Painting by Pietro della Vedova, circa 1885, from an Episcopal church in New Jersey, US

My beliefs about MARY
‘And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of
the Virgin Mary, And was made man’

I’m actually a moderate about Marian devotion (nothing to scare Protestants for its own sake) but believe there is a place for it because Jesus and Mary are not competitors! Never saw them that way, even when I was a kid and knew nothing about devotion to her. All true devotion to her is really because of and to her Son.

The one big thing to remember about her is simply an amplification of the gospel (Luke): because Jesus is true God and true man, she is important exactly because he chose her in time and space as the means to become truly man; thus she became the Mother of God. (Which the classical Protestants accepted too.) Looking at it that way, healthy Marian devotion nurtures orthodox belief about her Son.

That said I accept all the other Catholic teachings about her — that God is unlimited by space and time so he redeemed her retroactively if you will in the womb of St Anne (what the Immaculate Conception really means — not the same as the virgin birth of Jesus!) and as the creeds say ‘I believe in... the resurrection of the body’ I accept the story of the Assumption (Mary bodily going to heaven, being raised by God NOT going under her own power!) is simply the first example of that. She was the first Christian and so what happened to her one day will happen to us at the Second Coming of her Son.

I believe she is ever-virgin, something mentioned at the second Council of Constantinople (the fifth general church council) but not defined as a doctrine yet universally accepted in the Catholic world (cf. Ezekiel 44).

And by virgin I simply mean ‘never had sex’; no need to go into anatomical detail further than that.

There’s another Eastern legend besides the Assumption that she moved into not only the Temple but the Holy of Holies when she was 3 and was fed there by the Archangel Gabriel. I don’t believe in that! (It’s like a mythical retelling of her being made holy by God in preparation for Jesus.) I can accept that she was brought to the Temple and received some kind of blessing there, there may have been some kind of miraculous foreshadowing, and she may have lived on the grounds as a ward, but as for the whole legend... it was left out of scripture (it comes from the apocryphal Gospel of James, rejected by the church from the canon of scripture) and never defined as doctrine for good reason!!

I’m not big on the kind of piety where she’s holding back her angry Son who ‘has to listen to her’. I believe in asking her prayers like I’d ask your prayers.

And the ‘Co-Redemptrix’ opinion scares me too. (You can spin it to make it orthodox but it’s not worth the bother.)

The other stuff — visions people have like Lourdes and Fátima, etc. — is OK but not at all central to my beliefs. Like the legend about the Holy of Holies one can believe in them but doesn’t have to.

A quick catechism session:

Q. Does the title Mother of God mean that she existed before God?
A. Absolutely not. She is fully human. During the early centuries a heresy arose concerning the nature of Jesus Christ. This heresy claimed that Jesus was not divine but only a human being. So, Christians coined the term ‘Mother of God’ as a pithy way of affirming the authentic Christian doctrine that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. Logically, if Mary gave birth to Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the mother of God.

Q. Do Catholics worship Mary?
A. If by worship you mean in the modern sense of adoration then no. Catholics worship God alone. The church condemns the worship of Mary. So, anyone who worshipped Mary would be an apostate (no longer Christian).

Q. Then why do Catholics kneel and pray in front of pictures and statues of Mary?
A. We are merely asking Mary to join her prayers to ours as we make our request to God. We are simply asking Mary, as a member of the body of Christ, to pray for us.

Jesus saves, Mary prays.

That should about cover the topic for now. :)