There is no doubt that Mary, the mother of Jesus, plays an important role in salvation history. Like John the Baptist, her coming is prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:23). She is personally visited by the angel Gabriel at the time of Christ’s conception and is told that she is highly favoured by God (Luke 1:28).
She prophesies about Christ while he is still in the womb (Luke 1:46-55), and is given the responsibility by God of being the earthly mother of the Lord. It is no wonder that Elizabeth, is inspired by God's Spirit, to say of Mary ‘Blessed are you among women’! (Luke 1:42)
These are all biblical truths to be treasured and affirmed. However, some Catholic traditions have added to these facts, other statements which the Bible does not affirm. These add to Scripture, contradict other biblical teachings and both elevate Mary and subjugate Christ. Specifically:
1. Mary was born without sin
‘the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin' (Lumen Gentium 56); ' the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin' (LG 59)
The Bible nowhere states this. This contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-12, 23). It means also that Christ was not the ‘second Adam’ (Romans 5:12-19), but rather Mary was. It also implies that Christ’s death and resurrection were not necessary for Mary’s salvation (Romans 5:8). The doctrine is a mistaken deduction from the truth that Jesus was born without sin. In fact, Jesus’ sinlessness was not jeopardised by being the son of a sinner.
2. Mary remained a virgin
' the Mother of God, ever virgin' (LG 69)
The Bible does not say this. It rather implies that Joseph had sexual relations with Mary after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:25). This is consistent with the fact that Jesus had siblings (Mark 6:3, 12:46,47), and that there is no suggestion of Joseph being polygamous.
3. Mary is the mother of the church
‘We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ' (New Universal Catechism 975)
Mary is nowhere given this title in Scripture, and it places Mary on a par with God himself, the only one Christians may address as ‘father’ (Matthew 23:9). This is an unwarranted deduction from Jesus’ instructions to John at the time of the crucifixion (John 19:26,27). He makes it clear elsewhere that the term mother (as opposed to Mother of the Church) can justifiably be applied to other women disciples who do his will (Matthew 12:48-50).
4. We should pray to Mary
‘ the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix’ (New Universal Catechism 969); 'the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs' (NUC 971)
Scripture tells us only to pray to God the Father (Matthew 6:9). Communication with the dead is elsewhere forbidden (Deuteronomy 18:11; Isaiah 8:19). Christ is the only mediator between God and man. The Hail Mary in which Mary is enjoined to ‘pray for us sinners’ presupposes that we ourselves cannot have the confidence to enter ‘the Most Holy Place’ by the blood of Jesus alone. This is simply not true (Hebrews 10:19-22).
5. The assumption of Mary
‘the Immaculate Virgin... on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe’ (LG 59)
Again, there is no biblical record of this event occurring. The ‘assumptions’ of Enoch, Elijah and Moses are mentioned (Deuteronomy 34:6; Jude 9; 2Kings 2:11; Genesis 5:24) but not that of Mary.
These and other more fanciful claims such as the pre-existence and immaculate conception of Mary herself (ie Mary was also conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit), can mean that in practical terms she ends up occupying a place equal if not higher than that of Christ himself. In some Catholic traditions she even becomes the Wisdom of the early chapters of Proverbs and the Woman of Revelation 12.
Christ makes it clear that it is those who do the will of God who are truly blessed (Luke 11:27-28) and while Mary is without doubt included in this number, she is by no means unique in this regard. I am sure she would agree with me.