How Mary Came To Be A Goddess

Time and again, Christians have addressed the special veneration Catholics render to Mary on this and other forums. We have explored the growing strength of the Marian movement within the RCC. Frequent and detailed studies have looked at how worship of Mary, though of course denied by the Roman Church and her apologists, is encroaching not only on the rightful worship to be rendered to the Lord God Almighty, but also into the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

969. "'This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation .... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.'[LG 62.]"--Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc., p. 252

Christian theologians have examined teachings in assorted Catholic catechisms, in the latest Code of Canon Law, in the products of various RCC councils, in the writings of the popes and in numerous other reputable and respected Catholic sources. Though many of these sources have used terms such as "veneration" or "honor" in describing the cult of Mary, others, including catechisms and the writings of popes and Doctors of the Church have declared in plain language that Mary is worshipped, Rome and those who speak for her deny they do, appealing to tricks of semantics to validate their stand.

The Magisterium, the "infallible" Teaching Authority of the Roman Church, informs Catholic faithful that Mary is the "Mother of God" and uses the term frequently, not in an adjectival manner referring to her role in the incarnation of the Word, but as a royal title in the way the mother of a worldly sovereign is known as "Queen Mother." Similarly, she is addressed in prayer and Catholic literature as Queen of Heaven, Mother of All Men and by a multitude of other honorifics.

Roman Catholic official mythology informs that, after the death, resurrection and ascension of her Son, Mary was something of a cause celebre in the primitive church. This makes sense to me, and I can think of no good reason to doubt that she was honored for her role in birthing and nurturing Messiah. Sadly, the RCC is not content to leave history alone. It was not long before Mary became the object of cultish worship. Dreamers and fable writers soon began to ascribe to her some of the history and attributes of the pagan earth goddesses worshipped in the Mediterranean Basin and elsewhere.

Palestine and the surrounding region was under the thumb of Rome. Roman administrators, backed by Roman legions, watched over the Empire's interests. In common with Rome's leaders, many of her soldiers worshipped the god Mithras, whose cult had its origins in Persia nearly 2000 years before the birth of Christ. This pagan deity, who was known by many names throughout the "civilized world," was the patron of Rome's armies and worshipped by legionnaires because he was a warrior god. Sacrificing to him would, they believed, bring honor and glory in battle and whatever dividends that might pay in this life.

Though there never was any love lost between the Jews and the Roman Empire, it would be reasonable to accept that some aspect of the culture of the hated Gentile oppressor would eventually percolate into the thinking of at least some of those who lived in the occupied territories. The Jews, who had endured the Babylonian captivity long had been exposed to the henotheistic Mithraic religion, as it was practiced following Zarathustra's reformation.

Mithras, according to Persian tradition, was the incarnate savior that Zarathustra had prophesied. His mother was Anahita, sometime fertility goddess until Zarrathustra, the Bactrian reformer, reorganized things. Anahita then was venerated as an immaculate virgin who had been miraculously impregnated by the preserved sperm of Zarathustra. Anahita was known as the "Mother of God."

Persian worship of Mithras was experiential for the greater part, lacking any real body of doctrine. They had plenty of rites, rituals and traditions, but little else until the Babylonians took over. Babylonian priests morphed the Persian father-god, Ahura-Mazda, into Baal. Anahita became Ishtar (or Semiramis) and Mithras turned into Shamash (Tammuz). Shamash, god of victory, protection and justice, was also the sun god said to have given Hammurabi his code of laws. Over time, the Romans, who had maintained a virtually unbroken state of confrontation with Persia for nearly a millennium, began to refer to Mithras as "Sol Invictus," the invincible sun. Rome legions marched into battle behind his emblem.

So, this was the milieu in which the infant church existed. On one hand was Judaism, corrupted by exposure to pagan Babylonian beliefs and centuries of Pharisaic legalism. On the other, an occupying Roman army committed to the cult of Mithras.

The first Christians were Jews convinced that Jesus was the prophesied Jewish Messiah. They did not, however, keep the legalistic burdens of contemporary Judaism such as obligatory fasting, ritual hand washing, etc. This rejection of tradition offended the rest of the Jewish community. The very suggestion of Christ's substitutionary atonement seemed outrageous to Jews, who abhorred the idea of human sacrifice. Many Jews who had, to this point, tolerated the followers of Jesus as just another of the many sects which existed within Judaism, began to view them as an heretical cult. Elements within orthodox Judaism attempted to stamp out the cult by force, imposing imprisonment or even death penalties upon its membership.

Relations between the Christian Jews and the rest of the Hebrew peoples bottomed out in 66 AD, when Roman Emperor Hadrian demanded that Jews renounce their religious observances. For the Christians, this was no big thing, for they already had stopped observing the rituals.

The Jews who would not abandon their religious practice rose up in revolt. When Rome's legions sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD., the Christians already had relocated to Pella, in what now is Jordan. After the Romans razed their Temple, the dislike the surviving Jews felt toward Christians, whom they now considered traitors, blossomed into full-blown hatred.

Until this time, Christians had been meeting in synagogues and private homes. When Jewish leaders gathered in Jamnia to form a new Sanhedrin, they sent word throughout the Empire that Christians were to be excluded from synagogue worship. Christians had forfeited their claim to membership in the Jewish community.

No longer able to gather in synagogues, Christian assemblies developed their own systems for fellowship. It seemed a universal characteristic of these communities that each was watched over by one or more overseers or elders. The overseers were selected from the membership of the fellowship, in accordance with the guidelines established by Paul in his first letter to Timothy. The leaders of the churches established by Apostles were considered worthy of particular respect within their own regions of influence.

Though life wasn't easy for those who followed "the Way," the new religion spread quickly among the lower classes throughout the Roman Empire. To them, there could be no question that Jesus was the promised Messiah. After all, had He not been crucified and then resurrected? Those who yielded to Christ as their Lord were convinced they would be raised up to spend eternity in His presence. And this willingness to make Jesus Lord in their lives is what led them afoul of the Caesars, who universally were unwilling to share their spiritual lordship with the Lord of the Christians.

The Roman army, committed to Mithris, had no love for the new cult. There was a sizable Jewish community in Rome, and these were quick to point out that they wanted nothing to do with the Christians. Throughout the Empire, Christians were persona non grata. Believers gathered in homes and caves to read and discuss the Scriptures and the writings of the Apostles and to partake of the Lord's Supper.

When Constantine assumed the mantle of Christianity and in effect made it the state religion of the Empire, things changed for believers. Romans craved order, and the freedom of the Christian faith was discomfiting to them. No longer was Christianity a "private" religion, its rites practiced in hidden places. Roman officialdom took charge and redesigned the Way, transforming it into a code of conduct for the Roman Empire. No longer focused on eternity, Christianity now was more concerned with fitting it's adherents into the social requirements of this life and those who refused to conform to the rules and standards of the new state religion were labeled heretics. Thus, the common folk who made up the bulk of the Christian community sensed that they had lost their direct connection to God.

That wonderful ability to take their prayers and petitions directly into the presence of Almighty God which had so appealed to the masses and drew them to Christ had been taken away. Now, they no longer had access into God's presence, but were required to submit to a hierarchical system of doctrines and strictly prescribed rituals managed by a priestly hierarchy. The Christ Who had lived, walked and ministered among the poor and downtrodden had become a buddy of the Emperor and his cronies. Like the Emperor, Jesus now was seen as a distant and unapproachable authority figure -- no longer the loving and approachable Son of God Who had invited people to rest in Him.

That is when Mary was moved out of the background and onto center-stage front. Christ might be perceived not to be accessible to the humble, but Mary, now cast in the role of "Mother of God" - a popular figure in the many Earth Mother cults scattered throughout the Empire -- certainly was. These cults were outlawed when Christianity became the de facto state religion. Mary the Earth-Mother, certainly would be more than willing to nurture "her" children.

The people of the Empire had long been accustomed to worshipping the many gods of Rome as well as those imported from conquered lands. In times of trial or to obtain a particular blessing, they would seek the patronage of a particular deity who specialized in their area of need. When the pagan religions were outlawed, the people lost their supernatural benefactors.

Before Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, tens of thousands of adherents to "the Way" had been martyred, many in unspeakably horrible ways. Christians honored these "dead in Christ" and venerated then through the long-standing cult of the dead. Many of these "saints" were associated with miraculous healings and other supernatural wonders. It was but a simple matter to incorporate them into vacancies in the pantheon of outlawed pagan gods. These "saints" assumed the roles of patrons for the various endeavors and concerns of the masses. And thus began the paganization of Christianity. No longer were God the Father and Christ the Son the principle focus of worship, now Mary and, to a lesser degree, the various "saints," began to increasingly occupy the spiritual energies of those now calling themselves "Christians."

Mary began to acquire attributes of deity. Like Anahita and Semiramis, she was said to have been conceived and born without sin and to have lived an immaculate life. Like those pagan goddesses, she ruled over the assembly of lesser deities, now revered as "saints" and to whom were attributed miraculous, though limited, powers to act in the interests of those who solicited their assistance by means of prayers or offerings. When Mary's sojourn among the living was concluded, she moved the seat of her power into Heaven, where the Lord God Almighty, according to Catholic mythology, named her Queen over all things so that she might conform to the all-powerful image of her Son. Like Him, she was bodily assumed into Heaven, and like Him, she received the power to deliver souls from eternal damnation.

This is what Rome teaches:

966. Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.'[LG 59; cf. Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950): DS 3903; cf. Rev 19:16.] The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. [Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition, August 15th.]--Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

This is what the Bible teaches:

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; - Exodus 20:1-5

Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear - Isaiah 45:20-23

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