Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mary Mother of God

1st century
The Mother, of God, Mother of Jesus, wife of St. Joseph, and the greatest of all Christian saints. The Virgin Mother “was, after her Son, exalted by divine grace above all angels and men”. Mary is venerated with a special cult, called by St. Thomas Aquinas, hyperdulia, as the highest of God’s creatures. The principal events of her life are celebrated as liturgical feasts of the universal Church. Mary’s life and role in the history of salvation is prefigured in the Old Testament, while the events of her life are recorded in the New Testament. Traditionally, she was declared the daughter of Sts. Joachim and Anne. Born in Jerusalem, Mary was presented in the Temple and took a vow of virginity. Living in Nazareth, Mary was visited by the archangel Gabriel, who announced to her that she would become the Mother of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. She became betrothed to St. Joseph and went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was bearing St. John the Baptist. Acknowledged by Elizabeth as the Mother of God, Mary intoned the Magnificat. When Emperor Augustus declared a census throughout the vast Roman Empire, Mary and St. Joseph went to Bethlehem, his city of lineage, as he belonged to the House of David. There Mary gave birth to Jesus and was visited by the Three Kings. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, where St. Simeon rejoiced and Mary received word of sorrows to come later. Warned to flee, St. Joseph and Mary went to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod. They remained in Egypt until King Herod died and then returned to Nazareth. Nothing is known of Mary’s life during the next years except for a visit to the Temple of Jerusalem, at which time Mary and Joseph sought the young Jesus, who was in the Temple with the learned elders. The first recorded miracle of Jesus was performed at a wedding in Cana, and Mary was instrumental in calling Christ’s attention to the need. Mary was present at the Crucifixion in Jerusalem, and there she was given into John’s care. She was also with the disciples in the days before the Pentecost, and it is believed that she was present at the resurrection and Ascension. No scriptural reference concerns Mary’s last years on earth. According to tradition, she went to Ephesus, where she experienced her “dormition.” Another tradition states that she remained in Jerusalem. The belief that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven is one of the oldest traditions of the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XII declared this belief Catholic dogma in 1950. The feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception - that Mary, as the Mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, was free of original sin at the moment of her conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 . The feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8. The birthday of Mary is an old feast in the Church, celebrated on September 8 since the seventh century. Pope Pius XII dedicated the entire human race to Mary in 1944. The Church has long taught that Mary is truly the Mother of God . St. Paul observed that “God sent His Son, born of a woman," expressing the union of the human and the divine in Christ. As Christ possesses two natures, human and divine, Mary was the Mother of God in his human nature. This special role of Mary in salvation history is clearly depicted in the Gospel in which she is seen constantly at her son’s side during his soteriological mission. Because of this role exemplified by her acceptance of Christ into her womb, her offering of him to God at the Temple, her urging him to perform his first miracle, and her standing at the foot of the Cross at Calvary Mary was joined fully in the sacrifice by Christ of himself. Pope Benedict XV wrote in 1918: “To such an extent did Mary suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to such extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man’s salvation, and immolated him - insofar as she could in order to appease the justice of God, that we might rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ” . Mary is entitled to the title of Queen because, as Pope Pius XII expressed it in a 1946 radio speech, “Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through him, with him, and subordinate to him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election.” Mary possesses a unique relationship with all three Persons of the Trinity, thereby giving her a claim to the title of Queenship. She was chosen by God the Father to be the Mother of his Son; God the Holy Spirit chose her to be his virginal spouse for the Incarnation of the Son; and God the Son chose her to be his mother, the means of incarnating into the world for the purposes of the redemption of humanity. This Queen is also our Mother. While she is not our Mother in the physical sense, she is called a spiritual mother, for she conceives, gives birth, and nurtures the spiritual lives of grace for each person. As Mediatrix of All Graces, she is ever present at the side of each person, giving nourishment and hope, from the moment of spiritual birth at Baptism to the moment of death. The confidence that each person should have in Mary was expressed by Pope Pius IX in the encyclical Ubipriinum : “The foundation of all our confidence. . . is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through Mary.”
Is the worship of Mary biblical?

Bishop Alphonse de Ligouri is more responsible than any other for promoting the worship of Mary, therefore dethroning Christ and enthroning Mary in the hearts of the people. Rather than excommunicating him for his heresies, the Catholic Church canonized him as a saint and published his book, called "The Glories of Mary," which is famous, influential, and widely read. He noted that Mary was given rulership over one half of the kingdom of God and rules over the kingdom of mercy while Jesus rules over the kingdom of justice. He wrote that people should pray to Mary as a mediator and look to her as an object of trust for answered prayer. The book also states there is no salvation outside of Mary. Even though the Catholic Church mentions his views are extreme and not representative of the church, no one bothered to silence de Liguori as a heretic. Rather, he was canonized as a saint and declared to be a "doctor of the church." His teachings have influenced many popes.

Allow me to present here the versions of the Catholic doctrines about Mary compared to what the Bible says. The sources for this section are the Bible and the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," which has numbered paragraphs. For brevity's sake, I will use "Catechism" plus the number of the paragraph(s).
· ALL-HOLY - Mary, "the All-Holy," lived a perfectly sinless life (Catechism 411, 493).

Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

Revelation 15:4 says, "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy."

Romans 3:10 says, "There is none righteous, no, not one."

NOTE: In contrast, Mary said that God is her Savior (Luke 1:47). If God was her Savior, then Mary was not sinless. Sinless people do not need a Savior.
· CO-MEDIATOR - Mary is the co-mediator to whom we can entrust all our cares and petitions (Catechism 968-970, 2677).

There is only one mediator, and that is Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men -- the testimony given in its proper time."

Hebrews 7:25 says, "Therefore He (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them."

Ephesians 3:12 says, "In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."

NOTE: If Jesus is constantly interceding for us and He is able to save us "to the uttermost," then He doesn't need Mary's help. If we can approach God with "boldness" and "confidence" because of our faith in Jesus, then we don't need Mary's help either.
These are only two of many doctrines regarding the worship of Mary. There is not enough room to list all of them here.

On May 7, 1997, Pope John Paul II dedicated his general audience to "the Virgin Mary" and urged all Christians to accept her as their mother. He noted the words spoken by Jesus on the cross to Mary and John -- "Woman, behold thy son!" and "Behold thy mother!" (John 19:26, 27), and he claimed that in this statement, "It is possible to understand the authentic meaning in the worship of Mary in the ecclesial community. . .which furthermore is based on the will of Christ" (Vatican Information Service, May 7, 1997). He said "the history of Christian piety teaches that Mary is the path that leads to Christ, and that filial devotion to her does not at all diminish intimacy with Jesus, but rather, increases it and leads it to very high levels of perfection." He concluded by asking all Christians "to make room for Mary in their daily lives, acknowledging her providential role in the path of Salvation."
Death of virgin Mary - How did she die?

We do not know for sure the place or circumstances of the death of Virgin Mary. One tradition attests that she died in Jerusalem. Another tradition points to the city of Ephesus, where she is said to have lived for a short time prior to her death.

As legend says, Mary did not live in the city of Ephesus itself because she liked remoteness, so she inhabited a small house on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem. It was a very lonely place, but had many fertile slopes as well as rock caves where several Christian family members and friends of Mary already lived. John had a house built for her there. She lived in what one would call a scattered village, as there were both Jewish and Christian settlers living in caves fitted out with woodworks, or in huts or tents. Mary's house was the only one built of stone.

Soon after her arrival there, Mary had built behind the house a Way of the Cross with twelve stations. At each Station, there were memorial stones -- eight smooth stones with many sides, each resting on a base of the same stone. The stones and their bases were all inscribed with Hebrew letters. These stations were all in little hollows, with the exception of the Station of Mount Calvary, which was on a hill. The Station of the Holy Sepulcher was in a little cave over this hill.

Her stone house had a spring running under it. The windows were high up near the flat roof, and the main part of the house was divided by a fireplace in the middle, sunk into the ground. Behind the fireplace was what was called Mary's oratory, which is defined as a small chapel for prayer. In a niche in the center of the wall, there was a receptacle like a tabernacle where a cross stood, about the length of a man's arm. To the right and left of the fireplace were doors which led into the back part of the house. The door to the right led to the bedchamber, and through the door to the left of the oratory was a small room where her clothes and other belongings were kept. She lived here quietly with a maidservant, a younger woman who gathered food when needed. John would visit them both when he was not away on travel.

Stories say that on the day of the death of Virgin Mary, she was lying on the couch in the little sleeping alcove of her home. She had lived a full life and her body was now old and tired. The Apostles had assembled there because of her impending death, and they held a service in the front part of the house. Peter stood in priestly vestment before the altar with the others behind him as if in a choir.

Several times throughout the day Mary was lifted up by the women to drink juice which had been pressed from yellow berries. Newcomers would come and be embraced by those who were already there, and after their feet had been washed, they approached Mary's couch to greet her in reverence. She was so weak that it was difficult for her to talk, but towards evening, as she realized her death was approaching, she said farewell to the Apostles, disciples, and women who were present. She lay back on her pillows and Peter gave her Holy Communion. Legend says she died after the ninth hour, which is the same time as Our Lord.

Legend says that Peter then anointed the body, praying as he did so. Myrrh was laid in the armpits and bosom of her body as well as between the shoulders and the neck, chin and cheeks. Her body was wrapped in a gravecloth and placed in a wicker coffin which stood nearby. On her breast was laid a wreath of red, white, and sky-blue flowers. The coffin was taken to the cave where she was buried.

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