First, a disclaimer: I am not a theologian and have no credentials in Catholic doctrine. So I will try to stick with basic ideas that connect Mary, Jesus’ mother, to our faith. Beyond the Gospels (and Acts), there is one New Testament passage that refers to Mary directly and another that has been connected with her loosely.
Galatians 4:4–5 is the only direct reference to Mary in any of the Epistles: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”
Mary is in fact an important part of a theological, mystical, relational cycle. Divinity came into human existence so that humans could make the corresponding journey into Divinity. Consider these words from 2 Peter 1:4: “Thus he has given us . . . his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world . . . and may become participants in the divine nature.” We are meant to participate in and with Divinity. We are created to be in relationship with God of the universe.
Although Mary is not mentioned in another key passage, it certainly speaks to her reality: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We Christians believe that, through the Incarnation—Divine life sharing our humanity—we are able to enjoy communion with God. Mary cooperated with the Divine to bring about the Incarnation.
Revelation 12 includes material such as this:
A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. . . And [the woman] gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.
The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature. It is not meant to be taken literally, and some of its language is in code because of threats to the Christian community at the time John was writing it—he was a prisoner of Rome and in exile at the time. So we must be careful when trying to interpret passages such as this one. Some traditions and interpretations connect this passage to Mary, while others make the point that the imagery of a woman giving birth to a male ruler was actually quite common and was not necessarily John’s way of referencing the mother of Jesus. Still, it’s not surprising that we have used such imagery as we picture Mary as Queen of Heaven—with a moon under her feet and a crown full of stars. This is one of many titles we have given her through the centuries. There’s probably no harm in imagining her in such a glorious way, as long as we don’t try to force Mary’s actual life to fit the fantastical and highly symbolic story line of Revelation.
Here’s what the commentary in the Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition has to say about the imagery of the woman in Revelation 12:
The woman adorned with the sun, the moon, and the stars symbolizes God’s people in the Old and the New Testament. The Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah and then became the new Israel, the church, which suffers persecution by the dragon. This corresponds to a widespread myth throughout the ancient world that a goddess pregnant with a savior was pursued by a horrible monster; by miraculous intervention, she bore a son who then killed the monster.
- How do you see Mary involved in the story of our purpose, our redemption, our salvation, and/or our participating with the Divine nature?
- Do any of the Scriptures listed this week on DDF call out to you—to study further, to pray a specific way, or to adjust your thinking about Mary?