The Marian Dogmas
Dogmas are truths which have been revealed by God and which have been presented as truths to the faithful by the teaching authority of the Church. A Catholic must not deny or doubt that which has been proclaimed as Catholic Dogma. To do so is considered heresy. The Church takes great care to present dogma with precision. It is developed through study of God’s Word in Scripture as well as Tradition (the teachings passed on through apostolic succession). There are four Marian dogmas. Each describes and defines an attribute of Mary.
The first dogma is that Mary is the Mother of God. The Church derives her beliefs about Mary through her beliefs about Jesus. Holy Scripture calls Mary the mother of Jesus. We know that Jesus, Who was conceived as her son by the Holy Spirit, is God. When Mary went to her cousin, before the birth of our Lord, Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary, calling her “the mother of my Lord.” Thus, Mary is Theotokos: “Mother of God.”
We believe in the second dogma which teaches that Mary was ever virgin. As the Catechism tells us, quoting a document from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, even Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” Often, critics will point to occasions in the Gospels which mention brothers of Jesus; however we know that this term refers to close relatives, but not actual siblings of Jesus. The church has always taught that Mary and Joseph had a holy and spiritual union of hearts, but that Mary remained always the handmaid of the Lord. Mary’s perpetual virginity is a “sign….of her undivided gift of herself to God’s will.” (CCC 506)
The Immaculate Conception was proclaimed dogma fairly recently, in 1854, but this privilege of hers has been understood throughout history. The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the phrase “full of grace.”(Lk 1:28) God, Who is not bound to linear time, allowed Mary’s fiat to be the cause of her own salvation through the merits of her Son. In this way, He prepared the only suitable Mother for His Son, one who was untainted by sin from the first moment of her own conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. The Immaculate Conception is not to be confused with the virgin conception of Our Lord. It describes a singular privilege granted to Mary.
The fourth Marian dogma is one which we celebrate on August 15, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Given that Mary was preserved from Original Sin through the anticipated sacrifice of her Son, Mary’s earthly body was not to undergo corruption at the end of her earthly life. As Mary proclaimed in her Magnificat, “all generations will call (her) blessed.” (Lk 1:48) Her body was taken up along with her soul into Heaven to rejoin her Son. There she intercedes for her children, all of us, who were given into her care by Jesus from the cross. As taught in Lumen gentium, quoted in our Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”
The favor which God has consistently poured out upon Mary, the honor which her Son, Jesus, perfect man that He is, bestows upon her, and the bond which links her forever to the Holy Spirit inspire the faithful to complete devotion to Our Lady, and hope in her, and she leads us always back to the Trinity.
August 11, 2015