The pivotal role of the Virgin Mary in our redemption is solidly based in Scripture and in the early writings of the Church. The month of May is a timely reminder of the truths of faith that involve Our Lady as a key participant.
In Luke's account Mary is saluted by the angel Gabriel as 'full of grace' and over the centuries the Church has taken this as meaning Mary was preserved from the moment of her conception from the stain of original sin. When Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, he was simply setting out what the Church had always believed to be true.
When Mary responded to God's invitation with the obedience of faith, 'let it be done to me according to your word', she became the mother of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, hence the Church has always proclaimed that Mary is truly 'Mother of God.'
The virginal conception of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit is communicated in the Gospel accounts as 'a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility' (Catechism, 497). The Church sees this as the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah, 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.'
Saint Augustine wrote that Mary 'remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, and virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin' (Sermons, 186, 1).
Mary's central role in the work of salvation permeates the New Testament, from the childhood of Jesus through to the wedding feast at Cana. During Holy Week we see her at the foot of the cross and later when Christ's Church was revealed to the world on the day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Finally, Mary's assumption into heaven was 'a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians' (Catechism, 966).
The Church therefore rightly honours the Virgin Mary with special devotion by virtue of her intimate links with God's plan of salvation and our redemption.
Michael Gilchrist, Editor (email address available on request)