Before we dive into the veneration of Mary, let’s get this out there in the open right now in order to combat the non-Catholic claim that Catholics worship Mary. Catholics do not worship Mary! Adoration and worship is for God and God alone! Veneration of a human being, such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, must not be confused with the adoration and worship that we show to God.
In the Old Testament, we witness pious Jews venerating the great forefathers, the Patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Moses and many of the prophets. In their veneration for these individuals in no way are they placing them before the worship of the one true God. In the New Testament, we witness many venerable persons through what we know to be the communion of saints. In the Church, God gives a special grace, a free gift, which allows it to attain praise and thanksgiving, and when the gift is received well and appreciated, as with a person it is then honored. Mary becomes the perfect example of this when she proclaims what God has done for her at the Annunciation in the Magnificat. Through the divine grace of God, she will become the blessed woman above all women for all generations to come.
The correct way to venerate Mary was explained at great lengths in the Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultis, written by Pope Paul VI. In three separate divisions, Pope Paul VI shows Mary’s place in the renewed liturgy of the Church, he then explains Mary’s role and her perfect modeling on the true worship of God, and lastly, he explains the proper guidelines for veneration to Mary. This veneration, in fact any veneration of Mary, must be rooted in the Trinity, Christ, and his Church. There must always be a biblical basis for such veneration as well as ecumenically acceptable. It should also understand the particular anthropological points of the present time.
In regards to the biblical, the Scriptures are common to all Christian traditions. All should be able to come to the understanding of Marian veneration when they read the Scriptures. The liturgical point witnesses the Church’s enthusiastic and biblical highlights of Marian devotion when it comes to her public worship. Anthropologically speaking, there is no doubt that Mary is the strong woman that stood with the other women at the foot of the Cross while the apostles ran in fear, however, to say that she is a free militant woman would be difficult to find in her character, since all that she does is serve her Son and through his will He uses her as He sees fit. The service that Mary shows to Christ is at the heart of Christianity.
If you desire to grow closer to Christ and to develop a personal relationship with Him, the best and quickest way to do this is through the veneration of Mary. There are three distinct prayers that will assist you in this endeavor. Excluding the final petition in the Hail Mary, the entire prayer comes directly from the Scriptures. Beginning with the Annunciation and continuing in the Visitation, the Hail Mary finds its foundation in two of the most important events in the early life of Jesus Christ (as he is in the womb). The final petition, which gives Mary her Christological title, Mother of God, comes to us from the Council of Ephesus. Here the Church explains to us that Mary intercedes for us, every single sinful Christian, even at the point of death.
Another prayer that finds its words in the Scriptures is the Angelus. The three brief petitions are Christological in nature since they speak of the Incarnation, the consent of the Virgin Mary, and the reality of the Incarnation itself. Each brief petition is followed by a Hail Mary, which gives the ability to enter the Incarnation with the one woman who came to know it most completely on the day of the Annunciation. Hans Urs Von Balthasar says that every Christian who prays the Angelus, “knows that the enfleshment of the Word concerns him just as immediately, that it also has to take place in him if he would bear the name of Christian.”
The last prayer, which is not the easiest for some to pray, and often does not appeal to everyone in the same manner, is the Holy Rosary. It is the one prayer that truly exemplifies the life of Christ and encompasses Salvation History. We see Christ in his youth, in his public ministry, at the end of his public ministry and Passion, and in his Resurrection and fulfillment, which happens to bring Mary as the archetype of the Church. We also see the prayer to the Father offered by Christ and the newness of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Rosary opens up the Kingdom of God for the person who prays it. This person is a traveler who does not get lost in the Rosary, for Mary is the compass leading the individual in one direction – straight to Jesus Christ.
Mary shares in the particular destiny of Jesus Christ. Mary sees the work of the Holy Trinity from the moment of the Annunciation, unto the Nativity, and finally to the Cross on Calvary. If there is one prayer that is truly composed of biblical words and points, it’s the Holy Rosary. It is for this reason alone that the Holy Rosary has been offered to the faithful throughout the centuries as the one defining prayer that will bring them to Jesus Christ.
Do you want to be close to Jesus Christ? Then go to Mother Mary, for there is no one closer to Him than her. She will always lead you closer to Jesus for that’s her very mission.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Mary, the Church at the Source. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2005. Print.