Why does the Catholic Church give such honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary? Today explains it all. There she is, a young girl from a backwater town being visited by God’s messenger. The messenger calls her “Full of Grace”, not Mary. Some translations call her “Highly favored one”, trying to dismiss what the angel is really saying. But even that translation follows, because she couldn’t be the “most highly favored one”-that’s God. So “highly favored one” must be pretty close to God. “Full of Grace”, a better translation, agrees with that–to be full means “to the brim”. Where does grace come from? God, himself, of course. (Incidently, if Mary is full of grace, that means there’s no room for sin, hence we get her immaculate heart.)
So sinless Mary is told by the angel that God wants her to bear His son. Thoughtful, humble Mary, who was puzzled by the name the angel gave her, is puzzled again, “How can this be, since I’m a consecrated virgin? I’ve never been with a man”. The angel explains to her that she will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, if she’s willing. Mary says “Fiat!” Let it be done. No questions, whatever God wants of me, let it be done.
From this moment, salvation history gets on the fast track. What had been brewing for 1800 years would be fulfilled in the next 30 or so. God had been leading his people Israel to this point. But the ark of the covenant was gone. Mary becomes the ark of the covenant-she contained the Word of God, Jesus, she contained the Bread of Life, Jesus, and she contained the high priest, Jesus. She became the Holy of Holies, the place where God resides. Nine months from today we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Savior, and we know the story from there.
Mary always said yes to God. Even when they crucified Him. The baby she loved, nurtured, watched grow into a man, she then followed to the cross. When Jesus asked God “Not my will but thine be done.”, we can feel he was also asking for his mother, too. She was with him to the end of his life, and with him after his resurrection. She got to see that her ‘yes’ was worthwhile, even in the suffering she did.
So, protestants, when you wonder why Mary means so much to the true Church, the Catholic Church, remember her faithfulness to God. And when you criticize us for giving Mary too much praise, ask yourself “How much is just enough?” We can’t thank Mary enough for sacrificing herself for the salvation of the world.