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Mary, Mother of Jesus
The Madonna in Sorrow, by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, 17th century.
Theotokos ("Mother of God")
Blessed Virgin Mary
Umm Issa ("Mother of Jesus")
Saint Mary
Born unknown; celebrated 8 September [1]
Died unknown; See Assumption of Mary
Venerated in Anglican Communion
Eastern Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Roman Catholic Church

Recognized and honored
(not venerated) in:


Feast Mary is commemorated on as many as 25 different days. The most universally observed are:

25 March – The Annunciation 15 August – The Assumption (Catholicism)
15 August – The Dormition (Orthodoxy) 22 August – The Assumption Coptic-Orthodox

Mary (Aramaic, Hebrew: מרים, Maryām Miriam; Arabic:مريم, Maryam), usually referred to by Christians as the Virgin Mary or Saint Mary, was a Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, identified in the New Testament[Mt. 1:16,18–25] [Lk. 1:26–56] [2:1–7] as the mother of Jesus Christ. Muslims also refer to her as the Virgin Mary or Syeda Mariam, which means Our Lady Mary. The New Testament describes her as a virgin (Greek παρθένος, parthénos).[3] Christians believe that she conceived her son miraculously by the agency of the Holy Spirit. This took place when she was already the betrothed wife of Saint Joseph and was awaiting the concluding rite of Jewish marriage, the formal home-taking ceremony. Roman Catholics believe that Mary was conceived and born without the stain of Original Sin, thereby making her sinless, eternally perfect, divine and immaculate from all forms of evil. In Islam she is regarded as the virgin mother of the prophet Jesus. She is described in the Qur'an, in the Sura Maryam (سورة مريم).

The New Testament begins its account of Mary's life with the Annunciation, the appearance to her of the angel Gabriel heralding her divine selection to be mother of Jesus. However, early non-biblical writings state that she was the daughter of Joachim and Saint Anne. The Bible records Mary's role in key events of the life of Jesus from his virgin birth to his crucifixion. Other apocryphal writings tell of her subsequent death and bodily assumption into heaven.

A number of important doctrines concerning Mary are held by Christian churches. Primary among these is that, as mother of Jesus, she became Theotokos, literally, the "God-bearer", or "Mother of God". This doctrine was confirmed by the First Council of Ephesus in 431. Christians of the major ancient traditions including the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church believe that Mary lived a sinless life, offer prayers to God through Mary and venerate her as intercessor and mother of the church. Many Protestants, however, do not follow these devotions.

In ancient sources

New Testament

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, an example of 15th century Marian art

The New Testament tells little of Mary's early history. Her parents are not named in the canonical texts; however, apocryphal sources, widely accepted by later tradition, give their names as Joachim and Anne. Mary was a relative of Elizabeth, wife of the priest Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah, who was herself part of the lineage of Aaron and so of the tribe of Levi.[Lk 1:5] [1:36] In spite of this, some speculate that Mary, like Joseph to whom she was betrothed, was of the House of David and so of the tribe of Judah, and that the genealogy presented in Luke was hers, while Joseph's is given in Matthew.[4] She resided at Nazareth in Galilee, presumably with her parents and during her betrothal – the first stage of a Jewish marriage – the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah by conceiving him through the Holy Spirit.[5] When Joseph was told of her conception in a dream by "an angel of the Lord", he was surprised; but the angel told him to be unafraid and take her as his wife, which Joseph did, thereby formally completing the wedding rites.[Mt 1:18–25]

Visitation, from the St Vaast Altarpiece by Jacques Daret, 1434–1435

Since the angel Gabriel had told Mary (according to Luke)[1:19] that Elizabeth, having previously been barren, was now miraculously pregnant, Mary hurried to visit Elizabeth, who was living with her husband Zechariah in a city of Judah "in the hill country".[Lk 1:39] Once Mary arrived at the house and greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth proclaimed Mary as "the mother of [her] Lord", and Mary recited a song of thanksgiving commonly known as the Magnificat from its first word in Latin.[Lk 1:46–56] After three months, Mary returned to her house.[Lk 1:56–57] According to the Gospel of Luke, a decree of the Roman emperor Augustus required that Joseph and his betrothed should proceed to Bethlehem for a census. While they were there, Mary gave birth to Jesus; but because there was no place for them in the inn, she had to use a manger as a cradle.[Lk 2:1ff]

After eight days, the boy was circumcised and named Jesus, in accordance with the instructions that the "angel of the Lord" had given to Joseph after the Annunciation to Mary. These customary ceremonies were followed by Jesus' presentation to the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem in accordance with the law for firstborn males, then the visit of the Magi, the family's flight into Egypt, their return after the death of King Herod the Great about 2 or 1 BCE and taking up residence in Nazareth.[Mt 2] Mary apparently remained in Nazareth for some thirty-four years. She is involved in the only event in Jesus' adolescent life that is recorded in the New Testament: at the age of twelve Jesus, having become separated from his parents on their return journey from the Passover celebration in Jerusalem, was found among the teachers in the temple.[Lk. 2:41–52]

Marriage at Cana by Giotto

After Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist and his temptations by the devil in the desert, Mary was present when, at her intercession, Jesus worked his first public miracle during the marriage in Cana by turning water into wine.[Jn 2:1–11] Subsequently, there are events when Mary is present along with James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, called Jesus' brothers, and unnamed "sisters".[Mt 13:54–56] [6:3] [Ac 1:14] This passage is sometimes introduced to challenge the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, however both Catholic and Orthodox churches interpret the words commonly translated "brother" and "sister" as actually meaning close relatives (see Perpetual virginity of Mary). There is also an incident in which Jesus is sometimes interpreted as rejecting his family. "And his mother and his brothers arrived, and standing outside, they sent in a message asking for him[Mk 3:21] ... And looking at those who sat in a circle around him, Jesus said, 'These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.'"[3:31–35]

A statue of the Virgin Mary in the Mountain Province, the Philippines

Mary is also depicted as being present during the crucifixion standing near "the disciple whom Jesus loved" along with Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene,[Jn 19:25–26] to which list Matthew 27:56 adds "the mother of the sons of Zebedee", presumably the Salome mentioned in Mark 15:40. Mary, cradling the dead body of her Son, while not recorded in the Gospel accounts, is a common motif in art, called a "pietà" or "pity".

In Acts (1:26, especially v. 14, Mary is the only one to be mentioned by name – other than the twelve Apostles and the candidates – of about 120 people gathered, after the Ascension, in the Upper Room on the occasion of the election of Matthias to the vacancy of Judas. (Though it is said that "the women" and Jesus' brothers were there as well, their names are not given.) From this time, she disappears from the biblical accounts, although it is held by Catholics (as well as other Christian groups) that she is again portrayed as the heavenly woman of Revelation.[Rev 12:1]

Her death is not recorded in scripture; however, tradition[6] has her assumed (taken bodily) into Heaven. Belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is universal to Catholicism, in both Eastern and Western Churches, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Later Christian writings and traditions

According to the apocryphal Gospel of James Mary was the daughter of St. Joachim and St. Anne. Before Mary's conception Anna had been barren. Mary was given to service as a consecrated virgin in the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years old, much like Hannah took Samuel to the Tabernacle as recorded in the Old Testament.

A depiction of the Assumption of Mary by Peter Paul Rubens

According to Sacred Tradition, Mary died surrounded by the apostles (in either Jerusalem or Ephesus) between three and fifteen years after Christ's ascension. When the apostles later opened her tomb it was found to be empty and they concluded that she had been assumed into Heaven.

The House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus in Turkey is traditionally considered the place where Mary lived until her assumption. The Gospel of John states that Mary went to live with the Disciple whom Jesus loved,[Jn 19:27] identified as John the Evangelist. Irenaeus and Eusebius of Caesarea wrote in their histories that John later went to Ephesus,[7] which may provide the basis for the early belief that Mary also lived in Ephesus with John.

"Mary's Tomb", an empty tomb in Jerusalem, is attributed to Mary.[8]

Mary in the Qur'an

Mary, mother of Jesus, is mentioned more in the Qur'an than in the entire New Testament.[9] She enjoys a singularly distinguished and honoured position amongst women in the Qur'an. A chapter in the Qur'an is titled "Maryam" (Mary), which is the only chapter in the Qur'an named after a woman, in which the story of Mary and Jesus is recounted according to the Islamic view of Jesus.

She is the only woman directly named in the Qur'an; declared (uniquely along with Jesus) to be a Sign of God to mankind; as one who "guarded her chastity"; an obedient one; chosen of her mother and dedicated to God whilst still in the womb; uniquely (amongst women) Accepted into service by Allah; cared for by (one of the prophets as per Islam) Zakariya (Zachariah); that in her childhood she resided in the Temple and uniquely had access to Al-Mihrab (understood to be the Holy of Holies), and was provided with heavenly 'provisions' by God; a Chosen One; a Purified One; a Truthful one; her child conceived through "a Word from God"; and "exalted above all women of The Worlds/Universes".

The Qur'an relates detailed narrative accounts of Maryam (Mary) in two places Sura 3 and Sura 19.

The account given in Sura 19 of the Qur'an is nearly identical with that in the Gospel of Luke, and both of these (Luke, Sura 19) begin with an account of the visitation of an angel upon Zakariya (Zechariah) and Good News of the birth of Yahya (John), followed by the account of the annunciation.


Our Lady of Vladimir, one of the holiest medieval representations of the Theotokos

The name "Mary" comes from the Greek Μαρία, which is a shortened form of Μαριάμ. This is a transliteration of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic name Maryam. During the Middle Ages Hebrew vowel systems were formed and the Hebrew vowel "a" changed (regularly) to "i" in a closed unaccented syllable, so that by the time the Jews began to use vowel points, they wrote it as Miryam. Mary's most common titles include The Blessed Virgin Mary (also abbreviated to "BVM"), Our Lady (Notre Dame, Nuestra Señora, Nossa Senhora, Madonna), Mother of God, and the Queen of Heaven (Regina Caeli).

Mary is referred to by the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Anglican Church, and all Eastern Catholic Churches as Theotokos, a title recognized at the Third Ecumenical Council (held at Ephesus to address the teachings of Nestorius, in 431). Theotokos (and its Latin equivalents, "Deipara" and "Dei genetrix") literally means "Godbearer". The equivalent phrase "Mater Dei", (Mother of God) is more common in Latin and so also in the other languages used in the Western Catholic Church, but this same phrase in Greek (Μήτηρ Θεοῦ), in the abbreviated form of the first and last letter of the two words (ΜΡ ΘΥ), is the indication attached to her image in Byzantine icons. The Council stated that the Church Fathers "did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Mother of God",[10] so as to emphasize that Mary's child, Jesus Christ, is in fact God.

The title, Queen Mother, was given to Mary in early Christianity, since Mary was the mother of Jesus, who was sometimes referred to as the "King of Kings" due to His lineage of King David. The biblical basis for this understanding is found in 1 Kings 2:19–20, where King Solomon made his mother, Bathsheba, his queen mother present in his royal court. This governmental practice is also found throughout 1 and 2 Kings and in Jeremiah 13:18–19. In ancient Middle Eastern cultures, it was common for a king to have more than one wife; however, the king only had one mother and was an integral part of each royal court.[11]

Mary is also sometimes referred to as the New Eve, as her obedience to God's command (contrasted with Eve's disobedience) led, according to this system of belief, to the salvation of mankind through Jesus.[12]

Christian doctrines

According to mainstream Christian doctrine Mary remained a virgin at least until Jesus was born.[Mt 1:25][Lk 1:34–35] Most Protestants do not specifically claim that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus, but the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and many in the Anglican Church maintain that Mary also remained a virgin throughout the rest of her life.[13][14]

The New Testament recounts her presence at important stages during her son's adult life (e.g., at the Wedding at Cana and at his crucifixion). Also, she was present at communal prayers immediately after Jesus' Ascension. Narratives of her life are further elaborated in later Christian apocrypha, who give the names of her parents as Joachim and Anne. Christian churches teach various doctrines concerning Mary, and she is the subject of much veneration. The area of Christian theology concerning her is known as Mariology. The conception of her Son Jesus is believed to have been an act of the Holy Spirit, and to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah that a virgin would bear a son who would be called Emmanuel ("God with us").[15] The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches venerate her as the Ever-Virgin Mother of God (Theotokos), who was specially favored by God's grace (Catholics hold that she was conceived without original sin) and who, when her earthly life had been completed, was assumed bodily into Heaven. Some Protestants, including certain Lutherans and Methodists, embrace veneration of Mary and also hold some of these doctrines. Others, especially in the Reformed tradition, question or even condemn the devotional and doctrinal position of Mary in the above traditions. Mary also holds a revered position in Islam.

The Roman Catholic tradition has a well established philosophy for the study and veneration of the Virgin Mary via the field of Mariology with Pontifical schools such as the Marianum specifically devoted to this task[16][17][18]

Primary doctrines on Mary

The Birth of the Virgin, by Francisco de Zurbarán

Immaculate conception of Mary

Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary, namely that she was filled with grace from the very moment of her conception in her mother's womb and preserved from the stain of original sin. The Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church has a liturgical feast by that name, kept on 8 December.[19] Mary, under title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States. (This doctrine is often confused with the Virgin Birth of Jesus and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, both discussed below.)

The corresponding feast in other rites may go by other names, such as, in the Byzantine Rite, the Feast of the Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos. However, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is part of the teaching of the Catholic Church, and the title of "The Immaculate Conception" has been given to many Eastern Catholic church buildings, including the cathedral in Detroit of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.[20]

Eastern Orthodox reject the Immaculate Conception,[21] principally because their understanding of ancestral sin (the Greek term corresponding to the Latin "original sin") differs from that of the Roman Catholic Church, but also on the basis that without original sin (i.e. fallen human nature), Mary would have likewise been separated from the rest of us by a special condition.[22] Some Orthodox believe that Mary was conceived like any one of us, inherited the sin of Adam, but was cleansed from it when Christ (God incarnate) took form within her. This, coupled with the belief that she never committed any sin made her the perfect vessel. Nevertheless, this remains an area on which the Orthodox Church has not made any definitive statement, so a variety of views may be found.

Calvinist and Lutheran Protestants reject the idea that Mary was preserved from original sin from her very first moment.[23] However, many Protestants of the Pentecostal tradition, especially those influenced by Charles Finney, do not believe in original sin in the sense that Catholics do, if they affirm the doctrine at all.[24] This renders the Immaculate Conception a non-question for them.

This doctrine must be contrasted with the more widely held doctrine that Mary committed no sin in her life. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception proclaims not only that Mary committed no actual sin, but that she was preserved from original sin, and this from the moment of her conception. Many may highly venerate Mary (as do many Protestants, Anglicans, and certainly Eastern Orthodox), but do not thereby indicate their acceptance of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as taught by the Roman Catholic Church.

Virgin birth of Jesus

Christian View

Mary, depicted as Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed both refer to Mary as "the Virgin Mary". This alludes to the belief that Mary conceived Jesus through the action of God the Holy Spirit, and not through intercourse with Joseph or anyone else. That she was a virgin at this time is affirmed by Eastern Christianity, Roman Catholicism and many Protestants. Rejection of this is considered heretical by many, but not all, traditional Christian groups.

The Gospel of Matthew describes Mary as a virgin who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew word almah that appears in this verse, and the Greek word parthenos that Jews used to translate it in the Greek Septuagint that Matthew quotes here, have been the subjects of dispute for almost two millennia, since almah simply means young woman, rather than virgin (in Hebrew, the word betulah would be an unambiguous translation). This disagreement is related to the question of whether Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy of Jesus' birth. Regardless of the meaning of this verse, it is clear that the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke consider Jesus' conception not the result of intercourse and assert that Mary had "no relations with man" before Jesus' birth.[Mt 1:18] [1:25] [Lk 1:34]

Virgin birth of Jesus in the Qur'an

The Qur'an says that Jesus was the result of a virgin birth. The most detailed account of the annunciation and birth of Jesus is provided in Sura 3 and 19 of The Qur'an wherein it is written that God sent an angel to announce that she could shortly expect to bear a son, despite being a virgin:

(Remember) When the angels said O Mary! Allah Gives thee Good News of a son through a Word from Him! His name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who Are Granted Nearness to Allah! (3.45)

And he shall speak to the people in the cradle, and when of middle age, and he shall be of The Righteous (3.46)

She said My Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me? He Said, That is as it shall be. Allah Creates what He Pleases. When HE decrees a thing HE says to it "Be" and it is! (3.47)

Other views

From early stages of Christianity, the faithful believe in the Virginity of Mary and the virgin conception of Jesus, as stated in the gospels, holy and supernatural, was used by detractors, both political and religious, as a topic for discussions, debates and writings, specifically aimed to challenge the Divinity of Jesus and thus Christians and Christianity alike. Such polemics and writings came from both Jewish and Hellenistic cultural centers. As of special note there are the writings of second century's Celsus, who stated that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera as part of the earliest anti-Christian polemics to reach us.[25]

Some scholars of the historical Jesus, regard the nativity of Jesus to be an early Christian story created to liken Jesus to Moses (the Massacre of the Innocents) and to show him fulfilling prophecy (the return from Egypt, etc.).

Other scholars, such as Bart D. Ehrman, suggest the historical method can never comment on the likelihood of supernatural occurrences. While parthenogenesis (virginal conception) is known in lower animals, it does not occur naturally in human beings or other mammals, and produces females only, genetic clones of the mother.

Perpetual virginity

The perpetual virginity of Mary, a doctrine of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Christianity affirms Mary's "real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made Man."[26] According to this Church dogma, Mary was ever-virgin (Greek: ἀειπάρθενος) for the remainder of her life, making Jesus her biological and only son, whose conception and birth are held to be miraculous. Matthew 13:55–56 raises the possibility that Jesus had siblings. However, since the Desert Fathers these individuals have been interpreted by some as possibly cousins or relatives of Jesus.[27]

Dormition and assumption

For both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches Mary's assumption into heaven is seen as an instance of the resurrection of the body.

Christian views of Mary

The oldest-known image of Mary depicts her nursing the Infant Jesus. Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome (2nd century)

Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran, as well as some Methodist Christians venerate Mary. This veneration especially takes the form of prayer for intercession with her Son, Jesus Christ. The Hail Mary prayer is one such example. Additionally it includes composing poems and songs in Mary's honor, painting icons or carving statues of her, and conferring titles on Mary that reflect her position among the saints. She is also one of the most highly venerated saints in both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches; and several major feast days of the liturgical year are devoted to her.

Virgin and Child. Wall painting from the catacombs, Rome (4th century).

By contrast, certain documents of the Second Vatican Council, such as chapter VIII of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium describe Mary as higher than all other created beings, even angels: "she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth"; but still in the final analysis, a created being, solely human – not divine – in her nature. On this showing, Catholic traditionalists would argue that there is no conflation of the human and divine levels in their veneration of Mary.

The major origin and impetus of veneration of Mary comes from the Christological controversies of the early church – many debates denying in some way the divinity or humanity of Jesus Christ. So not only would one side affirm that Jesus was indeed God, but would assert the conclusion that Mary was "Mother of God", although some Protestants prefer to use the term "God-bearer". Catholics and Protestants agree however, that "Mother of God" is not intended to imply that Mary in any way gave Jesus his divinity.

Both Catholics and Orthodox, and especially Anglicans, make a clear distinction between such veneration (which is also due to the other saints) and adoration which is due to God alone. (The term worship is used by some theologians to subsume both sacrificial worship and worship of praise, e.g. Orestes Brownson in his book Saint Worship. The word "worship", while commonly used in place of "adoration" in the modern English vernacular, strictly speaking implies nothing more than the acknowledgement of "worth-ship" or worthiness, and thus means no more than the giving of honor where honor is due (e.g. the use of "Your Worship" as a form of address to judges in certain English legal traditions). "Worship" has never been used in this sense in Catholic literature when referring to the veneration of the Blessed Virgin). Mary, they point out, is not divine, and has only such powers to help as are granted to her by God in response to her prayers. Such miracles as may occur through Mary's intercession are ultimately the result of God's love and omnipotence. Traditionally, Catholic theologians have distinguished three forms of honor: latria, due only to God, and usually translated by the English word adoration; hyperdulia, accorded only to the Blessed Virgin Mary, usually translated simply as veneration; and dulia, accorded to the rest of the saints, also usually translated as veneration. The Orthodox distinguish between worship and veneration but do not use the "hyper"-veneration terminology when speaking of the Theotokos. Protestants tend to consider "dulia" too similar to "latria".

Gabriel making the Annunciation to Mary. Painting by El Greco (1575)

The surge in the veneration of Mary in the High Middle Ages owes some of its initial impetus to Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard expanded upon Anselm of Canterbury's role in transmuting the sacramental ritual Christianity of the Early Middle Ages into a new, more personally held, faith, with the life of Christ as a model and a new emphasis on the Virgin Mary. In opposition to the rationalist approach to divine understanding that the schoolmen adopted, Bernard preached an immediate faith, in which the intercessor was the Virgin Mary; "the Virgin that is the royal way, by which the Savior comes to us." Bernard played the leading role in the development of the Virgin cult, which is one of the most important manifestations of the popular piety of the 12th century. In early medieval thought the Virgin Mary had played a minor role, and it was only with the rise of emotional Christianity in the 11th century that she became the prime intercessor for humanity with the deity. (Cantor 1993 p 341)

The major figures of the Reformation honored Mary. Martin Luther said Mary is "the highest woman", that "we can never honour her enough", that "the veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart", and that Christians should "wish that everyone know and respect her". John Calvin said, "It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor." Zwingli said, "I esteem immensely the Mother of God", and, "The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow". Thus the idea of respect and high honour was not rejected by the first Protestants; but they criticized the Catholics for blurring the line, between high admiration of the grace of God wherever it is seen in a human being, and religious service given to another creature. The medieval Catholic practices of celebrating saints' days, making intercessory requests addressed to Mary and other departed saints, petitioning Mary for grace and protection, and various cultic elements such as the bearing of scapulars they have always considered to be idolatry. Protestantism usually follows the reformers in rejecting the practice of directly addressing Mary and other saints in prayers of admiration or petition, as part of their religious worship of God. Protestants do not call the respect or honor that they may have for Mary veneration because of the special religious significance that this term has in the Catholic practice.

Following the Magnificat in the Gospel of Luke, Protestants have always acknowledged that Mary is "blessed among women,"[Lk 1:42] but they do not agree that Mary is to be given cultic veneration. She is considered to be an outstanding example of a life dedicated to God. Indeed, the word that she uses to describe herself in Luke 1:38 (usually translated as "bond-servant" or "slave")[28] refers to someone whose will is consumed by the will of another–in this case Mary's will is consumed by God's. Rather than granting Mary any kind of "dulia", Protestants note that her role in scripture seems to diminish – after the birth of Jesus she is hardly mentioned. From this it may be said that her attitude paralleled that of John the Baptist who said "He must become greater; I must become less."[John 3:30]

Roman Catholic view

The "Blessed Virgin Mary", sometimes shortened to "The Blessed Virgin" or "The Virgin Mary" is a traditional title specifically used by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, and some others to describe Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.

The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary was formally declared to be dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Pope Pius XII states in Munificentissimus Deus: "We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith." This is an example of an invocation of papal infallibility.

The dogma does not state if Mary's assumption occurred before or after any physical death. As stated by Ludwig Ott (Bk. III, Pt. 3, Ch. 2, §6) "the fact of her death is almost generally accepted by the Fathers and Theologians, and is expressly affirmed in the Liturgy of the Church", to which he adduces a number of helpful citations, and concludes that "for Mary, death, in consequence of her freedom from original sin and from personal sin, was not a consequence of punishment of sin. However, it seems fitting that Mary's body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death." In keeping with the historical consensus of the Church, Pius XII himself almost certainly rejected the notion of Mary's "immortality" (the idea that she never suffered death), preferring the more widely accepted understanding that her assumption took place after her physical death. The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15.

In a less dogmatic context, the Roman Catholic tradition also has a more pronounced emphasis on Acts of Reparation and the Sorrows of Mary and a number of prayers for this purpose appear in the official Raccolta Catholic prayer book.

Eastern Orthodox view

In the Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Oriental Orthodox traditions, the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, died, after having lived a holy life. Eastern Orthodox do not believe in the immaculate conception, with the exception of some Old Believers, on the contrary believing that she was the best example of a human lifestyle. The surviving apostles were present at and conducted her funeral. However Thomas was delayed and arrived a few days later. He said that he would not believe this had happened unless he saw the body of Mary. Peter expressed dismay that Thomas continued to doubt what the other apostles told him. Upon opening the tomb, Thomas revealed that he had witnessed the absent body of the Theotokos being taken to heaven by angels. While many Orthodox Christians believe this to be true, the Orthodox have never formally made it a doctrine. It remains a holy mystery. The Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholics celebrate this event on August 15. The Oriental Orthodox celebrate it on August 22. The feast day of the Dormition ("falling asleep") of the Theotokos is preceded by a two-week fasting period.

Anglican view

Mary's special position within God's purpose of salvation as "God bearer" (theotokos) is recognised in a number of ways by some Anglican Christians. The Church affirms in the historic creeds that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and celebrates the feast days of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. This feast is called in older prayer books the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 2 February. The Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin on March 25 was from before the time of Bede until the 18th century New Year's Day in England. The Annunciation is called the "Annunciation of our Lady" in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Anglicans also celebrate in the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin on May 31, though in some provinces the traditional date of July 2 is kept. The feast of the St. Mary the Virgin is observed on the traditional day of the Assumption, August 15. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin is kept on September 8.

The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is kept in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, on December 8. In certain Anglo-Catholic parishes this feast is called the Immaculate Conception. Again, the Assumption of Mary is believed in by most Anglo-Catholics, but is considered a pious opinion by moderate Anglicans. Protestant minded Anglicans reject the celebration of these feasts.

Prayer with the Blessed Virgin Mary varies according to churchmanship. Low Church Anglicans rarely invoke the Blessed Virgin except in certain hymns, such as the second stanza of Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones. Following the 19th century Oxford Movement, Anglo-Catholics frequently pray the rosary, the Angelus, Regina Caeli, and other litanies and anthems of Our Lady. The Anglican Society of Mary maintains chapters in many countries. The purpose of the society is to foster devotion to Mary among Anglicans.

Joint Anglican-Roman Catholic document

On May 16, 2005, the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches issued a joint 43-page statement, "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ"[29] (also known as the Seattle Statement) on the role of the Virgin Mary in Christianity as a way to uphold ecumenical cooperation despite differences over other matters. The document was released in Seattle, Washington, by Alexander Brunett, the local Catholic Archbishop, and Peter Carnley, Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Western Australia, co-chairmen of the Anglican—Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).

The joint document is said to seek a common understanding to help both churches agree on the theological reasoning behind the Catholic dogmas, despite Anglicans not accepting the papal authority that underpins them. Carnley has reportedly said that Anglican concerns that dogmas about Mary are not provable by scripture would "disappear", with the document discussing that Anglicans would stop opposition to Roman Catholic teachings of the Immaculate Conception (defined in 1854) and the Assumption of Mary (defined in 1950) as being "consonant" with the biblical teachings.

Cinematic portrayals

Mary has been portrayed in various films, including:

  • Angela Clarke, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, 1951
  • Dorothy McGuire, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes, The Nativity Story, 2006
  • Linda Darnell], The Song of Bernadette, 1943
  • Maia Morgenstern, The Passion of the Christ, 2004
  • Olivia Hussey, Jesus of Nazareth, 1977
  • Penelope Wilton, The Passion, 2008 (TV)
  • Pernilla August, Mary, Mother of Jesus, 1999 (TV)
  • Shabnam Gholikhani, Saint Mary (Maryam Moghaddas), 2002 Iranian film [30][31]
  • Siobhán McKenna, King of Kings, 1961
  • Verna Bloom, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988

See also

A series of articles on

mother of Jesus

Presentation of Mary
Annunciation · Virgin Birth · Nativity · Presentation of Jesus · Flight into Egypt · Finding in the Temple · Cana · Crucifixion · Resurrection · Pentecost

Marian Perspectives
Eastern Orthodox • Protestant • Roman Catholic

Catholic Mariology
History of MariologyPapal teachingsMariology of the saints

Dogmas and Doctrines
Immaculate ConceptionAssumption

Mary in Culture


  1. Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  2. see "saint"
  3. Matthew 1:23 uses Greek parthénos 'virgin', whereas only the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14, from which the New Testament ostensibly quotes, has 'almah 'young maiden'. See article on parthénos in Bauer/(Arndt)/Gingrich/Danker, "A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature", Second Edition, University of Chicago Press, 1979, p. 627.
  4. Douglas; Hillyer; Bruce (1990). New Bible Dictionary. Inter-varsity Press. p. 746. ISBN 0851106307. 
  5. An event described by Christians as the Annunciation Luke 1:35.
  6. De Obitu S. Dominae, as noted in; Holweck, F. (1907). The Feast of the Assumption. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. Irenaeus, On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis III,1,1; Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History, III,1
  8. Joan E. Taylor, Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins, Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 202, ISBN 0198147856 (Google Scholar: [1]).
  9. Mary and Angels
  10. Denziger §111a
  11. This Rock, December 1998,
  12. The Second Eve
  13. Catholic Encyclopedia: The Annunciation
  14. Catholic Encyclopedia: The Blessed Virgin Mary
  15. The Hebrew text is ambiguous as to whether the woman in question is a "young woman" or a "virgin"; Matthew, following the Jewish Septuagint translation into Greek gives "virgin" unambiguously.
  16. Mariology Society of America
  17. Centers of Marian Study
  18. Publisher's Notice in the Second Italian Edition (1986), reprinted in English Edition, Gabriel Roschini, O.S.M. (1989). The Virgin Mary in the Writings of Maria Valtorta (English Edition). Kolbe's Publication Inc. ISBN 2-920285-08-4
  19. Catholic Encyclopedia: Immaculate Conception
  20. For other Eastern Catholic churches dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in Pennsylvania alone, see The Unofficial Directory of Eastern Catholic Churches in Pennsylvania
  21. Orthodox Wiki: Conception of the Theotokos
  22. Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (Penguin Books, 1963, ISBN 0-14-020592-6), pp. 263–4.
  23. Religious Tolerance comparison of Roman Catholic and Protestant beliefs
  24. [2]
  25. Also see: Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives (Biblical Seminar Series, No 28), Jane Schaberg, ISBN 1-85075-533-7.
  26. Catechism of the Catholic Church §499
  27. Revue biblique, 1895, pp. 173–183
  28. Doulos – Strong's Concordance
  29. "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ"
  30. featured in ITV documentary
  31. The Muslim Jesus, ITV – Unreality Primetime


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Mary, mother of Jesus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.