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The Virgin Mary


Mary is the perfect Christian, the model disciple to whom the saints aspire. We do well to remember that Mary is not lofty and distant, but a humble girl who knew that to love what God desired was all that is necessary. "May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) is what Mary teaches all believers to think and say. "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord" is her song of praise to the Almighty, and "from now on all ages will call me blessed" is her own recognition that "God has done great things for" her. (Luke 1:48-49)

Over the ages and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church developed three important dogmas to teach us about the great things, which God has done for Mary. The first dogma is "Mary, the Mother of God", defined by the Council of Ephesus in 431; the second is "Mary's Immaculate Conception", proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854; and the third is the "Assumption of Mary", proclaimed by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

Concerning Mary's Immaculate Conception, the Church teaches that from the first moment of her life in the womb of her mother, Mary was preserved by God from all stain of sin, since she was to become the mother of the Son of God. This teaching finds its seed in the words of the angel at the annunciation when he calls Mary "full of grace" or "highly favored," and when Elizabeth refers to her as "most blessed among women." She who is God's highly favored daughter, full of grace, most blessed, is free from all sin – she participates beforehand in the salvation won by Christ: she was redeemed from the moment of her conception, because she was preserved to become the place where God will dwell, thus, Mary is indeed "Second Heaven".

As to the dogma of Mary's Assumption (also known as Mary's Dormition, ‘falling asleep', Departure or ‘Shunaya'), at the end of her earthly life, the Church teaches that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, as a sign of her participation in Christ's resurrection. Just as she was preserved from all stain of sin at the very beginning of her life, she was also preserved from the decay of death at its end, by God's favor.

Although Mary's Perpetual Virginity has never been officially defined as dogma, it is a teaching that is universally accepted and continues to be referred to in Church teachings since the early Church.

For all Christians, Mary holds an important place in salvation history. From her, the Son of God took human flesh, becoming a man like us in all things but sin. At her knee he learned and grew in wisdom and grace. And so, by her participation in Christ's suffering, she allowed her sorrow to become a salvific grace for the world. Through her intercession, may the followers of her Son receive help in this earthly life, "now and at the hour of our death", Amen.

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