The Blessed Virgin Mary (perhaps 21 BC to 49 AD), also known as Our Lady, was the mother of Jesus Christ and wife of St Joseph. She has become one of the chief Christian saints. Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians believe she is in heaven where she can hear their prayers and put in a good word for them. Though not a goddess, she is almost like their mother in heaven.
So much has been written and argued about Mary that special terms have sprung up:
- Immaculate Conception: the doctrine that Mary was conceived without original sin. Believed by Catholics.
- Annunciation: the archangel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Christ. Reported in the Bible
- Virgin Birth: the doctrine that Mary gave birth to Jesus while still a virgin. Believed by Christians and Muslims. The Bible says the Holy Spirit was the father.
- perpetual virginity: the doctrine that Mary was a virgin for life. Believed by Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox and even Gnostics. Doubted by present-day Protestants, even though such leading lights as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Wesley all said it was true. The Bible does mention brothers and sister of Jesus. Gnostics say these were his half brothers and sisters through Joseph.
- Mother of God: the doctrine that Mary is the mother of Jesus, as both God and man. The original Greek term is Theotokos, “God-bearer”. Jesus as the Son of God existed before Mary, but once he became flesh it became impossible to say where the human part of him left off and the divine part began, so Mary is the mother of both together. The arguments over this in the 400s were about the nature of Christ, not Mary. Believed by Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, denied by Nestorians.
- Assumption: the doctrine that Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven. Believed by Catholics and by many of the Eastern Orthodox, who call it Dormition.
- Mariolatry: Mary worshipped as a goddess. What Protestants think Catholics do. Catholics honour her as the Mother of God, not as God.
Sightings: Catholics say Mary has appeared several times:
- 1531: Guadelupe in Mexico (then New Spain)
- 1858: Lourdes in France
- 1917: Fatima in Portugal
- 1981: Medjugorje in Bosnia (then Yugoslavia)
The Catholic Church says the first three were real, but is not yet sure about Medjugorje. In addition to Medjugorje, there are many other sightings which the Church has not (yet) recognized as real.
Most sightings are reported by pious Catholic girls, but one was even reported by a Calvinist.
In her appearances, Mary speaks. Most of what she says supports Catholic doctrine. But at times she says something uncomfortable. For example, in 1846 at La Salette in the French Alps she said, “Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.”
That was not the only time she predicted the future. In 1917 at Fatima Mary said Russia will be in darkness for seven decades, which turned out to be true.