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Mary, Mother of God

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  • Catholic Christian - a celebration of the mother of Jesus.

 

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates three Marian solemnities which are also holy days of obligation in many countries during the liturgical year[98] (in liturgical order):

Among the other prominent Marian feast days and memorials in the General Roman Calendar of the Catholic Church are:[98]

In Roman Catholic teachings, the veneration of Mary is a natural consequence of Christology: Jesus and Mary are son and mother, redeemer and redeemed. [9] This sentiment was expressed by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater: "At the centre of this mystery, in the midst of this wonderment of faith, stands Mary. As the loving Mother of the Redeemer, she was the first to experience it: 'To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator'!" [10]

In the Roman Catholic tradition Mariology is seen as Christology developed to its full potential. [11] Mary is seen as contributing to a fuller understanding of the life of Jesus. In this view, a Christology without Mary is not based on the total revelation of the Bible. Traces of this parallel interpretation go back to the early days of Christianity and numerous saints have since focused on it. [9]

The development of this approach continued into the 20th century. In his 1946 publication Compendium Mariologiae, Mariologist Gabriel Roschini explained that Mary not only participated in the birth of the physical Jesus, but, with conception, she entered with him into a spiritual union. The divine salvation plan, being not only material, includes a permanent spiritual unity with Christ. [12] [13] [14] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) wrote: "It is necessary to go back to Mary if we want to return to that 'truth about Jesus Christ,' 'truth about the Church' and 'truth about man' that John Paul II proposed as a program to all of Christianity," in order to ensure an authentic approach to Christology via a return to the "whole truth about Mary". [15]

From veneration to theology [edit]

It is possible that the practice of invoking the aid of the Mother of Christ had become more familiar to the faithful some time before any expression of it in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. [16] Christians' love for Mary intuited, frequently in anticipation, certain aspects of the mystery of the Blessed Virgin, calling the attention of theologians and pastors to them. [17] Venerative and devotional practices have often preceded formal theological declarations by the Magisterium. [18]

The veneration of the Blessed Virgin takes place in various ways. Marian prayers and hymns usually begin with praise of her, followed by petitions. [19] The number of Marian titles continued to grow as of the 3rd century, and many titles existed by the 5th century, growing especially during the Middle Ages. [20]

Theological basis for the veneration of Mary [edit]

Veneration for Mary is based on the reference in the Gospel of Luke to Mary as the selected handmaid of the Lord who is greeted and praised by both Elizabeth and the angel Gabriel. God's work is further illuminated in the Marian dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, and are, in the Roman Catholic view, part of the apostolic tradition and divine revelation. [21] [22] Catholics distinguish veneration from worship.

Mary's role in salvation and redemption [edit]

The Virgin Mary from the Ghent Altarpiece, 1432

One of the components of the Catholic veneration of Mary is the focus on her participation in the processes of salvation and redemption. [23] This has been explored by such writers as Edward Schillebeeckx and Adrienne von Speyr. [24] [25]

John's Gospel records her presence at the beginning and end of his public fife. Particularly significant is Mary's presence at the Cross, when she received from her dying Son the charge to be mother to the beloved disciple and, in him, to all Christians. [17] The Acts of the Apostles expressly numbers the Mother of Jesus among the women of the first community awaiting Pentecost. John Eudes wrote that: "The Virgin Mary began to cooperate in the plan of salvation, from the moment she gave her consent to the Incarnation of the Son of God". [26]

Lumen gentium, the 1964 Dogmatic Constitution of the Church recognized, "...all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it." [27] In a singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to souls. "Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace." [28]

One of the first scholars to offer theological foundations on the subject of the Immaculate Conception was the Franciscan Duns Scotus who developed the concept that Mary was preserved from sin by the redemptive virtue of Jesus. [29] [30] [31] Devotions to and the veneration of the Virgin Mary continued to spread, as she came to be seen as the helpful mother of Christians, and by the 15th century these practices had oriented many Catholic devotions. [32]

Saint Veronica Giuliani expressed how Mary's suffering in Calvary united her heart with that of Jesus as she suffered each torment along with him. [33] The joint devotion to the hearts was formalized by Jean Eudes who organized the scriptural and theological foundations and developed its liturgical themes. [34] The venerative aspects of the united nature of the two hearts continued through the centuries and in 1985 Pope John Paul II coined the term Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and in 1986 addressed the international conference on that topic held at Fátima, Portugal. [35] [36] [37]

By the 18th century, the continued growth of Marian veneration had emphasized the role of the Virgin Mary in salvation. The Catholic focus on the role of Mary in salvation and redemption continued with Pope John Paul II's 1987 encyclical Redemptoris Mater [10]

Mary as protectress and intercessor [edit]

See also: Mother of the Church

The Virgin of Mercy protecting a group of nuns under her mantle. Sano di Pietro, 15th century.

It was through Mary's intercession, through compassion for the hosts, at the marriage feast of Cana, that Jesus worked his first miracle. [28]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs." [1] The Eastern Catholic Churches observe the feast of the Intercession of the Theotokos in October.

Roman Catholic views of the Virgin Mary as refuge and advocate of sinners, protector from dangers and powerful intercessor with her Son, Jesus are expressed in prayers, artistic depictions, theology, and popular and devotional writings, as well as in the use of religious articles and images. [38] [39] The earliest known prayer to Mary, the Sub tuum praesidium, ("Under your protection") dates from about the 3rd century. [40]

 

The artistic depictions of the Virgin of Mercy portray the role of Mary as the protector of Christians, as she shelters them under her mantle. The Virgin of Mercy depictions sometimes include arrows raining from above, with the Virgin's cloak protecting the people. [41]

 Catholics have continued to seek the protection of Mary as the Mother of Sorrows and relied on her intercession as the Queen of Heaven since the Middle Ages. [42] Building on that sentiment, popes have entrusted specific causes to the protection of the Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict XV entrusted the protection of the world through the intercession of Mary Queen of Peace during the first world war . [43]

 The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, also known as the order of Our Lady of Ransom or Order of Captives began in the 13th century in the Kingdom of Aragon (Spain) to ransom captive Christians (slaves) held in Muslim hands. The order now focuses on the role of the Virgin Mary as the protector of captives and prisoners. [44] 

The depictions of Our Lady of Navigators arose from the prayers and devotions of Portuguese navigators, who saw the Virgin Mary as their protector during storms and other hazards. Prayers to Our Lady of Navigators are well known in South America, specially Brazil, where its February 2 feast is an official holiday. [45] [46] The Virgin of the Navigators, depicting ships under her mantle, is the earliest known painting whose subject is the discovery of the Americas. [47] [48]

Miguel Hidalgo's 1810 Guadalupan flag.

Both Miguel Hidalgo and Emiliano Zapata flew flags of Our Lady of Guadalupe as their protector, and Zapata's men wore the Guadalupan image around their necks and on their sombreros. [49] [50] In 1979 ceremony Pope John Paul II placed Mexico under the protection of the Virgin of Guadalupe. [51]

 The prayer, the Memorare begins: "Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to Thy protection, implored Thy help or sought Thy intercession, was left unaided." [52]

Saint Louis de Montfort taught that God appointed Mary as "the dispenser of grace", and to receive grace from God, one can receive it through the hands of the Blessed Virgin, as a child receives from a mother. [26] Lumen gentium states: "This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator." [27]

Development of Marian doctrines [edit] 

The theological development of devotion to Mary begins with Justin Martyr (100–165) who articulated Mary’s role in salvation history as the Second Eve. [53] This was followed up by Irenæus, whom Herbert Thurston calls "the first theologian of the Virgin Mother". [16]

The Church's magisterium has identified four teachings about Mary as dogmas of faith. These include belief in her virginal conception of Jesus, taught by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. The Council of Ephesus in 431 applied to her the description "Mother of God", (Theotokos). The perpetual virginity of Mary was taught by the ecumenical Second Council of Constantinople in 553, which described her as "ever virgin", and was expressed also, by the Lateran synod of October 649, [54] The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception states that from the first moment of her existence Mary was without original sin. [55] This doctrine was proclaimed a dogma ex cathedra by Pope Pius IX in 1854. The dogma of the Assumption of Mary, defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950, states that, at the end of her earthly life, she was assumed into heavenly glory body and soul., [56]

Liturgical aspects [edit]

In the first three centuries the emphasis was on the veneration of martyrs, as a continuation of the yearly celebrations of their death, e.g. as noted in the early Christian text on the Martyrdom of Polycarp. [57]

In the Eastern traditions Mariology developed through liturgical veneration within the framework of the feasts relative to the Incarnation. [58] In the early part of the 3rd century, Hippolytus of Rome recorded the first liturgical reference to the Virgin Mary, as part of the ordination rite of a bishop. [59] Marian feasts appeared in the 4th century, and the feast of the "Memory of Mary, Mother of God" was celebrated on August 15 in Jerusalem by the year 350. [59] [60]

The Roman Catholic liturgy is one of the most important elements of Marian devotions. Many Marian feasts are superior to the feast days of the saints. The liturgical texts of the Marian feast days all link Mary to Jesus Christ.

Earliest fresco of the Virgin Mary, Catacomb of Priscilla, 2nd century. [61]

Mary, as the mother of Jesus, is documented in Roman catacombs: paintings from the first half of the 2nd century show her holding the Christ Child. [16] Excavations in the crypt of St Peter's Basilica uncovered a very early fresco of Mary together with Saint Peter. [62]

The Roman Priscilla catacombs depict the oldest Marian paintings from the middle of the 2nd century: [63] Mary is shown with Jesus on her lap, a standing man with tunic left hand a book right hand a star over his head symbol of messiahs. Priscilla also has a depiction of the annunciation. [61]

The edict of Milan (AD 313) allowed Christians to worship openly. This new freedom also permitted literary development of the veneration of Mary, Hippolytus of Rome being an early example. [59] [64] Saint Ambrose, who lived in Rome before going to Milan as its bishop, venerated Mary as an example of Christian life, and is credited with starting a Marian cult of virginity in the 4th century. [65]

Cathedrals and churches were built for public worship. The first Marian churches in Rome date from the 5th and 6th centuries: Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Maria Antiqua and Santa Maria Maggiore. [16] However, the very earliest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary dates to the late 4th century in Syria, where an inscription dedicating it to the Theotokos (Mother of God) was found among the ruins. [66]

The Council of Ephesus in 431 sanctioned the cult of the Virgin as Mother of God.

Growth of Marian culture [edit]

Santa Maria Maggiore, the first Marian church in Rome, originally built between 430 and 440. [67]

In the early Middle Ages, veneration of Mary was particularly expressed in monasteries, especially those of the Benedictines. Chants such as Ave Maris Stella and the Salve Regina emerged and became staples of monastic plainsong. [68] In the 8th century, The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary developed from the monks' practice of praying the Canonical hours. The Carolingians encouraged Marian piety by the celebration of Marian feast days and the dedication of churches in her honor. [53] Devotional practices grew in number.

 

The Romanesque period saw the construction of major Marian churches, such as Speyer Cathedral (also known as the Mariendom) in Speyer, Germany, and Our Lady of Flanders Cathedral in Tournai, Belgium. From the year 1000 onward more and more churches, including many of Europe's greatest cathedrals were dedicated to Mary. Gothic cathedrals, such as Notre Dame de Paris as well as Our Lady of Chartres near Paris, were major masterworks of the time. Construction of Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral in Siena, Italy and Notre-Dame Cathedral, Luxembourg increased the number of churches devoted to the Virgin Mary.

The 12th and 13th centuries saw an extraordinary growth of the cult of the Virgin in Western Europe, inspired in part by the writings of theologians such as Bernard of Clairvaux. The movement found its grandest expression in the French cathedrals, often dedicated to “Our Lady", such as Notre-Dame de Paris and Notre-Dame de Bayeux among others. [69] Walsingham and other places of Marian pilgrimage developed large popular followings. At the height of the pilgrimage movement in the 11th and 12th centuries, hundreds of people were traveling almost constantly from one Marian shrine to the next. [70]

By the 14th century, Mary had become greatly popular as a compassionate intercessor and protector of humanity, and during the great plagues (such as the Black Death) her help was sought against the just judgment of God. [71] The Renaissance witnessed a dramatic growth in venerative Marian art. [72]

By the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation had introduced a tide against Marian venerations in Europe. [73] However, at the same time new Marian devotions were starting in Latin America based on Saint Juan Diego's 1531 reported vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The ensuing Marian pilgrimages have continued to date and the Marian Basilica on Tepeyac Hill remains the most visited Catholic shrine in the world. [74] In the 17th and 18th centuries writings by the saints, coupled with papal encouragements, increased the growth of Marian devotions, and gave rise to the definition and declaration of new Marian doctrines. [75]

Marian culture continues to develop within the Catholic Church. In 1974, after 4 years of preparation, Pope Paul VI issued the Apostolic Letter Marialis Cultus. In this document, (which was subtitled For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary) Paul VI not only discussed the history of Marian devotions, but overviewed their rationale and provided suggestions for their future direction, emphasising their theological and pastoral value. [76] [77]

Roman Catholic devotions have relied on the writings of numerous saints throughout history who have attested to the central role of Mary in God's plan of salvation. [78]

Early saints included Irenaeus of Lyons in the 2nd century who was perhaps the earliest of the Church Fathers to write systematically about the Virgin Mary, and he set out a forthright account of her role in the economy of salvation. [79] [80]Ambrose of Milan (339–397) based the veneration of Mary not only on her virginity but also on her extraordinary courage. [81] [82]

In the Middle Ages, Bernhard of Clairvaux highlighted her virginity and humility as the basis for her veneration. [83] [84] A particularly significant contribution to Mariology came from John Duns Scotus who in the 13th century defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. [85] Scotus identified the key theological foundations which led to the declaration of the dogma of Immaculate Conception centuries later. [86]

In the 16th century, Saint Ignatius of Loyola instructed the Jesuits to preserve Madonna della Strada, which was later enshrined in the Church of the Gesu in Rome. [87] Filippo Neri, a contemporary of Ignatius, is credited with the innovation of daily Marian devotions during the month of May. [88]

In his classic book The Glories of Mary, Alphonsus Liguori explained how God gave Mary to mankind as the "Gate of Heaven", quoting Saint Bonaventure, "No one can enter Heaven unless by Mary, as though through a door." [89] Louis de Montfort's book True Devotion to Mary synthesized many of the writings of earlier saints. His approach of "total consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary" had a strong impact on Marian devotion both in popular piety and in the spirituality of religious institutes. 

Feast days [edit]

The earliest Christian feasts that relate to Mary grew out of the cycle of feasts that celebrated the Nativity of Jesus. By the 7th century a feast dedicated to Mary was celebrated just before Christmas in the churches of Milan and Ravenna in Italy. [90] Over time, the number of feasts (and the associated titles of Mary) and the venerative practices that accompany them increased and today the Catholic Church has more Marian feasts, titles, and venerative practices than any other Christian body. [5] Marian feasts have continued to be developed in the Catholic Church, e.g. the feast of the Queenship of Mary was declared in the 1954 in the papal encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam by pope Pius XII. [91] [92]

A Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary procession during October in Bergamo, Italy

Catherine of Siena, adopted the custom of dedicating Saturday to Mary. The month of October was established as the "month of the Rosary" by Pope Leo XIII, who recommended daily Rosary devotions in October. [93] [94]

 During the month of May, May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary take place in many Catholic regions. These may include the singing of Marian anthems, crowning of statues of Mary with floral wreaths, readings from scriptures, a sermon, and or presentation by local choirs. [95] [96] The month is also associated with reflection on the Virgin Mary's role as the ideal disciple who sheds light on the Christian way of life, and theologian Karl Rahner stated: "When we are involved in our May Devotions, we are engaged in a Christian understanding of the human situation." [97]