Mother Mary

A  reader has asked where support for the Catholic Marian doctrines of Our Lady’s perpetual virginity,  the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven comes from. He doesn’t say, but I suspect he is a Protestant who is considering the Catholic faith.

I think he needs to read Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate by my friend David Gustafson and Mrs Longenecker’s favorite author. It is a complicated matter because it touches on the core and the whole of the Christian faith.

However, the short answer is this: The Marian dogmas come from our reflection on the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus Christ is God made man. In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son born of a woman. (Gal.4.4). The Son of God took his human flesh from his mother. Therefore that humanity had to be sinless. Mary is called ‘full of grace’ (Luke 1.28) If sin is the absence or lack of God’s glory and grace (all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God) then if Mary was ‘full of grace’ she was not lacking in God’s grace and was therefore sinless. When did that sinlessness begin? It must have begun when her life began. Thus we believe that by a special act of grace (empowered by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross) Mary was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her life. This is what we call the Immaculate Conception.

Mary continued in this Christ-won perfection throughout her life, and part of this perpetual purity is the fact that she remained a virgin her whole life. This we call the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin. One of the results of original sin is death and bodily corruption. As she was preserved from original sin she was therefore delivered from the death and bodily corruption which is the result of this sin. Therefore she was taken up into heaven at the end of her earthly life and this we call the Glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Anyway, that’s the short version. Read the book for a more detailed debate.

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  • christine

    Great information that all Catholics need to know. Thanks for taking the time to explain. Wish you could do more of this every now and then.

  • Alice C. Linsley

    Fr. Stephen Freeman posted on this topic today also. Read it here:

  • kkollwitz

    I have this book & can recommend it.

  • David

    Hey! That was me! Thanks for the thoughtful response. I just put your book in my cart at Amazon. I look forward to reading it soon. Your suspicions were correct. I am a Protestant considering Catholicism. But it's much worse: I'm a Presbyterian minister. The dogma as you explained makes logical sense, when you accept the underlying assumptions, but it's still a big stretch for me, if the only scriptural warrant is that Mary was "full of grace". I eagerly look forward to your book arriving. Thanks again.

  • jake

    "When did that sinlessness begin? It must have begun when her life began." It "must"? Hmm. Aquinas didn't think so. In fact, Aquinas's Mariology would be rejected by the Catholic Church today. I find it interesting how the Fathers of the Dominican Province, when translating the Summa Theologiae, fall all over themselves attempting to justify Aquinas's rejection of present Catholic dogma. But even if one holds to the immaculate conception, I believe this is better stated as a matter of "fittingness" that "must". God could not have done it any other way? Yes, he could, so it's not a "must." It is a fittingness to say Mary was immaculately conceived. David, once you understand the rationale behind "fittingness," you will realize how Catholic dogma becomes "developed," for better or worse. Unfortunately, much of the Catholic Church's dogmatic (de fide) pronouncements on Mary and the Papacy occurred in a time when, in the face of modernism and Protestantism, the Catholic church sought to define itself. It was no longer a "faith seeking understand," but rather an attempt to find a self-identity (as I see it). Papal infallibility, Mariological doctrine – this did it. As much as I wish evangelical Protestants would have a much higher view of Mary than they do (and should), the Catholic Church has abandoned the flexibility it once had on these teachings by defining them de fide, and I believe for the wrong reasons.

  • shadowlands

    Regarding Mary, I would simply suggest to any non-Catholic, to pray and ask Jesus, if it be His Will, to introduce them to His Mother, in the appropriate way for them. Then sit back and wait, expectantly ( this prayer works, dramatically, in my experience!). I also suggest this for Catholics seeking a deeper connection with the Mother of Christ. It struck me, not so long ago, that the words delivered to Mary from the angel were a direct quote from God the Father. I repeat them often, knowing this, as I pray my Rosary. Knowing that I am speaking God the Father's words, I mean. I don't know why, but that is incredible to the inside of my head.I used to attend a Presbyterian Church in Innerleithen, Peebleshire, whilst staying there for a few weeks, years ago. Boy, do they know how to deliver a sermon!! Great preachers. I also used to go to Mass, much to the confusion of the Minister and the local Priest (Mr Wilson and Father Mc Cann) if memory serves me correctly.

  • chimakuni

    Another great book – actually, a trilogy is called Mary, Mother of the Son, Modern Myths and Ancient Truth by Mark Shea. I have just completed the first volume and it is fantastically written. Mark Shea throws humor into the mix and the book is never dull.David, I pray you well – I too sought out questions about Mary – and I have found her to be a very loving Mother – a wonderful prayer partner and a great listener.

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  • Mary

    Thank you for the interesting article on our Mother Mary.

    Remembering back in my bible studies, I seem to recall that Mary was born immaculate because she was miraculously “conceived” for God’s purpose. Her parents, Joachim and Anne, prayed for a child for many years, but Anne was barren and was well beyond child bearing years when God intervened. He had chosen and given them Mary so that He could “In the fullness of time, send forth His Son, to be born of a women”. Galatians 4:4. Obviously our Lord does not leave anything to chance. He picked out the time and place, but more important, God created the perfect woman to be born to carry out His plan for His Son.

    I have not given too much thought to perpetual virginity as I have not given too much thought to the idea that Jesus was married either. This is to say that, firstly, I am certain that Jesus was not married because when you are one with God the Father ALL of your needs are met. There is no where else you would rather be than in the constant presence of God. No mortal can compete with God’s perfection, love, joy, mercy, devotion, understanding, forgiveness, faithfulness, promises, etc., etc.. Also, Jesus was here for a purpose and He knew exactly what that was and it did not include doing it with a wife.

    And, secondly, Mary, Jesus’s mother, started life very differently than all other humans, conceived a child through a process used only by God for His own purpose, was betrothed (married in that time) to a man who would be her guardian and not a true husband, raised a child like no other child and spent her life following the will of God in that child and no one else. In The Protoevangelium of James it says that “the High Priest called to ‘Zechariah! Zechariah! Go out and assemble the widowers of the people and let them bring each his rod, and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be. . . . And Joseph [was chosen]. . . . And the priest said to Joseph, ‘You have been chosen by lot to take into your keeping the Virgin of the Lord.’ But Joseph refused, saying, ‘I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl’” (ibid., 8–9).

    Origen says:
    “The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity” (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).

    In conclusion, Dwight, and in a long winded manner, I agree with our Catholic Church and its doctrine on Mary – Perpetual Virgin and Mother of God. The evidence is overwhelming if one really wishes to look for it. :>)