xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxApologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D



 
Mary



  



Real Audio Lessons on this Topic

Mary
Mary II
Mary III

 

 


 First please read the page on Saints
before going on to this page!

 
 

 

I will outline Catholic beliefs about Mary before exploring them more fully:  

  • Mary, as are all who are saved, was saved by the blood of Christ. She is the greatest of Saints and her prayers for us are efficacious. She is a fully human creature and not in any way a goddess.
     

  • She is the Immaculate Conception who was filled with grace from her first moments, she is the Ark of the New Covenant and the New Eve
     

  • Mary is the "Theotokos," or the "God-bearer," i.e., the Mother of God
     

  • Mary remained both sinless and a virgin her entire life
     

  • Mary was assumed into Heaven by the power of God, where she was crowned Queen of Heaven


The Greatest of Saints

James 5:16 tells us that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" -- and who is more righteous than Mary, the woman chosen by God to bring forth His very Son? As Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote, "It may be objected: 'Our Lord is enough for me. I have no need of her.' But He needed her, whether we do or not. God, Who made the sun, also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun. All its light is reflected from the sun. The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing. With Him, she is the Mother of Men." [emphasis mine]

Keep reading to see why Mary is the greatest of all Saints -- graced by God in a special way, and why imitating her Christian obedience is a path to holiness...

 
 

Full of Grace, the Immaculate Conception, the Ark of the New Covenant

That Mary was (and, of course, we Catholics believe that she still is) full of Grace is clearly evident in Luke 1:28, when Gabriel addressed her as "Full of Grace"! The problem for many non-Catholic Christians is the idea that she was born that way and that she was sinless. But Mary had to have been literally filled with Grace because Christ is her Son -- and He is perfect!. She is more that some really cool, spiritual woman who acted as a surrogate mother for the Holy Spirit; she gave to Jesus His humanity in the same way that all mothers give to their children their humanity. He took from her His very Flesh and Blood! It was through her that our Lord "was made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). As Ireneus of Lyons asked in his Adversus haereses (ca A.D. 180), "...why did He come down into her if He were to take nothing of her?"

All Christians believe in saving grace and in sanctification. This being so, what is hard to believe about the idea that God sanctified Mary in her mother's womb, especially given that Mary bore Christ in hers? Can't the Awesome God Who overshadowed Mary so that she would conceive the Son be perfectly capable of preparing her from her own mother's womb to be a pristine vessel for such a glorious task? He created Eve without sin, would He not create His own Mother without sin, also? St. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb. His father, the priest Zecharias was told:

Luke 1:13-15
But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

-- and this is, of course, exactly what happened. In the same Gospel we see how St. John, in the womb of his mother Elisabeth, was filled with the Holy Ghost along with his mother when Mary visited:

Luke 1:41-44
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

If God can fill St. John with such grace in his mother's womb, why can't He do the same for Mary? And why wouldn't He?

The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was adorned by two carved cherubim, symbols of God's glory, and on top of it sat the Mercy Seat, upon which goat's blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement -- the only day of the year (after Moses) that the High Priest (and the High Priest alone) could approach it in its Holy of Holies. Most importantly, the presence of God was over it. Touching this Ark -- just looking into it -- would kill a man. Powerful and holy indeed was this sacred vessel! And what did it contain? See Hebrews 9:4:

 

The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the New Covenant, Mary

  • the word of God -- the stone tablets inscribed with the Decalogue
  • the Word, Christ Jesus
  • Aaron's rod that "came back to life" and sprouted
  • our Lord, Who rose again on the third day
  • manna, the Heavenly bread
  • the Savior, Who said " For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:52-58)

St. Luke clearly wanted us to see Mary as the New Ark in that, inspired by God, he parallels many of his verses with those used to describe the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. Compare, for example, Luke's words with 2 Samuel 6 below:
 
 

2 Samuel 6:2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. Luke 1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda
2 Samuel 6:9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me? Luke 1:43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
2 Samuel 6:11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months... Luke 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months...
2 Samuel 6:16 And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD [His Presence over the Ark] Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

 
In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant, overshadowed by the the Spirit of God, was the instrument through which God came to dwell among men; in the New Testament, Mary, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, is the instrument through which God came to dwell among men. She is the Ark of the New Covenant.

And here's a biggie: look carefully at Revelation 11:19-12:1. St. John tells us what he sees in Heaven: "And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars [this woman, we are told later in chapter 12, is the one who brought forth the man child who would rule over the nations, ie, Christ].

Keep in mind, too, that chapter and verse divisions did not exist until the Middle Ages: what John says he saw is the Ark of the Covenant -- a woman. Really -- think about this: there is the Ark of the Covenant, lost for generations, in the Heavenly Temple! Then come the "special effects" -- lightning! Thunder! The very earth shakes! And there is the woman who brought forth the man child who who would rule over the nations... Mary, the pure and holy Ark of the New Covenant. [Note that the Woman of Revelation 12 is also a symbol of the Church, which has Mary for Her Mother; there is dual meaning here!]

 
The New Eve

Adam and Eve, immaculate from their first moments, prefigure Mary and Jesus, also without original sin from their conceptions -- the only four people immaculate from their first moments, creating a brilliant poetic symmetry in Scripture.1 And as Eve through her disobedience, was the means through whom Adam brought sin into the world, Mary, the New Eve, through her obedience, was the means through whom salvation entered the world when she gave birth to her Son, the New Adam, our Savior. As Ireneus wrote in the 2nd c.:

For the Lord, having been born "the First-begotten of the dead," and receiving into His bosom the ancient fathers, has regenerated them into the life of God, He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God. Despise not our prayers in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, O glorious and ever-blessed Virgin.
("Sub Tuum Praesidium," one of the oldest Marian prayers, found on an Egyptian Christian papyrus in 1917, and dated ca. A.D. 250)

Revelation 12 speaks of the woman who "brought forth the man child who was to rule the nations (Christ)," saying, "And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ," a direct allusion to Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it ["he" in most translations] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. ..." Read that slowly, Christian! "I will put enmity between you and the woman!" What woman? Who is the woman whose "seed" (offspring) saves? Who is this woman who is mentioned, in the context of Eve's sin, as being one whom God will have as the enemy of Satan? While "the woman" of Revelation 11-12 is also a type of the Church/Israel, who else could the woman who brought forth Christ possibly be?

Remember, too, that God didn't "need" Mary, per se, despite what Bishop Sheen wrote above; Jesus could have spontaneously incarnated, if He'd chosen to. But in choosing a human creature, He not only revealed His poetic Genius, He allowed Mary to act as the New Eve, playing a role in man's redemption as the First Eve played a role in Man's fall. He "needed" Mary in order for there to be a New Eve and in order to fulfill the words of the Prophets. Hence the term "Co-Redemptrix" -- the "co-" meaning "with," not "the equivalent of." Consider the terms "pilot" and "co-pilot." Are they the same? Is the co-pilot "the pilot"? Is the co-pilot equal to or subordinate to the pilot?

The anthropological implications of the reality that Mary is the New Eve are great and go far in showing the esteem in which women should be held. As St. Augustine wrote in Christian Combat:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, however, who came to liberate mankind, in which both males and females are destined to salvation, was not averse to males, for He took the form of a male, nor to females, for of a female He was born. Besides, there is a great mystery here: that just as death comes to us through a woman, Life is born to us through a woman; that the devil, defeated, would be tormented by each nature, feminine and masculine, since he had taken delight in the defection of both.

Mary affirms the status of women and is a beautiful symbol of our inherent, God-given dignity -- but lest the modernist feminists cluck their tongues, it must be remembered that it was through Mary's obedience to God and by the blood of her Son that she was redeemed.

 
Mother of God

This simple statement of fact should be a "case closed" situation that could be argued with a classic syllogism:

Jesus is God
Mary is the mother of Jesus
Mary is the mother of God

But some people still balk at referring to Mary as God's mother. The only way they can get around that fact, though, is to do one of the following:
 

  • deny that Christ is God (heresy);
     

  • deny that He is both fully human and fully God and that those two natures are in perfect hypostasis and can't be divided (heresy);
     

  • deny that Jesus is the Son of Mary (heresy); or
     

  • claim that Jesus was God before His incarnation, but not while He was in the flesh (heresy).

Luke 1:43 tells us of Elisabeth greeting Mary with, "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" It's all very simple.

Does this mean she is the Mother of God, the Father? No.

Is she the Mother of God, the Holy Spirit? No.

But she is the Mother of Jesus, Who is God. She is the Mother of His human nature, not His divine nature -- but these two natures are now, since the Incarnation, in perfect union and cannot be separated. Jesus is not a "collection of parts" and "natures"; He is a Person. To say that Mary can't be the Mother of God because she isn't the Mother of His divinity is to say that your own mother can't be your mother because she didn't create your eternal soul. You are a person -- body and soul -- and your mother is your mother. You wouldn't say, "My mother isn't really 'my mother'; she's only the mother of my body." It is the same with Jesus, Who is fully human and fully divine -- Who is God.

 
Sinless

Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

"I will put enmity between Satan and the woman." Enmity?

Main Entry: en·mi·ty
Pronunciation: 'en-m&-tE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -ties
Etymology: Middle English enmite, from Middle French enemité, from Old French enemisté, from enemi enemy
Date: 13th century
: positive, active, and typically mutual hatred or ill will
synonyms ENMITY, HOSTILITY, ANTIPATHY, ANTAGONISM, ANIMOSITY, RANCOR, ANIMUS mean deep-seated dislike or ill will. ENMITY suggests positive hatred which may be open or concealed <an unspoken enmity>. HOSTILITY suggests an enmity showing itself in attacks or aggression <hostility between the two nations>. ANTIPATHY and ANTAGONISM imply a natural or logical basis for one's hatred or dislike, ANTIPATHY suggesting repugnance, a desire to avoid or reject, and ANTAGONISM suggesting a clash of temperaments leading readily to hostility <a natural antipathy for self-seekers><antagonism between the brothers>. ANIMOSITY suggests intense ill will and vindictiveness that threaten to kindle hostility <animosity that led to revenge>. RANCOR is especially applied to bitter brooding over a wrong <rancor filled every line of his letters>. ANIMUS adds to animosity the implication of strong prejudice <objections devoid of personal animus>

Doesn't sound to me as though the woman and Satan would co-operate much; they are enemies!

Impossible! What about Romans 3:9-12?

Romans 3 9-12:
What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

What about that? Well, that is yet another instance of those who take everything literally except "This IS my body, this IS my blood" reading out of context. First, have 2 month old babies "sinned" (note, that being born in a state of "original sin" is not "personal sin")? Did Jesus sin? Are the extremely mentally retarded responsible for "sin"? What about Luke 1:6 which speaks of St. John the Baptist's parents, the priest Zacharias and Elisabeth, who "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless"? Either they were also totally obedient to God, as Mary most certainly is, and are, therefore, sinless (i.e., not guilty of personal sin, though guilty of original sin), or the verse means something else. But what? Well, look at Psalm 14, which is the verse Paul is quoting.

Psalm 14
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

Paul is contrasting "they" -- those who do no good, who are filthy, who are not righteous, who do no good -- not one ---- with God's people who are righteous.

Catholic belief is that all of us, Mary included, need a Redeemer because of our fallen nature and that no one can attain Heaven without His Blood. We are saved from our fallen nature by His grace alone through faith that worketh in charity. Mary, though, because God knew how she would use the free will He gave to her, was saved, by His grace, from having a fallen nature at the moment of her conception. She was redeemed from her mother's womb, an act planned from Genesis 3 so that she could act as the New Eve and so that Christ could be born of vessel even more pure than the Ark of the Covenant. Christ would not have been born from that which is impure! God knew of Mary's will to serve even before she was conceived. He knew she would say yes to Him, and He saved her at her first moment.

 

Ever-Virgin

Three things in the Bible lead some Protestants to believe that Mary was not ever-virgin: the reference to Jesus' "brothers", the use of the word "until" in Matthew 1:25, and the reference to Jesus as Mary's "firstborn." Let's look at these one at a time.
 

Jesus' Brothers:
 
The word "brother" or "brethren" is often used in Scripture for relationships other than that of those born of the same parents:
 
 

Verse

People Involved

Relationship

Genesis 11:26-28,
Genesis 14:14

Lot - Abraham

nephew - uncle

Genesis 29:15

Jacob - Laban

nephew - uncle

1 Chronicles 23:21-22

Children of Kish and Eleazar

cousins

2 Kings 10:13-14

42 "brethren" of King Azariah

kinsmen

Deuteronomy 23:7, Jeremiah 34:9

All Jews

practitioners of the same religion

Matthew 23:8

all who love Christ

members of the Church

John 20:17-18,
Matthew 12:49

Christ - His disciples

Savior - saved

1 Corinthians 15:6

500 witnesses to the resurrected Christ

strangers

 
This isn't every reference to "brother(s)" or "brethren" in the Bible, but it's enough to prove that the use of the words "brothers" or "brethren" doesn't necessarily indicate "blood brothers" at all. This is true because neither Hebrew nor Aramaic have words for "uncles," "nephew," "niece," "step-brother," "step-sister," etc. All were referred to as "brother" and "sister," which were translated into Greek as adelphos or adelphe.

Nonetheless, and despite Tradition, there are four people that some Protestants claim are the blood brothers of Jesus, an idea which comes from Mark 6:3 which says that Jesus is "the brother of James, and Joses, and of Jude and Simon." But to find out who the real mother of these four are, look at the following:

  • Matthew 27: 55-56 tells us of three women at the Cross: "And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children."
     

  • Mark 15:40 tells us of the three women there, "There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome."
     

  • John 19:25 is the most inclusive, telling us of four women's presence, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." (Note here the reference to Mary's "sister" who's named Mary!)

Putting all these together, we can cross off Joses and James the Less as being Jesus' blood brothers because their mother is the wife of Cleophas.

We can cross Simon off the list because Mark 3:18 tells us he is a Canaanite, "And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite..."

Jude, we are told in Jude 1:1, is the "servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James."

Crossing just one name off the list is enough to prove the point that the Hebrew word "brother" means many things (just as the word does in English today, my "brother or sister in Christ!") and to prove that this is so even in the very particular context of Mark 6:3.

St. Papias, writing in the first and early second centuries and called by St. Irenaeus a "hearer of John," refers clearly to all the above Marys in his letter, a fragment of which survives to this day. He writes:

Mary the mother of the Lord; Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alphaeus, who was the mother of James the bishop and apostle, and of Simon and Thaddeus, and of one Joseph; Mary Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of John the evangelist and James; Mary Magdalene. These four are found in the Gospel. James and Judas and Joseph were sons of an aunt of the Lord's. James also and John were sons of another aunt of the Lord's. Mary, mother of James the Less and Joseph, wife of Alphaeus was the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, whom John names of Cleophas, either from her father or from the family of the clan, or for some other reason. Mary Salome is called Salome either from her husband or her village. Some affirm that she is the same as Mary of Cleophas, because she had two husbands. [read the complete letter fragment here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0125.htm. Will open in new browser window.]

In addition to this, Jesus could well have had step-brothers, as Church Tradition and early Church writings tell us that Joseph was an older man when Mary, a consecrated virgin, was betrothed to him so that he could act as her protector when she got to be of age enough to "defile the Temple" (though she could not, in fact defile the Temple). Please read the Protoevangelium of St. James, dated to ca A.D. 125, which, in chapter 9, clearly states that St. Joseph had other children from a former marriage. Though this document was rejected by the Church as being a part of infallible Scripture, it is very early evidence of the belief, held as possisble from the beginning of the Church, that Jesus had "brothers" because his earthly father, Joseph, had children when he married Mary, a consecrated virgin. Also see the apocryphal document, the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, yet another early source which proves that many of the earliest Christians believed in Mary's consecrated virginity, that Joseph was an aged man when he married her, and that she was kept free from sin.

You're Joseph. Your wife gave birth to God. Would you have sex with her?

Another note on this: when Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a child, she says to him in Luke 1:34, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" We are told seven verses before that when this happened she was "a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph." She was already engaged, knew she was to be married, is visited by an angel who tells her she will have a Son, and she acts bewildered, as though it's an impossibility because she "knows not a man." She's not confused that she will bring forth a Son who "shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David"; she is confused that she will bring forth a son at all! She doesn't "get it" because she knows she is a consecrated virgin and will not "know a man!" She is confused that she will have a son at all!

Yet another poser: why, in the name of all that's Holy, would Jesus give Mary to John to care for if He had all these brothers and sisters around? John 19:26-27 reads, "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, He saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."

And finally, if Jesus had brothers and sisters, don't you think their descendants would know it? At least in the first 300 years or so of the Church? Where were they? Did they speak of "Uncle Jesus" often? I'd think that if He had all of these brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews around, there'd have been some word of it.
 

Until:
 
It's argued that Joseph "knew" Mary at some point because Matthew 1:25 reads, "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son..." But, once again, language clouds the issue. "Until" is used to mean "up to that point, and with no intimations that things changed after that point." Example, 2 Samuel 6:23 reads, "Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death." Would Protestants say she had children after the day of her death because the use of the word "unto" proves it? What about 1 Samuel 15:35? "And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel." I really doubt Samuel and Saul hooked up after his death, either! 1 Timothy 6:14 says, "That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." What? After that it's going to be one big orgy? I don't think so! And the same goes for:

  • Genesis 8:7: "the raven "did not return until the waters were dried up" (the raven never returned even after the waters were dried up);
     
  • Deuteronomy 34:6: "and no one knows his [Moses'] grave until this day." (Moses' grave was never found)
     
  • Luke 1:80: "[St. John the Baptist] was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel." (St. John stayed in the desert afterwards, too)
     
  • 1 Corinthians 15:25: "For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet" (Christ will reign forever and ever!)
     
  • 1 Timothy 4:13: "until I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (Trust me, St. Paul gave a lot of attention to doctrine after he came!)
     
  • Revelation 2:25-26: "But hold fast what you have until I come. And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power" (we should hold fast and obey even after Jesus returns)

And there are more examples. See what Origen (A.D. 185-232) had to say about the use of the word "until" in his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. In this work, he refutes those who think "that the promise of the Saviour prescribes a limit of time to their not tasting of death, namely, that they will not taste of death "until" they see the Son of man coming in His own kingdom." Read also what St. Jerome (A.D. 340-430) wrote on the same topic.
 

Firstborn:
 
Some Protestants say that the use of the word "firstborn" indicates that Mary had other children, but they are simply being ignorant of Jewish law, Pidyon ha-Ben in particular. Pidyon ha-Ben is the "Redemption of the Firstborn," who were to have been consecrated to God and serve as priests and Temple workers. The "firstborn" is the male child that "opens the womb". If the child that "opens the womb" is a female child, there is no "firstborn" for the family because the child that "opened the womb" is not a masculine child. If no more children are born after the firstborn, the firstborn still has the status and title of "firstborn." The relevant Torah verses are:

Exodus 13:2
Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.

Exodus 13:14-15
And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.

Numbers 18:15
Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.

Though the "Golden Calf" incident left the Temple roles to the Levites (see Numbers 8:14-18 and Numbers 18:15-16), the significance of the "firstborn" status remains to this day, and those who have this position must be "redeemed," which is done when the child is 31 days old by paying a small sum to a kohein (now a rabbi in the post-Temple Pharisaism known as Judaism). Luke 2:27 tells us of Jesus' Pidyon ha-Ben, "And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law..." Do a Google search for Pidyon ha-Ben to find out how the "Redemption of the Firstborn" is still practiced today (will open in a new browser window), or if you can't believe a Catholic, ask a Jew what "firstborn" means.
 

Assumed into Heaven

"'Assumed into Heaven'? Chyeah, right.. More Romish, papist superstition!"

Really? It happened to Elijah and Enoch:

2 Kings 2:1-12
"And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind...And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan....And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven....And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more..."

Hebrews 11:5
"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God."

And predicted of Mary in Psalm 132:7-8:

"We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool. Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength."

If God would assume Elijah into Heaven, wouldn't Jesus do the same for His own mother? Wouldn't God do the same for the New Eve, the Ark of His Covenant, His most perfect creature, the woman who not only touched God, but carried Him in her own body, nursed Him, raised Him up from childhood, prompted His first miracle at Cana, stood at the foot of the Cross, etc.? The Catholic Church is the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom! Christ is the King, His Mother is the Queen, and we are their subjects.

And if Our Lady isn't in Heaven and crowned, how did John see her there as he wrote in the Book of Revelation? And, please, note the use of words here: Mary was assumed into Heaven 2 she was taken up under GOD'S power; she did not ascend into Heaven under her own power as our Lord did! As always, the beauty of Mary's story is due to the grace of God!

"Yeah, but you don't just say she was assumed into Heaven, you say she is the Queen of Heaven -- and Jeremiah warned about those pagans who offered incense to a goddess they called the 'queen of Heaven'"!

Yes, there was a pagan Canaanite goddess referred to as "queen of heaven" -- but there is also a pagan king in Ezra 7:12 who is referred to as "king of kings," just as Our Lord is in Revelation 19:16. Does this mean that when Protestants sing Handel's "Messiah" -- "King of Kings, Lord of Lords!" -- that they are worshipping a pagan king? Let's hope not. Pagans call their gods "God," too; does that prevent Protestants from calling God "God"? When Catholics sing the praises of Mary, the Queen of Heaven, they are not worshipping some pagan "queen of heaven" or worshipping her as God any more than Protestants worship a pagan king by referring to the "King of Kings." They are simply giving honor to the mother of Jesus per the Scriptural prophecy "all generations will call me blessed."

St. John saw a woman, in Heaven. This woman is the woman who gave birth to the "man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron." That child was Jesus. The woman who is the mother of Jesus is crowned -- with 12 stars, a symbol of the tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles of Israel. The crown shows clearly that she is a Queen.

Listen: In Old Testament Israel, the Davidic Kingdom was ruled not by a king and his wife -- but by a king and his mother, the queen mother ("Gevirah" or "Gebirah" in Hebrew). Rabbi Simchah Roth of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, "The most prestigious of the women in the harem was the woman who was the mother of the prince who was to succeed his father: When he became king in his own right his mother would assume the title of 'Gevirah' and would have great power and influence. This can not be said of the king's wives."

For ex., look at the role of Bathsheba with regard to Solomon's kingship:

I Kings 2:19-20
Bathsheba [the Queen Mother, Solomon's mother] therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand. Then she said, I desire one small petition of thee; I pray thee, say me not nay. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother: for I will not say thee nay.

And look at Psalm 45, which prophecies Christ, the 9th verse saying that "upon [His] right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir." It continues, addressing this "Queen in gold" directly:

Psalm 45:10-17
Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour. The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king's palace. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.

Now recall Mary's words in Luke 2:48: "For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."

The Psalms prophecied and the Old Testament Kingdom foreshadowed the New Testament Kingdom, ruled by Christ, Son of the Living God, and earthly successor of King David by virtue of his having been born from the womb of Mary, the Gevirah. In all Kingdoms of Israel, the Queen Mother sat at the King's right hand; our Queen Mother is in Heaven now, just as St. John saw her.

 

Our Relationship with Mary

Her soul magnifies the Lord (Luke 1:46-55)! Think of what that means for just a moment.

Main Entry: mag·ni·fy
Pronunciation: 'mag-n&-"fI
Function: verb Inflected Form(s): -fied; -fy·ing
Etymology: Middle English magnifien, from Middle French magnifier, from Latin magnificare, from magnificus Date: 14th century transitive senses
1 a : EXTOL, LAUD b : to cause to be held in greater esteem or respect
2 a : to increase in significance : INTENSIFY b : EXAGGERATE
3 : to enlarge in fact or in appearance intransitive senses : to have the power of causing objects to appear larger than they are

Everything about Our Lady points straight back to the Father, Whose faithful daughter she is; to the Son, Whose mother she is; and to the Holy Ghost Who overshadowed her. There is no one in all of History whose relationship with God is as complex, fulfilled, and achingly beautiful as Mary's. She is not only the greatest of Saints, she is our Mother, as Jesus is our Brother and Savior. In honoring her, we honor Him -- and imitate Him, as we are admonished to both honor our parents and imitate Christ, Who loved His Mother. Our relationship with Mary is that of a child to a blessed Mother who was given to us as Jesus gave her to John at the Cross. She is our spiritual Mother (Revelation 12:17 -- And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ), and she wants to pray for us.
 

The Hail Mary Prayer
Hail, Mary, Full of Grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of our death.

 

Final Thoughts

Do some Catholics cross the line between honoring Mary as spiritual Mother and "Mariolatry"? I imagine it could happen, but I can't say I've ever met any Catholic who does. If such a thing happens, it is not only rare, it is firmly contradictory to Church teaching. Orthodox Catholics simply do not worship Mary as God -- and it gets a little tiring being accused of worshipping Mary as God when you don't. It amounts to being called a liar and is quite rude. We Catholics would be the ones to know Whom we consider God and whom we don't. I love my biological Mother, too, but don't mistake her for the Lord! I honor her, keep in touch with her, look after her, celebrate her special days, would get mad if someone were to insult her -- and I do the same for Jesus's Mother. My love for my Mother doesn't mean I don't love my Father, too. [Note: when I wrote this, my mother was still alive in the flesh. She has since, pray God, gone to be with Jesus. If you are Catholic and reading this, please say a prayer for her beautiful soul... Her name is Betty Clara.]

It just strikes me as evil, this not uncommon attempt to diminish Mary's status and the unceasing accusations against Catholics of trying to raise her status to that of God's. There's something very sinister and ugly in it, and I find it offensive. We Catholics take great care in pointing out that "worship" in the sense of latria 3 is GOD'S alone -- even to the point of having separate terms for the honor and adoration due to God as opposed to the honor and veneration of the Saints -- including His greatest Saint, Mary. They are:

  • latria: the honor due to God alone
  • dulia: the honor due to human creatures worthy of respect
  • hyperdulia: the honor due to Mary as God's greatest creation and our Queen Mother

So, please, if you're of the "Catholics are of the Whore of Babylon" variety, just calm down and use your energies for other things.

...And ask yourself why the heck we'd lie about not worshipping Mary as some sort of divine being if we actually did. Do you think we are ashamed? Afraid of what you might think? Do you think that we actually do worship Mary but don't tell converts until some secret ceremony held after they've been in the Church a few years and can be trusted? I mean, really! Satanists have no qualms telling people they worship Satan, pagans have no problem informing the world that they worship the earth, Hindus are not uneager to reveal that they chant to Krishna. some Evangelicals admit believing in "holy laughter" and such -- but Catholics are "afraid" to "admit" whom they consider God? Please! We are not afraid to tell you we believe in Purgatory, indulgences, the Communion of Saints, the efficacy of piously using sacramentals, the true grace of the Sacraments, the infallibility of the Pope when he uses his Extraordinary or Universal Magisterium, etc. Trust me; if we thought Mary were a godess, we'd let you know.

Finally, why do some people behave as though they think that loving, honoring, and appealing to Mary to pray for us "takes away" from Jesus? Are we given 16 oz of love or something, some finite amount we must very carefully use lest we run out? When we love Christ, does that prevent us from loving each other? No! Love is infinite because God, Who is Love, is infinite! We can love and adore Jesus, love and venerate Mary, love the other Saints, and love each other without depriving anyone (or Anyone) of anything. How many children can you have without running out of love? How many friends? What we "spend" in love is replaced many times over; love for Christ can only bring the fruits of more love to give.

To love Mary takes nothing at all from Christ, but honors our Blessed Lord by Whose grace she is who she is: His greatest creation, the greatest of Saints, the Queen of Heaven, the Immaculate Conception, the spotless Virgin, the Ark of the Covenant, the New Eve, the mother of God, and the mother of Israel -- our mother who wants nothing more for us than to pray for us and show us her Son.
 
 Footnote:
1 John the Baptist, though, was also born filled with grace, as is evident by his recognizing the Saviour even while in his mother's womb. However, he was not conceived without original sin, as was Our Lady.

2 The most ancient tradition is that she "fell asleep" some years after her stay with St. John the Evangelist in Jerusalem and Ephesus (modern Turkey), and before his exile at Patmos. All we know about Our Lady's death and Assumption can be summed up in this bit of history written by St. John of Damascus (b. A.D. 676):

St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.

It is said that her otherwise empty tomb was filled with roses and lilies. It is the ancient tradition of the Church that she "died" of love and was then taken up into Heaven by the power of God. In any case, there was no sickness beforehand, as she was not heir to the consequences of original sin, such as sickness, disease and natural mortality. Some Catholics believe she was assumed into Heaven while still alive; this may be safely believed as the Church has never made any solemn definitions on the matter.

Another note on Mary's Assumption: it's funny to me how millions of dispensationalists who believe in "The Rapture" can mock the idea of Mary's being taken up to Heaven, but believe that they will be taken up by Christ's power just before all the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Catholics are "left behind" to be slaughtered.


3 The meaning of the word "worship" has changed over the centuries in Protestant lands. The Protestant sense of the word is equivalent to latria, whereas in the past it meant any kind of honor. British people to this day address Judges as "Your Worship" and "Your Lordship" -- and no one I know of accuses them of idolatry. So, please, if you're reading an ancient Catholic or traditional text that talks about the "worship of Saints," don't start jumping up and down, screaming, "See? The Whore of Babylon! Idolaters and children of the Devil!" It's ugly.



Relevant Scripture

Relevant Scripture

Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:20
And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. [Note: And Mary is the mother of all living IN CHRIST]

Exodus 25:10-22
And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it. And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

I Samuel 5:8-10
They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither. And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts. Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people.

I Samuel 6:19
And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

Luke 1:28
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [The Vulgate version of Luke 1:28 reads: "et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit have gratia plena Dominus tecum benedicta tu in mulieribus". The original Greek whence "gratia plena" was translated is "kecharitomene" -- a name, a title, as in "Hail, 'Full of Grace,' the Lord is with thee." She was given a new "name," as was Peter when Christ called him "Rock."]

Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. [Note: Catholics refer to these verses as "The Magnificat"]

John 6:31-35
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 19:26-27
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Revelation 11:19
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. [Note: Revelation 11:19 directly precedes Revelation 12:1; chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are an invention of the Middle Ages]

Revelation 12:1-6
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. [Note that "the woman" is also a type of the Church, i.e., Israel]

Revelation 12:13-17
And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. .[Note that "the woman" is also a "type" of the Church, i.e., Israel]


Further Reading

The Protoevangelium of James ca. 125 A.D., apocryphal book that nonetheless attests to early Christian beliefs about Mary. Explains Mary's role as a consecrated Virgin, her relationship with St. Joseph, etc. (onsite)
Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, date and origin unknown, translated from the Hebrew by St. Jerome (A.D. 340-420). Another apocryphal book attesting, in any case, to early Christian belief in Mary's sinlessness and vow of consecrated virgnity, and to Joseph's advanced age upon becoming her protector-husband. (onsite)
The Key to Understanding Mary James Akin
The Mother of God
Jesus' attitude toward Mary James Akin
Christ the One Mediator and Mary's Intercession James Akin
Mary as Mediatrix James Akin
St. Jerome on The Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Mary, ca. 383 A.D.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Adversus Haereses, Book III, Chapter 22, ca. 180 A.D., on the New Eve



 
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