Sunday, July 17, 2016

Catholicism Explained - Marian Dogmas

Hello, my dear fellow Christians! (If you're a non-Christian, you're more than welcome, too. Pull up a metaphorical chair and make yourself comfortable.) Would you believe it, this Catholicism Explained post is actually on time. (Conscience: it's 5:39 in the afternoon and you're only just starting. Me: shush, conscience, don't make things so complicated. Conscience: well, a fine Catholic example you're giving, shushing your conscience.) Well, more or less on time.

So far we've skipped around talking about a variety of topics, including:

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
Is the Eucharist Literal or Symbolic?
Sacred Tradition
The Sacrament of Confession
Why Do We Need Priests?

Today we're going to jump into something new: Marian dogmas. I envision this as an introduction to/general overview of what Catholics believe about Mary. If one of the dogmas sparks interest, we can explore it in next week's post. We could spend a long time talking about this. :)

The Four Dogmas
(Confession: I had to double-check what the four dogmas were using this article.)

There are four Marian dogmas in Catholicism (a dogma is a really important teaching - big T Tradition as opposed to little t tradition - that Catholics are morally obliged to believe). These are 1) that Mary is the Mother of God, 2) that Mary is ever-virgin, 3) that Mary was immaculately conceived, and 4) that Mary was assumed into Heaven.

We'll go through them one by one.

Mary is the Mother of God

Blessed Mother and Jesus. Happy birthday Mother Mary:):

This one is simple. When God became man he did it through the cooperation of a mere woman, Mary. It was within her that Jesus was conceived and nurtured and through her that He was born. She was a mother to Him in every way. Since Jesus is God, and Mary is the mother of Jesus, Mary is the Mother of God.

Some object to this teaching saying that Mary is only the mother of Jesus' human nature, not His divine nature. This objection overlooks or undermines the fact that Jesus is one person. Jesus does have two natures, one of which was inherited from Mary and one of which was not; but He is only one Person. Mary is fully the mother of this one Person, a Person Who is God as well as man.

Several analogies which have helped me with this:

1. Humans are made up of body and soul. My body comes from my parents, my soul comes directly from God. My parents did not create my soul. Nevertheless, we don't speak of my parents as being the mother and father of my body only; they are the mother and father of me. In the same way, Mary did not provide Jesus' divine nature, but she's still Jesus' mother in a complete and perfect way.

2. My dad has brown eyes; my mom has green-blue eyes; my brothers have brown eyes. My mother did not give my brothers their brown eyes, but she is the mother of my brothers, brown eyes and all.  

Mary is Ever-Virgin

The Blessed Mother.:

Scripture is very clear that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. She remained a virgin, so Tradition tells us, throughout her pregnancy and delivery. Furthermore, she never lost her virginity after Jesus was born.

This is an ancient Tradition which has always been part of Catholic Christianity, although it isn't explicitly stated in Scripture. It's one of those acts of faith where we take the word of those who lived in the years close after Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles.

Some object to this doctrine by quoting individual Scripture passages, mainly Matthew 1:25 which states that Joseph did not know Mary until after Jesus was born and verses such as Matthew 13:55 which mention Jesus' "brothers and sisters."

However, the "until" in Matthew 1:25 does not necessarily mean that Mary lost her virginity; just because something did not happen until a certain point in time does not mean it did happen after that point in time. As for Jesus' brothers and sisters, they were not the children of Mary, but other close relatives - one Aramaic word was used for brothers and cousins alike.

(Fun fact: an early tradition - a small t tradition, not required by faith and not necessarily true - states that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were his stepsiblings, the children of the widower Joseph's first marriage. Just thought I'd mention it, because I found that fascinating.)

Personally, I don't really get it when people reject this dogma. If Scripture is silent on the matter of whether Mary had children besides Jesus, why not believe what Sacred Tradition has always taught?

The Immaculate Conception

Annunciation /Jacob Kapkov:

Catholics have always believed that Mary was immaculately conceived. This simply means that from the moment of her conception, God preserved her from the stain of Original Sin which every other human being since Adam and Eve had been born into.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, he greeted her with the cry, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!" Catholics understand that "full of grace" to mean "empty of sin."

The Immaculate Conception makes perfect sense, considering Mary's role in salvation history as the Mother of God. Her mission was a unique and infinitely grand one, a calling to which even the greatest of future saints could not begin to aspire to. God always prepares us perfectly for our life's work. For the Mother of His Son, He performed the great and unparalleled favor of shielding her from Original Sin - sparing her the inheritance bequeathed her by her first parents.

Would you put a sparkling gem in a dirty box? Stable a valuable racehorse in a filthy barn? Entrust your baby sister to the care of any hobo on the street? Of course not! Why, then, would God give the duty of raising His Son to a regular, sinful woman?

The Assumption

The ASSUMPTION of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY  -  August 15th  -  A Holy Day of Obligation:

This one means that Mary was taken (assumed) into Heaven, body and soul, by God at the end of her life. I've heard it described as "the natural result of the Immaculate Conception" - Mary was not only preserved from Original Sin, but from all the effects of Original Sin, one of which is bodily decay.

God couldn't leave His Mother who had never refused Him anything to rot in an underground tomb. Her womb had sheltered and nurtured the Word Incarnate; her fingers had stroked his tangled toddler hair; her eyes had wept a mother's tears over his bleeding body. Leave that body to satisfy the appetite of worms and flies? No, no!

Again, this doctrine is something Scripture is silent on. But it has been believed from earliest times and consistently taught by the Church.

Obviously I don't see reason to take issue with any of these doctrines - but maybe you do! Let's discuss, friends. Which dogma do you find most interesting? most troublesome? most hard to wrap your head around? And of course let me know if anything's unclear or poorly argued, or if you have ideas for Catholicism Explained!

8 comments:

  1. Oh, goodness, Lucy! You really know your faith! I have no trouble with any of these dogmas (but that may be because reading-wise I am a Marian doctrine fanatic). However, if possible, and if no one else needs a different Marian post, perhaps you could explain in depth the value of Mary's life (meaning, about her, her parents, and especially her Immaculate Conception). Please? :)

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    1. Haha, gee, Isi, you flatter me. :) That's a great idea for a post - I have an idea that might be slightly similar, about why we need Mary's example. It might not fit into the "Catholicism Explained" post, as it's more surmise than theological basics - but then again, it might.

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    2. Sounds Cool!

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  2. I like this new introduction with the past links included. So far I've learned that I've been confusing immaculate conception with the incarnation. How embarrassing.

    I've put off commenting for so long because I really wasn't sure how to go about it. Even now I still don't know how to organize my thoughts on the subject of Marian Dogmas. There's so much I'd like to ask and respond to. Would it be to much to ask if you could go through them again, but this time one by one?

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    1. Glad you like the new introduction, Blue! And confusing the Immaculate Conception with the Incarnation shouldn't be embarrassing at all, really it shouldn't. :) There are so many theological terms out there, it's totally understandable to get a few of them muddled! And I think confusing the Immaculate Conception with the Incarnation is a fairly common misconception, so. You're totally good. :)

      Going through them again one by one is an awesome idea! Settles the pesky question of what to write about for the next four weeks. :)

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    2. Ooh, I would very highly interested by the idea of going through them one by one. While the Sacraments are my fav, I do love learning about any part of my faith.

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    3. Ah, Miss Agnes? Where is the next CE? I don't mean to push, but it seems absent....

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    4. Yes, it is absent. I was out of town this past weekend and didn't get around to posting a head's up. But it'll be here next Sunday! :) I'm glad you like the idea of going through Marian dogmas one by one.

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