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Catholic Apologetics

Chapter 20 -- Mary, Ever Virgin, Mother of God


If Protestants are truly open to the Spirit, they can comprehend other peculiarly Catholic principles, but most cannot fathom why we pay so much attention to Mary. It is just too great a leap of faith for them. Let's explore what the Church teaches about the Blessed Mother.

As was done throughout this website, we begin our analysis in the Bible. The following is a lengthy discourse, but it contains a wealth of information about Mary.

Luke 1:26-56 - In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"

And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God."

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Many read the above passage and continue on without giving it much thought. Unfortunately, we lose much of the message God has for us by reading the Bible this way. Let's look at this passage a little closer.

In the very first sentence, we discover an angel appeared to Mary, she was a virgin, she lived in Nazareth, she was betrothed to Joseph, and Joseph was of the House of David.

The angel addressed her "Hail, favored one", which is "kecharitomene" in Greek. Another translation might read "Hail, full of grace". Only one other place in the Bible was anyone addressed thus, and that was Jesus in John 1:14. It suggests Mary was not only a 'favored one', but God perfected her in grace. Luke tells us Mary was troubled by this greeting, and did not understand its meaning.

The angel reassured her and told her she had found favor with God. What does it mean to find favor with God? If you and I were strolling through a park, and an angel appeared stating you had found favor with God, what would that mean? It tells me, among other things, for whatever reason, you have pleased God. This is a good thing. If I hang out with you, good things are bound to happen. I want some of that. I am now your new best friend.

The angel went on to tell Mary she would become pregnant with a son, she would name him Jesus. Jesus would be called the Son of God. God would make him ruler over the House of Israel forever. Wow!

After taking all this in, Mary asked how this could be since she has no relations with a man. Think about this response for a moment. The angel said she would become pregnant; she wasn't pregnant yet. The angel was referring to the future. Mary didn't say she had no relation with a man, she said she has no relation with a man. If she had a relation with a man, she could understand why she could become pregnant. The deed would have been done. That causes pregnancy. Likewise, pregnancy could be explained if at some time in the future she will have relations with a man. But no, Mary said she has no relation with a man. She speaks in the present tense.

The Catholic Church holds that Mary, as was the custom of many at that time, dedicated herself to God with a vow of chastity. To say a woman has no relations with a man is another way of saying the same thing. She was a handmaid of the Lord. If this is true, her response to the angel now makes sense. She was telling the angel she would have to break her vow of chastity to do as he suggested.

Gabriel tells her it is by the power of the Holy Spirit she will conceive. Her virginity is not at risk. Mary can remain faithful to her vow. She accepts.

When she visits Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth exclaims, Luke states, the Word of God states, that Mary is blessed among women, and blessed was the fruit of Mary's womb (Jesus). The Word of God states that Mary was blessed. Now we know she found favor with God, and God declared her blessed. How many people did God declare 'blessed' in the Bible?

Mary responds with the Magnificat. "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord". Mary didn't say her soul proclaims her greatness, she stated her soul proclaimed God's greatness. The Catholic Church preaches over and over that Mary draws us to the Lord, not to herself. "My spirit rejoices in God, my savior, for he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness." Some Protestants try to use this verse to prove Mary was born with Original Sin. If she were born without sin, why would she need a savior? The Church teaches she did need a savior, just as we do. God saved her at the point of her Immaculate Conception. Some Protestants claim that even Mary knew she was lowly, thus not to be venerated. But, didn't all people of God consider themselves lowly? Didn't Jesus seek the lowly? Isn't it almost a prerequisite to righteousness? "Behold, from now on, all ages call me blessed." Once again, the Word of God declares Mary blessed, and it goes one step further. The Word of God says all ages shall call Mary blessed. She is not only blessed among women, all ages shall call her blessed. And, this is stated in the imperative tense-you shall call Mary blessed.

Luke reveals Mary to us in a big way with this passage. We now have a foundation to learn about her in other areas of Scripture as well.

Proto Evangelium

God had just confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden because of their misdeeds. Eve confessed the Serpent tempted her and she succumbed. God then turned to the Serpent and spoke these words:

Gen 3:15 - I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.

This is hard to understand at first. Because of the close proximity in time to the words spoken by Eve, you might be tempted to assume Eve was the woman of which God spoke. But, taken in that light, the statement makes no sense. Adam was the primary target of the serpent; why would God put enmity between the serpent and Eve instead of the serpent and Adam? And why would God refer to them as Eve's offspring rather than Adam's offspring? Throughout the Bible, there is word of the man's seed, never the woman's. And who is this "He" who will strike at the serpent's head? …Adam?

Most theologians and biblical scholars agree God was not speaking of Eve-He was prophesying of Mary. The serpent's offspring are the children of darkness and Mary's offspring are the children of light. Jesus will strike at the serpent's head (dealing a fatal blow with the resurrection, thus conquering death) while the serpent strikes at Jesus' heel (causing temporary suffering with the crucifixion). Catholic and Protestant theologians alike refer to Genesis 3:15 as the Proto Evangelium, or the First Good News. It predicts the struggle between Mary et al, and Satan et al, and Jesus' eventual victory.

Rev 11:19 - 12:17 - Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.

She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days. [3.5 years]

Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time."

When the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she was taken care of for a year, two years, and a half-year. The serpent, however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current. But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth and swallowed the flood that the dragon spewed out of its mouth.

Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus.

John completes the picture of the Proto Evangelium in the Book of Revelation. The very last line above confirms this. The dragon (Satan) became angry with the woman (Mary) and waged war against the rest (those still on Earth) of her offspring. It then explains, lest there be any doubt, her offspring are those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus.

The discourse starts with a woman (Mary) appearing who was with child (Jesus). The red dragon (Satan) stood poised to devour the child (Jesus) at birth, but at the Ascension, Jesus was swept up to the right hand of God, untouchable by Satan. Those of Mary's offspring already dead conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus' sacrifice) and by the word of their testimony (martyrdom). They did not cling to life, nor fear death. When that failed, Satan pursued those still on Earth, but God protects His followers, His Church.

Isa 66:7-13 - Before she comes to labor, she gives birth; Before the pains come upon her, she safely delivers a male child. Who ever heard of such a thing, or saw the like? Can a country be brought forth in one day, or a nation be born in a single moment? Yet Zion is scarcely in labor when she gives birth to her children.

Shall I bring a mother to the point of birth, and yet not let her child be born? says the LORD; Or shall I who allow her to conceive, yet close her womb? says your God. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; Exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, That you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts!

For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.

This is Isaiah's prophesy of both Mary as the mother of Jesus, and Mary (representing the Church) as the mother of us all. Scripture begins with the struggle between Satan and Mary, and ends with the same struggle.

The Wedding Feast at Cana

John 2:1-5 - On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." (And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you."

As we know (and will see later), while dying on the cross, Jesus gave His mother (Mary) to John to be his mother. (Jn 19:26-27) Interestingly, in John's Gospel, he never refers to Mary by name. He always refers to her as "the mother of Jesus". Today, few refer to their own mothers by first names; most say "my mother" or something similar. John refrained from calling her "my mother", but labels her the mother of Jesus instead.

There are a couple of interesting points regarding this, Jesus' first public miracle.

Presumably, up to now, Mary was the head of the household. She possibly treated Jesus as any parent might treat their child-with a certain command. At some point in one's life, the parent's command lessens and the command from within controls. Possibly, this was just that moment for Jesus.

Mary discovers there is no wine left for the feast. This is a bad thing for Israelites of that day. Mary confronts Jesus with the news, and Jesus counters that His time had not yet come. Then, almost as if to say "Oh, yes it has!", Mary turns to the attendants and commands them to do whatever He says. Mary didn't ask Jesus first, it was a quiet command from His mother. Here we see Jesus complying with her request. It is easy to imagine He still complies with her requests.

Jesus referred to Mary as "woman". In modern-day Western civilization, this may be considered derogatory, but not so to ancient Jews. Many theologians see the connection between Jesus calling Mary "woman" and the woman of Genesis 3:15. Jesus acknowledges her role in the cosmic order of things. Hereafter, He often refers to her as "woman".

Perpetual Virgin

Isa 7:14 - Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Isaiah prophesied about Mary's virgin birth to Jesus long before either roamed the Earth. Virtually all Christians agree Mary was a virgin at the birth of Jesus. The Catholic Church refers to Mary as "ever virgin". This is to imply Mary was chaste her whole life-before, during and after her pregnancy with Jesus. Many Protestant faiths agree. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli supported the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v.11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510 - It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. ... Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.

Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, v. 45, p. 348 - It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. ... Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.

Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, p. 424 - I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin. (.)

Still, many Protestants have difficulty with this concept. After she gave birth, why would she remain chaste? If she intended to remain chaste, why did she plan to marry Joseph? Isn't that being cruel to her husband? Wouldn't Jesus' experience on Earth be enhanced with brothers and sisters? Why does it even matter if she was a perpetual virgin?

It matters because it is true. The Catholic Church doesn't influence why things are the way they are. The Church just reports the way they are. If Jesus says things are just so, the Church reports things as being just so. If any of the Apostles claim something to be true, the Church reports it as true. If Paul or Luke or Barnabas or Timothy or Titus or any disciple says they bear witness to certain happenings, the Church reports those happenings. If one of the early Church fathers (someone who lived a lot closer in time than you or I to when Jesus actually walked the Earth) preaches a doctrine of faith, the Church reports that doctrine of faith. Much of what we know and believe about Mary comes from sources such as these.

Let's explore some of the challenges posed to the perpetual virginity.

Mark 6:2-4 - When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house."

Acts 1:14-16 - All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said, "My brothers, …"

This looks suspicious. The Bible specifically states Jesus was "the brother of …" and "His sisters …" and "Jesus, and his brothers …" . It sure looks like Mary was not a perpetual virgin. Note, though, that in one sentence we find "Jesus and his brothers", and in the next sentence, Peter stands in the midst "of the brothers", about 120 of them. Clearly, "brothers" here cannot mean biological brother. Mary did not give birth to 120 children. And Peter refers to them as "my brothers". Here we see another use of the word "brother" meaning any disciple of Jesus.

Note the verse from Mark's gospel reads "…the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon". There is some grammatical impropriety here. It is more proper to state "the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon", rather than adding "and" between each name. But what if James and Joseph were brothers (same parents) and Judas and Simon were brothers (but different parents from James and Joseph)? Now it makes sense to add the "and" as often as was done.

What about the following?

Mt 27:55-56 - There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Mark 15:47 - Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph watched where he was laid.

Jn 19:25 - Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.

All three verses above are at the crucifixion. There appears to be at least three Marys, maybe more-Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the mother of James and Joseph (?and wife of Clopas?) and Mary Magdalene. Since Jesus and James and Joseph had different mothers, they were cousins at best, but certainly not brothers.

Let's review other places in the Bible where "brother" is used.

Gen 11:27 - This is the record of the descendants of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran became the father of Lot.

Gen 13:8 - So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. [Taken from the New International Version (Protestant Bible), since the Catholic Bible properly uses the word "kinsmen" rather than "brothers".]

In Greek, adelphoi means "brother" and anepsios means "kinsman". The Bible used the word adelphoi, because that is how the Aramaic translated. Thus, Lot was Abram's adelphoi.

So, when the Bible states Jesus' "brothers" or "sisters", we don't know for sure whether they were sharing the same parents, or just relatives. We have to look at the context and other bits of evidence.

Another tricky consideration is how Jesus is often referred to as Mary's "first-born". (e.g. Luke 2:7) To us in 21st Century western civilization, this implies there is at least a "second-born", otherwise, why identify someone as "first-born"? But, the Jews used 'first-born' in a different sense.

Ex 13:1-2 - The LORD spoke to Moses and said, "Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me."

Ex 13:12 - you shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb

Ex 34:20 - The first-born among your sons you shall redeem.

To the ancient Jews, 'first-born' is a term of art. It means the first child, regardless of whether there are any more children. (See also Genesis 27, Numbers 3:12-13, 18:15-16, Deut 21:15-17)

Ezek 44:2 - He said to me: This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed.

This was revealed to Ezekiel in his vision. Some say it is a reference to Mary's womb.

Still, another tricky consideration is the word "heos", which translates into English as "until".

Mt 1:24-25 - When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Until? Again, in modern-day linguistics, until means "things are one way up to a certain point, then things will be different thereafter." To us, if Joseph had no relations with Mary "until she bore a son", then they had relations thereafter. The Bible uses the word "until" in a slightly different sense. The Bible uses "until" to mean "things are one way up to a certain point" and there is no concern for thereafter. Consider:

Mt 28:20 - And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

Jesus said this to the Apostles. Does this mean He will not be with them after the end of the age? Or does it just mean He will be with them up to the end of the age, with no reference to the thereafter?

Lk 1:80 - The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Does this mean John the Baptist could not enter the desert again after his manifestation to Israel? Or does it just mean he was in the desert up to that time, with no reference to the thereafter?

Lk 2:36-37 - There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.

Does this mean she was no longer a widow after she was eighty-four? Or does it just mean she was a widow up to that time with no reference to the thereafter?

2 Sam 6:23 - And so Saul's daughter Michal was childless until the day of her death.

Does this mean Saul's daughter gave birth after she died? Or does it just mean she never had children?

We see from all of the above, the Bible strongly implies Mary's virginity, but there is still room for argument. We can look to other sources, such as the early Church Fathers.

Tertullian, On Monogamy, 8 (A.D. 213) - And indeed it was a virgin, about to marry once for all after her delivery, who gave birth to Christ, in order that each title of sanctity might be fulfilled in Christ's parentage, by means of a mother who was both virgin, and wife of one husband

Athanasius, Orations against the Arians, II:70 (A.D. 362) - Therefore let those who deny that the Son is from the Father by nature and proper to His Essence, deny also that He took true human flesh of Mary Ever-Virgin; for in neither case had it been of profit to us men, whether the Word were not true and naturally Son of God, or the flesh not true which He assumed."

John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, V:5 (A.D. 370) - And when he had taken her, he knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born Son. He hath here used the word till,' not that thou shouldest suspect that afterwards he did know her, but to inform thee that before the birth the Virgin was wholly untouched by man. But why then, it may be said, hath he used the word, till'? Because it is usual in Scripture often to do this, and to use this expression without reference to limited times.

John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, V:5 (A.D. 370) - Thus, what it was necessary for thee to learn of Him, this He Himself hath said; that the Virgin was untouched by man until the birth; but that which both was seen to be a consequence of the former statement, and was acknowledged, this in its turn he leaves for thee to perceive; namely, that not even after this, she having so become a mother, and having been counted worthy of a new sort of travail, and a child-bearing so strange, could that righteous man ever have endured to know her. For if he had known her, and had kept her in the place of a wife, how is it that our Lord commits her, as unprotected, and having no one, to His disciple, and commands him to take her to his own home? How then, one may say, are James and the others called His brethren? In the same kind of way as Joseph himself was supposed to be husband of Mary. For many were the veils provided, that the birth, being such as it was, might be for a time screened. Wherefore even John so called them, saying, For neither did His brethren believe in Him.

Epiphanius, Well Anchored Man, 120 (A.D. 374) - "[T]he Son of God...was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit..."

Basil, Homily In Sanctum Christi generationem, 5 (ante A.D. 379) - The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin"

Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary Against Helvedius, 21 (A.D. 383) - But as we do not deny what is written, so we do reject what is not written. We believe that God was born of the Virgin, because we read it. That Mary was married after she brought forth, we do not believe, because we do not read it. Nor do we say this to condemn marriage, for virginity itself is the fruit of marriage; but because when we are dealing with saints we must not judge rashly. If we adopt possibility as the standard of judgment, we might maintain that Joseph had several wives because Abraham had, and so had Jacob, and that the Lord's brethren were the issue of those wives, an invention which some hold with a rashness which springs from audacity not from piety. You say that Mary did not continue a virgin: I claim still more, that Joseph himself on account of Mary was a virgin, so that from a virgin wedlock a virgin son was born. For if as a holy man he does not come under the imputation of fornication, and it is nowhere written that he had another wife, but was the guardian of Mary whom he was supposed to have to wife rather than her husband, the conclusion is that he who was thought worthy to be called father of the Lord, remained a virgin."

Notice my arguements are echoed above by the early Church Fathers. This is indication these arguements have indeed been presented many times before throughout the ages. There is nowhere mentioned, among the early Church Fathers' writings, anything that disputes Mary's perpetual virginity. From the beginning, this seemed to be understood by all.

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception confuses Catholics and Protestants alike. This doctrine states that Mary was born without Original Sin. It has no direct relationship with Jesus' birth.

We saw in the long discourse from the Gospel of Luke above that Gabriel greeted Mary with the title "full of grace". The Bible states in a couple of places that Mary was blessed.

We also see that all sin is an abomination to God. Nothing unclean can enter Heaven because God cannot co-exist with sin. It stands to reason, then, that God, in the 2nd person of the Trinity, cannot exist within Mary's womb if it is unclean.

Even as Jesus withheld some knowledge from the Apostles because they were not yet ready, and Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would teach them when they were ready, so many of the doctrines of Mary were not fully explored by the Church for many years.

But, what about Paul's writings? He seems to contradict the concept of the Immaculate Conception.

Rom 3:9-12 - We have already brought the charge against Jews and Greeks alike that they are all under the domination of sin, as it is written: "There is no one just, not one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have gone astray; all alike are worthless; there is not one who does good, (there is not) even one.

Paul suggests all humans are under the domination of sin. There appears to be no exceptions. Paul cites Scripture to support his position. Here is the passage he quotes:

Psa 14:1-6 - For the leader. Of David. Fools say in their hearts, "There is no God." Their deeds are loathsome and corrupt; not one does what is right. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the human race, To see if even one is wise, if even one seeks God. All have gone astray; all alike are perverse. Not one does what is right, not even one.

Will these evildoers never learn? They devour my people as they devour bread; they do not call upon the LORD. They have good reason, then, to fear; God is with the company of the just. They would crush the hopes of the poor, but the poor have the LORD as their refuge.

A close reading of the verses Paul quotes shows Scripture is not saying all persons are unjust; it is saying all "Fools" and "evildoers" are unjust. The "evildoers" devour God's people. Therefore, there are at least two classes of people: the evildoers and God's people. The "evildoers" have reason to fear; God is with His people-the just.

Jesus was certainly without sin, but He was human, just like us. We know that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit, even within his mother's womb. John the Baptist was without sin. We know infants, children and the mentally incompetent are not able to sin as they lack the requisite mens rea-the intent to deliberately counter God's will. Are all of these included when Paul says "all have gone astray"?

Rom 5:18-19 - just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.

Is Paul contradicting himself from one verse to the next? In verse 18 above he states "all", but in verse 19, he states "many". Which is it? Are all sinners, or are many sinners?

Luke 18:19 - Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

If no one is good but God alone, how can Mary be sinless?

Are we to believe Jesus is not good? Whatever Jesus meant by "good" when He told the official "no one is good but God alone", Jesus is specifically including Himself in the group of not-good. Rather than dwell on the meaning of "good", it is sufficient to say this biblical reference to "good" excludes Jesus and Mary, thus does not exclude her from sinlessness.

The Mother of God (Theotokos)

Luke 1:43 - And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

When Mary first came to visit, Elizabeth, full of the Holy Spirit, declared aloud that Mary was "the mother of my Lord". The Bible states that Mary is the Mother of the Lord (Adonai). To erase any doubt, the Bible also states Jesus is the Lord, and He is God, as we recall from doubting Thomas.

John 20:28 - Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus was both God and man. Mary could not be mother of just the man-part; she was Jesus' mother. Jesus is the second person of the trinity, making Him God, thus Mary is the mother of God.

We don't need to address accusations that Mary cannot be God's mother since God came before Mary. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus came before Mary, and yet through the Incarnation, God became Jesus in human form through the woman Mary.

Rev 12:17 - Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus.

We see from Rev 12:17, repeated here for your convenience, that Mary is the mother of all those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus. That makes her our mother as well.

The Ark of the New Covenant

God commanded His Word be kept in the original Ark. Jesus is the Word. We can draw a parallel between Mary, bearer of Jesus the Word, and the Ark, bearer of the tablets of the Word.

Luke saw a parallel when he wrote the lengthy discourse at the start of this chapter. Compare it to 2 Samuel, Chapter 6. In 2 Sam, David wants to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Let's compare:

2 Sam 6:2-16 - Then David and all the people who were with him set out for Baala of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which bears the name of the LORD of hosts enthroned above the cherubim.

The ark of God was placed on a new cart and taken away from the house of Abinadab on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, guided the cart, with Ahio walking before it, while David and all the Israelites made merry before the LORD with all their strength, with singing and with citharas, harps, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nodan, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and steadied it, for the oxen were making it tip. But the LORD was angry with Uzzah; God struck him on that spot, and he died there before God. David was disturbed because the LORD had vented his anger on Uzzah. (The place has been called Perez-uzzah down to the present day.) David feared the LORD that day and said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?"

So David would not have the ark of the LORD brought to him in the City of David, but diverted it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and his whole house.

When it was reported to King David that the LORD had blessed the family of Obed-edom and all that belonged to him, David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David amid festivities.

As soon as the bearers of the ark of the LORD had advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the LORD with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.

As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Saul's daughter Michal looked down through the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart.

2 Sam says "Then David and all the people who were with him set out for Baala of Judah". Luke says "During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah".

2 Sam says "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?". Luke says "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?".

2 Sam says "[the Ark entered] the house of Obed-edom the Gittite". Luke says "[Mary] entered the house of Zechariah".

2 Sam says "The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months". Luke says "Mary remained with her about three months".

2 Sam says "[David] and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts of joy". Luke says "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, … [she] cried out in a loud voice".

2 Sam says "As the ark of the LORD was entering the City … King David [was] leaping and dancing before the LORD". Luke says "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb".

Many scholars agree it is not a coincidence Luke's discourse so closely parallels a story of the original ark.

Consider also a verse shown above and repeated here.

Ex 40:34 - Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling

Luke 1:35 - The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

Rev 11:19 - 12:1 - Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

The power of the Most High is seen elsewhere in the Bible as the glory cloud. (See, for example, Ex 16:10, 19:9, 1 Kings 8:10-11) In Luke, the angel tells Mary the power of the Most High will overshadow her. As in Exodus, the glory of the Lord filled Mary, as she was the dwelling of the Lord. Revelation reports the glory cloud as "flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm". We see later in Revelation Chapter 12 that the woman clothed with the sun is Mary. Mary is the ark of His new covenant.

1 Kings 8:10-11 - the cloud filled the temple of the LORD so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the LORD'S glory had filled the temple of the LORD.

So it was with Mary. When the glory of the Lord filled her, she remained the vessel of God alone. And just as Uzzah innocently touched the Ark in an effort to keep it from tipping over, yet God struck him dead because he was defiled and he touched the dwelling of the Word, so nothing defiled can touch Mary as the dwelling of the Word. This helps explain her Immaculate Conception (she had to be free from sin at all times) and her perpetual virginity.

The ancient Jews had a great veneration for the Ark. They did not worship the Ark, they worshipped what was in the Ark. Nonetheless, they treated the Ark with great respect and reverence. Catholics and many non-Catholics alike venerate Mary, but they do not worship her. She is respected as blessed and for her role in bringing forth the savior of the world.

The Assumption

The doctrine of the Assumption states Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven, before the Second-Coming Resurrection of the Souls. The doctrine is silent about Mary's death; she may have died, or she may have been taken directly into Heaven like Enoch and Elijah; we don't know. But we do know she did not have to wait like the rest of us for Jesus' second coming before she could enjoy the benefits of Heavenly existence, and if she did die, there are no remains left on Earth.

When you think about it, since she was sinless her whole life, the glory of God filled her, and Satan could not conquer her, it stands to reason she was not overcome by death. But, doctrines do not exist by reason alone.

Let's explore what supports this doctrine.

Gen 5:24 - Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him.

Heb 11:5 - By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and "he was found no more because God had taken him."

Here is an example in the Bible of someone being assumed bodily into God's presence. Enoch never saw death.

2 Kings 2:11 - As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

Likewise, Elijah never saw death.

Rev 11:12 - Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, "Come up here." So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.

The two witnesses in the Book of Revelation were assumed bodily into Heaven. These two died first, then were resurrected, then assumed.

Jesus, Himself, and His Ark (Mary) came to their resting place alike.

So, we see there is a precedent for the Assumption. Because we find nothing else in Scripture regarding Mary's passing, we turn to the Early Church Fathers for their understanding.

Modestus of Jerusalem, Encomium in dormitionnem Sanctissimae Dominae nostrae Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae (PG 86-II,3306),(ante A.D. 634) - "As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him."

Theoteknos of Livias, Homily on the Assumption (ante A.D. 650) - "It was fitting ...that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinised, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory ...should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God."

Germanus of Constantinople, Sermon I (PG 98,346), (ante A.D. 733) - "You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life."
John of Damascene, PG (96:1) (A.D. 747-751) - "St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (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."

We see, starting in the early 600s, there appears several writings, all favoring Mary's assumption into Heaven. Lastly, consider:

Rom 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned.

Rom 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Cor 15:21-26 - For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Since sin and death are the fruits of Satan, those without sin are freed from its consequences. Then Mary best fulfills the scripture of Genesis.

Gen 3:15 - I will put enmity between you [the serpent, Satan] and the woman [Mary], and between your offspring [the minions of Satan] and hers [the followers of Christ].

The Queen of Heaven

If you accept Mary's status in all the preceding, you will have little difficulty in accepting her role as Queen of Heaven.

We already approached this subject while exploring the Proto Evangelium and the Ark of the Covenant. We saw in Revelation 12:1 Mary appeared "and on her head a crown". The crown is your first clue.

The Bible says we are to forever call her "blessed". This is your second clue.

1 Kings 2:19-20 - Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king's mother, who sat at his right. "There is one small favor I would ask of you," she said. "Do not refuse me." "Ask it, my mother," the king said to her, "for I will not refuse you."

In ancient Israel, the Queen Mother was given great reverence. Even the reigning king would treat her royally. As seen above, King Solomon stood when his mother entered the room and he paid her homage. He then provided a throne for her at his right side. When she asked a favor, he invited her to speak. The treatment given the king's mother by the King is your third clue as to Mary's status as Queen Mother.

Note, in this instance, Solomon denied the Queen Mother's request. King David, before he died, declared Solomon to be his successor. Adonijah, Solomon's older brother and rightful heir to the throne, had substantial support from influential political supporters. Abishag the Shunamite was King David's last concubine before he died. If Adonijah slept with David's concubines, that was a sign to the people that Adonijah was indeed king--not Solomon. Adonijah asked the unknowing Bathsheba (Solomon's mother, the Queen Mother) to have Solomon give Adonijah the concubine Abishag as his wife. That is what Bathsheba asked of Solomon as a favor in the passage above. Instead, Solomon executed Adonijah and all his political supporters.

This emphasizes the status of the Queen Mother. She can ask favors, and the King wants to grant the favors and normally will do so, but the King has the right of refusal. The Queen Mother is a decidedly lower status. So it is with Mary. She can and does ask favors. Jesus, the King (of kings), wants to grant her favors, and normally will do so, but He has the final control.

Parting Comment

We see ample evidence Mary was the woman of whom God spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. We see that Jesus does what His mother asks, as shown at the wedding feast at Cana. We see Mary made a vow of chastity and kept that vow throughout her life to remain a perpetual virgin. We see Mary was created without Original Sin. We see that Mary is the mother of God and the Ark of the New Covenant. We also see she was bodily assumed into Heaven.

Consider also that Jesus was fully obedient to God. The Fourth Commandment requires Jesus to honor His father and mother. We are called to be perfect even as Jesus is perfect, and to follow Him. Jesus honors His mother, and there is no Heavenly reason we should not honor her as well.

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