All About Mary, Worship or Veneration?

Catholics (and others like the Orthodox Church) swear that they don’t consider Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth,  divine but they sure act like she is!  Did you know that they believe she can hear all prayers to her from all people, in any language from all around the world at the same time?  Not only that but she can appear and rescue people from dangerous calamities and cure people!  Obviously these aren’t things mortals can do but they’re not practicing idolatry!  Oh no!  They’re only venerating her!

The Catholic Encyclopedia makes it all crystal clear.  It tells us:

“An essential difference exists between idolatry and the veneration of images practised [sic] in the Catholic Church, viz., that while the idolater credits the image he reverences with Divinity or Divine powers, the Catholic knows “that in images there is no divinity or virtue on account of which they are to be worshipped, that no petitions can be addressed to them, and that no trust is to be placed in them.”

So, the obvious conclusion of this definition is Catholics may not believe the images of Mary (and all the others they pray to) have any power still their conduct is to go through the motions of praying to them anyway!  So, a god or not functionally speaking, they still give her the god treatment and expect a godly act from her; and it’s all by veneration!  But don’t trust me.  Just check out the exalted state they give Mary in the following excerpts straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and a bit further down, the Orthodox Church.

Devotion to Mary: “The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary,” (CCC. 971).

Entrust our cares to Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God…we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’ [Lk 1:38] By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: ‘Thy will be done,'” (CCC 2677).

Ask Mary to pray for us: “By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the ‘Mother of Mercy,’ the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender ‘the hour of our death’ wholly to her care,” (CCC 2677).

“Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father,” (CCC 2679).

Marian prayer is epitome of the gospel: “The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, are an epitome of the whole Gospel,” (CCC par. 971).

No Better way than to look to Mary: “After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary,” (CCC 972).

Mary taken into heaven: Mary, “…when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven…,” (CCC par. 974).

Mary is Advocate, Helper, Mediatrix: [Mary] “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix,'” (CCC, par. 969).

Mary is “The mother of the members of Christ,” (CCC par. 963).

Mary Preserved from original sin: She was “Preserved free from all stain of original sin,” (CCC, par. 966).

Mary is Queen over all things: “She is “Queen over all things,” (CCC par. 966).

Mary brings us the gifts of Eternal Life: Mary, “…by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…,” (CCC par. 969).

Mary is Advocate and Mediatrix: “The Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix,” (CCC par. 969).

Mary delivers souls from death: “…You [Mary] conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death,” (CCC 966)

Mary brings the gifts of eternal salvation: “…by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…,” (CCC par. 969).

 

The Orthodox Church Worships Mary Too!

The Orthodox Church worships Mary through Icons.  They split from the Roman church in the 11th Century but still hold many of the same practices like Mary worship veneration.  They both claim she was and is an eternal virgin and that Christ’s step siblings were really nephews, cousins or just Joseph’s kids from a prior marriage.  Trouble is that contradicts the very Scriptures they would tell you they hold dear!  But so what, they’ve got a belief system going here that needs to be shoe-horned into their better version of what God inspired!  See Matthew 13:56, where Jesus astounded the people in Nazareth:

54He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? 55“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56“And His sisters, are they not all with us?   Where then did this man get all these things?”  Matthew 13. NASB

Unlike the Catholics the Orthodox faithful venerate her thru icons!  If you’re like me just where does one leave off and the other begins isn’t clear so I just have to ask: Is it better not to let a child play on the very edge of a cliff, or to just avoid it all together?

“Throughout history, many Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God and others have had miracles attributed to them. In addition, there are those Icons which may not have been miracle working, but still been venerated with the hope of intercession from the Mother of God.”  Introduction to Icons of the Mother of God; oca.org

The following is just one example. For more see Icons of the Mother of God, Orthodox Church in America, oca.org

Here’s The Vatopedi “Comfort” or “Consolation” Icon of the Mother of God [located] in the old Vatopedi monastery on Athos, in the church of the Annunciation. It was called “Vatopedi” because near this monastery Arcadius, the son of Empreor Theodosius the Great, fell off a ship into the sea, and by the miraculous intercession of the Mother of God he was carried to shore safe and unharmed. He was found sleeping by a bush, not far from the monastery. From this event the name “Vatopedi” (“batos paidion,” “the bush of the child”) is derived. The holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (January 17), in gratitude for the miraculous deliverance of his son, embellished and generously endowed the Vatopedi monastery.

 

How Does This Hold Up to Scripture?

First, what is “worship”?  Since the Old Testament was handed down in Hebrew we must know the definition of worship as the author understood it.  The Hebrew word for “worship” in Exodus 20:5 (the Ten Commandments) is “shachah” שָׁחָה.  Now, let’s see how a Strong’s Concordance translates the word:

“to depress, i.e. prostrate in homage to royalty or God; to bow down, crouch, fall down (flat) humbly beseech, do make obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.”

Bowing down is part of the act of worship – as you can see above.  Clearly, anyone who bows down, beseeches help, or worships before statues, paintings, carvings, etc., of Mary or anyone or anything risk breaking the commandment not to worship or bow down before idols.  Still the Catholic Church says as long as it isn’t divine worship to Mary it’s okay.  But this is just a word game.  Their conduct in venerating to Mary is the same as their worship to God; they just differentiate the difference.  But God didn’t authorize this distinction.  If he did He would have told us so.  He very simply orders all his followers to not do it!  He repeated it again in Leviticus 26:1, with no qualifiers there either.

Wouldn’t it be terrifying to appear for final judgment thinking that in this life you were sincerely doing what you thought was right, venerating Mary, only to find that God judges you guilty of ignoring His sacred commandments to have and worship no other god?

In Conclusion

The people of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths are no doubt sincere, and dedicated.  But being dedicated and sincere doesn’t necessarily mean one is correct.  The Orthodox followers claim their’s is the oldest Christian faith.  Wonderful if it is!  But being the oldest faith doesn’t guarantee that it is correct either.  We Protestants beg all of you to test all things by the Scriptures.  God’s Ten Commandments to not worship or have any other god was not an invitation to find a loop hole to get around it.  So for your own salvation’s sake put away your traditions, rituals and icons and come back to the Scriptures.  I just hope that this plea to you is taken in the same manner it is given- in love and concern your eternal salvation.

CARM.org
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Doubleday Publishers, 1997.
Strong, James; The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990.
Images courtesy of wikipedia.org

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