As Catholics we hold a special place of honour for our Mother, Mary. This can be somewhat confusing to non-Catholics, who have several misconceptions and questions regarding Marian devotions. They question as to why Mary is held in such high regard. They ask why we ask her for prayers. In some cases they even say “you pray to Mary and worship her”. What some fail to see is that the Catholic position on Mary is squarely Biblical. Throughout the Bible there is a narrative surrounding Mary, which I’ll be discussing throughout this post. However first, I’d like to point out an unheralded Bible passage that illuminates much of what we think about Mary. And no, the Biblical passage in question is not within the Gospel of Luke, which a lot of people point towards as the primary passage which justifies Marian devotion (although it is a good one, and has significant merits on its own).
But really, if you want a key passage for “Mariology”, to distill it to its core, it’s actually Revelations 12. The Bible is filled with rich symbolism and nuances, however looking at Revelations 12 shows zero subtly, which is probably why the meaning of the passage sometimes requires some Fridge Brilliance – people don’t think anything of it for awhile, and all of a sudden the light comes on. To get an understanding of Revelations 12, we need to look at spiritual warfare and the constant battle.
God made the angels, and then he made humans. One angel was incredibly jealous of the love directed towards humans. “why them? Why are they so special? They are not us. They are not ME. He’s doing this all wrong. Where’s my attention and love, does He not see how much better I am than them? Does He not see how much better things could be? I could do a better job. I can do a better job. I will show Him I can do a better job”.
That angel (Lucifer) tries to show God, and fails terribly. He then decides that if he cannot take out God, he will do the next best thing; he will take out God’s greatest creation; human beings. As a result, original sin happens. All of mankind is born into the world with the stain of Original Sin. From the time of Adam, all the way to today. God, being our Father, constantly tried throughout the Old Testament to reconcile us with Him. He tried several different methods, all of them failed. Sure, God still shows us His perfect love, but for a few years (ie; every year ever) humanity continues to mess up. And after all of that, God eventually says; “it’s time to set things right. I’ve sent JUDGES. I sent PROPHETS. I gave them KINGS. I freed them from slavery. And STILL they turn away from Me. Enough is enough”.
“It’s time. To. Set. Things. Right.”
And so it begins. Starting with King David, we see a lineage of holy people. Satan sees this, and he knows what is coming. This is why throughout the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, we see Satan gradually becoming more and more desperate. He needs to stop Christ (who is God) from coming to Earth. Earth is Satan’s realm after all, and he got trounced by God once already. This desperation culminates with Herod’s heart being hardened, and we witness the massacre of the Holy Innocents. The firstborn sons of several folks, all murdered in cold blood.
None of this works though, so Satan has only one ploy left. He *must* prevent the birth of the Christ, he must prevent Christ from coming to Earth. How can he do this?
If you’re a sci-fi junkie like me, the answer is pretty obvious. You have knowledge of time, and you know what will happen in the future. How does one impact the future? You try to erase the past. Think about it, all attempts to subvert and destroy the line of David have failed at this point. The whole point of the massacre of the Holy Innocents was done by Satan because he knew Jesus was coming. With the generation directly before Jesus approaching, there’s only one option left; you take out his parents so Jesus never gets the chance to make it to Earth. Or, better yet, your corrupt His parents so that He too would be stained.
A great plan, but there’s a couple of flaws with it. First, Christ was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Conceived by God. That cuts Satan’s plan in half right there, He already tried to take out God once and got curb-stomped. Second, Christ ain’t stupid. Plus since He’s been around from the beginning of time, is well aware of the situation. Well aware of the fallen nature of man, well aware of what Satan is trying to do (and has been trying). Everyone in Heaven is totally aware that the woman who is to carry the child Christ within her womb will be the most tempted, most spiritually attacked woman in history. That’s not hyperbole, that’s fact; the devil is going to throw *everything* at her because without her, Christ will not make it to Earth *as per the Virgin birth prophecy*. It must be done via a woman to fulfill*all* the prophecies. The catch is, of course, original sin. Satan has an easy means to attack the woman who will carry Christ within the womb via original sin. That’s how he attacks all of us, right? Original sin, we can’t escape it.
And this, finally, is where Revelations 12 comes into play.
“A great and wondrous 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. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne”.
First off, it’s clear that this Child is Jesus Christ, who as we know rules over us all as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s pretty clear the dragon is Satan. Some people say the woman is “the mother Church”, but to me that makes no sense. Jesus made the Church. If “the Church” gave birth to Jesus….then in a sense the Church made Jesus, which isn’t true. That makes little sense even in a symbolic/metaphorical sense. Logically speaking….the woman must be Mary. Some other important notes here;
1) The crown with twelve stars. Twelve is a significant number in the Bible. The Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the Twelve Apostles. The number here is no accident.
2) Clothed in “the sun”, mirroring how Mary is clothed with “the Son (of Man)”.
3) The light of moon brings light into the darkness, however it can only do so due to the light of the sun reflecting the light.
Also in the passage, it is also quite clear that the dragon in question means some serious business. We move onto the next piece of the passage, which is of interest;
“The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days”.
A place prepared for her. By God. Upon being threatened and attacked by Satan the woman (Mary) who gave birth to Jesus fled to the desert to a safe place. It’s almost as if Jesus Christ knew that he must protect His vessel, the New Ark.
The passage continues for a bit, mentioning the Great Spiritual War. We see Saint Michael leading God’s Army. On a totally unrelated note, this is the third time now in the Bible we see Michael take on this role. We know that God can take care of things Himself. But He still empowered Michael to be the leader of His Army, the Field Commander as it were. Crazy stuff. Anyway, the next part of the passage shows us the following;
“When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach“.
And here it is. The Devil continued to chase down Mary, but he couldn’t touch her. He could. NOT. TOUCH HER. God took her and protected her. She was never touched by the Devil. She wasn’t just taken to a safer place, but she was given “wings of the eagle so she might fly to the place”. She was given special privilege, special means to transport herself to the safe place. They very notion that she has a refuge from the Devil where she cannot be touched is astounding, but not shocking considering that in Luke we hear that she is “full of grace” (or ‘highly favored”). She couldn’t be touched by the Devil. Which means….she was never touched by sin. And the only way you cannot be touched at all by sin is to not be born into original sin. This “safe place” and “given the wings of a great eagle” is something we Catholics now have a term for;
The Immaculate Conception.
“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus”.
“The rest of her offspring”. Who are her offspring? Why the Christian Church. Mary, as the Mother of God, is also all of our Mother as well.
Finally (and if you made it this far I’m sure you’ll humor me and continue reading), within the Gospel narrative we need to examine the role of John with this. John was called the “one whom Jesus loved” or “the beloved disciple”. But Christ specifically shot John down when he asked Christ if he could sit at His right while in Heaven. We look at John, the beloved, and why he was called that; John *felt* beloved. He felt as if *he* was the beloved because of the amount of love he invested into the Christ Jesus. It’s why his message is different, why his Gospel is different. When consider; when the other eleven either betrayed or denied Jesus, who was left? Who was at the foot of the Cross? John was there, he went coast to coast. But how did he do this? How did John make it all the way there when by all rights he should have been killed on the spot? Think about it, the mob mentality, anyone who dared defend the Christ could be been crucified as well, or stoned. How did John make it all the way there?
Think for a moment about who was with him at the foot of the Cross. Think for a moment who John kept by his side. Think for a moment what Christ said to the two people at the foot of the Cross.
“Son, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son”.
John took those words to heart, and brought Mary into his home. He took care of her, loved her as his own mother. There’s no such thing as coincidences, so here’s something for you; John was the only one of the twelve to NOT die a martyr’s death.
Looking at things from this perspective, you gain a better understanding of why Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. You also begin to see where the Assumption of Mary into Heaven comes into play; if one is not born into original sin, one is no longer born into death, no?
All because her Son redeemed and saved His own mother through the Cross, before the Cross happened, which Christ can do because He is not bound by mortal time. Come to think of it, I probably could have saved myself typing two thousand words just by using that previous sentence.
There’s a lot more than this I’m sure. This is a roughly two thousand word commentary on Mary, when there’s been books published on this. I recommend if you read someone else who wrote about this, there’s two good sources; Scott Hahn is one of them. The second is one of the Franciscan masters, Blessed John Duns Scotus. Blessed Scotus had a huge role in developing our understanding Mary, plus his writing is easy to grasp.
~ The Vagrant Catholic