The Catholic Defender: This Woman
While serving in Iraq between October 2006 and January 2008, I was one of the lead Catechists in the Baghdad area.
I was holding two RCIA classes at different points along with bible studies.
After Mass Father would give me a moment or two to announce anything going on the next coming week.
Often times I would also give information that I might have received such as a Convert to the Catholic Church.
One such day after Father's invitation for me to speak, a high ranking Lutheran was in the news for being received into the Catholic Faith. I thought that was awesome so I announced it to the congregation.
Moments later as I was speaking to a group of Soldiers, Father sent a young man to me who was asking him questions. Father simply deferred him to me. The first question he asked me was:
"What is an Apostle"? I responded, "An Apostle is one who is sent". That is the test book definition but I elaborated on it some explaining that Jesus has spent three years preparing His Disciples for the establishment and proclamation of His Word through His Church.
The Apostles would be the foundation of the Kingdom of God on earth.
He asked me another question: "Why do you Catholics refer to Mary as 'Mother of God'?
He quickly then identified himself as a Nestorian believer. That his group represents about 5% of the Christians in Iraq. He wanted to challenge me that the Catholic Church departed from the Apostolic Tradition by this title of Mary.
I laid down the foundation of Christ's teaching conferring upon St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, the importance of changing Simon's name to Peter.
I quickly wanted to address his issue of Mary's title "Mother of God". I turned it around on him asking, "What is the difference from referring to Mary as "Mother of God" from "Mother of my Lord"?
He stood there silent for a moment, then I continued to explain that the Israelites did not ordinarily refer to God by name (Yahweh) but as Lord (Adoni)?
Elizabeth, Mary's kinsmen (cousin) asked, "Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me (Luke 1:42-43).
Notice at this point, Jesus was still in Mary's womb. After making this point, my friend had little more to say, he asked me when I was conducting the next bible study and I was glad to help him.
Today (15 August) is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I dedicate this to her, my spiritual Mother:
This woman was first made known to us in the story of man’s fall.
She was referred to as ‘Woman’ by God, recorded in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.”
This woman is also revealed in Revelation 12:1 as “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars.”
This woman was referred to as the virgin that would bring the redeemer into the world (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus spoke to her from the cross and said, “Woman, behold your son.”
She subsequently remained in the care of Saint John as his ‘Mother.’ From the apostles to the fathers, this woman became known as ‘Mother of the Church.’
Who is this Woman that all generations shall call her blessed (Psalms 45:18, Luke 1:48)? This woman is Mary, whose heart would be pierced by a sword (Luke 2:35); early church fathers called her the ‘Queen of Heaven’ (Psalms 45 vs 10).
The Church gives special honor to this Woman who was chosen by the Father, for the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some people have become confused about this woman and the honor given her.
Some say she is worshiped as a goddess, others call her an idol who has no power, a replacement for the Roman goddess Diana. Others simply regard this woman as a ‘good woman.’
So, this Woman, who should be a source of unity for Christians, has become a most controversial figure. Is this what Jesus would want? Luke 1:46 records Mary as saying her “soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
To challenge this woman is to challenge the Church itself, and the one who established it. What is it that some people can’t accept about this woman?
Let’s take a look at the Church’s teaching. One of the titles by which this Woman is invoked is ‘Mediatrix.’ This title, according to Vatican Council II (’62 - ’65), ‘neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one mediator.’
What the title ‘Mediatrix’ truly conveys is that this Woman, through her own free will, chose to become the Mother of the promised one (See Luke 1:26-38).
Mary's role in redemption began with her ‘yes’ to God, and so she became the vehicle in which the Son was sent from heaven (John 3:16).
This woman’s obedience and faith allowed the door to be opened for you and me. She was chosen for God’s plan, and she followed it as called. She is honored as ‘Model of the Church,’ ‘Daughter of Zion,’ ‘the New Eve,’ ‘Ark of the New Covenant.’
The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. taught that this Woman is “in virtue of the incarnation, truly Theotokos, Mother of God.”
The Church teaches that God had prepared this Woman for the purpose of bringing Jesus into the world, and at the moment of her beginning of existence, God protected her from original sin.
This is called ‘The Immaculate Conception.’ Pope Pius IX solemnly defined the Immaculate Conception in 1854, making her the first fruits of her Divine Son’s redemption.
Our Protestant friends will quickly remind you of Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and are deprived of the Glory of God.”
This is true. Mankind fell from grace and became separated from God. However, God’s plan was to send the mediator who would restore life and salvation to mankind making the glory of God attainable through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
This woman needed the messiah as does everyone else who ever lived, and it is only through God’s grace and protection that this woman could handle the responsibilities that came with the job.
Mary was taken in by the Apostle John who would later write, "Then the dragon became very angry with the Woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus". This Woman, Mother Mary, is our spiritual Mother.
What is the basic message of this woman? She tells us in John 2:5 to “do whatever He tells you.” This woman has echoed this statement many times through the centuries at various times and places (Guadalupe, Mexico, 1531; Paris, France, 1830; Lourdes, France, 1858; and Fatima, Portugal, 1917.
Acts 2:17-19 states “it will come to pass in the last days, God says, I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh, your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Indeed, upon the servants and my handmaids, I will pour out may spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below.”
I will honor this woman with her most known prayer, “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you (Luke 1:28), blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus (Luke 1:42), Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, (Rev 8:3), and at the hour our death. Amen!