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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Gr. Μαρία , Mary, and λατρεία, adorations) is the technical term given by the Protestant world to the worship which Romanists render to the Virgin Mary. Romanists themselves term this worship Hyperdulia (q.v.), to distinguish it from the worship paid to God, which they term Latria (q.v.), and adoration paid to saints, Dulia (q.v.). In our articles (See HYPERDULIA), (See IMMACULATE CONCEPTION), and (See INVOCATION OF SAINTS), we have already pointed out the great difficulty of bringing distinctions so refined within the comprehension of the common mind, so as to prevent the multitude from worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. "As mother of the Savior of the world," says Dr. Schaff (Ch. Hist. 2:410), "the Virgin Mary unquestionably holds forever a peculiar position among all women and in the history of redemption;" and, from this point of view, he remarks that it is "perfectly natural, nay, essential to sound religious feeling, to associate with Mary the fairest traits of maidenly and maternal character, and to revere her as the highest model of female purity, love, and piety.... But, on the other hand, it is equally unquestionable that she is nowhere in the N.T. excepted from the universal sinfulness and the universal need of redemption, nor represented as immaculately holy, or as in any way an object of divine veneration." Roman Catholics, however, have insisted upon the adoration, as they term worship in this instance, of the mother of Jesus, holding that Mary has been assumed in the Trinity, so as to make it a Quaternity; that "Mary is the complement of the Trinity" (Pusey, Eirenicon, 2:167), and that the intercession of Mary is needed for the salvation of the followers of Jesus Christ. We quote the words of Liguori himself: "We most readily admit that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of Justice, and that by his merits he obtains us all grace and salvation; but we say that Mary is the Mediatrix of Grace; and that receiving all she obtains through Jesus Christ, and because she prays and asks for it in the name of Jesus Christ, yet all the same, whatever graces we receive, they come to us through her intercession" (Glories of Mary, p. 124).
There is certainly not a word in the Bible, nor in the creeds of the Apostolic Church, nor even in the writings of the Church fathers of the first five centuries, to warrant any Christian in assigning such a position to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the Catholic Church, both Latin and Greek, has dared to bestow upon her. One of the accepted interpreters of the Church of Rome, Liguori, in commenting on the exalted position which the Virgin Mary should hold in the estimation of Latin communicants, says that she is Queen of Mercy (p. 13); that she is the Mother of all mankind (p. 23); that she offered her Son to the Father on Mount Calvary (p. 23); that she is especially the Mother of repentant sinners (p. 42); that she is our Life (p. 52); that God was reconciled with sinners by the humility and purity of Mary (p. 56); that she obtains us perseverance (p. 59); that she renders death sweet to her clients (p. 68); that she is our Protectress at the hour of death (p. 71); that she is the Hope of all (p. 79); that she is our only Refuge, Help, and Asylum (p. 81); that she is the Propitiatory of the whole world (p. 81); that she is the one City of Refuge (p. 89); that it is her office to withhold God's arm from chastising sinners until he is pacified (p. 93); that she is the Comfortress of the world, the Refuge of the unfortunate (p. 100); that we shall be heard more quickly if we call on the name of Mary than if we call on the name of Jesus (p. 106); that she is our Patroness (p. 106); that she is Queen of heaven and hell, of all saints, and all evil spirits, because she conquered the latter by her virtues, and the devil by her fair humility and holy life (p. 110); that she protects us from the divine justice and from the devil (p. 115); that at the name of Mary every knee bows and hell trembles (p. 116); that she is the Ladder of paradise, the Gate of heaven, the most true Mediatrix between God and man (p. 121); that her intercession is necessary for salvation (p. 122); that she is the Mediatrix of grace (p. 124); that in her is all hope of life and virtue, all grace of the Way and Truth (p. 125); that in her we find eternal salvation (p. 125); that no one can enter heaven except by her (p. 127); that all graces of the spiritual life are transmitted by Mary (p. 127); that all gifts, virtues, graces are dispensed by her, to whomsoever, when, and as she pleases (p. 128); that from her the world receives every good (p. 128); that she is the Helper of the Redemption (p. 133); that she and her Son redeemed the world (p. 133); that she is the Co-operator in our justification (p. 133); that the way of salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary (p. 135); that God says, "Go to Mary," when we seek for grace from him (p. 136); that the salvation of all depends on the favor and protection of Mary (p. 136); that the other saints intercede with her (p. 138); that she is a tender Advocate; that all power is given unto her in heaven and earth (p. 145); that God obeys the command of Mary (p. 146); that Mary is omnipotent (p. 146); that the whole Church is under the dominion of Mary (p. 146); that what she wills is necessarily done (p. 147); that her prayers have something of a command in them (p. 151); that Jesus Christ is under an obligation to her to grant all she asks (p. 152); that she is the singular Refuge of the lost (p. 156); that she is the Advocate of the whole human race (p. 161); that her chief office in the world is to reconcile fallen souls with God (p. 167); that she is the great Peace-maker who obtains reconciliation, salvation, pardon, and mercy (p. 165); that in her is established the seat of God's government (p. 179); that she delivers her clients from hell (p. 183); that her clients will necessarily be saved (p. 184); that she has sent back many from hell to earth who have died of mortal sins (p. 188); that she consoles, relieves, and succors her clients in purgatory (p. 195); that she delivers her clients from purgatory by applying her merits (p. 195); that she carries away from purgatory all who wear the Carmelite scapulary on the Saturday after they die, provided they have been chaste and have said her office (p. 196); that she does not suffer those who die clothed in the scapulary to go to hell (p. 185); that Mary leads her servants to heaven (p. 198); that she has the key of the gate of paradise (p. 199); that she is the Way of our salvation (p. 200); that it is for the love of Mary and on account of her merits that God is more merciful under the New than under the Old Dispensation (p. 214); that her powerful intercession sustains the world (p. 214); that she is the Throne of grace to which St. Paul bids us fly (p. 215); that Christ has promised that all who invoke the holy name of Mary with confidence shall have perfect sorrow for their sins, atonement for their crimes, strength to attain perfection, and shall reach the glory of paradise (p. 226), etc.
We will also cite for the benefit of our readers some passages from the writings of Liguori bearing more directly on the field of doctrinal theology. Mary is not only titled by him "Queen, Mother, and Spouse of the King: to her belongs dominion and power over all creatures" (p. 12); "She is Queen of Mercy, as Jesus Christ is King of Justice" (p. 13). "If Jesus is the Father of souls. Mary is also their Mother. On two occasions, according to the holy fathers, Mary became our spiritual Mother. The first, according to blessed Albert the Great, was when she merited to conceive in her virginal womb the Son of God. This was revealed by our Lord to S. Gertrude. who was one day reading the above text, and was perplexed, and could not understand how Mary, being only the Mother of Jesus, could be said to have brought forth her first-born. God explained it to her, saying that Jesus was Mary's first-born according to the flesh, but that all mankind were her second-born according to the Spirit.... The second occasion on which Mary became our spiritual Mother, and brought us forth to the life of grace, was when she offered to the eternal Father the life of her beloved Son on Mount Calvary with such bitter sorrow and suffering" (p. 23). "Thus it is that in every engagement with the infernal powers we shall always certainly conquer by having recourse to the Mother of God, who is also our Mother, saying and repeating again and again, ‘ We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; we fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God!' Oh, how many victories have not the faithful gained over hell by having recourse to Mary with this short but most powerful prayer! Thus it was that that great servant of God, sister Mary, the crucified, of the Order of S. Benedict, always overcame the devils" (p. 26). "‘ Since the very tigers,' says our most loving Mother Mary, ‘ cannot forget their young, how can I forget to love you, my children?'" (p. 30). "Our Blessed Lady herself revealed to sister Mary, the crucified, that the fire of love with which she was inflamed towards God was such that, if the heavens and earth were placed in it, they would be instantly consumed; so that the ardors of the Seraphim, in comparison with it, were but as fresh breezes" (p. 31). "Let us love her like a S. Francis Solano, who, maddened as it were (but with holy madness) with love for Mary, would sing before her picture, and accompany himself on a musical instrument, saying that, like worldly lovers, he serenaded his most sweet Queen" (p. 38). "Let us love her as so many of her servants have loved her, and who never could do enough to show their love. Father Jerome of Texo, of the Society of Jesus, rejoiced in the name of slave of Mary; and, as a mark of servitude, went often to visit her in some church dedicated in her honor. On reaching the church, he poured out abundant tears of tenderness and love for Mary; then prostrating, he licked and rubbed the pavement with his tongue and face, kissing it a thousand times, because it was the house of his beloved Lady" (p. 38). "Mary is the Mother of repentant sinners" (p. 42). "When Mary sees a sinner at her feet imploring her mercy, she does not consider the crimes with which he is loaded, but the intention with which he comes; and if this is good, even should he have committed all possible sins, the most loving Mother embraces him, and does not disdain to heal the wounds of his soul" (p. 45). "‘ My God,' she says, ‘ I had two sons — Jesus and man; man took the life of my Jesus on the cross, and now thy justice would condemn the guilty one. O Lord! my Jesus is already dead; have pity on me; and if I have lost the one, do not make me lose the other also!' And most certainly God will not condemn those sinners who have recourse to Mary, and for whom she prays, since he himself commended them to her as her children" (p. 47). These passages are taken almost at random from Liguori's Glories of Mary, chapter 1, which is a paraphrase of the words Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! Yet these claims are moderate compared with those set up in the fifth chapter, entitled, Of the Necessity of the Intercession of Mary for our Salvation. "S. Lawrence Justinian asks, ‘ How can she be otherwise than full of grace who has been made the Ladder to paradise, the Gate of heaven, the most true Mediatrsix between God and man?"(p. 121). "That which we intend to prove here is that the intercession of Mary is now necessary to salvation; we say necessary— not absolutely, but morally. This necessity proceeds from the will itself of God that all graces that he dispenses should pass by the hands of Mary, according to the opinion of S. Bernard, and which we may now with safety call the general opinion of theologians and learned men. The author of The Reign of Mary positively asserts that such is the case. It is maintained by Vega, Mendoza, Pacciuchelli, Segnori, Poire, Crasset, and by innumerable other learned authors" (p. 122).
Now what have we in holy Scripture to warrant such a position as is here taken by Liguori? Comparison, as distinct from contrast, requires the existence of some similitude, but take any passage in which Mary is mentioned, from the salutation down to the period after the ascension, and there is nothing in any way similar. It only remains, therefore, to contrast instead of comparing. But our readers are so well acquainted with holy Writ that we remit the task to them, only begging them to remember four things:
1. That Mary is represented as she is, and not otherwise in the Gospels;
2. That she is not mentioned at all in the Acts after the first chapter, or in the Epistles, although St. Paul has entered so minutely into the economy of the Christian scheme of salvation;
3. That all that prophet and apostle has said of our Lord is by Romanists transferred to Mary;
4. That all those passages which speak of one Mediator between God and man not only ignore, but exclude the modern doctrine, pronounced by Dr. Schaff "one of the principal points of separation between Graeco-Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism" (Ch. Hist. 2:411).
Lest the charge should be brought to our door that we have attributed to the Church of Rome the doctrines held by only a part of her communicants, or even only one of her priests, we continue our quotations from some of her most eminent writers, affording ample proof of the manner in which the Roman Catholic is taught to look upon the Virgin: "O thou, our Governor and most benignant Lady, in right of being his Mother, command your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that he deign to raise our minds from longing after earthly things to the contemplation of heavenly things" (from the Crown of the Blessed Virgins, Psalter of Bonaventura). "We praise thee, Mother of God; we acknowledge thee to be a virgin. All the earth doth worship thee, the Spouse of the eternal Father. All the angels and archangels, all thrones and powers, lo faithfully serve thee. To thee all angels cry aloud, with a neverceasing voice, Holy, holy, holy, Mary, Mother of God.... he whole court of heaven doth honor thee as queen. The holy Church throughout all the world doth invoke and praise thee, the Mother of divine Majesty... Thou sittest with thy Son on the right hand of the Father.... In thee, sweet Mary, is our hope; defend us forever more.
Praise becometh thee; empire becometh thee; virtue and glory be unto thee forever and ever" (from a Parody on the Te Deum., by the same writer). "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the right faith concerning Mary; which faith, except one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly... He (Jesus Christ) sent the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, and upon his Mother, and at last took her up into heaven, where she sitteth on the right hand of her Son, and never ceaseth to make intercession with him for us, This is the faith concerning the Virgin Mary, which, except every one do believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved" (from a Parody on the Athanasian Creed, by the same writer). "During the pontificate of Gregory the Great, the people of Rome experienced in a most striking manner the protection of the Blessed Virgin. A frightful pestilence raged in the city to such an extent that thousands were carried off, and so suddenly that they had no time to make the least preparation. It could not be arrested by the vows and prayers which the holy pope caused to be offered in all quarters, until he resolved on having recourse to the Mother of God. Having commanded the clergy and people to go in procession to the church of our Lady, called St. Mary Major, carrying the picture of the Holy Virgin, painted by St. Luke, the miraculous effects of her intercession were soon experienced: in every street as they passed the plague ceased, and before the end of the procession an angel in human form was seen on the Tower of Adrian, named ever since the Castle of St. Angelo, sheathing a bloody sabre. At the same moment the angels were heard singing the anthem, ‘ Regina Caeli,' ‘‘ Triumph, O Queen,' Hallelujah. The holy pope added, ‘ Ora pro nobis Deum,' ‘ Pray for us,' etc. The Church has since used this anthem to salute the Blessed Virgin in Easter time" (from Alphonsus Ligruori's The Glories of Mary). Gabriel Biel, Supuer Casaonens Mllisse, says "that our heavenly Father gave the half of his kingdom to the most Blessed Virgin, Queen of heaven; which is signified in the case of Esther, to whom Ahasuerus promised the half of his kingdom. So that our heavenly Father, who possessed justice and mercy, retained the former, and conceded to the Virgin Mary the exercise of the latter." Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, goes further yet than Gabriel Biel.
We hesitate to record the profane blasphemies which are found in the writings of various popes, prelates, and divines on this subject. Stories of the Middle Ages, many ludicrous, many trivial, one or two sublime, are all penetrated with this single thought, that from Mary, and Mary alone, could heart worship, and repentance, and prayer, in the very second of death, in the very act of sin, without the Eucharist, without the priest, at sea, in the desert, in the very home of vice, obtain instant and full remission; but, with Elliott (Delineation of Romanism, p. 754), "we refuse even to name the vulgar preaching and rude discourses of friars and priests who induct the multitude into this worship, as being too indelicate for the ears of even an intelligent Romanist." The following we take from a Prayer of St. Bernard: "Remember, O most Holy Virgin Mary, that no one ever had recourse to your protection, implored your help, or sought your mediation without obtaining relief. Confiding, therefore, in your goodness, behold me, a penitent sinner, sighing out my sins before you, beseeching you to adopt me for your son, and to take upon you the care of my eternal salvation. Despise not, O Mother of Jesus, the petition of your humble client, but hear and grant my prayer." "Prayer. — O God of goodness, who hast filled the holy and immaculate heart of Mary with the same sentiments of mercy and tenderness for us with which the heart of Jesus Christ, thy Son and her Son, was always overflowing; grant that all who honor this virginal heart may preserve until death a perfect conformity of sentiments and inclinations with the sacred heart of Jesus Christ, who, with thee and the Holy Ghost, lives and reigns one God, forever and ever. Amen." "Aspiration. — O Mary:! Thou art light in our doubts. consolation in our sorrows, and protection in our dangers! After thy Son, thou art the certain hope of faithful souls! Hail, hope of the desponding and refuge of the destitute, to whom thy Son has given such power that whatever thou evillest is immediately done!" From the Breviary: "O Holy Mary. succor the miserable, help the faint-hearted, comfort the afflicted, pray for the people, intercede for the clergy, make supplication for the devout female sex; let all be sensible of thy help who celebrate thy holy commemoration."... "Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord God, that we, thy servants, may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and, by the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary, ever virgin, may be delivered from present sorrows, and come to eternal joy, through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Litany of the Sacred Heart of Mary deserves to be added:
"Lord have mercy on us! Son of God, have mercy on us! Holy Ghost, have mercy on us! Jesus Christ, hear us! Jesus Christ, graciously hear us! God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us! God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us! God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us! Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us! Heart of Mary, conceived without the stain of sin! Heart of Mary, full of grace! Heart of Mary, sanctuary of the Trinity! Heart of Mary, tabernacle of the incarnate Word! Heart of Mary, after God's own heart! Heart of Mary, illustrious throne of glory! Heart of Mary, perfect holocaust of divine love! Heart of Mary, abyss of humility! Heart of Mary, attached to the cross! Heart of Mary, seat of mercy! Heart of Mary, consolation of the afflicted! Heart of Mary, refuge of sinners! Heart of Mary, advocate of the Church, and mother of all faithful! Heart of Mary, after Jesus, the most assured hope of the agonizing! Heart of Mary, queen of angels and the saints! Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us! Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, hear us, O Lord! Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O Lord! O most sacred and amiable heart of Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! That our hearts may be inflamed with divine love."
The following is an extract from the encyclical letter addressed by Gregory XVI to all patriarchs, primates, archbishops, and bishops, bearing date Aug. 15, 1832, affording ample evidence that the same doctrine was approved by the highest authorities of the Romish Church even prior to the promulgation of the dogma of immaculate conception (q.v.): "Having at length taken possession of our see in the Lateran Basilica, according to the custom and institution of our predecessors, we turn to you without delay, venerable brethren; and, in testimony of our feelings towards you, we select for the date of our letter this most joyful day, on which we celebrate the solemn festival of the most Blessed Virgin's triumphant assumption into heaven; that she, who has been through every great calamity our patroness and protectress, may watch over us writing to you, and lead our mind by her heavenly influence to those counsels which may prove most salutary to Christ's flock... . But, that all may have a successful and happy issue, let us raise our eyes to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, who alone destroys heresies, who is our greatest hope, ya, the entire ground of our hope." (Comp. here Kitto, Journal Sacred Lit. 9:25; 15:211; English Review, 10:350 sq.; Christ. Remembrancer, 1855 [Oct.], p. 417 sq.; especially p. 443 and 449.) In view of such a document emanating from the head of the Church, what account can we make of the declaration of the Romish vicars apostolic in Great Britain that "Catholics do solicit the intercession of the angels and saints reigning with Christ in heaven; but in this, when done according to the principles and spirit of the Catholic Church, there is nothing of superstition, nothing which is not consistent with true piety. For the Catholic Church teaches her children not to pray to the saints as to the authors or givers of divine grace, but only to solicit the saints in heaven to pray for them in the same sense as St. Paul desired the faithful on earth to pray for him;" except to consider it as a document well calculated for a Protestant latitude, but liable to be looked upon in Rome as semi-heretical? "What ideas also are we to entertain of the candor or veracity of those Romanists who cease not. after Bossuet and others, to affirm that ‘ they only pray to saints to intercede for them ?' Here is the head of their Church performing a solemn act of worship to the deified Mary, on a day dedicated to her presumed assumption, invoking her, as his patroness and protectress, in a time of great calamity, entreating her to aid him by her heavenly influence to that which would be salutary for the Church.
Is this only to pray to her to undertake for us? The leader in this act of devotion is the supreme earthly oracle; the visible, living, speaking guide of the Church. If this be not idolatry, then idolatry exists only in name" (Elliott, p. 754). Nor do we find in the present pontiff less devotion to the Virgin, if we may base our knowledge on the official documents issued in his name. In the decree of Dec. 8, 1854, Pins IX urges all Catholics, colere, invocare, exorare beatissimnam Dei genitricem, translated as follows by the Tablet (Jan. 27): "Let all the children of the Catholic Church most dear to us hear these words; and, with a most ardent zeal of piety and love, proceed to worship, invoke, and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin" — the head of the Roman Catholic Church urging on his subjects a greater zeal and ardor in the worship of Mary than that which St. Alfonso had displayed. In the same decree he states that "the true object of this devotion" is Mary's "conception." How that act can be an object of devotion, it is difficult intelligently to imagine. But such is Mariolatry. Not only do we now find the adoration of the Mother of God permitted, but actually commanded. "The devout Roman Catholic," says Cramp (p. 400) justly, "pays Mary the most extravagant honor and veneration. The language adopted in addressing the ‘ Queen of heaven' cannot be acquitted of the charge of blasphemy, since prayers are offered directly to her as if to a divine being, and blessings are supplicated as from one who is able to bestow them. In all devotions she has a share. The Ave Maria accompanies the Pater Noster. ‘ Evening, morning, and at noon,' said the Psalmist, ‘ will I pray unto thee, and cry aloud;' the pious Roman Catholic transfers these services to the Virgin. In tender childhood he is taught to cherish for her the profoundest reverence and the highest affection; throughout life she is the object of his daily regard, and five solemn festivals, annually observed to her honor, call forth his ardent love and zeal, and in the hour of death he is taught to place reliance on her mercy. To the ignorant devotee she is more than Christ, than God; he believes that she can command her Son, that to her intercession nothing can be denied, and that to her power all things are possible." But if the Latin Church be adjudged guilty of Mariolatry, it must not be forgotten that the same sentence of condemnation should fall still more heavily on the Greek Church; for "it cannot be denied," says Pusey (Eirenicon, 2:425), "that the orthodox Greek Church does even surpass the Church of Rome in exaltation of the Blessed Virgin in their devotions." Mariolatry likewise appears in the favorite prayer to Mary, the angelic greeting, or the Ave Maria, which in the Catholic devotions runs parallel with the Pater Noster, and of which we had occasion to speak above. It takes its name from the initial words of the salutation of Gabriel to the Holy Virgin at the annunciation of the birth of Christ. It consists of three parts:
(1) The salutation of the angel (Luke 1:28): Ave Maria, gratiae plena, Dominius tecuhl!
(2) The words of Elizabeth (Luke 1:42): Benedicta tu in mnulieribus, et benedictusfructus ventris tui, Jesus.
(3) The later unscriptural addition, which contains the prayer proper, and is offensive to the Protestant and all sound Christian feeling: Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis. Amen. (For the English, etc., (See AVE MARIA). ) "Formerly this third part, which gave the formula the character of a prayer, was traced back to the anti-Nestorian Council of Ephesus in 431, which sanctioned the expression mater Dei, or Dei genitirix (θεοτόκος); but Roman archaeologists (e.g. Mast, in Wetzer und Welte [Romans Cathol.], Kirchen-Lexikon, 1:563) now concede that it is a much later addition, made in the beginning of the 16th century (1508), and that the closing words, nunc et in hora mortis, were added even after that time by the Franciscans. But even the first two parts did not come into general use as a standing formula of prayer until the 13th century. From that date the Ave Mairia stands in the Roman Church upon a level with the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, and with them forms the basis of the rosary" (Schaff, Ch. Hist. 2:424, 425).
The chief festivals of the Virgin, common to the Western and Eastern churches, celebrating the most important facts and fictions of her life, and in some degree running parallel with the festivals of the birth, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, are the Conception (q.v.), the Nativity (q.v.), the Purification (q.v.), the Annunciation (q.v.), the Visitation (q.v.), and the Assumption (q.v.). All these festivals are observed also in the English Church, but from a quite different standpoint, of course. The Roman Church has, besides these, several special festivals, with appropriate offices-all, however, of minor solemnity. (See MARY, THE VIRGIN).
Origin of Mariolatry. — We have detailed somewhat at length the views held by the Graeco-Roman theologians on the adoration they consider due to the Virgin Mary to afford a fair insight into Mariolatrs as now practiced. It remains, however, to examine how the veneration of Mary degenerated into the worship of Mary, a worship which itself "was originally only a reflection of the worship of Christ... designed to contribute to the glorifying of Christ" (Schaff, 2:410).
All unbiassed historians agree in regarding the worship of Mary as an echo of ancient heathenism. Polytheism was so deeply rooted among the non-Israelites of the days of Christ that it reproduced itself even among the followers of Jesus, though it is true it appeared clothed in a Christian dress. "The popular religious want," says Dr. Schaff, "had accustomed itself even to female deities, and very naturally betook itself first of all to Mary, the highly favored and blessed mother of the divine-human Redeemer, as the worthiest object of adoration." But, though it is apparent that remnants of ancient heathenism thus laid hold even on the newly-found doctrines, it is quite certain also that during the first ages the invocation of the Virgin and of saints must have held a subordinate place in Christian worship, for there is not a word about it in the writings of the fathers of the first five centuries. "We may scan each page that they have left us, and we shall find nothing of the kind. There is nothing of the sort in the supposed works of Hermas and Barnabas, nor in the real works of Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp; that is, the doctrine is not to be found in the 1st century. There is nothing of the sort in Justin Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian; that is, in the 2d century. There is nothing of the sort in Origen, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Cyprian, Methodius, Lactantins; that is, in the 3d century. There is nothing of the sort in Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Hilary, Macarius, Epiphanius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Ephrem Syrus, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose; that is, in the 4th century. There is nothing of the sort in Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, Basil of Seleucia, Orosius, Sedulius, Isidore, Theodoret, Prosper, Vincentius Lirinensis, Cyril of Alexandria, popes Leo, Hilarus, Simplicius, Felix, Gelasius, Anastasius, Symmachus; that is, in the 5th century." Nor is there the least trace of Mariolatry among the remains of the Catacombs. Says a writer in the London Qu. Rev. July, 1864, p. 85: "As regards the sacred person of the Virgin, she takes that place only in the art of the Catacombs which the purity of earlier Christianity would lead us to predicate.
She is seen there solely in a scriptural and historical sense — in the subject of the Adoration of the Wise Men who found ‘ the young child and his mother.' And this even takes its place among the later productions of classic — Christian art; while the subject of the Nativity, which occurs on two sarcophagi, evidently belongs to the last decline of that period. With these two exceptions, no trace of a representation of the Virgin can be found in the mural or sculptural art of the Catacombs." We cannot do better than sum up this portion of our subject in the words of the Rev. E. Tyler, to whose conscientious labors every student of Christian antiquities is so much indebted: "We have examined to the utmost of our ability and means the remains of Christian antiquity. Especially have we searched into the writings of those whose works (A.D. 492) received the approbation of the pope and his council at Rome; we have also diligently sought for evidence in the records of the early councils; and we find all the genuine and unsuspected works of Christian writers — not for a few years, or in a portion of Christendom, but to the end of the first five hundred years and more, and in every country in the Eastern a.nd the Western empire, in Europe, in Africa; and in Asia — testifying as with one voice that the writers and their contemporaries knew of no belief in the present power of the Virgin, and her influence with God; no practice, in public or private, of prayer to God through her mediation, or of invoking her for her good offices of intercession, and advocacy, and patronage; no offering of thanks and praise made to her; no ascription of divine honor and glory to her name. On the contrary, all the writers through those ages testify that to the early Christians God was the only object of prayer, and Christ the only heavenly Mediator and Intercessor in whom they put their trust" (p. 290).
There is not a shadow of doubt that the origin of the worship of Mary is to be traced to the apocryphal legends of her birth and of her death, which, in the course of time, decorated the life of Mary with fantastic fables and wonders of every kind, and thus furnished a pseudo-historical foundation for an unscriptural Mariology and Mariolatry (compare Janus, Pope and Council, p. 34 sq.). It is in these productions of the Gnostics (q.v.) that we find the germ of what afterwards expanded into its present portentous proportions. Some of the legends of her birth are as early as the 2d or 3d century. But to the honor of the Christians of that day be it remembered that they unanimously and firmly rejected these legends as fabulous and heretical. Witness the conduct of the Church towards the Collyridians (q.v.), and the excesses in the opposite direction it gave rise to by the formation of a sect known as the Antidicomarianites (q.v.). "The whole thing," says Epiphanius, when commenting upon the unwarranted practices of the Collyridians, "is foolish and strange, and is a device and deceit of the devil. Let Mary be in honor. Let the Lord be worshipped. Let no one worship Mary" (Haeret. 89, in Opp. p. 1066, Paris, 1662). Indeed, down to the time of the Nestorian controversy of A.D. 430, the cultus of the Blessed Virgin, it would appear, was wholly external to the Church, and was regarded as heretical. It was this controversy that first produced a great change of sentiment in men's minds. Nestorius had maintained, or at least it was the tendency of Nestorianism to maintain, not only that our Lord had two natures, the divine and the human (which was right), but also that he was two persons, in such sort that the child born of Mary was not divine, but merely an ordinary human being, until the divinity subsequently united itself to him. This was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in the year 431; and the title θεοτόκος , loosely translated "Mother of God," was sanctioned.
The object of the council and of the Anti-Nestorians was in no sense to add honor to the Mother, but to maintain the true doctrine with respect to the Son. Nevertheless the result was to magnify the Mother, and, after a time, at the expense of the Son. For now the title θεοτύκος became a shibboleth, and in art the representation of the Madonna and Child became the expression of orthodox belief. Very soon the purpose for which the title and the picture were first sanctioned became forgotten, and the veneration of Mary began to spread within the Church, as it had previously existed external to it. The legends, too, were no longer treated as apocryphal. Neither were the Gnostics any longer the objects of dread. Nestorians, and afterwards Iconoclasts, in turn became the objects of hatred. The old fables were winked at, and thus they universally became the mythology of Christianity among the southern nations of Europe, while many of the dogmas which they are grounded upon have, as a natural consequence, crept into the faith. "Thenceforth the Θεοτόκος was a test of orthodox Christology, and the rejection of it amounted to the beginning or the end of all heresy. The overthrow of Nestorianism was at the same time the victor of Mary- worship. With the honor of the Son, the honor also of the Mother was secured.
The opponents of Nestorius, especially Proclus, his successor in Constantinople († 447), and Cyril of Alexandria († 444), could scarcely find predicates enough to express the transcendent glory of the Mother of God. She was the crown of virginity, the indestructible temple of God, the dwelling-place of the Holy Trinity, the paradise of the second Adam, the bridge from God to man, the loom of the incarnation, the scepter of orthodoxy; through her the Trinity is glorified and adored, the devil and daemons put to flight, the nations converted, and the fallen creature raised to heaven. The people were all on the side of the Ephesian decision, and gave vent to their joy in boundless enthusiasm, amid bonfires, processions, and illuminations" (Schaff, 2:426). "Yet it is not exactly the fact that the giving of this title (Theotokos) was the cause of the cultus, for some of the fathers before that time had employed the word to express the doctrine of the incarnation, as the two Gregorys did; it was the Nestorian heretics who really drove the Catholic mind to paying her the tribute of devotion; and even then it seems as if the cultus of that time was far more in honor of the Son than of the Mother, more a mode of testifying the belief in the verity of the true doctrine of the incarnation, denied by the heretics, than of giving her an undue worship. When she was addressed as the ‘ Mother of God,' when she was represented as the Mother with her infant Son, she appeared, it is true, as the prominent figure; but it was to express clearly the Catholic doctrine of the in, carnation-the two natures in the one person of Christ. We can see how easily the mind of the worshipper would penetrate further, and, from looking at her merely as the Theotokos, would see in the Mother of God one possessed of a mother's influence and power" (Christian Remembrancer, 1868, July, p. 136,137).
From this time the worship of Mary grew apace; it agreed well with many natural aspirations of the heart. To paint the mother of the Savior an ideal woman, with all the grace and tenderness of womanhood, and yet with none of its weaknesses, and then to fall down and worship that which the imagination had set up, was what might easily happen, and did happen. Evidence was not asked for. Perfection was becoming the mother of the Lord, therefore she was perfect. Adoration "was befitting" on the part of Christians, therefore they gave it. Any tales attributed to antiquity were received as genuine, any revelations supposed to be made to favored saints were accepted as true; and the Madonna reigned as queen in heaven, in earth, in purgatory, and over hell. The mother of the Savior soon became the Mother of Salvation, as John of Damascus calls her (Homil. in Annun.), "the common salvation of all in extremity" (ἡ πάντων ὁμοῦ τῶν πεπάτων τῆς γης κοινή σωτηρία ). "The alone Mother of God, who art to be worshipped (ἡ προσκυνητή) forever." Nestorianism lived on, and lives still, when other earlier heresies on the nature of Christ-like Arianism have died; nay, it was once a great ecclesiastical power. Catholics showed their orthodoxy by honoring the Mother of God, their abhorrence of heresy by rendering her worship. Thus arose the story of her assumption, and the festival (Aug. 15) in honor of that supposed event. She then became the Mater Coronata, endued with power both in heaven and earth. Language was addressed to her such as belonged only to God; e.g. Peter Damian, in a sermon (Isn Natetiv. B. . il.), speaks thus: "Et data est tibi omnis potestas in coelo et in terra: nil tibi impossibile, cui possibile est desperatos in spem beatitudinis relevare. Quomodo enim illa potestas tuse potentiae poterit obviare, quae de carne tua carnis suscepit originem?
Accedis enim ante illud aureum humanae reconciliationis altare, non solum regnans sed imperans, domina non ancilla." Under such teaching as this we need not wonder at the extent to which her cultus went. "From that time," says Dr. Schaff,' "numerous churches and altars were dedicated to the holy Mother of God, the perpetual Virgin; among them also the church at Ephesus in which the anti-Nestorian Council of 431 had sat. Justinian I, in a law, implored her intercession with God for the restoration of the Roman empire, and on the dedication of the costly altar of the church of St. Sophia he expected all blessings for church and empire from her powerful prayers. His general, Narses, like the knights in the Middle Age, was unwilling to go into battle till he had secured her protection. Pope Boniface IV, in 608, turned the Pantheon in Rome into a temple of Mary ad martyres; the pagan Olympus into a Christian heaven of gods. Subsequently even her images (made after an original pretending to have come from Luke) were divinely worshipped, and, in the prolific legends of the superstitious Middle Age. performed countless miracles, before some of which the miracles of the Gospel history grow dim. She became almost coordinate with Christ, a joint redeemer, invested with most of his own attributes and acts of grace. The popular belief ascribed to her, as to Christ, a sinless conception, a sinless birth, resurrection and ascension to heaven, and a participation of all power in heaven and earth. She became the center of devotion, cultus, and art, and the popular symbol of power, of glory, and of the final victory of Catholicism over all heresies" (2:424, 425).
In the 6th century the practice became general within the Church, both in the East and in the West, and the writers, commencing with the post-Nicene period, which had brought in this innovation with many others, down to the 16th century, are now found to relate the untold privileges of the Virgin, and with an enthusiasm constantly growing until checked by the opposition of the Reformers, we are told of the efficacy of Mary as a mediator with her Son. This devotional enthusiasm was carried to its greatest height by St. Bernard (q.v.), and still more so by Bonaventura (cited above), who, Dr. Wiseman says, was one of the saints and luminaries of the Roman Catholic Church, and every Roman Catholic prays that he may be enlightened by his teaching and benefited by his prayers. It is Bonaventura who gave the following version of the 51st Psalm: "Have pity upon me, O great Queen, who art called the Mother of Mercy; and, according to the tenderness of that mercy, purify me from my iniquities." And so it runs throughout. The 149th Psalm is — "Sing a new song in honor of our Queen. Let the just publish her praises in their assemblies. Let the heavens rejoice in her glory; let the isles of the sea and all the earth rejoice therein. Let water and fire, cold and heat, brightness and light, praise her. Let the mouth of the just glorify her; let her praises resound in the triumphant company of the saints. City of God, place thy joy in blessing her, and let songs of praise continually be sung to her by thy illustrious and glorious inhabitants."
Promotion of Mariolatry by religious Art. — Ever since the condemnation of Nestorius the popular doctrine had found its ablest support in art. The representation of that beautiful group, since popularly known as the Madonna and Child, became the expression of the orthodox faith. "Every one who wished to prove his hatred of the arch-heretic exhibited the image of the maternal Virgin holding in her arms the infant Godhead, either in his house as a picture, or embroidered on his garments, or on his furniture, or his personal ornaments — in short, wherever it could be introduced" (Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, p. 21). With the extension and popularity of the worship of the Virgin, the multiplication of her image, in every form and material, naturally enough spread throughout Christendom, until suddenly checked by the iconoclastic movements of the 8th century, (See ICONOCLASM), and, descending the Middle Ages, we find Christian art generally at its lowest ebb in the 10th and 11th centuries. The pilgrimages to the Holy Land and the Crusades mark the renaissance, but it was not until the 13th century that Mariolatry received more aid from religious art. Then the popular enthusiasm was kindled anew by the exertions of Bonaventura, and by the formation of many chivalric brotherhoods that vowed her especial service (as the Serviti, who were called in France les esclaves de Marie), and by the action of the great religious communities, at this time comprehending all the enthusiasm, learining, and influence of the Church. These had placed themselves solemnly and especially under the protection of the Virgin. ‘ The Cistercians wore white in honor of her purity; the Servi wore black in respect to her sorrows; the Franciscans had enrolled themselves as champions of the immaculate conception; and the Dominicans introduced the Rosary. All these richly endowed communities vied with each other in multiplying churches, chapels, and pictures in honor of their patroness, and expressive of her several attributes. The devout painter, kneeling before his easel, addressed himself to the task of portraying these heavenly lineaments, which had visited him perhaps in dreams. Many of the professed monks and friars became themselves accomplished artists" (Mrs. Jameson).
Poetry also came to the altar of sacrilege, and made her offering in the person of the immortal Dante, who, "through the communion of mind, not less than through his writings, infused into religious art that mingled theology, poetry, and mysticism which ruled in the Giottesque school during the following century, and went hand in hand with the development of the power and practice of imitation.... His ideas respecting the Virgin Mary were precisely those to which the writings of St. Bernard, St. Bonaventura, and St. Thomas Aquinas had already lent all the persuasive power of eloquence, and the Church all the weight of her authority" (Mrs. Jameson). He hastened to render these doctrines into poetry, and in the Paradiso Mary figures as the Mystic Rose (Rosa mystical and Queen of heaven, with the attendant angels, circle within circle, floating round her in adoration, and singing the Regina Coeli, and saints and patriarchs stretching forth their hands towards her. "Thus," says Mrs. Jameson (p. 30), "the impulses given... continued in progressive development... the spiritual sometimes in advance of the material influences; the moral idea emanating, as it were, from the soul, and the influences of external nature flowing into it; the comprehensive power of fancy using more and more the apprehensive power of imitation, and both working together till their ‘ blended might' achieved its full fruition in the works of Raphael" (q.v.). The Hussite war, and the iconoclastic spirit of the Bohemians, rather strengthened the Churchmen than otherwise, and contributed to the growth of the impulse to worship Mary.
But strange fancies were now as freely interpolated in the productions of the artist, which, though themselves but "the reflex influence of that interpolation of new doctrines which had been going on in the Church for so many centuries" (Hill, Engl. Monasticiszm, p. 320), nevertheless received the disapproval of pious Catholics of that age, who "cried out ‘ temerarium, scandalosum, et periculosum,' when they saw the most solemn spectacle in the world's history made the sport of wanton imaginations... the sorrow of the cross made to rest more heavily upon the mother of Christ than upon him" (Hill). The Council of Trent felt itself forced to denounce the impropriety of certain pictures, and it was generally acknowledged that paganized and degenerate influences had overruled spiritual art, that the latter was indeed no more, that "it was dead; it could never be revived without a return to those modes of thought and belief which had at first inspired it" (Mrs. Jameson). Just at this time "theological art," as Mrs. Jameson calls it, came to the rescue of Mariolatry. It is true the Reformation at the opening of the 11th century had dealt a severe blow at all the various institutions of Romanism savoring of idolatry and superstition, but this was only an additional reason why the Church of St. Peter should seek to fortify herself the more strongly in the fortress so severely assailed by the enemy. Mariolatry had served her purpose ably, and just now, if ever, needed re-enforcing. Deprived of the aid of "religious art," the poets and artists no longer wrought up to a wild pitch of enthusiasm to inspire the spirit of worship of the Virgin, the infallible guide of the Church himself came to the rescue, and supplied by "theological art" what was needed. In 1571 the battle of Lepanto was fought. In it the combined fleets of Christendom, led by Don Juan of Austria, were arrayed against the Turks, and achieved a memorable victory over the devout adherents of the prophet of Mecca. Pope Pius V quickly availed himself of this opportunity to attribute the victory "to the special interposition of the Blessed Virgin."
From a very early period in Mariolatry we find festivals instituted in honor of the "Blessed Virgin," but now a new festival, that of the Rosary, was added to those already observed, a new invocation added to her litany, under the title of Auxiliam Christianorum, and, more than all, many sanctuaries were declared to be especially sacred to her worship, and thus a prominence was given to her devotion which found its full expression only in our own day. on Dec. 8,1854, when this dogma, conceived in the silence of the cell by the brain of infatuated monks, was canonized by a helpless pontiff, and the doctrine established "that not only did the Virgin Mary immaculately conceive her son Jesus Christ (as Protestants hold), but was as immaculately conceived herself" (Hill, p. 314; comp. Krauth, Conservative Reformation, p. 381 sq.). Well, indeed, may it be said that "the controversy with Rome threatens more and more to resolve itself into the question whether the creed of Christendom is to be based upon the life of Jesus or the life of Mary, upon the canonical or the apocryphal Gospels" (Plumptre, Christ and Christendom [Boyle Lect. 1866], p. 342). Need we wonder, then, that Bishop Bull waxes warm when this abomination presents itself for his comments, and is made to speak in the following severe strain: "We abominate the impious imposture of those who have translated the most humble and holy Virgin into an idol of pride and vanity, and represented her as a vainglorious and aspiring creature; like Lucifer (I tremble at the comparison), thirsting after divine worship and honor, and seeking out superstitious men and women, whom she may oblige to her more special service, and make them her perpetual votaries.
For what greater affront than this could they have offered to her humility and sanctity? How fulsome, yea, how perfectly loathsome to us are the tales of those that have had the assurance to tell us of the amorous addresses of the Blessed Virgin to certain persons, her devout worshippers, choosing them for her husbands, bestowing her kisses liberally on them, giving them her breasts to suck, and presenting them with bracelets and rings of her hair as love-tokens ‘ The fables of the Jewish Talmudists, yea, of Mohammed, may seem grave, serious, and sober histories, compared to these and other such impudent fictions. Insomuch that wise men have thought that the authors of these romances in religion were no better than the tools and instruments of Satan, used by him to expose the Christian religion, and render it ridiculous, and thus introduce atheism. And, indeed, we are sure that the wits of Italy, where these abominable deceits have been and are chiefly countenanced, were the first broachers and patrons of infidelity and atheism in Europe, since the time that Christianity obtained in it." "We honor the Virgin Mary," says Mr. Endell Tyler ( Worship, p. 391), one of the latest and most critical students of early Church history and Christian antiquities, "we love her memory, we would, by God's grace, follow her example in faith and humility, meekness and obedience; we bless God for the wonderful work of salvation, in effecting which she was a chosen vessel; we call her a blessed saint and a holy Virgin; we cannot doubt of her eternal happiness through the merits of him who was ‘ God of the substance of his Father before the world, and man of the substance of his mother born in the world.'
But we cannot address religious phrases to her; we cannot trust in her merits, or intercession, or advocacy, for our acceptance with God; we cannot invoke her for any blessing, temporal or spiritual; we cannot pray to God through her intercession, or for it. This in us would be sin. We pray to God alone; we offer religious praise, our spiritual sacrifices, to God alone; we trust in God alone; we need no other mediator, we apply to no other mediator, intercessor, or advocate, in the unseen world, but Jesus Christ alone, the Son of God and the Son of man. In this faith we implore God alone, for the sake only of his Son, to keep us steadfast unto death; and, in the full assurance of the belief that this faith is founded on the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, we will endeavor, by the blessing of the Eternal Shepherd and Bishop. of souls, to preserve the same faith, as our Church now professes it, whole and undefiled, and to deliver it down, without spot or stain of superstition, to our children's children, as their best inheritance forever." Literature. — Bonaventura, Opera, vol. 1, part ii, p. 466473 (Mogunt. 1609, folio); Canisius (R. C.), De Maria Virgine libri quinque (Ingolst. 1577); Lambertini (R. C.), Comment. duce de J. Christi, matrisque ejusfestis (Petav. 1751); Perrone (R. C.), De Immaculata B. V. Iars-ice conceptu (Romans 1848) (in defense of the new papal dogma of the sinless conception of Mary); The Glories of Mary, Mother of God; transl. from the Italian of blessed Alphonsus Liguori, and carefully revised by a Catholic priest (John Coyne, Dublin, 1833); Horme, Marliolatry, or Facts and Evidences, etc. (Lond. 1841); Townsend, Travels in Spain; Abstract of the Douay Catechism, p. 76; The Garden of the Soul; Jowett, Christian Researclhes in the Mediterranean; Roman Catholic Missal for the Use of the Laity; Gilly, Tour in Piedmzont; Graham, Three Months' Residence in the Mountains East of Rome; Laity's Directory, 1833; Greg. P. XVI Epist. Ency. 18 Kalend. Sept. 1832; S. Antonini Suznmic Theol. pars iv, tit. xv, p. 911-1270; Farrar, Eccles. Dict.; Elliott, Delineation of Romanism, bk. iv, p. 754 sq.; Hook, Church Dict.; Cramp, Text-Book of Popery, p. 400 sq.; Schaff, Ch. Hist. 2:409 sq.; Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, especially the Introduction; Tyler, Worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lond. 1844); Mozley, Moral and Devotional Theol. Ch. of Rome (Lond. 1857); Lord Lindsay, Christian Art (London. 1847), vol. i: Miss Twining, Symbols of Early Christian Art; F. W. Genthe, Die Jungfrau Maria, ihre Evangelien u. ihre Wunder (Halle, 1852); Bible and Missal, p. 1, 35; Christian Remembrancer, July, 1852, p. 200; 1854; Oct. 1855, art. vi; July, 1868, art. vii; Conteip. Rev. Nov. 1868, p. 454; Brit. und For. Ev. Rev. Oct. 1866, p. 729. Comp. also the elaborate, article Maria, Mutter des Herrn, by Steitz, in Herzog's Real-Encyklop. 9:74 sq.; and the article Maria, die heil. Junqfrau, by Reithmayr (R. C.), in Wsetzer und Welte, Kirch.-Lex. 6:835 sq.; also the Eirenicon controversy between Pusey and Newman (1866). (J. I. W.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mariolatry'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/mariolatry.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.