Archbishop, why do Catholics worship Mary?
Catholics venerate and love Our Blessed Mother: we do not worship her. Worship is due to God and God alone. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2096) says: Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Saviour, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve,” says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy (Lk 4:8; cf Deut 6:13).
Mary is a creature and as such is not worshipped. But she is the first of the new creation, the new Eve and thus has a special place of honour in the Church. The Catechism sees in Genesis 3 the Protoevangelium or ‘first gospel’, “the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers”.
It states also, “Mary benefitted first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life” (cf CCC 410, 411).
In the early Church when the Fathers debated the true nature of Christ—whether He was human or divine—one Father said: “Have we not always called Mary Mother of God?”. This settled the debate. If Mary is Mother of God, then Christ is true man, true God.
The Catechism goes further, “The Virgin Mary … is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. … She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ … since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church” (CCC 963).
The Annunciation (Lk 1:26–38) is an amazing biblical text. The angel addresses Mary: “Rejoice so highly favoured the Lord is with you.” The Fathers of the Church at the Second Vatican Council, in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium (LG), say: The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is ‘the mother of the members of Christ … having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head’ (LG 53).
Mary is the woman in Genesis 3:15 whose offspring will crush the head of the serpent. It is she who fulfils the biblical promise. It is she who confronts evil by her ‘Yes’ to God that reverses the ‘No’ of Eve.
In the book of the Revelation 12:1, Mary appears again: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” This woman is doing battle with the dragon and must protect the child. This is Mary not as we see her on earth, but as God sees her in full splendour and glory. She must run and hide and protect the child. But it is to her that God entrusts His only begotten Son.
On the cross, while in agony and pain, Jesus entrusts His mother to the Beloved Disciple, and the Beloved Disciple to His mother: “Woman, here is your son”. Then, to the disciple, “Here is your mother. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (cf Jn19: 26–27).
The disciple is not named, we have his office—beloved. The woman is not named we have her as woman and mother. To be a beloved disciple, is to be entrusted to Mary and to make a place for her in your home.
The sacred vessels we use for the Eucharist at Mass will not be used for a tea party or a lunch! They are set aside as holy because they have contained the body of Christ. So, too, Mary as a sacred vessel, which contained the Body of Christ, is set aside as holy and given special prominence in the Church. She is the closest human being to God. She had him in her womb for nine months. She is the ark of the New Covenant. She is the mother of God and the mother of the Church. One saint says because of Mary’s closeness to Christ, she takes our petitions and arranges them into a beautiful bouquet and presents them to her Son.
‘Because of Mary’s singular cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray in communion with the Virgin Mary, to magnify with her the great things the Lord has done for her, and to entrust supplications and praises to her’ (CCC 2682).
Key Message: Mary has a unique place in salvation history: Every beloved disciple of Jesus has been entrusted to Mary, and Mary to every beloved disciple.
Action Step: Consider your relationship with Mary in the light of Jesus’ promise and His entrusting us to her. Have you adequately made room for her in your home, heart, life?
Lk 1:26–38, Gn 3:15, Jn 19:26–27