The Four Dogmas About Mary
- a Summary

posted by Webmaster on December 29, 2023

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The four dogmas about Mary are:

  1. Theotokos: Mary is the Mother of God
  2. Perpetual virginity: Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus
  3. Immaculate conception: Mary was conceived without original sin
  4. Assumption: Mary was taken body and soul into heaven

1. Mother of God - Theotokos

Council of Ephesus, 431 AD, determined that Mary could be called the Mother of God (Theotokos in Greek) instead of just the Mother of Christ (Christotokos) as the theologian Nestorius contended.

  1. Mary is the Mother of Jesus
  2. Jesus is God
  3. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God Incarnate

Scripture teaches that Mary is "Mother of God"

  • Mary is the Mother of Jesus,
  • Jesus is God,
  • Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God Incarnate

Luke 1:43: Elizabeth calls Mary "mother of my Lord." In the NT, "Lord" refers only to God.

Matthew 1:23: "'Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel,' which means 'God is with us.'"

Luke 1:35: "the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God."

Galatians 4:4: "when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman."

  • Early Church Fathers Confirm Mary's Divine Maternity
  • Protestant Reformers Insist that Mary is the Mother of God
  • Mary is Our Spiritual Mother (John 19:27; 1 Corinthians 12; Hebrews 2:11; Revelation 12)

2. Perpetual Virginity

The dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity is a belief held by the Catholic Church, based on the teachings of the Church, councils, creeds, and the Catechism. It affirms that Mary remained a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus, and her virginity is seen as a sign of her faith and complete dedication to God's will.

The dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity has been affirmed by various councils and creeds throughout history.

  1. The Lateran Council held in the time of Pope Martin I in 649 AD defined the virginity of Mary under anathema.
  2. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, recited in the Mass, expresses belief in Christ being "incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary"
  3. The Apostles' Creed also professes that Jesus Christ "was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary"

The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus.

  • The "brothers" of Jesus are never called "sons of Mary." Jesus is often called the son of Mary, but never a son of Mary as if he had siblings.
  • Some of these "brothers" advise and reprimand Jesus (John 7:3-4, Mark 3:21). In Jewish culture, younger brothers never admonish an elder brother.
  • See John 19:26-27. If Jesus had younger siblings, as heretics claim, His behavior makes no sense. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for dispensing people from the responsibility of caring for their parents (see Matthew 15 and John 19:27). Why would He dispense His own siblings from this important obligation?
  • The Church Fathers Defended Mary's Perpetual Virginity

3. The Immaculate Conception

On December 8th, 1854, Pope Pius IX officially defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in these words:

"The Most Holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin."

Three Key Points:

  1. Mary was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her existence. She was never, even for a brief instant, stained by original sin.
  2. The Immaculate Conception only deals with original sin. However, the Church also teaches the doctrine that Mary was never touched by personal sin.
  3. This privilege was given to Mary in view of Christ's merits. Jesus was Mary's Savior. She was redeemed by Jesus Christ just as we are, except that Mary's redemption was unique: it was a proactive redemption. The fruit of Christ's redemption was applied to preserve Mary from sin, as it is applied to us to remove sins contracted.

Scriptural Evidence for Mary's Sinlessness

  • The first scriptural passage that mentions the Mother of the Redeemer, Genesis 3:15, contains the promise of the redemption and the enmity between the serpent and the woman. While the translation "she" in the Vulgate is interpretative and originated after the fourth century, it is understood that Mary, as the woman mentioned in this passage, would be free from sin.
  • Additionally, the evangelists connect Mary's name with three different events in Jesus' public life, including the miracle in Cana (John 2:1-10). This event suggests that Mary had a special relationship with Jesus and was involved in His ministry.
  • However, it is important to note that the Catholic Church's belief in Mary's sinlessness is not solely based on scriptural evidence. The Church also relies on Tradition and the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, who have consistently upheld Mary's sinlessness. The Council of Trent affirms Mary's complete exemption from actual sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Mary remained free from every personal sin her whole life long by the grace of God (CCC 493).

Typology Teaches Mary's Sinlessness: The Ark of the Old Covenant prefigured Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant.

  • Mary spent three months in Zechariah and Elizabeth's house (Luke 1:26, 40), just like the Ark spent three months in the house of Obededom the Gittite (2 Samuel 6:11).
  • Elizabeth asked Mary, "How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43). This echoes King David's question: "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" (2 Samuel 6:9).
  • When Mary arrived, John the Baptist leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb (Luke 1:44), just as David leaped and danced before the Lord when the Ark arrived in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:14-16).

The Church Fathers Teach Mary's Sinlessness.

4. The Assumption

  • On November 1st, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of Mary's Assumption:

    "Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven."

  • This doctrine does not say Mary died. However, the overwhelming tradition of the Church, including the Fathers, is that she did. After Mary completed her earthly life, she was taken into heaven, where both her body and soul were glorified. Mary's body did not undergo corruption.
  • We distinguish Christ's Ascension from Mary's Assumption. As God, Christ ascended into heaven by His own power. As a creature, Mary was assumed (drawn up) into heaven by God.
  • The Church has always understood the reference to the "woman clothed with the sun" found in Scripture (Revelation 11:19, 12:1) as referring to Mary once she had been assumed body and soul into Heaven.
  • There is scriptural precedent for this in the stories of Enoch (Genesis 5:23) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).

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