I ERHAPS THE MOST outstanding proof that Mary B worship developed out of the old worship of the pagan mother goddess may be seen from the fact that in pagan religion, the mother was worshipped as much (or more) than her son! This provides an outstanding clue to help us solve the mystery of Babylon today! True Christianity teaches that the Lord Jesus—and HE alone—is the way, the truth, and the life; that only HE can forgive sin; that only HE, of all earth's creatures, has ever lived a life that was never stained with sin; and HE is to be worshipped—never his mother. But Roman Catholicism—showing the influence that paganism has had in its development—in many ways exalts the MOTHER also.
One can travel the world over, and whether in a massive cathedral or in a village chapel, the statue of Mary will occupy a prominent position. In reciting the Rosary, the "Hail Mary" is repeated nine times as often as the "Lord's Prayer." Catholics are taught that the reason for praying to Mary is that she can take the petition to her son, Jesus; and since she is his mother, he will answer the request for her sake. The inference is that Mary is more compassionate, understanding, and merciful than her son Jesus. Certainly this is contrary to the scriptures! Yet this idea has often been repeated in Catholic writings.
One noted Roman Catholic writer, Alphonsus Liguori, wrote at length telling how much more effectual prayers are that are addressed to Mary rather than to Christ. Liguori, incidently, was canonized as a "saint" by Pope Gregory XIV in 1839 and was declared a "doctor" of the Catholic church by Pope Pius IX. In one portion of his writings, he described an imaginary scene in which a sinful man saw two ladders hanging from heaven. Mary was at the top of one; Jesus at the top of the other. When the sinner tried to climb the one ladder, he saw the angry face of Christ and fell defeated. But when he climbed Mary's ladder, he ascended easily and was openly welcomed by Mary who brought him into heaven and presented him to Christ! Then all was well. The story was supposed to show how much easier and more effective it is to go to Christ through Mary.1
The same writer said that the sinner who ventures to come directly to Christ may come with dread of his wrath. But if he will pray to the Virgin, she will only have to "show" that son "the breasts that gave him suck" and his wrath will be immediately appeased!2 Such reasoning is in direct conflict with a scriptural example. "Blessed is the womb that bare thee", a woman said to Jesus,"and the paps that thou has sucked!" But Jesus answered, "Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it" (Lk. 11:27, 28).
Such ideas about the breasts, on the other hand, were not foreign to the worshippers of the pagan mother goddess. Images of her have been unearthed which often show her breasts extremely out of proportion to her body. In the case of Diana, to symbolize her fertility, she is pictured with as many as one hundred breasts!
Further attempts to exalt Mary to a glorified position within Catholicism may be seen in the doctrine of the "immaculate conception." This doctrine was pronounced and defined by Pius IX in 1854—that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instant of her conception...was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."3 It would appear that this teaching is only a further effort to make Mary more closely resemble the goddess of paganism, for in the old myths, the goddess was also believed to have had a supernatural conception! The stories varied, but all told of supernatural happenings in connection with her entrance into the world, that she was superior to ordinary mortals, that she was divine. Little by little, so that the teachings about Mary
would not appear inferior to those of the mother goddess, it was necessary to teach that Mary's entrance into this world involved a supernatural element also!
Is the doctrine that Mary was born without the stain of original sin scriptural? We will answer this in the words of The Catholic Encyclopedia itself: "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture." It is pointed out, rather, that these ideas were & gradual developement within the church.4
Right here it should be explained that this is a basic, perhaps the basic, difference between the Roman Catholic approach to Christianity and the general Protestant view. The Roman Catholic church, as it acknowledges, has long grown and developed around a multitude of traditions and ideas handed down by church fathers over the centuries, even beliefs brought over from paganism if they could be "Christianized" and also the scriptures. Concepts from all of these sources have been mixed together and developed, finally to become dogmas at various church councils. On the other hand, the view which the Protestant Reformation sought to revive was a return to the actual scriptures as a more sound basis for doctrine, with little or no emphasis on the ideas that developed in later centuries.
Going right to the scriptures, not only is any proof for the idea of the immaculate conception of Mary lacking, there is evidence to the contrary. While she was a chosen vessel of the Lord, was a godly and virtuous woman —a virgin— she was as much a human as any other member of Adam's family. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), the only exception being Jesus Christ himself. Like everyone else, Mary needed a savior and plainly admitted this when she said: "And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my SAVIOR" (Lk. 1:47).
If Mary needed a savior, she was not a savior herself. If she needed a savior, then she needed to be saved, forgiven, and redeemed —even as others. The fact is, our Lord's divinity did not depend on his mother being some type of exalted, divine person. Instead, he was divine because he was the only begotten son of God. His divinity came from his heavenly Father.
The idea that Mary was superior to other human beings was not the teaching of Jesus. Once someone mentioned his mother and brethren. Jesus asked, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" Then, stretching forth his hand toward his disciples, said, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For WHOSOEVER shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and MOTHER" (Matt. 12:46-50). Plainly enough, anyone who does the will of God is, in a definite sense, on the same level with Mary.
Each day Catholics the world over recite the Hail Mary, the Rosary, the Angelus, the Litanies of the Blessed Virgin, and others. Multiplying the number of these prayers, times the number of Catholics who recite them each day, someone has estimated that Mary would have to listen to 46,296 petitions a second! Obviously no one but God himself could do this. Nevertheless, Catholics believe that Mary hears all of these prayers; and so, of necessity, they have had to exalt her to the divine level —scriptural or not!
Attempting to justify the way Mary has been exalted, some have quoted the words of Gabriel to Mary, "Blessed art thou among women" (Lk. 1:28). But Mary being "blessed among women" cannot make her a divine person, for many centuries before this, a similar blessing was pronounced upon Jael, of whom it was said: "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be . . ."(Judges 5:24).
Before Pentecost, Mary gathered with the other disciples waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit. We read that the apostles "all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brethren" (Acts 1:14). Typical of Catholic ideas concern-
ing Mary, the illustration (as seen in the Official Baltimore Catechism5) attempts to give to Mary a central position. But as all students of the Bible know, the disciples were not looking to Mary on that occasion. They were looking to their resurrected and ascended CHRIST to outpour on them the gift of the Holy Spirit. We notice also in the drawing that the Holy Spirit (as a dove) is seen hovering over her! Yet, as far as the scriptural account is concerned, the only one upon whom the Spirit as a dove descended was Jesus himself —not his mother! On the other hand, the pagan virgin goddess under the name of Juno was often represented with a dove on her head, as was also Astarte, Cybele, and Isis!6
Further attempts to glorify Mary may be seen in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity. This is the teaching that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life. But as The Encyclopedia Britannica explains, the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary was not taught until about three hundred years after the ascension of Christ. It was not until the Council of Chalcedon in 451 that this fabulous quality gained the official recognition of Rome.7
According to the scriptures, the birth of Jesus was the result of a supernatural conception (Matt. 1:23), without an earthly father. But after Jesus was born, Mary gave birth to other children —the natural offspring of her union with Joseph, her husband. Jesus was Mary's "firstborn " son (Matt. 1: 25); it does not say he was her only child. Jesus being her firstborn child could certainly infer that later she had a second-born child, possibly a third-born child, etc. That such was the case seems apparent, for the names of four brothers are mentioned: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matt. 13: 55). Sisters are also mentioned. The people of Nazareth said: "... and his sisters, are they not all with us?" (verse 56). The word "sisters" is plural, of course, so we know that Jesus had at least two sisters and probably more, for this verse speaks of "all" his sisters. Usually if we are referring to only two people, we would say "both" of them, not "all"of them. The implication is that at least three sisters are referred to. If we figure three sisters and four brothers, half-brothers and half-sisters of Jesus, this would make Mary the mother of eight children.
The scriptures say: "Joseph . . . knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name
JESUS" (Matt. 1:25). Joseph "knew her not" until after Jesus was born, but after that, Mary and Joseph did come together as husband and wife and children were born to them. The idea that Joseph kept Mary as a virgin all of her life is clearly unscriptural.
During the times of the falling away, as though to more closely identify Mary with the mother goddess, some taught that Mary's body never saw corruption, that she bodily ascended into heaven, and is now the "queen of heaven." It was not until this present century, however, that the doctrine of the "assumption" of Mary was officially proclaimed as a doctrine of the Roman Catholic church. It was in 1951 that Pope Pius XII proclaimed that Mary's body saw no corruption, but was taken to heaven.8
The words of St. Bernard i sum up the Roman Catholic position: "On the third day after Mary's death, when the apostles gathered around her tomb, they ( found it empty. The sacred; body had been carried up to the Celestial Paradise...; ¡| the grave had no power over one who was immaculate... But it was not enough that Mary should be received into heaven. She was to be no ordinary citizen... she had a dignity beyond the reach even of the highest of the archangels. Mary was to be crowned Queen of Heaven by the eternal Father: she was to have a throne at her Son's right hand...Now day by day, hour by hour, she is Assumption of Mary. praying for us, obtaining graces for us, preserving us from danger, shielding us from temptation, showering down blessings upon us."
All of these ideas about Mary are linked with the belief that
she bodily ascended into heaven. But the Bible says absolutely nothing about the assumption of Mary. To the contrary, John 3:13 says: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" —Jesus Christ himself. HE is the one that is at God's right hand, HE is the one that is our mediator, HE is the one that showers down blessings upon us —not his mother!
Closely connected with the idea of praying to Mary is an instrument called the rosary. It consists of a chain with fifteen sets of small beads, each set marked off by one large bead. The ends of this chain are joined by a medal bearing the imprint of Mary. From this hangs a short chain at the end of which is a crucifix. The beads on the rosary are for counting prayers —prayers that are repeated over and over. Though this instrument is widely used within the Roman Catholic church, it is clearly not of Christian origin. It has been known in many countries.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "In almost all countries, then, we meet with something in the nature of prayer-counters or rosary-beads." It goes on to cite a number of examples, including a sculpture of ancient Nineveh, mentioned by Layard, of two winged females praying before a sacred tree, each holding a rosary. For centuries, among the Mohammedans, a bead-string consisting of 33, 66, or 99 beads has been used for counting the names of Allah. Marco Polo, in the thirteenth century, was surprised to find the King of Malabar using a rosary of precious stones to count his prayers. St. Francis Xavier and his companions were equally astonished to see that rosaries were universally familiar to the Buddhists of Japan.9
Among the Phoenicians a circle of beads resembling a rosary was used in the worship of Astarte, the mother goddess, about 800 B. C.10 This rosary is seen on some early Phoenician coins. The Brahmans have from early times used rosaries with tens and hundreds of beads. The worshippers of Vishnu give their children rosaries of 108 beads. A similar rosary is used by millions of Buddhists in India and Tibet. The worshipper of Siva uses a rosary upon which he repeats, if possible, all the 1,008 names of his god.11
Beads for the counting of prayers were known in Asiatic Greece. Such was the purpose, according to Hislop, for the necklace seen on the statue of Diana. He also points out that in Rome, certain necklaces worn by women were for counting or remembering prayers, the monile, meaning "remembrancer."12
The most often repeated prayer and the main prayer of the rosary is the "Hail Mary" which is as follows: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death, Amen." The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "There is little or no trace of the Hail Mary as an accepted devotional formula before about 1050."13 The complete rosary involves repeating the Hail Mary 53 times, the Lord's prayer 6 times, 5 Mysteries, 5 Meditations on the Mysteries, 5 Glory Be's, and the Apostles' Creed.
Notice that the prayer to Mary, the Hail Mary, is repeated almost NINE times as often as the Lord's prayer! Is a prayer composed by men and directed to Mary nine times as important or effective as the prayer taught by Jesus and directed to God?
Those who worshipped the goddess Diana repeated a religious phrase over and over—'"...all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephe-sians" (Acts 19:34). Jesus spoke of repetitious prayer as being a practice of the heathen. "When ye pray," he said, "use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him" (Matt. 6:7-13). In this passage, Jesus plainly told his followers NOT to pray a little prayer over and over. It is significant to notice that it was right after giving this warning, in the very next verse, that he said: "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven..." and gave the disciples what we refer to as "The Lord's Prayer." Jesus gave this prayer as an opposite to the heathen type of prayer. Yet Roman
Catholics are taught to pray this prayer over and over. If this prayer was not to be repeated over and over, how much less a little man-made prayer to Mary! It seems to us that memorizing prayers, then repeating them over and over while counting rosary beads, could easily become more of a "memory test" than a spontaneous expression of prayer from the heart.
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