As the Catholic Catechumens of Phoenix Arizona prepare for entrance into the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil this year, many questions about Catholic belief and understanding are left unanswered. The Doctrines of the Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, and Assumption are perhaps some of the most difficult to grasp. For new Catholics, especially converts from other denominations, it is vitally important to understand the Marian Doctrines from a Biblical stand-point.
Marian Doctrine has to first be approached with the understanding that the Bible is a collection of Books that outline Salvation History from beginning to end (Genesis to Revelations). While individual scriptures and proof texts can be referenced and applied to specific situations, historical examinations, and current applications; as a whole, the Bible is about the History and Future of mankind, where the texts literally proclaim the coming, birth, death, resurrection, and return of our Lord in a variety of literary styles and genres. It is with this understanding that one can go to sacred scripture and allow the role that Mary has in Salvation History to be unveiled.
One first has to visit the Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity before an understanding of the Assumption can be had, this is due to the fact that some terms related to the first two Doctrines are very important and intricately tied to the Doctrine of the Assumption; or the Dormition of the Theotokos as it is known in the Eastern Churches.
To gain a full understanding, a few biblical objections have to be understood in the context in which they were written. In Romans 3:23 it says all have sin, and in First John Chapter 1 verse 8 it says” “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The problem here is that these verses are dealing with personal sin, not original sin, and it is original sin that the Immaculate Conception addresses, so these verses do not qualify as proof texts against the Immaculate Conception. We also know that these verses are dealing with personal sin because John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity.” when clearly we do not confess original sin because we didn’t do it. Another issue is that there are exceptions to these verses, for example in Romans 9:11 it is clear that Babies in the womb cannot sin.
The first, and perhaps most important understanding one has to have related to Mary is that it is established in scripture that she is the new Eve. In Genesis 3:15, almost immediately after the fall, God prophesized a new woman who would come, who along with her seed would crush the head of the Devil. The only woman whose seed could accomplish this task is Mary. We also know this because in Jeremiah 31:22 we see another prophesy of this woman who was to come fulfilled in Mary. In the Gospel of John, verse 2:4 we see Jesus call his mother “Woman” instead of “Mother”. Jesus is not admonishing her; he is in fact honoring her with the title of the Prophetic woman from Genesis and Jeremiah and does so again in John 19:26 while hanging from the cross when he says “Woman, behold thy son.” In Revelation 12 we again see the title “Woman” mentioned a number of times. Since Mary has been established as the Woman, the prophesized new Eve, an examination of Hebrews Chapter 10 will reveal that old testament prototypes are always inferior to their new Testament Archetypes when there is fulfillment of the prophesies. Therefore, if Eve was created without sin, to say Mary was conceived in sin is an absolute impossibility in New Testament theology because you would have the Old Testament archetype being superior to the New Testament Counterpart (Which would also make denial of the Immaculate Conception unbiblical). Mary, who is established in scripture as the New Eve, would have been conceived without sin, and further would have remained a Virgin throughout her life.
Mary is not only the new Eve, but is also established as the Ark of the New Covenant in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1 verse 43. How do we know this? When Mary comes to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth says “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” she is quoting almost verbatim Second Samuel 6:9 where David encounters an incredibly powerful manifestation of God and says “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” The text in Luke’s Gospel is no accident; it establishes that Mary is the Ark. As God was present in the Ark of the Old Covenant, Christ (God made flesh) is present in the womb of Mary. She was the first one to carry Jesus out into the world, and before anyone knew who he was, she knew.
With the understanding that Mary is established as the Ark, revelation 11:19 can now be understood in light of the symbolism present in the text. When Heaven opens up, John sees the Temple and the Ark. We know from John’s Gospel in verse 2:21 that the temple is the Body of Jesus Christ. If the Temple that John sees is physical body of the risen Jesus, then the Ark he is seeing is Mary, physically present in Heaven. We know this because it has already been established that Mary as the new Eve is also the Ark of the New Covenant who carried Jesus in her womb. This is not just Mary’s soul, but Mary’s body, as described in the following verses of Revelations 12:1 where we see the woman clothed with the sun, whose head is crowned with twelve stars and her feet on the moon. This is opposed to Revelations 6:9 where only the Souls of the Martyrs are depicted in heaven. Here we see Mary, the woman who gives birth to the Messiah in verses 4 – 6, later give birth to all of us in verse 17 (symbolic of the Church) who has a head and feet, which emphasizes her bodily presence in heaven. The argument that it is only the Church being referenced is illogical because the Church did not give birth to Jesus, the woman of Revelations gives birth to Jesus; on a literal level it is Mary the mother of our Lord.
Important disclaimer: The author of this article is writing in a private capacity and offering opinion. The author is not speaking in an official capacity for the Catholic Church. Only the Sacred Magisterium of the Catholic Church can speak in an official capacity on matters of Faith and Doctrine.
**A very special thanks to Tim Staples whom I heard so eloquently explain Marian Doctrine.