Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
The Fullness of Truth and Mary
I want to conclude with two thoughts; one about our responsibility to seek the fullness of God's Truth, and secondly, about the faith to understand and believe the significance of Mary's role in the normal Christian life.
Jesus Christ is the Truth and in as much as we reject any Truth, we, to some degree, reject Jesus. We therefore have a profound responsibility to search to find the Truth in its utter fullness. This process may mean challenging old belief systems and exploring new ones. In attaining that Truth we attain a fuller knowledge and acceptance of Jesus our Lord. If we are to do this we must be fearless because like the Pharisees, we are likely to be snared in some denial of the Truth that comes as a result of our cultural and even religious biases.
With the possible presence of denial and the influence of the Evil One in mind, we might well wonder; how does God provide for us to have the fullness of Truth? This is especially relevant when we see the number of legitimate Christian denominations there are in the world today and the scandal that causes. We need to believe there is an answer otherwise Jesus would not have prayed for unity in the Church (Jn 17:20-21). We must not only pray for the answer but for the openness to receive the answer. I believe God has provided the answer in the scriptures, and I ask the reader to consider two specific scriptures that can demonstrate that there is an answer and what the answer might be.
The first scripture I refer to above is in Matthew (23:2-3). Here Jesus says, "The scribes and Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses so practice and observe whatever they tell you," In this Jesus is telling the crowds and the disciples there is a legitimate religious teaching authority in the scribes and Pharisees which they should follow. This indicates that God has given an infallible authority to provide the Truth to the people of Israel. This is true despite some unholy practices of the authorities at that time (Mt 3:3-7) and the intrusion of human traditions in matters of faith (Mk 7: 1-13).
Since the people of Israel failed to recognize their visitation from the Lord, they lost the unity of their teaching and still await its fulfillment. This unity of teaching was represented in the chair of Moses implying that the proper teaching authority was given to the one who held the office of leader. In the time of Jesus the authority was vested in the High Priest. This authority of the High Priest could be seen in the case when Caiaphas was holding this position cited in John 11: 51. Here Caiaphas unwittingly prophesies that Jesus must die for the people. By the power of the Holy Spirit he spoke the truth without realizing the scope of his statement.
The succession of the Pharisaic authority was broken when the people of Israel were dispersed into exile by the Roman armies of AD 69-70 because of their failure to accept Jesus as Messiah. The first indication of this is a prophecy by St. John the Baptizer who warned the Pharisees and the Sadducees that unless they repented they could be cut off from God’s authority. He said, “even now the axe is laid to the root of the tree” (Mt 3:10). One could already see the erosion of the authority of the leaders of Israel in the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter and John were able to assert that they now must do what God directs, and not what the leaders direct (Acts 4:19-20). One could then ask the question: did God not provide a lawful teaching authority to replace the chair of Moses for the Church of Jesus Christ?
To answer the question posed above, let us consider the second scripture found in the Gospel of St. Matthew (16:18-19). The scripture reads, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Let me insert an explanatory note about Matthew 16: 18-19 since there has been considerable controversy about this text since the reformation. I feel it is necessary to do this since this particular scripture had been explained away by many Christians over the last four centuries to the detriment of many.
The first misinterpretation was that when Jesus referred to rock he was not referring to Peter but to the prophecy he had received about Jesus being the Messiah. That would mean the prophecy would be the rock on which Jesus built His Church. However, modern scripture scholarship has shown that that interpretation is not an acceptable one. The only grammatically correct interpretation was that Jesus was referring to Peter as the rock.
A more recent explaining away of Peter’s authority described in the text of Matthew 16 rests on a misinterpretation of the Greek words petros and petra. The misinterpretation suggests that petros means little rock and this refers to Peter while the word petra means a large rock and refers to the Church. There are a number of problems with this interpretation. First, Jesus could not call Peter Petra in Greek because that would be grammatically incorrect. Peter being a male would have to have a masculine gender noun naming him therefore only Petros would do. So, the only word that could be used for Simon would be Petros.
Secondly, it is widely believed that at the time of Jesus the word petros did not mean little rock, this is a usage that appeared only later in the Greek language. Thirdly, all of the “you”’s in this promise of Jesus could only refer to Peter and his successors. I add his successors since Jesus says the gates of death will not prevail against it (the Church). That could only mean to include all those following lawfully in Peter’s office. If Jesus did not mean Peter as the rock but the Church He should have used “it” instead of you. E.g. “I give it the keys of the kingdom…” So, it is clear that Jesus was naming Peter the rock on which he built his Church and to Peter was given the Keys of the Kingdom and the authority to bind and loose. Finally, I should say that it is likely that Jesus spoke to Peter in Aramaic and there is only one word of rock in Aramaic, Cephas and it is a masculine noun. Cephas is the name often use for Peter in the New Testament (Jn 1:42, 1Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5 & 15:5, Gal 1:18, 2:9, 2:11, 2:14).
With Peter established as the rock of the Church another question arises; Who was the proper teaching authority when Peter was made head of the embryonic Church since the Jewish authorities were still in power? I believe a reference to the anointing of David, son of Jesse (1Sm 16:13) can shed light on this point. David was anointed by Samuel when King Saul was still king over Israel. However, David, in fact did not impose his new kingship on Saul, but served Saul as his king until Saul’s death. With the death of King Saul David began his reign. As with David, likewise, with St. Peter, he was appointed the authority over the Church and only with the demise of the Temple and the dispersal of the Jewish authorities did he and his office become the universal teaching authority.
Jesus affirmed the authority He gave to His Church when on the day of His resurrection He breathed on the Apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven and those whose sins you retain are retained (Jn 20:22-23)." The final vignette that affirms Peter's authority occurs in the Gospel of John, when Jesus takes Peter aside and tell him to, "feed My sheep" (Jn 21:15-17). The last vestiges of the Jewish authority disappeared with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD
I should point out that the Church has generally promulgated clarification of doctrines through ecumenical councils. The first such council was held in Jerusalem about 59 AD and St. James (the greater) presided (Acts 15:19). However, from the earliest time the churches recognized the primacy of Peter and his Episcopal chair, in Rome. For ten centuries the Christian Church placed faith in the anointing of Peter and his successors and regarded the bishop of Rome as the elder brother in the Faith. They looked there for authority. All were secure in the faith that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church.
In the great schism of 1054 many of the Eastern Churches broke away from Rome. One by one, individuals and groups found they could no longer place their faith in the authority Jesus gave Peter. They began to build their own churches that no longer believed in the authority conferred on Peter and his successors. This culminated with the explosion of new churches arising from the Reformation. Ironically, many of these churches claimed to have faith as their cornerstone but they had to refuse to believe this one promise of Jesus and deny His prayer for the unity of His Church.
The Church of Jesus Christ centred in Rome has stood as a sentinel for twenty centuries, the longest lasting institution in human history. Yet, people ignore it. Some even see it as simply a human institution. Others go so far as to say it is evil. It should be clear to those who have eyes to see that no church institution could possibly survive for twenty centuries with all the sinfulness of human nature and the direct attacks and the changes of political systems it endured over that time except by the grace, guidance and protection of God.
The Church through the ages has come under many evil influences, such that the faithful could easily wonder how the promised protection of the Church by Jesus was being fulfilled. However, the simple ones, who had the faith of Abraham and Mary, believed God's Word no matter how the Church and its leaders were influenced by the power of Satan. They believed that even if the leaders of the Church sometimes acted like the scribes and Pharisees, or worse – were corrupt, they still held the authority residing in the chair of Peter. They knew by faith the Church of Jesus Christ would never be overcome by evil, but that it, in fact, embodied all that was necessary for their salvation. These faithful ones were also comforted by Jesus’ parting words, "I am with you always to the end of the world (Mt 28:20)."
The authority, which Jesus promised to confer on St. Peter, was imparted to him and to the Church on the first Easter Sunday. The veil in the Temple was torn in two on Good Friday, which can be seen as the separation between Israel and the Church, indicating the end of the Pharisaic authority. This end of the Jewish authority was completed with the destruction of the Temple by the Romans less than thirty years later. The succession of authority of the Church can be seen, uninterrupted, from Peter down to the present day but only, it seems, for those who are little and unwilling to explain away the obvious truth.
There are those who say the only authority they need is the Bible. However, the people who say this are not only denying the content of the Bible which sets up a clear authority for the Church but, perhaps unknowingly, are denying that it was the authority of the one, united Church that approved the canon of the Bible. These truths about the authority of the keys of the kingdom also indicate the Church is the proper authority to interpret the Bible. Therefore, the interpretation of the Bible should not be left to the whims of individuals, of every age, in the history of the world. The belief that the Bible is a matter for individual interpretation has only continued to shatter the broken body of Christ. This also is contrary to the content of the Bible which states, "there is no prophecy of Scripture that is meant for a personal interpretation" (2Pt1:20).
Jesus did not leave us orphans. He gave us His Holy Spirit and His teaching authority, as embodied in the chair of Peter. For those who have ears to hear let them hear. When each one of us comes before the judgment seat of Christ, I think we will be confronted with how seriously we sought Truth and how ardently we worked with this Truth to achieve the unity of the People of God.
Let us consider the second point concerning the faith to understand and believe the significance of Mary's role in the normal Christian life. The need for the acceptance and knowledge of Mary in the life of the normal Christian can not be accomplished by eloquent argument or exquisitely detailed explanations. So, my feeble effort to point out reasons to develop a devotion to Mary can not convince the sceptical. The understanding of Mary's role in God's plan of redemption is revealed to, and accepted by, the humble in heart, the simple, those who are foolish by the world's standard, but who are precious in the eyes of the Almighty. To these people explanations are redundant; it is self-evident that the woman who was so privileged to bear the Son of God, (the first born of many brothers (Rm 8:29)), is the mother of all the faithful. Her closeness to the Son of God makes her the ideal intercessor.
One can achieve this holy orientation towards Mary only through faith, humility and obedience, which come from the mercy of God. Our devotion to Mary freely but appropriately expressed in our prayer meetings will give Jesus a special praise and honour in our honouring his mother. What is more just than to give Mary her place in all aspects of our lives?
In denying some part of the Truth of God we are denying Jesus, the Truth. Mary's proper place in our hearts, our meetings and in our lives comes with leaders and teachers who acknowledge and promote Mary against the attacks of Satan and invite Mary to be present in every Christian endeavour. By doing this, leaders send a message to their flock that it is okay to share what their relationship to Mary or other devotions are achieving in their spiritual lives.
On the other hand if a leader refuses to permit and encourage Mary's presence or other Catholic devotions in Christian gatherings either implicitly or explicitly, Satan will succeed in freezing out Mary, our most powerful advocate against him, and many Marian Catholics as well. This will only diminish God's glory and reduce the depth of devotion at our meetings.
When leaders are courageous enough to embrace Mary as their spiritual mother and humbly provide openness to her and to other Catholic devotions and, for instance, encourage the singing of Marian hymns at prayer meetings, saying the Hail Mary and Memorare more Catholics will continue to be involved in the good works God is doing in His Church today. Further, by encouraging Catholic traditions (1Cor 11:2; 2Thes 2:15, 3:6) it is less likely that errors will creep into the community.
I should say something about ecumenism so I don't give the impression that I am suggesting all Christian denominations must become Catholic. I believe that as we respond to God He will provide a unity that respects the traditions of each Christian church. He will simply see that each has the fullness of Truth. How He will do that is His task. Our obligation is to follow the leading of the Spirit and trust in the Father's response to Jesus' prayer for unity. I further believe that the various Christian traditions have something to offer the whole Church. We should spend some time learning and spreading the news of the good that God is doing in each of His churches today.