Monday, July 2, 2012

Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Virgin Mother Mary
photo by Shannon Gilbride

Scores of women wished to be the chosen mother of the Messiah, but that honor was reserved for the Virgin Mary, and she has been venerated by Roman Catholics around the world for two millennia. But how did Jesus Christ of Nazareth view His mother?  Did he regard her as a deity to be worshiped?

Virgin Mary Was Not a Virgin Forever

Some people believe Mary was always a virgin, but the Holy Bible indicates that isn't true. The mother of the Messiah had to be a virgin in order to fulfill ancient prophecy (Isaiah 7:14), as the biological father of Jesus was the Holy Spirit and not any earthly man. Thus the reason for her virginity makes perfect sense, and her godly husband Joseph didn't consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born (Matt. 1:25). Mary and Joseph subsequently had more children, daughters and also sons named James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matt. 13:55-56).

As His mother, it's generally believed that Mary would have been the closest person to Jesus, and she treasured and pondered in her heart many things about Him (Luke 2:19,33,51).
  • The angel Gabriel's personal visit, telling her about her upcoming pregnancy with the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38).
  • Her cousin Elizabeth, already pregnant with John the Baptist, told Mary "when the voice of our greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:44, RSV)."
  • The shepherds who came to the manger to see the baby, who had been alerted by angels (Luke 2:16).
  • Simeon's amazing words (Luke 2:25-32).
  • Anna the prophetess' words (Luke 2:38).
  • Watching the visiting Magi bow down and worship her son as she accepted their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).
  • When she found 12-year-old Jesus in the temple courts, after three days of worrying, and he said to her, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house (Luke 2:49)?"

Saint Mary Mother of God
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At one point, Jesus was traveling from one town to another, teaching people about the gospel, and a large crowd gathered. His mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near because of all the people. When told that his family wanted to talk with him, Jesus responded, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice (Luke 8:19-21)." Jesus did not bring his mother up to the front, or elevate her to his side so the people could pray to or idolize her. Instead, he told the crowd that responsive believers were his mother and His brothers (Mark 3:34-35). This was not an insult to Mary, but a demonstration of His supremacy and of her placement in His kingdom.

A woman listening to Jesus felt compelled to call out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!" Jesus' response is worth noting because it would have been the perfect opportunity to validate the veneration of Mary if that had been His plan. He could have etched it in the sacred scriptures for all time. Instead, he humanized His mother and did not sanction her worship. He said to the woman, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it (Luke 11:27-28)."

Our Lady Queen of Heaven

The last book in the Holy Bible, the Revelation of St. John or Apocalypse, describes a great and wondrous sign in heaven of a woman crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the sun and standing with the moon under her feet (Apocalypse 12:1-6). Many statues depict this awesome woman as Mary. In Apocalypse 12:5, she bears the Christ child, and while many readers assume this awe-inspiring woman to be Mother Mary, a more likely interpretation is that she represents the nation of Israel, the Jewish people. Israel was often described in the Old Testament as the Lord Jehovah's wife (Isaiah 54, Jeremiah 3, Hosea 2). Jesus was born from the Jewish nation, and the twelve stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Immaculate Mary

The worship of Mary is rooted in the belief in the Immaculate Conception, the idea that Mary was immune from the original sin of Adam. However, the Catholic Encyclopedia concedes, "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma (of the Immaculate Conception) can be brought forward from Scripture." Yet the Holy Bible is the foundation of all Christian dogma. Surely, if the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception were true, the Holy Bible would clearly say so, but there is not a hint of it. Perhaps it is beyond understanding, but Mary didn't have to be sinless in order to bear the Messiah. The Father of Jesus was God Himself, and that was enough to ensure Jesus Christ's sinlessness. It is part of the wonder and mystery of the gospel many people find difficult to grasp.

Mary was most assuredly blessed among women, receiving the enviable role of mothering the Messiah and Savior, but she was still human and not to be worshiped or prayed to. She prophesied in Luke 1:48, "henceforth all generations will call me blessed,” and she has been honored for her role in sacred history, but the Ten Commandments still state, "You shall have no other gods before me. " Not even the Blessed Virgin Mary.


The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

The Catholic Encyclopedia

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