Venerating the Mother of the Child born today

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2020 - 12:00am

The birth of any child exalts the mother. Christians hold Mary high for bringing forth Jesus, God the Son. Muslims call her the most pious of all women who mothered one of their great prophets.

Not a goddess to be adored, Mary is venerated as a saint. Catholics revere her as Mediatrix to her Divine Son to avert grave misfortune. As Jesus “ascended” and was enthroned, Mary was “assumed” into and crowned Queen of Heaven. Yet she is not coequal of Christ, for she was human.

Immaculately conceived, Mary was one of only five persons born without Original Sin, Catholic Mariology holds. The first two were Adam and Eve, whose Fall led to the marking of all men thence. Jesus was unblemished because the Son of God by miraculous virgin birth. John the Baptist was freed of Original Sin as soon as Mary acknowledged him in the womb of cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation. Mary was spared of Original Sin because she was God’s chosen handmaiden.

Orthodox churches have gigantic icons of Mother Mary that dwarf the Holy Child. Orthodox Greeks and Russians mark as a special day her presentation at age 3 to the temple, the holiest of places, reserved only for males.

As the Anglican and Roman churches patch up old rifts, joint restudies of Mary are being held. Henry VIII’s loyalists had seized and smashed statues of St. Mary, but a shrine recently was built in her honor in London. While it caused some murmurs among Anglicans, one bishop acknowledged the Marian apparitions that Catholics officially celebrate.

Muslims regard Mary (Mariam) as most special. Islam teaches that only she and son Jesus were untouched by Satan before birth. Meryemana, the house where Mary lived in the care of the apostle John in Ephesus, Asia Minor (now part of Turkey), is administered by Catholic friars and nuns, but most visitors are Muslims.

The Quran features Mary extensively. Excerpts from a lecture by Turkish interfaith scholar Cihangir Arslan, PhD:

• Mother Mariam is the only woman mentioned by name in the Muslim holy book. Her name directly is stated or she is referred to in 35 verses in 12 chapters. Chapter 19 is named after Mother Mariam, and Chapter 3 is about the Family of ‘Imran, father of Mariam.’

• One verse (3:42) is equivalent to the Christians’ Annunciation: “And (in due time came the moment) when the angels said: ‘Mariam, God has chosen you and made you pure, and exalted you above all the women in the world.’”

• “Allah’s Messenger said, ‘Many amongst men attained perfection but amongst women none attained perfection except Mariam, the daughter of ‘Imran, and Asiva, the wife of Fir’aun (Pharaoh).’” Note, the Messenger here is Archangel Jibrail, or Gabriel to Christians.

• In Chapter 3, Al ‘Imran (The Family of ‘Imran), is a verse (3:33) that traces Mary’s special lineage: “They refuse faith in you and some of the Prophets because you did not appear among them, but Allah favors whomever He wishes with Messengership, and Allah made pure Adam and Noah and the House of Abraham and the House of ‘Imran, choosing them above all humankind.”

• Two verses follow about the offering of Mariam by her mother to God: “Remember when the wife of ‘Imran entreated: ‘My Lord, I have dedicated that which is in my womb to Your exclusive service. Accept it, then, from me. Surely You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.’” (3:35)

• “When she delivered of it she said: ‘My Lord, I have given birth to a female.’ Allah knew best of what she was delivered, so she did not need to be sorry, because the male child she expected could not be the same as the female child (whom We bestowed on her and would honor with great favor).  ‘I have named her Mariam and commend her and her offspring to You for protection from Satan eternally rejected from Allah’s mercy.’” (3:36)

• And then the equivalent of the Christian dogma of the Birth of Mary’s Son without Original Sin: “The Prophet said, ‘When any human being is born, Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mariam, whom Satan tried to touch but failed, for he touched the placenta-cover instead.’”

Some historians theorize that Christianity and Islam picked up the Madonna concept from the Egyptians’ Isis and the Romans’ Diana. Others say “the female near-deity” draws from the fellow-Abrahamic religion, Judaism. To the ancient Hebrews the source of faith and will, acting as Mediatrix between God and man, was “wisdom,” with a female gender. Eventually it evolved as a human mother, the natural and total nurturer and protector.

Filipinos particularly are Marianists. Dozens of images depict Mary in apparitions, mediations and miraculous healings. Catholic bishops consecrated Filipinos to her as part of the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines in March 2021.

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