Why does the Catholic Church put so much emphasis on the Blessed Virgin Mary? After all, she’s not God. She was a lowly virgin from a humble town in a country ruled by a foreign empire.
Plus, our veneration of Mary is a major stumbling block for Protestants. They see our veneration as amounting to worship. Even some modern-day Catholics wonder if Mary gets too much attention. They worry that our high regard for her ends up detracting from our relationship with Christ.
Here’s why Mary matters….a lot.
Our beliefs about Mary protect our beliefs about Christ.
From the early centuries of the Church, being a member of the Body of Christ meant having a proper Christology — the right doctrines about Christ. This meant believing that Christ was both true man and true God. Many heresies sprang up in the early Church that denied some fundamental beliefs about the nature and mission of Jesus.
Interestingly enough, some of our beliefs about Mary were developed to defend our beliefs about Christ. For example, the Council of Ephesus in 431 reaffirmed the practice of calling Mary “the Mother of God.” This was to defend the unity of Christ who — though having two distinct natures — was not two separate people. The baby Mary gave birth to was a divine Person who assumed human nature; therefore, Mary can be called the Mother of God even though Christ’s divine nature did not come from her.
Mary shows us our future glorified state in heaven.
The Second Vatican Council’s constitution “Lumen Gentium” has a beautiful section about Mary and her relationship to the Church. It says: “But while in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin. And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin and committed no personal sin. Instead of that gift, we have inherited the wounded nature of our first parents. But Mary shows us what we will become. Christ promised that those who follow Him faithfully will eventually be cleansed of every stain of sin and reign with Him forever. He gave us the sacraments to help us start healing ourselves in this life.
Mary is also unique in being one of the very few to be assumed body and soul into heaven. We will be separated from our bodies at death and not be reunited with them until the end of time. This may cause us some anxiety, but through His mother, Christ assures us that He will raise our bodies up to a new, glorious state free of pain and death.
While all the saints reveal to us what we can become through God’s grace, Mary surpasses them in radiating the image of humanity redeemed and glorified.
In light of that, she deserves all the attention we give her.
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