Skip to comments.Hernándo Cortés and Our Lady
Posted on 12/02/2007 7:28:29 AM PST by auraur
Hernándo Cortés and Our Lady December 2, 2007
Hernando Cortés, Spanish conquistador, explorer and Catholic. The latter title is not one that comes readily to mind in today's politically correct atmosphere. Modern historians often portray him as a ruthless brute, annihilating the native people and plundering their treasures.
In reality, Cortés was a great soldier of the Church with a deep devotion to Mary. He landed on the shores of Mexico on Good Friday, April 22, 1519. Many schoolbook historians broad brush the past and attribute Cortés and his men with motives of greed for gold and glory. However, that view fails to reveal what this deeply religious soldier and leader viewed as his true mission upon landing on the shores of what then was truly an evil empire.
Because so much of the written history we rely on today is from an Anglo-Protestant perspective, Spain's role in bringing the Christian faith to the new world is minimized by many early historians. It is important to remember the deep essence of purpose Cortés and many of his soldiers held. Cortés and his men never entered into a march or a major battle without having their confessions heard and Mass said. Cortés carried blessed medals of both St. James the Apostle and Mary close to his heart. Many of the men also carried rosary beads with them. Little did Cortés or his men realize, when they landed in 1519, what large a role Mary would play in birthing a New Spain.
When Cortés and his soldiers first encountered the indigenous people of Mexico, some of the first Aztecs thought Cortés was the god, Quetzalcoatl. In ancient Mayan-Aztec mythology, Quetzalcoatl, ironically, was light-skinned with light-hair. Legend held that he had left their lands centuries before to the east but promised to return one day to reclaim his throne and bring back the knowledge of the "one true God" to his people. Cortés never claimed to be Quetzalcoatl but this legend held back the Aztec Emperor Montezuma II from sending warriors and immediately wiping out Cortés and his soldiers when they landed in 1519.
Upon landing, Cortés planted a cross on the eastern shores of what is now Vera Cruz (English translation: True Cross), Mexico. He had Father Olmedo say Mass for his men on the sandy shores. Then a delegation from Montezuma (who was deeply troubled that Cortés/Quetzalcoatl had come on ships described by his spies as "floating islands") welcomed him, gave him presents of silver and gold and promptly asked him to leave immediately. In the banquet prepared for Cortés and the soldiers on board his "floating islands", the Aztecs sprinkled dried human blood on the food, as a test for Cortés. For if he were indeed Quetzalcoatl, perhaps he would be pleased to taste human blood again. Cortés and his men reacted with utter disgust, spit the food from their mouths and ordered Montezuma's envoys off their ships.
The sprinkling of dried human blood was nothing compared to the horrors of what lie ahead over the next two years. The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice on a scale unimaginable to the Spanish. No one will ever know exactly how many men, women and even children were sacrificed across the lands ruled by the Aztecs and the other Mayan-tribes for centuries before that. The law of the Aztecs required a thousand to their god Huitzilopochtli, the god of death, sun and war, in every temple every year. Historians tell us there were 371 temples when Cortés arrived. There were other ritual sacrifices as well to other gods. One Mexican historian estimated that one out of five children were sacrificed. Sometimes entire tribes were exterminated by sacrifice.
Month after month, year after year, in temple after temple, sacrificial victims came down the long roads leading to the pyramids, climbed the steep steps to the top of the platforms, and were bent backwards over convex slabs of stones. An immense knife with a blade of midnight black volcanic glass rose and fell, gutting the victim open. His or her heart was torn out while still beating and held up for all to see, while the ravaged body was kicked over the edge of the temple where it bounced down the steps a hundred feet below. The Aztecs priests who performed these sacrifices then consumed the blood that was collected, especially enjoying the consumption of the victim's heart. Other body parts were saved for other rituals, the dried blood saved to garnish at special ceremonial meal times. It was a culture of blood, death and gore on a scale that was unimaginable to the Spaniards.
Cortés and his men quickly realized the extent of the Satanic society they were up against. They knew their primary mission was to stop the evil practice of human sacrifice and bring souls into the Church. The gold and riches for the Spanish crown was secondary. Some of the soldiers were there for treasure to be sure. But throughout the next two years, it would not be gold or silver that would win the battles against the 25 million indigenous people that Montezuma ruled over. These Spanish soldiers knew that the true treasure to help them survive the battles to come would be the treasures of the Church: Jesus, Mary and the sacraments. Gold and silver was of little value in battle. When fighting for one's life, prayer was key.
Friar Diego de Landa writes in his book Yucatan, Before and After the Conquest in 1566, translated by William Gates: "(Cortés) preached to them the vanity of idols, and persuaded them to adore the cross; this he placed in their temples with an image of Our Lady..."
In fact when Cortés finally did reach Montezuma's capitol city of Tenochtitlan (today Mexico City), he boldly ordered that the top of one of the main human sacrificial pyramids be stripped of its evil idols, the human-blood stained walls be cleansed and that an image of Virgin Mary and a cross be erected in its place. Everywhere Cortés went, Mary and the cross were their companions. The soldiers wore the emblem of the cross on their steel helmets, on their breastplates and carried it on their banners. Mary was carried close to their hearts in medallions and by the recitations of rosaries. And when the Aztecs did capture Spanish soldiers throughout the campaign and drag them away, Cortés and his men knew they might become victims of the very practice they were determined to stop.
As the (Protestant) American historian William writes in his book, History of the Conquest of Mexico, originally published in 1843:
As the long file of (Aztec) priests reached the flat summit of the pyramid, the Spaniards saw the figures of several men stripped to their waists, some of whom, by the whiteness of their skin they recognized their own countrymen. They were going to be victims of sacrifice...what sensations the stupefied Spaniard must have gazing on this horrid spectacle, so near they could almost recognize the persons of their unfortunate friends, see the struggles and writhing of their bodies, their screams of agony.
Human sacrifice as practiced by the Aztecs when Cortés landed, was on a scale we cannot imagine. Or can we? In Aztec society, in Mayan society before that and other American-indigenous societies some of the brightest, most educated, well-trained and respected leaders were standing atop those pyramids in Aztec-Mayan society carrying out the bloody deed of human sacrifice to satisfy the hunger of their evil gods. Today some of our brightest, best educated and well-trained and respected leaders have convinced people in our society that it is a basic human right to sacrifice an innocent child in a Mother's womb. And instead of throwing that baby down the steps of a pyramid for everyone to see, it is quietly taken out with the trash. Satan still desires death. Our society today has passed laws to give him want he wants; convincing many that slaughtering their most innocent citizens in their mother's wombs is a basic human right.
Cortés conquered Aztec society in a bloody conflict. He immediately sought peace afterwards, opening the doors for his Spanish missionaries to convert the millions to the Catholic faith. Language and cultural barriers threatened the peace almost immediately after the battles ended. It took Mary's sudden appearance to St. Juan Diego and her self-portrait left on Diego's tilma (cloak) to convert people en-masse to the Church. Nine million Aztecs asked to be baptized by 1540 and tens of millions more were added within twenty years.
An incredible list of miracles, cures and interventions are attributed to Mary because of this image. Yearly, an estimated 20 million visit her Basilica, making her Mexico City home the most popular Marian shrine in the world, and the most visited Catholic Church in the world next to the Vatican. In all, twenty-five popes have officially honored Our Lady of Guadalupe. His Holiness, the late John Paul II, visited her sanctuary four times: on his first apostolic trip outside Rome as pope in 1979, and again in 1990, 1999 and 2002.
If we want the evil of abortion to end, let us be reminded of how a great devotion to our Blessed Mother has brought down evil societies, transformed peoples' hearts and led nations back to the Church. We always find in Mary the perfect mediator between mankind and God. Nearly 500 years ago, she was there for Hernando Cortés, his soldiers and St. Juan Diego and his people. Surely Our Blessed Mother will help us again if we call upon her intercession.
Cortés died in Spain, 460 years ago on December 2, 1547 at the age of 62 on his way back to Mexico. The historian Bernal Diaz tells us he was still wearing medallions of St. James the Apostle and the Blessed Mother when he passed onto eternity.
Mark Armstrong is the co-author of Amazing Grace for Fathers along with his wife, Patti Armstrong, Jeff Cavins and Matt Pinto. The couple's website is at www.raisingcatholickids.com. » login or register to post comments | email this page
Holy Mother of God;
Most honored of virgins;
Chosen daughter of the Father
Mother of Christ;
Glory of the Holy Spirit
Virgin daughter of Zion,
Virgin poor and humble,
Virgin gentle and obedient,
Handmaid of the Lord,
Mother of the Lord,
Helper of the Redeemed,
Full of grace,
Fountain of beauty,
Model of virtue,
Finest fruit of the redemption,
Perfect disciple of Christ,
Untarnished image of the Church,
Woman clothed with the sun,
Woman crowned with stars,
Joy of Israel,
Splendor of the Church,
Pride of the human race,
Advocate of grace,
Minister of holiness,
Champion of Gods people,
Queen of love,
Queen of mercy,
Queen of peace,
Queen of angels,
Queen of patriarchs and prophets,
Queen of apostles and martyrs,
Queen of confessors and virgins,
Queen of all saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of all earth,
Queen of heaven,
Queen of the universe (pp. 190,191)
From the Litany of Loreto
Mother of the Church,
Mother of Divine grace,
Mother most pure;
Mother of chaste love;
Mother and virgin,
Dearest of Mothers,
Model of motherhood,
Mother of good counsel;
Mother of our Creator;
Mother of our Savior;
Virgin most wise;
Virgin rightly praised;
Virgin rightly renowned;
Virgin most powerful;
Virgin gentle in mercy;
Mirror of justice;
Throne of wisdom;
Cause of our joy;
Shrine of the Spirit;
Glory of Israel,
Vessel of selfless devotion;
Tower of David;
Tower of ivory;
House of gold;
Ark of the covenant;
Gate of heaven;
Health of the sick;
Refuge of sinners;
Comfort of the troubled;
Help of Christians;
Queen of the rosary;
The RCC seems to want a female to worship and they have found one in Mary.
Scot McKnight and Jon Sweeny who wrote two books, the former, who wrote the book, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace The Mother Of Jesus, and the latter, The Lure Of Saints: A Protestant Experence Of Catholic Tradition. Even Martin Luther had good things to say about Mary. This rediscovery by Protestants is good because she is shown to be what a follower of her son ought to be.
I can't imagine two more people having anything to add to what is already taught by your group about Mary...
Veneration of Mary and dead people, statues, images, etc. is anti-biblical...
Ovbiously this veneration has a place in religion, but it has no place in biblical Christianity...
I will never bow to anyone or anything outside the Trinity of God...I will never pray to anyone or anything outside the Trinity of God...
The Apostle Paul, the Apostle who was commissioned by God to reveal and start the Gentile Christian Church, never so much as mentioned Mary's name in his Epistles...
The veneration of ANYONE or ANYTHING other than the Trinity of God has no place in Christianity...OR, the Apostle Paul was a liar...
But what would be the point?
There is a point. If you see someone that you think is a brother but you see his faith clouded by untruth, you want to be a light to that person. I don't say that in denial of my own many spiritual weaknesses because I have many. I have been unfaithful to fellowship at my church and have not impressed upon my oldest kids the importance of going to church. So now that they are older they all have jobs on Sundays and seem to be drifting away.
I DO get the point about disagreement in faith and love. But - and I fear I am flogging a dead horse here -- what seems to happen far too often is that ONE point is put up, and when an attempt is made to explore it, a host of other points are brought up before the first point is dealt with usefully. Earlier this fall (no, not THAT fall - I'm still in that one, or would be if it were not for the surpassing grace of God in Jesus - I mean the seasonal one ;-) ) Someone put up the argument, "Why not go straight to IHS?" and when the beginning of a response was attempted, he went directly to, "We shouldn't pray to dead people." And, of course, the result is that NEITHER point gets the attention it deserves.
As for your other remarks, any Christian parent or clergydude who thinks he's done a good enough job is in serious peril. A friend of mine once said, "God, has no grandchildren," and we can pray that God, being a whole bunch smarter than we, knows how to approach our children and teach them His love.
But you're also right that the log in my eye, while it clearly needs attention, does not toally blind me, and obstructed though my vision may be, still I may be able to see something wrong out there.
So I'm not disagreeing with the idea of discussion or of the articulation of disagreement. What I do have a problem with is the presentation of points of disagreement as a kind of artillery rather than as things we might look at together.
And it's a general complaint, not one levelled at you in pertiklar.
Have you ever heard that joke about the prisoners that have been locked up together so long that they all know each others jokes. So what they do at night before bed is simply call out a number which corresponds to one of the jokes and they all laugh at it. That is a little of what we have here on the RC vs P forum. I believe we all know the issues we have with each other. So now, rather than calling out a number and agreeing to disagree, we look for new ways to present the same old arguments.
This argument is summed up in "P's think RC's are way way to involved with Mary and that some go well into the idolatry zone". You know we think that and we know you know.
In presenting the barage(sp) I try to very quickly make the point that this is not just honor it is worship. As such it is idolatry and is a big problem for your faith and doctrine.
No sale. In fact I'm going to print up that stuff and stash it with my prayer materials.
Formally I would say the difference between worship and veneration, honor, whatever is not one of degree but of kind. And I'll grant you the APPARENT excessiveness of the language. It took me a while before I could call Mary, "vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra," without wanting to add in a kind of precatory legalese,"... always provided that the above language is not intended or understood to be intended to present to Mary any honorific or any other appellation (or Appalachian or any other massif) or sentiment not otherwise understood as pertaining to the Most Holy Trinity hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part or maybe first three parts, depending on whether we're counting persons or substances.......)
Here, let me hand you a knife to stab me with: On the one hand, over here: Jesus is my savior. He is the perfect revelation of God, and in Him, who is God's Word, that Word finds the fruitfulness of which Isaiah spoke.[and so on and so forth for pages and pages.] Yet, on the other hand I have said,"Mary saved my butt." I just said it a couple of nights ago at our RCIA anticipatory Christmas party (held now because most of the RCIA gang are university students and they have exams and then vacation and we won't see 'em again until January.)
Now, so to speak, schematically I want to avoid saying that Mary mediates in an strict sense between me and Jesus, because IHS is THE mediator, and any instance of true mediation happens by Him, with Him, through Him and so forth through preposition after preposition. He is the entirely sufficient Mediator, no other need apply.
Somewhere C.S.Lewis points out that in a way a photograph is more "like" its subject than an oil painting. And we might say that a portrait artist painting in oils "captures" his subject and portrays the truth of the subject more richly and completely than a photograph does or could do.
And yet no one, I think, would mistake the portrait for its subject. So my friends, teachers, and counselors have presented to me some of the reality of who IHS is, and in their doing so, IHS Himself was using them as adjuncts to and agents of his mediatory activity.
I am grateful to these people. I love them. (And the ones I'm thinking of are all Protestants, btw.) But I know they aren't God, however much I may sometimes gush about them. And I don't hesitate to say that they brought me to Christ or brought me closer to Christ.
Now if I had to say that every time I engaged in a Marian devotion, id be even further behind on my household chores than I currently am. So I just work and pray in confidence that God knows what I mean, and that my Protestant brothers will occasionally tolerate me even if they bridle at my lengthy attempts to explain.
as always, seeking more to explain or describe than to persuade.
So for an individual it may seem that the work done by the messenger that gave us the gospel is just as important as what Mary did and Paul did in writing about it and even as what Jesus did on the Cross. Without any of those links it SEEMS that my own salvation wouldn't have been possible. It is only natural to start crediting man for these things. It is also very scriptural to point out not to credit man for these things.
Teaching your children about Mary, the mother of Jesus and our Blessed Mother, gives a maternal dimension to our faith. Jesus chose Mary for His mother from all eternity. She was an integral part of Gods plan for our salvation. The annunciation was the time of fulfillment of Gods promise to send a Messiah. Mary consented to Gods plan for mans salvation He laid before her. The Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify Marys virginal womb causing her to conceive the eternal Son, Jesus Christ. His human nature is from her human nature.
Mary is the one responsible for His first miracle and the one whom He gave to us as our own mother at the foot of the cross. Her earthly existence centered around bringing Jesus to us and and now, if we go to her, She brings us closer to Him.
God could have sent His Son any way He chose. He chose to go through Mary to come to us. If Mary is good enough for God to go through to get closer to us, then she is good enough for us to go through to get closer to Him. When we pray to Mary, we go to God with His chosen daughter, His virgin spouse and His mother. When we honor her, we do as Jesus did when He followed the fourth commandment and honored His mother. If God is our Father and Jesus is our Brother, then only Mary could complete the family as our Mother.
My own devotion to Mary began when I read about famous Church-endorsed apparitions of Mary such as those at Lourdes and Fatima. It grew as I learned that many of our great saints turned to her as their mother in heaven. I started saying the rosary regularly and went to an occasional Catholic conference where there was usually at least one speaker who explained and elevated the Churchs tradition of honoring Mary.
As my own love for Mary grew, I became increasingly aware of the mixture of emotions she evokes: everything from love and devotion to aloofness and even discomfort. Ive heard converted Catholics admit that in their former church, Mary was avoided. Mothers Day sermons might include every other woman in the Bible; Ruth, Sarah, Elizabeth, but nary of word of Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior. I once heard a speaker tell of witnessing another speaker kick a statue of Mary to demonstrate that she had no place in our relationship with God. Granted, this is an extreme example, but outside the Catholic Church there is a lot of discomfort when it comes to having a relationship with Mary, the Blessed Mother.
Many non-Catholics feel praying to Mary borders on idolatry. People say she is a mere human and should not be elevated in any way. They think it is preposterous to claim she was conceived without original sin, remained a virgin, is the Mother of God, and ascended into heaven in body and soul. Even some Catholics make a point of avoiding any sort of Marian devotion. Instead, they consider Mary non-essential to religion. They fail to see that Mary illuminates faith in Christ.
If we want our children to find comfort and heavenly aid through the Blessed Mother, we should help them understand the basis for the Catholic tradition of honoring Mary as the Mother of our Savior. There are several arguments against a devotion to Mary. I will list them here and then tackle each individually. First, some denominations believe that we simply cannot communicate with Mary, or any of the saints for that matter. And, even if we could communicate with her, some say the Bible speaks against using her, or the saints as intermediaries. Those that avoid Mary say there is no evidence that Mary was conceived without sin (known as the Immaculate Conception) or ever virgin or assumed into heaven (The Assumption) body and soul. And lastly, even if all the above were true, many non-Catholic Christian denominations hold that there is no Biblical basis for a devotion to Mary.
Let us begin by asking, how can we know Mary hears us if we pray to her? Some people believe that those in heaven are praying for us, but we cannot communicate personally with them. This belief contends that contact between those who have gone before us and those still on Earth is not possible. Consider the logic here. Some of the same people that believe that the devil influences our lives through temptation are saying that God would give the devil the ability to communicate through the spiritual realm, but not his own mother.
Catholics do believe that as one body in Christ, there is no separation between us and those in heaven and that they can hear our prayers to them. For a Biblical example, look at the Transfiguration (Luke 9: 28-36) when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus before Peter, James, and John. This passage offers Biblical evidence that there is not an impenetrable wall between heaven and earth.
As long as we are considering this example, also note that Peter suggested erecting tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, right there in the desert. He wanted to honor them. Moses and Elijah were special people with special relationships with God. Honoring them was not idolatry, it was a natural reaction, honoring holy ones who have gone before us. By honoring them, we honor God. All that is worth honoring is only that which reflects the greatness of God. Mary especially reflects this because she was Gods chosen instrument to bring about Salvation through His Son.
Now let us ask the next question: Even if Mary can hear us, doesnt the Bible teach against going to God through anyone but Jesus?
According to 1 Timothy 2:5, there is only one mediator between God and man—Jesus. People use Timothy to claim there is no mediator but Jesus, so we cannot go through Mary. Yet, these same people do believe our friends here on earth can pray for us. If the prayers of our friends help, what better friend and helper could we have than the Mother of Jesus? Timothy made it clear that prayers can be said for others:
First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior... (1 Tim. 2:1-3).
...as you help us with prayer, so that thanks may be given by many on our behalf for the gift granted us through the prayers of many (1 Cor. 1:11).
When we go to Mary, we ask her to help us with her prayers. The Bible reflects the influence she has with her Son. A good word put in by Mary proved to be quite effective at the wedding at Canan:
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 (John 2:3-5).
I heard a priest once point out that he had been to a lot of weddings but hed never been to one where the guests drank all the wine. This wasnt even a good miracle, he claimed. To top it off, Jesus plainly said it was not His time. Yet, His mothers intervention moved Him to perform His first recorded miracle. As the priest explained, He did it for one reason—His mother asked Him.
A Protestant friend once argued with me, But it was His time or He would not have done it. I prefer to take Jesus at His word and He plainly said it was not His time. He made it His time in order to respond to his mother and it was recorded in the Bible as such. Surely there was a divine plan Jesus followed from the start, and there must have been a reason his first miracle was performed at the request of His mother. The miracle clearly shows the power of Marys intervention. It was her intervention that began His public ministry and it is her words that lead us to her Son, Do whatever he tells you.
The dispute against Mary being ever virgin uses the Bible to claim she had other children. One argument says that in Matthew 1:25, Jesus is described as the first born and so, there must have been at least a second born. First born was a ceremonial title given to the firstborn male child who inherited a unique birthright from his father (Gen. 25:33) and even only children held this title.
Also, the passage, He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus (Matt. 1:25) is misinterpreted. Some focus on the word until to mean the same as we tend to use it in English as in: it was this way until some other other event happened. Just look a little further in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 15:25 where it says Christ must reign until He has put all enemies beneath his feet. That doesnt mean His reign will cease then. Then look back in 2 Samuel 6:23. King Davids wife is said to have no children until the day of her death. The word until does not mean that after her death, things changed.
And finally, a third argument using Scripture is the one where Matthew 13:55 lists Jesus brothers as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, which is proof I have been told, that Mary was not ever-virgin. Consider that the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, Christs languages of choice, did not have separate words for brothers, cousins and near-relatives. Luke 6:15-16 reveals that James and Joseph, though elsewhere called the brothers of Jesus, are shown to be the sons of Alphaeus. No one else, but Jesus, including those referred to as brethren, are ever referred to as sons of Mary. In Mark 6:3, Jesus is called, the son of Mary, not one of the sons of Mary.
The other difficult points for those that have an aversion to honoring Mary are the Catholic beliefs that Mary was conceived without original sin on her soul (known as the Immaculate Conception) and the belief that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven (The Assumption).
Remember, Jesus chose His own Mother. Would he have given her a soul stained with sin? All sin stems from Satan. Would God have chosen to have His only Begotten Son, become flesh in a body that had been under the subjugation of Satan? How could Jesus have grown in a womb which bore the stain of original sin?
Be ye clean ye that carry the vessels of the Lord (Isaiah 3:2). Vessels used in church services were set apart by special consecration, how much more would Mary be set apart, the chosen vessel of our Lord?
Some reject this teaching because they reason that if Mary was born without original sin, she would not need a savior. The Catholic teaching is Mary was indeed saved by Christ. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior(Luke 1 :47). Mary was preserved from original sin at conception. She was saved ahead of time by the grace of God.
Also, Romans 3:23 seems to indite Mary as a sinner like the rest of us: All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. We must be careful not to take one word, all and misconstrue the point St. Paul is making. He is stressing the universal aspect of sin, stating that this includes both Jews and Gentiles alike. He is speaking to the general masses. Babies have never personally sinned, so wouldnt they be an exception? St. Paul is giving a sweeping statement, not mentioning exceptions. Mary is not part of the humanity to whom St. Paul is directing his point.
It is surprising and without logic that so many people who believe Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven, refuse to believe that Jesus did the same for His own mother:
Then Enoch walked with God and he was no longer here, for God took him (Gen. 5:24).
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was found no more because God had taken him (Heb. 11:5).
As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).
During the early years of the Church, the bones of saints were kept and highly regarded as relics. No church ever claimed the bones of Mary. Certainly if Mary had not been assumed into heaven, members of the Church would have treasured and guarded her bones. We also rely on the Apostolic Tradition which held this belief from earliest times.
Remember, the sacred vessels of the church were set aside for special consecration. Consider the impossibility that Mary, the first tabernacle of Christ, with a womb that held God, would have been allowed to rot and decay in the ground.
Accusations have been made that the Catholic Church simply made these two teachings up in modern times. This is a misunderstanding of the fact that the Catholic Church officially defined the already existing doctrines of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the Assumption in 1950. At certain times the Church chooses to codify a belief that has always existed either because the Popes sees a benefit to the Church by infallibly defining and proclaiming a preexisting belief, or because there arises a need to defend it against confusion or attack. Both these beliefs existed since the early Church and were not made up in modern times. As infallibly defined dogmas of faith, faith in these two teachings are required by Catholics. The Protestant belief in sola scriptura prevents many from accepting these two teachings on Mary, but nowhere does scripture refute them.
Even if you could convince someone of the possibility that Mary remained a virgin, was conceived without sin, and was assumed body and soul into heaven they might still insist that there is still no Biblical basis for the Catholic Church to elevate Mary above the rest of mankind. That argument used to trouble me. I could counter that it was a historically Christian thing to do because the early Church practiced devotion to Mary. She was, of course, present on all the important occasions: Jesus birth, Presentation, first miracle, Crucifixion, Ascension and with the apostles on Pentecost Sunday. And it is likely that her input provided the information for the beginning of the Gospels of John and Luke, so she was certainly an important person to the Church.
But, if you have ever had a debate with a show me where it says that in the Bible, kind of person, your only hope of making points is to actually find it in the Bible. So, I was so pleased when I discovered that the Catholic custom of honoring Mary is completely Biblical. The queenship of Mary and the tradition of honoring and going to the queen for intercession, is a tradition rooted in the Old Testament. Im going to borrow heavily from a magazine article that says it far better than I could:
In the monarch of King David, as well as in other ancient kingdoms of the Near East, the mother of the ruling king held an important office in the royal court and played a key part in the process of dynastic succession. In fact the kings mother ruled as queen, not his wife. (Remember back then the kings often had many wives, making their queen ship next to impossible.)
A number of Old Testament passages reflect the important role of the queen mother in the Davidic kingdom. For example, almost every time the
narrative of 1 and 2 Kings introduces a new monarch in Judah, it mentions the kings mother as well, showing the mothers intimate involvement in her royal sons reign...
Her royal office is also described by the prophet Jeremiah, who tells how the queen mother possessed a throne and a crown, symbolic of her position of authority in the kingdom... (Jer. 13:18,20)...
Probably the clearest example of the queen mothers role is that of Bathsheba, wife of David and mother of Solomon...after her son Solomon
assumed the throne and she became queen mother, Bathsheba receives a glorious reception upon meeting with her royal son.
So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the kings mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me. And the king said to her, Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you. (1 Kgs. 2:19-20). 1
In the Bible, the right hand is the place of ultimate honor, ( e.g. Psalm 110, Heb.. 1:13), so the queen sitting at the kings right hand symbolizes sharing in the kings authority and illustrates that she is second only to the king himself. Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-2, is one of the Old Testament prophecies that links the kingship of David with with the future messianic king. Also, Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also. Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel. (Isa. 7:13-14) Then in the New Testament, Matthew 1:23 refers to this prophecy as being fulfilled in Jesus.
Since the oracle is addressed specifically to the Davidic household and concerns the continuation of the dynasty, the young woman bearing forth the royal son would be understood as a queen mother. This has implications for our understanding of Mary. Since the mother of the king always ruled as queen mother, we should expect to find the mother of the messianic king playing the role of the true queen mother in the everlasting Kingdom of God.
...Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the Son of David, who is the true King of the Jews establishing the Kingdom of Heaven. With all this kingly imagery, it should not be surprising to find queen mother themes as well.
...Just as the queen mother was constantly mentioned alongside the Judean kings in 1 and 2 Kings, so Mary is frequently mentioned alongside her royal son, Jesus in Matthews infancy narrative, (Mat. 1:18; 2:11; 13, 14, 20, 21).2
Lukes Gospel also links the kingdom of David very strongly. For instance, the angel Gabriel appeared to a virgin betrothed to a man, of the house of David.(1:27) Again in Luke 1 :31-33, the angel tells Mary her son will be great, called Son of the Most High, And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Marys royal office is made even more explicit in Lukes account of the Visitation. Elizabeth greets Mary with the title the mother of my Lord (Luke 1:43). This title is charged with great queenly significance. In the royal court language of the ancient Near East, the title Mother of my lord was used to address the queen mother of the reigning king (who himself was addressed as my lord; cf., 2 Sam. 24:21) Thus with this title Elizabeth is recognizing the great dignity of Marys role as the royal mother of the king, Jesus.
Finally, Marys queen ship can be seen in the great vision described in Revelation 12: And a great portend appeared in heaven, 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 she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery (Rev 12:1-2) Who is this newborn child? He is described as the messianic king exercising his dominion. In verse 5, the author of Revelation chose the messianic Psalm 2 to describe how this child will rule all the nations with a rod of iron (Rev 12:5, Ps. 2:9) This royal son is taken up to heaven to sit on a throne (Rev. 12:5) and he ushers in the kingdom of God by defeating the devil; Now the kingdom of our God has come, for the accuser has been thrown down (12:10). certainly, this newborn child is the royal Messiah, King Jesus. 3
The argument offered in Sris article may be too complicated for children, but since Marys queenship is so often attacked as unbiblical, I wanted to include a full explanation for parents. However, I explained it to my children quite simply: During the time of David, the queen mother played an important role and was honored along with her son. It was to the queen mother whom the people went with their petitions to be brought to her son, the king. Therefore, keeping in mind that Jesus descended from the house of David and the Bible repeatedly brings out the strong connection, Catholics are merely following the tradition already established and clearly laid out in the Bible.
A lot of Catholic practices relating to Mary, are also Biblically based, for instance, the Hail Mary. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you
(Luke 1:28), Blessed art though among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb (v.42). The next part, Holy Mary comes from, you have found favor with God (v. 30) and Mother of God comes from mother of my Lord (v.43). The rest, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen, is a request to Mary to pray for us.
Surprisingly, devotion to Mary was once very acceptable for Protestant. Anyone reviewing the writings of the biggest fathers of the Reformation can clearly see that, in spite of major disagreement with the Catholic teachings, they shared a very strong devotion to Mary. You may be surprise by the affirmation of some very Catholic beliefs about Mary being put forth by leaders in the Reformation:
Luther, Calvin, and Zwinglini, the three fathers of the Reformation, each affirmed the Catholic doctrines that Mary is the Mother of God and a Perpetual Virgin.
Mary as Mother of God:
Martin Luther: In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such Good things were given her that no one can grasp them...Not only was Mary the mother of Him who is born (in Bethlehem), but of Him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time at the same time man and God. (Weimer, The Works of Luther, English transl. by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v.7, p.572)
John Calvin: It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of His Son, granted her the highest honor...Elizabeth calls 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. (Calvin Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, v. 45, pp.348, 35)
Ulrich Zwingli: It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God. (Zwingli Opera Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, in Evang. Luc., Op. comp., v.6,I,p. 639
Mary as Perpetual Virgin
Luther: 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. Works of Luther, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6, p.510)
Calvin: There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage (Mat 1:25) that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Josephs obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company....And besides this Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. (Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, published 1562)
Zwingli: 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. (Zwinglil Opera, v. 1, p. 424.)4
Catholics continue the devotion to Mary that was present at the time of the Reformation. By honoring Mary, Catholics fulfill Luke 1: 48-49, All generations will call me blessed. We unabashedly call Mary our Blessed Mother. It was not Catholics who began a devotion to Mary. God is the one who heaped unequal honor on a mere human being by inviting her to be the mother of God. We are redeemed by the blood of her Son. Jesus became flesh and blood of her flesh and blood. Our earthly mother gives us life, while Mary, our heavenly mother gave us supernatural life by consenting to the plan God laid before her, to give birth to our Savior and in turn bring Him to us. She gave birth to Jesus for our salvation.
Jesus, our brother, told us to follow Him. If God has so honored Mary as the daughter of God the Father, mother of God the Son, and spouse of God the Holy Spirit, how could we do otherwise? We are following Him by honoring Mary.
We look with reverence on everyone and everything associated with Jesus Christ. People make trips to the Holy Land in droves for this very reason; to walk on the same land Jesus once walked. If lifeless soil is such an attraction, how much more should we hold in esteem the living souls of those closely associated with Jesus? And who could have been closer to Him than His own mother? She carried Him in her womb, nursed and clothed Him, guided his first steps and cared for him into adulthood. The highest amount
of holiness would be required.
We build monuments to great people of much lesser stature than Mary (i.e., the Washington monument, the Lincoln Memorial, schools, streets, holidays, etc.). By honoring a great American, do we dishonor God? Of course not. Anyone with qualms about honoring Mary should consider these inconsistencies. Remember, we honor Mary, we do not worship her. Her goodness is only a reflection of Gods greatness.
One last aspect regarding the Blessed Mother that has not been brought up thus far, are the many apparitions and messages of the Blessed Mother that has been reported throughout the history of the Church. I do not include this in the main argument because it is not required of Catholics to believe in any apparition of Mary. The Church itself is very slow and conservative about giving a nod of approval to any claim of Mary appearing on earth. After much investigation, the Church does sometimes acknowledge that such a supernatural event has occurred. Many miracles and conversions often result through these apparitions and many sites have been visited by hundreds of thousands of Pilgrims such as those at Fatima, Portugal, and Lourdes, France.
Pope Urban VIII stated his opinion that, In cases like this, it is better to believe than not to believe, for if you believe and it is proven true, you will be happy that you have believed because Our Holy Mother asked it. If you believe and it should be proven false, you will receive all blessings as if it had been true, because you believed it to be true. However, in cases where the visions contradict Church teaching and are condemned by the Church as false, and not from God, they should clearly be avoided.
In vaguely related news, whenever I can steal a little time from the most Thomistic of our current crop of Dominicans, he and I are doing a "compare and contrast" on "blessed assurance" and hope.
Canticle Ephesians 1 God the Saviour Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us, in Christ, with every spiritual blessing in heaven.
In love, he chose us before the creation of the world,
to be holy and spotless in his sight.
He predestined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ,
simply because it pleased him to do so.
This he did for the praise of the glory of his grace,
of his free gift of us in his Beloved,
in whose blood we have gained redemption,
and the forgiveness of our sins.
This he did according to the riches of his grace,
which he gave us in abundance,
with all wisdom and discernment,
revealing to us the mysteries of his will,
because it pleased him to do so.
In this action he has planned, in the fulfilment of time,
to bring all things together in Christ,
from the heavens and from the earth.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
I mention all this to suggest one of my hunches, that many of the disagreements are not as crisp and clear as they seem to be at first sight.
So for an individual it may seem that the work done by the messenger that gave us the gospel is just as important as what Mary did and Paul did in writing about it and even as what Jesus did on the Cross.I can't imagine anyone carefully and thoughtfully asserting "just as important". As I thought about this discussion, I remembered the 16th century physician, Ambroise Pare, who said, "I treat, God heals." I'm trusting you enough to think that you won't think I'm bragging when I say that on more than one occasion I have been told, "You saved my life," or "You saved his/her life." Now to me this is very rich: First, I didn't/couldn't create the life that needed saving. (I guess one of the reasons I like sailing is that it is always clear that the boat moves because of the wind, and the wind is not my doing; and even if I had built the boat and woven and sewed the sails, and if I understood the laws of hydrodynamics, it would still be the wind, over which I have no control and for which I can take no credit, that moved the boat. Grace!)
And when I actually formed what Kant would call "The subjective principle of volition", as in "Holy mackerel! I've got to help that guy! He's in trouble!" there was never any perception of choice or any question. It was more like being possessed: one minute I'm trying to swallow the awful food the Red Cross gave the volunteers, the next moment I'm jamming my fist into somebody's diaphragm, and I hardly know how I got out of my seat ....
(And, I should add that whenI was little, I used to pray that one day I could save somebody's life.)
So I'm very, highly, deeply, thoroughly (add your own adverbs here), aware of being a mere instrument and any sense of credit or importance, if somebody says you have to think about that, seems ridiculous. More than that, I am HAPPY to be a 'mere' instrument. I cannot bear, am not, on my own, good enough to own, any kind of responsibility. I don't want any credit. If I want anything it's for the people I "saved" to thank God and to understand to the best of their capacity, that it was, is, and always will be God who saves.
Can you imagine a scalpel bragginbecause he was used by a great surgeon? Ridiculous -- In the same family as the beggar who boasts because his benefactor is generous.
I'm quite serious. Ithink all I "want" from the experience is the "credit" of having been there so that I am believed when I say,"This is what I thought and how I felt."
AND just to put the cherry on top, I thank God, not only for putting me there and getting me the training and all, but also for driving into my thicker than average cranium that all Glory is His and for making me rejoice at that.
I may be a froward ass, but even an ass can happen, by God's grace, to be in the right stable at the right time and to see a miraculous birth, and maybe even be lucky enough to carry the wonderful mother and more wonderful infant and be led by the wonderful man wherever they want to go.
If the bible said of Mary that she is all that RCC Marianism said, then I'd believe it and teach it to my kids. If the bible said that a maternal dimension was needed for my faith than I would teach it as presented in the bible. Reasoning, external to bible teaching, that this "maternal dimension" is needed leads to all that is wrong with Marianism and with the Mormon version of a "maternall dimension" whom they call the Heavenly Mother.
Man has a natural urge to the maternal, and it always leads to paganism.