Mary the mother of Jesus and the Catholic Church tradition
Mary otherwise called ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary’ or ‘The Virgin Mary’ or ‘Blessed Virgin’; terms commonly used within the Roman Catholic Church to describe Mary the mother of Jesus whose teaching and beliefs form the basis of Christianity. The Catholic Church holds the position held by Mary in high regard and this has occasioned many teachings as well as doctrines on this subject. (Newsweek, 6)
During the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church on November 21 1964, Mary was also given other titles of Mediatrix, Adjutrix and Advocate (http://www.whidbey.net/~dcloud/fbns/marycoredeemer.htm)
The term Virgin Mary is not used virtually as a belief in her virginity but as a sign of a role of life continuity for the Catholic Church and for the Christians’ life. In Catholicism Mary is viewed as alive, and living in heaven where she is able to hear prayers offered by human beings on earth then intercedes on their behalf to Jesus her son. (Newsweek, 6)
Mary as opposed to Eve (the first woman) is considered as absolutely obedient; in fact she was called the Second Eve by St. Irenaeus; this was because it was through Mary that the first damage was undone, the damage that had been caused by Eve eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, where human beings were condemned by God to a life of sin.
In 431AD, Mary was given the title ‘Theotokos’ a Greek name that translates as the “God- bearer” or ‘Divine Mother of God’. This description is purported to be supported by the Holy Scriptures in Luke 1:43 when Elizabeth saluted Mary thus “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
Officially in the Roman Catholicism there are 4 dogmas or beliefs about Blessed Virgin Mary. They include
– Mother of God (Theotokos )
– Perpetual virginity
– Immaculate conception
– Assumption in to heaven
i) Mother of God (Theotokos)
In Mariology or the Christian theology concerned with Mary the mother of Jesus, this is the main and principle dogma. The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus declared it in 431AD. It is also considered to be the oldest of all the dogmas.
The dogma in Mariology is very important especially in the Theology of Christ because as it is argued, if Mary was not the mother of God then it did not hold true that Jesus was God. As pointed before, this dogma was based on book of Luke 1:43 through Elizabeth’s salutation.
Mary as the mother of God is regularly addressed as Theotokos in most Hymns in Catholicism and other Eastern Orthodox churches. One of the common hymns that is used in most services is Axion Estin which means ‘It is truly meet’. Other hymns in this regard include the famous Hail Mary, Beneath thy Compassion among others. (Newsweek, 7)
The Immaculate Conception
In this Catholic Dogma Mary is considered as a very unique person among the humanity. She was unique because she was born without sin and was free from the original sin. It was also held that she was sinless in her entire life.
This dogma was promulgated by Pope Pius 1X on 8th December 1854.
According to the Catholic Church teachings Mary was granted grace since conception yet she needed a savior through Jesus Christ. Also by way of God, the Catholic Church teachings hold that she shared in the gifts of the crucifixion of Jesus. Scriptural support for this is to be found in Luke 1:28 which is used to support the immaculate conception of Mary. Other scriptures in support of the immaculate conception is the instance in the scripture when she was greeted by Angel Gabriel as “full of grace” or “highly favored”
Also according to this dogma, Mary was highly regarded as being the ‘Ark of the Covenant in the New Testament’ and just like Moses who used “incorruptible” wood for the tablets, it was seen befitting for her to be made “immaculate” and “incorruptible” as well.
The Dogma of Immaculate Conception was significantly given more prominence from the vision of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1858. A 14-year-old girl by the name Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes made claims to the effect that a beautiful lady had made an appearance to her; the beautiful lady’s name as she put it, was “The Immaculate Conception”, the Catholic faithful believed this was indeed the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Newsweek, 8)
To show how solemn the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is in the Roman Catholic Church, there is a Holy Day of Obligation in 1st of January every year for this purpose and it is almost celebrated as a holy day in some countries. (Newsweek, 8)
Mary is usually highly considered in Catholicism unlike the rest of the humanity, she is considered to be free of the original sin. The Catholics argue that Jesus could not have been born in a vessel that was sinful. Thus to be able to carry Jesus in her womb she had to be free of the original sin. (Newsweek, 8)
The perpetual virginity
In this dogma, the Roman Catholic Church further affirms Mary’s “real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man”. (Catechism of the catholic church 499) what this meant was that Mary remained a virgin in her entire life and Jesus was her only biological son who was not only miraculously conceived, but born as well. http://www.cin.org/v2church.html:
It is further believed that in fact, Christ’s birth sanctified Mary’s virginity. Scriptural support for this belief is stated thus “The LORD said to me, “This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered through it.” (Ezekiel 44:2) this, according to this dogma there was no form of sexual intercourse between Mary and Joseph which would have “defiled” her. The Catholics therefore hold that Mary remained pure and undefiled in her entire life. (Newsweek, 6)
Some important statements to support this belief would include the Lateran Synod of 649, where in the teachings of Thomas Aquinas ‘Summa Theologiae III.28.2’, Mary is said to have given birth miraculously without pain, without opening her womb and without injuring or rupturing the hymen. http://www.cin.org/v2church.html
The Assumption of Mary
This dogma is the last among the four and is the most recent having been dogmatically defined as infallible on 1 November 1950 by Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution.
The Theology of the Roman Catholic Church holds that The Blessed Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Pope Pius XII, 1950). What this meant is that Mary unlike other humanity was taken to heaven, united body and soul, thus she never died the natural death experienced by all living beings.
The Roman Catholics celebrate the accession to heaven of Mary in the feast day as The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In John 14:3 Jesus in his Last Supper said thus ” And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Mary is assumed to be the person to fulfill this promise. This is the scripture that is used to support the assumption of Mary into heaven.
Catechism of the catholic church 499
Pope Pius XII: “Munificentissimus Deus – Defining the Dogma of the Assumption”, par. 44. Vatican, November 1, 1950
John 14:3, Ezekiel 44:2, Luke 1:28, Luke 1:43. Scriptures lifted from NIV Bible
Newsweek cover story, 1997-AUG-25.”The meaning of Mary: A struggle over her role grows within the church,”
“Rome says Mary is Co-redeemer, mediator, advocate,” Way of Life, at
http://www.cin.org/v2church.html: Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution of the Church,” Chapter 8, “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of god in the mystery of Christ and the Church,” III, 62. See