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I was recently spending some thought on this topic which came from this question: How do Protestants understand the blessedness of Mary in Luke 1:48?

I answered the question and proposed as an afterthought that people cynical of Catholic Tradition would quickly dismiss the significance that Mary is called blessed as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I'm not sure yet how this might help that argument either way, but what is the earliest instance (outside of Luke's gospel) of Mary being called "Blessed Virgin" or some variation involving the word "blessed"? Since the Lucan story specifically states that "all generations will call me blessed", I don't want a quote from Luke or any work that just retells the story. I mean any works from later writers that explicitly call Mary "blessed"; that is, examples of further generations calling Mary blessed.

If it so happens that such statements evolved to their current state I would like to see a few examples showing that evolution.

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    Is that gospel of Luke? – Малъ Скрылевъ Dec 4 '14 at 11:07
  • You err in thinking that Southern Baptists do not believe that Mary was the Blessed virgin, we just do not believe that she is the Blessed virgin. We believe that her marriage to Joseph was consummated *after the birth of Jesus that is based on Matthew chapter 1 verse 25. – BYE Dec 4 '14 at 16:56
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The mother of Christ was specifically called "blessed" at least as far back as the end of the second century AD, and given the title "the Blessed Virgin" at least as far back as the early fifth century.

CCEL.org, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, lists several references for "blessed Mary" from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. For example:

And when he had thus said, the angel ordered the beast to stand, for the time when she should bring forth was at hand; and he commanded the blessed Mary to come down off the animal, and go into a recess under a cavern, in which there never was light, but always darkness, because the light of day could not reach it. And when the blessed Mary had gone into it, it began to shine with as much brightness as if it were the sixth hour of the day. The light from God so shone in the cave, that neither by day nor night was light wanting as long as the blessed Mary was there.

(Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Chapter 18; in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 8: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, The Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages: Philip Schaff, ed.)

Wikipedia quotes (but does not provide a reference to) a work dating this apocryphon to the early seventh century.

There's also a letter from Pope Gregory the Great (Gregory I), who was Pope from 590 to 604 AD:

Epistle LVI.

To Peter, Subdeacon.

Gregory to Peter, &c.

Being exceedingly desirous of observing the festivals of saints, we have thought it needful to address this our letter of direction to thy Experience, informing thee that we have arranged for the dedication with all solemnity, with the help of the Lord, in the month of August, of the Oratory of the Blessed Mary lately built in the cell of brethren where the abbot Marinianus is known to preside, to the end that what we have begun may through the Lord’s operation be completed. But, inasmuch as the poverty of that cell requires that we should assist in that day of festival, we therefore desire thee to give for celebrating the dedication, to be distributed to the poor, ten solidi in gold, thirty amphoræ of wine, two hundred lambs, two orcæ of oil, twelve wethers, and a hundred hens, which may be afterwards charged in thy accounts. Provide therefore for this being done at once without any delay, that our desires, God granting it, may take speedy effect.

("Register of the Epistles of St. Gregory the Great", translated by James Barmby)

Even earlier than this, I see that this series of writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers includes letters from Theodoret of Cyrus, who lived in the early fifth century. He writes (to a "Bishop Timotheus", who may be Pope Timothy II of Alexandria):

And, again, Gabriel says to the blessed Virgin, "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son and shalt call His name Jesus".

(Ante-Nicene Fathers)

Earlier still, there is a fragment of a sermon by Saint Hippolytus:

Tell me, O blessed Mary, what that was that was conceived by thee in the womb, and what that was that was born by thee in thy virgin matrix.

This then pushes back use of "blessed" to describe the mother of Christ at least as far back as the late second or early third century AD.

  • 'As it is admitted that the praises of Mary grow with the growth of the Christian community, we may conclude in brief that the veneration of and devotion to Mary began even in the time of the Apostles. - cf. The Blessed Virgin Mary | New Advent. – user13992 Dec 4 '14 at 19:38

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