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
Mary is the God-bearer, the vessel who carried the Almighty God the Word Incarnate. She was prepared for, by God, when He planned the universe. He first created the angels, pure spirits like Himself. He did not need to create them because He was, or more correctly, He is, absolutely complete in Himself. He needs no others. However, in His infinite Goodness, He decided to create other beings to share in His glory. And for reasons that we can only speculate on, He also decided to create human beings, creatures that were material, that is, animal, but in whom He breathed the breath of life (Gn 2:7). Thus, He made them in His image by giving them a spiritual soul that could be filled with His spiritual Life.
God's plan for these material creatures human beings, included a most unbelievable thing that He would become one of them. This is certainly an unfathomable reflection of God's great humility that he should condescend to be born of a woman. How much we learn about God through the fact that in Jesus, God became part of his creation. In deed, in Jesus, the Word-made-flesh, God revealed to us the fullness of His revelation of Himself. Think of this awesome event, the incarnation of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. It is simply beyond our capacity to comprehend such a thing. When we think about this profound event what then should be said of the creature, the woman, who would give flesh and blood to the Son of Almighty God? Whatever the incarnation says of God it seems self-evident that the mother of the God-man is the most privileged of all God's creatures on earth and even in heaven.
I have read that Lucifer's fall, arose partly because he refused to comply with God's plan and worship the second Person of the Blessed Trinity incarnate in the womb of the virgin. St. Maximilian Kolbe adds that Lucifer refused to do homage to this creature, the mother of the Word Incarnate, because it was beneath his dignity. Apparently, he was too proud to do so. Elsewhere, I have read that Lucifer felt that if anyone should be chosen to be the vessel of God, it should be him. Whatever the cause of his fall, it seems from the very beginning Satan would try to destroy God's plan for mankind by trying to harm the women, her Offspring and the Church (Rev 12:1-6). Of course, God's plan could never be thwarted even with Satan's success in tempting Adam and Eve to sin. God's plan for an immaculate vessel would be preserved, and in a unique way, as we will see when we consider the immaculate conception of Mary.
Mary, the most pure vessel of God was prepared for by God, and prepared, to be the mother of the Son of God. Those who doubt that Mary's role as the mother of Jesus, mother of God, is the highest privilege a human could receive from God will necessarily deny or minimize the meaning of the divine nature of Christ. On the other hand, those who exalt Mary as the most privileged creature will more clearly see Jesus for Whom He really is the infinite, almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God.
Moses was commanded by God to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground (Ex 3:5) being in the presence of God. How much more is Mary, the tabernacle of the living God, holy ground? Yet, some Christians discard her, like at Bethlehem they have no place for her (Lk 2:7) in their home (Jn 19:27) and thus surely miss the true Jesus. Rather, let us now, with all generations, join the angel Gabriel and say, "Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you" and honour her as she deserves as the mother of our Lord (Lk 1:43). May all generations call her blessed (Lk 1:48).
The virginal motherhood of Mary can be seen as a necessary doctrine of faith in order to protect the teaching of the divinity and humanity of Jesus. This doctrine serves to defeat several early heresies in the Church. For instance, Gnosticism taught that Jesus was not human at all since the material world was inherently evil. Therefore, Jesus only appeared to be material. St. Irenaeus, known as the first mariologist, argued decisively near the end of the second century against this heresy. Mary as the mother of God stands against this heresy since her true motherhood of Jesus gave testimony that Jesus was God and man. The Gnostic heresy has re-emerged in some forms of the so-called New Age Movement of today.
Arianism is another heresy that is defeated by the belief in the Dogma of Mary as Mother of God the Theotokos (Θεοτόκος). Arius taught that Jesus was only a man and therefore not God. If we proclaim Mary is mother of God, we, at the same time, proclaim Jesus is God. Arianism had a majority hold on the leaders of an early period of the Church. However, by the grace and will of God it was defeated. Unfortunately, Arianism has also re-emerged in our time in which large portions of mainline Christian denominations deny the divinity of Christ. One leader of the United Church of Canada put it this way, Jesus contained more godly attributes than any other man but was not God. With this unfortunate development of the last fifty years we can see a greater need than ever for Christians to proclaim that Mary is the Mother of God.
Nestorianism is another heresy that has re-emerged in our day. It teaches that Jesus was not God but only man. However, God, through gradual increments filled him as His temple. Both the man Jesus and the Godhead remained separate persons. This heresy, too, is discredited by the doctrine of the early Church which proclaimed that Mary is the Mother of God (Ecumenical Council of Ephesus @ 431 AD). The Child, to whom Mary gave flesh and blood, from the moment of His conception, is fully God and fully man. So when St. Paul teaches that Jesus was in the form of God and He emptied Himself, He was still both God and man (Phil 2: 6&7). The emptying or kenosis was not a matter of no longer being God but rather a matter of denying his divine power as He lived his human life.
Since, the early heresies, cited above, and other ancient heresies are stronger today than they have ever been it is even more important that all Christians proclaim Mary as Mother of God. When Mary is put in her proper place and honoured in the heart of the believer as the mother of God, these heresies will cease to exit. In fact, it is impossible for these heresies to reside in the same heart that holds that Mary is the Mother of God. Therefore, those who are devoted to Mary as the Mother of God, "Theotokos", actually preserve and witness to the teaching of the unity of the divine and human nature of the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ.
In order for Mary to become the mother of the Word Incarnate there were two requirements; choice on the part of God and on the part of Mary acceptance of God's choice which required her humility, faith and obedience. Many have spoken about Mary's humility and obedience but in this treatise the focus will be mainly on her faith, as it seems clear Mary's faith was the final requirement for Jesus to be conceived.
However, before considering these two points, God's choice and Mary's faith, we need to explore the relationship between Mary's humility, faith and obedience.
When Mary understood in the angel Gabriel's message that it was God's will that she be the mother of the Messiah, Mary obeyed immediately and said, "Let it be done (Lk 1:38)." Mary's understanding of God's will came in the first place, through her humility, her humble acceptance of the angel's message. Secondly, this understanding came through her faith. She firmly believed that what the angel had said to her was true. After understanding God's message to her, Mary obeyed. She said, "Let it be done to me according to your word." There was one final thing, which is one of the main focuses of this section: from the beginning of her understanding of God's will for her, Mary believed, without wavering, that what was foretold to her WOULD BE DONE.
I have separated the action of Mary's will into four stages including her humility, her faith of acceptance of God's message, her obedience and her faith of believing that God's Word would be done. However, it seems more correct to say her humility, faith and obedience are as a single act because all are totally interrelated; her obedience was immersed in her humility and her faith.
Let me clarify further. In order for Mary to say, "let it be done," she had to believe that what the angel promised would happen. In order for her to believe what the angel had promised she needed to humbly receive his message. Can you see that if Mary refused to accept the message of the angel that would be a prideful rejection of God's message? Such a rejection would have thwarted any believing or obedience on her part.
Note the contrast between Mary and Eve. Eve chose not to accept God's message, ",you should not eat (the fruit) for ,(if) you eat of it you shall die (Gen 2:17)." Eve knew of God's message because she reported this Word of God to the serpent (Gn 3:3). Eve's faith in God was then tested by the Evil Angel when he contradicted God's Word by saying, " you shall not die." Eve then chose to reject the Word of God and accept the word of the Deceiver. Her acceptance of the Devil's message, to become "like gods knowing good and evil (Gn 3:5)," was an act of pride which turned her away from the Word of God and precluded an act of faith on her part. This pride and lack of faith on the part of Eve was followed by her act of disobedience.
Mary's acceptance of the message of the angel of God was an act of humility. Although what the angel proposed seemed impossible by human standards, Mary already knew that nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:37). She also realized that God being God, knew what He was doing. He did not need advice, questions or correction from anyone. It seems that Zechariah lacked this understanding when, doubting the angel's message concerning the conception of St. John the Baptist, he attempted to apprise the angel of his and his wife's age (Lk 1:18). The implication of his question was that God might not be able to bring about this promise because of his and his wife's natural physical limitations.
Mary's humility provided an opportunity for her faith and obedience. Eve's pride led to her refusal to believe God, which in turn led to her choice to disobey Him. Eve's response led to the death of all her children. Mary's response led to the eternal life of all the faithful.
Mary expressed her obedience to God, which followed on her sublime humility and unwavering faith. Mary's humility, faith and obedience were so interwoven that they seem to function as one. These virtues, together with her ardent charity, could be said to characterize her whole being.
Now, let us look at the two things necessary for Jesus to be conceived God's choice and Mary's faith. First, let us consider that God's choice was required to bring about the incarnation of the Word of God. The Gospel clearly states God's choice of Mary in the passage where the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth to the virgin Mary (Lk 1:26-38). The angel, as the messenger of God, announced to Mary that she was chosen to conceive and bear a son and that she should call him Jesus, Who would be the Son of God.
It is very clear that Mary had nothing to do with God's choice as indicated by her surprise and questioning of the angel's message. It is also quite apparent in this passage in the Gospel of Saint Luke that God chose Mary, to whom He had sent His angel, to be the mother of His Son.
It is interesting that the angel included in his message the words, "You have found favour with God," indicating that Mary had responded well to God's grace in her life. This can be compared to the word from God to Jesus when Jesus was baptised by John, "You are My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased (Lk 3:22)."
Since God planned for Mary from all eternity, it seems obvious that God had been preparing Mary for her call to be the mother of the Word Incarnate from the moment of her conception. In this way she would be ready for her role as mother when the time had fully come. Similarly, mind you, Zechariah was also prepared for his call to be father of John the Baptist. However, if we compare Zechariah's response to the angel (Lk 1:18) with Mary's responses to the angel (Lk 1:34 & 38), we can see that Mary showed a superior faith. It seems, in fact, that Mary received from God perfect faith for her role as mother of Emmanuel. This, of course, is more evidence of God's choice of Mary as the mother of His Son. Mary's responses to the angel showed exceptional faith under the circumstances both in the sense of her clear and prudent responses and in light of the implications of being with child not fathered by her betrothed a possible cause for stoning at the time.
God's preparation of Mary for the role of mother of the Messiah also meant she had to be given the knowledge of what she was being called to. Mary was a free creature who was chosen to be spouse of the Holy Spirit and mother of the Word Incarnate. It seems obvious that God would want Mary to know fully of her call. This knowledge may have been imparted as she pondered what the mother of the Messiah would be like. Her surprise was not so much about the role of mother of the Saviour but that it was her who was chosen. Certainly this knowledge was one of the great things God did for her (Lk 1:49) and was likely rooted in her knowledge of the Scriptures. Mary's knowledge of the Scriptures is evidenced in her song of praise (Lk 1:46-55) which draws heavily on the Old Testament Scriptures.
However, although Mary had the necessary knowledge to give her full consent to God's call for her, she obviously did not know she was the chosen one. Nevertheless, since she had the necessary knowledge to respond to God's call, there would be no deception on the part of God in asking for Mary's consent. Mary, at least in embryo, embraced a complete understanding of what she was consenting to. To use a word of canon lawyers, there was no "impediment", due to lack of knowledge of her call standing in the way of Mary's full consent.
So, it is quite clear from the Gospel that God not only chose Mary to be mother of the Messiah but also prepared her for this call. It is also clear that Mary had no part in God's choice; it was entirely God's choice or we might say Mary was entirely God's choice.
Let us consider the second condition necessary for Jesus to be conceived Mary's faith. As noted, God prepared Mary to be mother of our Saviour by giving her a superior faith. That Mary's faith was required, in order to achieve the awesome event of the conception of Jesus, is evidenced in Elizabeth's statement to Mary, "Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord, would be fulfilled" (Lk 1:45). Mary's "believing" here is essential, otherwise Elizabeth would have simply said, "Blessed is she to whom the promise made her by the Lord, would be fulfilled."
The alternative choice, that Mary had not believed, will give us further insight into the need for Mary's faith. Let us consider what might have happened if Mary had not accepted God's message, say for instance, by telling the angel, as did Zechariah (Lk 1:18), "How do I know that what you are saying is true?" This of course would betray pride possibly out of a fear of being duped or humiliated. This, it seems, may have been part of Zechariah's motive for questioning of the angel. He certainly must have known from the Scriptures that Isaac (Gn 21:2) and Samuel (1Sm 1:20) were conceived when their parents were beyond child bearing age.
Nevertheless, a response by Mary, as suggested above, betraying a lack of faith would present a number of serious difficulties for the completion of God's plan in bringing forth the Word Incarnate. According to St. Paul (Rm 11:29) God's choices are irrevocable, therefore, He would not choose another person to be the mother of the Messiah. On the other hand, could the angel in this case have responded as he did to Zechariah (Lk 1:19) and cause the mother of Jesus to be mute until the Child was named? If so, could she not feel intruded upon, invaded or even violated or could not others make this accusation of God? In fact, some feminists have made this very accusation against God. One such woman even went so far as to make the horrible suggestion that since Mary was impregnated by God, she should have aborted the Child. God have mercy!
Well, as we know from scripture Mary did believe the message of the angel and said yes to God. However, even with Mary's acceptance of God's will for her, might there be some question about her consent if God alone was the cause of this divine impregnation? Secondly, would there be some negative repercussions toward the incarnation of the Word if Mary's obedience to God's will was imperfect in some way? Both of these questions can be answered with the same argument.