This week we continue on the journey in understanding our Holy Mother and why the Catholic Church has such a special place for her in our catholic faith.
We learned about the four Marian dogmas and what they signify for Catholicism:
(For the uninitiated, a ‘dogma’ is an article of faith revealed by God, which the magisterium of the Church presents as necessary to be believed if one freely chooses to be a Catholic.)
1. Divine Motherhood
“Mary’s divine motherhood was proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Various names are used to describe Mary’s role as mother of Jesus. She is called “Mother of God” which translates the more accurately stated greek term “Theotokos” or “Birthgiver of God.”
The Council of Ephesus (431) attributed to Mary the title, Mother of God. This needs to be read against the Council’s declaration that in Christ there are two natures, one divine and one human, but only one person. Indeed, according to the Council the holy virgin is the Mother of God since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh.”
In short, we hold Mary is such high respect and regard simply because she was the special chosen one to bring Christ into our world. She cannot simply have been “a vessel” for Jesus’ birth, or chosen randomly out of the millions of women in our world, because the weight of being Christ’s mother was placed on her shoulders. She holds the title of ‘Mother of God’, because she gave birth to the divine. When we proclaim and believe this, we are essentially saying that we believe in both of Jesus’ natures; the divine and the earthly.
2. Perpetual Virginity
“The expression perpetual virginity, ever-virgin, or simply “Mary the Virgin” refers primarily to the conception and birth of Jesus. From the first formulations of faith, especially in baptismal formulas or professions of faith, the Church professed that Jesus Christ was conceived without human seed by the power of the Holy Spirit only.
Although never explicated in detail, the Catholic Church holds as dogma that Mary was and is Virgin before, in and after Christ’s birth. It stresses thus the radical novelty of the Incarnation and Mary’s no less radical and exclusive dedication to her mission as mother of her Son, Jesus Christ.”
To many non-believers, it seems somewhat inconceivable that Mary would remain a virgin after the birth of her son Jesus. Wouldn’t it be more logical to believe that she would have lived like any ordinary woman in Jerusalem, once her mission was ‘complete’? Instead, the Catholic Church maintains that Mary was a perpetual virgin, even after Jesus’ birth. In this act of keeping herself chaste, Mary demonstrates her absolute commitment to God and keeps true to her word to let the will of God be done to her.
To Mary, her mission did not just stop at the act of giving birth to Jesus. Her mission was to consume her entire life, her entire person, in being the mother of God, and no other commitment on earth would compare to that.
3. Immaculate Conception
“Through highlighting a privilege of Mary, the Immaculate Conception in fact stresses the dignity and holiness required to become “Mother of God.” The privilege of the Immaculate Conception is the source and basis for Mary’s all-holiness as Mother of God.
More specifically, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception states “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was kept free of every stain of original sin.”
Original sin provokes disorderliness in thought and behavior, especially with regard to the primacy of God’s presence in our life, in declaring Mary immaculately conceived, the Church sees in Mary one who never denied God the least sign of love. Thus, the dogma declares that from her beginning Mary was exceptionally holy and in constant union with the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit.
As the consequence of the absence of original sin, Mary’s life was permanently and intimately related to God, and thus she is the all-holy.”
In God’s great design, He had plans for Mary to be absolutely perfect in every way even before she was born! In preparation for the special responsibility that she would hold as Jesus’ mother, she was immaculately conceived, and every single piece of her was made to love God and be fitting of a woman who would be the mother of God.
Just imagine, if you were God, who hates sin and has the power to fashion everything in the universe, would you not create a perfect and sinless person to be your mother? Why would He create anyone less than perfect? As a result of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was the perfect disciple of Jesus.
4. The Assumption
“This marian dogma was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 on his Encyclical Munificentissimus Deus.
A distinction needs to be made between Ascension and Assumption. Jesus Christ, Son of God and Risen Lord, ascended into heaven, a sign of divine power. Mary, on the contrary, was elevated or assumed into heaven by the power and grace of God.
The dogma states that “Mary, Immaculate Mother of God ever Virgin, after finishing the course of her life on earth, was taken up in body and soul to heavenly glory.”
Though this dogma has no direct basis in scripture, it may be understood as the logical conclusion of Mary’s vocation on earth, and the way she lived her life in union with God and her mission. The assumption may be seen as a consequence of Divine Motherhood. Being through, with, and for her Son on earth, it would seem fitting for Mary to be through, with, and for her Son in heaven, too.
Glorified in body and soul, Mary is already in the state that will be ours after the resurrection of the dead.”
Mary’s Assumption gives us hope that if we live in union with Christ and are faithful to Him all of our lives, we would be worthy enough and ‘earn’ our place to be with our Lord at the end of days, just as Mary is with Him now. Just as Mary lived her life so completely for Christ, we, as his faithful should emulate her and live our lives for Him as well.
Mary was truly the perfect disciple of Christ. She was made that way to be worthy of her special role as Jesus’ mother. Her journey on earth is a true testament of living out the faith completely and her Assumption the proof that the riches that matter are in heaven with our Lord. How else can we emulate Mary in our daily lives and strive to be that perfect disciple for Christ?
May we soldier on in our struggles with an absolute faith in God just like Mary, and may our holy Mother intercede for us in our quest. In times of blessing and sorrow, let us be like the holy virgin and say, “…I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word. (Luke 1:38)”
Further information can be found here.