WHY DO CATHOLICS PRAY TO MARY?
Prior to any discussion about Mary, one thing must first be understood. I'm taking this from Vatican II, which was re-emphasized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely upon it, and draws all its power from it" (Lumen Gentium 60). "The Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. This, however, must be so understood that it niether takes anything away from, nor adds anything to, the dignity and afficacy of Christ, the one Mediator. No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source" (Lumen Gentium 62)
This quote is one I think we should all memorize. So when articles come out like the recent Newsweek article, we have a ready explanation. Without first laying this important piece of groundwork, it is likely that all discussions dealing with Marian devotion and dogma is likely to be grossly misunderstood!!
I want to start off this discussion by searching the Scriptures to see what it says about this important doctrine:
In Gen 48:16, we see Jacob, one chosen by God, imploring a blessing on his children through the mediation of an angel! ". . . The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." Now this is Jacob, one of the Patriarchs praying. Can we say that Jacob thinks that it is the angel that gives the blessing, or that God is giving the blessing through the angel? Nowhere in Scripture do we see God condemning this practice!
Now let us turn to 1 Cor 4:9: "For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men." This verse implies that the angels in heaven not only can see us, but know what we are doing. Why? If the Apostles have become a ‘spectacle', then, obviously, the angels see this.
In Luke 15:10, we read "Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." What is it to know when one repents than to know ones thoughts? So the angels in heaven not only see us and know what we are doing, but they also know our interior motives! The angels, being in eternity, are not restricted by time and space as we are. That is how they can know your interior inclinations, and mine at the same time.
I realize that so far, I've only discussed angels, and their abilities, and the question on our minds tonight is the Saints; "What about the Saints?" "How do the Saints compare to the angels?" I plan to show you from the Scriptures that not only are we to be like the angels when we get to heaven, but even greater than them!
The Scripture says: " But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven (Matt 22:29-30)." Jesus says we are going to be "like angels," hmmm. I think that there is a lesson to be learned here. Let's move over to 1 Cor 6:3 "Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more matters pertaining to this life!" Not only are we to be "as angels", but we are to judge angels. How about Matt 19:28 " Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." So we now see that not only are we to judge the angels, but the Apostles (i.e. Sts. Peter and John & company) are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel! Now I ask you, how are they, or we, to do this judging if we don't know, or have no idea what the subjects are doing? And in order to judge the twelve tribes rightly, these Saints must be able to know what everybody is doing at the same time. Jesus said in Matt 15:18 that it is out of mans heart that evil flows. Therefore, these ‘judges' must know what is in the heart of every individual they judge! You can plainly see from these verses that, without a doubt, those in heaven most certainly are aware of whats going on earth, even moreso than we are.
But, the non-Catholic will ask, "‘there is one mediator between God and man, and that is the man Jesus Christ.(1 Tim 2:5)'. You Catholics contradict the clear teaching of Scripture by praying to these Saints, especially Mary." How do we respond? First of all, we need to show that this verse does not say what our antagonist wants it to say. Read in context this verse says just the opposite. Verse 1 & 2 tell us to be intercessors, re: mediators, for our leaders, the president, our congressmen, whomever. You see, it is because Christ is the one mediator that we can pray for others. Besides, do you think St. Paul would contradict his own teaching? You can see in 2 Thess 1:11, 2 Thess 3:1, Heb 13:18, and others that the Bible teaches us to pray for others. What is it to pray for another than to act as a mediator?
If we see Pauls' teaching in 1 Cor. 7:16 & 9:22, You'll see what I"m talking about. First, 1 Cor 7:16: "How do you know husband, whether you will save your wife?". Does Paul suggest here that the husband is really the saviour of his wife? Of course not. What Paul means
is that God will work through the husband to save the wife. Second, in 1 Cor 9:22 Paul says "I may save all." Paul is not claiming to be a co-redeemer in the true sense of the word. He, again, is claiming that it is Gods' power working through him to salvation to others. It is this same sense that Catholics view the intercession of the saints, especially Mary.
James 5:16 says "The prayer of the just one availeth much." The holier one is, the more efficacious is the prayer. If you need prayer, you could come to me, or you could go to your priest, but you probably would prefer to go to Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul II. How much holier are the Saints in heaven than those on earth?
Ask a non-Catholic: "Are we not a part of the body of Christ?" They have to answer "Yes." Then ask: "Can death somehow separate us (Romans 8:35), or join us to a different body of Christ?" The answer will be "No." "Then, why can we not have these Saints pray for us, in the same manner that we on earth pray for one another?" For does not St. Paul teach "As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you. (1 Cor 12:20-21)" In other words, just because we can't see the Saints who have gone before us, doesn't mean that they are not important, or are no longer part of the Mystical Body of Christ.
So there you have proof from the Bible that the Saints know what we are doing, and indeed wish us well, and it's common sense that they can pray for us. But if you still don't see this, I'll back up that claim with Scripture.
The clearest passages we have are the book of Revelation. In 5:8 "Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Rev 8:3-4 says: "He (the angel) was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angels hand." These are two clear instances where we see the ‘prayers of the saints eing offered up by a heavenly creature. You can also see this intercession in Psalm 103:20-21, & Psalm 148:1-2.
Now let us move on to the Queen of the Saints, Mary. Before we get into Mary proper, let's see what the Bible says about how glorious Mary was even before the Incarnation.
What happens in the New Testament when an angel appears to a human? In Revelation 19:9-11, one appears before John. What happens? "And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are true words of God." Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Strangely enough, this occurs again in chapter 22: "I John am he who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." John, overcome with awe at the glory of the angel, fell prostrate before him, not once, but twice! What does this have to do with Mary? Well, in Luke 1:28, we have another scene where an angel appears before a human. What happens here? " And he (The angel Gabriel) came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"" This RSV translation is poor, it should read, as we pray, "Hail, full of grace." I'll borrow from Tim Staples here as he says the Greek word for ‘hail' is ‘chaire', and actually means "WHOA!", or "M-A-A-N." The angel was the one who was in awe in this meeting! And this is before the Incarnation.
The Catholic understanding regarding Marys' role as "Mediatrix" is associated with the traditional teaching that Mary is "The Ark of the New Covenant".
To understand the teaching of "Mary, the Ark of the Covenant", we first must know what "Typology" is. The Church Fathers taught that "The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old is made manifest in the New." Jesus said "I have not come to abolish (the Law and the Prophets) but to fulfill them" (Matt 5:17) We, as Catholics, must learn the Old Testament to more fully appreciate the New. Hebrews 10:1 "The Law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves." This is the way Jesus and the Apostles interpreted the Old Testament!. In 1 Cor 10:11, Paul speaks in typological terms. In describing the Exodus, he says " Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come." After recounting what happened in the Exodus, he says to learn from them. Also using imagery such as ". . . and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ." Do you see how he used the the Exodus as a "type" of Baptism, the cloud being the Holy Spirit, and the sea being the Baptismal waters? They were baptized into Moses, a type of Christ, as we are to Baptized into Christ.
Not only Paul, but Peter also uses ‘Typology'. Look at 1 Peter 3:21: " . . .when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you. . ." Peter here correlates Baptism as saving you, as the ark saved Noah. That's typology! Notice also, how the fulfillment is always much greater than the type! You can also see references to typology in Hebrews 8 - 10, and 1 Cor 15:20ff. and especially John 6.
Let's look at how the Bible shows Mary to be prefigured in the Old Testament. We'll look at some parallel verses from the Old and New Testaments.
At the annunciation the angel Gabriel declares to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God"(Luke1:35). Compare this with Exodus 40:34 "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle." Now the wording is a little different here, but the very same Greek word is used to describe this ‘overshadowing' in both cases (the Old Testament using the Greek Septuagint), "Episkiazo". And notice also, in Exodus that the overshadowing did not occur until God deemed the Ark perfect!
Now compare: "And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, "How can
the ark of the LORD come to me?"(2 Sam 6:9)," and "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"( Luke 1:43) Notice the great similarity here, Elizabeth only changed a couple of words, but the correlation is obvious.
Let's look at another set: "And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Ba'ale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, ( 2 Sam6:2), and "In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah( Luke 1:39). In both cases, they ‘arose and went' ‘to the hill country'. Couple those two with these and things become more apparant:
"And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of O'bed-e'dom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed O'bed-e'dom and all his household."(2 Sam 6:11) "And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home."( Luke 1:56) In both of these cases, the ‘Ark' remained three months, and the households were blessed.
"David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn."(2 Sam 6:15) & " For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy."( Luke 1:44)
According to respected scholar James Akin, the Greek word used here is "anafametzen" which means 'shouts of joy'. The word is rarely used, and only in connection with a liturgical celebration (note the ‘linen ephod', and then only when the Ark of the Covenant is present. It literally means "to cry aloud, to proclaim, or to intone" This is a very powerful witness then, to Luke use of this word. If it is only used in liturgy, and only when the Ark is present, then what else could it mean except that Mary truly is the Ark of the New Covenant!!
What does this all mean?? To answer that question we must first research the Old Testament to see what was special about the ‘old' Ark. We know that it was the holiest created thing in the Old Testament. In Exodus 40, "Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Sounds exactly like what happened to Mary, the new Ark, at the Annunciation, doesn't it. In 1Samuel 6:19, God slew 70 men who dared to look into the Ark (Only priests wearing the cloak of righteousness were permitted to do that)! In 2 Samuel 6:7, the Lord slew Uzzah for laying his hand to steady the Ark and keep it from falling, he was not allowed to touch for any reason! The Ark was carried into battle by the Israelites to bring them victory. When they didn't have the Ark, they lost. The Ark was awesome.
And what was contained in the Ark? You had the manna, the bread from heaven, and the two stone tablets with the ten commandments on them, and there was Aarons staff that blossomed (this blossoming caused him to become the high priest. And what did the New Ark contain? What did The Blessed Mother carry in her womb for nine months but the true bread from heaven (John 6), the true new law (Matt 5), and the Great High Priest (Heb 2:17).
Mary, according to the rules of typology, must be even holier than the old Ark. For the fulfillment must always far outshine its type. Let's face it, Jesus, the second Adam (1 Cor 15), far outshines his type, Adam. The Eucharist is far superior to its type, the manna in the desert. And so Mary must be far superior to her type, the Ark. From this Bible truth, you can glean Mary's perpetual Virginity, her Immaculate Conception, and her Assumption into heaven. But for our purposes here, we learn of Mary's role as Advocate. For as the Israelites had to carry the old Ark with them to secure victory, so we, as New Testament people, need to carry this "New Ark" into our everyday spiritual battles. How else do you carry this new ark into battle but to beseech her in prayer.
Now, I want to return to Luke 1:44, and show you something that the casual Bible reader misses. " For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy." What we have here is an example of Mary the Mediatrix. Picture this scene in your mind. Mary walks into the house of Elizabeth, carrying the Infant Jesus in her womb, and nothing happens. Nothing happens until Mary speaks! Only when she speaks does John the Baptist leap in the womb of his mother. The great majority of scholars see this as John being sanctified in the womb. But why did the sanctification take place only after Mary spoke? There is a lesson to be learned here.
Now let's take a look at two more verses that point to Mary's mediation, which I again borrow from Tim Staples. First verse is Luke 2:48-51: "And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart." In this passage, Jesus was already beginning to show his glory wasn't he?. He was preaching to the teachers in the temple, and they all were amazed. A twelve year old stumping these learned teachers of the Law. And by Jesus' remark " Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?", you would think that He was indeed planning on showing his glory. But what happens? Mary basically says: "It's not time yet, son, let's go home." Jesus obeyed and "And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart."( Luke 2:51).
Now look what happens in the second verse, John 2:3-4. " When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what is this to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."" Here, Jesus says that his time has not come yet. But Mary, good mother that she is, says "Sorry Son, but your hour has come". Then she tells the stewards "Do whatever He tells you." Then Jesus goes on to perform his first miracle, after which, as the Scripture says: "and his disciples believed in him." That, my friends, is Mary the Mediatrix!!
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Fathers of the Church, Gibbons, (Tan)
Apologetics Course; Staples; (St. Joseph Radio)