Hello Rosary Lovers! In this post we will ask: Why do Catholics worship Mary?
Definition of ‘Worship’
We first need to define what the word ‘worship’ means. Worship means to show reverence or love for a deity. You might say it also means to show worth to something, to ‘worth-ship’ it.
Now in Catholic Christianity, we have two different understandings of worship. One is owed to God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The other can be offered to saints, angels and all heavenly beings.
The Catholic Church traditionally distinguishes these two meanings by attaching a different Latin word to each. The worship offered to God alone is called latria. The worship that can be offered to saints is called dulia.
When it comes to latria worship, this is the highest form of worship. It is offered only to God. In fact, the quality and essence of latria worship is significantly different to dulia worship.
In latria worship, God is worshipped by the offering of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Cross and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Jesus offered perfect worship to God by offering himself on the cross. He continually offers this worship to God by offering this same sacrifice in the Eucharist.
The Cross and the Eucharist are one and the same single Sacrifice. One took a bloody form 2,000 years ago. The other takes a perpetual and unbloody form in the consecrated bread and wine.
So the Cross and the Eucharist is offered ONLY to God the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Catholics participate in Jesus’ own worship of God every time they attend Mass, and especially when they receive the Eucharist.
However, dulia worship is something much less than this. It is showing love for someone, or praying to them, or adoring them in our hearts. There are lots of ways to show dulia worship.
Traditionally we show dulia worship to saints by asking for their prayers and sometimes by telling them how glorious they are. In general, so long as Catholics don’t offer saints the Holy Eucharist, then almost anything is acceptable in dulia worship.
It is this second form of worship that is offered to Mary. In fact, Mary is offered what we call hyperdulia. This is a more extreme form of dulia.
This is to show that out of all the saints, Mary is by far the most important and the most venerated by Catholics and by the saints themselves.
A sensible English translation of dulia in this case would be something like veneration or honour.
Catholics worship Mary because she is the Mother of God
Mary isn’t just another creature. She certainly is a creature, and she is just a creature, when all is said and done. She is not God.
However. And this is a big however. Mary is God’s very own Mother.
Think about that. God … has … a … Mother. Really. Truly.
Do you realise that the Lord Jesus Christ’s heavenly Father is as much the Parent of Jesus as Mary is?
Let’s put that another way. Jesus has a heavenly Father, and so he is God’s Son.
But Jesus is NO MORE God’s Son than he is Mary’s Son.
Mary is just as much the Mother of the eternal Son of God as God the Father is the Father of the Son.
Mary isn’t less of a Parent to Jesus than his heavenly Father is.
This is because Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% Man.
If Jesus were not 100% Man, Mary would be less his Parent than God is.
But because Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man, Mary and God the Father are both the Parents of Jesus equally, but in very, very different ways.
God the Father is the eternal Parent of the Son of God in eternity.
Mary is the Parent of the Son of God in the flesh.
This doesn’t mean that Mary only gave birth to human flesh. She actually gave birth to the ENTIRE Jesus: God and man. And so this is why we call her Mother of God.
But it means that Jesus was begotten of Mary in time according to human nature. Whereas Jesus was begotten of God from all eternity according to divine nature.
The ENTIRE Son of God was born of God the Father eternally, and the ENTIRE Son of God was born of Mary in time.
Make sense? Is your mind blown?
So when we say Mary is the Mother of God, we mean it. Really. Absolutely. Mary gave birth to GOD in the flesh.
St Cyril of Alexandria, one of the Doctors of the Catholic Church, taught in the 5th century that there is such a close and absolute union between the Divine nature of the Son of God and his humanity that there really is only one Christ.
St Cyril had a formula for this: ‘There is one incarnate Nature of God the Word.’
What St Cyril meant by ‘one incarnate Nature’ proved to be extremely controversial in the 5th century Church. But what the Catholic Church believes he meant was that in his incarnate existence, the Son of God is one, united Entity/Reality/Identity/Person.
It is impossible to separate his divinity from his humanity; together they are one divine Person.
And Mary is the everlasting and perpetual Mother of that Person forever and ever. She is the Mother of God for all time.
Mary became God’s Mother in time, 2000 years ago. From then on, however, until now, and until the end of days in the eternity of eternities, Mary will always, always be God’s very own Mother.
That is staggering, is it not?
Is it any wonder Catholics so venerate this amazing person, Mary?
Is it truly any wonder Catholics love her, pray to her, speak to her, converse with her, tell her constantly how much they love her?
Is it any wonder Catholics preach about Mary, sing to Mary, and offer her many of the finest roses in the Rosary?
If we truly grasp that Mary is the Mother of God, it becomes very easy to see why Catholics worship her with the worship of hyperdulia. It’s easy to see why Catholics love her so much, and proclaim their love to her all the time.
Catholics worship Mary because she has real influence over God
We also worship Mary with the worship of hyperdulia because Mary can change God’s mind.
What do we mean by this? We mean that Jesus can be set on something, and yet his Mother can intervene and ask him to do something else, and though he didn’t intend to do it, he will alter his plans and do it for her sake.
We see this in John 2, at the Wedding at Cana. They ran out of wine at the Wedding. Jesus was not planning to help. He was clear: ‘My time has not come. It’s none of my business. What’s this to you (Mary) and I? Let them sort it out themselves.’
But Mary intercedes for the President of the Wedding. She asks Jesus to help, and he – seemingly reluctantly – obeys her wishes. Jesus uses this opportunity to turn the water into wine, and reveal his glory. It’s his first miracle.
There is lots that is interesting about this event. One is that Mary knew Jesus could do something about this issue. Another seems to be that Mary wasn’t the slightest bit fazed about Jesus performing a miracle to help them out. She knew exactly who her Son was.
But for Catholics, we take the main lesson here to be that if we need Jesus to really do something and to really help us, we can go to Mary and ask her to speak to him about it. This is why we pray to her.
Mary has such influence over God that it is impossible for him to ever reject her pleas.
In everyday life, the influence of a mother over her son lasts often until the mother dies. A son’s relationship with his mother is extremely strong and unique.
This is often why mothers struggle when their sons marry, because they feel like they will be second-place to their son’s wife. A lot of mothers find this difficult. There’s a reason why a lot of people don’t get on with their mother-in-law!
How much more in the divine realm and in the Kingdom of heaven? Does not Mary have far more influence and power over the will of her Son than earthly mothers have over their sons?
Catholics have a prayer which reveals this fact, called the Memorare:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Notice that no-one has ever been unaided when they have turned to Mary. Why? Because her ‘intercession’ with God is perfect and spotless. It always works. She is the ‘Mother of the Word incarnate.’ God the eternal Word will always listen to her.
Catholics worship Mary because Jesus honoured her
We’ve already seen that Jesus obeyed Mary at the Wedding at Cana. But we also know her obeyed her at the end of Luke 2, when Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple. Scripture tells us he went with them and ‘was obedient/submissive to them.’
But we have the Ten Commandments also, which teach: ‘Honour your father and mother.’ Jesus Christ – God – has a real Mother, and therefore when he was on this earth he truly honoured her. He showed respect and love for her, and he venerated her. This was to obey the Ten Commandments.
Mary is the Mother of all Christians, so we must obey God by honouring her.
Can you imagine how many times Jesus kissed Mary in his life? Can you imagine how often he smiled at her and embraced her? As her babe in her arms, she nurtured him at her breasts. He was entirely dependent on her.
We should do no less than Jesus did. Babes and little children get to heaven, and when Jesus was a little child Mary was his entire world. Something of that relationship never ever left Mary and Jesus.
Mary wants the same sort of relationship with each of us.
I hope this post has proved helpful and I hope you’ve learned a few things about what Catholics believe.
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.