Sep 30, 2015

The Elevation of Mary

     She was saved in a unique way by the free gift of Grace at her own conception. This is called the Immaculate Conception. It refers to a unique salvation reserved
Mary because of the role she would play in salvation history. Jesus as
Scripture states, was like us except in sin. (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Cor 5:21)
It's simple. The Word of God cannot be contained in that which is unholy, or full of sin! 

Therefore it is logical! 

   Christ's mother had to be preserved from all stain of sin in order to contain that which is without sin. Can the unholy contain which is holy? Who on earth is suitable to contain in her womb The Word of God? The words of Jesus in this next verse come to mind.
"Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matt 9:17 ESV)

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus' mother who is "blessed among women" was preserved from sin at her conception and preserved from sin throughout her life. It is precisely because of that special and unique salvation that she lived her whole life without sin.  

She was the first faithful Christian! 

Mary was the first to believe in Jesus Christ, and because of him she surrendered herself completely to God, when she said,“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38 ESV)  

All Have Sinned...

   But the scriptures say, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23.) 

Doesn't that include Mary? To answer that I argue that Rom 3:23 isn't speaking of a literal "all" but can be considered a hyperbole. 
A hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration used to make a point. It is like the opposite of “understatement.” It is from a Greek word meaning “excess.” Like when we say things like, "everyone will be there!" We don't actually mean everyone, but a lot of people. I believe that is what's going on in Romans 3:23. 

Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned" but we already know that there is exceptions to that verse. Obviously Jesus isn't included in Romans 3:23, because he never sinned. (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Cor 5:21) Also unborn babies, new born babies, small children, and anyone who has not yet sinned for whatever reason, etc... are also not included in the "all" of this verse, because they haven't sinned. There are many exceptions to Romans 3:23. Since we know that to be true why couldn't Mary the Mother of Jesus also be an exception? My point is you can't say that Romans 3:23 includes Mary when she could possibly be one of many exceptions to it :) 

The question is how do you know she isn't?

"Not all without exception (every human being), but all without distinction (Jews and Gentiles alike, 3:9; 10:12). That there are exceptions is clear: Jesus was sinless; children below the age of reason do not willfully commit sin; and tradition holds that Mary, by the grace of God, lived her entire life unstained by sin." (From the footnotes of my Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: RSV New Testament)

Don't Catholics elevate Mary?

Yes, but not to the point of deifying her and not to the point of worship. Mary deserves honor, love, respect as the Mother of the our Lord. We are called to imitate Christ and he loved his mother perfectly, he honored her following perfectly the fourth commandment. (Ex 20:12, Ephesians 6:2) We are to honor, and love Mary as our own Mother, as Christ does. See, Do Catholics worship Mary?

"And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"(Luke 1:41-43 ESV)

The Sacred Scripture elevates Mary in the same way our Lord (who is the Word) does. Likewise the Catholic Church elevates her to the same status, no more, no less! If you think otherwise you are mistaken as to the true teachings of the Church! In Luke Mary is "blessed among women."  And in a most prophetic statement Mary declares, "For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed"  These words spoken in sacred scripture are fulfilled by those faithful Christians who honor, love, and call her blessed!

And, What About that Mother of God thing?

Notice that in Luke 1:43 Elizabeth after she was "filled with the Holy Spirit" in verse 42 calls Mary "the Mother of my Lord!" In other words the mother of my God, since Elizabeth's Lord is God and Jesus in Mary's womb is God, it goes that she is the Mother of God.

It's in Scripture folks! 

This is why the Church since the first centuries of Christianity have affirmed that Mary is the Mother of God! In early Christianity the Greek title Theotokos, or "God bearer" as translated was used to show Mary's unique motherhood. 

"The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God" (Irenaeus in his Against Heresies, 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]). 

Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not his mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, or the source of God for that matter, for she is neither. Rather, the Church says that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person, Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14) and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ. For more information and early church quotes  about the Mother of God, like Irenaeus. I highly recommend you read, Mary: Mother of God.

The Catechism of The Catholic Church explains it this way...

490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".137

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature".138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

"Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."

494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word."139 Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:140 

As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."141Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."142 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."143

I want to encourage you to read the whole article 3 and paragraph 2 of The Catechism of The Catholic Church.

Such a beautiful doctrine I just want you all to know about it!

In Conclusion...

Sure the Catholic Church elevates Mary above all other women in history. The Scriptures do. The early Church Fathers do in their writings! Why shouldn't we? She is "blessed among women!" She is the Mother of our Lord who is God incarnate! He was conceived in her womb taking on her flesh to be his own. She raised him, loved him, and was the first to believe in him! When our savior was hanging on that cross she was there too once again as she always had been, loving him, believing in him and following him.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (Jn 3:16 ESV) 

On that day when her son was hanging on that cross she saw her baby boy and remembered the day (the Annunciation) she consented in faith to be his Mother. You see Mary also gave us something, she gave us her son! And Christ's only concern as he died was us, and his Mother! 

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, 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." (Jn 19:26-27 ESV)

Will you as a beloved disciple take her home also? 

Everything Mary is, every title the Church gives her is in relationship to her son. She owes it all to God as we all do! It's always about Christ. He wants us to love and honor her. When we do that we love and honor him! Likewise she wants to bring us to her son, our brother! And she never stops telling us Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5 ESV)

I hope you liked the article or at least found it informative regarding what the Catholic Church actually teaches regarding the elevation of Mary. There is so much more I could say. Consider this a start and open your heart and your home to Mary as Christ would want you to.

Remember to check out the links on this article for more information. Good stuff! Also get the awesome book by Tim Staples Behold Your Mother - A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines learn so much more about our Lord's Mother!

Joanne Utke

Additional Information

Sep 24, 2015


     With Halloween closely approaching yet again perhaps you would be interested in my article called Halloween. It has Been looked over and edited new for this year, but it still has all the great information that it before plus a little extra. Just click the link for Halloween by Joanne Utke.

Sep 23, 2015

The Image of God

Created In The Image Of Jesus

    For the sake of brevity let's get right to the point. All scripture used here is from the New World Translation of the bible and the English Standard Version as a backup. Where the NWT and ESV are different I may quote from both. It will be indicated by the abbreviations. I have underlined and bold the points of interest in each verse please pay special attention to it.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1 NWT) 

"Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every creeping animal that is moving on the earth.” And God went on to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them." (Gen 1:26-27 NWT)

We read that "God created" singular because there is only one God. As Christians we profess this belief in the ONE TRUE GOD. In verse 26 God says,  "let us make man in our image according to our likeness." Who is God talking to? Our is plural not singular. He then goes on in verse 27 creating man in his own image, singular. 

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (ESV)

After the fall of Adam and Eve we read...

"Jehovah God then said: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad. Now in order that he may not put his hand out and take fruit also from the tree of life and eat and live forever," (Gen 3:22 NWT)

There's that plural form again! So, who is God talking to? We know that God is singular, he is ONE. Yet he is clearly talking to someone. He is clearly referring to someone other than himself. One possible answer is that he is talking to the angels. After all they are with him at this point. Although I argue that he isn't talking to the angels because we aren't created in the image of the angels. The text says, "so God created man in his own image" not in the image of the angels. Sure the angelic beings are spiritual like God, but only man is created in the image and likeness of God! We will get back to this in a moment.

Another possible answer is that he is talking to other gods, but like the angels we aren't created in the image of any other God, or gods. We are created in the image and likeness of the ONE TRUE GOD!  “You are my witnesses,” declares Jehovah,“Yes, my servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and have faith in me And understand that I am the same One. Before me no God was formed, And after me there has been none. I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior.” “I am the One who declared and saved and made known When there was no foreign god among you. So you are my witnesses,” declares Jehovah, “and I am God. Also, I am always the same One;" (Isaiah 43:10-12 NWT)

All Things From God Through Christ...

Saint Paul explains..

"there is actually to us one God, the Father, from whom all things are and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and we through him." (1 Cor 8:6 NWT)

We are told here that from God all things exist. And through Jesus Christ all things exist. Yet in Gen 1:1 we are told that God (in the singular) created. Not deviating from the fact that there is only ONE God, but considering the evidence so far Jesus and God are the ONE God, yet each with his own creative function. God however is not limited to himself and his Son, but also The Holy Spirit. God created all things from himself, his Holy Spirit, and through his Eternal Word, his Son! 

Let's continue...

The Image of The Invisible God!

Remember Gen 1:26? “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness" here is where we get closer to the answer of the question. So, who was God talking to?

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwelland through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

I have only included the full ESV text here because the NWT wording can be a little tricky and actually tries to take away attention from the fact that Jesus is God, it really doesn't if you take all of the other Scripture into consideration. But I will include some of it for the sake of proving Jesus' divinity using the NWT. Plus the ESV is a more readable text in my opinion.

In Colossians we read that "He is the image of the invisible God" (NWT) The "he" being spoken of here is none other than Jesus. But unlike 1 Corinthians 8:6 We are told that "by him all things were created" the him being Jesus. This isn't a contradiction in fact both instances are true. All things are created by Jesus in the sense that he is God, and through Jesus in the sense that he is The Word of God, and The Son of God. "Because God was pleased to have all fullness to dwell in him," (Col 1:19 NWT) all fullness of God that is, see ESV. Either way they are saying the same thing.

Further we read in (2 Corinthians 4:4) again that Jesus Christ is the image of God! "among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through." (NWT)

It is clear that Jesus is the "image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15 NWT) 

In The Beginning

At last we conclude this study where we began. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:1-3 ESV) 

Here is another situation where the NWT tries to take the focus off of Jesus being God. I have only included fully the ESV text here since it is more readable and is in line with most modern translations like the KJV, and NIV. The NWT text for Jn 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." But I think it's pretty evident here that Jesus isn't merely a god, or one of many gods. Not only that we know that Jesus is either God or a false god since there is only ONE TRUE GOD! But John 1:1 NWT is for another study altogether.

We can compare John 1:1-3 with this next verse. "and he is clothed with an outer garment stained with blood, and he is called by the name The Word of God." (Rev 19:13 NWT)

Further in John...

"So the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of divine favor and truth."  (Jn 1:14 NWT)

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (Jn 1:14 ESV)

I  love this last verse so much I had to give it to you again.

So, Beautiful!

Who's The Author of Life?

The next verse that I want to show you is in Acts. Speaking to the Jews Peter says,  "and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses" (Acts 3:15 ESV) The NWT has it rendered "Chief Agent of Life" which is "kinda" the same thing. 

We can look to the Latin Vulgate text (which is the first complete bible) "auctorem vero vitae" When translated literally meas "true author of life." When we look to the Greek text we see "Ἀρχηγὸν ζωῆς." The transliteration is, "Archēgon zōēs" which literally means "the Author of life."

In Conclusion...

Not only is Jesus "the image of God", whom all things were created by, through and for. We are also told that Jesus "was in the beginning with God." In fact "without him was not anything made that was made!" The fullness of God dwells in him, and he is the beginning of all things. Further we are told that he is The Word of God. Also, Jesus is the "Author of life" only someone who is God can have that title.  It is in him our Lord and Savior that we are created in the image and likeness! The Son of God our Lord is the prototype of all humanity! 

The answer to our question is, God was talking to Jesus!  More specifically the second person of the Blessed Trinity! But, that's another post.

"Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation." It is in Christ, "the image of the invisible God," that man has been created "in the image and likeness" of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God." (Catechism of The Catholic Church 1701 Article 1)

There are so many more beautiful scripture verses that I could show you about the divinity of Jesus. This article is just one way to show Christ's Unique and mysterious relationship with his Father. For another good read with a lot of scripture that I did not touch on in this article please read The Divinity of Christ.

I hope you enjoyed this.

By Joanne Utke

Additional comments

In Genesis we read, "and God said." Everything God created was created by his Word! God's Word proceeds out from God himself. His Word is powerful, and mysterious! God's Word is both God and his Son. God never stopped being God when "the Word became flesh." God didn't change either since God doesn't change. And it doesn't mean that there is more than one God. As we can see his Eternal Word (his Son) was there with him from the beginning creating all things and is together with his Father ONE!

Below is something I put together using the New World Translation of the Scriptures. Also on Pinterest Joanne Utke.

This is a good talk about Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholicism and the Divinity of Christ.