Mary, Mother of God
From the February AD 1995
Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Sacred Faith - Part II
In our last article we reviewed some of the sacred
attributes of Almighty God Himself, the font of all that is holy. Before
treating of our Lord Jesus Christ we will pause to reflect on the Mother of
Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Or perhaps we should refer to her as Mary the
Blessed Mother of God, for it is quite impossible to consider her as the Mother
of our Lord's humanity in isolation from His divinity. Yet it is precisely this
emphasis on Mary that is so difficult for non-Catholics and Modernists to
understand, and which, therefore, we must explain in some detail. Next to the
uncreated God Himself, no creature in the universe is more sacred than the
Blessed Virgin Mary.
Hail, Full of Grace
While most western non-Catholics respect Mary as they
respect the mother of any great man, they often have difficulty understanding
the high degree of veneration; seemingly outright worship which Catholics have
for the Blessed Virgin. They are inclined to see such devotion to our Lady as a
subtraction from the worship due to God alone; perhaps even a form of idolatry.
They fail to realize that sacred Tradition and Scripture both testify to the
very special nature of our Blessed Mother. While she is not worshipped as God,
both of these sources of revelation demand that she be treated with an honor
above that of any other creature.
We see early in the Gospel of Saint Luke that God had
found special delight in His most favored daughter. The first words spoken by
the Angel, before announcing the coming birth of our savior, were addressed to
Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among
women." (Who says the Rosary is not scriptural?) But how is it that Mary is
called "full of grace" if the Redeemer is not yet born? How can the
Lord be with her if she has not yet conceived? The dogma of the Immaculate
Conception is not a 19th century invention of the papacy. It is simply the
logical understanding of these scriptural texts combined, of course, with many
centuries of written and oral tradition. The Blessed Virgin had to have been
conceived without original sin for the Angel to refer to her as "full of
grace." And the Lord then had to be with her, for that is what it means to
be in the state of grace: to have the life of God in one's soul. For the Angel
to find her in this immaculate condition, it was necessary for her to have been
conceived that way, for prior to the birth of her Son there was no one who could
have cleansed her from the sin of Adam and Eve. Catholic Tradition reinforces
this logical framework by pointing, so to speak, to the "divine
decorum." It simply wouldn't have been fitting for the sinless Son of God
to have been conceived by someone in sin, or to have a sinner for His Mother.
And further, God wouldn't have wanted this woman to undergo the degradation of
sin; not before or after the birth of His Son. Therefore, Mary herself must have
been conceived free from every stain of sin by the foreseen merits of her Son.
Sacred Tradition goes on to tell us that Mary's conception
of Jesus was also unique. In her dialog with the Angel Gabriel we hear (in Luke
Behold, thou shalt conceive and bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call
His name Jesus.
How shall this happen, since I do not know man?
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall
overshadow thee; and therefore the Holy One to be born of thee shall be
called the Son of God.
In this we see the miracle spoken of by Isaias the prophet: "Behold, a
Virgin shall conceive and bear a son...." (Isaias vii).
Blessed Be Her Glorious
In 1950, Pope Pius XII, by his infallible authority
declare and define as a reveled dogma that the immaculate Mary ever
Virgin Mother of God, when she had finished the course of her earthly life,
was taken up body and soul into heaven.
It is important to understand that the Holy Father was not
making up some new and previously unknown doctrine. This wasn't a case of
something that was false yesterday and true today. The Pope was doing little
more than officially defining that which had been the traditional belief of the
Church for many centuries. Indeed, those who consider the Assumption to be a
papal invention must face the difficult task of explaining how Pope Pius was
able to "con" the Greek and Russian Orthodox into celebrating the same
feast on August 15th those very same Christians who had been
separated from Rome for almost 900 years by 1950!
The idea of Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven is a
logical deduction from what we know through Sacred Scripture and Tradition. If
Mary was "full of grace" from the moment of her conception, she had no
part of original sin. If she did not share in this sin of Adam, she was not
liable to the sickness and bodily corruption shared by other men. It is also
quite reasonable to think that our Blessed Lord would be anxious to have his
Mother with Him to reign in heaven as His queen. She had, after all, shared many
of the difficulties and sufferings of His earthly life, and even experienced the
anguish of seeing Him crucified for the sins of mankind. It is difficult to
think of Him leaving her earthly body behind to become the object of attention
for the curious. Of course, in addition to the compelling "fitness" of
the idea of the Assumption, it has been part of Christian tradition since the
time of the Apostles.
Holy Mary, Pray For Us!!
The honest non-Catholic Christian will have to admit the
great honor due to our lady as the sinless Mother of God, but he will often
question the idea of praying to her. He may feel that prayer is appropriately
addressed only to God Himself, and that Catholic veneration of Mary is a sort of
idolatry. Thus, a word is in order about the veneration of the saints, and
especially about prayer to Mary, the Queen of Heaven.
It is a relatively common, perhaps universal, practice for
people to seek aid in temporal affairs from their relatives and friends. We all
feel better in undertaking new or difficult things if we have a familiar and
more experienced person there with us, urging us on and lending a hand. Learning
to ride a bicycle, a first job, beginning school or starting a new career; all
of these things are easier with some friendly help and encouragement. Why should
it be any different in the spiritual order? And don't we all tend to rely on our
"contacts" to help us obtain favors from those in authority; a friend
or a relative to put in a good word on our behalf with those whom they know? Why
wouldn't we want someone to put in such a "good word" with God? This
is what we are asking of the saints.
When a certain couple ran out of wine at their wedding
feast in Cana of Galilee, who came to their aid even without being asked? Why,
our Lady, of course. Jesus was there, but "it was not yet His time,"
and He didn't volunteer. Anyway, they probably would have been unsure about
asking such a favor. But our Blessed Lady had no such qualms. Ignoring our
Lord's seeming rebuke, she directed the servants to do whatever He directed. The
result was the best wine of the feast. Shouldn't we take our cue from our Lady's
prompting? Shouldn't we put our lives in her hands, assuring ourselves of the
best wine of the spiritual life?
Occasionally, we hear someone described as a "Marian
Catholic," a "Marian Priest," or "Marian Nun." While
there is nothing wrong with such descriptions, all three are redundant. In
practical terms, one cannot be a Catholic, let alone a priest or a nun, without
devotion to Mary. No one can approach Jesus except through Mary. No one may say,
"For this is My Body" without due deference to Mary. No one can be a
true bride of Christ without imitating the Immaculate Bride of the Holy Ghost.
Mary's sons and daughters may fail her from time to time,
appearing no more holy than those who ignore her. But none are more sure of
forgiveness than those who place their failures before her, asking her motherly
pardon. None are more sure of being lifted from their lowly estate to her Son's
highest mansions. None are more well assured of final perseverance than those
who speak with her daily in prayer through her Little Office or her Rosary;
those who wear her scapular; those who dedicate their First Saturdays to her
Monsignor Ronald Knox, one of the great Catholic writers
of this century, put it this way:
They have said that we deify her; that is not because
we exaggerate the eminence of God's Mother, but because they belittle the
eminence of God. A creature miraculously preserved from sin by the
indwelling power of the Holy Ghost -- that is to them a divine title,
because that is all the claim their grudging theologies will concede, often
enough, to our Lord Himself. They refuse to honor the God-bearing Woman
because their Christ is only a God-bearing Man. We who know that God could
(if He would) annihilate every existing creature without abating anything of
His blessedness or His glory, are not afraid less the honor done to His
creature of perfect Womanhood should prejudice the honor due to Him.
Touchstone of truth in the ages of controversy, romance of the medieval
world, she has not lost with the rise of new devotions, any fragment of her
ancient glory. Other lights may glow and dim as the centuries pass, she
cannot suffer change; and when a Catholic ceases to honor her, he ceases to
be a Catholic.
-- The Belief of Catholics