Devotion or Worship?
Many non-Catholics wrongly believe that devotion to Mary is idol worship. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, as hard as we try, Catholics do not seem to be able to help our Protestant brethren understand that devotion to Our Lady is not worshiping her.
What is Devotion to Mary?
Devotions to Mary are religious practices that are focused on honoring Mary as the Mother of God. Depending upon the denomination and tradition, these devotions may be practiced differently, but each honors her as the Mother of God. Orthodox Christians beautifully refer to Mary as Theotokos, the Greek word for Mother of God or God-Bearer.
Marian devotions are practiced by Roman Catholics, Anglican Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, and High Church Lutherans.
Mary, Our Mother
When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
We understand this to mean that, as He was dying on the cross, Jesus, in giving Mary to Saint John as his mother, was giving His mother to all mankind as our mother. As our heavenly mother, we go to her asking her intercession. We see her as our Protectress, and we entrust ourselves to her motherly love.
“As a final gift, right before He died, He gave His mother to His whole family, through giving her to the beloved disciple John. This was a gift for all of us, an exchange, and an expansion of the family circle of relationship. In this exchange, the tradition has long taught, He also entrusted all of us to her maternal care. Jesus was not minimizing His relationship with His mother through these words given in response to the crowd, He was expanding it. He hungers, through Divine Love, to include all of us in the “family circle” of God.”
~Deacon Keith Fournier~
For Roman Catholics, devotions to Our Lady are practiced in many ways. First and foremost is the Marian rosary, sometimes referred to as Mary’s Psalter. The rosary is, in actuality, a Christocentric prayer; a prayer that takes us through the life of Jesus with His mother.
There are novenas and other devotional prayers, many focused upon one of Mary’s many titles. Other pious acts may include a Marian Garden, placing flowers by a statue of Mary in your home, or wearing a scapular.
Anglican devotions to Mary include the Anglican Rosary (similar to the Catholic rosary), votive candles, and pilgrimages to Walsingham and Lourdes. For centuries, Our Lady of Walsingham has been central in Anglican devotions to Mary. Its feast is celebrated on October 15 while Catholics celebrate it on September 24. In addition, Anglican cathedrals and churches have side altars dedicated to Our lady.
Eastern Catholics venerate icons while Orthodox Marian devotions are deeply connected to the Liturgy.
These devotions often include a request for Mary’s intercession.
Mary is not Equal to God
It is important to remember that Marian devotions are not worship.
Although Catholics love and honor Mary, worship is given to God alone. Both the Catholic and Orthodox faiths see Our Lady as lesser than Jesus but above all other beings.
In 787 the Second Council of Nicaea affirmed a three-level hierarchy of latria, hyperdulia, and dulia that applies to God, the Virgin Mary, and then to the other saints.
“In this magnanimity and generosity in suffering, she is, as compared with the Apostles, fitly imaged as a Tower. But towers, it may be said, are huge, rough, heavy, obtrusive, graceless structures, for the purposes of war, not of peace; with nothing of the beautifulness, refinement, and finish which are conspicuous in Mary. It is true: therefore she is called the Tower of Ivory, to suggest to us, by the brightness, purity, and exquisiteness of that material, how transcendent is the loveliness and the gentleness of the Mother of God.”
~Saint John Henry Newman~
Marilyn Nash for Holyart.com