By Rev. Fr. Melvin P. Castro
When is she first mentioned by name in the Bible?
She is mentioned by name for the first time in the Gospel narratives of Matthew and Luke in the first two chapters. But by reference, Mary first appears as the promised woman of the Protoevangelium in Genesis 3 and 15.
Do notice that in the genealogy of our Lord in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel, Christ’s Davidic line is traced from Joseph, the husband of Mary. However, Matthew was quite clear in writing that Christ was born of Mary. Luke, who has all the signs that he was able to speak with Our Lady directly, referred to Mary as the real biological mother of Christ. So Christ is from the Davidic line both through Joseph and Mary.
Why is this important? Because it fulfills the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would come from the lineage of King David. It also shows that God is true to His covenant with mankind—that God keeps His word and promises.
What does her name mean?
In Hebrew, Miriam is thought to mean “bitter water.” But in Sacred Scripture, people with special missions had a name change, such as Abram to Abraham, Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul.
In the case of Our Lady, in Luke 1:28, the Archangel Gabriel calls her not Miriam but, as it were, with her new name and mission: κεχαριτωμένη (kecharitōmenē) “full of grace.”
Who are her parents?
Scripture does not mention Mary’s parents. But we do have the non-canonical Gospel of Saint James, written around the second century A.D. that speaks of Joachim and Anne as Mary’s parents. In the same book, we have accounts of the younger years in Mary’s life, including events surrounding the choice of Joseph as her spouse.
Why is she referred to as the Mother of God?
One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of our Marian devotion is the title of Mary as the Mother of God. The Greek word coined for it is Θεοτόκος or Theotokos.
During the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., there were two opposing views. One was that the Lord Jesus Christ is human only and so Mary is the Mother of Christ, the human person. The other, and the correct one, is that Jesus Christ is both God and man. So Mary can be rightfully referred to as the Mother of God—not that she gave divinity to Christ, but that Mary is the Mother of Christ who is both God and man at the same time.
The title of Mary as Mother of God was defined as a dogma to defend the divinity and sacred humanity of Christ. In the person of Christ, His divinity and humanity cannot be separated—they are distinct but united, what is called a hypostatic union.
What is the title Immaculate Conception?
It refers to Mary as being conceived without the stain of sin. God has nothing to do with sin, so the one who carried Him in her womb would have to be immune from sin herself. The bearer of God— by the dignity of God and by His merits—would be exempted from sin.
To this, Blessed John Duns Scotus, following Saint Anselm, employed the principle of potuit, decuit, ergo fecit—“it was possible, it was fitting, therefore, it was accomplished.”
A resultant question would be, if Our Lady is exempted from sin, then she wouldn’t need redemption. On the contrary, the redemptive merits of Christ’s death and resurrection were applied to her retroactively. She was redeemed even before she was born. At the very moment of her conception, she was privileged by God to be exempt from sin. She, who is the Mother of the Redeemer, is the first to be redeemed.
God, who is beyond the limitations of space and time, applied the merits that Christ would acquire in His death and resurrection to Mary during her conception.
The dogma was defined and proclaimed by Blessed Pope Pius V on December 8, 1854 that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin” (Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus)
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Featured image is from Unsplash.com.