Hello Rosary lovers! In this post we will explore the question: why do Catholics love Mary?
Modern Christianity: Mary is Absent
Before I became interested in Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, I never gave any thought to Mary. Mary didn’t feature at all in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Never once did I ever pray to her or talk to her. I never spoke about her and I hardly ever thought about her.
To me, Mary wasn’t anything more than a random person Jesus had chosen to be his mother and bring him into the world. Now that Christ was in the world and had died, been raised to life and gone back to God, Mary had no more significance. That used to be my view, whether I said it or not.
It is strange that for many modern Christians, this is also their worldview. Mary just doesn’t feature in it at all in any important way.
How very different things were in the past for Christians!
Mary is Central to Ancient and Medieval Christianity
For me, everything changed a few years ago. I started getting interested in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. And with this powerful interest came new thoughts about Mary which I had to grapple with.
For the first time, I had to come to terms with a completely different and ancient Christian denomination – besides Roman Catholicism – which did in fact revere and adore the Virgin Mary: the Orthodox Church.
I found it immediately striking that here was the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, two Churches that existed in the early Church and the Middle Ages, and yet both of them prayed to Mary. Mary was central to the faith of both Churches.
‘How can this be?’ I thought. ‘Where is all this in Scripture? Where are they getting this obsession with Mary?’
It’s hard to know exactly how I felt back then, but thinking back it seems like deep down I almost felt a sense of envy, as if ALL of these Christians of former times had grasped something that I just didn’t. As if I was almost missing out.
What surprised me was how relatively easy it was for me to improve my thoughts about Mary. For instance, Christ is Salvation, so theologically it made perfect sense that Mary is the Mother of Salvation and the Mother of Redemption.
I also came to realise that without Mary, there is no Salvation. I came to see that Mary is the Instrument through which God chose to come to us. God purposely chose her, she is no accident, as if God could have just chosen someone else.
Even just these few steps began to make a big difference.
I knew Mary was/is the Mother of God, but my sense of this truth began to grow a lot. I couldn’t escape how MASSIVELY significant Mary must be if she really is God’s own Mother.
I bought myself an Orthodox icon, and would gaze at that icon for ages. It was Mary holding Christ her Son as a little child, similar to the one in the picture to the right.
I would meditate in silence on how close they were, Jesus and Mary, how much they loved each other and held/embraced each other.
There was far more theology in this icon than in thousands of pages of written material. More than anything it tranformed my relationship with Mary. As Jesus adored her and embraced her and held onto her, I wanted to do the same. I didn’t want to miss out on what Christ himself experienced with Mary.
Just beholding that icon made me realise that Mary is someone far more special than I had ever appreciated. Looking at her in that image, holding the Saviour of the world and our God, I began to feel very drawn to her. I wanted to get to know her. I wanted to talk to her. I wanted my faith to include her.
Prayers to Mary
I began to say prayers to Mary, as dictated to me by morning and evening Orthodox prayers. A particularly beautiful one was as follows:
‘It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos (Mother of God), ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify you!’
This prayer is said regularly by Orthodox Christians, and it sums up Mary brilliantly. This is high praise indeed of the Mother of God!
This prayer proclaims that Mary is the Theotokos, that is, the Mother of our God. It also teaches that it is very fitting to praise and bless her, precisely because she is the Mother of our God. In fact, we magnify her: she is so worthy.
This is no ordinary person. This is the all-holy Mother of the living God. She is ever-blessed, worthy of all praise from all other creatures, because she is the very finest, supreme creature that God has ever made.
When God created Mary, he really rolled up his sleeves and said, ‘Now then, I’m going to show the universe what I really can do!’ And then he created the greatest creature that has ever or will ever exist.
Far and away, Mary is the greatest work of God’s creation. She is far ‘more honourable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.’ These are the highest members of the angelic realm. And yet, this beautiful hymn to Mary says she is of FAR more value than all of them.
Why? Because she is God’s very own Mother. She brought forth God the incarnate Word ‘without defilement’, that is, without any sin, and whilst remaining a Virgin. She opened herself entirely to the will of God, no matter what it cost her. Without knowing a man, she conceived the eternal Word.
Again, we look at Jesus’ closeness to Mary as a child in her arms and on her lap, touching her face. This is how much God values and loves her.
These are just some preliminary reasons as to why Catholic and Orthodox Christians love Mary.
If we come to the Catholic Church specifically, we discover that her view of Mary is perhaps even more pronounced.
Mary is dogmatically proclaimed as the Immaculate Conception, the one who was conceived in the womb of her mother St Anne without any stain of sin at all.
Mary, from the first moment of her existence in her mother’s womb, was absolutely spotless and perfect, free from all original sin. This kind of purity is unimaginable, and it is totally fitting for the Temple and Mother of God. God deserves an absolutely spotless Temple and Womb for his human existence.
As a convert to Catholicism, I now marvel that anyone could ever believe that Mary ever sinned or was impure in anyway. How can this be so? How can we think so little of the Almighty? How can God – the infinitely Holy, and Holiness itself – dwell in a vessel which is impure in any way at all?
How can the Temple of the Old Testament be absolutely spotless and covered in gold, and yet we are supposed to believe that Mary – the TRUE Temple of God – is somehow impure?
Or do we imagine that Jesus Christ a little less than Almighty God?
All of this can be applied to that other great Catholic dogma, that Mary is ever-Virgin. She was a Virgin before she gave birth, during giving birth, and after giving birth.
Always a Virgin: truly ‘the handmaid of the Lord’. Mary was consecrated ENTIRELY to God. She was utterly given over to God. Not only was she completely free of any stain of sin of any kind, but she was also completely pure from all sexual relations.
Mary’s body was for God, and for God alone. What a Temple! What a Mother! What a servant of the Most High!
The great glory the Church affords to Mary in her absolute sinlessness and her absolute and permanent virginity is really designed to uphold the great truth that Jesus Christ is absolutely nothing less than Almighty God himself.
A less than perfectly pure and spotless Temple for God the Word to dwell in for 9 months would necessarily imply a less than absolutely Holy and All-Pure and All-Divine Saviour.
Catholics also believe that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven at the end of her earthly life. God took her up to be with himself next to his Son forever, and Mary was carried to heaven in a human, fleshly body.
Only two individuals dwell in heaven with human bodies: Jesus and his Mother Mary. This is SO fitting.
It would be so very awkward and weird if Jesus Christ were dwelling in heaven with a human body, and yet his Mother who gave him his body was simply a spirit floating around in heaven waiting for her body! This makes no sense.
Plus, the relics of Mary have never been found, which is really odd given the amount of relics that have been discovered and carefully preserved from the ancient Christian world.
One would have thought that if Mary’s remains were still on earth, then the early Christians would have been EXTREMELY careful to contain and keep them. But nothing like this exists. It’s because Mary’s body isn’t here, just like her Son’s body.
Mary: A Unifying Force
There is so much more we could say about why Catholics love Mary. We love her because she unites us all. Mary is the Mother of all who love her, whatever their denomination and frankly whatever their faith. There are Muslims who invoke Mary and love Mary, and in some sense they are her true children and our brothers and sisters too.
Mary is an especially strong unifying force between Orthodox Christians and Catholics. Though there is still much that separates the Orthodox and Catholics, there is one who holds us together in a mystical union: Mary. We all love Mary, and we all cherish her as our Mother. Mary is a wonderful starting-point for Orthodox and Catholic reunion.
God’s Mother, Our Mother
Ultimately, we love Mary because she is God’s Mother and our Mother. It doesn’t get any more basic than that, and this is the biggest reason why we love her.
She is always there for us, no matter what we are going through. She loves us with an undying love, and always prays for us and helps us in anyway she can.
If you have anything you’d like to add, or any questions, please get in touch or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
God bless, through Mary, the Immaculate Conception.