Mary Is Venerated in the Bible!

Don’t ever let a Protestant skeptic tell you veneration of Mary is unbiblical.

Anyone who takes the truth of the Incarnation seriously must accept Mary as the Mother of God, a title which demands some degree of honor to the one bearing it. Thus, the ‘scandal’ of Marian veneration is really the ‘scandal’ of the Incarnation. Such truths are truly scandalous to a world that thinks so little of both God and man. But they shouldn’t be so anyone who believes in Christ.

Many evangelical Protestants, however, subscribe to a form of fundamentalism which holds that if something is not explicitly permitted in the Bible, it must be forbidden. Since we don’t see Christians venerating Mary in the New Testament, the argument goes, we shouldn’t either.

Except Mary is venerated in the Bible. At least twice.

Angel venerates Mary

In the Gospel of Luke, the Incarnation is announced with these words: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee (Douay-Rheims). Much of the history of Catholic-Protestant debates is really a tug-of-war over the second Greek word in that salutation, translated in English as ‘full of grace.’ But the first word in that greeting also speaks volumes about who Mary is and what has fundamentally changed in the order of creation with the Incarnation: Hail.

As a form of address, it’s a word that’s faded away in modern times, so it’s easy to forget what it means. When it’s used as an exclamation, modern dictionaries simply note that hail is an enthusiastic greeting.

But hail is much more than just a synonym of hello with a bold exclamation point after it. In the ancient Roman world, hail—in the Latin, ave—was used to address Roman emperors. Hail was still used as exclamation in Shakespeare, most often to address a royal person or some other person of superior status. In Hamlet, this is how the tragic prince is greeted by his friend, Horatio: Hail to your lordship! (Act 1, scene 2). In the Tempest, when the merchant Prospero summons his servant, the man responds: All hail, great master! (Act 1, scene 2). And of course, we find Hail Caesar more than once in the play, Julius Caesar.

Hailing Mary, then, takes on great significance: it suggests that she now has royal status. In the next chapter, Luke draws a contrast between Caesar and Christ—between a worldly, temporal empire, and the kingdom of God. The angelic salutation indicates that Mary partakes in this kingship of Christ.

This form of address also implies something about the relationship between the angel and Mary. In hailing her, the angel is honoring, or venerating her. Certainly, that’s how St. Thomas Aquinas, for one, interpreted the angel’s words and actions in his commentary on the Hail Mary. (Read the commentary here.)

The gospels confirm this reading of the Annunciation. According to the Englishman’s Concordance, hail, as an exclamation, appears only four other times in the gospels. In all four, it refers to one person: Christ. (For Greek enthusiasts, the operative word is chaire.)

In most of those cases, it is used as a term of derision by the Roman soldiers before the crucifixion. In the fourth, Judas hails Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Although the soldiers and Judas lacked faith, they were, ironically, using the proper term of address. Obviously, just because the soldiers and Judas mocked Jesus as a “king” does not mean He wasn’t one, so we are safe in concluding that the word, in the context of the gospels, is a form of royal address, just as it was in the broader context of the ancient world.

All this leads towards the conclusion that Mary, in a wholly unique manner, shares in the kingship of Christ, hence one of her other traditional titles, Queen of Heaven—again a title that seems to imply some form of veneration is due to her.

The Visitation as veneration

A skeptic may still question whether Christians should imitate the angel. The Annunciation was, after all, a unique, one-time event in history. But what happens next in the chapter should dispel any such lingering doubts. When Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s house, her cousin welcomes her with these words: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. “Mary is blessed by Elizabeth with the same words as before by Gabriel, to show that she was to be reverenced both by men and angels,” writes the Venerable Bede.

This conclusion is reinforced by some extraordinary textual clues. According to French theologian Rene Laurentin, many of the phrases in the Visitation account mirror language used to describe the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, specifically, in 2 Samuel 6. (Because Laurentin’s book, Structure and Theology of Luke 1 and 2, is in French, I am indebted to Scott Hahn’s summary of his work.) Here are four key parallels:

2 Samuel 6                                                                              Luke 1 

David “arose and went” to Judah to “fetch” the ark          ■ Mary “rising up…went” to Judah

David is overcome with “joyful shouting”                         ■ Elizabeth “cried out with a loud voice”

David is “leaping and dancing”                                          ■ John the Baptist “leaped in the womb”

David asks “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?”   ■ Elizabeth asks “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Mary statueThe identification of Mary with the Ark of the Covenant has numerous implications. For our purposes here, it makes it abundantly clear that she is worthy of veneration. In fact, in the Old Testament, the worship services held at the time of King David centered around the ark, according to this article in EthnoDoxology  (which, it should be noted, appears to be a Protestant publication). The Old Testament background is pretty extensive, so here are just a few examples of how the ark was revered by the Israelites.

In 1 Chronicles 16:4 David “appointed Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, and to remember his works, and to glorify, and praise the Lord God of Israel.” Levites, who were the priestly class in ancient Israel, were the only ones allowed to carry the ark.

According to EthnoDoxology, the ark was carried in worship processions to symbolize God’s “ascent of his holy mountain and entrance into the sanctuary as King.” (Does this not call to mind those processions of statues of Mary in the street, which so scandalize Protestants?)

The ark also figures into the psalms written by David. Significantly, in Psalm 132, the Israelites invoked both God and His ark: “Arise, LORD, come to your resting place, you and your mighty ark” (New American Bible). The ark serves as the backdrop to Psalm 68, even though it is not mentioned explicitly. There are also references to ark imagery in Psalms 80 and 99.

One of the most compelling examples of ark-centered worship in the Old Testament is when Solomon brings it into the temple. Here is the description in 1 Kings 8:5: “And king Solomon, and all the multitude of Israel, that were assembled unto him went with him before the ark, and they sacrificed sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered.”

In the Gospel of Luke, the role once held by the Ark of the Covenant is now assumed by Mary. This means all the biblical evidence for ark-centered worship services now, albeit somewhat indirectly, also weighs in favor of the Catholic position: that it is not only appropriate, but even necessary for Christians to honor the Mother of God.

It may be hard for a person steeped in secular, modern thinking to comprehend the idea of venerating Mary. But it’s harder to understand how someone can ignore such a mountain of biblical evidence.

Stephen Beale

By

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001299617319 Terry Carlino

    Once again proofs that Catholicism is deeply based in Scriptural, as well as Traditional sources.

  • OlderWoman

    Catholicism is rooted in paganism. Mary is NOT to be venerated. She is not equal to Jesus Christ. She is not a Saint. She did not ascend to heaven. She was the mother of many children. Praying to Mary is wicked. She doesn’t intercede. She can’t answer prayers. To preach otherwise is demonic. Protestants love her but they do not pray to her.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I really like this. In addition, the queen in ancient Israel/Judah was not the king’s wife but the king’s mother. I’ve been reading Chronicles 1 & 2 and Kings 1 & 2 lately and it’s amzaing how the king’s wife is never mention but in almost every instance the king’s mother is. So if Christ is King of heaven and earth then Blessed Mary, His mother, is the Queen.

  • LizEst

    Beautiful! Thank you for this. Over at book club at rcspiritualdirection.com this month, we are doing the Marian Consecration according to the book “33 Days to Morning Glory.” I recommend it!

    p.s. I’ve linked to this article over at there as well!

  • Skip G.

    One nice thing I hear on EWTN radio when questions come up about the veneration of Mary is that, among all her other titles and/or roles, she is Queen Mother. One of the mysteries in the Glorious Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary is the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and of Earth! I’ve heard Johnnette Benkovic say a number of times that in Biblical times, it wasn’t the wife of the king who had the most authority and respect, it was the Queen Mother. Hail, Holy Queen….!

  • Philip Nunes

    HOW CAN THE SALUTATION OF GABRIEL HELP YOU TO REACH HEAVEN , CAN’T YOU DO SOMETHING WHICH JESUS WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEE , I.E. BY OBEYING HIS WORD IN MARK 16 : 17 , 18 . DID MARY DIE FOR THE HUMAN RACE ? HOW CAN THE GOD WHO CREATED THE WHOLE UNIVERSE HAVE A MOTHER ? MARY WAS NOTHING BUT A SURROGATE , SO HOW CAN THE SURROGACY OF MARY HELP YOU TO REACH HEAVEN , MARY CAN’T AND DIDN’T PAY FOR YOUR SINS , DIUDN’T SHE SAY DO WHAT HER SON TELLS YOU TO DO ? DID JESUS COMMAND ANYBODY TO HONOR HIS MOTHER , IN FACT JESUS SAID THOSE WHO OBEY THE WORD OF GOD IS OF MUCH VALUE , SO WHERE IS THE QUESTION OF HONORING MARY ?

  • :C:

    “DID JESUS COMMAND ANYBODY TO HONOR HIS MOTHER ,”
    what is the commandment “honor you father and mother” and at the cross what did he tell the apostle? “behold your mother” ?
    so what do we think of that….did Jesus ask us to honor our mother?
    deep and rich is scripture…we just need to listen to the quiet voice of the holy spirit in our lives that speaks to us day in and day out. uh huh…

  • John

    Directly from Vatican II

    Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy Mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honored by a special cult in the Church.

    Having entered deeply into the history of salvation, Mary, in a way,
    unites in her person and re-echeos the most important doctrines of the
    Faith: and when she is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her son, to his sacrifice and to the love of the Father.

    ***************************************************

    Where did Paul and or any other “preach” anything to do with Mary regarding salvation? Certainly if the worship and preaching of Mary lends itself to salvation, God would have expressed this in a manner in which the bible speaks to the subject. Did Paul tell the “jailer” to look toward Mary? Even Christ himself when it was clear the person was too focused on what was before him, said to look to the Father…

    Where is Mary, in the bible, placed second only to Christ? What of David? A man after God’s very heart.

    Where in the bible does it speak of Mary’s being without sin? Somehow apart from the rest of mankind, yet without question of mankind. She wasn’t brought forth as was Christ, and there is no mention of her leaving this earth in way shape of form. No flaming chariot to heaven. All fall short of the glory of God. Without exception.

  • Alfred

    IT WAS GOD WHO CHOSE MARY TO BE THE MOTHER OF THE MESSIAH EVEN CALLING HER: “HIGHLY FAVORED” “FULL OF GRACE” [Lk 1:28].

    WE CATHOLICS FAVOR MARY BECAUSE GOD HIGHLY FAVORED HER. WE BELIEVE MARY TO BE IN HEAVEN BECAUSE GOD FILLED HER WITH HIS GRACE AND SALVATION COMES BY GRACE [Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God]. IN FACT, IF MR. LEVIS TRULY READ THE BIBLE HE WOULD HAVE REALIZED THAT WE CATHOLICS WOULD NOT HAVE KNOWN MARY OF NAZARETH IF HER NAME IS NOT WRITTEN IN THE BIBLE. THUS, OUR LOVE OF MARY IS VERY BIBLICAL WHILE HIS OPPOSITION AGAINST MARY IS FROM THE DEVIL.

    IF GOD LOVES MARY AND FAVORED MARY THEN THE DEVIL HATES MARY AND THAT IS WHAT MR. LEVIS IS SHOWING IN HIS UNCALLED FOR ATTACKED ON OUR MARIAN DEVOTION TO THE MOTHER OF JESUS.

    IT IS THE BIBLE WHO TAUGHT US THAT THE MOTHER OF JESUS IS A VIRGIN AND THE BIBLE REPEATEDLY STATED THAT MARY IS A VIRGIN BUT THE BIBLE NEVER TAUGHT THAT MARY IS “NO LONGER A VIRGIN”. SO OUR DOCTRINE IS BIBLICAL WHILE YOURS IS NOT. READ ISAIAH 7:14, MATTHEW 1:23, LUKE 1:26-27.

    WE ARE NOT TEACHING THAT MARY ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN. INSTEAD WE ARE TEACHING THAT MARY WAS ‘ASSUMED’ INTO HEAVEN. MARY DIDN’T GO TO HEAVEN LIKE JESUS OUR GOD BUT HE WAS BROUGHT UP BY THE POWER OF GOD LIKE ENOCH, LIKE ELIJAH. INDEED THE BIBLE PROCLAIMS THAT THE MOTHER OF THE KING OF ALL NATIONS IS CLOTHED WITH THE SUN IN HEAVEN [cf. REV 12:1]

    INDEED MARY INTERCEDES FOR THE BELIEVERS BECAUSE SHE HERSELF IS A BELIEVER OF JESUS. IN FACT SHE IS THE FIRST BELIEVER OF JESUS AHEAD OF THE APOSTLES AND OF JOSEPH. LUKE 1:26-35 TESTIFIES TO THAT. ST. PAUL SAYS THAT IT IS THE DUTY OF EVERY CHRISTIAN TO INTERCEDE:

    1 Tim 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, INTERCESSIONS, and giving of thanks, be made for all men

    AS REGARDS MARY AS THE MOTHER OF GOD INDEED GOD HAS A MOTHER BECAUSE JESUS OUR GOD, THE DIVINE LOGOS, BECAME MAN [Jn 1:14] AND WAS BORN BY MARY. FOR THAT REASON THE HOLY CHILD BORN BY MARY IS CALLED ‘GOD WITH US’ [MATTHEW 1:23].

  • franz

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOUDqbPJen0 Catholic ideas are only pagan. It has little to do with true Christianity.

  • catholicexchange

    Thank you, Franz, for giving us all a little something to chuckle about. From the misspelling of “blasphemy” on the first frame, to the series of random, out-of-context Scripture verses which do not prove anything, you have provided Catholics with yet another wonderful tool to help bolster them in their faith and reassure them of how ignorant and easily led astray so many enemies of the Catholic Church can be. God bless!

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