By Michael Garrison
That Mary, the mother of Jesus, is worshiped by Romans Catholics is both affirmed and denied by Catholic sources. In The Faith of Our Fathers, James Cardinal Gibbons, one time Archbishop of Baltimore, wrote: “The liturgies of the Church, being the established formularies of her (Mary) public worship. . . ” (emphasis mine, m1g, p. 172, published in 1876). Yet, in the May 1, 1988 issue of Parade Magazine, in an advertisement published by the Knights of Columbus – the Catholic Information Service, they tell us that Catholics “do not worship her.” Have Catholics changed since Mr. Gibbons wrote his book and which went through 110 editions? I think not!
I recently received information to “Join the Universe in Honoring Mary the Mother of God on Her Birthday September 8 and Throughout the Whole Year” from Catholics in Australia. We are also informed by the advertisement how long this celebration has been going on: “For over 1500 years Christians have kept September 8 as the birthday of the blessed Virgin Mary. It is of Eastern origin and was first celebrated in Jerusalem in the 5th century.” But, that is too late to be in the “doctrine of Christ” (2 Jn. 9). To keep the birthday of Mary is to not do what 1 Peter 4:11 says: “If anyone speaks, let it be as with word of God.” (Note: unless otherwise mentioned, all Scripture references are from the Saint Joseph New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible, Confraternity Edition.) Let all be content with God’s revealed will, “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and let us learn not to “transgress what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).
We do realize that Jesus Christ is God (Jn. 1:1), but Mary is never called “the Mother of God” nor “The Mother of the Church” as Roman Catholics refer to her. Mary is referred to in the Bible as “mother of my Lord” (Lk. 1:43) and “mother of Jesus” (Jn. 2:1).
Certainly, the Scriptures teach the divine nature of Jesus as being existent from all eternity, and in no way dependent on Mary for his eternal being! In John 8:58, Jesus affirmed his eternal existence by saying, “I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am.” This is the same language God used to Moses to tell the Israelites who sent him (see Exod. 3:13-14). If Mary is designated as “The Mother of God” would not that imply she existed before God? If not, why not?
The only emphasis to Mary we find in the Spirit inspired Bible is that she was the mother of Jesus. “. . . concerning his Son who was born to him according to the flesh of the offspring of David”; “But when the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Rom. 13; Gal. 4:4). Let us abide in the Word!
That Mary was “blessed among women” (Lk. 1:43) we do not deny, but when Jesus was born in the flesh, and Mary fulfilled her motherly responsibilities to him, her part in God’s divine plan was over. We do not worship her! When the apostle John worshiped an angel, the angel said, “Thou must not do that. I am a fellow-servant of thine and of thy brethren who give the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (Apocalypse, Revelation 19:10). Dare we not obey?! As blessed as Mary was to give birth to the fleshly body of Jesus, we should be aware that some are even more blessed! In Luke 11:27-28, we read, “Now it came to pass as he was saying these things, that a certain woman from the crowd lifted up her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the breasts that nursed thee.’ But he said, ‘Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.”‘ Catholics don’t like this reading, so James Cardinal Gibbons in Faith of Our Fathers (p. 179) defines the word “rather” by “or yea, likewise.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon informs us that the word “rather” means, “nay surely, any rather; three times in answers by which what was previously said is corrected” (p. 399). So, the idea is not likewise but rather.
In his fascinating two volume work, Catholicism Against Itself, O.C. Lambert has the following quote (Vol. 2, p. 124):
It is undeniable that the cult of Mary, like everything else of a delicate nature, has been subject to numerous exaggerations and corruptions. Yet Mariology, in spite of this, is bound up with the whole system of Catholic truths.
If I might add a final characteristic, I should say that this aspect of Catholicism has the distinctive mark of freedom. According to the faith and discipline of the Church, devotion to Mary is not necessary for the winning of God’s love; otherwise, the first six centuries would stand condemned. The creeds hardly speak at all of the Virgin. The liturgy of the sacraments does not mention her. The prayers of the Mass rarely name her (The Virgin Mary, Guitton, 178-179).
Yet, in spite of the truth, the cult of Mariology has grown over the years to what we see today. It was not known for the first six centuries, as admitted by a Catholic writer! But, it is hoped that some with good and honest hearts will respond to the truth of God as given in the Bible. We can unite on that – but never can we unite on so-called traditions followed by the Roman Catholic Church. Let us ever ask for a “thus saith the Lord” in all things!
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 3, p. 76
February 1, 1990