Purest of All Lilies

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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Aug 13, 2013)
On Aug. 15 each year, Catholics celebrate a feast day in honor of one of the greatest mysteries of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: her bodily assumption into heaven. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son's Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body (974).

One of our readers named Bernard recently wrote to me and asked if there really was any evidence that Mary was taken to heaven in body and soul upon her death, since the Bible seems to be silent about it, and even the early fathers of the Church say nothing about it. He had just read a book by a Protestant author who called Catholic belief in the Assumption the product of popular "sentiment and myth." So, is it a doctrine we just have to accept with blind faith, because the Church says so, trusting that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit?

Well, yes, Bernard, in discerning such things and defining doctrine the Church is indeed guided by the Holy Spirit, which is why St. Paul calls the Church in 1 Tim 3: 15, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth." You can trust a "pillar and a bulwark"!

Still, it is perfectly legitimate to ask what the signs were that the Church considered when she sought to discern the truth about this matter, and explore how they added up to the final definition of the doctrine by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Besides, it is good to explore the reasons behind the doctrine in case you are ever asked by one of your non-Catholic friends or acquaintances why the Church believes such a thing, remembering the exhortation of St. Peter to "always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3: 15).

First of all, while it is true that the early Christian writers do not explicitly mention the Assumption of Mary, there is an ancient and curious silence about her bodily remains that cries out for an explanation. Sometimes, as we say, "silence" can be "deafening." Karl Keating of Catholic Answers writes:

We know that after the crucifixion Mary was cared for by the apostle John (Jn 19:26-27). Early Christian writings say John went to live at Ephesus and that Mary accompanied him. There is some dispute about where she ended her life, perhaps there, perhaps back at Jerusalem. Neither of these cities nor any other claimed her remains, although there are claims about possessing her (temporary) tomb. Why did no city claim the bones of Mary? Apparently because there were no bones to claim, and people knew it.

Remember, in the early Christian centuries, relics of saints were jealously guarded and highly prized. The bones of those martyred in the Colosseum, for instance, were quickly gathered up and preserved; there are many accounts of this in the biographies of those who gave up their lives for the Faith [for example, the bones of St. Peter and St. Paul were widely known to be preserved in Rome, and the sepulcher of David and the tomb of St. John the Baptist are both mentioned in Scripture]. Yet here was Mary, certainly the most privileged of all the saints ... but we have no record of her bodily remains being venerated anywhere.

Explicit mention of the Assumption of Mary begins to appear in highly embellished legendary accounts in the 4th century. We have a slightly more sober account of the event given by St. John Damascene in a copy of a letter he preserved from a 5th century Patriarch of Jerusalem named Juvenalius to the Byzantine Empress Pulcheria. The Empress had apparently asked for relics of the most Holy Virgin Mary. Patriarch Juvenalius replied that, in accordance with ancient tradition, the body of the Mother of God had been taken to heaven upon her death, and he expressed surprise that the Empress was unaware of this fact (implying that it must have been more or less common knowledge in the Church at the time).

Juvenalius joined to this letter an account of how the apostles had been assembled in miraculous fashion for the burial of the Mother of God, and how after the arrival of the apostle St. Thomas, her tomb had been opened, and her body was not there, and how it had been revealed to the apostles that she had been taken to heaven, body and soul. Later, in the 6th century, belief in the Assumption was defended by St. Gregory of Tours, and no saint or father of the Church thereafter disputed the doctrine.

Obviously, these bits of evidence all by themselves (the early and deafening silence about the bones of Mary, and widespread belief in the Assumption manifest among the early Christians of the 4th and 5th centuries, without any dispute of the doctrine among the saints and the fathers) does not prove that the doctrine is true. But the Church believes that because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the people of God as a whole possess what St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas called an affectio or inclinatio fidei. In other words, an affective inclination that draws them to the truths of the faith. Given that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, a consensus of the faithful on a matter of divine truth, and especially of the saints (who are full to overflowing with the Holy Spirit), is certainly not to be taken lightly.

Secondly, it is claimed that there is no mention of the Assumption of Mary in Scripture. But I would argue (following the Catholic Biblical scholar and apologist Scott Hahn) that there is, indeed, an allusion to the mystery of the Assumption right in the very place we would most expect to find it if the doctrine were true: namely, in the writings of the Apostle St. John, the one into whose care our Lord placed His Mother at the hour of His death on the Cross , and especially in what may be the last of the New Testament books to be written, a book almost certainly written after Mary's earthly life was over, the Book of Revelation.

In his recent book Hail Holy Queen, Prof. Hahn shows conclusively that the story of the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth in St. Luke's gospel, chapter one, bears numerous and remarkable similarities to the account in the Old Testament of King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. The similarities are too many to be accidental: St. Luke means to tell us, in his own characteristic way, that Mary herself is the new Ark of the Covenant. Just as the Ark in ancient Israel contained the tables of the Law, and some of the manna-bread from heaven — signs of the Old Covenant — so Mary's womb contained the sign of the promise of the New Covenant and the true Bread of Life: Jesus our Savior Himself. Thus, it was already believed by the apostolic Church that Mary was the new Ark of the Covenant.

Now the old Ark of the Covenant had been lost for many centuries, and none of the Jews knew where it could be found (indeed, it remains missing to this very day). With that in mind, look what we find at the end of chapter 11 of the Book of Revelation:

Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant was seen within His temple, and there were flashes of lightening, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake and heavy hail.

Wow, what an audio-visual spectacular! The Ark had been found! But look what the Revelation tells us next (and remember: the chapter and verse divisions of the Bible are not part of the original texts: they were inserted centuries later by monks to help us locate Scripture verses more easily, so the following sentence from the start of chapter 12 came directly after the one at the end of chapter 11 in the original manuscripts):

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child. ... [S]he brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.

Clearly, what St. John was shown in his vision, recorded here in the Book of Revelation, is that the Ark of the Covenant is now in heaven as a "woman clothed with the sun" whose child is the Messiah (who will rule with a "rod of iron," cf. Ps 2:9). Indeed, several of the Church fathers saw this passage as a reference to Mary, the Mother of our Savior, including St. Ephrem the Syrian, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine. At the same time, many of the Fathers saw the "woman" as a symbol of Israel, and the Church, the New Israel. There are certainly indications that this is also what the woman symbolizes here (e.g., she has a crown of 12 stars on her head, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel, and the 12 apostles). So which interpretation is correct? Both are correct! (And the ancient Fathers saw no contradiction between them.) It was not uncommon in ancient Jewish literature to use a double-symbol: an historical individual used to symbolize a whole group of people. For example, it is quite likely that the famous passage in Isaiah 53 about the sufferings of the Messiah ("He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," etc.) are also meant to symbolize the vocation of suffering of the whole people of Israel.

In a similar way, Mary, the Mother of the Church, is used in the book of Revelation to symbolize the fulfillment of the vocation of Israel in the new people of God, who are to bear Christ into the world. It is no wonder that when the Church began to put together liturgical texts for the Feast of the Assumption, she made a connection (first made by several of the ancient Fathers), between Psalm 131:8 and the mystery of the heavenly woman-ark: "Arise, O Lord, and go to Thy resting place, Thou and the ark of Thy might." After the Lord "arose' from the dead, He took with Him into heavenly glory the true "ark" of the New Covenant, the body of His mother Mary. For just as the ancient Israelites believed that the original ark was made from incorruptible wood, so this passage foreshadows the bodily incorruption given to Mary by Her Risen Son.

And if we want further corroboration that the "woman, clothed with the sun" of Revelation 12 was meant to be a symbol of Mary, her body and soul in heavenly glory, have a look sometime at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, given miraculously by Our Lady to St. Juan Diego in the 16th century, and compare it with the description in the book of Revelation. In a future column we will discuss the evidence for that miracle, and its profound meaning. Suffice it to say here that Catholics can be confident that the Our Lady of Guadalupe and the "woman" of Revelation 12 are one and the same.

However, even all this might not have been enough to lead the Church to define the Assumption of Mary as a truth revealed by God. Something more was needed: what theologians call the analogy of faith. That means that every authentic doctrine revealed by God must be seen to "fit" with every other revealed doctrine. In other words, there must be a harmony among the truths of the faith — and certainly no contradictions between them.

Does the doctrine of Mary's Assumption fit with the Catholic faith as a whole?

Of course, it does.

First of all, it is a natural fit with the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception: that she was preserved from the inheritance of original sin by the merits of her Son's Passion. (By the way, God can do that kind of thing, simply because He has all of time present to Him at once. For example, He took the merits of His Son's Passion and applied them to the patriarchs and prophets of Israel, granting them many graces on that basis. And in the same way, He took the merits of His Son's Passion, and on that basis gave to Mary an outpouring of grace into her soul from the first moment of her existence, to help prepare her for her special future role as Mother of the Savior).

Now, we know from the book of Genesis that one of the results of the Fall of Adam and Eve was that all their descendents became subject to suffering and death. "The wages of sin is death." But Mary did not share in this fallen condition. Rather, her soul was enriched from the moment of her conception with the grace of the life-giving Holy Spirit. As the Ven. John Henry Newman wrote: "Why should she share the curse of Adam, who had no share in his fall?" Thus, our belief in the graced origin of Mary naturally leads us to accept the truth that she was preserved from the curse and indignity of the bodily corruption involved in human death. And, by the way, that is why it was not until the 20th century that the Church became so sure of this doctrine that she proclaimed is a revealed truth from God: because it was not until the 19th century that she became convinced, beyond any reasonable doubt, of the truth of the Immaculate Conception. The one doctrine cleared the way for the other!

Most importantly, the Assumption of Mary is a loud and triumphant proclamation of the full truth of Easter. We sometimes say that the Easter faith, in a nutshell, is that "Christ is Risen." In a certain sense, that is true enough. But the good news that the Apostles proclaimed to the world was not only that Christ is Risen, but that, precisely because He is Risen, He is bringing His whole mystical Body on earth to join Him one day in heavenly glory. That is why St. Peter joyfully proclaims in I Peter 1:3-4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you ...

Most of the peoples of the ancient world, if they believed in life after death at all, believed merely in the immortality of the human soul: as if the ultimate human destiny was for us all merely to end up like Casper the friendly Ghost! Not much "good news" in that! But the Gospel message is not only that Jesus Himself rose again in a glorified body and soul, but that also, if our hearts live in union with His, we, too, shall rise to a glorified life, body and soul, just like His own. This is precisely what the Assumption of Mary proclaims: "Christ is Risen — and is now bringing all faithful hearts with Him to glory!" For the sign of this hope to all the Church is that the heart that was closest to His own loving Heart, has already been raised to glory before us. Assumpta est Maria in coeli, gaudete angeli!

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Audrey - Aug 12, 2011

Thank you so much for this great article. It is interesting and beautiful! I'd love to keep reading about it, specially about the connection with Our Lady of Guadalupe. Thank you!

Monique - Aug 12, 2011

What a blessing from God to read this article. How it has touched my heart. I want so much for us all to be taken up into that Beatific Vision and that is what God wants for us too...and has made possible for us through Christ's Life, Death, and Resurrection. Thank You God. Thank You Mother Mary for your help.

wanda - Aug 13, 2011

Thank you dear God for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception because they proclaim how precious Our Lady is to You and to us.

Sue - Aug 13, 2011

Thank you for clearing up so many questions! I always had faith in the Church's revalation about our Blessed Mother but I am not so intelligent as to sew all together the testament and ancient writings that clearly point to it's truth. I will surely pass it on.

Carolyn - Aug 13, 2011

Thank you for this explanation of the Assumption of Our Lady--it does make everything fit together!

Eugene - Aug 14, 2011

The Blessed VIrgin Mary is in heaven and constantly helping us through intercession to Jesus and God the Father. This can be seen by her pwoerful effect against the evil one because in the Book of Genesis God tells us He will put emnity between the woman (Mary) and the serpent(the devil). Mary's purity of heart, humility and love for God makes evil spirit run in horror of something so pure as a prayer to her. Yes, we must do deliverance prayer at times to use our spiritual authority over demons and cast them out, but an alternative way is pray the Rosary, pray the Divine Mercy chaplet and consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary, confess and be absolved of our sins, then stop furthur sinning so we no longer are living in a state of sin but have become holy and sanctified. Now the any demons that have had prior access to us will become weak and tired of our sanctity and spontaneously leave us at some time that only God can predict. As St. Padre Pio said "The rosary is the weapon." and as Pope Adrian VI said "The rosary is the scourge of the devil." And the Divine Mercy chaplet is also very powerful because it pleads directly to God the Father for His divine mercy based on what His Dearly Beloved Son Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross, "for the sake of His sorrowful Passion". Everything we receive from God is a gift because we truly do not deserve anything based on how create false idols to worship, like sports, money, recreation, anything to keep our mind away from God and on our own sensual pleasures. The luxury given to us by our fathers has become our curse. It distracts us and hardens our hearts so we become blind to God's message and God's call upon our lives. We forget that Sunday is the Lord's day, it is not "football Sunday", it is not the last day of the golf championships, it is a day to reflect on what God is doing in our lives, where God is leading us, and how we can better love God. Too often we think of Sunday as yo give God an hour and then spend the rest of the day in the nonstop pursuit of sensual pleasure. Is this any way to respond to the offer and promise of eternal life in heaven with our Creator? Our treasure is in Heaven not here on earth. Our reward is in Heaven not in any earthly pursuit. Our primary focus should be always on eternal things not on temporal things. Let us be more like St. Therese of the Child Jesus in her little way always trying to gather the precious pearls of the tears of Jesus so that she may use them ransom the souls of poor sinners. This is a much more rewarding pursuit than constant focus on the vanities of the world because it is a pursuit of the promise that Jesus Christ offered us by His dying on the Cross, a promise to be reconciled to God the Father, a promise to be with Jesus and God the Father forever. There is a book out now called "The End of the Present World abd the Mysteries of the Future Life." It was lost for years and when found again to be only in French. It has been published in English now in 2008. It is by Father Charles Arminjon who in the 1880's held a series of 9 conferences. He published a book on the material in those conferences read by St. Therese of the Child Jesus (of Lisieus) in the year 1887 when she was 14 years old and she said of this book "Reading this book was one of the great graces of my life. I read it at the window of my study and the impression I received from it is too intimate and too sweet for me to express... All the great truths of religion, the mysteries of eternity, plunged my soul into a happiness not of this earth... I experienced already what God reserves for for those who love Him (not with the eye of a man, but with that of the heart) and seeing the eternal rewards had no proportion to the light sacrifice of life. I wanted to love. to love Jesus with passion, to give Him a thousand proofs of love while I still could. I copied out several passages on perfect love, on the reception that God will give His elect at the moment when He Himself becomes their great and eternal reward, I kept repeating unceasingly the words of love burning in my heart." She died in 1897 at the age of 24. This book caused St Therese to dedicate her life to God and thus she became resource and model of love for God for us all and she was made a Doctor of the Church by Blessed John Paul II on Sunday, September 24, 1997.

Rebecca - Aug 14, 2011

I thak God he has given our Blessed Mother to us. I cannot imagine going through my life's challenges without the intercession of our Blessed Mother. She helps me humble myself in difficult situations. I am not a humble person, but I am trying. She is so obedient to God's Love.

Minda August 14, 2011 - Aug 14, 2011

Thank you, Father Joseph of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception
for reminding us the Feast of Mary Assumed to Heaven.

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC - Aug 15, 2011

Thanks Robert. Great article!

Bob - Aug 18, 2011

I have always thought of Mary as ahead of us in the spiritual life, and therefore our model to emulate. By her Immaculate Conception, she had no original sin. We are freed of original sin at baptism. She is in heaven in body and soul; we too will have a glorified body and soul in Heaven after the Last Judgement and Second Coming provided we remain in His love. Basically, she is our mother leading the way.

Nicholas - Aug 22, 2011

A wonderful analysis of the doctrine. When I perceive such studious endevour in the faith, I am heartened and given vivacity. Thanks to whoever is resposible for the above.

Nicholas - Aug 22, 2011

A wonderful analysis of the doctrine. When I perceive such studious endevour in the faith, I am heartened and given vivacity. Thanks to whoever is resposible for the above.

Martha - Sep 25, 2011

Thank you for an excellent article! My only comment is that Venerable John Henry Newman is now Blessed John Henry Newman.

Pam - Oct 30, 2011

I have read your article with great interest. I am a born again Christian and my children attend a Catholic school. We love the environment of a shared faith and deal with the differences in beliefs, one of which is the assumption and coronation of Mary.

Can you provide scripture that refers to Mary as being without sin? If she was without sin, can you explain Romans 3:23, in which it states that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (thus the need for a Savior). Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), but I cannot find scripture that supports that Mary was without sin. It would seem to me that if Mary was without sin, the Bible would make specific mention of it.

I understand that each religion has its own doctrine and I'm confused as to why such a huge part of the Catholic faith surrounds the assumption and coronation of Mary, yet has no scriptural foundation for it. Scripture was provided in your article, however, it is extremely vague and leaves quite a bit of room for misinterpretation.

Why do Catholics pray to Mary? She is the mother of Jesus, yes. She was the vessel that God chose to send his son into this world, yes. However, Mary is NOT God. She did not create this world, and she cannot forgive our sins. Jesus was the sacrificial lamb and in John 14:6 Jesus states "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes unto the Father except through ME."

Where in the Bible does it state to pray to ANYONE other than Jesus or God?

Pam - Nov 3, 2011

Just one more point that needs to be made regarding Mary as being without sin.

The Bible traces Mary's lineage back to King David, which means that Mary was born of earthly parents, parents that were born with original sin, which means that Mary had to be born with original sin.

Jesus was born of Mary, yet was without sin. He was also conceived of the Holy Spirit, which is WHY He is without sin.

That being said, Jesus is fully man (being born of an earthly woman) and fully God (without sin).

I don't want to distract from the importance of Mary, however, we need to keep our focus on Jesus, the Son of God, who was and is without sin, who laid down his life as the sacrificial lamb for our sins. He rose again and ascended to His rightful place in heaven. Who will one day, come again to gather His children.

al - Mar 5, 2012

in 1612 the then Pope commissioned a painting from the artist Carvaggio called "The Death of the Virgin Mary." It would seem obvious that as late as that year, at least, the official position of the church was that she had died in her body and that the Assumption is an idea that is fairly recent, most people putting it at about 1856. It was not made doctrine until 1956. I see no reason to believe something the popes cannot make up their mind on.

Alan, Beeston, UK - Jul 23, 2012

Pam, you say that “Where does scripture say that Mary is without sin?” Firstly, where does scripture say that all doctrines of the faith are explicitly stated in “Sacred Scripture”? This principle (known as “sola scriptura”) is just a part of your non-Catholic Tradition. Catholics believe in the principle “sola verbum Dei” (the Word of God alone) which we receive not only through Scripture but also through the teaching of the Apostles and the ancient Fathers of the Church, handed on to us orally or in writing. We call this “Tradition” (capital T) not to be confused with “tradition” in the ordinary sense of the word, which is used to denote changeable customs.
You will notice that Jesus did not leave his disciples a book to follow, but instead he founded a Church and gave it the Holy Spirit as teacher, guide, advocate and comforter. The Holy Spirit will “lead you to the complete truth” said Christ. He does this we believe through the Tradition and teaching of the Church.
Scriptural evidence for this is found the end of John’s Gospel “there are many other things that Jesus did, but they are not recorded in this book” “there are many other things I have to tell you, but they would be too much for you now” St Paul tells Timothy to “hold fast to the traditions you were taught whether in writing or by word of mouth”
There were 12 apostles, but we have only 4 gospels – have the teachings of the other 8 apostles been lost? We believe God would not allow that, and so everything we need to know for our salvation is preserved in the Tradition and teaching of the church, part of which is sacred scripture. Did you know that the list of books in your New Testament was approved by Pope Leo at the Council of Hippo in 325c ad and that is the reason you have the books you have at present? He excluded others such as the Gospel of Judas, because it was only the Catholic Church which had the authority to decide such important matters of faith.
So why is it that your church accepts the competency and authority of the Catholic Church to determine the contents of the New Testament, but rejects her authority over everything else?
Is it a good idea to pick and choose which parts of our Tradition you decide are inspired by God, and which are not? How do you know which parts are true and which are false?
Pam you sat that “St Paul says in Romans 3:23 that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and so need a Saviour. “
Although you put the word “ALL” in capital letters to stress the (perceived) all-encompassing nature of the word, this is not how it appeared in the original Greek.
Is the word “all” used by St Paul meant to be all inclusive? And does he mean that everyone has knowingly committed some personal sin?
• Have unborn children in the womb knowingly committed sin?
• Have new-born babies knowingly committed sin?
• Have children below the age of reason knowingly committed sin?
• Have mentally incapable persons knowingly committed sin?
If the answer in any of the above cases is no, this shows that the principle of exceptions does in fact exist, opening the way for the exception of Mary, Mother of God.
Does St Paul always use the word “all” in such an exclusive way as you suggest? Paul says “ALL scripture is inspired by God”? But when St Paul wrote this he was only referring to the Old Testament, as the Gospels had not yet been written. So to apply the word “all” in the strict sense you imply would mean that ONLY the Old Testament is inspired by God, not the New Testament. Would you accept that? The more likely scenario in both cases is that Paul uses the word “all” in a more general sense.
Pam you say that “Mary is the mother of Jesus and was the vessel that God chose to send his son into this world. However, Mary is NOT God. She did not create this world, and she cannot forgive our sins. John 14:6 Jesus states "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes unto the Father except through ME." “
The Catholic Church has never taught the absurd notion that Mary is God. However, to imply that God simply “used” her as a vessel only is to accuse God of gross misogynist exploitation. You imply that God used Mary only because she had a womb which he found useful and that she is really just an “incubator” which God then cast aside like so much rubbish.
The Catholic Church has a much higher opinion of God and his motives that your church seems to have. We believe God values all persons as persons, not merely instruments in some cosmic game of chess. God respects each one of us because we are made in his image and likeness. This involves respecting our choices. Mary freely chose to be the handmaid of the Lord and this is why she is held in such high esteem by Catholics, not just because she gave birth to Christ but because she “heard the word of God and acted upon it”

Moving on to the second part of your statement Christ does indeed say that "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes unto the Father except through ME." but this does not exclude the principle of asking for Mary’s prayers for us to her own divine Son. Is it not significant that it was Mary who brought the request of the couple at Cana before her son, and as a result bring forth his first miracle?
Did not Christ himself say “He who hears you hears me, and he who hears me hears the one who sent me”. So although ultimately Christ is heard, he is in fact heard through the co operation of others. So the principle of mediation is established and this surely includes Mary also. Otherwise, Christ would have to reveal himself to every Christian as he did to Paul on the road to Damascus, or as he did to the Apostles in the upper room after his resurrection. So although no comes to the Father except through Christ, this does not exclude the co-operation of the faithful, the most faithful of whom is his blessed mother Mary.
Pam you sat that “Where in the Bible does it state to pray to ANYONE other than Jesus or God?”
Aside from the point that we reject the principle “sola scriptura” I think that here you are confusing “pray” with “worship.” Scripture does indeed command that we worship no-one but God. But we do pray to God on behalf of others. Now praying to Mary in heaven is not the same as worshipping her. We have no problem praying for each other whilst in this earthly life, but are we then to cease praying for each other when are in glory? Do we suddenly forget the trials and tribulations of our loved ones one earth just because our personal struggle is over? Why then did the Christians beg the martyrs on the way to the arena of death in ancient Rome to bring their petitions before the throne of God after their martyrdom?
Did not the Lord command the companions of Job to ask him to intercede on their behalf? Does not Revelation say that the saints under the altar of God cry out to God for vengeance on behalf of the Church still suffering on earth? Does this not prove the principle of prayer of intercession in heaven by those who have gone before us? The Catholic Church believes it does so.

Pam you say that “The Bible traces Mary's lineage back to King David, which means that Mary was born of earthly parents, parents that were born with original sin, which means that Mary had to be born with original sin.”
That Mary was born of earthly parents does not mean that Mary had to be born with original sin. We believe that Mary also needed a Saviour, and that her Saviour was Christ. But God applied the saving effects to Mary’s soul at the moment she was conceived in the womb of her mother. He did this in anticipation of the redemptive suffering and death of his son on Calvary.
This principle is established in scripture by the fact that Christ forgave sins during his earthly ministry in advance of his redemptive suffering and death. Although he had not yet paid the price of our redemption, he applied the merits of his Passion to those sinners he met in anticipation of his passion.
The fourth commandment (or fifth in your tradition) commands us to honour our Father and Mother which Christ fulfilled perfectly. So before his incarnation, is it conceivable that Christ as God would knowingly have created his own mother imperfectly, with original sin if it was in his power to do otherwise? We believe he would not. We believe that at the very moment of her conception in her mother’s womb, the sanctifying grace of baptism was applied to her soul so that the human nature she gave to her divine son was a perfect human nature, not a fallen one.
Pam you say that “Jesus was born of Mary, yet was without sin. He was also conceived of the Holy Spirit, which is WHY He is without sin.”
Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit explains why he had no earthly father, not how he was conceived without sin. He was conceived without sin is because Mary gave him a sinless human nature, as she herself was conceived sinless. This is the only reason Christ is one with humanity; because he took upon himself a real human nature like ours, from the same human stock as Adam through his mother Mary. It is nothing to do with the fact that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit as you imply in your question. If Jesus did not receive his human nature through Mary, then he would be in possession of a unique “human nature” that was not inherited from Adam, and we would not be truly saved.
Pam you say ”That being said, Jesus is fully man (being born of an earthly woman) and fully God (without sin). “
Christ is not fully man just because he was born of an earthly woman, especially if as you imply, God merely used her as a “vessel”. A “vessel” is merely a container and a container does not impart particular properties on that which it contains. Jesus is fully man because he is like us in all things except sin, that is, he has a human body, human mind, human will, human soul, human nature. These things he obtains through the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing of Mary’s human nature which is itself sinless. Your question implies that there is a division in Christ between the earthly “part” and the divine “part”. The Church teaches that Christ is one (divine) person with two natures (human and divine).
I don't want to detract from the importance of Mary; however, we need to keep our focus on Jesus, the Son of God, who was and is without sin, who laid down his life as the sacrificial lamb for our sins. He rose again and ascended to His rightful place in heaven. Who will one day, come again to gather His children.
The Catholic Church could be more focussed on Jesus, and in fact everything she teaches about Mary is because of what she believes about Jesus.
Although the Catholic Church fully concurs with your last part of your statement, the first part is not true because you do in fact want to detract from the importance of Mary. In fact you reduce her to the status of a “vessel” which God used then cast aside in a purely instrumental fashion.
The Catholic Church teaches that God does not just give us “instrumental worth” but intrinsic worth as he created us in his image and likeness. Jesus commanded us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” so if we imitated God in the way that you say he treated Mary, we would pray to him when we needed something, and then cast him aside when our needs were met. Does this seem acceptable to you?
God prepared Mary for her role as mother of the Church and mother of all Christians from all eternity. Just as mankind is created in the image and likeness of God expressed in the complementarity of male and female. so it is fitting that our salvation is fulfilled through the co-operation of male and female, Jesus and Mary.
Just as the fall of man was initiated by Eve who said “yes” to Satan and then opened the way for Adam to follow in her sin, so was the Redemption initiated by Mary (the new Eve) saying “yes” to God and opening the way for Christ (the new Adam) to enter into the world.
Just as Eve is mother of all those who are born as children of mankind, so Mary is mother of all those who are re-born into the new life as adopted children of God.
God Bless, Alan.

Jorge - Aug 13, 2013

The question here is that Mary will prepare us for the second coming of Jesus-God.Mary is the perfect helper on this process. The clue here is that Jesus is part of the Trinity-God. Mary is below Him. She shall adore God. Mary is not even equal to Jesus-God. Amen

Michele - Aug 13, 2013

Mary NEVER claimed to be equal with God; after all, she stated in the Gospel that she was the handmaiden of the Lord, and that all generations would called her blessed. There you go...a statement directly from the bible. And we do call Mary blessed.

Catholics do not worship Mary, and we ask for her intercession between us and Jesus. After all, don't we offer prayers to for our deceased loved ones to look after us? I certainly ask my deceased beloved mother to look after me and for her to ask Jesus to watch over me and keep me safe. Why it is any different asking the Mother of God to do the same for us?

At the foot of the cross, Jesus gave his beloved mother to John to watch over us, and in effect, he was giving Mary to all of us - for her to be our mother.

Additionally, in ALL of Mary's appearences on earth, she stressed for all to love and honor her Son and God...to turn from our wicked ways and love one another. She always pointed to her Son and God. That proves that she doesn't think she is equal to God. Mary is still serving as the handmaiden to the Lord.

Additionally, of her own free will, Mary accepted God's request to bear the Son of God. God so loved Mary that He actually asked her permission!!!! God so loves us that He died on the cross for us. A sinless God, dying for our sins. Did He have to do this? Absolutely NOT! But He did!!!! Look at the pagan gods of myth; all of them were selfish, and used mankind in their petty fights with one another. The One True God does not! He gives us free will, and loves us so much to DIE for us! And what does He ask in return? For us to love one another as He has loved us! Pretty simple, isn't it? But humankind is too selfish, and that is why the world is in the state it is.

Because Mary said yes, God exaulted her! Because she said yes, Jesus was born both God and Man. Because she said yes, Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for our sins.

So why do many people have a problem with Catholics giving Mary the honor that is due her? Her YES changed the history of the world and was part of our salvation!!!

One of the commandments is to Honor our Mother and Father. Should Mary be any different than honoring our parents?

I really wish people would stop stating that we think that Mary is God, and that she thought herself equal to God!!! I think these beliefs makes Mary's heart very sorrowful for she loves her Son, and WILL ALWAYS point the way to her Son. Mary is God's HUMBLE handmaiden, and WOULD NEVER ASSUME to be like God. Many humans, on the other hand,try to be God and think they are equal to Him. I think we should take a lesson from Mary and learn to be selfless and humble.

I will always love the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven and the Angels, and her most perfect Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.


I think that too many people want to piegon-hole God, stating He cannot make Mary born without sin; he cannot make her the Queen of Angels and Heaven; he cannot bring her to Heaven body and soul...etc., etc., etc.

Again, I say, and WHY NOT??? Who are we to judge God's plans? Who are we to say what God should do and should not do? Makes you think doesn't it?

Clau - Aug 14, 2013

Thank you so much for this great article of the Assumption of Our Lady. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.


Rebecca - Aug 18, 2013

Thank you Dr Stackpole. I trust in my Catholic Faith to lead my family and myself to to the truth. Sometimes we don't need proof to belief. I appreciate your explanation. It brings everything to LIGHT which is my Saviour Jesus Christ, my Father in heaven, my Blessed and our precious Mother in Heaven and all the Angels and Saints. God Bless.

faithful - Dec 29, 2013

Why pray to mary? Why don't we come directly? Jesus said,' is any thirsty, let him come..' Also the Bible says in heb 4:16 ' let us come boldly before the throne of grace' is it becos we are unworthy? Heb 10:19- havin boldness to enter d most holy place by d blood of the lamb'. Moreso I do not need mary to interceed for me, heb 7:25- ' therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him because he lives to interceed for them' because, I hv come to Jesus, he is interceeding for me. Do I need mary to do it when the only mediator between God nd man is doing it for me I Tim 2:5. Many still see Jesus as d 30 year old Boy mary begged to help out at a wedding. John saw Jesus in revelation nd fell as one dead becos of d awe nd splendour of the risen Christ. So y d reasonin that Jesus will giv special consideration to d request made by mary?
The Bible said mary found favor in God's sight lk 1:30, this means God could hv used any other person. There were many virgins in israel at dat tym. But becos of the predeterminate counsel of God, He chose mary.
The statement: The mother of God ' seems absurd. It is a paradox. Does. Deity hv parents? Only in greek mythology is dat possible! No matter the explanation, dat statement does not sound right.

Susan - Jan 15, 2014

It is such a blessing that I found this article in my favorites, saved, who knows when for such a day as this. This morning while saying my rosary I was meditating/conteplating on this very subject. Perfect. Thankyou!

Edwin - Aug 24, 2014

Just want to commend this article and the generally educated debate and comments. Very inspiring and helps me in my journey of faith. No matter how well articulated, there will always be people unsatisfied with a Catholic's answer. I have no issue in recognizing Mary's role and asking for her intersession. Be Blessed and may these forums serve as a respectful source of dialogue towards truth.

Gopesh - Nov 13, 2015

"Mother of God " was from Elizabeth when she filled with Holy Spirit. When she was not, she mearly knew Mary as a good girl or a nice young women. But when the Holy Spirit come up on her she came to know that Mary is Mother of God. Luke 1: 43. And in Genesis 3:15, clearly says that her child... Again Revelation 12:5 .. Her Child... Dearall nobody can call Mary as Mother of God until and unless Spirit of God help them. Thank u.. May God Bless..

Stan - Nov 16, 2015

I have studied all the Catholic explanations as to why Mary is elevated so high in the Catholic faith. I just cannot follow the logic, every scripture quoted to support their cause of why Mary is with out sin,was a perpetual virgin, or that she makes intercession for us before her Son, are all real stretches. There no plain scriptures to support it and every scripture put forward by the catholic apologists, one has to read in between the lines to grasp what they are trying to portray.The Bible is not a riddle Book. There are so many scriptures that support that everything is through Christ. I believe as the catholics do that Mary was 100% man and 100% God. Mary was certainly the mother of the human part of Christ. However, the God part of Jesus was from ever. God has no beginning or end. Mary had a beginning, she is not Deity, therefore it is a misconception to say that she is the mother of God.

Gin615 - Dec 20, 2015

Isn't it true,though, that if Mary was born without original sin then so would her Son...therefore He wouldn't be born a man with a sinful nature that was necessary to be a scapegoat for all of us? There's nothing in the Bible that says that the Blessed Mother was born in an immaculate conception. Her parents were both human..

Gracie - May 4, 2016

I love the idea of the assumption of the Blessed Mother Mary into heaven, body and soul.
The assumption of the body seems to imply that at least some part of heaven must also be material for how can a body exist in a purely spiritual place? Is there cosmic dust or clouds or something else material in heaven?

Tobias - Aug 5, 2016

Non-catholic friends, as a non-Catholic, please let me help you understand two things that I see from previous posts are not fully understood - namely prayer to the saints, and Mary as 'Mother of God.'

First, regarding 'prayer' to saints (including Mary), this is expressly taught in Scripture in the many instances in which prayer is requested from others or commanded that we pray for each other. This is the role of the departed Saints, and the Catholic will simply ASK them for prayer (listen to what they say - "PRAY for us"). So while called 'prayer,' it is not prayer as we understand it, but merely a plea and request for intercessory prayer from one who is alive currently (For God is God of the living, not the dead), and before the face of God. We do the same here on earth, asking each other for prayer; the Catholic includes those saints alive before the face of God as well. In addition, this is in accordance with Scripture that says in Revelation that the saints offer up the prayers of the believer.

As regards 'Mother of God,' it is important that you understand that this is not primarily a declaration of Mary, but of CHRIST. This is a Christological statement declaring that Christ is both fully God and fully man. Called the 'communicatio idiomatum,' we understand that if Christ was fully divine, then when He healed we could say that God healed (He, being God, right?). When Christ walked on Water, we rightly say that God walked on water. When Christ hurt, God hurt. When Christ multiplied bread, God multiplied bread. So entwined are His two natures in ONE person that when His man acts, His God acts. Thus, logically and Orthodoxically, we can also say - MUST say - that when Christ was born, God was born. Thus this title, 'Mother of God' was a product of the ecumenical councils that recognized Christ as fully Divine and Fully human. So, again, 'Mother of God' is not a statement about Mary as much as it is a statement about CHRIST and His true inextricable divinity.

vivian - Aug 25, 2016

Some1 just got back from an event where these guys are celebrating 30years of their moms passage and am wondering if after 30years they still want to celebrate their mom what's wrong with celebrating the mother of God forever? Most pple are fighting the truth so hard and I know it leaves then no time to see what wrong with that. All over the world we celebrate women and Mary is said to be the only victim becos she bore the saviour? I won't be surprised if we one stop believing in jesus christ just out hatred for Mary. Nice article though, I am richly blessed.

Robert - Sep 18, 2016

What plain foolishness. If Catholics would just look at The Catholic doctrines then read the bible for themselfs they would become true apostolic a and not blind followers of the popes! Do as the apostles did then ad or subtract nothing and one will be saved. It's that simple. Repent, be baptiized in Jesus name not the titles of father ,son and Holy Ghost then you will be filled with Gods spirit and led by his spirit into eternity!