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
Let me try to give a little understanding of just how Tradition works. The Sacred Tradition of the Church included some oral and written history but more importantly it is carried by attitudes and beliefs that are practiced although perhaps not written down. These attitudes and beliefs are guided by the Holy Spirit. To understand this we could use the Eucharist, Mary, celibacy and so forth to illustrate the process. I will take time with the Eucharist toward the end of this book so let me take some time here to demonstrate the process using Mary as an example.
The Apostles and early disciples of Jesus knew Mary, the mother of their Lord. She was with Jesus and his disciples when Jesus was revealing the Good News to the world. If we take a little time to ponder in our hearts as a child we will realize that the followers of Jesus loved Mary and had a deep respect for her. This love and devotion to Mary would have been evident in the daily practices of the disciples.
After Jesusí ascension into heaven the disciples were left orphan for nine days. Mary was with them over that time in the upper room praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost the mighty power of the Spirit was conferred on them yet Maryís presence continued to be a comfort and support to them in their early journeys. Each of the disciples had a fond love of Mary that made them want to be in her presence. More than anyone they could see the image of the Lord reflected in her face.
From person to person this fondness toward Mary and trust in her was past on so that only positive and reverential things were said of her. Of course nothing bad could ever have been said about her. These attitudes and beliefs about Mary and through reflecting on her in the light of the Scriptures and guided by the Holy Spirit build up a growing understanding of Mary. Assisted by this process a gradual fleshing out of Maryís role in Godís plan of redemption for the human race became clearer and clearer. This process of beliefs, attitudes and traditions directed by the Holy Spirit were past on and continue today. This is how Sacred Tradition has guided the Church in many matters.
Sacred Tradition is only in Churches that have their origins with the Apostles, that is, the Latin, Greek, Syrian, Chaldean, Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian and so forth. Denominations that have arisen from and since the Reformation do not have this kind of tradition that goes back to the beginning. In fact, some consciously removed and replaced much of this sacred tradition. For instance, the understanding of the laying on of hands at the ordination of priest was lost for a time by the Church of England. Although they later restored the practice they lost the continuation of succession from the Apostles. Although the Anglican Church restored many Catholic traditions the loss of the Apostolic Succession seems to have led to other forms of deterioration such as ordination of women and homosexual clergy. These latter two activities are certainly contrary to the Sacred Tradition of the Church and unfortunately have spreading to other denominations.
I have attempted to illustrate how Sacred Tradition works. However, there is more to Sacred Tradition than I have time or training to consider in this book. Suffice it to say that Sacred Tradition with the Canonical Scriptures are the two pillars supporting the teaching authority of the Catholic Church so that it is able to understand and teach the Truth in its fullness.
Let me turn again to Mary being a perpetual virgin. As noted Mary had perfect faith that brought about the conception of the Word Incarnate, Jesus. She also believed with similar faith that she was called to be a virgin. Since she knew that because all things were possible to God she believed that when she gave birth to the Messiah she would do so without the loss of her virginity. So although the birth of Jesus was a natural birth it took place without compromising Maryís virginal state. Maryís faith was so firm about Godís plan about her virginity that in effect she was able to bring forth the Messiah without the loss of her virginity. This has been the constant teaching of the Church from the earliest time. It was finally defined as a doctrine of the Church at First Lateran Council, in 649 AD.
We have seen that it is a higher calling to live the celibate life, but in Mary's case it was especially important since she was the temple of the Most High God and thus should not have her integrity violated. Rather she was called to be the undefiled, most pure vessel for the God-man, Jesus Christ. This is not to say that the sexual expression in marriage is impure but is a yielding to the weakness of the flesh whereas the mother of God who is spiritually espoused to God should belong totally to Him and give herself only to Him. More will be said on this point when we consider Mary's relationship to the Holy Spirit.
The great evangelical Truth of the virginity of Mary is that it bears witness to the divinity of Jesus. It is possible that God could have used Joseph to father His Son but there would always be a doubt whether Jesus was really God. Mary's virginal conception of her Son eliminated this possible heresy and makes clear the divine origin and therefore the divine nature of Jesus.