Who is Mary and why is she so important?

Do Catholics worship Mary?
No. We don’t worship Mary. We venerate her.

The Church has always distinguished between the divine worship due to God alone (latria) and the lesser honor (veneration) given to Mary (hyperdulia)or the saints (dulia). For more detail on the degrees of worship, see the FAQ on Catholic Worship.

Why is she called the Mother of God?

(Luke 1:43) And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

(Matthew 2:10,11) They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.

To deny that Mary is the mother of God is to deny that Jesus is God. Through the Holy Trinity, Christ is God. Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He grew in her womb. She gave birth to Him, raised Him, and nursed Him. God became flesh through Mary, so she is, in all sense of the word, mother to God. There is no higher dignity to which a creature can be raised.

Why is she called the Queen of Heaven?
In the tradition of Hebrew royalty, the wives of the kings were consorts, but not queens. The mother of the king held the rank of a queen. The Queen Mother was exalted above all people in the kingdom, except for the king. We first see the office of Queen Mother in the early Old Testament.

(1 Kings 2:19) Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right.

The office remained throughout the lineage of David and when the names of the kings of Judah are referred to in the Bible, their mother’s names are included showing the great importance placed upon the position. (I Kings 14:21,31; 15:2,10,13; 22:42; II Kings 8:26; 12:1; 14:2; 15:2,33; 18:2; 21:1,19; 22:1; 23:31,36; 24:8,12,15,18; 2 Chronicles 12:13; 13:2; 20:31; 22:2)

“The gebhirah, or queen mother, occupied a position of high social and political importance; she took rank almost with the king.” ( The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia , “Queen Mother”)

Mary is the Queen of Heaven due to her parental relationship with the King of Heaven, Jesus Christ.

Why is she called the Virgin Mary?
The Bible states that she was a virgin. It’s confirmed with the following passage:

(Luke 1:35-36) But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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.”

Catholics also believe she remained a virgin throughout the rest of her life.

If she remained a virgin, why does the Bible say Jesus had brothers and sisters?

(Mark 6:3) “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

(Matthew 13:55) Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?

First, a minor clarification. Mark’s verse states, “Joses” while Matthew says, “Joseph.” Joses is a nickname for Joseph, much like Joe or Joey. They are the same person.

In Aramaic, the word “ah” which is translated here as ‘brother/sister’ is used not only for the children of parents but also for the cousins, half-brothers, half-sisters, nieces, and nephews. (Michael Sokoloff, " A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic " (Bar Ilan University Press, Ramat-Gan, Israel, 1990, p. 45.))

We can see an example of this in Genesis 11:27-31. Lot, who we know was Abraham’s nephew, is called “ah” and translated as “brother.”

Since this is a widespread debate, I’ll go into detail. If one only reads this verse alone, it’s easy to conclude that Mary had other children after Jesus. However, by introducing evidence from elsewhere in the Bible, we find out the truth. The four men shown weren’t biological brothers but instead cousins. They were children (and grandchild) of the Virgin Mary’s sister-in-law (who was also named Mary) and a man named Alphaeus, who was Joseph’s brother making Mary and Alphaeus Jesus’ aunt and uncle. Alphaeus is the Aramaic form of the Greek name Clopas, and in the bible, we see both names used, but they both refer to the same person.

(John 19:25) Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.

(Mark 15:40) There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.

(Matthew 27:56) Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

These above verses show Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary’s sister-in-law witnessing the crucifixion standing with Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, the older James and John. It clarifies that the second Mary, wife of Clopas, is the mother of the younger James and Joses shown in the previous verse. Now we can attach Judas, whose Greek name was Thaddaeus.

(Acts 1:13) When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

In both this verse, we’re able to link Judas as the son of James, who is the son of Alphaeus.

Because Simon is listed between James and Judas, this implies that he may also have been a relative of Alphaeus. Combine this evidence with non-canonical historical documents that show Simon, son of Clopas, was the second Bishop of Jerusalem (Chronicle Fragments of Hegesippus (c174AD))(Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History , Book III, ch. 11 (c311AD)) succeeding his brother, James. This information makes a confident link to James, Joses, and Judas, all sons and grandsons of Clopas Alphaeus and cousins of Jesus.

To also show that Mary had no other children, I present the following verse:

(John 19:27) Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour, the disciple took her into his home.

Here, Jesus hands over the care of his mother to John. This action would be unthinkable in Jewish culture if she had other children to care for her. However, since she doesn’t, John takes her into his home per Jesus’ request.

The Until Argument
Protestants who don’t believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity use the passage of Matthew 1:25 to try to bolster their argument. The passage reads as:

(Matthew 1:25) He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

They argue that Matthew uses the phrase, “until she bore a son” to imply that Joseph and Mary had marital relations after Jesus’ birth. However, this neither confirms nor denies that they had marital relations. It’s merely Matthew’s way of emphasizing the virgin birth. We have other evidence in the bible and the apostolic tradition that gives truth to the perpetual virginity.

The counter to the Protestant argument I submit that the phrase in Mt 1:25 is an idiom.

Idiom n.

  1. the language peculiar to a people or a district, community, or class: DIALECT
  2. syntactical, grammatical, or structural form peculiar to a language
  3. an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either grammatically (as no, it wasn’t me) or in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (as Monday week for “the Monday a week after next Monday”)

It’s an expression used in the time and language of the authors. If the author wanted to state that Mary and Joseph had relations afterward, the corrected phrase would read “until after she bore a son.” This would have been a clear message. However, we can’t add words and ideas that exist in our heads to the text. The only point of the phrase was to stress the virgin birth by stating that Joseph and Mary didn’t have relations at any time before Jesus’ birth. To support this, I’ll show the same idiom used elsewhere in the bible.

(Luke 2:36,37) There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.

We see that Anna was a widow until she was eighty-four. Is this said to imply that she remarried at eighty-four? We don’t know for sure, but could confidently guess due to her age that she didn’t. However, the point of the idiom is to make clear that she remained a widow after her husband’s death.

Here’s another.

(Acts 8:40) Philip came to Azotus and went about proclaiming the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

What we know about Philip is that he was martyred approx 80AD in Hierapolis, Phrygia for preaching Christianity. That’s a long way from and a long time after Caesarea. Are we to assume from the verse above that he stopped proclaiming the good news after he reached Caesarea?

(Matthew 24:21) for at that time there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will be.

Here Matthew uses the same idiom but does this time specifically note an “afterhood”. Let’s keep going.

(John 5:17) But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”

Does this mean that God the Father has stopped His work? I sure any Christian would communally say no. The following verse uses a synonymous phrase without the word until. However, the idiom is identical.

(2 Samuel 6:23) And so Saul’s daughter Michal was childless to the day of her death.

Surely it’s not to imply that Michal had children after her death.

If more evidence is needed, the same idiom can also be found in Isaiah 22,14; Matthew 12,20; 1 Timothy 4,13; Psalm 90,2; Psalm 72,7.

Why do Catholics believe Mary was born without sin?
This dogma is called the Immaculate Conception. Many people confuse Immaculate Conception as being when Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. This belief isn’t correct. It refers to Mary being born without sin. From the moment she was conceived in her mother’s womb, God had plans for her to be the new Ark of the Covenant and gave her a soul unblemished by sin and incapable of sin. To help understand it, we must first define a few words. First, the word grace is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the following. I’ve reduced it to the part of the definition that pertains to God.

grace n.

  1. unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
  2. a virtue coming from God
  3. a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
  4. And then Merriam-Webster’s definition for sanctify.

sanctify tv.

  1. to set apart to a sacred purpose or religious use: CONSECRATE
  2. to free from sin: PURIFY
  3. to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to
  4. to make productive of holiness or piety

Achieving a state of grace is (or should be) a goal of all Christians. Our souls must be clean of sin before we can enter into Heaven. The dogma of purgatory supports this fact. Understanding what grace means will help to understand the following verse from the Bible.

(Luke 1:28 Douay) And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

The angel that comes to Mary calls her “Full of Grace.” In the original Greek text of Luke’s writings, he uses the word “Kecharitomene” which translates to a “complete and continuing state of grace provided by an external source in the past.” Looking at the definitions above, we see that grace is a state of sanctification and that to sanctify is to free from sin. So, by greeting her with this title, the angel acknowledges that Mary was completely free from sin.

Tying the state of sinlessness to her conception is deduced by reasoning. We know from the perfect participle that the endowing with grace was done before Gabriel’s arrival, but when? Let’s view it from a perspective of choice. Christ’s flesh formed in the womb of Mary. His flesh came from her flesh. If God had a choice (which he did), would He not choose flesh for His perfect Son that had never felt the taint sin? For Mary to have never sinned, God would have had to enhance her soul with sinlessness at her conception divinely.

If Mary was sinless, why does she call God her savior?

(Luke 1:46,47) And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

Mary does call God her savior and rightfully so. Mary recognizes that the grace that was given to her came from God. She would not have been sinless without His intervention.

What about the Assumption of Mary?
The Assumption is the belief that the body of Mary was physically taken into Heaven. The dogma of the Assumption dates back to the apostles themselves.

“St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon, made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.” (St. John Damascene (c. 735))

“For Christ took His immaculate flesh from the immaculate flesh of Mary, and if He had prepared a place in Heaven for the Apostles, how much more for His mother; if Enoch had been translated and Elijah had gone to Heaven, how much more Mary, who like the moon in the midst of the stars shines forth and excels among the prophets and Apostles? For even though her God-bearing body tasted death, it did not undergo corruption, but was preserved incorrupt and undefiled and taken up into Heaven with its pure and spotless soul.” (Sermon of Bishop Theoteknos of Livias (c. 625))