Archive | May, 2013

Why I could never become a Roman Catholic – Part 2: The Cult of the Virgin Mary

26 May

A.  INTRODUCTION

In this second part, I explain why I cannot accept the veneration accorded to the Virgin Mary by the Roman Catholic Church.

As someone once noted, when one enters a Catholic Church one is greeted by a dead (or dying) Christ but by a living Virgin Mary.  This is even more evident in Spanish churches where the Virgin is often in a central position above the altar and Christ pushed off to the side.  It is unsurprising, therefore, that a Spaniard’s first prayer is “Madre de Dios” (Mother of God).  For me this symbolises the heart of the Marian idolatary for me.

Although Karl Barth was accepting of the appellation “Mother of God” for the Virgin Mary, which he saw as a valid articulation of Christological truth, he harshly rejected the Catholic veneration of the Virgin, which he saw as a heresy, writing,

We reject Mariology (1) because it is an arbitrary innovation in the face of Scripture and the Early Church, and (2) because this innovation consists essentially of a falsification of Christian truth… where Mary is ‘venerated’, where this whole doctrine with its corresponding devotion is current, there the Church of Christ is not.”  [1]

Such veneration appears to have its origin in the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis (and perhaps other pagan goddesses of the ancient world) which was prevalent in the Roman Empire until the end of the pagan era.  In fact, there are “surviving images of Isis holding Horus in a pose remarkably similar to that of some early Christian madonnas.”[2]

But what does the Church officially say about the Cult of the Virgin?

B. THE CULT OF THE VIRGIN MARY

“IV.  The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church 

66. Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy Mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honoured by a special cult in the Church. From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honoured under the title of Mother of God, whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs.  Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the people of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation, according to her own prophetic words: “all generations shall call me Blessed, because he that is mighty hath done great things to me.” [3]

While the Protestant churches have perhaps neglected Mary and not given her the respect she deserves, as “Blessed”, this quotation from the Second Vatican Council shows that the Roman Catholic Church has elevated the Virgin Mary to near divinity and designated her with titles, attributes and qualities that properly belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

This cult is perhaps best reflected in the centrality of the Hail Mary “or the Ave Maria, which in the Catholic devotion runs parallel to the Pater Noster (the Lord’s Prayer)”[4].   Whatever the original interrelationship was between the two prayers, the Hail Mary has come to dominate.  The Rosary, in which the Lord’s Prayer is just recited once, is rightly called the “Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary” as 54 of the 62 prayers are to her and 53 of the 54 are Hail Marys![5]

But to return to the prayer itself, Schaff notes that the prayer consists of 3 parts (2 of which are biblical):

1) The salutation of the angel (Luke i. 28):
Ave Maria, gratiae plena, Dominus tecum! [Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!]

(2) The words of Elizabeth (Luke i. 42):
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. [Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.]

(3) The later unscriptural addition, which contains the prayer proper…

Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis.  [Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.]  Amen.”

The Catholic Encyclopaedia notes that “there is little or no trace of the Hail Mary as an accepted devotional formula before about 1050[6] and suggests that it arose out of versicles and responseries within the monastic orders.  Schaff agrees noting that “the first two parts did not come into general use as a standing formula of prayer until the thirteenth century.[7]

The Catholic Encyclopaedia accepts that there was “no officially approved third part” until the mid 16th century (1568), when the words “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners” was approved.[8]  Schaff adds that the final phrase “now and at the hour of our death” was an even later addition by the Franciscans[9].

The unscriptural coda may have come into being in response to the Reformers’ reproach that “the Hail Mary which they so constantly repeated was not properly a prayer. It was a greeting which contained no petition (see. e.g. Latimer, Works, II, 229-230).[10]  If the intention had been to shame the Catholics into not endlessly reciting the two verses of Scripture, it badly backfired, as the petition converted the venerated Virgin into a mediatrix and advocate in place of Jesus, her Redeemer Son.

So how has such a heretical error come to be official doctrine of the Church?

The Council of Ephesus (431ad) is often cited (as in the quote from the Vatican Collection above) in support of this Cult of the Virgin.  Holly Hayes, who has an MPhil in Religious History from Oxford University, examined the relationship between the Cult of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus before and after the Council as part of her thesis.  She quotes Vailhé,  who states that:

the opinion that the Blessed Virgin died there [in Ephesus] rests on no ancient testimony’.[11]

Indeed, the earliest references associating the Virgin Mary with Ephesus are from Ephiphanius of Salamis (375 ad), who in the Panarion 3.78.11 “was concerned to point out that although the Bible says John was leaving for Asia, it does not say that Mary went with him.”[12] and from a letter to the Christians of Constantinople from the Council of Ephesus which is far from clear in its meaning.

These “ ‘are the sum of the ancient contemporaneous evidence for Mary in Ephesus’ and both are indirect. Aside from these, there are no literary references to a legend, cult or church of Mary in Ephesus prior to 431.”

Bar-Hebraus, writing in the 13th Century, claimed that St John took Mary with him to Patmos and then to Ephesus – but his claims are somewhat undermined by his erroneously claiming that St John founded the Church at Ephesus –  and contradicted by the testimony of earlier writers who “had been most anxious about the sacred places in Ephesus; they mention the tomb of St. John and of a daughter of Philip [119], but they say nothing about Mary’s burying place.[13]

Furthermore, Hayes points out that “There is also no literary or archaeological evidence for either a tomb or relics associated with Mary in Ephesus” (ibid) and that “Archaeological evidence for devotion to Mary in Ephesus is also scant.” (ibid)

Other scholars, like Dr Richard A Todd, point to the fact that “Isis in her travels became identified with many other goddesses, including Artemis, and was the ‘universal mother’ of later pagan religion.” [14]

This gives a clue as to how Ephesus came to be associated with Mary as we know from the Bible that it was the city that belonged to Artemis:

27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of  the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshipped  throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”   28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:27-28)

What is more natural than that the worshippers of Artemis (and Isis) should “…look to Mary for comfort when paganism was outlawed and their temples destroyed at the end of the fourth century.” (Todd, ibid)

Though the New Testament is silent on the fate of Mary, the earliest writings about the tomb of Mary indicate that she died and was buried in Jerusalem with several 4th century documents placing her tomb in Gethsemane. This is conceded by the Catholic Encylopedia which states:

The apocryphal works of the second to the fourth century are all favourable to the Jerusalem tradition. According to the Acts of St John by Prochurus, written (160-70) by Lencius, the Evangelist went to Ephesus accompanied by Prochurus alone and at a very advanced age, i.e. after Mary’s death.[15]

The earliest sources (eg Transitus Mariae) are apocryphal, it is true, but all seem to have their origin in a single primitive document, which may have been written for liturgical use at Mary’s tomb, according to the biblical scholar Lino Cignelli who notes, “From the earliest times, tradition has assigned the authorship of the prototype to one Lucius Carinus, said to have been a disciple and fellow labourer with St John the Evangelist.”

Thus, it is unsurprising that this version was widely accepted by both the Eastern and Western Churches[16] and later documents claiming that Mary went with St John to Ephesus (eg the Syriac document copied in 874ad) were largely ignored by the Roman Catholic Church until the 19th century, when a nun, named Anne Catherine Emmerich, claimed to have had a vision of Mary’s last house in Ephesus (which is now a site of veneration for both Catholics and Muslims).

Thus, the actual evidence of an ancient cult of Mary in Ephesus is weak at best and would appear to only have occurred after the pagan era to accommodate those whose religion had been proscribed in favour of Christianity.  Moreover, as we shall see later, neither is there any firm evidence of an ancient cult of Mary in Jerusalem (nor anywhere else, come to that).

C.  MARY AS THE MOTHER OF GOD

This title has its origin in a mistranslation of the ancient description of Mary as “Theotokos” (literally “God-bearer”), but which, in the Roman Catholic West, has traditionally been rendered as “Mother of God” (a title of Isis).  Neither the term “God-bearer” nor that of “Mother of God” are ever used anywhere in the New Testament, in which she is merely referred to as simply “Mary“, “his mother Mary” (Matthew 1; Luke 1 & 2) or “Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14).[17]

Nestorius (an early fifth century Patriarch of Constantinople) prophetically warned against such usage arguing that “…if Mary is the Mother of God she has been made a goddess, and the Gentiles will be scandalized.” As we shall see, this is exactly what has happened.  The reformer John Calvin, writing some 1100 years later to the French Church in London,  concurred, “I cannot think such language either right, or becoming, or suitable. … To call the Virgin Mary the mother of God can only serve to confirm the ignorant in their superstitions.”[18]

This fundamental error in translation has the direct consequence of creating a whole raft of apparently consistent beliefs:

(i)  The Mother of God surely must then be the “Queen of Heaven” (the title of numerous pagan goddesses including Isis, Innana, Astarte/Asterah, and Diana/Artemis) and (in the words of a supposed apparition of Mary to an adolescent visionary) “the permanent Bride of the Holy Ghost“.[19]  Despite accepting Epiphanius of Salamis’ condemnation of the Collyridians – a heretical sect that offered cakes (or bread rolls) to Mary as a goddess who was “Queen of Heaven”, the Vatican appears to have adopted the title on the basis of an unsubstantiated, private revelation of  Pope Gregory the Great (7th century), which was the supposed source of the Marian prayer Regina Coeli, over the revealed word of God in the Bible, where adoration of “The Queen of Heaven” is clearly condemned (Jeremiah 7:16-20 & 44:24-30).

(ii) The phrase “second only to her Son” has led some within the Catholic Church to see Mary as “co-redemptrix” with Christ – a view that was utterly alien to the Early Church! Indeed, there is no evidence that Mary was held in equal, let alone greater, esteem than the leading Apostles: Peter, Paul, John (the disciple whom Jesus loved),  Andrew (the first disciple) and James (the Brother of the Lord), who were all greatly revered throughout the first and second centuries, as accords with the Biblical account in Mark 3:32-35 and Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:27).

(iii) the use of “Mother of us All” (another of Isis’ titles), creates a vision of a Divine Family in Heaven, which complements the Holy Family on Earth, is largely responsible for the Islamic confusion over the nature of the Triune Godhead, into which Mary has effectively been inserted.  Additionally, it reinforces the false idea of Mary’s being “co-redemptrix, mediatrix and advocate“.

Naturally such a person could not have been anything other than immaculately conceived (obviating the need for salvation) and be bodily assumed into Heaven.  Unfortunately, not a single one of these claims has any biblical support; nor do they find any support in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.

D. MARY AS THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN

The Catechism states: “God has exalted Mary in heavenly glory as Queen of Heaven and earth.” (CC 966) and “She is to be praised with special devotion.” (CC 971, 2675).

This tradition dates back to  mediaeval times when “The growth of popular devotion in the twelfth century greatly advanced the role of the Virgin Mary. She became the ‘universal mother’, the great intercessor with her divine son, almost his rival.[20] “Thus the veneration of Mary gradually degenerated into the worship of Mary; and this took so deep hold upon the popular religious life in the Middle Age, that, in spite of all scholastic distinctions between latria, and dulia, and hyrerdulia, Mariolatry practically prevailed over the worship of Christ.”[21]

The Marian prayers Salve Regina (Hail Queen) and  Ave Regina Caelorum (Hail Queen of Heaven) date from this period[22].  Both clearly go beyond mere veneration and accord Mary actual worship.

By the 18th century, her rule of heaven had been developed to the point that Mary was said to have been “given rulership over one half of the kingdom of God[23], which is a major cause of Mary being popularly seen as “co-redemptrix and mediatrix of grace” (this will be discussed more fully below).

Some Catholics claim biblical authority for Mary as “Queen of Heaven” [sic] citing John’s vision of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.” (Revelation 12:1-2). 

An examination of the origins of this text will show no validity for such a claim.

The vision John relates is very similar to the stories of the birth of the Egyptian god Horus (which was later adapted for the birth of the Roman god Apollo).  These universally told stories had been given a Jewish gloss, in which the 12 stars of the zodiac were replaced by the 12 Patriarchs of Israel and understood the Woman to represent Israel as God’s “chosen people”.  John has Christianised the Jewish version so that the Woman is clothed in the “sun of righteousness” (Christ) with her feet on the moon to indicate that her head is in heaven, and crowned by the 12 apostles, who have spread the Gospel. [24]

Additionally, when put into its full context it is clear that the woman in Revelation 12 cannot be Mary.

In verse 6, we read, “…the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” and in verse 14, “But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.”  These verses demonstrate that far from being taken up to heaven, the Woman was taken into the wilderness, a place of preparation and testing (cf the Temptation of Jesus; the Exodus).

Furthermore, as Matthew Henry states, it is clear that the Woman is representative of the Church, with whom Satan was angry and so “…went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17).  Therefore, the Woman cannot be Mary (despite the Catholic Church calling her “Mother of the Church” (CC963, 975).

John’s adaptation of this popular narrative has a dual purpose:  it illustrates his own theme while tacitly excluding “all heroes of other faiths from the position of world Redeemer.[25]

Even more fundamentally, were the Woman Mary, why did not John say so?  After all, he surely would have recognised the woman he took into his home as “mother” and who he buried in Jerusalem, even were she in a heavenly vision.  That he merely refers to her as “the Woman” throughout, strongly suggests that he was speaking of the Christian Church, the true Bride of Christ, and not the mother of Jesus.

Finally, if Mary were truly “the Queen of Heaven”, why is there no mention of her in John’s very detailed descriptions of Heaven in Revelation 4 and 5?

E.  THE PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY

Let us now examine the claims for Mary’s “perpetual virginity” [sic] with which most of these false doctrines are inextricably entwined.

Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ.” (CC 496-511)

The origin of the myth of Mary’s perpetual virginity lies in the “Infancy Gospel of St James“, an apocryphal gospel, the authorship and date of which are dubious – given that it is reliant on a synthesis of the Gospels of St Matthew (only in which the visit of the Wise Men occurs) and St Luke (alone in which is recounted the birth of John the Baptist), which would be wholly unnecessary if it were written by Jesus’ brother James – and denied by all reputable scholars.

Right from the start the emerging belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity was challenged by leading figures in the Early Church such as Eunomius, Jovian, Helvidus, and Bishop Bonosus of Sardica.  It was also denied by the Antidicomarianites (an Eastern Sect, which flourished between 200 and 400ad), mentioned by both Origen and Tertullian, who also rejected the emerging false belief.  Later opponents included St. Ambrose, St. Hilary, and St Basil the Great, who wrote:

“[The opinion that Mary bore several children after Christ] … is not against the faith; for virginity was imposed on Mary as a necessity only up to the time that she served as an instrument for the Incarnation. On the other hand, her subsequent virginity was not essential to the mystery of the Incarnation.” (Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem, PG 31:1468).

Proponents of this doctrine, not surprisingly, ignore St Basil in favour of his near contemporaries St Jerome (who promoted the value of Virginity over Marriage) and St Augustine of Hippo, who is cited in the Catechism, in support of their claims.

Mary ‘remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin’ (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is “the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).”  (CCC 510)

Despite opposition from St. Gregory of Tours, the doctrine gained ground during the 6th century and in 553ad, the Fifth General Council granted Mary the title of honour “perpetual virgin”.

If this perpetual virginity, a doctrine espoused by St Augustine, confirmed by the Fifth General Council and incorporated in the catechism, were essential to faith, surely there would have been some Biblical evidence to support it.  There is none indicating that the innovation is neither true to Holy Scripture nor to the teachings of the Early Church.

Nevertheless, this has not prevented Catholics from trying to find verses to support their beliefs.  Jerome also claimed that the verse “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.”(Song of Solomon 4:12) was a biblical proof for the perpetual virginity of Mary [26].  However, his allegory does not stand up to close scrutiny.  First, the verse is taken entirely out of context and second it is made to reflect the dogma it is supposed to prove; in short, a circular argument.  The allegorising of verses out of context allows one to find support for whatever one seeks, though such a practice is far more likely to lead to heresy, as it has here, than the discovery of any divine truth.

It is more likely that a story about the birth of Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, by the Roman historian Livy, which was widely circulates during the first decades of the 1st century, is the principal source.  In this story, the twins, who are sons of Mars (the Roman God of War), are immaculately conceived by Silvia, a Vestal Virgin.  Is it possible that early Matthew, wishing to signal that this was the birth of a very important person – more important than that of the founders of Rome – adapted this myth in light of a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14?

The original prophecy in Isaiah does not use the Hebrew word for a virgin “bethuwlah” but rather  uses the Hebrew word “almah”, which has no exact translation in English but which has the sense of “a young maiden of childbearing age”.  While such a woman could be a virgin, the word does not imply that she must be (she could be married but yet to conceive).  This is very same problem that faced the translators of the Old Testament into Greek (The Septuagint).  There was no word in Greek that directly translated the word “almah”.  Their solution was to use the word “parthenos”, which translates as “virgin” in English; but St Matthew does not use this word in his account of the birth of Jesus, using instead the word “eginōsken” which translates as “knew” with the sense of having “sexual relations” and, thus, implying virginity.

Moreover, Matthew is the only canonical Gospel to imply a Virgin Birth; the Gospels of St Mark and St John have no birth narratives at all; St Luke, who does have a birth narrative, makes no mention of it (Luke 2:4-5).  It does not even appear in the super-miraculous, apocryphal Infancy Gospel of St Thomas.  Equally striking is that the great rabbinic scholar and Apostle to the Gentiles, St Paul, appears to be completely oblivious to this aspect of the birth of Jesus, an event to which he only alludes twice.  In the first he writes:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.” (Galatians 4:4).

Note that St Paul uses the word woman (gunaikos), not virgin (parthenos).  In the second passage he refers to Jesus’ descent from David:

regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David,  and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in  power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:3-4).

As both Jesus’ earthly parents were “descendants of David” (Mtt 1: 1-17; Lk 2:4 & Lk 3:33-38), there is no implication other than that he is the “Son of David” as much through Joseph as Mary.

Even accepting that Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus birth (as most mainstream churches do), there are no grounds to suppose that her virginity had to be perpetual, unless it is to elevate her status to that of a demigoddess and, thus, to deflect the faithful from reliance on Christ, their Saviour, alone.

In fact, Matthew 1:25 is very clear on the matter:

25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Catholics theologians, following St Jerome[27], argue that the word “until” does not necessarily imply a change in condition and cite numerous Bible verses to support their claim.  Yet, this is merely semantics: there are an equal, if not superior, number of verses in which the condition has changed.  The meaning in each case is determined by context.  In Matthew 1:25, the context is clearly different from those verses cited by Catholic theologians.

The lack of sexual relations between Joseph and Mary (her virginity) is the central concept of the verse, as St Matthew wishes to demonstrate that Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled in the birth of the Son of God.  The word “until” clearly shows a change of condition.

That Joseph and Mary had children after the birth of Jesus is well attested in Scripture (John 2:12; Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 3: 31-32 & 6:3; Luke 8:19-20; John 7:2-5 & 10; Acts 1:14; I Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19).  There are also multiple instances, in the book of Acts, of James’ (the brother of Jesus) role as leader of the Church in Jerusalem.  Thus, to claim that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus is to unwittingly assign the unnecessary condition of Immaculate Conception to all of Joseph’s offspring.

Such weak apologiae appear to be a clutching at straws in a vain attempt to defend the indefensible.  Consequently, this doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is both absurd and unnecessary to either the fulfilment of Old Testament Prophecy or Christology, must be rejected by all serious scholars.

Yet, the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of even greater heresy in confounding the Virgin Mary with the deity of Christ through the attribution to her of two Christological aspects:  Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption into Heaven.  Neither doctrine has support in Scripture or in the Early Church Fathers.  While they were popular lay beliefs – tolerated by the papacy – from medieval times, neither was accepted as a Doctrine of the Church until 1854 and 1950, respectively.  Both pronouncements, which rest on the dubious self-assumption of Papal Infallibility, were made ex-cathedra following discussion in Council, and the latter in response to petitions to the Pope, which to me, smacks more of pandering to populism than serious theology.

F.  THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus – CC 491)

The false doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary directly arises from a combination of the mistranslation of Theotokos and the (as we have seen) entirely unnecessary doctrine of perpetual virginity.

While this doctrine has its roots in antiquity (the Church in Antioch celebrated the “Feast of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God” on 8th December as early as the 5th century), as Ott admits in his The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, it

…is not explicitly revealed in scripture…Neither the Greek nor the Latin Fathers explicitly (explicite) teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary.” (pp 201-202).

Whereas sound doctrine arises naturally out of Scripture, man-made dogmas are forced to scour the Bible in search of verses to give them a patina of justification. Thus, Catholic scholars claim a number of “proofs from Scripture”, most of which lead back to Jerome, though when they are subjected to scrutiny, prove to be highly interpretive and less than reliable.

Their first proof is a tortuous reinterpretation of Genesis 3:15, in which they attempt to make Mary a wholly unnecessary “new Eve” to correspond to St Paul’s argument that Christ was a second “Adam” (Romans 5:12-18), and, which, Jerome summed up as “Death came through Eve; life through Mary[28].  Surely, had there needed to be a “new Eve” Paul would have argued for it in his discourse.

Moreover, the proof from Genesis 3:15 relies on Jerome’s mistranslation of the Hebrew word ה֚וּא [] as “she” in place of the correct “he“.  Even The Catholic Encyclopedia recognises that “The translation “she” of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically.”  Reliance on this proof appears to be as desperate a clutching at straws as the “until” argument for Mary’s supposed perpetual virginity.

Their second proof relies on the Vulgate translation of the word κεχαριτωμένη [kecharitōmenē] as gratia plena [full of grace], which differs from the original Koine meaning of “highly favoured” or “graciously accepted”[29], which all Protestant translations use.  Thus, once again, the proof relies on an idiosyncratic translation which according to The Catholic Encyclopaedia,  “…serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma.

Jerome is also responsible for their third proof from Psalm 132.  Relying on a Jewish myth (recorded in the Paralipomenon) that Ephrathah was actually a name for Miriam (the sister of Moses and Aaron)  and, hence, by extension (as they shared the same Hebrew name),  of the Virgin Mary as well.[30]  This then allows him, commenting on verse 6, “We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar.” to claim, “The Hebrew text has ‘him’ instead of ‘her’ calling attention to Him who is to be born of the descendants of David: ‘We heard of him in Ephratha:’ because these words point to Mary.”[31].  Jerome has now laid the ground for his twisting of this simple Psalm of Ascent into a Marian proof.

Moving on to verse 8,  “Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting-place, you and the ark of your might.”, Jerome makes the startling claim, “The ark is verily the holy Virgin, gilded within and without, who received the treasure of universal sanctification. Arise, O Lord, from the Father’s bosom, to raise up again the ruined race of our first parent.” Orat. in Deip. Annunciat. [32]

The whole argument is fraught with difficulty.  First, the two verses are taken out of context: this is a Psalm of Ascent which was sung by pilgrims going up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem.  Second, in verse 6, Jerome mistranslates the pronoun “it” as “him”, which he then uses to contort the meaning to fit his Marian theme.  Third, he relies on “godless myths and old wives’ tales” (1 Timothy 4:7) to identify Ephrathah, which everywhere else in the Bible is taken as referring to Bethlehem, with the Virgin Mary, despite Mary being one of the most common names in the Bible.  Fourth, his use of verse 8 ignores the fact that the Israelites saw the Ark as a symbol of “God’s might” in battle (Joshua 6:6-8, 1 Samuel 4:3-9) and salvation in military, not spiritual, terms.  Finally, his interpretation relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of why the Ark was so sacred: it was the footstool of God, who spoke to Moses “from above the mercy-seat that was on the ark of the covenant from between the two cherubim” (Numbers 7:89), and as such is “the manifestation of God’s physical presence on earth (the shekhinah).”[33]  There is not even the slightest hint that the Virgin Mary, even when pregnant with the Christ child, was ever seen in such a manner.

A fourth proof relies on part of a single verse in the Song of Songs, “there is no flaw in you.(4:7b), which is lifted out of context and applied to Mary (seemingly a favourite practice of Catholic apologetics, especially where they want to justify a doctrine), but as it is nothing more than a pretext, proves nothing .

The final Biblical proof (I reject the Apocrypha as Scripture and thus the supposed proof based on a passage in the book of Ecclesiasticus) is a liturgically inappropriate attribution of the personalisation of “Wisdom” in Proverbs 8 to Mary.  This proof suffers from two major flaws.  First, it fails to understand that Hebrew nouns are arbitrarily classified by grammatical gender (as in Spanish or German) and that this has nothing to do with actual biological gender.  Second, while such attributions of passages from the Old Testament to Christ or the Church are common in the New Testament and Patristic writings, they are never applied to individuals other than Christ.  Furthermore, the original context is wholly ignored so as to conflate Mary with her Son, Jesus (cf  John 1).  It is further evidence of how Mary has been all but deified by Catholics and logically leads to the false belief that Mary is a co-redemtrix and mediatrix with Christ.

These last were omitted from  “Ineffabilis Deus” as, in the words of The Catholic Encyclopaedia, they “…do not avail to prove the doctrine dogmatically…”

Surely, had God intended this to be a fundamental doctrine of the Church there would have been some explicit mention of it in the Bible. Yet there is nothing but dubious translations (and, in the case of Genesis, Psalms and Song of Songs, translation from an earlier translation), a partial verse and verses out of context and inappropriate attribution of passages which clearly are not referring to Mary.  So from where did it come?

Just as with Mary’s perpetual virginity, her miraculous birth is related in the pseudo-gospel of James. Yet, it’s origin is likely to be much older.

As with the Theotokos confusion and the doctrine of perpetual virginity, the Immaculate Conception may well have pagan origins.  Prior to the fourth century bc, when she became conflated with the goddess Ishtar, the Persian goddess Anahita was worshipped as  “the virgin,” “the immaculate”.  In the Graeco-Roman era, this belief had passed to Artemis/Diana, which returns us to Ephesus, though not to Mary.

The Patristic writers were divided on the issue.  Indeed, the earlier Fathers were very cautious with St Basil and St Chrysostom not accepting the immaculate conception and Origen being conflicted in his views.  The official view is that in this regard they “were in error” (The Catholic Encyclopaedia).  However, there were those who ascribed to the burgeoning belief, which, when  the British monk Eadmer espoused the idea in the 12th Century, was opposed by St Bernard of Clairvaux who,”…warned the faithful that this was an unfounded innovation” (Ott p201).  His arguments, despite the rebuttal by Peter Comestor, continued to be argued well into the 17th century.

It is interesting that the concept gained a renewed popularity in the 19th century when Catherine Labouré, a Catholic nun and mystic, claimed in 1830 to have seen an apparition of Mary in which she saw an oval with the words  “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” around its edge and these were included on her “miraculous medal” with the the “Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary inscribed upon it.

It is less surprising that there was a second apparition at Lourdes in February, 1858 (4 years after Pope Pius IX infallible [sic] declaration of Mary’s immaculate conception) in which the the apparition stated “Je suis l’Immaculée conception” (I am the Immaculate Conception).  Though initially sceptical, the Catholic Church bowed to local pressure and unproven claims of healing and recognised the vision, creating  a new shrine to Mary.

That such adoration of the “Immaculate Heart” has become integral to mainstream Catholicism is shown by the following quote from an article in Zenit in 2012, which opens by quoting Padre Pio “The Madonna is the shortcut to get to God” before continuing:

There is no doubt that in order to see the face of Jesus, we must turn to His Mother, and it is to Her who we look to heal our diseases, to turn our tears into prayer.[34]

Such sentiments fly in the face of biblical teaching.  Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of Mary mediating between believers and her Son or of her ever having healed anyone.  To claim that she “heals our diseases” is to attribute – without warrant – the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4, which properly belongs to Jesus (Matthew 8:17), to Mary.

Thus, again Catholics are being encouraged, contrary to Holy Scripture, to adopt the heresy of displacing Jesus as the one mediator with his mother in a way that neither fosters salvation nor glorifies God.

We mentioned earlier that the belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception flourished briefly in Antioch. However, the belief was ultimately rejected by the Orthodox Church, the antiquity of which is greater than that of Rome. Their Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895 states:

“XIII. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils teaches that the supernatural incarnation of the only-begotten Son and Word of God, of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, is alone pure and immaculate; but the Papal Church scarcely forty years ago again made an innovation by laying down a novel dogma concerning the immaculate conception of the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, which was unknown to the ancient Church (and strongly opposed at different times even by the more distinguished among the Papal theologians).”

More recently, in their 89 page letter to Pope Francis detailing the heresies of the Roman Catholic Faith, the Orthodox Metropolitans Andrew of Dryinoupolis, Pogoniani & Konitsa and Seraphim of Piraeus & Faliro condemn “the dogma of the ‘immaculate conception’ and the ‘bodily assumption’ of the Mother of God“. [35]

Let’s now examine the claims for the bodily Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

G.  THE BODILY ASSUMPTION OF MARY INTO HEAVEN

Just because a practice has its origins in antiquity, as does the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is no guarantee of its veracity: ancient errors can persist just as long as ancient truths.  Its origin and development over centuries (more noted for superstition than science) is not in question, but the foundations on which it rests most certainly are.

By the 16th Century, about a thousand years after its first appearance, belief in the Assumption had become firmly entrenched in Roman Catholicism, leading the reformer, John Calvin, to pen the following wry comment: “The belief that the Virgin was not interred on earth, but was taken to heaven, has deprived them of all pretext for manufacturing any relics of her remains, which otherwise might have been sufficiently abundant to fill a churchyard.”[36]

But, before we critique this dogma, let us turn to the Catechism to see what the modern Catholic Church says about it.

“Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus – CC 966)

 “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body. (CC 974)

Given that there is nothing about how Mary’s life ended in either the Holy Scriptures or the writings of the early church fathers (prolific writers all), the faithful indulged in idle speculations “until a translation like Enoch’s and Elijah’s was attributed to her.”[37]  Such an idea was the logical outcome of the other Mariological doctrines[38] (examined above) – error being spliced onto error – which conferred a semi-divine status upon Mary; after all,  “Goddesses don’t die.”[39]

Even the New Catholic Encyclopaedia admits: “There is no explicit reference to the Assumption in the Bible, yet the Pope insists in the decree of promulgation that the Scriptures are the ultimate foundation of this truth” (Vol. 1, 972).

Although Pius XII peppered his document with supposed “proof texts” (many of which we examined above), all of them have the distinction of trying to make Holy Scripture fit their Mariology in place of using Scripture to discover the revealed will of God; none of them referred specifically to the supposed Assumption of the Virgin Mary[40].

The last we hear of Mary in the Bible is “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” (Acts 1:14). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints comments of Mary, “[I]n the early church, as in Christ’s ministry, she remained so much in the background that it is difficult to know where she lived or even where she died.”(p336).

St John, to whom Jesus entrusted his mother, Mary (John 19:26-27), is utterly silent about her end.  Even more strangely, “Early church fathers like Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Tertullian, Melito, Cyprian, Irenaeus, Theodoriet, Cyril of Jerusalem all lived and died, wrote volumes of theology and wrote thousands of works on diverse topics without uttering a single word about the Assumption of Mary.”[41]

John Chrysostom (4th century) observes “… as to those of the Apostles we do not know where those of most of them are laid.”[42], but notably does not include that of Mary in his list of known “sepulchres”.  This reinforces the view that in the pre-Nicaean era, Mary did not have any special status, not even that equivalent to an Apostle, and thus no reason to be “assumed bodily into heaven”.

On this theme Calvin noted that, “This belief [the Assumption] was unknown to the primitive church; for, according to a Roman Catholic writer of undoubted orthodoxy, the Empress Pulcheria, in the 5th century requested the Bishop of Jerusalem, Juvenal, to let her have the body of the Virgin in order to display it for the public adoration of the faithful in Constantinople. (Tilleraut’s Memoires Ecclesiastiques)”.[43]

Had Mary been “assumed bodily into heaven” as is claimed, surely the Empress Pulcheria (who oversaw the Councils of Ephesus & Chalcedon and was later canonised) would have known of it; yet, apparently she requests the Bishop (later Patriarch) of Jerusalem to send her the ”body of the Virgin”, which can only reinforce the view that the (supposed) tomb of the Virgin Mary was both in Jerusalem and well known in antiquity.

Brown et al state that “Catholic scholars say: ‘Furthermore, the notion of Mary’s assumption into heaven has left no trace in the literature of the third much less of the 2nd cent’. M. Jurgie, the foremost authority on this question concluded in his monumental study: ‘The patristic tradition prior to the Council of Nicaea does not furnish us with any witness about the Assumption’.”[44]  The simplest and most obvious reason for such a lack is that it quite simply never happened.  So where did the idea come from?

The legend of the Assumption first appears in “Two apocryphal Greek writings de transitu Mariae, of the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, and afterward pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory of Tours († 595)”[45]

The legend in its simplest form was that Mary died from a broken heart (the obvious questions, “why?”, “where?” and “when?” are conspicuous in their absence) and was buried, but on the third day, St Thomas found her tomb to be empty[46]; ergo, like her son, Jesus, she must have been raised and bodily assumed into heaven.

However, as is so oft the way with such legends, it was soon embellished, so that “the soul of the mother of God was transported to the heavenly paradise by Christ and His angels in presence of all the apostles, and on the following morning her body also was translated thither on a cloud and there united with the soul.[47] Strange to say, not one of these august witnesses thought to leave any record of the event!

Of course, each embellishment became more absurd than the last.  It began to be claimed that the apostles were brought on clouds from all the places in which they were preaching the Gospel, to witness her death, resurrection and assumption; further embellishment led to the belief that “besides the apostles, the angels and patriarchs also, even Adam and Eve, were made witnesses of the wonderful spectacle.[48].

While the Catholic scholar, Ludwig Ott, acknowledges: “The idea of the bodily assumption of Mary is first expressed in transitus-narratives of the 5-6th centuries.”, he tries to legitimise them by saying: “Even though these are apocryphal they bear witness to the Faith of the generation in which they were written despite their legendary clothing.[49]

However, as with the supposed relics of Mary (her hair, her milk, her clothes and accessories)[50], her Bodily Assumption into Heaven required considerable credulity from the faithful, who were already steeped in primitive superstition, and diverted to her worship which properly belonged to Christ alone.   Thus, while not denying the sincerity of their faith, it was as much in error as their belief that the world was flat.

What Ott omits saying – ofttimes it is what is not said that is as important as what is – is that two Popes (both later canonised), Gelasian I (5th century) and Hormisdas (6th century), decreed the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary heretical[51].  Yet, in 1950, bowing to the wide popularity of the belief among laity and clergy alike[52], Pope Pius XII “declared it to be official Roman Catholic doctrine.[53], converting it into an unquestionable, and unchallengeable, tenet of faith: “Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”[54].

So, if there is no basis for this “doctrine” in either the Holy Scriptures or the pre-Nicaean patristic writings, what could be the source of such a pervasive Mariolatry?

The clue may lie in the date of the Feast of the Assumption.  While it was common for the Church to appropriate the dates of pagan festivals to celebrate high and holy feast days, the coincidence in this case is more redolent of syncretism.

We noted earlier the suggestion that the fourth century worshippers of Diana/Artemis, whose titles included “the virgin” and “queen of heaven”[55], may have transferred their worship to Mary (just as they had their worship of Isis to Artemis) following the Christianisation of the Empire. [56]

Certainly, the date chosen for the Feast of the Assumption, 15th August, is suspicious.  This was the date of the last day of the highly popular, three-day, pre-Christian festival of Nemoralia (Torches), which was the time when worshippers of Diana/Artemis celebrated her “assumption into heaven as the queen of heaven”.[57]

Could it be that rather than replacing their celebration held on 15th August, they merely transformed it into a Marian festival, replacing their former goddess with a newer, more acceptable version? On balance, at least to me, it seems highly probable.

H.  DEIFICATION OF MARY AS CO-REDEMPTRIX, MEDIATRIX OF GRACE AND ADVOCATE

Roman Catholics have always told me that there is no such confounding of Mary with the Deity and that I merely have not understood the theology.  So let us examine that theology further.

But before we go to the catechism, let us look at what two Popes have infallibly(?) said.  In his Encyclical  Ubi Primum (2nd February, 1849), Pope Pius IX said, “Our salvation is based upon the holy Virgin… so that if there is any hope and spiritual healing for us we receive it solely and uniquely from her.[58], while Pope Benedict XV in his encyclical Intersodalicia (22nd March, 1918) wrote “[O]ne can justly say that with Christ, she herself redeemed mankind.”[59]  Surely, they cannot be accused of not reflecting Catholic Orthodoxy!

And so to the catechism:

In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another: the first “magnifies” the Lord for the “great things” he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused.(CCC 2675)

“ ‘Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death:’  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.”  (CCC 2677 on the Ave Maria)

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, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.”  (CCC 2679)

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)

“From the Church he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary…” (CCC 2030)

and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God.”  (Penitential Rite, RC Mass)

Here again in the Catechism we find Mary displacing her son, the Christ, as both the source of the Church and as the one on whom we should fix our eyes, “Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2), who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. (John 10:7a)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)

The Catholic Catechism (as were Popes Pius IX and Benedict XV) is clearly in conflict with the revealed Word of God as set out in the Holy Scriptures, subverting it with man-made traditions, which – no matter how honourable in intent – misdirect  devotees from the true focus of worship, our one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

They fashioned Christ into a judge and thus devised a tyrant for anguished consciences, so that all comfort and confidence was transferred from Christ to Mary“, so wrote Martin Luther (Luther’s Works 47:45), anticipating the theology of Alfonsus de Liguori, a key proponent of the Marianist Movement.

De Liguori (1696-1787), whose book The Glories of Mary has been influential and widely read, claims inter alia that “Mary was given rulership over one half of the kingdom of God; Mary rules over the kingdom of mercy and Jesus rules over the kingdom of justice…that people should pray to Mary as a mediator and look to her as an object of trust for answered prayer. The book even says that there is no salvation outside of Mary.[60]

Catholic apologists claim that Liguori’s views are not representative of mainstream Catholic doctrine.  Yet, his book is still officially promoted by the Catholic Church, who canonised him (his feast day is 1st August) and declared him a Doctor of the Church (ie having particular importance in contributing to theology or doctrine).[61]

This misdirected focus goes to the very highest levels of the Catholic Church.  When Pope John Paul II was shot, it was not to Jesus or God to whom he prayed but, over and over again, to “Mary, my mother!”. Following his recovery, it was to Mary that he gave the glory for saving his life, and very publicly thanked her by making a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.[62]

Furthermore, Catechismal statements such as these are reflected in the declarations of supposed apparitions of the Virgin (eg Lourdes, Fatima) whose claims would have shocked the Apostles and Early Church.  Interestingly, such visions were rare prior to the 11th century ad and are (and always have been) predominantly to women.[63]

I do not intend a detailed examination of these apparitions and their pro-Marian statements but to look at a single example: that of the apparition at Marienfried/Pfaffenhofen (Germany).  It is claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared  to 12 year old Barbara Reuss at Marienfried on three occasions (April 25th, May 25th & June 25th, 1946).  The messages allegedly, inter alia, included the following heretical statements:

Where the strongest confidence reigns and where it is taught to men that I can do everything, there I will spread peace.” (First Vision)

I am the powerful Mediatrix of Graces. As the world can find mercy only through the sacrifice of the Son with the Father, so can you only find favour with the Son through my intercession. Christ is so unknown because I am not known.” (Second Vision)

I am the powerful Mediatrix of Grace. It is the will of the Father that the world acknowledge this position of His Handmaid. People must believe that I am the permanent Bride of the Holy Ghost and the faithful Mediatrix of All Graces. God wants it so.” (Third Vision)[64]

Yet nowhere in Holy Writ – nor in the teachings of the Early Church – is there any evidence that Mary is all powerful as suggested in the first excerpt; let alone the sole mediator to Christ as stated in the second excerpt; or worse still the “wife of God”(sic) as implied in the third excerpt.  Such professions are clearly ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment” and thus contrary to the Church’s official teaching in the Catechism.[65]  Yet the Catholic Church has not deigned to condemn their heresy (though neither has it sanctioned it) but rather granted the indeterminate status of constat de supernaturalitate (ie evidence of supernatural intervention), which can only mislead  credulous folk to false worship.

As has so often been the case in our exploration of the Marian cult, such ascriptions to Mary would appear also to have pagan origins as is revealed by Hislop’s discussion of the Assyrian goddess, who became identified with Ishtar of Nineveh (and later with Aphrodite), in which he writes:

“...as the mother of grace and mercy, as the celestial ‘Dove’, as ‘the hope of the whole world’ (BRYANT) was averse to blood, and was represented in a benign and gentle character. Accordingly, in Babylon she bore the name of Mylitta – that is, ‘The Mediatrix’.”[66]

Despite this, some in the Roman Catholic Church (eg Mark Miravalle[67]), following Liguori, hold the view that Mary is not just the “Mother of God” [sic], but is a “co-redemptrix, mediatrix and advocate” with the Lord Jesus Christ, though this is not universally accepted as others retain a more traditional stance.

Although it is not currently a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church – as there are as many opposed to it as for it – there is a fear that a ultra-Marian Pope, like the present incumbent, Pope Francis I, may follow the example of his predecessors (Pius IX & Pius XII) and bow to populist pressure to make an “infallible” [sic] proclamation ex-cathedra that makes it a binding dogma on all Catholics.

Some Catholics claim that it is a remote danger, but the likelihood of such an occurrence is not as far fetched as some would have you believe.  However, the website “Mother of all Peoples” details the history of the populist attempt to persuade the Holy See to grant their Marian aspiration:

In the 1910’s, Cardinal Mercier of Belgium began a petition movement to the Holy Father for the papal definition of Mary’s universal mediation.  In the early 1920’s, St. Maximilian Kolbe added his voice for the solemn definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces.  As was the case in the movements leading up to the last two papal definitions of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Assumption, millions of petitions from cardinals, bishops, clergy, religious and the lay faithful the world over have been sent to the Holy Father in support of this solemn dogmatic proclamation of Mary’s spiritual motherhood.[68].

Were a Pope to grant their request, it is hard to see how the Roman Catholic Church could justifiably continue to be considered orthodoxly Christian and it would destroy any chance of further ecumenicism with Bible believing churches (which may be the sole reason that Pope Francis does not acquiesce to their supplications).

While this desire to find someone holier than one’s sinful self to intercede on one’s behalf is wholly understandable, it is unnecessary and entirely contrary to Scripture in which we are told:

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

“15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (Hebrew 13:15).

 “4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

“9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  (1 Peter 2:9).

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:14-16).

“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”  (Ephesians 2:18).

1For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba![m] Father!’ 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness[n] with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Romans 8:14-17).

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2).

“14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”  (1 John 5:14-15).

I.  CONCLUSION

Hence, as we have seen, nowhere in Holy Scripture do we find Mary mentioned in such terms, which appertain to Christ alone.  In fact the polar opposite is true as is demonstrated by Jesus own words as recorded in the gospels:

32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ 33 And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’(Mark 3:32-35).

27 While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ 28 But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’ (Luke 11:27).

The Bible is crystal clear (as we have seen above) that it is through Christ, our High Priest, that we have direct access to God as a  “chosen people” and a “royal priesthood” who are “joint heirs with Christ”  – no other intermediary, no matter how worthy of respect, is required: not even His mother.

Karl Barth wrote, “…we are dealing essentially, not with illumination, but with an obscuring of revealed truth, in other words with a false doctrine.  Mariology is an excrescence, i.e., a diseased construct of theological thought. Excrescences must be excised. [69]  The challenge for Protestants (especially Evangelicals) is how to do that with compassion, in a spirit of Christian love.

The risk in replacing Biblical truth with human tradition is that it leads people away from God and into superstition and false worship.    In light of this, the cult of Mary is probably my greatest stumbling block to ever converting to Roman Catholicism.

_____________________________________________

ENDNOTES

[1] Barth, Karl (2004), Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Vol 1 (2), London, T & T Clark International, p 145

[2]  “Constantine and the Christian Empire”, Richard A Todd, in Lion Handbook: The History of Christianity, Lion Publishing, 1977, p132

[3]  Vatican Collection Volume 1, Vatican Council II, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar documents.  General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P. New revised edition 1992;  page 421.

[4]  Schaff, Phillip (1866)  “History of the Christian Church”, Vol III, pp 409-427. (cited by http://www.prayerfoundation.org/why_protestants_dont_pray_to_mary.htm)

[5]  https://www.dummies.com/religion/christianity/catholicism/how-to-pray-the-rosary/

[6]   Thurston, H. (1910). Hail Mary. In The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07110b.htm

[7]  Schaff ibid.

[8]  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07110b.htm

[9]  Schaff ibid.

[10]  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07110b.htm

[11] S. Vailhé, ‘Ephesus’.  The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. V (1909)

[12]  Hayes, Holly – unpublished MPhil Thesis, University of Oxford

[13]  Maas, A.(1912), The Blessed Virgin Mary, In The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15464b.htm

[14]  Todd, Richard (1977), Constantine and the Christian Empire, in A Lion Handbook: The History of Christianity, p132.

[15]  Meistermann, B.(1912), Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14774a.htm

[16]  Cf Epiphanius of Salamis, Gregory of Tours, Isidore of Seville, Modest, Sophronius of Jerusalem, German of Constantinople, Andrew of Crete, and John of Damascus.

[17]  Mary is only ever mentioned as “Jesus’ mother” or “his mother” and never by name in John’s Gospel.  Incidentally, Acts 1:14 is the last time that she is mentioned in the Bible.

[18] Calvin, John (1542/1902), Letters of John Calvin, Translated by Jules Bonnet, Vol 1,   p362

[19]  Babara Reuss, Marienfried (1946)

[20] Marshall, Caroline T. (1977) “Popular religion” in A Lion Handbook: The History of Christianity p296.

[21] Schaff , Phillip (1866)  “History of the Christian Church”, Vol III, pp 409-427. (cited by http://www.prayerfoundation.org/why_protestants_dont_pray_to_mary.htm)

[22] Sister M. Jean Frisk, “Antiphons“, International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton (Ohio), https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/a/antiphons.php

[23] Collins, Mary Ann, Mary Worship? A Study of Catholic Practice and Doctrine,  https://www.biblebelievers.com/bennett/bennett_mary-worship.html

[24] Henry, Matthew  (1706, 1960), Commentary on the Whole Bible, Ed. Leslie F Church,  New Testament p777

[25]  The New Bible Commentary Revised (1970), Guthrie, D., Motyer, J.A., (Eds), p1294.

[26]  O’Carroll, Michael (1983), The Song of Songs, Theokotos: An Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, p327.

[27]  See Jerome’s  Against Helvidius.  Helvidius, citing Tertullian and Victorinus, argued against Mary’s remaining a virgin after the birth of Jesus, which Jerome feared would devalue the importance of virginity among the faithful.

[28]  Mary Ann Collins op cit.

[29]  Cf Paul’s use of the closely related word ἐχαρίτωσεν [echaritōsen] (which shares a common root χαριτοω) in Ephesians 1:6, which is generally translated as “with which he has favoured us” except where the verse has been translated from the Vulgate which used the Latin gratificavit nos (has graced us).

[30]  Jerome, Epistle 22, 21

[31]  Jerome Homilies on the Psalms 44: On Psalm 131(132)

[32]  ibid.

[33]  The Ark of the Covenant, Jewish Virtual Library  https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-ark-of-the-convenant

[34]  Best Wishes for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Rome, December 7th, 2012 Zenit.org  http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/best-wishes-for-the-feast-of-the-immaculate-conception

[35] La Stampa, Vatican Insider, 15th April 2014 citing Heresy XIV (p 5 of the Metropolitans’ Epistle).

[36]  Calvin, John (1561/1870), A Treatise on Relics, 2nd Ed., p248.  https://books.google.es/books?id=6ecCAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA248&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

[37]  Schaff, Phillip ibid.

[38]  Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, ss 4-5

[39] Schnoebelen, Bill (1990) Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie  (cited by Mary Ann Collins in https://www.biblebelievers.com/bennett/bennett_mary-worship.html)

[40]  Munificentissimus Deus, ss26-29, http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19501101_munificentissimus-deus.html

[41]  Victor The Kindled Flame Blog  https://victorspen.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/the-myth-of-marys-assumption/

[42]  Chrysostrom, John, Homilies on The Epistle to the Hebrews, Nº 26, Chapter 11 (v22)

[43]  Calvin, John (1561/1870) ibid., Footnote pp 248-249

[44]  Brown, R; Fitzmeyer, J; Donfried, K. (1978), Mary in the New Testament, p266.

[45]  Schaff, Phillip ibid.

[46]  Victor Op cit.

[47]  Schaff, Phillip ibid.

[48]  Schaff, Phillip ibid.

[49]  Ludwig Ott (1955), Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p209.

[50]  Calvin, John (1561/1870) ibid. pp248-253

[51] Mary Ann Collins op cit.

[52] Munificentissimus Deus, ss 7-9

[53]  Mary Ann Collins Op cit.

[54]  Munificentissimus Deus, s 45

[55]  Thiel, B (2012), Assumption of Mary or the Goddess Diana?, Church of God News, http://www.cogwriter.com/news/religious-news/assumption-of-mary-or-the-goddess-diana/

[56]  Todd Op cit.

[57]  Thiel, B. Op cit.

[58] https://www.ewtn.com/library/encyc/p9ubipr2.htm

[59]  http://www.ccel.us/essentials.volume.one.html  p196

[60]  Webster, William (1996), The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, page 87.

[61]  Mary Ann Collins op cit.

[62]  McCarthy, James G. (1995), The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God, pp. 181-184; 199-200

[63]  An exception is the earliest such apparition which, by oral tradition, pertains to St James the Greater in 40ad (prior to Mary´s death and/or supposed assumption) and is the source of the veneration of Nuestra Señora de Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain.  Of course, there is no corroborating evidence for the oral tradition other than its antiquity.

[64]  http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/messages/marienfried _messages.html

[65]  “Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such revelations.” [CCC 67]

[66]  Hislop, A. Two Babylons. 1858. Loizeaux Brothers, 2nd American edition 1959, p. 157

[67]  A professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and supporter of Lúcia of Fátima.

[68]  https://www.motherofallpeoples.com/the-fifth-marian-dogma

[69]  Barth, Karl (2010), Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Vol 1 (2), London, T & T Clark International, p 139

 

The ‘kama’ of hate is a double-edged weapon

23 May

As fast as the insulting sites are taken down, they are replaced and new, even more insulting ones created.  This suggests that the person responsible is either unemployed or has had his/her business so damaged that they have endless time to make up their lies and litter the net with them.

The aim of the attack – which from its nature  (ie trying to make me out to be a Spanish fake laird/clan chief) would clearly seem to indicate that the perpetrator is involved in the sale of souvenir plots with the hook of a fake title – is to discredit me through being a fake, a hypocrite or just an idiot.   However, as there is no credible evidence on which to base either charge, my stalker has had to create completely fictitious, ridiculous claims that even a tabloid journalist would shun.

Finding that his/her attacks on me have not had the desired effect s/he had hoped for, s/he has turned to attacking other members of my family, including minors and ancestors.  This shows just how low this inadequate individual will stoop to protect his/her dodgy business interests.  This accords with the complete lack of scruples witnessed in the business practices of  Highland Titles (see Highland Titles Scam, Lochaber Highland Estate Blog, Scots-Titles) which are increasingly being hauled up short by the advertising authorities (4 times since Sept 2012 ).

In the most recent attack, the person responsible has taunted me as if it is some kind of a game that I should be enjoying.   What I am enjoying is the knowledge that my campaign against these scammers is far more effective than they will ever admit.

Whoever is attacking me thinks a lot of themselves: they obviously seem to think that they are some kind of superior being.  Sadly, they are not.  They are just small-minded, immature, amoral, spiteful  people whose attacks say far more about them that they ever do about me.

It has been said that when your opponent’s case is in tatters they move from debate to ridicule and then to smears as they have nothing left in their armoury except vain attempts to discredit.

Do I hate them?  No doubt, they hope I do; but I don’t.  I feel sorry for them.

Why I Could Never become a Roman Catholic – Part 1: The Mass

19 May

Prologue

It should be stated that, while writing these reflections, I was a regular, non-communicant attender of my local Roman Catholic Parish, where I was wholly accepted, heretic that I am.  My religious background is mixed: Christened Congregationalist, raised Church of Scotland, confirmed Anglican, worshipped with Baptists and Charismatics of various denominations, returned to the Kirk, attended a Roman Catholic church and eventually a member of a small Spanish Brethren church .  Thus, these reflections are part of the journey of faith and an explanation as to why I could not ever convert.

The reasons for my not being able to embrace the Roman faith are multiple, but principally centre round the supremacy of human tradition over Holy Scripture.  The core areas of disagreement are:   1) the Mass;  2) the Cult of the Virgin Mary;  3) the Crucifix and statues;  4) the way the Bible is used; 5) the Sacrament of Penance;  and 6) the Papacy.

The Mass

I do not believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation which lies at the heart of the RC understanding of the Mass.  “The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing      understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ;” (CCC 1333).

It is possible that I lack the faith to believe such a thing, but that alone would not be sufficient reason to reject it.  My objections are more fundamental.  It is a wholly unnecessary dogma.  The symbolic representation of Christ in the bread and wine, which follows the example of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, is sufficient in itself for the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  The Real Presence of Christ does not rely on the superstition of transubstantiation or “a Tabernacle” but on the presence of the Holy Spirit, who God gives “without limit” (John 3:34).

I also question the theology of reserving the “Blood of Christ” to the clergy alone, thus denying the “People of God” the “Cup of Salvation”; especially when the Eucharistic Prayer explicitly states for both elements “Take this, all of you, and eat of / drink from it…“.   Such exclusion clearly runs counter to the example of Christ at the last Supper (as recorded in the Gospels – Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20; Matthew 26:26-28) and the liturgical prayer as given by St Paul (I Corinthians 11:23-26), while intimating a false dichotomy, in which priests (through their ordination?) are inherently superior to other Christians, who by implication are unworthy to receive the Commnion in both kinds. Furthermore, it also gives creedence to the common, yet dubious, notion that Holy Orders are the only true vocation.  (Let it be noted that this giving of Communion in one kind is a Spanish practice that is no longer generally applicable in the UK or USA, though some older Catholics still choose to observe taking the bread alone.)

Allied to this separation is the claim that the Mass is a sacrifice by the priest on behalf of the congregation:  “The sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests’ hands,” (CCC, 1369).  This, to me, implies, contrary to Roman Catholic denials, that Christ’s once and for all sacrifice is repeated through sacerdotal offering each time the Mass is celebrated . I fully understand the Catholic Church’s response that it is a “re-presentation (makes present)” (CCC, 1367) of the sacrifice of the cross but, unfortunately, this argument does not stand up to scrutiny when other parts of the Catholic Catechism are taken into account:

“…this sacrifice is truly propitiatory…The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice,” (CCC, 1367);

As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the  dead,” (CCC, 1414).

These statements  indicate that it is a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross contrary to what the Bible tells us was a “once and for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 7:26 – 27; I Peter 3:18).  It also has the unintentional effect of making the priest  the one who sacrifices Christ to God (on behalf of the people) in direct contradiction to St John’s Gospel (10: 17 – 18), in which Jesus states:

18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”  (John 10:18)

Thus, it is clear from Scripture that this once and forever sacrifice can only be made willingly by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Anything else is to put human tradition before the revealed Word of God, which can only divert attention from God’s plan of salvation.

Finally, despite it’s being proclaimed “the Communion of Saints”, there is the denial of Communion to non-Catholics, irrespective of whether they are Christians or not (salvation only being granted to Catholics who (as we shall see later) have earned their redemption).  While I understand the Roman Catholic position that the priest is trying to protect the heretic’s immortal soul by preventing them from committing a mortal sin (in line with St Paul’s warning not to partake of the Eucharist in “an unworthy manner” (I Corinthians 11:27-32), it does beg the question as to just whose table is being approached: the Lord’s Table or that of the Roman Catholic Church?  The difference, of course, lies in the fundamental belief that underlies the Eucharist: whether you are actually eating Christ’s transubstantiated physical body or, through the grace of Christ, are being invited, despite being a sinner, to come just as you are and share in the Paschal meal which is a “re-presentation” of the Last Supper in obedience to Christ´s command to “do this in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:24) in celebration of His “once and for all” sacrifice on the Cross by which we are saved.

Aside

Still the attacks go on – I’ve had

3 May

Still the attacks go on – I’ve had to get a Google+ account, despite not wanting one, to lodge a complaint against the person who has tried to steal my identity.  The supposed poetry blog is clearly the work of an immature obsessive who still doesn’t get the message: “Bullying doesn’t work with me”.  On the contrary it just makes me all the more determined.  The latest one has a forged newspaper article (a trick for which Highland Titles are famous and which was mentioned in an article in Private Eye – issue 1339  -“The ASA gives a limp-wristed slap to a firm selling fake lairdships” ) and which as that article suggests formed a complaint to the ASA which was informally resolved when Highland Titles agreed to remove all newsfeed.ws cloned and doctored articles from their website.  The fake article attacking me has been sent to the newspaper whose page had been doctored.