Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is the Virgin Mary our Mother?

As a relatively new Catholic, I am still growing in my appreciation of Mary as our Mother. In my pre-Catholic days I would have vehemently denied the universal motherhood of Mary, just as my non-Catholic friends deny it whenever I bring it up.
The fact that Mary is our Mother is at the same time a very simple truth as well as a deep Mystery. It is not unlike any other aspect of our Christian faith - whether it be Christology, the covenant, or even the Trinity.
But how do we know that Mary is our Mother?  The first and easiest proof is by simple logical deduction. The Scriptures tell us in Rom 8:29 that our Lord Jesus is the Firstborn among many brethren (that’s us). So, if Christ is our elder brother, and Mary was His mother, then that makes her our mother too.
In the same chapter of Romans, St. Paul tells us that we are made God’s children by adoption through the Spirit (Rom 8:15). But consider this. If Mary was the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ by the overshadowing of the Spirit, that would make her the Spouse of the Holy Spirit (as the Holy Catholic Church teaches). So by virtue of our adoption in the Spirit, we are also the children of His Spouse, Mary.
We also know that Mary is our Mother because our Lord told us that this was the case just before He died (Jn 19:25-26). The most common argument against the Catholic interpretation of this Scripture is that Jesus wasn’t giving Mary to all Christians as mother, but He was simply assigning the task of caring for His mother to the Apostle John. At face value, that argument might seem to make sense, but if you consider the following couple of points, it is easily seen just how implausible the argument actually is:
1)      Our Lord knew well before His Crucifixion that He would be put to death. He even knew the hour. With that knowledge, if all He wanted to do was find a suitable caretaker for His mother, He would have arranged it before His betrayal rather than waiting until He was breathing His last on the Cross. After all, that would have been the responsible thing to do.
2)       Everything that Christ spoke from the Cross (commonly called His “7 last words”) were not spoken emptily by our Lord, but they were filled with a deep theological meaning that have a deep impact on all Christians across all ages. Included in these last sayings is His giving of His mother.
In addition to the above, it is worth noting that when our Lord addressed Mary in this passage, He addressed her personally by calling her “Woman” (which itself is full of meaning when we consider that this is what Adam called Eve in Gen 2:23). But, when addressing St. John he doesn’t address him by name – rather He purposefully addresses him generically. Given the above points, it would be reasonable to deduce that this was because our Lord was not giving Mary to St. John specifically, but rather to all of Christ’s beloved disciples. St. John just happened to be the one who was standing at the foot of the Cross when He gave His Mother to us as part of His Redeeming Act on Calvary.
Then there is also the passage in the 12th chapter of Revelation. The opening verses (vv 1-5) make it quite clear that woman that St. John sees in heaven is Mary (i.e. she is the one who gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ). At the end of the chapter (v17) are told that the devil, who makes war with Mary and Her Seed (see also Gen 3:15), also makes war with the rest of her children. Who are her children? The verse tells us – it is those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus i.e. Christians.
Now, what about Matt 12:46-50? It is commonly argued by non-Catholics that these verses show that our Lord Jesus did not intend for Mary to treated as the Mother of God, let alone the Mother of all Christians because He tells us that His true mother, and brothers, and sisters are those who do the will of His Father in Heaven. But does this passage really disprove the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church? The first thing to note is that if by these words our Lord was denying that Mary was the mother of His One Person, then He would’ve been breaking the 4th Commandment i.e. of honouring His mother. Secondly, rather than negate the Catholic teaching, these words actually affirm the Catholic teaching because Mary was the single most obedient Christian that ever lived and she in fact did do the will of the Father (e.g. Lk 1:38). St. Irenaeus put it so aptly when he reminded us that Mary is the New Eve because “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith”.
Just as Christ is the New Adam, so Mary is the New Eve. Though we are all physically children of Eve, the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20); we are spiritually children of Mary, who is the Mother of all those who have new life in Christ and who keep the commandments of God.
And that is why as Christians we must give honour to Mary. Not because she is worthy to be worshipped – for only God is to be worshipped. We must honour Mary because she is our Mother, and God commands us to honour our mother and our father. So, by honouring Mary we keep the commandment of God...and by doing so we follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ who kept all of God’s commandments most perfectly – including the command to honour His Holy Mother, Mary.


  1. What exactly does it look like to honor Mary?

  2. Hey Max

    Thanks for the comment. Devotion and honour to Mary is very broad topic, and often it comes down to one's own personal relationship with Mary...just like each Christian has varying degrees of devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ.

    In the 10 Commandments, when God tells us to honour our parents, the word for honour means "to bestow ones own glory upon". If Christ fulfilled this commandment perfectly, then we must honour Mary in a way that is fitting of one who is bestowed with God's glory.

    Another way to think of it is to give her a deeper respect and honour than you would to your own earthly mother because Mary's motherhood is infinitely greater...just as is God's Fatherhood, and Christ's Brotherhood.

    What does that mean? It means that just as we approach our earthly mothers for comfort and guidance, we can approach Mary. We can ask her to pray for us. And most importantly, we should obey her when she says "Do whatever He commands you".

    Also, the honour due to Mary must be worthy of the Queen of Heaven and Earth (after all, if Christ is the King that makes His Mother the Queen).

    If you are keen on exploring the topic a bit further, I would recommend St. Louis De Montfort's "True Devotion to Mary". From memory, it is quite cheap on Amazon. It is a fantastic treatise on what true devotion to Mary looks like.

    Hope this helps brother...

  3. P.S. From a practical perspective, I could also recommend that you start praying through the Rosary. It was through the Rosary that I learned true devotion to our Blessed Mother...

    If you're interested, here is a link to how to pray the Rosary:

    Based on my own personal experience, I can promise you that you will find the Rosary to be one of the most amazing prayers that you can pray, as long as you pray it with meaning and meditation on the Mysteries of Christ.