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Monday, December 5, 2011

“Behold Your Mother” (Jn. 19:27)

Catholics worship Mary” is a lie always used by anti-Catholics against the Church. This false accusation was propagated for centuries to deny the role of Mary in the history of salvation. “Mary is human! Why do you pray to her when we can pray directly to God?”, that is what they ask.

This image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, was painted by St. Luke. It was carried by St. Thomas the apostle to India about one thousand, nine hundred and fifty years ago. Today, Mary continues to be venerated through this painting. It is kept at the main altar in the Church of Mount St. Thomas in Madras, India, the place where St. Thomas was martyred for the Catholic Faith. We see that devotion to Mary goes back to the time of the apostles, who were personally devoted to the Mother of God. The apostles, wherever they went, encouraged all the disciples to honor Mary as their Mother because Jesus gave Her to be the Mother of us all.

International pilgrim Virgin Statue of Mother Mary of Fatima wept in 1946 in the Cova on a pilgrimage to Lisbon.

This miracle happened in Naju, Korea on April 2, 1991. The statue of our Lady was found weeping tears of blood. In the history of Catholic Church, hundreds of Mother Mary statues are reported weeping tears! She appears from heaven to guide and teach the children whom Jesus entrusted to Her in Calvary.

Basis of Marian Devotion

Popes or any official teaching of the Church, never said to worship Mary. Catholics keep great devotion to Mary because of her unique role in the redemptive work with her son. She is not an ordinary mother. In the birth of a human child, both father and mother cooperate with God to give the child a human flesh. In the case of Jesus,  he received body and blood only from his mother. When Eve was taken from Adam,  he called her “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Here, Mary can call Jesus more rightly “flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.” Flesh of Jesus is the material flesh of Mary, and blood of Jesus is the material blood of Mary. When she said “Fiat,” this young girl of Judea was surrendering herself to God’s plan. Abraham became the Father of Nations because of his great faith and total surrender. Here because of her total surrender and extraordinary faith, Mary became the Mother of new kingdom that was established by Jesus. After all, she is the most precious gift we receive from the deathbed of Jesus. From the cross when Jesus uttered, “Behold your mother” (Jn. 19:27). She became not only the mother of John, but of all whom he redeemed through that crucifixion. She is the mother of the Church – the mystical body of Jesus.

“Catholics love Mary too much” is an objection against Marian devotion. We can never love Mary more than Jesus loved her. Almighty God was so obedient to her for thirty years. She shred his suffering in Calvary and prayed together with  the apostles for the Holy Spirit. Still, now, it is she who comes from heaven to guide her children from time to time.  The first miracle of Jesus happened just because of her intercession, though it was not  ‘the time’ of Jesus for that. The only homily she ever said as it is written in the Bible is “Do what he tells you to do” (Jn. 2:5).

Mary Had Other Children?

The Catholic belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary was questioned by fundamentalists showing the Biblical passage (Mt. 12:46) which refer ‘Mother and  brothers’ of Jesus, and (Mk. 6:3) which says Jesus as brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. It also speaks of ‘sisters’ of Jesus. The fact is, in Greek, the word brothers (adelphoi) and sisters (adelpha) were commonly used to denote cousin or kinsman. Aramaic and semitic languages never distinguish between a blood brother, sister or a cousin. ‘Adelphos’ is a plural word that was in use at the time of Jesus for a community based on ‘identity of origin.’ (Ref: Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words) In the Council of Constantinople  II (553-554), we see two references about Mary as ‘Ever Virgin.’ Before the Bible was formed, all early Christians accepted this truth. St. Jerome (formator of Vulgate) 345,  Augustine  354, Athanasius of Alexandria 293, are some of them. Even the protestant reformer Martin Luther admits it: “It is an article of faith that Mary is the Mother of the Lord and still a virgin… Christ came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” (The works of Luther by Weimer, Pg. 510) (All the ancient Orthodox Eastern Churches which are expelled from Catholic Church, also believe this)

Immaculate Conception of Mary is Biblically Supported

By Immaculate Conception, we believed God preserved Mary, from her birth, as “sinless.” “All men  have sinned and lost the grace of God” (Rom. 3:23). “Through Adam all men became sinful” (Rom. 5:12). Christian belief holds we are freed from this bondage of sin through baptism and faith. But without receiving the baptism, Mary had the fullness of God’s grace as Angel Gabriel revealed “Hail Mary, full of grace” (Lk. 1:28). The Greek word ‘Charitoo’ which means ‘fullness of grace’ or ‘highly favored with grace,’ is used only two times in the Bible. 1. Before Christ’s redemption, in the salutation of Gabriel  2. After Christ’s redemption (Eph. 1:6) ‘as Christ's grace given to us.’ It shows that the fruits of redemption were given to Mary in advance; she became “highly favored with grace.” The words of the angel ‘full of grace’ itself shows she is sinless.
Gen. 3:15 – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; she will strike at your head.” From early centuries of Christianity, this was considered as a prophecy about Mary and her son Jesus (Iraneus of Lyons 140 A.D.). This enmity is nothing but mutual hatred between Mary and sin, between Christ and sin. It can never be true if Mary also is stained by sin. As she was the woman foretold in Genesis, Jesus from the cross mentioned Mary as “Woman.”

In the Old Testament, there are many evidences that God prepared the mothers for the purity of their child who are the ‘selected one’ of God. God asked the mother of Samson to be pure (Jud. 13:3-4). Manoah was asked to keep the wife pure (Jud. 13:13-14). How much more God is interested to keep the state of His own Mother’s womb?

The early Fathers of the Church, whom we have to trust to know the genuine nature of the Bible and those who formed the Canons of the Bible, all defended this early Christian faith.  Iraneus of Lyons AD 140 is the one who wrote the term ‘Immaculate’ and ‘most pure’ for Mary.  St. Augustine of Hippo (AD395) wrote: “Mary; free from original sin.”

It was Pope Pius IX who proclaimed this early belief of Christians as official (Ex Cathedra) in AD 1854.  In 1858, Blessed Virgin Mary herself appeared to a young girl Bernadette in Lourdes and revealed:  “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The Biblical Basis of the Assumption of Mary

The assumption  of Mary is based on the faith in her Immaculate Conception.  As she was sinless – ‘full of grace’ at the end of her earthly life – she was received body and soul into heavenly glory.  The Bible says “death is the wages of sin” (Rom 6:23).  “Sin came to this world through one person….thus death came to all” (Rom 5:12).  As Mary was sinless, she need not accept the wages of sin.  She destroyed sin as she is the ‘woman’ who struck  at the head of  Satan” (Gen 3:15).   Freedom of Mary from the original sin frees her from its consequences also.  It is to fulfill the prophecies about her in Gen 3:15.  In the early Christian centuries, this was accepted as a revealed truth.  Even some apocryphal books narrate “The body of the Mother of God should never lie in sepulcher.”

Mary: The Mother of God?

“God has a mother? Is she older than God himself?”  Sometimes we hear this accusation of Catholic opponents from their TV channels.  When we call her “The Mother of God,” it means Mary is the mother of Jesus who is the incarnation of God.  A mother who is created by her son.  The masterpiece of God’s creation.  A creature with ‘the fullness of grace.’  The more we praise Mary, the more we praise God.  An attack to Mary is an attack to God.  When we insult the masterpiece of an artist, we are attacking the artist himself.  When we criticize the music, we indirectly criticize the musician.  In fact, even the protestant reformers Luther and Calvin considered Mary as the “Divine Mother of God.'

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