I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.

Why I wrote this article:

   Mary, Mother of God

Any discussion of the Catholic doctrines regarding Mary must address the following questions:

Additional links:

Anti-Catholic view of Mary | Mary | Early Church Fathers on Mary | Reformers' Devotion to Mary

What are the Catholic Church's views regarding Mary?

It is important to note a couple of points:

Catholic Marian doctrines and devotions:

  1. Immaculate Conception

    That God graced Mary with sinlessness from her conception. This grace was from God to prepare Mary as a suitable vessel to give birth to Jesus and to raise Him to adulthood as a Godly man. Just as Adam and Eve were sinless by a special grace from God until they sinned, Mary was graced by God with sinlessness. She never sinned as Adam and Eve did because she was not allowed to be tempted by Satan as Eve was.

  2. Perpetual Virginity

    That Mary never had sexual relations during her lifetime.

  3. Mother of God

    Jesus is God and Mary was, therefore, the Mother of God. This is more than merely a biological fact, but is a mystical reality which is true forever. The role of Mary as Jesus' mother is an eternal role. Since the Church is the body of Christ, and Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is therefore the Mother of the Church.

    To say that Mary is the mother of Jesus' physical nature but not His divine nature is to affirm the Nestorian heresy which proclaimed that Jesus had two natures.

  4. Assumption of Mary

    That she was assumed bodily into heaven at her death. Since she was sinless there was no need for her to be judged with death, which is the penalty of sin.

  5. Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate

    This is a much misunderstood doctrine. In choosing Mary to be the mother of Jesus, God also chose her to have a role in redemption. This is by virtue of the fact that she was Jesus' mother and she raised Him to adulthood as a godly man. As a result of her role as the mother of Jesus, who is God, her interactions with Jesus take on a unique spiritual dimension. Just as she brought our redeemer into this world through birth, so she has a role in the redemption process.

  6. Queen of Heaven

    This means that Mary has a role in heaven above all the other humans and angels who reside there. Just as believers after death go to heaven where they rule and reign with Christ, Mary also rules and reigns with Christ as Queen of Heaven. She was chosen by God to have a preeminent role in heaven by virtue of her being the mother of Jesus.

  7. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

    A mystical meditation on Mary's virtues.

  8. The Rosary

    A prayer to Mary to intercede on our behalf. Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim the Rosary is a meditation on Mary which dishonors Christ, but this is not the case. Praying the Rosary brings one closer to Christ and to Mary.

    The Rosary is a meditation on twenty key events in the lives of Jesus and Mary:

    1. The angel Gabriel greets Mary (Luke 1:28)
    2. Elizabeth greets Mary (Luke 1:42)
    3. Jesus is born (Luke 2:7)
    4. Jesus is presented to God (Luke 2:22)
    5. Jesus at 12 years old (Luke 2:46)

    6. The baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16)
    7. The miracle of water into wine (John 2:9)
    8. The proclamation of the kingdom (Matthew 4:17)
    9. The transfiguration (Matthew 17:2)
    10. The last supper (Matthew 26:26)

    11. Jesus in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36)
    12. Jesus is flogged (Matthew 27:26)
    13. The crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29)
    14. Jesus carries the cross (Luke 23:26)
    15. Jesus is crucified (Luke 23:33)

    16. The resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:2)
    17. Jesus is taken up to heaven (Luke 24:51)
    18. The birth of the Church on Pentecost (Acts 2:1)
    19. The Assumption of Mary into heaven
    20. Mary crowned as the Queen of Heaven

Do Catholics worship Mary?

Protestant anti-Catholicscommonly claim Catholics worship Mary. This claim is untrue. Two basic issues:

Any Catholic who attends Mass regularly and who listens to and understands what is going on will have a clear idea that it is Jesus Christ who is the source of our redemption and that He is deity. Mary is rarely mentioned in the Mass.

Answers to a few common objections:

  1. Protestant anti-Catholicsoften claim that Catholics have statues and images of Mary which they worship as idols by touching, kissing and other forms of worship. They claim that the Old Testament Israelites didn't have images or statues since idols were forbidden. But in fact, there were statues and images in the Old Testament. A few examples:

    • Images of the cherubim in the curtains of the tabernacle and two statues of cherubim on the ark of the covenant.
    • Statues of bulls supporting the laver in Solomon's temple.
    • The image of the serpent on a pole which Moses was commanded by God to set up for the healing of the people.
    • The articles in the temple including the lampstand, the showbread, and the horns on the altar.

    It is true that the Israelites didn't have statues of people but we must remember that Christ had not yet come and opened the way into heaven. In Church times we now have humans who have died and are now residing with God in heaven, so it is reasonable we would want to have devotion to them. It is natural for us to love each other and to want to express that love through words and by touching.

    Non-Catholic Christians also have images, although they usually don't think of it that way. To be consistent they should get rid of all their images, which include:

    • Crosses. (Note: Jehovah's Witnesses think Christians worship the cross as a mystical image having power).
    • Pictures as illustrations of Bible stories
    • Flowers in church (we shouldn't worship flowers, after all).
    • The Bible, which is often placed in a prominent place of "worship" in many homes and churches.
    • The image of the blood of Christ which appears in songs.
    • The communion elements of bread and wine which many "worship" weekly in church.
    • Nativity scenes during Christmas.

    Protestant anti-Catholicsmight object to my list saying they don't worship these images — and that is exactly the point. Neither do Catholics worship their images and icons. For example, when Catholics kiss or touch statues of Mary, they are expressing their devotion to the mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and she now resides in heaven. They would rather kiss, hug and touch her directly, but since they can't, they express their devotion using statues and images. To be consistent, Protestant anti-Catholicsshould stop kissing and hugging their children, spouses, and friends since they consider those activities as a form of "worship."

  2. Protestant anti-Catholicsclaim the apparitions of Mary are really supernatural demonic appearances because Mary tells people to worship her instead of Jesus Christ.

    In this section I have selected three of the most famous and influential apparitions (Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe) and highlight the statements most shocking to Protestant anti-Catholics.This is for the purpose of demonstrating the truth regarding Marian apparitions.

    • Fatima (1917)

      There are references to the mystical image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and that we can sin against this. If we can sin against each other, certainly we can sin against Mary the mother of Jesus Christ who now lives in heaven.

      When you sin against your brothers. . . . (1 Corinthians 8:12)

      There are statements that the Immaculate Heart of Mary has infinite merits and should forever be our refuge. These statements would be blasphemous if they implied Mary is the source for these merits. However, the Catholic teaching is that any grace Mary possesses was given to her by God. A similar usage by non-Catholic Christians is when they bless someone or command something in Jesus' name. Usually they will use the phrase "in Jesus' name" to indicate they are not the source of the blessing, but God is. Catholics don't usually say this phrase, but they nevertheless understand God is the source of all blessing and grace.

      There is a statement that the Immaculate Heart of Mary will lead you to God. Non-Catholic Christians consider that they lead people to God through their evangelizing efforts. Certainly Mary, who resides in heaven, would be able also lead people to God.

      Mary makes a statement that she will heal some people. We should remember that if God grants a person the power to heal, they can heal. But the power to heal always comes from God, not from people.

      There is a prayer to lead all souls to heaven. Some might interpret this to refer to universalism. But the immediate context of this statement is that it follows a vision of hell in which many were eternally judged and suffering in hell. Whatever this statement may mean, it certainly does not refer to universalism. Shouldn't we wish everyone goes to heaven and pray for this?

      There is a statement that God wishes to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to save sinners. Even non-Catholic Christians establish various programs to save sinners. For example, they might start up a prayer meeting or hold a special worship service to petition the Lord to call the lost.

    • Lourdes (1858)

      Mary states she is the "Immaculate Conception." This is a standard Catholic doctrine so this apparition does not in any way add anything new to the faith. I address this doctrine elsewhere.

    • Guadalupe, Mexico (1531)

      Mary states she is the "perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God." These are standard Catholic doctrines which I address elsewhere. Protestants may object that no one can be perfect, but certainly a redeemed believer such as Mary who, after death, resides in heaven will be perfect. There are many passages challenging us to be perfect even in this life, so this is not such a shocking idea. Some examples:

      Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

      Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)

      We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

      By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)

      We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. (James 3:2)

      Mary says she is the mother of the church. This is not really such a farfetched idea if you think about it. Mary was the mother of Jesus, and the church is the mystical body of Christ (we are, in a sense, actually Him since we are members of His body), so it follows she is the mother of this body of her Son, the church. The source for the idea that Mary is not the mother of the church comes from one of two assumptions:

      1. An anti-Mary sentiment seeking to make Mary less than she clearly is.
      2. An assumption that the statements Christ makes about the church being His body are merely figures of speech. But there are so many statements in the New Testament which affirm the glorious position that we, as believers, have in Christ that it is easier to believe there is a tangible reality to them.

      Mary states she is our "fountain of life" and asks if there is anything else we need besides her. The assumption of Protestant anti-Catholicsis that the Mary of the apparitions wants to steal the devotion for herself that should be reserved only for Christ. But that is not what she does. Instead, she accepts the devotion by pointing to her son. Certainly after praying the Rosary, one comes away with a profound connection with Christ and the work He did on our behalf.

    The apparitions of Mary are modern-day prophecies in which she directs us to consider current issues in the world with the appropriate spiritual responses. For example, the apparition at Guadalupe occurred shortly after Cortez conquered the Aztecs and the Catholic priests began their efforts to convert the Indian population to Christianity. The apparition resulted in a mass conversion of the population and accomplished much more than the priests could have ever hoped to. The apparition at Fatima emphasizes the importance of prayer in our modern world which is so intent on rejecting God. God hears our prayers and acts on them. Fatima is a powerful reminder of the importance of praying for the conditions in our world and Mary is a heavenly representative in this cause. As believers we truly rule and reign with Christ — in this life and in the hereafter in heaven.

    Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (1 Corinthians 6:3)

    Following are selected quotations from the apparitions:

    • Fatima (1917)

      Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and repeat often, especially whenever you make a sacrifice for them: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

      Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

      I shall never leave you. If this thought causes you great suffering, remember that My Immaculate Heart will forever be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God. On Our Blessed Lady's right hand side a heart appeared pierced by thorns. The children understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary wounded by the sins of the people for which reparation was needed.

      You have seen where the souls of poor sinners are. To save them, God wants the devotion of My Immaculate Heart to be spread over the world and to increase.

      During the next year I shall heal some.

      My daughter, see My heart surrounded by thorns with which the ungrateful people pierce it with their blasphemous language and ungratefulness. Will you try to comfort me and to make it known, that all who have attended Mass on the first Saturday for five consecutive months, been to confession and received Holy Communion, prayed the rosary. . . I shall grant them the mercy which they will need in their hour of death.

      [From the infant Jesus]—. . . that their intention is to bring restitution to The Immaculate Heart of Mary.

      [The children feel a strong urge to pray these words]—And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.

      Pray the rosary every day for peace in the world and for the end of the war! At the end of the rosary say the following prayer: My Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fire of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have the most need of Thy Mercy.

      You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.

    • Lourdes (1858)

      The Lady has ordered me to tell you that She wishes to have a chapel at Massabieille and now She adds "I wish people to come here in procession."

      I am the Immaculate Conception.

    • Guadalupe, Mexico (1531)

      Know for certain that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God . . . here I will show and offer all my love, my compassion, my help and protection to the people. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping and their sorrows . . . their necessities and misfortunes . . . Listen and let it penetrate your heart . . . Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

  3. Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim Catholics worship Mary instead of Jesus because they should be giving their attention to Jesus instead of to Mary.

    Any Protestant critic of Catholicism expressing this objection should seriously consider not showing devotion to anyone, including spouse, children, parents and friends. The basic assumption behind this objection is that God does not allow us to love anyone other than Him. But His real concern is that we don't worship any false gods as if they were the true and living God.

    In showing devotion to Mary, Catholics are really showing their love for God. To illustrate this consider siblings who express love for another sibling. In doing this they are honoring their family bond and their parents who chose to bring these children into the world. No loving parent would tell one of their children to stop loving their siblings because they should only love the parents. Yet this is really what Protestant anti-Catholicsare saying when they claim Catholics should not be devoted to Mary.

    We should consider that Jesus, Himself, had a Marian devotion. In fact, He was commanded to do so by the Old Testament which commands us to honor our father and mother. As deity, the devotion and love Jesus had for Mary, His mother, was perfect. Surely He still has the same love for her today. And surely He would be honored if believers have the same devotion to her as their spiritual mother, since we are the body of Christ.

    Protestant anti-Catholicsignore the fact that devotion to Mary brings a person closer to Christ. I know this is true from first hand experience. Mary has no desire to direct the attention to herself, rather, she directs it back to her son, Jesus Christ.

  4. Protestant anti-Catholicsclaim that the Catholic doctrine of the co-redemptrix means Mary is the savior of the world instead of Jesus Christ and that redemption comes through her.

    This idea is based on a flawed understanding of the doctrine.

    Briefly; Mary participates with Christ in the redemption process. She did this when she lived on earth by giving birth to Jesus and raising Him to become a Godly man. Now, in heaven, she participates with Christ in the redemption of the world. But she is not the source of redemption and any power she possesses was given her by Christ.

    An analogy will be helpful. When we, as believers, intercede in an unbeliever's life by sharing the gospel of Christ, we are acting in a similar role to that of Mary. But we are not the source of the gospel nor did we die sacrificially to pay the price required for salvation. Yet our influence on other people really has power because God desires that we participate in the process of saving the lost.

  5. Protestant anti-Catholicsclaim we cannot pray to people who have died since there is a boundary between life and death which we cannot cross. Only God can hear our prayers and act on them, not deceased believers.

    This objection is based on passages such as Luke 16 and Samuel 28:

    And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us. (Luke 16:26)

    But the chasm in this passage is the separation between Abraham's bosom and hell, not between the living and the dead.

    Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. (1 Samuel 28:18)

    Notice that Saul is not rebuked for communicating with Samuel, but rather, for disobeying God's command to him to destroy the Amalekites.

    There are passages indicating there is more to the story and suggesting an interaction between the living and the dead.

    Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? (1 Corinthians 15:29)

    Deceased believers in heaven rule and reign with Christ:

    If we endure, we will also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:12)

    Two questions naturally arise; (1) When do they rule?, and (2) Where do they rule? The premillennial view defers their rulership to a still-future millennium on earth, but this solution is unsatisfactory. Many passages indicate believers rule and reign with Christ now and this includes those who are living and those who are in heaven (more info).

Is it necessary to pray to Mary? Shouldn't we only pray directly to God?

We could ask the same question of Protestant anti-Catholicswho commonly ask other people to pray for them. Why do they do this? Shouldn't we only pray directly to God?

You might object that in asking others to pray for you that they are not praying to you, and this is true. But consider that there is no other way to communicate with someone after they have died except through prayer. In fact, even prayer to God is really just communication with Him in which we might ask Him to do things for us. So if the deceased believers who now rule and reign with Christ in heaven are really able to assist us who are still on earth, the only way we can communicate with them is through prayer.

We commonly ask other people to help us rather than asking God. For example, if we need something from a high shelf we might ask someone taller to get it for us. Since Mary has an active ministry of helping people on the earth now that she is in heaven, it is reasonable for us to pray to her to ask her to help us.

The only problem that could arise in praying to Mary is if we believe she is the source of blessing rather than God. But Catholics know the difference. I have never yet met a Catholic who thinks Mary is deity. I have asked Catholics raised in other countries if they knew of any, and they all confirmed all Catholics know Mary's proper role.

One further objection to praying to Mary is if a person doesn't believe that deceased believers have any active ministry in the world and that the living cannot contact them through prayer. The Catholic Church teaches that after death, believers rule and reign with Christ in heaven and have ministries on earth.

Can we prove these doctrines from the Bible?

Protestants typically believe the Bible is the only source of truth. This doctrine of Sola Scriptura of the Protestant Reformation was a major change in teaching from the Catholic Church which has always taught that sacred tradition is also authoritative (more about Sola Scriptura).

There are hints at the Marian doctrines in the Bible.

But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43)

Elizabeth had a devotion to Mary. Note that she considers herself favored because Mary, the mother of the Lord, visited her.

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. . . ." But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." (Luke 1:28,30)

Mary is the only person in the Bible who has had such things said to her by a high-ranking angel.

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34)

Mary would not need to ask this question unless she had made a vow to remain a virgin for her whole life. It would be easy for her to have a child in the usual way since she was about to be married.

From now on all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)

Of all the Christian churches, denominations and communities, only the Catholic Church has the official doctrine of calling Mary blessed. The Protestant doctrine of Mary makes them unable to call her blessed in any way beyond an intellectual admission that she was the fortunate one God chose to give birth to the Messiah. Even the Jewish women who were hoping to be the mother of the Messiah had a higher regard for the woman who would be the mother of the Messiah.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)

A common Protestant explanation for why Mary went to visit Elizabeth is so she could hide the fact she was pregnant outside of marriage. But this passage affirms Mary went to visit Elizabeth in her first three months of pregnancy which was Elizabeth's last three months of pregnancy. Then Mary came back home for the remainder of her pregnancy. Mary went to help Elizabeth, not to hide her own pregnancy.

Also, is seems very odd Mary would leave Joseph for such a long time right before they were married and after becoming pregnant since she would need his assistance. One explanation is that Joseph was often away on long trips earning a living.

And a sword will pierce your own soul too. (Luke 2:35)

This passage is a prophecy that a sword will pierce the side of Jesus, which was fulfilled on the cross after He died. But notice that a sword pierces Mary's side also. Certainly the image of the sword piercing Mary's side is figurative but it demonstrates more than just a mother's love for her child. It speaks of her incredibly close connection with her son which didn't end after Jesus' death.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26,27)

Jesus turns the care of His mother over to John who was the disciple He loved. This was a very peculiar thing to do if Mary had other sons, especially in the Jewish culture where it was very important for sons to look after their parents. This indicates Jesus was an only child.

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:14)

Mary was present at the birth of the church.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

The woman spoken of here is Mary. Notice that Mary is engaged in the spiritual struggle against Satan which began at her birth and continues to this day. Mary's role is determined by God to be an intercessor for humanity.

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. . . . When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:1-6,13-17)

Revelation chapter 12 makes reference to the images in the following passage from Genesis:

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" (Genesis 37:9-10)

The woman spoken of in Revelation 12 is Mary. A few observations:

Some might object to this interpretation, but it the most obvious and literal meaning of the text. To interpret it otherwise is to allow a preconceived belief to guide the interpretation.

Some objections based on biblical passages:

But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. (Matthew 1:25)

The argument against Mary's perpetual virginity is that this passage indicates she and Joseph had sexual relations after the birth of Jesus. But there are other passages in which the word "until" clearly cannot be interpreted in this manner. Examples:

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)

Certainly this passages doesn't mean the law will be null and void when heaven and earth disappear. Another example:

The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." (Matthew 22:44)

Does this passage mean Jesus will no longer sit at the right hand of the Father after He conquers His enemies?

Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55)

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. (Matthew 12:46)

But the word used for brothers is the same word used to refer to close relatives. Examples:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. (Matthew 1:2)

Certainly this passage is referring to the sons of Joseph also.

And Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. (Matthew 1:11)

Certainly the word "brother" refers to all the Israelites who were exiled, not merely the blood brothers.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:22)

What did the reformers (Martin Luther, John Calvin) believe regarding Mary?

Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers had a devotion to Mary. Following are quotes from Martin Luther after he split off from the Catholic church:

Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . "brothers" really means "cousins" here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39)

He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. (Ibid.)

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin. (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527)

She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin - something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522)

It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his [man's] true Mother, Christ is his brother, God is his father. (Sermon, Christmas, 1522)

Our prayer should include the Mother of God . . . What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor . . . We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her . . . He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary. (Personal Prayer Book, 1522).

What did the early church believe?

Read references from the Early Church Fathers.

The view of Protestant anti-Catholicsis that the doctrines of Mary were invented late, after the church fell into apostasy. But as I demonstrate here these Marian doctrines appear very early in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Many of the examples I have included are before key doctrines were developed, such as:

430 The Trinity St. Augustine
500 The Canon  
553 Inerrancy Second Council of Constantinople

Mary always a virgin (Perpetual Virginity)

150 The Protoevangelium of James
254 Origen
275 St. Gregory
309 Apostles' Creed
311 St. Peter
379 St. Basil
386 St. Cyril
397 St. Ambrose
Before 400 The Divine Liturgy of James
400 The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew
400 The History of Joseph the Carpenter
420 St. Jerome
430 St. Augustine
435 John Cassian
448 Salminius Hermias Sozomen
451 The Fourth Ecumenical Council — The Council of Chalcedon
457 Theodoret
461 Pope St. Leo I
Before 500 The Book of St. John Concerning the Falling Asleep of St. Mary
787 St. John Damascene

Mary sinless (Immaculate Conception)

236 St. Hippolytus
275 St. Gregory
430 St. Augustine
Early The Liturgy of the Blessed Apostles

Devotion to Mary

240 Julius Africanus
275 St. Gregory
311 St. Peter
379 St. Basil
389 St. Gregory
397 St. Ambrose
Before 400 The Divine Liturgy of James
400 St. Jerome
448 Salminius Hermias Sozomen
600 Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour
604 Pope St. Gregory I
787 St. John Damascene

Mother of God

236 St. Hippolytus
275 St. Gregory
311 St. Peter
Before 400 The Divine Liturgy of James
360 St. Athanasius
About 350 Gospel of Nicodemus
386 St. Gregory of Nyssa
389 St. Gregory of Nazianzus
397 St. Ambrose
431 The Third Ecumenical Council — The Council of Ephesus
434 St. Vincent
435 John Cassian
457 Theodoret
787 St. John Damascene

The Assumption of Mary

400 The Passing of St. Mary
Before 500 The Book of St. John Concerning the Falling Asleep of St. Mary