Officially, Roman Catholics worship only God – the Father, the incarnate Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Church, however, encourages veneration of the saints, with the virgin Mary foremost among them.
Mary has received incredibly high-sounding titles, such as Mediatrix of all Grace (because Jesus came into the world through her), Co-Redeemer, Advocate and Dispenser of God’s Grace, and “Queen of Heaven,” despite the fact that the prophet Jeremiah strongly condemned the Jews of his day for worshiping a personality called by the same name (Jer. 7:18; 44:15-18).
The ‘Queen of Heaven’ is the name of Asherah or possibly Astarte, a Caananite idol and goddess worshiped in ancient Israel and Judah. Astarte was accepted by the Greeks under the name of Aphrodite. It may also be a Babylonian title for Ishtar, an important goddess in the Babylonian pantheon.
The book of Jeremiah makes mention of the Queen of Heaven five times, always in the context of idol worship.
So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the LORD. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame? [Jeremiah 7:16-19]
These people who were offering sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven were beyond hope and Jeremiah was told not even to pray for them. Since they were so deep in their idolatry, God had given them up. It was not just individuals involved in this idolatry but entire families … the children gather wood, the fathers light the fire and the woman knead the dough and make the cakes of bread to be sacrificed.
Catholics claim this veneration given to the Blessed Virgin Mary is in no way idolatrous because it is rendered to a creature and is not a substitute or an alternative to the worship owed to the Divinity. The highest type of worship or adoration referred to by Catholic theologians as “Latria” is accorded to Jesus Christ. The honor paid to Mary and the saints is infinitely lower. When it is given to the saints, it is referred to as “dulia” and when it is given to Mary it is referred to as “hyperdulia” because it surpasses the veneration given to the angels and saints combined.
Catholic apologists will say worship does not mean worship and venerate does not mean worship and render homage does not mean worship and pray to does not mean worship and sacrifice to does not mean worship. As Bill Clinton once demonstrated in his infamous parsing of the word, “is”, words can be used to convey many meanings that sometimes ignore the facts.
But, the fact is…
The same worship is rendered to Mary as to Christ. Churches are built to her honour; her shrines are crowded with devotees; enriched with their gifts; and adorned with their votive offerings. To her prayers are addressed as to a divine being, and blessings are asked as from one, who has power to bestow them. Her votaries are taught to pray, ‘Spare us, good Lady,’ and ‘From all evil, good Lady, deliver us.’ Five annual festivals celebrate her greatness, and keep alive the devotion of her worshipers. In Roman Catholic countries the dawn is ushered in with hymns to her honour; her praises are again chanted at noon, and the day is closed with an Ave Maria sung to the Lady of Heaven. [James A. Wylie, The Papacy: Its History, Dogmas, Genius, and Prospects , p. 370.]
The Blessed Virgin Mary as the Savior of Mankind
I read recently of the account of a Catholic priest, Fr. Stephen Scheier, who had a near death experience where he says the Blessed Virgin saved him from eternity in hell. He had been a priest for 12 years, got in a car accident, survived, and had a miraculous recovery. He said when his life was reviewed by Jesus he was condemned to hell. Then he heard a woman’s voice asking that he be spared. Jesus then said that he had already spent 12 years as a priest for himself. But Mary asked that he be given another chance and also be given extra graces to assist him. And so, he survived. He had not been particularly devoted to Mary before this. But he is now and gives her credit for his second chance along with God’s divine mercy.
Notice the reversal of roles accorded Jesus with His attributes ascribed to Mary. This reversal of roles is understandable in light of Roman Catholic teaching in The Catholic Catechism where Mary is presented as co-redeemer of mankind, saying “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race …. This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death…. She is inseparably linked with the saving work of her Son.”
The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.” In this near death account, Jesus is not the mediator, but that honor is attributed to Mary. In fact, it would appear that Jesus’ role as our intercessor (Isa. 53:12), defender (1 Jn. 2:1; Heb. 9:24), healer (Isa. 53:5; Lk. 4:18) and redeemer (Heb. 7:25; 9:28) is completely denied.
Prayers to Mary
Though many Catholics would deny it, the Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary has taken the place of God and Christ. They insist they only ask her to intercede in the same manner that Protestants would ask a friend to pray for them.
While there is biblical precedent for intercessory prayer (Ephesians 6:18-19), the difference between intercessory prayer and Catholic prayer has to do with to whom the prayers are offered. Biblical intercessory prayer is offered to GOD on behalf of another person, while Catholic prayers are addressed to Mary for everything from safety to forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.
THE HAIL MARY
Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with thee,
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Now the Bible does say that Mary was blessed among women because she was chosen to give birth to Jesus, the Christ-child, and as Christians we rightly hold Mary in high esteem. Surely her chaste example is one that should be praised and followed by women today.
But nowhere in the Bible do we find that Mary is a goddess or that she resides in heaven today honored as the Mother of God or the Queen of Heaven, or that she she is uniquely free from sin. The Bible never says she possessed special powers or authorities to dispense grace, mediate between man and God, or grant salvation to fallen man.
The Mary of the Bible bears no resemblance to this “Mary, Queen of Heaven,” and never laid claim to be more than a sinful human being. That she was saved as a disciple of Christ is in the Bible, for she regarded Jesus as her Lord and Savior. We also read in Scripture that Mary recognized her own low estate as a mere human being mightily blessed by the Lord (see Luke 1:46-55). No wonder this wonderful and good woman exclaimed, “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Luke 1:46).
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