Like valuable tiaras, Marian dogmas gird the most holy forehead of Mary, making transparent to the eyes of men the predilection of God for Her.
Newsroom (23/05/2023 09:00, Gaudium Press) Four crowns for the same Queen and Mother: they were the fruit of the maternal affection of another mother, Holy Mother Church, which, in her overflowing affection and veneration for Our Lady, succeeded in proclaiming these truths of Faith of profound theological scope. Like valuable diadems, or crowns, the Marian dogmas gird Mary’s most holy forehead, making clear to men’s eyes the predilection that God has for Her.
Mother of God
The Greek term Theotókos, which means “Mother of God”, was probably used for the first time by Origen, head of the great Alexandrian school, and became a classic among Christians. However, this name was not long in finding aversion from impious men.
“Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was a proud, superficial spirit, more inflated than eloquent, a friend of novelty.” this is the profile of the one who claimed it was more convenient to call Mary “Mother of Christ”, and the Man who was born of Her, Theophoro (God-bearer), or Theodoque (God-receiver). Thus, he claimed that there were two persons – one divine and the other human – in Jesus Christ. In this case, he claimed that the Virgin would not be the Mother of God, but mother of the “human person” of Jesus Christ.
This error did not go unnoticed by those who listened to the sermons of this heresy… even the simplest people could see that there was a grave error in proclaiming that Mary was not the Mother of God. Providentially, and thankfully, an imposing figure governed the famous Patriarchate of Alexandria.
St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt, promptly warned Nestorius of his errors, but to no avail. Thus, as pontifical legate at the Council of Ephesus, in the year 431, St. Cyril, united with two hundred other bishops, condemned, on the Pope’s part, the hardened Nestorius and his writings. Thus was proclaimed the Dogma of the Divine Maternity of Mary. When the Council was over, all the prelates were welcomed with great enthusiasm by the people who were waiting outside the church.
It was fitting, then, that God should come into the world through Mary. If a woman was the origin of our sinfulness, the origin of our rehabilitation must also be from another woman; and this could not be more extraordinary than in a most perfect creature who begot and gave birth to her own Creator. On the other hand, in order to take away from proud man every plausible pretext for denying the reality of the Incarnation, the Eternal Word wisely decided to take His body from a true Mother.
Virgin before, during, and after childbirth
Another incomparable privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary is that of her perpetual virginity. In Mary, virginity was not transitory, but was preserved at every moment of her life.
The classic phrase: “Mary, a virgin before, during and after childbirth”, is not a statement that can be disputed or doubted, for it is a truth of faith expressly defined at the first Lateran Council under Pope Martin I in 649: “If anyone does not confess, in conformity with the Holy Fathers, that the Holy Mother of God […] conceived [Christ], her virginity remaining indissoluble both before and after childbirth, let him be condemned.”
It was therefore most fitting that Mary conceived Jesus Christ virginally. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, this was due to the dignity of the heavenly Father, for it was not fitting that His dignity as Father should be communicated to any other.
This virgin birth was miraculous. According to some doctors, “Jesus came out of Mary … as [later] he was to enter the Upper Room, (with)the doors being shut.” The Virgin Birth was a miracle.
Preserved from all original stain
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, among the four Marian dogmas, has been the one that has generated the most discussion.
Since the fifth century, the Conception of Mary has been celebrated as a feast of great importance, especially in the East, where it was known as the “Conception of St Anne. As time went by, this devotion became widely spread and, by the 11th century, it was already being celebrated in several European countries.
The Church has always seen this privilege implicitly expressed in the Angelic greeting: “God save thee (Hail Mary), full of grace” (cf. Lk 1:28). Now, if She were, at some point in her life, a victim of the original stain, her fullness in grace would be restricted.
Nevertheless, some controversies surrounded the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Many years later, during the pontificate of Gregory XVI and in the early years of Pius IX, more than 220 petitions were made by the ecclesiastical hierarchy and religious orders for the definition of a dogma in this regard.
Thus, on 8 December 1854, surrounded by 54 Cardinals, 42 Archbishops and 98 Bishops from the four corners of the earth, Pius IX officially proclaimed, with the Bull Ineffabilis Deus, the long awaited dogma: the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
In the Bull, the Pontiff states that, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, Mary was preserved from every original stain at the first moment of her conception.
There are two ways, then, of redeeming a captive: by paying his ransom after he has been taken captive (what we call a liberative redemption), or by avoiding for him captivity by a payment in advance (a preventive redemption). This was the means of “ransom” that God applied to Mary Most Holy: foreseeing the infinite merits of the Passion of Jesus Christ, the price of the Redemption of man, the Most High accepted them in advance, freeing his Blessed Mother from original guilt.
Her days on earth ended
After a life marked by pain and glory, the hour of joy and triumph has come for Mary: her passage into Eternity.
Did the Blessed Virgin suffer death? The question is still debated by theologians. Some say that She did indeed die in a very delicate way, which they call a dormition, in order to be resurrected afterwards and ascend to heaven in body and soul.
The authors who defend this thesis allege, among other theological reasons, that Mary gave the Redeemer passing and mortal flesh, so She must have had it too. If she has followed her Son, she must have participated in His sufferings and His death.
For them, supposing that Mary had the right not to die (by virtue, above all, of her Immaculate Conception, which preserved Her from guilt and therefore also from the relative penalty, which is death), She would no doubt in fact have renounced this privilege in order to be similar in everything – even in death and resurrection – to her Son Jesus.
On the other hand, there are those who affirm that the Mother of God did not pass through the trance of death, but that there was an immediate transfer from her earthly life to her heavenly life.
In any case, this was not the core of the Marian Dogma proclaimed in the middle of the twentieth century, when Pius XII, on 1 November 1950, surrounded by 36 Cardinals, 555 Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops, a great number of ecclesiastical dignitaries and a fervent crowd, defined, with the power of the successor of St. Peter, the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“[…] to increase the glory of His august Mother, and to the joy and rejoicing of the whole Church, with the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of Blessed St. Peter and St. Paul and with Our own, we pronounce, declare and define it to be divinely revealed that: THE IMMACULATE MOTHER OF GOD, THE EVER-VIRGIN MARY, HAVING FINISHED THE COURSE OF HER EARTHLY LIFE, HAS BEEN ASSUMED IN BODY AND SOUL INTO HEAVENLY GLORY.”
The bells of all Christendom, in the four corners of the earth, rang at the Supreme Pontiff’s proclamation. “Henceforth no one could doubt the fact of Mary’s Assumption in body and soul into heaven without sinking in faith and departing from the communion of the Catholic Church: Roma locuta est, causa finita est.”
One Queen, four crowns! With what beautiful ornaments the Holy Church has presented the Holy Mother of God!
Perhaps, in the near or distant future-who knows? -still other truths of faith may be proclaimed with apostolic authority about Our Lady, for the glory of God and the benefit of all the faithful. And then other crowns of similar beauty will follow these four crowns!
“Co-redemptrix of the human race”? “Universal Mediatrix of all graces?” What will be the next officially recognized titles of the Holy Virgin Mary?
Only the Church has the final word, but it is up to us to hope and pray that these days may take place in the near future history of the Church.
Those who live will see.
By Marcos Longs
With files from the work: CLÁ DIAS, João Scognamiglio. Little Office of the Immaculate Conception Commented. 2 ed. São Paulo: Lumen Sapientiae, 2011, v. 2.
Compiled by Sandra Chisholm