Where does it say that in the Bible?

Advent is a very Marian season marked by two very special Marian celebrations, the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is not just an optional extra but is as much an inseparable part of our faith as Mary and Jesus themselves are inseparable.

Nevertheless, I am amazed to find that Protestants still accuse Catholics of idolatry because of devotion to Mary. So maybe now is an opportune time to give some quick answers to those famous, “Where is it in the Bible?” questions.

I will do this by means of an imaginary dialog between a Protestant and a Catholic.

Protestant: Where does the Bible tell us to pray to Mary?

Catholic: It is right there in the Ten Commandments; Honor you father and your mother. (Ex 20:12, Dt 5:16)

Protestant: Where does it say that Mary is our mother?

Catholic: Jesus said it when he was hanging on the Cross: Behold, your Mother. (Jn 19:27)

Protestant: He was just referring to John, the Beloved Disciple.

Catholic: Why do you seek to limit the meaning of the Bible and the wisdom of God? We believe that the Beloved Disciple who stood beneath the foot of the Cross stands for every disciple whom Jesus loves. The word of God is alive and speaks to us today through this passage.

Protestant: Even if I grant your interpretation, Mary died long ago.

Catholic: This is truly a marvel. Do you mean to tell be that you believe in Jesus Christ and his promises, but do not believe the fulfillment of the promise of eternal life? Even now Mary lives with Jesus.

Protestant: Still, we should only pray to God. Only God can hear our prayers.

Catholic: Do you ask your brothers and sisters in Christ for prayers.

Protestant: Of course. St. James tells us: The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

Catholic: Then all the more the fervent prayer of Mary, the most righteous of all, is even more powerful. Further, in the Book of Revelation Jesus says, I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne. (Rev 3:21) That applies most of all to Mary.

Protestant: Well, let me grant that Mary is with Jesus, just like the other saints, and that she can pray for us, but that still doesn’t make her any more special than anyone else.

Catholic: That doesn’t seem to be what God thinks about the matter.

Protestant: What?

Catholic: I am sure you know that our favorite prayer to Mary is called the “Hail Mary”. Do you know where that comes from?

Protestant: Isn’t that just another one of those prayers you invent without reference to the Bible?

Catholic: Actually it is very biblical; the first part of the prayer comes straight from the Gospels. The angel Gabriel, sent by God, greets Mary saying, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. (Lk 1:28) Search the Bible from beginning to end and you will not find that God sent ever a greeting like that to any other human being. Then Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit greets Mary saying, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Lk 1:42) These words clearly refer to the first prophecy of salvation when our first parents heard God curse the serpent and announce his ultimate defeat saying, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head while you strike at his heel. (Gen 3:15) There is a lot contained here, but for now it is enough to say that Elizabeth, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that Mary is that woman. The “Hail Mary” puts together the greeting of the Angel and Elizabeth, while adding the names of Jesus and Mary. Finally, the Church, recognizing the place God has given Mary in Jesus’ work of salvation adds the response: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.”

Protestant: Okay. Let me grant for moment that it is alright to pray to Mary in that way, but when you make pictures and statues of her you are breaking the first commandment: You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. (Ex 20:4-5)

Catholic: Do you have any pictures of your mother in your house?

Protestant: Of course. But I don’t kneel before them.

Catholic: I think many people in many times and places have had such respect for their parents as to kneel before them and ask their blessing, but they did not worship their parents. As for us, we worship God alone, the Most Holy Trinity. In any case, since the time of Moses something has happened that has changed things radically: the Son of God became man and we worship him. St. John writes: Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God. (1 Jn 4:2) When we honor the depictions of Jesus himself, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the saints, these are all ways of acknowledging Jesus come in the flesh, with all of its consequences.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.