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I am a Christian who recently became very interested in the Catholic faith. I am curious how the Catholic community responds to these verses, which seem to bring to question the "blessedness" of Virgin Mary.

Luke 11:27-28:

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd spoke out to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

I have minimum knowledge about the Catholic conception of Mary. Please also help me clarify, if it pertains to your response to these verses.

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It simply means that Mary is blessed not only for bearing the flesh of Christ, but most of all because she heard the word of God and obeyed it.

"Mary is more blessed in receiving the faith of Christ, than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. ... For his brothers, his relatives according to the flesh who did not believe in him, of what advantage is that relationship? Even her maternal relationship would have done Mary no good unless she had borne Christ more happily in her heart than in her flesh." (Of Holy Virginity -3 - St. Augustine).

Please note that in the preceding verse a women acclaims, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!". Jesus is correcting that women by saying that bearing Him and nursing Him is of no importance.....

In His answer He did not disgrace His mother, but showed that His birth would have profited her nothing, had she not been really fruitful in works and faith. - St. Chrysostom

...Rather the blessedness of Mary (Luke 1:48) is because of her Fiat...

She was the mother of God, and therefore indeed blessed, in that she was made the temporal minister of the Word becoming incarnate; yet therefore much more blessed that she remained the eternal keeper of the same ever to be beloved Word. - St. Bede

  • and I would add, because she heard the word of God and obeyed it, His birth have profited her too. – Grasper Feb 23 '15 at 18:32
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μενοῦνγε menoun menounge broken down reveals mén, "indeed"; oún, "therefore"; and , "really") – therefore really indeed. Indeed in this case doesn't stand alone as an affirmation. It is truly contrary. In modern vernacular one might say, "Actually, on the contrary..."

No matter how one wants to look at it, Jesus is correcting the woman's focus and saying, "Here's the real truth. The blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep (guard) it." The 'indeed' part of the meaning is not in opposition to the 'on the contrary' part but connected to it as in, "Indeed on the contrary".

When the angel brought the message that she would bear Immanuel she heard the word and she kept it.

It wasn't the bearing of Jesus in her womb that made her blessed, but being blessed by hearing and keeping the word that made her worthy of bearing Jesus. She kept the Word in her heart before bearing the Word in her womb.

  • Welcome to the site, this is a could answer, it could benefit a bit from some sources showing that this is in fact a Catholic interpretation (not that any one was too critical of the other answer, except you - with good reason!). There's another site devoted to hermenuetics where just posting the Greek translation would ordinarily be sufficient, but here we're about doctrine and dogma. Thanks again for stopping by to answer (and defending Our Lady!) – Peter Turner Dec 16 '19 at 13:08
  • It is not as helpful to argue with other answers as it is to post an answer to the question that you can support. I removed your reference to Nate's answer; Nate's answer will need to stand or fall on its own merits. Welcome, and thanks for joining in. The tour and the help center provide more guidance on how SE sites work best. – KorvinStarmast Dec 18 '19 at 13:31
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I was considering that verse several weeks ago and thinking that it could be Jesus saying "Yes, my mom Mary IS blessed, and so are any others who emulate her in hearing God's message and submitting to it in obedience!" (Especially in view of the Annunciation and Mary's game-changing "Yes" in response). And the original languages seem to bear this out.

The Greek word "menoun", which is translated as "rather" there in the ESV, can sometimes mean "on the contrary" but can also mean "indeed". Also, I don't think the Old(er) English usage of "rather" automatically connoted the former as strongly as it does today anyway—hence the KJV "Yea rather", perhaps. In any case, English translations are divided on that verse, with several more modern English versions making the affirmative very clear: https://biblehub.com/luke/11-28.htm

  • Almost all the English translations seem to be correcting rather than affirming. If you could add more insight from the Greek, that would be appreciated. Noting that menoun could mean two opposite meanings (rather vs indeed) in English elicits more development and support. Also, welcome to the site! I hope you will stick around and continue contributing good content. – Alex Strasser Apr 29 '19 at 8:08

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