The Blessed Virgin in the History of Christianity | John A. Hardon, S.J.
Christianity would be meaningless without the Blessed Virgin. Her quiet presence opened Christian history at the Incarnation and will continue to pervade the Church's history until the end of time.
Our purpose in this meditation is to glance over the past two thousand years to answer one question: What are the highlights of our Marian faith as found in the Bible and the teaching of the Catholic Church?
The first three evangelists were mainly concerned with tracing Christ's ancestry as Son of Man and, therefore, as Son of Mary. St. Matthew, writing for the Jews, stressed Christ's descent from Abraham. St. Luke, disciple of St. Paul, traced Christ's origin to Adam, the father of the human race. Yet both writers were at pains to point out that Mary's Son fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah about the Messiah. He was to be born of a virgin to become Emmanuel, which means "God with us." Luke gave a long account of the angel's visit to Mary to announce that the Child would be holy and would be called the "Son of God" (Luke 1:36).
St. John followed the same pattern. He introduced Mary as the Mother of Jesus when He began His public ministry. In answer to her wishes, Christ performed the miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana in Galilee. What happened then has continued ever since. Most of the miraculous shrines of Christianity have been dedicated to Our Lady.
It is also St. John who tells us that Mary stood under the Cross of Calvary as her Son was dying for our salvation. Speaking of John, Jesus told His Mother, "This is your son." To John, He said of Mary, "This is your Mother." The apostle John represented all of us. On Good Friday, therefore, Christ made His Mother the supernatural Mother of the human race and made us her spiritual children.
Mother of God
In the early fifth century, a controversy arose in Asia Minor, where the Bishop of Constantinople claimed that Mary was only the Mother of Christ (Greek=Christotokos). He was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431, which declared that "the holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Greek=Theotokos).
St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt, was mainly responsible for this solemn definition of Mary's divine maternity. It was St. Cyril who thus composed the most famous Marian hymn of antiquity. It is a praise of Our Lady as Mediatrix with God:
Through you, the Trinity is glorified.
Through you, the Cross is venerated throughout the world.
Through you, angels and archangels rejoice.
Through you, the demons are driven away.
Through you, the fallen creature is raised to heaven.
Through you, the churches are founded in the whole world.
Through you, people are led to conversion.
Every other title of Mary and all the Marian devotion of the faithful are finally based on the Blessed Virgin's primary claim to our extraordinary love. She is the Mother of God. She gave her Son all that every human mother gives the child she conceives and gives birth to. She gave Him His human body. Without her, there would have been no Incarnation, no Redemption, no Eucharist; in a word, no Christianity.
Logically related to her divine maternity is Our Lady's perpetual virginity. From the earliest days the Church has taught that Mary was a virgin before giving birth to Jesus, in giving His birth, and after His birth in Bethlehem.