+J.M.J+

MARY'S INTERCESSION


Definition

Though she enjoys the glory of heaven, the Virgin Mary is still lovingly concerned with the struggles of Christ's Body on earth. So she constantly prays for our needs with a mother's love.

How This Teaching Exalts Christ

Mary's intercession is entirely dependent on Jesus' role as the great Mediator (I Timothy 2:5). He is the One Way to the Father (John 14:6), all prayers to the Father must go through Him. Mary's prayers are no exception; she, too, prays to the Father in Jesus' Name.

Biblical Basis

We see a biblical example of Mary's intercession at the Wedding Feast in Cana (John 2:1-11). Mary notices that the couple has run out of wine, so she asks Jesus to help them (vs 2). Jesus agrees to do it, only He wants to keep it quiet because it is not yet time for Him to manifest Himself as Messiah (vs. 4). So she tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to (vs 5), and He performs the miracle. Jesus helped that young couple because His Mother interceded for them! As she did on earth, she continues to do in heaven, and if He listened to her then, surely He will listen to her requests now.

Belief that the saints in heaven intercede for us is biblical! The Book of Revelation portrays the twenty-four elders as offering our prayers to God like incense (Revelation 5:8). Those who sleep in Christ are still members of His Body, as are we. So we can ask them to pray for us the same way we would ask a fellow Christian on earth to pray for us.

Mary, of course, is a resurrected saint, as we saw in the article on the Assumption. She, too, is a member of the Body of Christ, so she, too, offers our prayers before the Throne of Grace.

Early Christian Witness

"And whereas Eve had disobeyed God, Mary was persuaded to obey God, that the Virgin Mary might become advocate (advocata) of the virgin Eve" (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:19:1).

"With the Mediator, you are the Mediatrix of the entire world" (S. Ephraem, Syri opera graeca et latine, v. 3, Romae, pp. 525, 528-9, 532 (373 AD)).

"The Lord said to his mother, 'Let your heart rejoice and be glad, for every favor and every gift has been given to you from my Father in heaven and from me and from the Holy Spirit. Every soul that calls upon your name shall not be ashamed, but shall find mercy and comfort and support and confidence, both in the world that now is and in that which is to come, in the presence of my Father in the heavens'" (John the Theologian, The Falling Asleep of Mary; 400 AD).

"Hail you who acceptably intercede as a Mediatrix for mankind." (Antipater of Bostra, AD 431)

Objections
  1. The Bible does not tell us anywhere to pray to anyone except God.

    The Bible doesn't tell us anywhere to pray to God the Holy Spirit, does this mean that it is wrong to pray to Him?  Sacred Scripture does, however, contain invocations of the holy angels of God in the Book of Psalms (Ps 103:20-21; 148:1-2).  Since God intends for us to pray these Psalms, there must be nothing wrong with believers on earth addressing the holy angels in Heaven.

    So if we followed "the Bible alone" on this matter, we would pray only to to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the holy angels - but not to God the Holy Spirit!  There's something rather odd and unbalanced about that arrangement; we can address two Persons of the Trinity and some of God's creatures, but not the Third Divine Person - even though He is co-equal to the Father and the Son and infinitely greater than the angels?  Strange indeed!

    Of course, the Bible itself never claims to be the sole authority on matters of faith, so we need not follow "the Bible alone" on this or any matter.  Sacred Tradition and Church history tell us that the early Christians addressed all Three Persons of the Trinity in prayer (no imbalance here), plus the holy angels and saints in Heaven.  So the Catholic Church simply continues to do what she has always done from the beginning.

  2. Even Jesus prayed only to God -- not to Mary!

    Of course Jesus never prayed to Mary; He's God Incarnate, and God doesn't have to pray to the saints!  We ask the saints to pray to the Father through Jesus for us, the same way one would ask Christians on earth to do that.  Christ is their Way to the Father even as He is our Way, but Christ Himself obviously needs no intercessor, no "way" to the Father, since He and the Father are eternally One in Essence.

    Moreover, "prayer" is when someone on earth petitions someone who is in heaven; since Mary was on earth the entire time Christ was on earth, neither He nor anyone else alive back then could have possibly "prayed" to her!  Though I'm sure Jesus did ask her for things during His childhood - as any child asks his mother for what he needs - that would not have been "prayer" in the religious sense.

  3. Matthew 6:5-15 tells us how to pray and to whom to pray.

    The Lord's Prayer is certainly the greatest prayer of all, given by Christ Himself.  However, it isn't the only way to pray.  For instance, the Lord's Prayer is addressed to God the Father alone, but the Bible itself demonstrates that prayer to God the Son is also legitimate (Acts 7:59; Rev 22:20), and that it is okay to address the holy angels, as we saw above.  So as great and important as the Our Father is for Christians, we can't use it to argue against prayer to anyone other than God the Father.

  4. The Wedding at Cana does not prove Mary's intercession; she asked for something that Jesus did not want to give.

    If He did not want to give it then why did He perform the miracle?  He is the Sovereign Lord God; He does not have to answer any request which is against His will.  Obviously, His words to Mary did not indicate a rejection of her request, and she, knowing Him very well, understood that.

  5. Mary can't be a Mediatrix because the Bible states that there is only one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (I Ti 2:5).

    Read that verse in context:  "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all" (I Timothy 2:5-6).  Jesus' unique Mediatorship consists in Him being our only Savior. But, as the verses which come before this indicate, Christ is not our only intercessor.  In I Timothy 2:1-4, St. Paul writes that Christians should pray for the salvation of all men - in other words, he is telling them to act as intercessors.  Of course, their intercession is not independent of Christ the Mediator, for they have access to the Father only by His death.

    So we actually see two types of "mediation" here: Christ is the One Mediator of our Salvation, the only Way to the Father, by whose death we may approach God and gain salvation.  Christians, however, as members of the Body of Christ, engage in a lesser type of mediation called "intercession" by praying for others. This lesser mediation is different from and dependent upon Jesus' mediation of salvation; the members of the Body of Christ can only intecede through the mediation of the Head.

    Mary's mediation is of the second type; she is the "Mediatrix of intercession", who "mediates" by praying for us. She certainly does not redeem us and give us access to the Father through her own person, as does Christ!  He alone is the Savior, she a mere intercessor, totally dependent upon the the one Mediator of our Salvation.  Apart from Him all intercession would be futile, including Mary's!  So Jesus' Mediatorship of salvation does not rule out Mary's intercession, but is the very reason for its efficacy.

  6. So how is Mary a "Mediatrix"?

    As a fellow Christian, she has access to the throne of grace by Jesus Christ, and there intercedes for us. As our heavenly Mother she cares about us and prays for our needs (as any devout mother would pray for her children). As the Heavenly Gebirah she can make requests of the King of kings, for that was one of the roles of the queen-mother in the Davidic dynasty.

  7. But Solomon refused his mother's bidding (I Kings 2:20-23).

    Both Bathsheba and Solomon were fallible human beings; she made a request which he did not wish to grant, so he broke his word that he would give her anything she asked (I Kings 2:20). This is not so with Jesus and Mary; for Jesus is God and Mary, though a creature, is completely submissive to the will of God. So she never asks for anything which is against His will and Jesus never refuses her any request.

  8. Jesus never refuses Mary any request? How can you Catholics believe that?!?!

    Based on biblical principles! The Bible says that sin in our lives can hinder our prayers (James 4:3; I Peter 3:7), and that the prayers of the righteous are very effectual (James 5:16). Since Mary is utterly sinless, her prayers would therefore have the greatest effect. Also, the Bible says that if we ask according to God's will He hears us and we can know that we will receive it (I John 5:14-15). Since Mary only wants God's will to be done (Luke 1:38), she only prays according to His will, and so always receives everything she asks for.

  9. How does she know God's will?

    She is in heaven. Those in heaven see God's will and plan more clearly than we do.

  10. How can Mary hear all those millions of prayers offered to her from all over the world?

    Heaven is not like earth. Here our knowledge and attention span is severely limited, largely because our souls are limited by their connection to our lowly, physical bodies. However, the saints are disembodied spirits and Mary has a glorified, spiritual body which does not limit her soul as a physical body would. Thus they are able to see and know more than we can.

  11. You must believe that Mary is omniscient like God, for she would have to be in order to hear all those prayers.

    Not necessarily. Even if everyone in the world prayed to her at once, that would only be a finite number of prayers, and one does not need infinite knowledge to hear a finite number of prayers. God certainly can enable her to hear them without her becoming omniscient.

  12. But Catholics pray to her in so many different languages; how can she understand them all?

    Again, Heaven is not like earth. If God can give people the gift of interpretation of tongues (I Co 12:10), He can cause Mary to understand all the prayers addressed to her. Though we do not know exactly how God accomplishes this, we know that He can do it, for nothing is impossible with Him.

  13. The Bible says that those in heaven rest from their earthly labors. If Mary is busy interceding for the whole world, where is her rest?

    Perhaps your concept of rest may be different from the biblical one. St. Augustine said to God "Our hearts are restless until we find rest in Thee". This life is frustrating and unsatisfying, as the Book of Ecclesiastes says. The rest we get in Heaven is the fullness of Grace that comes from beholding the Beatific Vision.

    "Eternal rest" does not mean that the blessed in Heaven are inactive (in fact, that term primarily applies to our bodies, which "rest" in the grave). Scripture does not portray Heaven as a place filled with millions of "couch potatoes" (cloud potatoes?) doing nothing. Rather, they are busy worshipping the Lord and offering our prayers before Him (Revelations 5:8).

    Yet such "activity" is restful in comparison to our constant earthly labors. Most of the saints in heaven do not have bodies to get weary, and Our Lady's glorified body cannot experience exhaustion, so her intercession is not strenuous, but actually part of her heavenly rest.

  14. God has forbidden us to contact the dead (Dt. 18:1011; Is. 8:19), so we can't talk to the saints at all.

    God has forbidden necromancy, the attempt to conjure up a spirit by occult practices so that one can ask it questions and gain secret knowledge or information from it.  Simply asking a saint, "Please pray for me" is vastly different from conducting a seance, and no secret knowledge is sought at all.

  15. Mary cannot hear our prayers or pray for us because she is dead and "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

    As we saw in a previous article, Mary is not dead; she was raptured into heaven body and soul. The text you cite comes from the Old Testament; Jesus had not yet come and the souls of the righteous dead reposed in Abraham's bosom. Since the Resurrection, however, the righteous are with the Lord in heaven (2 Co 5:8; Phil 1:22). The Bible reveals that they are quite conscious of earthly events (Rev 6:9-11) and perform an intercessory role by offering our prayers to God (Rev 5:8).

    Those who sleep in Christ are still members of His Body, and since His Body is not divided by death, we still have communion with them. The Bible indicates that members of the Church have fellowship not only with God the Father and Jesus Christ, but with "an innumerable company of angels" and "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Hb 12:22-24).

  16. God does not allow the saints to know what's happening on earth because we might ask for their intercession and so honor them too much.

    The Bible never says that. It is a tradition of men fabricated as an excuse to ignore Mary and the saints. It also makes God seem like a neurotic father who doesn't want his children to talk to each other because he's afraid they'll start to love each other more than they love him! The early Church clearly believed that saints could hear our prayers and intercede for us, as is evident from graffiti carved into the tombs of martyrs. I would rather believe as the early Christians did than embrace a doctrine made up about five hundred years ago!

  17. You Catholics think you can bypass Jesus by asking Mary.

    When a Protestant asks his pastor or friend to pray for him, is he trying to "bypass Jesus"?  No, since the pastor or friend must himself pray in Jesus Name!  Even so, Mary must present our petitions to God the Father in Jesus' Name; she can't go to the Father any other way!  Mary's intercession for us is like that of Christians on earth, only more pure and efficacious. She is essentially a "prayer warrior"--the greatest prayer warrior, for she intercedes for everyone in the world.

  18. Catholics pray to Mary because they think that God won't listen to their prayers because of their sins.

    That would depend on just how sinful one is.  The Bible clearly teaches that our prayers can be hindered by such things as lack of faith (James 1:6-7), selfish motives (James 4:3), unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2; John 9:31), not helping the poor (Proverbs 21:13), etc.  This is one reason why God wants Christians to pray for one another; even if my prayers are hindered, yours may not be, so I can still benefit from your intercession on my behalf.

    The saints in heaven have been made perfect (Hebrews 12:23), so they have no sin or selfishness to hinder their prayers.  Because they are righteous and pleasing in His sight, their prayers are very effective (James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:12; 1 John 3:22).  Since Mary is sinless, her prayers are the most effective of all.  So God may well refuse to answer the prayers of a sinner, but will hear Mary's prayers on his behalf.  It's not that He doesn't love us; it's just that our faith in and love for Him is so inconstant.  In fact, God manifests His love and concern for us precisely by allowing the saints to intercede for our needs even if we can't pray for ourselves!  Mary and the saints are wonderful prayer partners who can pray for us - and agree with us in prayer - before the Father.

  19. Prayer to Mary and the saints detracts from time we could use to pray to God.

    We could say the same of many other daily pursuits. Saint Paul says we should "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17); if we could learn to keep God in mind at all times, then conversation with other people (on earth or in heaven!) would not detract from prayer to God.

  20. If I can go straight to God, I don't need Mary.

    So why bother to ask living Christians to pray for you if you can go "straight to God"?  Yet the Bible teaches us by example to ask for the prayers of other Christians!

    This is like saying "As long as I can talk to my human father I can ignore the rest of my family". The Church is a family, a body; we all need one another: "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (I Co 12:21).  Whether you realize it or not, you need Mary! She is part of the Body of Christ, and has a role to play for the benefit of the whole Body - including you!


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