The Catholic Defender: The Assumption of Mary

Posted by John Benko - September 5th, 2013

Recently I have been challenged by Anti-Catholics if there were any proof regarding the Catholic teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.

Their question is not really coming from a true commitment to the truth of the teaching, but rather a stubborn rejection of the doctrine.

Through their doctrine, “Sola Scriptura”, they do not believe that you can prove the Assumption of Mary through Scripture.

I will respond here recognizing that the Bible does not always address everything verbatim, like a textbook in a college setting, much of the bible speaks implicitly and at the same time it can speak explicitly.

That is why the Lord left a Church of authority, to be able to explain the tradition of the Church trough authority and scripture. Some things are well grounded, somethings need elaboration and understanding.

Regarding Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, there are basically two traditions, one from Ephesus, the other from Jerusalem. We know that John took Mary into his house beginning from the cross.

We also know that St. John took Mary with him to Ephesus which is the foundation for the first tradition of the Assumption.

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824), through a vision of the Lord, Jesus Christ, was able to pinpoint the very place that The Virgin Mary and St. John lived over-looking the large city of Ephesus.

This tradition of Mary’s Assumption coming from here in Ephesus is related to their claim of the blessed Virgin Mary.

The most important tradition of the where the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Jerusalem. That at the end of her life here on earth, St. John brought Mary back to Jerusalem where she would enter into her eternal joy with Jesus and the host of Heaven. This is where the Catholic Church honors this event at the Church of the Domition in Jerusalem.

From the Scripture, I will draw upon the text of Psalms 45, I think we can see some important clues regarding the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We see a glimpse of this heavenly glory with the Messiah (Jesus Christ) in heaven in Psalms 45. In verse 9-10 we see a very important scripture relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It reads, “daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stand the Queen in gold of Ophir”.

Can you argue that Mary assumed this position during the life of Christ? I do not believe there is any indication that Jesus acted as King among the people in this life. It wasn’t time yet, even when the people were ready to make Jesus King, he gives them the Bread of Life Discourse when many abandoned him.

Mary would technically be Queen at the very moment of the Incarnation. However, she would not be recognized until after the Lord institutes the Church and the Resurrection.

Psalms 45:1-9 refers to Jesus and verses 9-17 concerns this Queen. Did St. John witness the Assumption of Mary, tradition teaches yes he did, from Scripture he writes:

“And a great portent (sign) appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1).

Clearly, St. John recognizes the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Queen” of Heaven as he gives a vision of this Woman much like the Queen found in Psalms 45. That St. John sees the event of the Assumption of Mary with Psalms 45.

Psalms 45 continues to say, “Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house; and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your Lord, bow to him; the people of Tyre will sue your favor with gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. Instead of your fathers shall by your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever” (Psalms 45:9-17).

Notice that the “rich” seeks her favor, just like Adonjah had first sought Bathsheba’s intercession. The Queen of Psalms 45 will be remembered and celebrated in all generations, and the people will praise her forever. Is there any other woman in history that can fit this description? Hillary Clinton?

This praise will not be worship that is given to God alone, but it will be honor and petition. Notice what Mother Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever” (Luke 1:46-55).

Only the True Church of the Living God will echo St. John’s vision for all time. The Church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church, will proclaim the Assumption of Mary until the Lord returns to judge the living and the dead.

As I have already stated, all of the teachings of the Church can be found to substantiate itself through her tradition and scripture. This means that all the teachings of the Church can be found in scripture either explicitly or implicitly.

An Anti-Catholic asks me a series of questions, “Let us test this assertion. Where does the Bible support Mariology, such as in the beliefs that::
(a) Mary is sinless, such as in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, in light of Luke 1:46-47?

You have an Archangel appearing to a lowly handmaid. The Archangel identifies this woman as “full of grace”. St. John had two instances where he had angels appear to him, what did he do, he bowed down to them. I think that it takes a special grace of God to distinguish a vision of the Lord, an angel and a devil. Yet , we have an Archangel appearing to Mary announcing the good news.

Jesus is the only other person refereed to as “full of grace (John 1:14). Jesus is full of grace because He is God, Mary is full of grace because of God’s protection. She is the woman of Genesis 3:15.

Mary was chosen to be the Mother of our Lord from the beginning. When Mary was conceived, the Lord preserved her free from original sin. This is called the “Immaculate Conception”. Do you believe Satan had his hand on Mary, even as when our Lord was in her womb?

St. Irenaeus referred to Mary as the “Ark of the New Covenant”. He made the typology between Eve and Mary “Against Heresies” as St. Paul did with Adam and Jesus (Romans 5:12). This reveals the perspective and role Mary had in the early Church.

(b) Mary is the Theotokos, or the “Mother of God,” if the doctrine of the hypo-static union is not found within written Scripture?

Luke 1:43 states, “And how does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me”? Do you believe Jesus is God or are you one that the Second Council of Constantinople was directed at?

What is the difference in calling Mary “Mother of my Lord” and “Mother of God”? The Catholic Church at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. taught that this woman is “in virtue of the incarnation, truly theotokos, Mother of God.”

(c) Mary was assumed into heaven?

“This dogma is rooted in the biblical depiction of Mary as the New Eve (St. Ireneaus-Against Heresies-189 A.D.). Death is the result of the Fall. If Mary is the New Eve, who shares in the New Adam’s victory over sin, then she should also share in His victory over death and physical decay. 

St. Ignatius and PolyCarp, followers through St. John, taught St. Ireneaus.  When it come right down to it, I personally prefer to listen to the stream closest to the source, it is much more pure than listening to these “Street Preachers” who are founded on 20th Century Protestantism.

It was also not fitting that the body which was sanctified to bear God Incarnate should see corruption. So God took His New Ark into heaven. In Revelations 12:1, right after his vision of the ark of the covenant in heaven (11:19), St. John sees a great Woman: the New Eve, the Virgin Mary, Image and Model of the Church. This verse strongly insinuates the Assumption of Mary”.

Revelation is known to carry symbolic messages that are hard to understand. The woman of Rev 12 is the Virgin Mary.

It may have implications for the Church, but it is Mary as she “labored to give birth”, “She gave birth to a son”, “Her child was caught up to God and His throne” (Ascension of Jesus), “The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God…”

Considering that Mary was taken to a “place” prepared by God after the Lord’s Ascension, this could not be Egypt. This is some kind of typology of the Exodus. St. John wrote this about 40 years after Mary had Assumed into heaven and it is reasonable to recognize that John witnessed or knew well of it.

If you compare Genesis 3:15 with Revelation 12 you see the “woman”, the “offspring”, the dragon or serpent, the intensity of childbearing, and this war that rages with “the rest of her offspring”!

After the Early Church Fathers and during the time of some of the Early Councils, the following comes from the Saints:

“If therefore it might come to pass before the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death does reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your mother and take her with you, rejoicing into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: ‘Be it done according to your will” (Pseudo-Melito The Passing of the Virgin 16:2-17; 300 AD).

“Therefore the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption” (Timothy of Jerusalem Homily on Simeon and Anna; 400 AD).

“And from that time forth all knew that the spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise” (John the Theologian, The Falling Asleep of Mary; 400 AD)

“The Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones…” (Gregory of Tours, Eight Books of Miracles, 1:4; 575-593 A.D.)

“As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.” (Modestus of Jerusalem, Encomium in dormitionnem Sanctissimae Dominae nostrae Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae (PG 86-II,3306, before A.D. 634)

“It was fitting…that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory…should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God.” (Theoteknos of Livias, Homily on the Assumption; before 650 A.D.)

(d) Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces?

Let’s take a look at the church’s teaching. One of the titles by which Mary is invoked is ‘mediatrix.’ This title, according to Vatican Council II (’62 – ’65), ‘neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one mediator.’

What the title ‘mediatrix’ truly conveys is that this woman, through her own free will, chose to become the mother of the promised one. (See Luke 1:26-38.)

Her role in redemption began with her ‘yes’ to God, and so she became the vehicle in which the Son was sent from heaven (John 3:16).

This woman’s obedience and faith allowed the door to be opened for you and me. Mary was chosen for God’s plan, and she followed it as called. She is honored as ‘model of the church,‘daughter of Zion,’the new Eve,’ ‘ark of the new covenant.’ The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. taught that this woman is “in virtue of the incarnation, truly Theotokos, Mother of God.”

(c) Mary is the “Queen of Heaven,” in light of Jeremiah 7:17-19 and Jeremiah 44:15-19?

Mary is not “Queen of heaven” in light of Jeremiah 7:17-19 and Jeremiah 44:15-19! She is Queen of heaven in light of Psalms 45:10, 1 Kings 2:19. Jesus is the rightful King in the line of David, the Queen is not the wife, but the mother is!

Compare the woman of Psalm 45 with the Woman of Luke 1: Psalm 45:18, “I will make your name memorable through all generations; therefore shall nations praise you forever and ever”. Luke 1:48 “For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed”. Psalms 45:6-8 are identified in the book of Hebrews 1:8-9 showing that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy of the Messianic King, Mary, His Mother through her faithfulness, would become the Mother of the Church (Rev 12:17). She is the “great sign (that) appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

I find it ironic that Anti-Catholics oppose the Virgin Mary because they cannot find “The Assumption” implicitly defined in the scriptures like a history text book.  Yet, the word “Trinity” is not found in Scripture and they mostly do not have problems with the doctrine.  It all goes back to Authority. 

Mary, Purgatory, Saints, Sacraments, all of these teachings are only a sidebar compared to the real issue at hand.  The Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ and that is the real issue that the Street Preachers cannot handle.

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*Best of BTB #104* The Catholic Defender: The Faces of Mary

Posted by John Benko - September 4th, 2013

Recently, I have been hearing anti-Catholics attack Mary on the basis that she has similarities in picture and statues resembling Pagan deities.

I want to take a closer look into the charge and see why there is so much resentment towards Mary, the Mother of Jesus?

Biblical Christianity recognizes that Mary is seen through Old Testament prophecies such as “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers: He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The woman here originally represents Eve and the offspring represents the descendants of man. However, with the revelation of Jesus Christ as the “Son of Man”, the woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.

St. Irenaeus, a second century Church Father, viewed Mary as the “New Eve”. The first Eve was disobedient causing mankind to fall into a fallen race.

Mary, as the “New Eve” was obedient to God’s command restoring the relationship that was lost through the merits of Jesus Christ. Mary’s role is clearly shown from the beginning of the Church age.

As Jesus is the “New Adam”, Mary is the “New Eve”. The implication from the above scripture is that the woman will have a unique relationship with her Son.

Isaiah 7:14 gives another clue to the woman saying, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall name him Immanuel”.Immanuel is a name that means,”God is with us”. This is important for the Christian who believes in the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

That Jesus would have no earthly Father, but the Word made flesh would come into the world through a humble virgin.

At the appointed time, when Mary was a Young girl, the Archangel Gabriel is sent to Mary to announce the good news of the coming Messiah.

Mary is the vessal to accomplish God’s will. The angel greets Mary, “Hail,full of grace “Chaire, Kecharitomene”. Mary responds, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man”?

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God”.

This scene is known as the “Annunciation” because it was the announcement of the angel that the good news of Jesus Christ was made manifest.

There are a number of pictures that relate to this scene, sometimes they show the angel, other times they do not. But it is clear from the artist mind to give a picture relating to the Gospel of St. Luke.

These images were in no way connected to any Pagan entity. Still, there are those who will attempt to tie Mary to any such influence.

One of the most common and accepted images of Mary involve the actual birth of the Lord.

Christians the world over celebrate the birth of the Lord. Pictured many times are the holy family, Joseph with his staff, Mary and the Christ Child.

Many times a scene with animals, usually a camel, a donkey, maybe cattle are involved with the scene. The Wise Men and the shepherds are usually present.

Mary is the “virgin” whom Isaiah foretold would be the sign given the “House of David” (Isaiah 7:13).

It is interesting that the angel said to Mary at the Annunciation, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

This is no Pagan entity, but the complete work and plan of God coming to pass. To understand the teaching regarding Mary and the Catholic Church, there must be an understanding of the foundations of the Old Testament.

The most strongest attack on Mary strangely comes from those who respond to Mary with the Christ Child.

Many times, Mary is seen holding baby Jesus with a motherly love. I have always associated this image as representative of the love between a mother and her child.

I would never have dreamed of connecting this image to any other Pagan entity. That argument is really reaching to find something to grasp, it’s like trying to find something that can stick, like a snake in blind autumn?

All cultures can certainly identify with the love of a mother and their child so just because other entities might have a “goddess” that depicts a child means nothing against Mary’s depiction with the child Jesus.

Consider the comparison that people make between Mary and Semiramis? Mary is the “Mother of God (Theotokos)”, Semiramis is known as “God the Mother” by the Babylonians.

Mary as the “Mother of God” does not make Mary a deity; Mary points to her Son, who is 100% God and 100% man from the moment of the incarnation.

The singular graces given to Mary were specific to the role she said yes to God. She obtained the grace as a “past-perfect participle” meaning that Mary received the fruit of Jesus redemptive act on the cross.

His resurrection was already secured in her because of her faithfulness. It is also important to note: There is no real comparison between Jesus and Nimrod. They are not equals competing for worshippers.

Mary has appeared to many parts of the world at different times and the message is echoed throughout time, “Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you” (John 2:5).The Faces of Mary reflects the light of the Lord as she continues to bring Christ to those who are searching for the true Messiah.

On the world stage, Christians recall the words of Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, and dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering 
  his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever”  (Luke 1:46-55).

Considering that Mary was a young girl studied on the law of God, surely, she was mindful of Psalms 45, “Daughters of kings are your lovely wives; a Queen arrayed in Ophir’s gold comes to stand at your right hand. Listen,my daughter, and understand; pay me careful heed. Forget your people and your father’s house, that the king might desire your beauty. He is your lord; honor him, daughter of Tyre. Then the richest of the people will seek your favor with gifts. All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters, her raiment threaded with gold; In embridered apparel she is led in with glad and joyous acclaim; they enter the palace of the king. The throne of your fathers your sons will have; you shall make them princes through all the land, I will make your name renowned through all generations; thus nations shall praise you forever” (Psalms 45:10-18).

Mary is not competing with Jesus, she is pointing the way to Him.

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* BEST OF DTB #214* The Catholic Defender: People of Tyre

Posted by John Benko - September 9th, 2012

“The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the Lord, the slindor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are week, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing” (Isaiah 35:1-6).

This is a clear reference to Jesus and it is interesting that Isaiah says, “Here is your God”. He did not understand the incarnation, this event happened centuries following his prophecies. The Catholic Church recognizes Jesus to be the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus opens the eyes to the blind, and the deaf hears. Consider the following:

Jesus was in the district of Tyre and healed a woman with an unclean spirit, he cured the woman who was of Greek origin, a Gentile. Then Jesus left Tyre and traveled to Decapolis where the news of Jesus spread. The people brought in a deaf man with a speach impediment. Jesus cured the man putting his finger into the mans ears, and spitting, touched the man’s tongue. Jesus says to the man, “Ephphatha” meaning “Be opened”. The man was instantly cured and was able to speak plainly.

Jesus ordered the people not to tell anyone about these miracles but the people could not hold back. I can relate to that because when I have witnessed something of the Lord, I can’t keep from talking about it! Jesus astonished the people making the deaf hear and the mute speak.

Something about this place called Tyre I couldn’t help but ponder on. Tyre is a City with a history of oppression.

Tyre is a city on an Island off the coast of Lebenon. The City was prosperous for the purple dye that was made there.

The dye was taken from murex shellfish that was called “Tyrian Purple”. The city came under siege by Shalmanesar V with the help of his Phoenician fighters.

Trye would be completely ramsacked by King Nebuchadnezzar for gloating over the fall of Jerusalem about 370 B.C. The City was again conquered by Alexander the Great.

The City of Tyre was occupied by the Romans which gave them independence in 64 B.C. Later on, even the Crusaders would get into the act during the crusades.

It is interesting that Jesus visited there healing a Gentile of a demon spirit. No matter what obsticals you might encounter, Jesus can liberate you from bondage as he did the blind, the deaf, and the mute. Somtimes we might be blinded by our own selves, we need to be saved from ourselves so many times.

With all this excitement taking place, Jesus did not want to leave out His Mother as a source of help for those who are down trodden. Consider that Psalms 45:13 refers to Mary as “daughter of Trye”! It says, “Listen, my daughter, and understand; pay me heed. Forget your people and your Father’s house, that the king might desire your beauty. He is your Lord; honor him, daughter of Trye” (Psalms 45 11-13).

What people is Mary being asked to forget? It would have to be the Jews. Who would be Mary’s “Father’s House”? This would have to be a reference to the House of King David. Why would she be called “daughter of Trye”? It has to do with the Gentiles and the Church. Notice that the richest of the people of Tyre would seek her favor. This is a most important scripture because it shows that even during the time of King David, God was already planning for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Catholic Church.

God’s people will be rich for seeking her favor, notice this popular prayer:

“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

I want to make a point here because some people from “Tyre” do not understand the Virgin Mary’s role here.

She is not being worshiped nor glorified as a god with this language.

The Virgin Mary is the Queen of heaven because Jesus in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

In this war against Satan, Mary is identified as the Mother of all the Christians. Revelation 12:17 states, “Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.”

The richest will seek her favor, “The throne of your fathers your sons will have; you shall make them princes through the land” (Psalms 45:17).

 Let us who follow Christ, like St. John, invite the Mother of Jesus into our house so that we would become her princes who serve the Lord.

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