The Blessed Apostle declares to the Galatians: as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ (Gal. iii. 27). The word for “put on” is ἐνδύω which means to sink into clothing. In another place the Apostle, in his passage concerning Matrimony, states concerning Christ that we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones (Eph. v. 30). These mysterious sayings of the Apostle have been understood by the Church from the earliest times to express the total union with Christ through the Sacraments. The term “total” is applied here to contrast a partial union, which takes place in only part of you – for instance, your “heart” or “mind” or “soul” only. The difference with total union is that it is a union with Christ which unites all of you with all of Him. In particular, the contrast becomes acute when we consider that our very bodies are also united to Him in the Sacraments, and not just our souls.
And so in Baptism we put on Christ in a way that changes our spiritual and bodily reality. Thus St. Paul considers the fruit of this union to transcend the bodily realities of race, state, and gender (v. 28). Thus the bodily union with Christ in the Sacraments is a physical union which is actually physical and yet is more real than our physical reality we see.*
It is thus that we must begin our discussion about Marian devotion, because Marian devotion takes for its efficient cause true union with Christ. Marian devotion is a direct result of true union with Christ, and therefore lack of Marian devotion may be a result of lack of union with Christ.
We begin with this presupposition of a sacramental nature merely to satisfy our brethren (perhaps who are separated) to whom love of Mary does not come easily. For most Christians throughout history, loving Mary is a purely natural, freely flowing devotion to our Mother than any child would have. It is an offense against God that Marian devotion has been openly attacked especially over the past five hundred years.
For if union with Christ forms the efficient cause of Marian devotion, we may identify another efficient cause from the perspective of the commandments of God: the Fourth Commandment. For if we are truly united to Christ in a way that is physical yet is more real than our normal physical world, we are truly in Christ to the point that God is our Father and Mary is our Mother – just as is true for our Lord. As it is written he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own (Jn. xix. 27) and again The dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Apoc. xii. 17). In this we see that Christians are called the seed of Mary in the same way as Christ is the seed of Mary and the Holy Ghost. Thus if we are truly united to Christ we must have Mary as our Mother. Otherwise, our union with Christ is not real.
Thus we have God our Father and Mary our Mother. In laying down the Ten Commandments, our God reserved the first three for Himself: no other Gods, the hallowing of His Name, and the keeping of His Holy day. The first commandment which is justice to man is the virtue of piety contained in the fourth commandment: honor thy father and thy mother. This is re-affirmed emphatically by the Law of Moses in the additional judicial precept He that curseth his father, or mother, shall die the death (Ex. xxii. 17). The justice of this penalty is re-affirmed by our Lord in Mark vii. 10 in his disputing with the Pharisees. This shows the importance of the Fourth Commandment and how serious an offense to God it is to break it.
Thus if Mary is our mother in a way that is more real even than normal physical reality, then she is our mother in a way greater even than our biological mother. And if God commanded us to honor our earthly mother, how much more our true, heavenly Mother Mary? Therefore whoever refrains from honoring Mary as our Mother sins and confesses that he does not have true union with Christ. His union with Christ can only be within his mind, or his affections, but not truly in his soul, his person and his life.
(I say this with respect to our separated heretic brethren, the Protestants – I have been a Protestant for most of life (at the time of this writing). But when I consider the union with Christ that I did have when I was a Protestant with that which I have in the Sacraments and manifested in Mary, it is simply like night and day. And any Protestant convert can attest to this.)
Therefore because of our true union with Christ and because of the commandment, let every man honor, love and cherish our mother Mary, our Lady and our Queen. The following is taken from the Eastern Catholic service of Compline:
O All-Holy Lady, Mother of God, Spotless, Blameless, Pure and Immaculate, who by thy wondrous birth-giving hast united the God the Word to man and joined the outcast nature of our race to heavenly things. Who alone art the hope of the hopeless, the succor of the embattled, the ready help of them that flee unto thee and the refuge of all Christians. Abhor me not, the sinner, the accursed one, who have altogether rendered myself unworthy by shameful thoughts words and deeds and through indolence have become a slave to the pleasures of the life. But as the mother of the man-befriending God, mercifully have compassion upon me, and receive my supplication though it be offered on unclean lips, and using thy boldness as a mother, importune thy son our Lord and Master, that He may open even to me the tender compassion of His goodness, so as to overlook mine innumerable trespasses and turn me to repentance and show me forth as a zealous doer of his commandments. And be thou ever with me as thou art merciful and compassionate and the lover of good, to defend me against the assaults of the adversaries and lead me to salvation. And at the hour of my death to care for my wretched soul and drive far away from it the dark countenances of evil demons. And in the terrible day of judgment, to deliver me from eternal torment and show me forth as an heir of the unspeakable glory of thy Son and our God. May this be my lot, O my Lady, Most Holy Mother of God, through thy mediation and help, through grace and love toward mankind of thine only begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory honor and worship, with His Unoriginate Father and His All-Holy, Good, and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
Timothy S. Flanders
*Nevertheless we note here that this union does not destroy the physical realities of the natural order of race, state, or gender, but rather gives them their meaning in reality. This regrettably must be said in order to contrast the insane excesses of the modern Communists in denying the reality of biological gender.
”Justice” is the virtue in which a man gives to every one his due (II-II q57 a1), and piety is the virtue by which we especially give to our parents and other lawful authority their due (II-II q101).