It’s almost that time of year again, when Protestants roll out the statues of saints (nativity scenes) and sing about Mary. Well, actually just one song about Mary. The ever-popular Mary, Did You Know. So let’s just clear things up right now so no one can claim ignorance; Mary, Did You Know is heretical nonsense. Seriously, stop singing it and pray for the poor soul who wrote it.
Apparently, some explanation is warranted as I can already hear the music being cued up in every Baptist church in town. Yes, dear friends, it is heretical for both Bible-Only Christians (most Protestants) as well as, and especially, faithful Catholics.
Sola Scriptura Christians are fairly quick to demand chapter and verse support for every Catholic teaching (yes, they do exist, all of them in fact). The Bible they claim is the only authority and source of truth, overlooking of course that nowhere in the Bible does the Bible state, suggest, or imply Sola Scriptura as doctrine. The Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura. Also, documents can’t self-authenticate (totally illogical). I digress.
Ok, so here we are during the Christmas season and a song with a super catchy melody asks if Mary knew. Here are the lyrics:
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God
Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know
The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am
Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know
Let us now consider Luke Chapter 1. An angel of God named Gabriel visits Mary. The angel announces to Mary that she has “found favor with God” and she will “conceive” in her womb and bear a son, “and you shall call his name Jesus,” which is literally the Hebrew name for “the Lord (Yhwh) saves.” So here we have Christ’s identity and His mission! The angel continues, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and his kingdom there will be no end.” The angel was pretty clear who this baby Jesus was. Mary knew because the angel told her. Scripture is so very clear about that.
If anyone knew, it was Mary! She confirms this knowledge in the canticle she offers to Elizabeth when they first meet and St. John the Baptist recognizes his Messiah in Mary’s womb. If fact, Elizabeth knew too! Upon meeting Mary, she declares, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for you. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Here Elizabeth is even declaring the truth of Jesus and acknowledged that Mary is blessed for believing this truth. Mary knew, and so did Elizabeth and the yet to be born John the Baptist!
Let us also consider Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56, and Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” How much clearer can Mary articulate that she understood who this baby was and what His mission was to be in light of the fulfillment of the prophesized Messiah?
Catholics should be especially cautious about this song for the line, “This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.” Nooooo! Really? What does she need to be delivered from? Sin? Nope! Catholics understand the angel’s greeting, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) Mary was without sin and we call this special grace her Immaculate Conception. She was preserved from original sin. God is her savior because she was protected from sin by being preserved from it in the first place by a special gift of God. She will not “soon” be delivered, as she was delivered before St. Anne conceived her.
This is a dogma the faithful are bound to accept. It has always been true that Mary was immaculately conceived as even Scripture tells us she is “full of grace.” If something is full, nothing can be added to it. There is no room for sin. This doctrine makes sense because the spotless purity of Jesus could not be contained in an unclean vessel. Mary had to be pure and preserved from all sin, even the stain of original sin.
In 1854 Pope Pius IX offered the dogmatic definition of the doctrine by stating, “We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”
Scripture contradicts this lyric that Mary will “one day” be saved/delivered and the Church has through its magisterial role defined this doctrine so the faithful can understand not just who Mary is, but who Jesus is. This doctrine speaks to the perfection of Christ that he would create, with intention, His own mother with a perfect soul, “full of grace.”
We should also not forget Luke 2: 22-38 when Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus in the temple and Simeon and Anna offer prophesy about Jesus. Simeon even tells Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Yes, Mary knew the suffering and trial that was to come.
I’ll finish with some words of Mary from the revelations of St. Bridget, a mystic from Sweden born in 1303. Upon presenting Jesus to the Temple, Mary recalls to St. Bridget:
“For though, by divine inspiration, I knew that my Son was to suffer, yet this grief pierced my heart more keenly at Simeon’s words, when he said that a sword should pierce my soul, and that my Son should be set for a sign to be contradicted. And until I was assumed in body and soul to Heaven, this grief never left my heart, . . . for every time that I looked upon my Son, wrapped Him in His swaddling clothes, or gazed upon His hands and feet, so often was my soul swallowed up, as it were, by fresh grief, for I thought how He was to be crucified.”
Yes, Mary knew, and we should love her even more because she did.