A Protestant reader named James recently asked a really good question that relates to Christmas: Why do Catholics love Mary so much?
I have been reading your blog and have a question.
First of all understand I am a Presbyterian. I do have Anglican leanings but in the past few years have been studying Catholicism and wondering.
Now my question is: Why is the perpetual virginity and co-redemptive quality of Mary of such importance? And why do Catholics draw those conclusions from scripture?
Please except my question in the spirit in which it is offered. I do not mean to offend yet am very curious as to the answer.
Thank you, James for your honest inquiry and gracious tone. When I was not yet Catholic, these same questions puzzled me. It seemed that Catholics loved Mary too much. So why is it, then, that Catholics love Mary so much?
First, it’s ultimately not about Mary. It’s ultimately all about Christ who is fully God and fully man. Human redemption occurred through the death of Christ and that death required flesh and blood – a human sacrifice. It would not do for the Second Person of the Trinity to simply hover over the cross. Rather, He had to be nailed to it, that is, He required a body:
If Christianity is fundamentally a religion of the incarnate Christ who physically died and rose again, then the body of Christ is of the foremost importance.
God could have provided Christ with a body in the way that He had created Adam – from the dust. He instead chose a human mother – the Blessed Virgin Mary. She provided the flesh and blood to the Logos. Christ’s human nature was derived of her substance. She made a contribution to salvation in a way that no one else ever has. Catholics honor and value this “contribution” if Mary, even though we know that Christ is ultimately the redeemer of mankind in the absolute sense.
Everything about Mary is really everything about the incarnation of Christ. Likewise, attacks on Mary are fundamentally attacks on the incarnate nature of (Catholic) Christianity.
The virginity of Mary and her contribution to redemption (i.e. the flesh and blood of Christ) are of utmost importance to Catholics for the sake of the incarnation of Christ.
The definitive birth of Christ seals Mary’s womb. Other than Christ’s body, Mary’s womb is the next holiest physical place in creation. Her womb is literally the gate of heaven – the portal by which the Logos entered creation.
Cardinal Newman once noted that Protestants continually protest against Catholic devotion to Mary, arguing that it is contrary to the worship of Christ as divine. And yet it is Protestants who have historically abandoned the doctrine of Christ’s deity.
Any Catholic who loves and venerates Mary could never subordinate Christ as anyone less than God. It simply doesn’t make sense. Catholic devotion to Mary is the single greatest insurance policy against Christological error – as Saint Cyril of Alexandria so forcefully argued.
Is this at all appealing to you?
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