Pam Hubbard wrote:

Hi, guys —

I went to my grandson's Catholic school for Grandparent's Day last week and during the morning prayer time they prayed,

"Dear Jesus, through the Immaculate heart of Mary ..."

and then the prayer.

Jesus is the Son of God and needs no intercessor. He sits at the right hand of God, the Father. Jesus is God and needs no intercessor.

  • Why would this prayer be permitted?
  • Why do we pray through Mary even when it's Jesus whom we are asking?

Jesus is our intercessor to the Father ... that is stated over and over again in the Bible.

  • Please tell me where in the Bible it says:
    • that we should pray through Mary as our intercessor, and
    • where in the Bible it says Mary had "an Immaculate heart"?

I really need to understand these things. As I study the Bible, they do not make sense to me.

Thank you.

Pam

  { Where in the Bible does it say we should pray through the Immaculate heart of Mary plus? }

John replied:

Hi, Pam —

You ask a very legitimate question. On the surface, without understand the theology of the Covenant and the Incarnation, the Scriptures don't plainly spell out all Catholic doctrine.
The Church however, has never accepted the notion that Scripture alone is it's source. The Church has a teaching authority along with Sacred Tradition. Together with the Scriptures, they make a three legged stool upon which doctrine safely sits.

I can tell by the way you asked your question that you are missing some foundational truths so before we talk about the Immaculate heart of Mary, we need to establish a few things. This may take more than one e-mail exchange.

Below are my notes from an RCIA, (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) class on the Communion of Saints. This should lay down a foundation for you. It might open up your eyes to a few things in the Scriptures as well. Read through them, ponder them and let's take it from there.

The Communion of Saints

The word Communion comes from the Greek word Koinonia from which we derive the words fellowship, communion, communication, and economy. The word Saints is the Greek word "Hagios". It can also be translated "holy ones."

For example, the New American Bibles reads as follows:

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the holy ones (Hagios) who are in Ephesus" (Ephesians 1:1)

Whereas the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition) reads:

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints (Hagios) who are in Ephesus" (Ephesians 1:1)

Often times, we only think of saints as those who have been canonized (i.e.:
St. Patrick, St. Anthony, etc.) Other times, we use the term to refer to all those in Heaven. However, the word "Hagios" literally means: those set apart or separated from.
In ecclesial usage, the word Hagios means those separated from the world or the (world system) and thus set apart for God. Therefore, the broader sense of the term includes all Christians, be they on earth, in Purgatory, or fully perfected in Heaven.

So "Communion of Saints" is a term used to describe the entire Church, the interaction of all Her members and the mystical economy that exists between them. While economy might sound like strange word to use, it is very accurate. Within the Communion of Saints, there is a sharing of Spiritual goods. The prayers, deeds, and offerings of one member affect the entire Body of Christ. So too, the needs, sufferings, and even sins of any member impact the entire Body. This, in essence, describes an economy.

What does Scripture teach us about the Communion of Saints?

Let's start by looking a key text:

1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle -- I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying-- a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 I desire therefore that men pray everywhere..."

1 Timothy 2:1-8

The foundation of our doctrine is rooted in the proper understanding of verse 5.

"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men,
the Man Christ Jesus,"

Notice Paul's emphasis: he refers the "the Man Christ Jesus."

  • Why is Paul stressing Jesus' humanity?

Because, the implication of the Incarnation is that God intended to include and involve humanity in Christ's redemptive work. Hence, the role of "the Man Christ Jesus" isn't meant to exclude the rest of mankind. To the contrary, in and through the Incarnation, Christ saves us and we become members of His Body. If, by grace, we are members of His Body, then also by grace, we participate in His mediation and redemptive work.

St. Peter, in his first epistle, referred to us as:

" a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, ... that [we] may proclaim the praises of Him ..."

1 Peter 2:9

Of course, Peter is not saying we are all ordained priests. However, through our baptism and adoption into the Body of Christ, we all share in the Priesthood of Christ. If we are all priests, we are, therefore all mediators by definition, because the role of priest is to mediate.

That is what St. Paul is telling Timothy. Notice that he doesn't mention Christ's mediation alone. Rather, the text is bracketed by exhortations to pray and intercede. If Christ alone is the exclusive mediator, then Paul's exhortation makes no sense.

This brings up two questions:

  1. Are the souls of the deceased able to witness what is happening
    among the living?

The answer is found in Hebrews Chapter 12.

1 Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

Notice the text starts with the word "therefore". One of the first rules of biblical interpretation is: When you see a "therefore" you have to find out what it's there for!

In this instance, the "therefore" is a reference to all of Hebrews 11.
This chapter lists the many Old Testament characters who died in faith, awaiting the promised Messiah. So the author of Hebrews makes it clear that those who have gone before us, surround us and are very conscious of what is happening amongst the living.

The second question then becomes:

  1. Are these deceased saints merely spectators or are we some how connected with them in prayer and worship?

Again, the author of Hebrews answers this question for us.

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, ...

Hebrews 12:22-24

First, notice verse 24. The author of Hebrews also mentions Jesus as the Mediator. But again, as in Paul's letter to Timothy, Christ's mediation is not mentioned in a vacuum. Quite the contrary, verse 23 mentions:

  • the angels
  • the general assembly
  • the church registered in heaven, and
  • the "spirits of just men made perfect"

Then finally, Jesus the Mediator is referenced in verse 24.

The inspired author is telling us that the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ is organic and inseparable. Death has no power of this unity, just as death had no power over Christ Himself.

This understanding is not a Catholic novelty. This belief is shared by our Orthodox Christian brothers and, just as important, it also has roots in Jewish Tradition. The Second Book of Maccabees records a [vision/dream] experienced by Judas Maccabeus. In this vision, Judas sees the High Priest Onias and the Prophet Jeremiah (both of whom were dead and buried) interceding on behalf of Israel. (2 Maccabees 15:11-16) While Maccabees was not included in the Jewish Canon in 90A.D. (for political reasons), Jews still maintain this belief.

All that being said; we must remember our starting point. The Communion of Saints is rooted in the doctrine of the Incarnation. The Saints in heaven, the souls in Purgatory, just like the Christians on earth, are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Therefore, since we are all "In Christ", as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we participate in Christ's mediation and intercession for the world.

 

The particular role of Mary

Among the Saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary plays a unique and privileged role.

As we've established, God, in choosing to become Man, ordained that men and women participate in the redemption of the human race. Therefore the Catechism prefixes any discussion of Mary with the following text:

487: What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines, in turn, its faith in Christ.

Notice the emphasis: Everything we believe about Mary is related to the Incarnation and it illuminates our Christian faith. To that end, Mary becomes our model of the perfect disciple. Nowhere is this more evident than in her response to the Angel Gabriel.

"Let it be done to me according to your word . . ."

With these words, Mary allowed God's eternal plan for our salvation to become manifest in our time and space.

The Catechism puts it this way:

"Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."

494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:

As St. Irenaeus says,

"Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."

Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert:

"The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."

Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."

Mary, by agreeing to bring Jesus into the world, became a "cause" of our Salvation.
In doing so, she mediated between Heaven and earth. Therefore, the Church gives Mary certain titles such as Mediatrix of all Grace and Co-Redemptrix.

Again, when we hear titles such as these, we must always remember that these titles are in no way equating Mary to Jesus. To the contrary, they are meant to be understood in relationship to Jesus Christ. Mary is what she is by grace and by virtue of being "in Christ." Since Jesus Christ is the source of all grace and Mary brought Jesus into the world, Mary is the Mediatrix of grace. Since she cooperated with God's redemptive plan, she is Co-Redemptrix.

She is what we must strive to be. Every time we, by word or deed, bring someone closer to Christ we also function as mediators and co-redeemers. The difference is what we do imperfectly, Mary does perfectly.

With that in mind, there are five essential doctrines about Mary which we will attempt to cover:

  1. The Immaculate Conception
  2. The Virgin Birth
  3. Mary's Perpetual Virginity
  4. Mary, Mother of God
  5. Mary's Assumption into Heaven

The Catechism states:

The Immaculate Conception

490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

Mary's virginity

496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed". The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:

You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen.

497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:
"That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancée. The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah:

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."

Mary - "ever-virgin"

499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".

500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact, James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary". They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.

501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love."

Mother of God

467 The Monophysites affirmed that the human nature had ceased to exist as such in Christ when the divine person of God's Son assumed it. Faced with this heresy, the fourth ecumenical council, at Chalcedon in 451A.D., confessed:

Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; "like us in all things but sin". He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary's Assumption

965 After her Son's Ascension, Mary "aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers." In her association with the apostles and several women, "we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation."

. . . also on her Assumption

966 "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.

Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Dormition

Mary's Assumption

The Church teaches that Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven. This is very different from Our Lord's Ascension. Jesus by His own power, ascended into Heaven. Whereas, Mary was passively assumed to Heaven by an act of God.

This teaching of the Church was elevated to a dogma in 1950, but has been a belief of the Church going back to the earliest of times.

There are two different traditions.

  1. In the East, it is said that she died first.
  2. In the West, the tradition is that she was assumed before dying.

In either case, the Church believes she is in Heaven with her glorified body, as we hope to be after the Resurrection of the dead.

There is no specific Biblical text that tells us Mary was assumed. However, we must bear in mind that the Gospels were probably written prior to the event. Moreover, the Gospels were about the life of Christ. The author's intent was not to give us a play-by-play description of every truth the Church teaches.

That said, there is Biblical precedent for Mary's assumption.

  • In the book of Kings, we read about Elijah the Prophet being taken to heaven in a Chariot of fire as his apprentice Elisha looked on.
  • In Genesis, a character named Enoch is said to be “taken away” and finally,
  • the Epistle of St. Jude tells of a battle over Moses body that took place between Michael the Archangel and Satan.

Finally, there are several writings of the Early Church Fathers which support this Tradition.

I hope this helps,

John

Eric replied:

Hi, Pam —

You ask an important question. I have a few things to add to what my colleague has said.

First, Jesus is the mediator between God, the Father and man. The prayer you cited expressed mediation between Mary and Jesus. This does not violate Jesus's mediatorship because Mary does not mediate with the Father, but with the Son.

It may seem a small point but I think it's an important one. In mediating, she does nothing more than bring us to Jesus, which is exactly what all the rest of us are called to do as well. She says to us, "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5). All of us are called to be ambassadors for Christ and reconcile sinners to him (2 Corinthians 5:20). This is mediation: Acting as an intermediary,
an ambassador, between Christ and sinners, reconciling estranged parties. We also act as mediators when we intercede for one another (1 Timothy 2:1), for intercession and mediatorship are synonymous. (Note the prayer you objected to was merely asking Mary for her intercession, which is commanded by 1 Timothy 2:1.) Evangelizing people is a form of mediatorship, too.
In short, Mary is mediatrix because she symbolizes what the whole people of God are called to do:

Bring people to Christ. "Do whatever he tells you." That's all it is about.

I'd also like to point out some texts from Psalm 45. Psalm 45 speaks mainly of two people:

  1. The King-Messiah (Christ) and
  2. his Queen (Mary).

In Judaism, because of polygamy, the queen was typically the mother of the king, not his wife. Revelation 12 portrays this queen (we know she's queen because she has a crown and is dressed in splendor, much like the figure in Psalm 45). Psalm 45:12 says,

"And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour."

People will ask the queen for favors. She will make her sons princes over the earth (verse 16). Compare this to Revelation 12:17, where those who

"keep the commands of God and bear testimony to Jesus"

are identified as the offspring of the woman clothed with the sun (the queen). Finally, compare verse 17

"I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever"

with the Magnificat in Luke 1:48 ("All generations will call me blessed").

Eric

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