Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Why do Catholics believe that Mary is the Mother of God and give her divine attributes? If she was perfect, how could she be saved?

There have been several questions about the role of Mary in Christianity and the Church’s view of her.

All teachings about Mary tell us something about God and something about humanity. Mary is described as the ‘Mother of God’, because this affirms our belief that Jesus Christ is true God. Not simply by adoption or in part, but fully divine as He is fully human.

Motherhood is a relationship of person to person: a mother is not only mother of the body, or of the physical creature born of her womb, but of the person she begets. Thus having given birth, according to his human nature, to the person of Jesus, who is a divine person, Mary is the Mother of God

Pope John Paul II, 27 November 1996

Catholics do not give Mary divine attributes, nor do they worship Mary. We simply give her honour because of the unique place given her in the work of salvation, to be the Mother of the Saviour. And in giving her honour we give glory to God.

‘You are glorified in your saints, for their glory is the crowing of Your gifts…’

Preface of Holy Men and Women

It is only through the grace and power of God that Mary has such perfection, so it is His plan. For God doesn’t treat people as means, but as good ends in themselves, worthy of value and dignity. God doesn’t use Mary to be a receptacle of his Son, but gives her this true Motherhood as the greatest of gifts.

The perfection of Mary is thus the work of God and the way He saves her. Mary is a creature of God like all other human beings, but unlike all other human beings, she is saved in a preventative manner.

If two people are at risk from a cold and one takes care to prevent such by medicine and sensible living so does not fall ill and the other catches the cold and cures it through medicine following the illness, both have been saved and saved from something outside themselves.

The preservation of Mary from all sin is the unique way God saved her: fitting for the Mother of the Son of God.


David said...

So does that mean Mary was saved by Jesus just like the rest of us?

By giving honour to Mary we give glory to God since he sanctified her and made her to fulfil a unique and special role. OK I can sort of understand that but why then should praise be limited to Mary? Didn't Joseph and Elizabeth and John the Baptist play a part too?

Anonymous said...

really helpful - thank you....

Almighty Answers said...

Thanks for the comment David. You make a good point, as Mary does stand out in the Church's prayer and liturgy. But the Church also venerates the saints, remembering them in their feast days. Also most Catholic Churches would have statues or icons of saints other than Mary. Indeed our parish is St Albert the Great, named after the great Dominican saint of the 13th century.

I suppose all the saints are like a great art collection, all of them worthy of praise. It's just that Mary is the greatest work of art. We can gain a great deal from knowing the saints, but we always benefit from knowing Mary the greatest work of Christ the artist!

Hope that helps...

Anonymous said...

I notice in the answer there is no reference to Scripture. But rather teachings developed by man. Surely saying Mary did not sin makes her divine, why would she need a saviour is she had no sin?

Almighty Answers said...

Thanks for your comment. I don't think being without sin makes you divine - rather it makes you human! Saying Mary is without sin is not claiming that she is totally removed from us, but that she lived and still lives a full human life, through which the Son of God became truly human.

We are of course also called to be divine, to share God's life and become an adopted child of the Father in the Son through the Holy Spirit. And here too Mary is not essentially different from us. She points us to what we too are called to be.

There's not been much scripture quoted - that's not because we're using human words and not divine ones, but because thinking about Mary is so deeply formed and shaped by the scriptures that we do not need to keep using quotes as proof texts. You need only to read the infancy narratives to see how Mary receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is compared to the ark of the covenant, is a model of discipleship, and has a unique role in the history of salvation...