Q: Archbishop J, La Divina Pastora—Is Mary a god?
Mary is not God! She is not part of the Trinity! She is not a god! She is truly human like you and me, except she was conceived without sin, like Eve before the Fall. Of Jesus we say in the creed on Sunday—true God, true man, begotten not made. Of Mary, we say, true human, made, part of the creation.
It is important, then, that in our Marian devotions we do not slip into idolatry, making Mary into a god or goddess. It is also important that we give Mary her rightful place which is in Heaven. The doctrine of the Assumption says that the body of Mary was assumed into Heaven. Thus, Mary is in Heaven in bodily form. Not part of the Trinity, but the first human that is part of the heavenly court.
In the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) we read: “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” (6:10) The Church has seen this as a reference to Mary in all the glory that God has bestowed on her. It understands Revelation 12:1, in similar fashion: “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.”
Truth is paradoxical! Mary is the lowly maiden from Nazareth. Mary is the woman of Revelation and Song of Solomon. Like the Church, we see her in all her vulnerability and humanness, like the Church we see her in all her glory, beauty and splendour. We cannot hold just one side. The tradition invites us to hold both sides of the mystery. This is why it is mystery: it invites us to hold what is irreconcilable.
Over our 2,000-year history the Church has developed four doctrines about Mary. Each one is vital to secure the truth about Jesus Christ and salvation. We teach that Mary is ever a virgin, mother of God, her conception was immaculate (without sin) and she was bodily assumed into heaven. These four doctrines are the basis for Mariology—the study of Mary.
By virtue of her Assumption, Mary is bodily in heaven. The title La Divina Pastora, the Divine Shepherdess, is connected to this doctrine. The word ‘divine’ means, “pertaining to, of the nature of, or proceeding from God or a god”. It can be understood or interpreted as proceeding from God, but not ‘of the nature of God’.
Mary, human like us in all things but sin, is in the heavenly court. She is above the angels and the saints because she is the first of the new creation—the new Eve.
La Divina Pastora, I believe, is even more associated with another dogma—Mother of God. Mary is the mother of the Divine Shepherd, or the Shepherd of the Divine Shepherd. If God entrusted His Son into the hands of Mary, how could we not trust her to shepherd us and lead us to the Divine Shepherd? Mary has a role in the divine economy of salvation. She is not only Mother of God; she is also Mother of the Church and our Mother. She plays a maternal role in each of our lives, if we let her.
Everything we can say about the Divine Shepherd, we can say about Mary, La Divina Pastora. Instinctively, people from all over the Archdiocese make their way to Siparia for the devotions every year. They come with their petitions to Mary, with the belief and sure hope that she would bring them to her Son and receive a favourable response.
Mary as Queen
During the Easter season, the Church prays the Regina Cæli (Queen of Heaven) at noon, instead of the Angelus. This is another title of Mary. In our day, the queen is the wife of the king, or as in the case of the United Kingdom, the supreme ruler. In the Old Testament, the queen was the mother of the king, not his wife. Kings had so many wives that it would have been utter confusion. There is only one mother and so this became the simple solution.
In the court of King Solomon, the queen mother Bathsheba had immense power. She had a special role, which is the key to understanding the role the Church has given Mary. She is the Queen Mother.
In the first book of Kings, as Solomon became king, Adonijah asked Bathsheba to intercede on his behalf to the king. The text reads:
So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you” (1Kings 2:19–20)
This text gives us an understanding of the structure of the office of the queen mother. When she entered the royal court, King David bowed to her, before she bowed to the king. He puts her to sit on his right—a sign of authority and power.
The fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary invites us to contemplate Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Mary’s role is not to bring salvation; that is the role of Jesus, her Son. Her role is to shepherd us, as she shepherded her Son. Hence her title—La Divina Pastora.
As Queen Mother her role as intercessor is a structure of Grace that God opened many years before Jesus came into the world, a structure that comes to full flowering in Mary as mother of her divine Son.
Key Message: Mary, as Queen Mother is our intercessor and shepherdess, she always leads us to her Son Jesus Christ. Her maternal care and love is an extension of the love of her Son for us and for the world.
Action Step: Let us without hesitation or concern enter into true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mother. Place your intercessions into her maternal hands and she will bring them to her Son, Jesus Christ.
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:31–33.