Why is Mary so revered in Catholic teaching and tradition?

Posted December 5, 2009

By bringing God to the human race, Mary became the model of the Church in that same function – a function for which it is called to be “without stain … holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27). It was thus appropriate for God to predestine her to pattern his ideal for the Church, by keeping her immaculate and unstained.

To the serpent (Satan) in the Garden of Eden, after the “Fall,” God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head” (Gen 3:15). In this passage (called the “protoevangelium” or “prefigured Gospel”) the word “he” refers to the woman’s offspring, which in the Hebrew text is a masculine word, logically leading Christian tradition to refer to the woman’s offspring as Christ; who else but Christ, by the redemption, would crush the head of the serpent? If this offspring of the woman is Christ, then the “woman” must be Mary, referred to prophetically, not Eve. The prophesied “enmity” between Satan and this woman, Mary, bespeaks an uncompromising opposition between the initiator of sin and a sinless woman, who was most highly graced or “full of grace” as totally sinless.

Mary, as the God-assigned “enemy” of Satan, would have to be one who had never been under his dominion by either original or personal sin, in order to be maximally worthy to tabernacle in her body the “Offspring” prophesied in Genesis – the sinless God Incarnate – and bring him forth to redeem a sin-filled world.

The prophesied victory of “crushing” the power of Satan would not be a meaningful victory if the conquering Redeemer had assumed his body from a woman who had been subject to the Adversary (which is the very meaning of “Satan”). Christ’s victory would have been only a Pyrrhic victory if his suffering and glorified Body – the very instrument of the victorious redemption (1 Cor. 11 :24) – had been drawn from a mother who had been contaminated or “conquered” by his enemy through sin. Christ would not derive his sinless body from a mother’s body that had been even slightly sin-contaminated.

These are a few of the multifarious insights that the Spirit has delivered to the Church in the gradual Scripture-based development of Mariology through the centuries. The theological insights mentioned here deal with only one Marian privilege – her Immaculate Conception.

Let us never weary of praising God, as Mary did, for all she has received from him for us to enjoy and admire. Truly, “he who is mighty has done great things” for us by doing such great things for Mary, as “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” As part of “all generations” that will call her blessed, let us admire and honor God’s splendiferous masterpiece; in doing so we will be implicitly honoring the divine Artist himself who fashioned her.

Glad You Asked” by Fr. John Hampsch, CMF