Proper Devotion to the Mother of God

Also, devotion to Mary has been around since the days of the early Church. It wasn't something just "invented" along the way. There are images of Mary on tombs as well as the central vaults of the catacombs. She was seen as a Spiritual Mother. This idea is furthered by the Church Fathers seeing her as the "New Eve". St. Justin Martyr, d. 165, said

"and that He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, 'Be it unto me according to thy word.' And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.".

Mary is the "obedient virgin" in contrast to Eve, the "disobedient virgin". St. Iranaeus of Lyons, d. 202, said

"In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.' But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin, having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race….And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled…And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith."

These are just two of the many early Saints who had devotion to Mary. Others include:

St. Ambrose, d. 397
St. Ephraem, d. 373,
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, d. 386
St. Gregory Nazianzen, d. 389
St. John Chrysostom, d. 407
St. Jerome, d.420

There are also explicit examples of direct prayer to Mary in the writings of:

St. Ambrose, d. 397
St. Augustine, d. 430
St. Epiphanius, d. 403

Note that both Eastern and Western Fathers are mentioned in the support of both ideas. This wasn't just a Western idea or an Eastern idea. This was a Catholic, a universally Christian, idea. The most complete ancient prayer to the Blessed Mother preserved is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, which is dated approximately 250 AD.

"We fly to your patronage,
O holy Mother of God,
despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us from all dangers.
O ever glorious and blessed Virgin."

At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Mary was given the title Mother of God. St. Cyril of Jerusalem said in a homily delivered at the Council:

"Who can put Mary's high honor into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle. Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house He had built for Himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking His own servant to become His mother?

Beyond then the joy of the whole universe. Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us wtih awe and adoration. Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God himself, her Son and spotless Bridgegroom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

After the Council of Ephesus, the third ecumenical council, devotion to the Blessed Mother flourished. She was the "New Eve" and the "Mother of God". She was also a powerful intercessor.

The foundation for Marian devotion had been laid by in the first 5 centuries of the Church. It continued throughout history. For the sake of brevity, I will only mention a representativegroup of Saints throughout the rest of history who have had pronounced Marian devotions. St. Germanus of Constantinople, d. 733 and his contemporary, St. John Damascene, d. 754-787 (unsure of date) were known for their strong Marian devotions. The latter is quoted as saying, "To be devout to you, O holy Virgin, is an arm of salvation which God gives to those whom He wishes to save". Four hundred years later, we have St. Anselem, d. 1109, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, d. 1153. The latter is the author of the Memorare, a popular Marian prayer. A century later, you have St. Dominic, d. 1221, who promulgated the Rosary and used it as a weapon to fight the Albigensians and St. Francis of Assisi, d. 1226, who wrote the beautiful Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Hail, O Lady,
Mary, holy Mother of God:
you are the Virgin made Church
and the one chosen by the
most holy Father in heaven
whom He consecrated
with His most holy beloved Son
and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete,
in whom there was and is
the fullness of grace and every good

Hail His Palace!
Hail His Tabernacle!
Hail His Home!
Hail His Robe!
Hail His Servant!
Hail His Mother!

And (hail) all you holy virtues which through the grace and light of the Holy Spirit are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from their faithless state you may make them faithful to God. Amen."

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Marian devotions of the Angelic doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, d. 1274, and his contemporary, the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, who died the same year. The former is quoted as teaching that the Blessed Virgin "must be shown every honor, preached and praised, and invoked by us in our every need.". He also wrote a beautiful prayer to the Blessed Virgin, which I will only excerpt here.

"0 most blessed and sweet Virgin Mary, Mother of God, filled with all tenderness, Daughter of the most high King, Lady of the Angels, Mother of all the faithful,

On this day and all the days of my life, I entrust to your merciful heart my body and my soul, all my acts, thoughts, choices, desires, words, deeds, my entire life and death,

So that, with your assistance, all may be ordered to the good according to the will of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. …

From your beloved Son. ..request for me the grace to resist firmly the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. ..

My most holy Lady, I also beseech you to obtain for me
true obedience and true humility of heart

So that I may recognize myself truly as a sinner–wretched and weak– and powerless, without the grace and help of my Creator and without your holy prayers. ..

Obtain for me as well, O most sweet Lady, true charity with which from the depths of my heart I may love your most holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and, after Him, love you above all other things. ..

Grant, O Queen of Heaven, that ever in my heart I may have fear and love alike for your most sweet Son. ..

I pray also that, at the end of my life, you, Mother without compare, Gate of Heaven and Advocate of sinners. ..will protect me with your great piety and mercy. ..and obtain for me, through the blessed and glorious Passion of your Son and through your own intercession, received in hope, the forgiveness of all my sins.

When I die in your love and His love, may you direct me into the way of salvation and blessedness. Amen."

The latter is quoted as saying, "The way to Christ is to draw near to her." and wrote the Mirror of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Philip Neri, d. 1595, said, "To begin and end well, devotion to our Blessed Lady, the Mother of God, is nothing less than indispensable". St. Louis de Montfort is known for his strong devotion to Mary which catalyzed his development of a formula of consecration to Jesus through Mary. He has said, " The more the Holy Ghost finds Mary, His dear and inseparable spouse, in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ." Again, Mary leads us to Jesus.

These are just a small sampling of examples of devotion to Our Lady throughout the history of the Church. If devotion to Our Lady was the action and attitude of Our Lord, has been the constant teaching of the Church, and has been shown to lead many souls to Him throughout history, that's good enough for me, particularly since "For every tree is known by its fruit"(Lk. 6:44). Devotion to Mary has produced very good fruit.

With regards to the third objection, I have already shown that Mary leads us to Christ, keeping no glory for herself. However, some may still call devotion to our Blessed Mother as "idolatry". This argument has been countered by many apologists who have spoken more eloquently than I. I will just excerpt their writings and provide you with relevant links. The first reason people seem to think we "worship" Mary is one of language. They fail to differentiate between the honor we give Mary and the saints and the honor that is due God alone.

"In Scripture, the term 'worship' was similarly broad in meaning, but in the early Christian centuries, theologians began to differentiate between different types of honor in order to make more clear which is due to God and which is not.

As the terminology of Christian theology developed, the Greek term latria came to be used to refer to the honor that is due to God alone, and the term dulia came to refer to the honor that is due to human beings, especially those who lived and died in God's friendship-in other words, the saints. Scripture indicates that honor is due to these individuals (Matt. 10:41b). A special term was coined to refer to the special honor given to the Virgin Mary, who bore Jesus-God in the flesh-in her womb. This term, hyperdulia (huper [more than]+ dulia = 'beyond dulia'), indicates that the honor due to her as Christ's own Mother is more than the dulia given to other saints. It is greater in degree, but still of the same kind. However, since Mary is a finite creature, the honor she is due is fundamentally different in kind from the latria owed to the infinite Creator.

All of these terms-latria, dulia, hyperdulia-used to be lumped under the one English word "worship." Sometimes when one reads old books discussing the subject of how particular persons are to be honored, they will qualify the word "worship" by referring to "the worship of latria" or "the worship of dulia." To contemporaries and to those not familiar with the history of these terms, however, this is too confusing."

for full article see here.

Another factor that contributes to the "Marian idolatry" idea is asking for her intercesion. "Why don't you just go straight to Jesus?"

"The answer is: 'Of course one should pray directly to Jesus!' But that does not mean it is not also a good thing to ask others to pray for one as well. Ultimately, the 'go-directly-to-Jesus' objection boomerangs back on the one who makes it: Why should we ask any Christian, in heaven or on earth, to pray for us when we can ask Jesus directly? If the mere fact that we can go straight to Jesus proved that we should ask no Christian in heaven to pray for us then it would also prove that we should ask no Christian on earth to pray for us.

Praying for each other is simply part of what Christians do. As we saw, in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul strongly encouraged Christians to intercede for many different things, and that passage is by no means unique in his writings. Elsewhere Paul directly asks others to pray for him (Rom. 15:30-32, Eph. 6:18-20, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1), and he assured them that he was praying for them as well (2 Thess. 1:11). Most fundamentally, Jesus himself required us to pray for others, and not only for those who asked us to do so (Matt. 5:44)."

For more information on this, please see these articles.

A final claim that sometimes contributes to this claim of idolatry is our use of statues.

"People who oppose religious statuary forget about the many passages where the Lord commands the making of statues. For example: 'And you shall make two cherubim of gold [i.e., two gold statues of angels]; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be' (Ex. 25:18-20)."

More information on this can be found here.

As was pointed out to me, "When has Mary ever led anyone away from Christ?" Never that I have heard. I hope, though, I have shown many people throught the years that she has led to a deeper relationship with her Son.

[The following are some examples of arguments mentioned above "in the wild" and some previous posts on this blog about Marian doctrines. – Funky]

Romanist Mariology – part 1
Romanist Mariology – part 2

Can Anybody Hear Me?
Signs and Ceremonies: The Virgin Mary
"Henceforth all generations will call me blessed"
A Wicked and False Religion?
And the Wind Cried Mary

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About Edey

The only "box" edey fits into is that of a statistical anomaly. She wants to change the world but is also a firm believer in tradition. ("It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time." -G.K. Chesterton) Cultivating a respect for the dignity of all life is the guiding principle of her politics. Never afraid to buck the trend, she tries to follow her favorite <a href="">professor's</a> lead by defying power in order to make space for love. She knows that the only happiness is love, which is attained by giving, not receiving. edey is a science geek with such eclectic intellectual pursuits that-not only did she end up with two undergraduate degrees-she designed her own liberal arts major. She is on a never-ending quest for truth and beauty. While edey is a tomboy, she can surprise even herself by being "such a girl" under certain circumstances. Her greatest assets-her passion, honesty, and loyalty-are her greatest liabilities. Ultimately, she strives to follow St. John the Baptist's words: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)

2 thoughts on “Proper Devotion to the Mother of God

  1. Stuff

    Very well researched and written. I actually recently read an article in Catholic Answer magazine on the Queenship of Mary, not necessarily Marian devotion in general. I am at work so I can’t scan or copy any excerpts, but I can if you wish, because it included some specifically Biblical arguments as to why we consider Mary a Queen, not just a really special saint. I guess a lot of people disagree with the “Queen” title because she was the mother, not the wife, of Jesus, who is King of Kings. This article did well to point out that in Biblical context, however, the Queen was ALWAYS the king’s mum since most kings had many wives and/or concubines. See the story of how Solomon became king in 2 Samuel (I think – I’m bad at quoting Scripture if it’s not in front of me) – Bathsheba approaches David as any servant in the kingdom and bows and does obeisance and all that jazz, but when her son, Solomon, is king, HE bows to HER, and has a throne brought for her and placed on his right hand, the place of authority. Pretty cool, eh? Also, when Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord” she is using a title which, in context, is equivalent to “Queen Mum.”
    I don’t know – I found it fascinating. Better get back to work.

  2. Tom Smith

    It’s kinda funny that the links are to “Romanist” Mariology, when edey so clearly shows that Marian piety was utterly universal in the days of the unified Apostolic Church. I suppose Rand should write pieces condemning Gallican, Sarum, West Syriac, East Syriac, Melkite, Slavonic, Byzantine, Milanese, Malabar, and Alexandrian Mariologies as well.

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