Ad Jesum per Mariam: The Rosary is Christ-Centered

Aug 6th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

In the first few years after we became Catholic we made intermittent attempts at praying the Rosary on a regular basis. Invariably these efforts petered out, but I remember that on most occasions I found myself to be more spiritually motivated and enthusiastic when we finished. This struck me as surprising because I did not remember any consistent result like that from my prayer life as a Protestant. That’s not to say that my experience would be the same for anyone else, either before I became Catholic or afterwards! Rather, it was simply my experience, and it inspired me to want to pray the Rosary more faithfully.

It would be a number of years before I followed through on that inspiration, though. In the summer of 2012 I at last began to pray the Rosary nightly. Later my wife joined me. The fruits have been tremendous. In the midst of what has been a very difficult year in other respects I have grown closer to the Lord, and I am convinced that the Rosary and the Blessed Virgin’s intercessions have been the difference.

I am sure that sounds terrible in the ears of my Protestant brothers and sisters, but if there is anything about which Protestants are commonly mistaken it is the nature of Catholic veneration of Mary. The Rosary is an important part of that devotion, and it is worth taking a closer look at it so as to see that far from detracting from the Lord’s glory, the Rosary is profoundly focused upon Christ.

What the Rosary is

The Rosary is a confession of faith, a prayer to the Lord, a contemplative prayer, an homage to His glory, and an appeal for the Blessed Virgin’s intercession.

It is a confession of faith. We begin to pray the Rosary with a recitation of the Apostles’ Creed. In this way we are reminded not only of what the Church professes but are encouraged ourselves to stand firm in the faith delivered to the Church. This sets the foundation for everything that follows. We do not seek the Blessed Virgin’s aid in a vacuum, as though it stands or could stand apart from the Faith of the Ages or from what the Lord Jesus has done for us. We pray as Christians and in union with the Church throughout the ages.

It is a prayer to the Lord. The Rosary is punctuated by the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer. Once again it would be false to suppose that the Rosary stands apart from our Lord; rather (and as we shall see more clearly momentarily) it is founded upon Him.

It is a contemplative prayer. There are four series of “mysteries” related to the history of salvation and in particular our Lord’s life. As we pray the Hail Mary (see below) we contemplate the following:

  • The glorious mysteries. In the Glorious Mysteries we contemplate the Lord’s Resurrection, His Ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Assumption of Mary, and Mary’s coronation. The focus upon Christ is obvious in the first three, but is still present in the latter two. In her Assumption Christians find hope for glory: to be united at last with our Lord even as Mary is. In her coronation we find confidence in her intercession with the Lord.
  • The joyful mysteries. In the Joyful Mysteries we contemplate the Annunciation of the Lord’s birth, the Blessed Virgin’s visitation to St. Elizabeth, our Lord’s birth and presentation in the Temple, and His being found there again by His mother and St. Joseph. Again, the Christological focus is obvious.
  • The sorrowful mysteries. In the Sorrowful Mysteries we contemplate events surrounding the suffering and death of the Lord: the agony in the Garden of Gethsamane, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the Cross, and His crucifixion.
  • The luminous mysteries. In the Luminous Mysteries we contemplate events of Christ’s life by which He made Himself better known: His Baptism; the miracle at the wedding of Cana; the proclamation of the Kingdom; the Transfiguration; and the Institution of the Eucharist.

Hopefully it is thus easy to see that the Rosary is a Christ-centered prayer.

Each mystery’s contemplation is punctuated by the Glory Be (Gloria Patri) and the “Fatima Prayer”: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Again, this is a Christ-centered prayer for our own salvation and for the salvation of others as well.

Of course, there is little here so far to raise the eyebrows of the average Protestant (setting aside two of the Glorious Mysteries for the moment). What troubles some Protestants most about the Rosary is its repetitiveness and the use of the Hail Mary. So let’s consider these objections briefly.

Repetitiveness: This objection is often based upon Matthew 6:7–8:

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. [RSVCE]

In some translations heap up empty phrases is rendered as “use not vain repetitions,” and the repetitiveness of the Rosary is considered to fall under this condemnation. The problem with this objection is that it proves too much, because it would also bring Psalm 136 under suspicion for its repetitive use of the clause “for his steadfast love endures forever.” So it is not mere repetition that is a problem; so to complain that the Rosary is repetitive has no force in and of itself. We also take heart from Luke 11:5–8:

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.”

Just as we repeatedly ask Our Father, so too we repeatedly ask our friends and family to pray for us; so too we repeatedly ask the Blessed Virgin and all the saints to pray for us.

The Hail Mary: The usual objection to the Hail Mary is that it is said to be illegitimate to seek the intercessions of those who have gone to glory before us. Again, this objection doesn’t have any force. In the first place it is no different in principle from seeking the intercessions of our friends here in this life. If it isn’t illegitimate to ask my wife to pray for me, how on earth can it be illegitimate to ask those in glory to do the same? It is already clear from Scripture that they do pray for us (Rv. 6:9–10; 8:3–4). Secondly, the continuous history of the Church shows that believers have always appealed to the angels and saints for help. See, for example, the examples found here and here. And that is all the Hail Mary amounts to: a request for intercession. It begins with Gabriel and St. Elizabeth’s greetings to her (“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”) and proceeds to a petition for her intercession (“pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”). Seeking the intercessions of those who have preceded us in death has been practiced by Christians throughout the Church’s history.

This is also consistent with constant teaching of the Church:

So it is that the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods. [CCC §955]

Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped. [CCC §956]

Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him, some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”; but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him. Therefore the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who have gone to sleep in the peace of Christ is not in the least weakened or interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the perpetual faith of the Church, is strengthened by communication of spiritual goods. For by reason of the fact that those in heaven are more closely united with Christ, they establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to its greater edification. (3) For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord, through Him and with Him and in Him they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, showing forth the merits which they won on earth through the one Mediator between God and man, serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things which are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His Body which is the Church. Thus by their brotherly interest our weakness is greatly strengthened…The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ’s martyrs who had given the supreme witness of faith and charity by the shedding of their blood, are closely joined with us in Christ, and she has always venerated them with special devotion, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels. [Lumen Gentium §49, 50; boldface added]

We, however, with the aforementioned Church venerate with every devotion both all the martyrs and the glorious combats of those who are known to God rather than to men. [Decretal of Pope St. Gelasius I, c. A.D. 495]

For our Lord Jesus Christ still intercedes for us: all the Martyrs who are with Him intercede for us. [St. Augustine, Exposition of Psalm 85/86, §23]

In short, the Rosary is actually a contemplative prayer focused upon the Lord’s work for our salvation in which we ask His mother to pray for us. And I believe that it is under both these aspects that praying the Rosary has been so profoundly important in my spiritual life. In the first place it brings to mind regularly the great things that God has done for me, for us, for the world, and for our redemption. In the second place, I firmly believe that Mary’s intercession has been wonderfully important in the Lord granting grace so that I may learn to love Him more. What began as a difficulty for me has become a dear part of my Christian life which helps me to love God more.

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  1. As a Protestant, I’m baffled by the idea of the coronation of Mary.

  2. As a “devout” protestant I too was thought the rosary an abomination and heretical…. After learning what it actually is (rather than what I was told it was, etc) – I’ve come to deeply appreciate the rosary (and much of the Catholic/Christian faith) for that matter. We need a balancing point that accepts the authority of the Church and the Sacraments and the greatness of masterful Scriptural teaching and a fervent preaching of Christ. ProCatholic?

  3. I am a Methodist heavily involved in my church, but I continue to find tremendous comfort and peace in praying the Rosary.
    Thank you for the post-

  4. Hi Protestant Reader,

    Here’s a few things which have helped me understand the coronation of Mary.

    1. Paul expresses the idea that the saints receive a “crown of righteousness” in 2 Timothy 4:8 –

    “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

    2. Revelation 12 prophecies that a woman “clothed with the sun” and “crowed with 12 stars” will defeat the dragon – “A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The early church identified the woman in different ways – sometimes as Israel, or the Church, but also as Mary, mother of the Christ and mother of the Church.

    3. Jesus sets the perfect example of us in how to live, so he must have perfectly honored his father and mother according to the 4th commandment. That means not only that he honored them with a perfect life, but also that he gave them honor. Just as Solomon and other kings in biblical times honored their mothers as queens, it is easy for me to picture Jesus honoring his own mother as queen of heaven.

  5. Psalm 45 is also relevant to our devotion to Mary as Queen of Heaven:

    (To the choir-master. Melody: The Lilies. Of the sons of Core. A maskil. A love-song.)

    Joyful the thoughts that well up from my heart, the King’s honour for my theme; my tongue flows readily as the pen of a swift writer. Thine is more than mortal beauty, thy lips overflow with gracious utterance; the blessings God has granted thee can never fail. Gird on thy sword at thy side, great warrior, gird thyself with all thy majesty and all thy beauty; ride on triumphant, in the name of faithfulness and justice. Dread counsel thy own might shall give thee; so sharp are thy arrows, subduing nations to thy will, daunting the hearts of the king’s enemies. Thy throne, O God, endures for ever and ever, the sceptre of thy royalty is a rod that rules true; thou hast been a friend to right, an enemy to wrong, and God, thy own God, has given thee an unction to bring thee pride beyond any of thy fellows. Thy garments are scented with myrrh, and aloes, and cassia; from ivory palaces there are harps sounding in thy honour. Daughters of kings come out to meet thee; at thy right hand stands the queen, in Ophir gold arrayed. (Listen, my daughter, and consider my words attentively; thou art to forget, henceforward, thy own nation, and the house of thy father; thy beauty, now, is all for the king’s delight; he is thy Lord, and worship belongs to him.) The people of Tyre, too, will have its presents to bring; the noblest of its citizens will be courting thy favour. She comes, the princess, all fair to see, her robe of golden cloth, a robe of rich embroidery, to meet the King. The maidens of her court follow her into thy presence, all rejoicing, all triumphant, as they enter the king’s palace! Thou shalt have sons worthy of thy own fathers, and divide a world between them for their domains. While time lasts, mine it is to keep thy name in remembrance; age after age, nations will do thee honour.

    [Source]

  6. Protestant Reader –

    What specifically baffles you?

  7. Fred, excellent piece to break the silence! I was just thinking about you the other day in that I wanted to hear more from you. The rosary is one of those wonderful mysteries. It’s not a requirement of salvation, but that fact should not stop Catholics (and even non-Catholic Christians!) from using it as a faith aid in their devotionals. A Lutheran friend of mine (baptized Catholic, confirmed Lutheran) claims to still pray the rosary. I’m slowly trying to incorporate it into family prayer life, but with two small children, we’re not quite there yet.

  8. Protestant Reader (#1),

    Unless other commenters have sufficiently responded, I think it would be helpful if you tell us what the difficulty is. Thanks.

    Peace,

    Fred

  9. Drey,

    Thanks! Hopefully changing circumstances in Real Life will allow me more opportunities to write.

    Fred

  10. Hi Fred,

    It is good to see you writing! The Rosary is beautiful, but I have a hard time completing the decades. I also have a hard time meditating on the life of Christ, and became very frustrated. For example if I am meditating on the Annuciation, I tend to picture a static nativity scene. I found a small blue book called a “Scriptural Rosary” and it guides one through each mystery with ten thoughts aided by the scripture to accompany each Hail Mary bead. It helps me to keep my mind on each mystery.
    It also has a little history lesson at the beginning about how the rosary became a practice. It is supposed to have begun with 150 Psalms of David as chanted and prayed by monks in the so-called Dark Ages and then turned into 150 Our Fathers in place of the Psalms that were kept track by having 150 pebbles in a leather pouches and then knots on rope, and eventually wooden beads on string.
    Thanks for writing and encouraging the practice of praying the rosary.

    Blessings to you and your dear family,
    Susan

  11. ‘Crown of righteousness’ seems to me to be a metaphor applicable to all believers. In fact, it specifically says that (‘all who have loved his appearing’). At least I hope it’s a metaphor, as I’ve no desire whatever to wear a literal crown. In any case, it’s not specific to Mary.

    In Revelation the images are most certainly metaphors. There’s no literal crown there either, any more than Christ is sitting at the right hand of God with a literal sword coming out of his (Christ’s) mouth.

    As for honouring parents, and Jesus honouring his mother, it’s a very long leap from honouring someone to crowning them Queen of Heaven. A truly humble mother wouldn’t want such a showy (and nowadays antiquated) honour anyway. I think most mothers would be fine with a bunch of flowers and a hug, and would tell the son that the crown looks better on him.

    Using Psalm 45 as a prophecy is also stretching it. To me, it’s a contemporary reference, not a prophecy at all. I think one has to have the crown-wearing Mary idea first, and then read it into this text.

    I can see the desire to elevate Mary and maybe even the logic of assumption, but coronation? As I said, that seems a medieval notion that has outlived its usefulness (and, of course, has no scriptural warranty).

  12. Protestant Reader (#1),

    I can sympathize with your bafflement regarding the coronation of Mary. I struggled with the same question (among others) before I entered the Catholic Church over 3 years ago.

    I wish first to underscore the point made in the article that the Rosary is a Christocentric prayer. Even though the majority of the words spoken during the Rosary are asking for Mary’s intercession, the majority of one’s “mental energy” during the Rosary is meant to be directed to meditating on the mysteries, of which all save the last two glorious mysteries are explicitly focused on Christ (these last mysteries are also Christocentric, as I will explain shortly). I have found that, after I got the “mechanics” of it down, the Hail Marys become just a sort of background noise and that my primary focus is on some aspect of the current mystery. As an example, during the first joyful mystery, the Annunciation, I may be led to focus on Gabriel’s encouragement, “Nothing is impossible with God,” and reflect on the areas or problems in my life which I am not fully entrusting to God. At other times, I might instead focus on Mary’s response, “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” and to what degree I am making that statement my own; or on the fundamental mystery of the Incarnation itself; or on any number of other things. In other words, my mind and my heart is primarily engaged with Christ and with Scripture, more so than with Mary.

    I say all that just to attempt to convince you that the focus of the Rosary truly is on Christ, although this is not readily apparent to outside observers because this focus is happening internally while externally it seems to be mostly about Mary. That Christocentric focus extends even to the final two glorious mysteries, the Assumption and Coronation of Mary. I understand why you see these as problematic: not only are they not explicitly found in the Bible, they also seem to be about Mary more than about Christ. I don’t think that is actually true.

    First off, who is the one assuming and crowning Mary? The answer, in both cases, is Christ, so he is not actually absent from these mysteries. The real key to understanding these mysteries, I think, is to recognize that Mary is the first, the ideal, and the prototypical Christian. She is the Christian disciple par excellance. Therefore, because we too are (trying to be) disciples of Christ, everything that happens to Mary, we hope will also happen to us. Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven; we too will have glorified, resurrected bodies in heaven. Mary was crowned queen of heaven and earth; we too hope to receive a “crown of righteousness”, as Jonathan pointed out. I should also mention that I at least interpret Mary’s queenship as more of a “queen mother” role: Mary is the queen only because she is the mother of the King. And since we also are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” then we are princes and princesses who hope to be similarly crowned and rewarded with treasure laid up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy.

    Mary is unique in that she experienced these things first (just as she is unique in being the only woman chosen to bear the Son of God in her womb), but everything that happened to Mary we hope will happen to us. The Assumption and Coronation should thus strengthen the virtue of hope in us. They remind us of the inheritance that lies in store for us and the promises that God means to fulfill for us.

  13. As an aside, I should point out that the Rosary is a private personal devotion, albeit one that is very widespread and has been approved and promoted by the Magisterium. What that means is that there is no single right or wrong way to say the Rosary. There are certainly standard forms that are very common, but there’s not really anything “official” about these, at least as far as I am aware. I mention this because if anyone is intrigued or curious about the Rosary, but is not comfortable with some aspect of it (such as the Coronation), there is nothing to stop you from eliminating it or substituting something else in its place. After all, Bl. John Paul II added the five Luminous Mysteries after the other 15 mysteries had been standard for centuries. You could rework the Glorious Mysteries like this, for example:
    1. the Resurrection
    2. Jesus appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus
    3. Jesus appears to doubting Thomas
    4. the Ascension
    5. the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

    A little while ago, a couple friends and I came up, on a lark, with a set of “Petrine Mysteries”:
    1. Peter drops his nets and follows Jesus
    2. Jesus gives Peter the keys of the kingdom
    3. Peter denies Jesus three times
    4. Jesus restores Peter after the Resurrection
    5. Peter preaches the gospel at Pentecost

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. You could even say Our Fathers instead of Hail Marys (I believe this was done early in the development of the Rosary). That’s the great thing about private devotions: they’re private. The way they come into being is not by being decreed from on high, but from the private prayer lives of individuals.

  14. Protestant Reader; While ‘”metaphor” may be applied here secondaraily, it must be noted that 11:19 starts out with the temple of God being opened and the Ark of the Covenant appearing – ie: Mary. I’m sure you don’t allegorize the red dragon (Satan). Consistent exegesis would apply. Additionally, reading forward the story of the child (Christ) is clear; 12:6 in particular. God elevated “the Woman” in Genesis and this just completes the picture. IMHO

  15. Steven R. (#12)

    Therefore, because we too are (trying to be) disciples of Christ, everything that happens to Mary, we hope will also happen to us. Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven; we too will have glorified, resurrected bodies in heaven. Mary was crowned queen of heaven and earth; we too hope to receive a “crown of righteousness”, as Jonathan pointed out. I should also mention that I at least interpret Mary’s queenship as more of a “queen mother” role: Mary is the queen only because she is the mother of the King. And since we also are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” then we are princes and princesses who hope to be similarly crowned and rewarded with treasure laid up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy.

    Mary is unique in that she experienced these things first (just as she is unique in being the only woman chosen to bear the Son of God in her womb), but everything that happened to Mary we hope will happen to us. The Assumption and Coronation should thus strengthen the virtue of hope in us. They remind us of the inheritance that lies in store for us and the promises that God means to fulfill for us.

    Why try and draw hope from Marian dogmas when the Scriptures state that the virtue of hope is strengthened by focusing on the past work and future coming of Christ?

    Our faith and hope are strengthened, says Paul (1 Cor. 15), in that just as Christ was raised from the dead, so, too, will we be raised. I am baffled as to why we ought to look to Mary’s assumption, which was declared a de fide doctrine 50 years ago, to strengthen our hope of what will one day (hopefully, says the Catholic) happen to us. Why not look only to Christ’s resurrection, which is the de fide doctrine of the entire Christian faith?

    Concerning the crown and coronation, there are numerous references to the promise that the faithful will one day receive a crown (2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10; 3:11), but again, Scripture always grounds this promise in the call to persevere and endure to the end, not “just as Mary was crowned, so you will one day be crowned.” Specifically, in 2 Tim. 4:8, the crown is given to those whose who love Christ’s appearing. Again, the virtue of hope is strengthened through patiently awaiting Christ’s return and the renewal of all things (Rom. 8:18-25).

    Now, I know you will object, as you did in the previous part that I did not quote, that these Marian dogmas are just as Christocentric, since Christ is the one assuming and crowning her. But what I am arguing is this: even if ex hypothesi Christ assumed and crowned Mary, consider the following comparison:

    1: Just as Christ was raised in glory, so, too, will we be raised in glory with Christ
    2: Just as Christ raised Mary in glory just as He was raised in glory, so, too, will we be raised in glory with Christ just as Mary was raised in glory with Christ.

    I think #2 would be an accurate depiction of your view, since it grounds Mary’s assumption in Christ. But my question is, why bother with #2 if it is grounded in #1? Or, to make an a fortiori argument, if hope increases given Mary’s assumption, how much more hope is there in the fact that Christ Himself was raised?

  16. W. Whitaker,

    You wrote (#15):

    Or, to make an a fortiori argument, if hope increases given Mary’s assumption, how much more hope is there in the fact that Christ Himself was raised?

    I agree with you 100% that the possibility of anyone, Mary included, being raised in glory depends entirely on Christ’s resurrection. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” I think that the value of Mary’s assumption is that it is a concrete example of this already having happened. Of course, the Scriptures you pointed out assure believers of their resurrection and glorification at the Last Judgment. The assumption reinforces and strengthens that hope by showing us that in the case of his mother, Christ has already fulfilled his promise. The readings for the Assumption bear this connection out. The New Testament reading from 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 speaks of this promise: “As in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,” and the Gospel reading includes the Magnificat, in which Mary exclaims, “My spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

    By the way, although the Assumption was only recently declared an infallible dogma, it has been believed and celebrated in the Church for far, far longer. The Eastern Orthodox celebrate it as well, calling it “The Dormition [falling-asleep] of Mary,” which shows that it goes back at least to before the Great Schism. It is by no means a modern invention.

  17. Hi, Steven R.,

    Thanks for responding and clarifying.

    You wrote:

    I think that the value of Mary’s assumption is that it is a concrete example of this already having happened.

    Two distinct but related questions:
    1) Is the evidence for Mary’s assumption as strong as the evidence for Christ’s resurrection?
    2) Is your belief in this doctrine as strong as your belief in Christ’s resurrection?

    Further, you said:

    By the way, although the Assumption was only recently declared an infallible dogma, it has been believed and celebrated in the Church for far, far longer. The Eastern Orthodox celebrate it as well, calling it “The Dormition [falling-asleep] of Mary,” which shows that it goes back at least to before the Great Schism. It is by no means a modern invention.

    My point was not to advance the claim that Mary’s assumption is a modern invention within the past 50 years. My point was that it was only declared a de fide doctrine 50 years ago. My question is, why try and seek to draw hope from a doctrine that was officially declared a dogma 50 years ago instead of focusing on the foundational dogma of the Christian religion? In other words, 75 years ago, the resurrection of Christ was a more surer dogma than the assumption of Mary.

  18. W. Whitaker,

    I don’t have much time to respond, but let me just point out quickly that this is one of the many aspects in which Catholicism is “both/and” rather than “either/or”. I don’t have to choose between drawing hope from either Christ’s resurrection or Mary’s assumption: they are both sources of hope and encouragement, and neither one detracts from the other. One is the cause, the other is the effect.

    And the date of the assumption’s delcaration as a dogma has absolutely no bearing in my mind on its truth. If you lived in the 4th century, would you use the same argument against the then-brand-new Nicene Creed?

  19. I think dogma validates something that was always true. The Trinity was always true.
    Hebrews was always inspired before it was officially declared inspired, etc..

  20. Re: #11 for Protestant Reader,

    I contemplate Mary’s crown as a “spiritual” honor; however, I believe that we will be resurrected as glorified bodies – in heaven there is a place of both spirit and glorified substance. So a crown of righteousness could have a glorified physical manifestation.

    I agree Mary’s humility would not want or desire any sort of showy honor. Luke 1:46-55 well expresses her sentiment about the grace she has received.

    My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
    His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
    He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
    He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly

    Jesus is very explicit that in the kingdom of heaven, the last shall be first and the first shall be last. So it is precisely Mary’s perfect humility which makes her worthy of the greatest honor her Son can bestow.

  21. If it helps the Protestant Reader, I’ll add this:

    In the Davidic Dynasty there is consistently a role for the gebirah, or “Queen Mother,” who is the mother of the king.

    This can be for good or ill, of course, as some of the descendants of David entered into alliances with other countries by marrying pagan women who brought their idolatry in amongst the people of God. When the mother of a king is an idol-worshipper, what will the next king likely be?

    But when she is a faithful handmaiden of the LORD, it’s a whole different story: And that is what Mary is, par excellance.

    So when Jesus as son of David brought the kingdom of Heaven into the world, fulfilling the longing for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty, He did more than reinstate the office of king.

    He also reinstated the dynastic offices of the stewards and the chief steward, so that the citizens of His kingdom would have local leadership. (I presume every reader of this site gets the reference to Isaiah 22 as the background for Matthew 16 and 18, and the “office” of the episcopate, and how that office has successors as the kingdom stewardly offices always did.)

    And, more pertinent to the current thread, Jesus honored His mother as the gebirah of His kingdom, with a throne beside His own (just like Solomon).

  22. “everything that happens to Mary, we hope will also happen to us.”

    Why would I want a crown? What would I do with the thing? And since the billions of redeemed in heaven will all have a crown each (as several posters have explained), what’s so special about Mary’s? Couldn’t we all just chuck the darned things? Might be a bit more humble . . .

    Of course, I want a “crown of righteousness,” but that’s a metaphor. As I understand it, Catholics mean considerably more than a metaphor when they say that Mary is the crowned, crown-wearing Queen of Heaven.

    I’m genuinely pleased though to learn that I can say the Rosary without the Coronation bit.

  23. Has anyone ever thought, or read somewhere, that the reason we don’t see much more about our Blessed Mother than we already do in the Scriptures (and there IS enough there for any fair-minded person to hold to a reasonable belief in the four Marian dogmas, in my opinion) is that she would have made a nice “trophy” for the Roman authorities to capture and use to try and squash the growing Christian Church?

    I believe that most of the NT documents were written during her lifetime and so we only have veiled references to her in the Scriptures.

    Am I off the mark here?

    Peace,
    EJ

  24. Hi Protestant Reader (comment #1):

    As a former Protestant (now Catholic), I was too baffled by many of the dogmas of Mary in general.
    What has helped me understand Mary better: Everything that Mary is, ultimate is something that comes from Christ. It is Christ who makes her holy, pure, assumed, crowned. It is not unlike what Christ eventually will do with EVERY believing Christian (ie. — he will give us a “crown” and we will be co-heirs).

    Mary is essentially the “model Christian” (along with her unique role as the mother of God).
    Rather than detracting from Christ’s glory — Mary magnifies him. This is because what we see actually in Mary is CHRIST’s work being done to her. And Mary cooperates and participates in Christ’s work.

  25. EJ,

    I have never heard what you have suggested. That does not make it incorrect, of course. For what it’s worth I have read Gambero’s book about the Virgin Mary in the writings of the Church Fathers, and I do not recall having seen your idea there, either.

    Fred

  26. Perhaps another thing worth observing here is that the more important thing for Protestants (and maybe some Catholics, for that matter) to understand is that the Marian dogmas are received by faith. The Church does not claim that they can be apprehended solely by means of reason but only that they do not contradict reason nor Scripture. No one is going to be able to provide an airtight argument for their truth, but no one can say that they contradict the Faith nor reason, either.

    In this regard it may be worth remembering the Pontificator’s ninth law:

    If a Catholic cannot name at least one article of faith that he believes solely on the basis of the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium, he’s either a saint or a Protestant.

    The articles of faith are of faith precisely because they can’t be demonstrated by proofs attainable by human reason.

    Fred

  27. “It is not unlike what Christ eventually will do with EVERY believing Christian (ie. — he will give us a “crown” and we will be co-heirs).”

    Now I’m really confused. Several previous posters said, I think, that members of the church triumphant already wear crowns (does that mean they have also had a coronation, I wonder? I suppose it logically does). If it’s a matter of “eventually,” at what point in the eternity of heaven do ordinary believers get their crowns?

    In any case, if possible I intend foregoing my heavenly crown for a nice trilby! [Of course, if it’s really a metaphor with deep spiritual rather than *literal* meaning, I won’t have to bother about that. And neither will anyone else, including Mary.]

    As for believing things about Mary that are not contrary to faith nor reason, there are many such things that I *could* believe about her that would be contrary to neither. I could sit down with pen and paper and come up with a list. What I’m wondering is why I should believe this particular coronation/ crown-wearing idea. Perhaps it made sense in an era of monarchies and Queen Mothers but it doesn’t seem to make much sense today.

  28. “Protestant Reader,”

    You asked (#27):

    What I’m wondering is why I should believe this particular coronation/ crown-wearing idea.

    Well, if you are going to judge the question from the standpoint of a Protestant view, then I suppose I have no answer for you. Whether that is something you ought to do is another matter, of course, and not exactly the point of the article. My intent was twofold: to hopefully ameliorate for some Protestants their concerns about the Rosary (because, contrary to what is often supposed by Protestants, it is a Christocentric prayer), and to affirm that focus of the Rosary by appeal to my own experience, inasmuch as it has deepened and strengthened my relationship with God.

    The answer to your question that a Catholic would give, of course, is that the Blessed Virgin’s coronation has long been taught and affirmed by the Church (since at least the time of John of Damascus; see §14 here) and is something grounded in her place as the Mother of Christ. If you intend to judge the legitimacy of this doctrine on the grounds of Protestant principle, you can hardly be surprised if we respond that to do so is to beg the question of the validity of that principle.

    Peace,

    Fred

  29. “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

    In the Rosary this desire of St. Paul is fully fulfilled:
    Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 RSV)

    Kindly read http://www.abouttherosary.com/

  30. Protestant Reader,

    You wrote (#22),

    Why would I want a crown? What would I do with the thing? And since the billions of redeemed in heaven will all have a crown each (as several posters have explained), what’s so special about Mary’s? Couldn’t we all just chuck the darned things? Might be a bit more humble . . .

    What would you do with a crown? You would do what its Giver intended you to do with it: wear it! You remark that it would be more humble to refuse to do so, but is it humble to refuse to accept a gift? In most circumstances, to refuse a gift is a great insult to the one who offers it – even if the gift is something you don’t like or think is more than you deserve. But that’s exactly the point: God wants to give us more than we think we deserve, far more than we can ask or imagine!

    When, by God’s grace, we arrive in heaven, He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the inheritance prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” If we believe that every moment of our earthly life, every grace we have received, and our faith itself is a gift of God which we should gratefully receive, then how could we start refusing His gifts when we reach heaven? If you would rather “chuck” the crown of righteousness God wants to bestow on you, then will you also refuse to live in the mansion he has prepared for you? Ultimately, to refuse to accept God’s gifts (for any reason, even out of what seems to be humility) is to refuse heaven and salvation itself.

    This seems to go back to an assumption that to honor a saint means to detract from the honor and glory due to God alone. But I don’t think God sees it that way. Does a father feel robbed of praise when his child is successful and is honored? No, but rather he rejoices in his child’s success (which was only possible thanks to his teaching and help). So too God is not robbed of glory when His saints are honored (especially when it’s God Himself doing the honoring). God crowning the saints is really just the divine version of the “My child is an honor student!” bumper sticker. As one of the prayers in the Roman Missal says, “For you are praised in the company of your saints, and in crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.”

  31. Dear Steven, the point is the “crown” is a metaphor! “Crown of righteousness” is not literally some ethereal substance swirled in a circle and placed on each individual head in the Church Triumphant. As a literary metaphor it retains great power today, as much as it ever did — in contradistinction to medieval monarchical notions about Mary’s “coronation” as “Queen.”

  32. Protestant Reader,

    Of course the crown is a metaphor; I never said it wasn’t. But if the crown is metaphorical, then so is your suggestion to “chuck” it, and my argument against that suggestion still applies.

  33. I’m glad you accept that the crown of righteousness is a metaphor. The point being, again, that the “coronation” of Mary as “Queen of Heaven” in Catholic dogma is NOT metaphor, it has literal meaning. That’s why attempts to conflate the two don’t work.

    [And, by the way, I never wrote anything about “chucking” the crown — those are your words and your (mis)interpretation of my comments. Please stop putting words into my mouth.]

  34. Protestant Reader,

    I’m not sure what you mean about Mary’s coronation not being metaphor. I don’t see it as any more or less metaphorical than white robes, streets of gold or any of the other descriptions of heaven and those in it. If you have a particular source in mind, could you point it out to me?

    And as for never writing anything about chucking, you did use the word “chuck” in your comment #22. I’m sorry if I misinterpreted your meaning, but I don’t think you can accuse me of putting words in your mouth.

  35. Protestant Reader,

    You wrote (#33):

    I’m glad you accept that the crown of righteousness is a metaphor. The point being, again, that the “coronation” of Mary as “Queen of Heaven” in Catholic dogma is NOT metaphor, it has literal meaning. That’s why attempts to conflate the two don’t work.

    The coronation of Mary has literal meaning but does not imply that there must be a literal crown…although given the fact that we are (and always will be) beings of body and spirit, it hardly seems unfitting that a literal crown may be in view.

    We understand the fact that you find this unpalatable, but your dislike for it obviously doesn’t qualify as an argument. My claim (and the Catholic claim) is that the Marian dogmas are received by faith and do not contradict either reason or Scripture. If you would like to challenge that specific claim, then please do so.

    Earlier you wrote (#27):

    As for believing things about Mary that are not contrary to faith nor reason, there are many such things that I could believe about her that would be contrary to neither. I could sit down with pen and paper and come up with a list. What I’m wondering is why I should believe this particular coronation/ crown-wearing idea. Perhaps it made sense in an era of monarchies and Queen Mothers but it doesn’t seem to make much sense today.

    A Christian should believe this because it is what the Church has always taught. The obvious difference between any list of things you might produce yourself that aren’t contradictory to reason or Scripture and the dogmas of the Church is precisely that the latter are dogmas of the Church. If it comes down to a question of whether you or the Church is correct, on what grounds should we accept your word in preference to hers? If the Church is wrong on a question of faith or morals, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why we should accept your word either. Bryan’s article on Ecclesial Deism may be helpful in this respect, or perhaps my article on how I ceased to be Protestant.

    As for the objection against monarchies and Queen Mothers: the fact that you and other Protestants think it “doesn’t seem to make much sense” is not the same as saying that no sense is to be made of it at all. In the first place, redemptive history took place within history, and not for no reason. In the second place, an atheist might well say that Christian talk of God and resurrections made sense in a pre-scientific era but that it doesn’t seem to make much sense today.

    Lastly and at the risk of repeating myself, I think it worth pointing out again that you continue to judge the doctrine on Protestant grounds. This begs the question against the Catholic view, by assuming something that is in dispute. It would be helpful to the conversation if you refrain from doing so. If you think that the Catholic view is fatally inconsistent on its own terms with respect to this question, please feel free to tell us why. We understand that you do not like it, but obviously your distaste for it is no measure of its truth.

    Peace,

    Fred

  36. Fred said:

    “A Christian should believe this because it is what the Church has always taught.”

    If this statement is true, then you won’t mind providing me with the following evidence for your statement:

    1) Which apostles taught this?
    2) The earliest historical mention of each of the Marian dogmas

    From what I’ve read, I think an honest evaluation of the evidence shows that these doctrines were not always taught by the church, but instead developed over time. But feel free to show me evidence to the contrary.

  37. Hi Steve,

    These are reasonable questions that you ask. We have quite likely already answered them, in the articles that you may find here.

    Peace,

    Fred

  38. “I don’t have to choose between drawing hope from either Christ’s resurrection or Mary’s assumption: they are both sources of hope and encouragement, and neither one detracts from the other.”

    And one is biblical, and the other isn’t. I choose the biblical. So, yes, one does (or should) have to choose. Unless we simply believe anything we want, or that some Magisterium wants.

  39. “The Eastern Orthodox celebrate it as well, calling it “The Dormition [falling-asleep] of Mary,” which shows that it goes back at least to before the Great Schism. It is by no means a modern invention.”

    You neglected to add that the beliefs are not identical. I might be persuaded of a Dormition but an Assumption is a step too far for me.

  40. “I’m sure you don’t allegorize the red dragon (Satan).”

    Of course I do, and so do you. It isn’t literally a red dragon, it’s a metaphor for the Satan.

  41. Ironically “queen of heaven” in the Old Testament (e.g. Jer. 44:17) refers to domestic idol worship!

  42. “Well, if you are going to judge the question from the standpoint of a Protestant view, then I suppose I have no answer for you.”

    So several posters have already admitted. But this is just the usual Catholic straw man argument — I want to know why I should believe it from a BIBLICAL point of view.

  43. “your dislike for it obviously doesn’t qualify as an argument. ”

    And neither does your liking the notion.

  44. “A Christian should believe this because it is what the Church has always taught.”

    The Orthodox Church teaches a Dormition, not an Assumption. To quote your own challenge: “on what grounds should we accept your word in preference to hers?”

  45. Folks,

    The conversation here is wandering a bit too far afield. I appreciate the fact that the Assumption is part of the Rosary, but this post is not the place to discuss the Assumption’s place as dogma. Likewise, questions of the merits of Catholic & Protestant authority paradigms are basically inevitable in practically any conversation we may have with one another, but there are more appropriate places for that on our site as well.

    For further discussions of the Assumption, please direct your comments to one of the following articles:

    And for conversations related to the respective authority paradigms of Catholics and Protestants, I suggest one of the following articles:

    The primary subject of this article is the fact that the Rosary is Christ-centered. If we could keep the conversation here related to that I would appreciate it.

    Also, as a reminder, please review our Posting Guidelines.

    Thanks,

    Fred

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