There’s Something about Mary.
What’s all this Mary nonsense about?
One of the most difficult things for our Protestant brothers and sisters to understand is the Catholic Church’s relationship to the Virgin Mary. Mary said yes to having Jesus so we believe that she was really important. Mary just like us had the free will to turn away from God but because she answered Gods call she played a really important part in his plan for our salvation.
Ok, she’s important, but you guys nearly worship her don’t you?
No, we don’t give her the respect, which should be given to God alone. That being said if we look to scripture we can see a great deal of respect shown to Mary. When we read Luke 1:26–56 we see the Archangel Gabriel show Mary a great honor when he greets her with the statement that she is, “full of grace”. Elizabeth also refers to Mary as “blessed” twice in just four verses. Finally, in Luke 1 verse, 48 Mary prophesies, “all generations will call me blessed”. Heck, if you’re a “Bible believing” Christian you should be referring to her as the Blessed Virgin Mary just like Catholics.
All right so maybe we should call her “Blessed ” but you guys say she remained a virgin when scripture says he had brothers and sisters so what can you say about that?
Well in Matt. 13:55–56 the word for brothers and sisters also meant “relatives”. In fact, the same word was used in the Old Testament and is often translated as a cousin. Besides, there is a very telling story in the New Testament which may prove her virginity. When Jesus is on the cross, he entrusts his mother to the Apostle John. If he had siblings, this wouldn’t be necessary because she would already have a family.
But what about James and Joseph, Simon and Judas?
Well at least two of these guys, James and Joseph are the sons of a different Mary. (compare Mt 27:56 with John 19:25) It looks like Mary was a pretty common name. We can also probably assume that this usage of brother in the New Testament is used in the same way as it is in the Old as explained above.
Also, it is probably fair to point out for all our Protestant brothers and sisters reading this. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Even if that is true the fact that Catholics believe that Mary was born without sin, this flies in the face of scripture. Romans 3:23 clearly says “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.”
This is a fair question and one that has been argued by some of the greatest saints of the Church. Ultimately the Catholic view fell in favor of her being born without sin. Luke point out that Mary is full of grace. If she is “full” of grace, then she has no sin. We can also look to the book of Genesis where a “woman” is discussed as having enmity with Satan. Enmity is thought of as meaning to have nothing in common with, and if this woman in Genesis is alluding to Mary (as many Christians assume that it does), then it’s a good indication that she doesn’t have sin.
Could the sin have been removed after she was born?
Sure, many Eastern Christians believe this is exactly what happened. There are many different ways to explain why we look to her being born without sin. My view is that Mary is the Ark of the Covenant (can you imagine if Indiana Jones went looking for the Ark and found Mary instead? Boy would he be surprised). Think about it. Mary carried the Word of God just like the Old Testament Ark. The Ark was made of the purest gold then why wouldn’t she be made pure also in preparation for Jesus’ birth?
It’s important to note that reflecting on Mary can often be a hard thing to do because there are very different approaches even within the Catholic Church.
There is the devotional image of Mary that we often see images of in Churches, and then there is the very early and probably more historically correct image of Mary.
In earlier centuries when there was not as much widespread use of the scriptures amongst the Catholic laity (because they couldn’t read not because the Bible was suppressed, but we’ll deal with that later) the images of Our Lady (Mary) were extremely important in people's lives. Devotional images of Mary brought this very early and important disciple to the people in their daily lives.
Mary was and is seen as saying yes to Gods call as his earthly mother, and stood by Jesus through his ministry in this world. With the increase in biblical scholarship in the last century, we have begun to see Mary more as she probably was, a very young Palestinian woman. She was a woman whose faith opened her to Gods call and this lead to the Son of God being born for our salvation.
If she’s just a disciple why do you pray to her?
We don’t pray to Mary; we ask her to pray for us. Mary just like all good Christians has gone on to heaven, so we ask her to pray for us there. It’s just like if you ask a friend or family member to pray for you here on earth if they can pray effectively here how much more awesome is it to have someone experiencing the eternal reward praying for us?