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Mary

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Mary, Mother of God
Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

Virgin Mary by Sassoferrato (17th century)
Blessed Virgin Mary
Theotokos ("Mother of God") Saint Mary
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Eastern Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Anglicanism
Lutheranism
Islam
Major shrine Our Lady of Fatima, Fátima, Portugal
Feast 25 March - The Annunciation
15 August - The Assumption
22 August - The Assumption (Coptic)

Mary of Nazareth (Hebrew: מרים, Miryām; Aramaic: מרים, Maryām or ܡܪܝܡ, Maryām; Greek: Μαριαμ, Mariām or Μαρια, Mariā; Latin: Maria; Arabic: مَريَم, Maryam) is the mother of Jesus Christ and the betrothed wife of Joseph.

She is often referred to as the Virgin Mary, Theotokos, or Madonna, in addition to being given many other titles besides.

Life

Icon of the Virgin Mary.

Of the little that is known of her personal history from the New Testament it is known, however, that her genealogy is given in third chapter of the Gospel of Luke which notes that she was of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David.[1] Joseph, her husband, is listed in her place as was common procedure in that era. She was maternal cousin (or relative) of Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron.[2] In later Christian apocrypha, accounts of her life are additionally told in greater detail, giving the names of her parents as Joachim and Anne. The name Joachim is only a variation of Heli (as listed in Luke 3:23 ) or Eliachim, substituting one Divine name (YHWH) for the other (Eli, Elohim).

While she resided at Nazareth with her parents, before she became the wife of Joseph, the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah, conceiving him through the Holy Spirit while remaining a virgin.[3] After this she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was living with her husband Zachariah, at a considerable distance, about 100 miles, from Nazareth. Immediately on entering the house she was greeted by Elizabeth as the mother of her Lord, and then forthwith gave utterance to her hymn of thanksgiving.[4]

After three months Mary returned to Nazareth to her own home. Joseph was told in a dream of her condition, and took her to his own home.[5] Soon after this the decree of Augustus.[6] required that they should proceed to Bethlehem,[7] some 80 or 90 miles from Nazareth; and while they were there they found shelter in the inn provided for strangers.[8] But as the inn was crowded, Mary had to retire to a place among the cattle, and there she brought forth her son, who was called Jesus,[9] because he was to save his people from their sins.

This was followed by the presentation in the temple, the flight into Egypt, and their return in the following year and residence at Nazareth.[10] Mary evidently remained in Nazareth for thirty years. During these years only one event in the history of Jesus is recorded, namely his going up to Jerusalem at the age of twelve, where he was found debating the religious teachers in the temple.[11] Joseph is likely to have died during this period, as he is not mentioned again.

Little notice is taken of Mary by the gospel writers after the start of Jesus' public ministry. She was present at the marriage in Cana, where Jesus worked his first public miracle. Very few gospel stories mention her until we find her at the cross along with her sister-in-law Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and Salome, and other women.[12] Of the roughly 100 people in the upper room after the Ascension on the day of Pentecost, she is one of the few who are identified by name.[13] From this time she altogether vanishes from the biblical accounts. Her death is not recorded in Scripture. According to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox tradition, between three and fifteen years after Christ's Ascension, in either Jerusalem or Ephesus, she died while surrounded by the apostles. Later when the apostles opened her tomb, they found it empty and concluded that she had been bodily assumed into Heaven.

Marian Doctrines

Immaculate Conception of Mary

The Immaculate Conception, that Mary was preserved by God from the transmission of original sin at the time of her own conception and lived a life completely free from sin, is a doctrine unique to the Roman Catholic Church, and is rejected by both Eastern Orthodoxy and by Protestantism, albeit for very different reasons.

Veneration of Mary

Both Catholics and Orthodox Christians venerate Mary by praying to her for intercession with her Son, Jesus Christ. The Hail Mary prayer is one such example. Both Catholics and Orthodox make a clear distinction between such veneration (which is also due to the other saints) and worship, which is due to God alone. Mary, they point out, is not in herself divine, and has only such powers to help as are granted to her by God in response to her prayers. Roman Catholicism distinguishes three forms of honor: latria, due only to God, and usually translated by the English word adoration; hyperdulia, accorded only to the Blessed Virgin Mary, usually translated simply as veneration; and dulia, accorded to the rest of the saints, also usually translated as veneration.

Perpetual Virginity

The perpetual virginity of Mary, a doctrine of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Christianity affirms Mary's "real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made Man." That Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus has been accepted by most Christians until comparatively recent times.

The most prominent leaders of the Reformation, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin also defended the perpetual virginity of Mary against those who questioned it. Later generations of Protestants, however, abandoned the traditional teaching, citing references to "brothers" of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Defenders of the teaching, including John Calvin, have pointed out that Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ and his disciples, lacked a specific word for "cousin," so that the word "brother" was used instead.

Dormition and Assumption

The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary was formally declared to be dogma by Pope Benedict XIV in the encyclical De Festis B.V.M.; Roman Catholics must therefore hold the doctrine as being necessary to salvation. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus[14], reiterated "We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." The establishment of this dogma as "necessary to salvation" is widely taken to be an example of the Pope's invoking papal infallibility. The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15.

The tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church holds that Mary died, and that after her death and burial, she was resurrected and taken up bodily into heaven. This two-fold event is celebrated as the Dormition ("falling asleep") of the Theotokos. The Feast of the Dormition is celebrated on August 15, and is preceded by a fourteen day fast from meat and dairy products, the third longest fast of the liturgical year after Great Lent and Winter Lent. Despite the great importance of this feast in the Orthodox liturgical calendar, it is not, as in the Catholic Church, considered a matter of dogma, since it has not been formally defined by any ecumenical council accepted by the Orthodox.

For Catholics and Orthodox alike, Mary's assumption is seen as a concrete and present instance of the resurrection of the body; a belief asserted by virtually all Christians in the creeds.

Theotokos

At the Third Ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus, it was decided that it was entirely appropriate to refer to Mary as the Theotokos, a Greek word which can be translated as "God bearer" or "Mother of God." This was to emphasize that Mary's child, Jesus Christ, was in fact God. She is often referred to as "Theotokos" in Eastern Orthodox hymns. She is also one of the most highly venerated saints in both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church; several major feast days are devoted to her each year.

See Also

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References

  1. Psalm 132:11; Luke 1:32
  2. Luke 1:36
  3. Luke 1:35
  4. Luke 1:46-56; comp. 1 Samuel 2:1-10. (This hymn is commonly known as the Magnificat.)
  5. Matthew 1:18-25
  6. Luke 2:1
  7. Micah 5:2
  8. Luke 2:6, 7
  9. Matthew 1:21
  10. Matthew 2
  11. Luke 2:41-52
  12. John 19:26
  13. Acts 1:14
  14. Munificentissimus Deus

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