Marian apparitions……Marian messages….. Marian rosary….. Marian shrines….. Marian statues…. Marian…Marian….Marian!
What are these all about? Why don’t you set your eyes on Jesus Christ rather than his mother? Don’t you know that he is the only mediator between God and man? Your veneration of Mary tantamount to idolatry. Never think that rosary will help you reach heaven. Never be under the illusion that Marian apparitions are true. They are the hallucinations of gullible believers. Do not attach any credence to the so called Marian messages, because what the God wanted to tell us was already revealed through Jesus Christ. It is absurd to think that by visiting a Marian shrine you will gain something extra!
As a Catholic you might have encountered somebody reasoning like this. If you have not yet faced such questions, be ready to face them soon, the reason being the peculiarity of the times we live in. They will keep on asking such questions in the vain hope that they would someday succeed in convincing us. The answer to all these questions also stems from the fact that we are living in a time when such questions should abound. But such a general answer will not satisfy anybody, least of all those who are bent on denying any special place to Mary in the Church. So we need to go deeper and try to find convincing answers to these questions.
Christ is the cornerstone of Church and his teachings are there in the Bible for all of us to read, meditate, teach and live. Whenever a Christian is in doubt, his natural instinct is to open the Bible and get the answer. Many Christians think that Bible alone should be the only yardstick of christian faith and practice. We use the term ‘Sola Scriptura’ (Scripture Alone) to indicate this school of thought. Well, it is a good line of thinking because whatever is required for our salvation is contained in the Bible.
‘Sola Scriptura’ is the doctrine that the Holy Bible, being the Word of God, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice for Christians in the post-apostolic age. We have no quarrel about it nor do we ever claim that Bible is not sufficient for leading a man to the promised kingdom, of course if he practices what is written therein. Having settled this, let us come to our subject viz. the role of Mary in the Church. Is there anything that prevents us from giving Mary a sort of higher respect which in catholic parlance is called ‘Hyperdulia’. It is a kind of veneration of a higher degree when compared to ‘Dulia’ which refers to the veneration or respect paid to saints and angels. ‘Hyperdulia’ should not be confused with ‘Latria’ either which is the supreme homage to be paid to God and God alone.
So it is clear. Mary is a step above saints and angels. Needless to say, the veneration given to Mary cannot be equated with the supreme homage to be paid to God the Father. In simple words, we never worship Mary. Worshipping anybody other than God is, no doubt, idolatry. We Christians are not the kind of people who would break the first commandment so easily.
Who is Mary? She is the daughter of God the Father, Bride of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Saviour. Birth of Jesus was not an accident. It was destined to happen at the ‘fullness of time’, at a predestined place, and through a perfect mother. The long history of Bible verses about the ‘offspring of the woman’ start from the very first book of Bible.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen.3:15). These are the words of God the Father. And we know the context. It was when he promised a redeemer to humankind. Let us have a quick recap of the events. God created heaven and earth, then created all other creatures and finally man. To the man He gave a woman as companion. Upto this point there are only three characters involved. Then appears the villain in the guise of a serpent. What follows is the fall of man from grace. From there starts the history of mankind as we know it. Man who is left to toil on earth. Man who is supposed to eat bread by the sweat of his face. Man who inherited a cursed land that will bring forth thorns and thistles for him. And finally man who should return to dust.
But before sending them out of the garden of Eden, God uttered one of the most important and most misinterpreted words. It was directed at the Serpent; ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”(Gen.3:15). Here we see another character entering the picture. The first character appearing in post- fall human history is another ‘Woman’. She was not named at that time. It was a mystery which the Father kept for himself for centuries to come. It was a mystery which was with Him before ages too. That woman whose son would strike the head of the eternal enemy of God was named Mary when the perfect time arrived.
Some would argue, had Mary said ‘ No’ to the call of Gabriel, God would have selected another woman to be the mother of Jesus! It is simple wishful thinking. Because Mary was destined before ages to be the Mother of Christ. While going through the books of Bible we will get a vivid description of God’s masterpiece, as St Louis de Montfort calls Mary. Mary would give birth to Jesus without compromising her virginity( Isaiah 7:14). She was a person full of grace( Luke1:28) and a simple greeting from her caused the Holy Spirit to come upon Elizabeth( Luke 1:41). She is called ‘Blessed among women’ by none other than the mother of John the Baptist, whom Jesus introduced as the greatest man born on earth. When filled with the Holy Spirit, it is natural for any person to call Mary blessed and more important, to understand the fruit of her womb as blessed (Luke 1:42). She is the mother of the Lord ( Luke 1:43). She will be called blessed by all generations to come ( Luke 1:48).
Her life was a journey with the full knowledge that her soul is going to be pierced by a sword as prophesied by Simeon. This journey ended at Golgotha where she stood by the side of the cross. When a woman exclaimed to Jesus that the womb that bore him and the breasts that sucked him are blessed, what was Jesus’ answer? “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” It was truly the biggest appreciation Jesus gave his mother, because she is the only person in the whole Bible who said; “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”(Luke 1:38). Jesus is categorical in telling that the major reason for Mary’s glory is that she heard the word of God and kept it. Her only appeal to us is; “Do whatever he tells you”(John 2:5). She has every right to tell it, because she herself obeyed whatever was told her by God.
She is the Ark of the Covenant. To relate her with the ark that Noah made to escape from the deluge makes perfect sense in these days when we are staring at a flood of false teachings and a licentious lifestyle giving scant regard to the commandments. Also bring to mind the words of our Lord that the end days will be like the days of Noah and Lot.
Mary was the pillar that supported the disciples and led them in prayer in anticipation of the pouring down of the Holy Spirit. She is our mother as well. According to John, the last words of Jesus was ‘It is finished” (John 19:30). What Jesus said just before these words calls us to meditate on one of the most beautiful aspects of Marian devotion viz. approaching her as our own mother! By uttering the words “Woman, here is your son” and “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27) Jesus gave his mother to us also as a perpetual help. When Jesus say that ‘it is finished’ he intended to tell us that the act of salvation and conquest of Satan is accomplished through his sacrifice in the cross. But it reminds something more to us. Jesus calls Mary ‘Woman’ which was exactly the same word used by his Father at the beginning of history to describe the person chosen to be the mother to His son. That prophecy is now fulfilled. So it is finished. But Jesus knew that for the plan of salvation to pass to the next phase post-crucifixion, the maternal care of Mary is required. This is accomplished by entrusting John to Mary.
As we know, Satan was decisively defeated at Golgotha. But the battle is not yet over. He is still here to seduce us, though he knows that his days are numbered. He is making his last attempt to capture as many souls as possible before Jesus comes again. But he finds the going tough because of the presence of a ‘Woman’, his eternal enemy. That is why it is written; ‘Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus’ ( Rev. 12:17).
Do you think that a mother will abandon her children when they face a fierce enemy who is marching ahead with all his armies? Do you think that she will stand aside as an onlooker when her children are in danger of being ensnared by the deceiving promises of her arch-rival? It is but natural that Mary does whatever she can do – and it is beyond our imaginations as she is the queen of heaven- to help her children. This is the background of increasing number of Marian apparitions happening these days. This is the background of Marian devotions developed through centuries. Marian messages are warnings about the ways Satan employ to entrap her children. Rosary is the weapon to chase away the devil.
For a Christian, there is nothing to be ashamed of in calling Mary his mother. Neither theology nor tradition prevent us from rushing to Mary in times of need and in anticipation that she will extend her helping hand to anybody who has recourse to her. Do not shy away from her. Be bold to call her your mother and claim her maternal care and love. When the dragon rages his final war on the children of Mary, be assured that she is with us in the frontline.
It is time to ignore the oft-repeated question; ‘Why Marian?” Because it is all there in elementary christian teachings. This is the time to ask, ‘Why not Marian?’ Marian messages, Marian devotion, Marian apparitions, Marian shrines and Rosary are not for her children alone. They are the last attempts of the heaven to permeate the hardened hearts of those who are still blind to the radiance of Mary. What prompted us to post a series of articles about Marian apparitions and Marian messages is the humble hope that it would help Marian devotees to grow into a deeper relation with her at a time when it is most needed. At the same time, we fervently hope and pray that Mary will intercede for those who criticise her to get the gift of wisdom to know the ‘Seat of Wisdom’, as we call Mary.
Let us pray: Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.