“No One Has Ever Seen God … Behold Your Mother”: Our Lady’s Maternal Care
“No one has ever seen God … Behold, your Mother” (Jn 1:18, 19:27)
Why turn to the Blessed Mother when we have Jesus—saviour to us all, God incarnate?
Although two thousand years ago “the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14), Christ was still not truly seen, for “the world knew Him not” (John 1:10), a truth that remains to this day. Even those who understand the Incarnation of Christ and authentically seek His ways cannot grasp the fullness of Truth which is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The vulnerability of humanity, mired by original sin, needs a guide, a spiritual helpmate who is more intimate with Christ than anyone else—someone who is more open to the Holy Spirit, more willing to unreservedly do God’s will, and who can show believers “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) in a deeper way than they can reach on their own. Humanity was made by God to seek full unity with Him, but only one human being has ever achieved this goal to the fullest extent.
The Blessed Mother.
That’s why emulating her, seeking her intercessory assistance, and even consecrating oneself to her, isn’t a slight to Jesus but rather the best and quickest way individuals have to develop the deepest possible relationship with Christ.
This is the reason Catholics turn to Mary. Without any possible stain of error it’s she, and she alone, who can hold the hands of believers as she urges them toward her Son. She’s enthusiastic—as only a proud mother can be—to not only introduce individuals to Christ, but to encourage them to draw closer to Him. She, and only she, can show them how to cultivate that relationship. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; see also Mark 1:11, Luke 9:35).
A serious misunderstanding many non-Catholics have about Marian devotion is the false assumption that Catholics worship Mary.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
There are three levels of spiritual devotion—dulia, hyperdulia, and latria. Simply put, dulia is the veneration shown to the saints in heaven. We can ask for their prayers and intercession—just as we ask our loved ones here on earth to pray for us in times of need—but we don’t worship them.
We also don’t worship Mary, because she’s a creature like the rest of humanity. Even so, she’s elevated above the ordinary saints because she’s the one human being who has “a special affinity to God,” as St. Thomas Aquinas put it. No other person has or ever will attain such intimacy with Jesus Christ; no other human being can claim the Holy Spirit as spouse.
Hyperdulia is the exceptional veneration due to the Mary because of her glorious, yet human, state. When the faithful venerate Mary, it’s because of Christ.
However, hyperdulia should never be confused with latria, the worship due to God and to Him alone. “The Madonna is not pleased when she is put above her Son,” stated Pope John XXIII.
St. Louis de Montfort frequently stated that Mary, as our maternal guide, provides the “easy, short, perfect and secure way to attaining union with Our Lord.” For this reason, de Montfort not only dedicated his life to the Blessed Mother, but he became the premier saint in promoting consecration to her.
This devotion is a secure means of going to Jesus Christ, because it is the very characteristic of our Blessed Lady to conduct us surely to Jesus, just as it is the very characteristic of Jesus to conduct us surely to the Eternal Father … It is the way which Jesus Christ Himself trod in coming to us (True Devotion to Mary).
Consecration to Mary has proven spiritually fruitful for centuries, and is now more popular than ever. Pope Leo XIII approved a plenary indulgence to those who consecrate themselves to the Blessed Mother, while Popes Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI and XII, and most famously St. John Paul II advocated and consecrated themselves using Louis de Montefort’s trusted formula. Most recently, Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, has written a consecration guide for the modern reader which incorporates the consecration devotions of not only St. Louis de Montfort but also St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa, and Pope St. John Paul II.
Perhaps the most famous Marian devotion is that of the Rosary, a string of beads consisting of five decades of the Hail Mary between one Our Father and one Glory Be (a full Rosary consists of fifteen decades).
Long-held tradition traces the origins of the Rosary to the thirteenth-century founder of the Dominican order, St. Dominic Guzman. Preaching against the Albigensian heresy, St. Dominic is said to have mystically received an inspiration from the Blessed Mother, instructing him to use a combination of preaching and meditative prayer in order to reach the hearts of the heretics.
Pope Pius V approved the Rosary in 1569; a few years later, in 1573, he announced the Feast of the Rosary. Since that time, popes throughout the centuries have esteemed and promoted the prayers of this beloved devotion. In recent decades, Pope Pius XII has stated that “the Rosary, as we know, has pride of place,” Pope Pius VI called the Rosary “the compendium of the entire Gospel,” while Pope St. John Paul II stated that “the Rosary is my favourite prayer, marvelous in its simplicity and depth … The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation.”
Because the Rosary is both a vocal and meditative prayer—along with the tactile fingering of the beads—it incorporates multiple senses, engaging the exterior and the interior aspects of the whole person.
The prayerful power of the Rosary derives its benefits from the fact that it’s a purely biblical prayer, centered upon the mysteries of Christ; from His Incarnation to His Ascension, various scenes from His life are meditated upon in order to gain a closer relationship with Him, all through the help and guidance of the one who knew Him best—His Blessed Mother.
Although Christ is the only true Mediator between God and man, in the fallen state of humanity it can be difficult to approach Him. Who better to turn to than His own Mother, who desires nothing more than to reveal the glory of her Son? As theological historian Luigi Gambero observed when commenting on the Marian writing of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “the importance of Mary’s role stems from the fact that she contributed to bringing man closer to God, to making God more accessible to man.” This is a role she continues to fulfill through her constant, loving intercession.
Catholics don’t worship Mary as if she’s a pagan goddess exclusive of God’s grace. Rather, hyperdulia means Catholics honor and venerate the Blessed Mother while fully recognizing her humanity and dependence upon the pure grace of God. The faithful see in her a mirror, a reflection of Eden: God’s perfect creation without blemish or stain of sin.
The Blessed Mother helps us walk closer to Christ, to know and love Him in a deep, personal way. And after all, isn’t that the point of our spiritual lives?