By Ivo de Noronha
While out with my cohort, we got around to the topic of the Catholic Church. Some of my Protestant brothers were fiercely critical of Mother Mary, bewailing Mary’s epithets and titles such as Mother Mary, Mary the Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and others.
Having been raised in a Catholic family, we went to our local parish dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception as well a Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, belonging to the Salesians of Don Bosco, where as children we regurgitated the prayers dedicated to Our Lady without knowing the intrinsic essence of the titles. But my devotion to Our Heavenly Mother stemmed from my parents of course, as well as the Salesians, predominantly late Rev. Fr. Benedict Furtado who pointed out to us in school that St. John Bosco was an ardent promulgator of the devotion to Mary under the title, Help of Christians.
Subsequently, after my graduation, I had the privilege of personally meeting in Sao Paulo a great anti-communist ideologue and Brazilian Catholic intellectual Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira who intensely devoted to the Holy Virgin Mary and consecrated himself according to the method of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. In one of his lectures, Prof Oliveria pointed out that whilst St. John Bosco proliferated Marian devotion under the title of Help of Christians, it was Saint John Chrysostom that was the first to use this Marian title in year 345 as a devotion to the blessed Virgin.
For those unaware, the title Help of Christians was introduced into the litany by Saint Pius V as it was through the intercession of Mother Mary that the tiny Christian fleet emerged victorious over a much larger navy of the Turkish Empire on October 7, 1571 in the famed naval engagement of Lepanto.
Growing up I had a decent knowledge of our faith, good enough to overcome objections from our Protestant brothers. However, it was not until recently, thanks to the priests of the Vincentian congregation, that I was sparked with a whole new zealous spirit of living for and by our faith. In his weekly bible class held virtually via Zoom, an ebullient Father Joseph Edattu gave us a taste of Mariology, Christology and related eschatological teachings that again had a seminal effect.
Expounding why Mary was known as Mother, as well as the Mother of God and several titles, epithets, invocations and different names, Father Edattu indicated that the title Mother of God refers to Mary as the mother of Jesus because of her virginal and God-bearing nature (originally in Greek as “Theotokos” meaning “God-bearer”). The Virgin Mother “was, after her Son, exalted by divine grace above all angels and men.”
While accentuating Mother Mary’s obedient nature, quoting Romans V. 18-19, he highlighted how an obedient nature of one human led to life for all people.
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Referring to Adam who is a typos of Jesus, Father Edattu quoted I Corinthians XV. 45-47:
The first man Adam became a living being the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.
Outlining the connection between the old Adam and the new Adam which is Jesus (meaning “God saves” in Hebrew), he aptly indicated why Christ was undoubtedly more important than Adam. As it is referred in CCC 437 “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. From the beginning he was ‘the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world’, conceived as ‘holy’ in Mary’s virginal womb.”
Mother of God and Mother of the Church
Being born in Her womb, it is obvious that Mary appositely deserves the title Mother of God. Conversely, the Church which originated in Roman Judea in the first century AD, was established on the exclusive teachings of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is pronounced as the Head of the Church and His followers are labelled as the Body of the Church. It is natural therefore that Mary, is the Mother of Christ and Mother of God through Jesus. This is revealed in the Church’s Trinitarian faith, which “is the central mystery of Christian faith and life … and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men” (CCC 234). Likewise, the Church does “not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons” (CCC 253).
Furthermore, Mother Mary is also seen as the quintessential model of the Church for the inspiring role she plays in the Christian life. As St. Jose Maria Escriva details “Mary continually builds the Church and keeps it together. It is difficult to have devotion to our Lady and not feel closer to the other members of the mystical body.” Ultimately, it is noted that the Queen of Queens was undeniably the only figure to remain indisputably faithful to Our Lord, right from the moment of his conception and thereafter through His ministry and until His death and Resurrection.
Our Lady or the Queen of Virgins is therefore unquestionably the model of and for the Church. “By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity” (CCC 967).
Mother Mary the Queen, Mary Queen of Virgins, Mary Help of Christians, we await the triumph of your Immaculate Heart. Pray for us to be sturdily united as brethren of your son Jesus Christ.