Mariology part 1
by John Thomas Lowe
As a protestant, I must say that I have never seen this word before - Mariology - and I am struggling with beginning the study of Mariology – How to start? Will my comments be relative? How can I help others and myself gain knowledge and understanding of Mariology?
On this website, we frequently deal with very intricate apologetical issues relating to Catholicism; the proper understanding of the Greek in the phrase "works of the law" used by St. Paul; specific rebuttals to accusations that Catholics believe the Virgin Mary died for our sins [my objection to this corrupt, fraudulent catholic view; a defense of the concept of Apostolic Succession against attacks that the teaching is contrary to St. Paul's complaints about disciples boasting that they are from Paul or Apollos. Sometimes the focus of our articles presupposes that our readership already possesses advanced knowledge of the points of dispute between Catholics and Protestants. Today, let us go back to basics and examine a very fundamental obstacle to Protestant reunion with the Church: the issue of Marian's devotion to Catholic spirituality. For many Protestants, every other Catholic teaching can be accepted with the proper education and the working of grace. However, aversion to the Catholic veneration of Mary is so firmly ingrained in Protestant Tradition as to be extremely difficult to overcome for some Protestants myself included, even when they positively will join the Catholic Church. Objection to this doctrine:
1. It is not taught in the Bible.
2. Jesus did not teach it to the disciples.
3. Mary was not made to suffer for my sins or yours.
4. She is not identified as God's daughter didn't God say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased".
5. Mary did not return from the dead as Jesus did.
6. Jesus is recorded many times praying to His Father. He calls Him Father; Mary never addressed Him as "Father."
7. Mary did not tell anyone that their sins were forgiven, as Jesus did.
8. Mary is not said to have healed anyone. However, Jesus healed many.
9. Mary is never said to come from the Father as Jesus did;
10. While hanging on the Cross, Jesus instructed the Apostle John to care for Mary as he would his mother. Should He have asked the same thing of God?
I could give many examples of the objections to the doctrine of Mariology, but that is not necessary; instead, I will trust my future to Jesus, not Mary. He is my Savior! Lord!
It is impossible to treat every aspect of Mariology in an article like this; in many places, our treatment of the issue will be superficial and refer the reader to other sources. We will progress along the outline used in this article.
Does it say we are to offer "veneration" Worship, Adoration, Reverence, honor, respect to the Blessed Virgin Mary? She was a good and honored woman to be chosen as the earthly mother of Jesus. Understanding Marian's veneration depends largely upon understanding the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. The Communion of Saints is the truth that the Church exists in three states - the Church Militant, Church Suffering, and Church Triumphant encompassing those believers on earth, in purgatory a purely Catholic concept, and in heaven that the Church remains one despite its existence in three states.
Therefore, all the members of the Church are capable of sharing in spiritual goods and graces. The fact of physical death is no barrier to this; just as Christ overcame death by His perfect love, so in Christ, death is no longer a barrier for the believer. We can pray for one another on this earth and in the Spirit, pray for those in purgatory, and solicit the prayers of those members of the Church already in heaven, whether they are saints or angels. The interrelationship of the Church in her three states is illustrated aptly in this picture:
St. Thomas Aquinas explains the doctrine this way:
"We must also know that not only the efficacy effectiveness of the Passion of Christ is communicated to us, but also the merits of His life; moreover, all the good that all the Saints have done is communicated to all who are in the state of grace because all are one: "I am a partaker of all them that fear Thee." Ps 118: 63 Therefore, he who lives in charity participates in all the good that is done in the entire world; but more especially does he benefit for whom some good work is done; since one man certainly can satisfy another. Thus, through this communion, we receive two benefits. One is that the merits of Christ are communicated to all; the other is that the good of one is communicated to another."
An excellent introductory book that helps Protestants understand the Communion of Saints is Patrick Madrid's work Any Friend of God's is a Friend of Mine. However, it is easiest to see the Communion of Saints as the practical implications of Christ's teaching that the Church is one and that this oneness is the very oneness that the Son and the Father share (cf. John 17:21). Death cannot disrupt this oneness any more than death was able to keep Christ in the tomb.
Veneration and Adoration
When dealing with the distinct types of communication, the Church has between its three states; it is important to correct some terminology. When we petition for the intercession of the saints in heaven, we are venerating them. This is because our petition is, in a sense, a two-fold act: in the first place, we rejoice in what God's grace has fashioned in the saint and honor the saint for their virtues; second, by what God has made of that saint in grace, and by the union we have with them in the Communion of Saints, we ask their intercession for a particular intention. So members of the Church Militant (us on earth) can communicate in grace with the members of the Church Triumphant (those in heaven). We do not recognize them as the final source of our blessings but as a means to obtain graces from God. Furthermore, we understand that to the degree that they are authorized to answer our petitions, that in itself is a work of God's grace, that it is God Himself who has positioned them in that position of authority.
Therefore, the veneration is not total but relative. This relative veneration has gone by dulia (in Roman Catholic theology). The reverence accorded to saints and angels in Catholic Tradition is best defined as the reverence due to saints and angels. This is to be distinguished from the adoration which is due to God alone and which goes by the name latreia, which is best defined as an act of worship offered to God in acknowledgment of His supreme perfection and dominion and the creature's dependence upon Him. So the honor accorded a saint is different from the honor accorded to God in degree and kind.
Therefore, any reverenced, venerated, honored, or petitioned saint is done relative (dulia), while the honor due to God (latreia) is absolute.
The rationale of Marian Devotion: Divine Maternity
So it is a virtuous and praiseworthy thing for the members of the Church on earth to have recourse to the prayers of the saints in heaven and the graces obtained from there. Marian's consecration is nothing other than the same principle applied to one saint (the Blessed Virgin Mary) under her special relationship and intercessory power with God.
However, does the Blessed Virgin possess some particular relation and intercessory power before God different than any other saint or angel?
We will not debate the propriety of calling Mary "Mother of God." Catholic Tradition answers positively because her connection with Christ is fundamentally distinct from any other creature. While all believers are united to Christ in the Holy Spirit, Mary alone had an accord with Christ that was physical. She physically bore God the Son in her body for nine months, nourished Him at her breast, raised Him in her home, and remained with Him His entire life to the Cross. No other person had such close contact with our Lord as Mary did. Her relationship with Him was sincerely motherly, and since Christ was God the Son, truly is Mary called Mother of God.
Mary was titled the earthly mother of God the Son. Every other privilege the Church attributes to her flows from this fact of her Divine Motherhood and is merely an extrapolation of this important doctrine.