After Jesus Himself, no human person has even been celebrated, praised, and honoured more than His very mother, Mary immaculate. She was spoken of in prophecy almost at the beginning of the scriptures, prophesied further throughout the rest of the Old Testament, came to the world to deliver the world its saviour, and has been honoured and invoked for intercession before the throne of her Son ever since. Let’s take a look at why.
Almost immediately after Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, God’s earthly paradise, God cursed the serpent for tempting them and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The woman that God spoke of, of course, was Eve. But the Church has always seen Eve as a foreshadowing figure (called a “type” in Catholic theology) of Mary. Only a few verses later in Genesis 3:20 we see that Eve was named so by Adam because Eve “was the mother of all living” — Surely Mary is the real Mother of all the truly living since all who now live, live in Christ (see Galatians 2:20). The fact that this “woman” in Genesis is a type of Mary is bolstered by the words of God who says that the “seed” of the woman (being Jesus) will crush the head of the serpent’s “seed.”
So, then, we see that “the Fall,” the birth of sin in the world, came through a man, a woman, and a tree. Immediately following, God tells us that redemption will come through a man, and a woman, and those of us who have read ahead in the story know that a tree was involved in redemption too (see 1 Peter 2:24)! This shows us that, while Jesus is definitely He who won our salvation for us, Mary’s role was crucial in cooperating with Jesus and thus “co-redeemed” with Him. This is why Mary is titled and hailed as “Co-redemptrix” in the Church. This explains what Simeon says to her in Luke 2:35 “… a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” That is to say, Mary will also suffer and sorrow with her Son (and for her Son) for the redemption of the world.
Just as Adam and Eve were created and came in to the world knowing no sin (they were perfect), so too was Jesus perfect (He was God!) and so was Mary perfect. Mary, born to St Joachim and St Anne (see the Protoevangelium of James), and honoured as “Full of Grace” by the Angel Gabriel in Luke 1:28, was conceived without original sin — Remember that original sin is merely a lack of grace that one is born with, therefore if Mary is “full of grace,” she has no original sin.
Because Mary had no sin, she was never subject to corruption and death, which came into the world only because of sin, and so the Church affirmed that she was assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. Catholic tradition sees the woman in Revelation 12 as Mary since the woman there gives birth to the saviour and is mentioned right after the author sees the Ark of the Covenant (which Catholic tradition holds to have been replaced by Mary since she was the spotless vessel that carried He who was the new law, the eternal high priest, and the true bread from heaven, and was constantly overshadowed by the presence of God the Holy Spirit) at the end of chapter 11 (keep in mind that the books of the Bible were originally composed without chapters). Mary’s assumption is none other than a reaping of the first fruits that all who fall asleep in Christ will receive at the resurrection of the dead.
Mary is the only human directly responsible for bringing us the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. It was her “yes,” her “fiat,” that allowed the Holy Spirit to come down upon her and conceive Christ in her spotless womb. Thus, once again, she is Co-redemptrix for mediating the world’s Saviour. Those who have died and have been born again in Christ Jesus through Baptism (see Romans 6:4) live the life of Christ Himself. Therefore, we too have Mary for our Mother now. Our confidence of this is bolstered or renewed when we read John 19:26-27 (keeping in mind that in the Gospel of John, the person of John normally represents all who live in Christ), “When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” We see Mary’s motherhood also affirmed in Revelation 12:17.
One of the earliest and greatest praises of Mary in the Church’s history was given in the late first century by St Ignatius of Antioch who wrote to the Apostle John (St John the Evangelist). He said to St John (it is worth quoting at length):
There are also many of our women here, who are desirous to see Mary [the mother] of Jesus, and wish day by day to run off from us to you, that they may meet with her, and touch those breasts of hers which nourished the Lord Jesus, and may inquire of her respecting some rather secret matters. But Salome also, [the daughter of Anna,] whom thou lovest, who stayed with her five months at Jerusalem, and some other well-known persons, relate that she [Mary the mother of Jesus] is full of all graces and all virtues, after the manner of a virgin, fruitful in virtue and grace. And, as they report, she is cheerful in persecutions and afflictions, free from murmuring in the midst of penury and want, grateful to those that injure her, and rejoices when exposed to troubles: she sympathises with the wretched and the afflicted as sharing in their afflictions, and is not slow to come to their assistance. Moreover, she shines forth gloriously as contending in the fight of faith against the pernicious conflicts of vicious principles of conduct. She is the lady of our new religion and repentance, and the handmaid among the faithful of all works of piety. She is indeed devoted to the humble, and she humbles herself more devotedly than the devoted, and is wonderfully magnified by all, while at the same time she suffers detraction from the Scribes and Pharisees. Besides these points, many relate to us numerous other things regarding her. We do not, however, go so far as to believe all in every particular; nor do we mention such to thee. But, as we are informed by those who are worthy of credit, there is in Mary the mother of Jesus an angelic purity of nature allied with the nature of humanity. And such reports as these have greatly excited our emotions, and urge us eagerly to desire a sight of this… heavenly prodigy and most sacred marvel.
St Ignatius later even wrote to Mary herself. He said:
Thou oughtest to have comforted and consoled me who am a neophyte, and a disciple of thy [beloved] John. For I have heard things wonderful to tell respecting thy [son] Jesus, and I am astonished by such a report. But I desire with my whole heart to obtain information concerning the things which I have heard from thee, who wast always intimate and allied with Him, and who wast acquainted with [all] His secrets. I have also written to thee at another time, and have asked thee concerning the same things. Fare thou well; and let the neophytes who are with me be comforted of thee, and by thee, and in thee. Amen.
And guess what… She responded! She allegedly said to him in response:
The lowly handmaid of Christ Jesus to Ignatius, her beloved fellow-disciple. The things which thou hast heard and learned from John concerning Jesus are true. Believe them, cling to them, and hold fast the profession of that Christianity which thou hast embraced, and conform thy habits and life to thy profession. Now I will come in company with John to visit thee, and those that are with thee. Stand fast in the faith, and show thyself a man; nor let the fierceness of persecution move thee, but let thy spirit be strong and rejoice in God thy Saviour. Amen.
We too must take Mary most holy into our home as St Ignatius sought to do at least for a while. There she will live to make intercession for us fighting off the serpent and crushing his head with her seed. She is the exemplar of perfect virtue that we must learn from. On this side of heaven she brought her Son to us. Now, in heaven, she lives to bring us to her Son and this she will do till the end of time repeating those sweet words from the Gospel of John: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).
May Immaculate Mary most holy reign as Queen of our hearts as much as she is Queen of Heaven!
Behold your Mother!
 The Papal Encyclical Ineffabilis Deus of Pope Pius IX proclaimed this doctrine a dogma in 1854 saying: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful” (emphasis added).
Jeremy Duo was born and raised in Gibraltar. He has a double major Bachelor's degree in theology and catechetics with a minor in philosophy from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He currently lives in Gibraltar with his wife, Stephanie, and their son, Álvaro.