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.
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.