling block for protestants/evangelicals.
It is apparent to all that in a holy, healthy earthly family, the mother holds a special place in the hearts of all. Should we be so surprised that this is also true in the family of God?
- In Luke 1:28, 30, the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you! …for you have found favor with God.” Catholic tradition holds that Mary was always ‘filled’ with God’s grace in view of the merits of her future son. it is for this reason that we have the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which describes her freedom from ‘original sin.’ In her eminent holiness, the grace of God is always emphasized, thus ‘God is glorified in his saints.’
- Luke 1:38: “Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” As the first Christian to believe the word of Christ, she models fidelity to all future believers. In her presentation of Jesus in the Temple and offering sacrifice in Luke 2:22, she is a model of obedience. In Luke 1:39, she ‘sets out with haste’ to assist Elizabeth in her pregnancy, acting as a model of charity towards others.
- Luke 1:48: In the Blessed Virgin Mary’s ‘Magnificat’, she prophesies through the influence of the Holy Spirit that “all generations will call me blessed,” as Catholics still do. This beautiful prayer also expounds the depth of her spirituality and her understanding of God’s entire plan of salvation.
- In Luke 1:40: Elizabeth calls Our Lady “the most blessed among women” under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
- Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Our Blessed Mother models meditative / contemplative prayer of the heart.
- Luke 2:34-35 “Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” While Scripture calls us all to mystically ‘share in the sufferings of Christ’ in our own way, the Blessed Mother exemplified of this sharing in her own unique way, and it is with this in mind that honorary titles such a ‘coredemptrix’ are occasionally used. It is not that she in any way replaces the unique sacrifice of Christ, it is that her life’s vocation was to support and cooperate with the redemption that is found in Christ alone.
- Luke 2:7: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Giving birth to Our Lord in the most humble of conditions, the Blessed Mother is a model of humility and poverty of spirit.
- Luke 10:27 “…a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” This response does not take honor away from Mary, but emphasizes that she heard and kept the word of God, and we should do likewise to enter into God’s family.
- In John 2:3, The Blessed Virgin Mary intercedes with her son for the couple at the wedding of Cana, resulting in the first of Christ’s miracles. When Catholics pray to Mary, they know that she continues to intercede with her son, and that ‘the ‘prayer of a righteous person avails much’ according to James 5:16. There is no shortage of miracles in Church history that are attributable to her intercession.
- In John 19:26: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your Son. Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” Catholics understand that this loving action was directed not only to St. John, but to all of Christ’s disciples (see Revelation 12).
- The Blessed Mother played an integral role in the spiritual life of the early Church after Christ’s resurrection. Acts 1:14: “All these [the apostles] were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” Present at Pentecost,”we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation” (Lumen Gentium 59).
- The Blessed Virgin is likened to the all pure and all holy ‘Ark of the Covenant’ twice in the Bible: In the direct parallelism between 2 Samuel Chapter 6 and Luke 1:39-45, and also in Revelation 11:19-12:1-2. Just as the Ark of the Covenant (so Holy that it could not be touched without death) carried within it the holiest artifacts of the Old Covenant, our Blessed mother is the Ark of the New Covenant in that she carried in her own womb God incarnate. She did not bear merely the humanity of Christ, but His person: fully God and fully man. For this reason, in the Council of Ephesus (the 3rd ecumenical council of the universal Church), the title of ‘Theotokos’ (God-bearer) was upheld as the Nestotrian heresies were condemned.
- Ezekiel 44:2: “And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut.” Catholics (and even the protestant forefathers) recognize the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Paul teaches that consecrated virginity is a higher calling and encourages it for those who are able in order to increase dedication to the Lord and His service. When the Bible refers to the ‘brothers of Jesus,’ it uses the a word that can also mean ‘cousins.’ It could also refer to Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. Mary had no other children; hence Jesus committed her to the care of the ‘blessed disciple’ from the cross.
- The Church has historically interpreted the woman in Revelation 12:1 to represent Jerusalem, the Church, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Revelation 12:1-2, 5, 17 states, “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child… she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne… Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” Catholics notice that the woman is mother not only to Jesus, but also ‘those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.’
- From 1 Kings 2:12-21 and 1 Kings 15:13, we see that in the Davidic dynasty of ancient Israel, the mother of the king was called the ‘Queen mother,’ was given a throne to sit on next to the king, was treated with royal honor even by the king, and was granted what she asked of the king on behalf of the people. Catholics recognize that as Scripture proclaims that Christ is the everlasting King that fulfills the prophecies regarding the Davidic dynasty, the Blessed Virgin Mary will always be the ‘Queen Mother’ of His everlasting kingdom.