Non-Catholic Christians on Twitter ask me this question a lot: “So why do you Catholics worship Mary?”
And I answer: “We do not worship Mary.”
Non-Catholic: “You sure do seem to.”
Me: “But we don’t.”
NC: “I think you do.”
Me: “And I know we don’t.”
This can go on for as long as we can both stand it. Which usually isn’t very long. So let me address it here: The Catholic Church does not consider the Blessed Virgin Mary to be someone to be worshiped. She is someone to honor, someone we have great, deep, abiding affection for, someone who knew and knows the Lord better than any other human person alive.
This reminds me of another thing that will come up at some point in the conversation. I’ll tweet that Mary is the highest human person in all of creation.
And some non-Catholic from somewhere will immediately tweet this reply: “Nah uh, Jesus is, you idolater!”
And I’ll reply: “Au contraire. Because Jesus was not and is not a human person.”
And the non-Catholic will yell at me in ALL CAPS that, “Yes, He was, too, a human person.”
And I will reply: “Nope, Jesus was and is a Divine Person, much higher than any human person, including the Blessed Virgin Mary.” At which point the non-Catholic begins to feel better about this whole conversation.
Until I continue: “But she is much higher than any other human person.” At which point the non-Catholic either yells at me again or throws up his hands and stomps away, convinced that I am so lost in Mary worship that I can’t see it and cannot be helped.
But this point about personhood—about what kind of persons Jesus and Mary are—is foundational. Get either of these points wrong and you get the whole Christian idea, the whole Christian reality, wrong. You can see how important this is when the next point comes up: “Why do you Catholics think Mary is the Mother of God? Don’t you know she’s just a human and a sinner like everybody else?” (There are really two points here to take up, the title Mother of God and whether or not Mary ever sinned. This post is only concerned with the first point.)
I know some people think this is a valid argument, but it undercuts the divinity of Jesus (not His actual divinity, which is unaffected by us, but our understanding of it and all that flows from it). That’s why it was taken up by the Church at a council hundreds of years ago, more than a thousand years ago even, at Ephesus in 431 AD.
“…in order to respond to attacks on the divinity of Jesus, Christian bishops from around the world gathered at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 and solemnly proclaimed that Christ was truly God and that Mary was therefore the ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos, Greek, God-bearer).”Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary, (p. 90).
Not Mother of God the Father, not Mother of God the Holy Spirit, not Mother of the Trinity, but Mother of God the Son, Jesus, the One Who became man in the Incarnation. We do not think that Mary is God or almost God or anywhere near God at all, except that we do know that she loves God very much and she wants to be near Him. She doesn’t want to BE Him, she just wants to be NEAR Him.
Many non-Catholics will ignore this Council, though, wanting every proof or demonstration to come straight from the only source and authority they will accept. Does that ruin our case? By no means. Look at Luke 1:43.
“And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”Elizabeth, to Mary, Luke 1:43, Douay-Rheims Version, public domain.
Here “Elizabeth’s use of ‘Lord’ refers to Jesus’ kingship and his divine identity.” (Pitre, page 91) So there’s a biblical basis for the Catholic teaching that Mary is the Mother of God. Plus the actual title of Mary given by Ephesus is Theotokos from the Greek, which comes from Isaiah and Matthew 1:23:
“A virgin shall conceive and bear (Greek tiktō) a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel,” which means, God (Greek theos) with us. (Matthew 1:23).Pitre, page 92.
So are Catholics worshiping Mary, according her too high a place when we call her the Mother of God? By no means. If we thought less of her, we would therefore think less of her Son, Jesus. And surely that is not the result that non-Catholic Christians are after.
We’ll be getting deeper into the subject of Mary as the series continues. After May is over I won’t be writing about the Blessed Mother every day, but I am planning to continue delving into the books I’ve begun sharing here. Stay tuned. Thank you for visiting and reading. God bless you and may His peace be always with you.
This has been a post in the Something About Mary Every Day In May series.
- Pitre, Brant James. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary (p. 90). The Crown Publishing Group. Paperback. Kindle.
- Special right now, May 23 2019. (I don’t know how long this will last but I grabbed a copy today. Just saying.) Sri, Edward. Praying the Rosary Like Never Before: Encounter the Wonder of Heaven and Earth. Servant. Kindle Edition.
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