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What is the basis for the Catholic teaching that Mary is holy? Most other denominations don't hold to doctrines like perpetual virginity. They see Mary as special because she was chosen by God but are unlike Catholicism which seems to teach that she is holy in a way that other denominations don't. I don't understand the basis for this. Can you please explain?

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  • Well... After editing it's even more a duplicate of the other one... Feb 4, 2017 at 4:08
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    The other one is really more of a statement than a question. And if it is a question, it's a matter of opinion, and with the added on questions at the end, far too broad. This question simply asks for the basis of the Catholic teaching that Mary is holy. It seems on-topic and non-duplicate to me—unless there is some other question asking the same thing. Feb 4, 2017 at 4:18
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    I agree with Lee. These do not really seem like duplicate questions. This one asks for the basis of the belief, whereas the earlier question asks whether the Catholic Church would be willing to drop the mariology doctrine for the sake of Christian unity. Feb 4, 2017 at 4:34
  • Are you kidding me? Do you really think God would step into some dirt or sin? Show me what is not the basis of this teaching! Even Moses had to take off his shoes because the ground was holy, how much more Mary as a vessel must be. Jesus even shares part of her DNA in his body.
    – Grasper
    Jun 16, 2017 at 13:46

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From the Gospel of St. Luke:

41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb.

43 And whence [is] this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

45 And blessed [is] she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

Note that St. Elisabeth is first filled with the Holy Spirit, then speaks the following lines with authority derived from that Inspiration. And she calls Our Lady “blessed,” which in this context means “Saint.”

In the next versicle, the Magnificat starts (46–55), but one part in verse 48 stands out for our purposes:

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Catholics and Orthodox (and Miaphysites and the Church of the East, as well) all hold that this Evangelic command to “call [Our Lady] blessed” is fulfilled by our counting her as the first among the blessed, and the holiest of all creatures after the Triune God. After all, she was granted that unique privilege to bear the Word of God himself.

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  • Can you explain in greater detail how 'blessed' (eulogeō) in that context means 'saint' (hagios)? Feb 28, 2023 at 14:08
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+500

There are many reasons Mary is holy.

Chief among them her Divine Motherhood.

That is, the fact that Mary actually became the mother of God. This alone implies a dignity unimaginably magnificent and impossible to appreciate fully. When you ponder it more deeply, it is really something sublime.


The Divine Motherhood of Mary is proven by two Biblical facts:

  1. Mary is truly the Mother of Jesus Christ

    As confirmed amply by the Evangelists:

    Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

    Matthew 1:18 NRSVCE

    Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt ... Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

    Matthew 2:14,21 NRSVCE

    While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him.

    Matthew 12:46 NRSVCE

    Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.

    Mark 3:31 NRSVCE

    And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed

    Luke 2:33,34 NRSVCE

    When his parents[a] saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” ... Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

    Luke 2:48,51 NRSVCE

    Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd.

    Luke 8:19 NRSVCE

    On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there ... When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” ... His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” ... After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

    John 2:1,3,5,12 NRSVCE

    Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”

    John 19:25,26

    All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

    Acts 1:14 NRSVCE

    This is attested by angels, men and people under the express inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

    Luke 1:43 NRSVCE

  2. Jesus Christ is truly God in the flesh.

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

    John 1:1,14 NRSVCE

    Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”

    John 8:58 NRSVCE

    For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

    John 5:18 NRSVCE

    Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

    John 20:58 NRSVCE

    For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

    Colossians 2:9 NRSVCE

    while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Titus 2:13 NRSVCE

    to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

    Romans 9:5 NRSVCE

    When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

    Revelation 1:17-18 NRSVCE

    “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

    Revelation 2:8 NRSVCE

Ergo, Mary is the Mother of God

Mary being the Mother of God is simply the answer to the question: Of whom was Mary the mother? To which of course the answer is "true God and true man, Jesus Christ, God the Word incarnate—and no other."

That Mary was chosen of all the women on earth, from all time, to bear the Only-Begotten Son of God speaks volumes (and many have been written thereof).


Besides these, here are a few more reasons which derive from this glorious truth:

Her faithfulness to God

She shows a keen, wise and Spirit-filled knowledge of God's work among His people (and of the Scriptures concerning this), and at such a young age of around 14. She, unlike Zechariah (Luke 1:18) and Sara (Genesis 18), does not doubt God's promise of a miraculous birth, she simply did not think of a virgin birth. Zechariah was called one who was "righteous before God" and who "walked blamelessly" in the Law, yet Mary shows greater faith in God by not doubting God. She was the first Christian and first to learn from Christ; who would see to it that His mother, of all people, got every opportunity of His love.

The behavior of people and their words concerning her

Especially with regard to energetically and emphatically delivered (expressly Spirit-inspired) speech concerning her, and the greeting of the angel of the Lord, Gabriel, to and for her, as bidden by God Himself: she is given the name "Full of grace".

Her being the 'new Eve'

This says much about the role of Mary and its implications are very significant.

And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin;

St. Irenaeus of Lyons - Against Heresies Book 5 Chapter 19

The necessity of her being holy

For the overshadowing of the Most High and His Holy Ghost, and incarnation of the Son of God in her womb. This is related to the truth that she is the Ark of the New Covenant and the Mother of God; the significance of this must be realized

She is the Ark of the (New) Covenant

This is key in regard to the holiness of Mary. The parallels are too many to note. And this is one of the single greatest type/fulfillment in all of Scripture of anyone, let alone of Mary. So while I can't listen them all, see below.

Ark of the Old Covenant Ark of the New Covenant
A symbol of the Presence of God making His dwelling with man In which God was truly and physically present with us
God’s Glory Cloud overshadowed (Greek Septuagint episkiasei) the Tent and the Glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle (abode) of God with the Ark of the Covenant in it The Spirit of God overshadowed (Greek NT episkiasei) Mary and she was filled with, and was made the dwelling place of “the Lord of Glory” in her home.
Ark was being brought to the house of Obed-edom in the hill country of Judea Mary travelled to the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country of Judea
Cymbals and harps and lyres were played to play music before the Ark, and right after David danced and leapt joyously before the Ark At the sound of Mary’s voice John the Baptist lept for joy in Elizabeth’s womb in Mary’s presence
David rejoices with “shouts and sound of the trumpets” in the presence of the Ark Elizabeth “exclaimed with a loud voice” to Mary praises of her being “blessed among women” (Judith 13:18)
Stays at the house of Obed-edom for three months Stays at the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah for three months
Contained the Word of God (Tablets of the Old Covenant and Law) engraved on stone Contained the Word of God made flesh, who brought the New Law of His New Covenant
Contained the rod of the high priest Aaron Contained the "great High Priest...Jesus the Son of God"
Contained Manna (their sustenance/food) from Heaven Contained the Bread of Life, Jesus, “who [came] from heaven”, who was born in Bethlehem ('house-of-bread').
God’s presence literally dwelt on the Ark God literally dwelt inside Mary
Is covered within and without with the purest gold by virtue of its being the dwelling/visiting place of the Most High God. Of most pure virtue, and (perpetual virginity (Ezekiel 44:1-2), and without stain sin by virtue of the One to whom she would give flesh and be the mother of.

Or said beautifully by Athanatius of Alexandria:

“O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O [Ark of the] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which Divinity resides.” (Athanasius of Alexandria, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin ~370AD)

Other very significant prophetical elements of the Ark of the Covenant:

Ark of the Old Covenant Ark of the New Covenant (Mary)
"They shall make an ark of acacia wood" (Exodus 25:10). In the Septuagint, this is rendered 'incorruptable wood', because it is a specific type of wood that doesn't rot. All existing Traditions about Mary are such that Mary was incorrupt (but she did die, like her Son did) because she did not suffer this consequence of Original Sin, from which she was preserved.
The ark had a strangely royal status: "And he made to it a crown of gold round about" (Exodus 37:2 DRA) Mary is the Queen in the Davidic Kingdom, since Christ now sits as King, and in the Davidic Kingdom, the mother of the king was the Queen. Mary is the new Queen (Psalm 45:9, Revelation 12:1) and mother of those in Christ, who is our best advocate with Christ, as His holy and beloved mother (1 Kings 2:17–20).
The people prayed as though through the medium of the Ark to the Lord (Joshua 7:6-9, 1 Chronicles 13:3, Judges 20:27) and it was the cause of many miracles (Dividing the Jordan Joshua 4:7, Fall of Dagon 1 Samuel 5:1-4, Bringing Down of the Walls of Jericho Joshua 6:6-20 etc) People have always prayed to Mary as a chief intercessor on their behalf with Christ ("Pray for us that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ", "Pray for us sinners now and at the our of hour death" etc) as a most potent means of asking God with great success, even when we ourselves are far less worthy to be receive than His blessed mother to ask. She has worked many miracles throughout the Christian era, the era of Christ.

The fulfillment of an Old Testament type is always, without exception greater in every sense to its former shadow, "even as one's shadow is inferior to himself", as St. Thomas Aquinas said.

So if the Ark was the "glory" of Israel, and was "the holy Ark" (2 Chronicles 35:3), then Mary was also extremely holy indeed. (same "you are the glory of Israel" is said of Judith (Judith 15:9), an amazing type of the Blessed Virgin Mary, too!)

Now given this, might we expect the Ark to be somehow connected with Mary, the bearer of the Christ and His mother, to be made somewhere explicitly?

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.

Revelation 11:18-12:1-2 NRSVCE

This particular Woman gives birth to Jesus Christ. This Woman is Mary. This Woman has overtones of the church, too, and has been interpreted as both at the same time (we're dealing with highly symbolic stuff here in revelation, after all):

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule[a] all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne

Revelation 12:5

Clearly, her Son is Jesus Christ. Clearly, this is symbolizing Mary, then. Funny how she is the description of the vision of abrupt vision the Ark as we might predict!


Mary's Perpetual Virginity

She remained a virgin before, during and after the miraculous virgin birth of Christ.

People who suppose that this pure Ark, Mary, could lie intimately with a man, ignore the great reverence and veneration due to the Ark. People were stricken dead by God on the spot for even peering into or touching the Ark, even for 'legitimate' or 'licit' reasons.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. 7 The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God

2 Samuel 6:6-7 NRSVCE

It is where God Almighty dwelt. Moses had to take his sandals off for even walking on the ground God was present at.

Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:5 NRSVCE

Speaking of legitimate reasons: is virginity/'celibacy' related to a higher spiritual calling or is is more valuable or precious? And the answer is yes. St. Paul argues exactly so in 1 Corinthians 7:8.

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am

And so does Jesus in Matthew 19:10-12.

His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Virginity is also equated with holiness in Revelation 14:4

It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb

Finally, Mary more than implies she intends to remain virgin, or had taken some kind of vow of virginity. We read when the angel Gabriel greeted her and told her she would conceived and bear a Son, she asked:

How can this be, seeing I know not man?

Luke 1:34

This is a Hebraism or euphemism for "I do not have/have not had sexual relations with a man". And she asks it even though already betrothed/married to Joseph and thus she shows this child would be the result of the consummation of that marriage.

The only way to make sense of her question is to acknowledge she had taken a vow of virginity.

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    "People have always prayed to Mary as a chief intercessor on their behalf with Christ" Absolutely not true. Catholic theology may support this, but it's a joke to say everyone has always done.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 15, 2017 at 23:15
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    At least as early as Ad. 250, prayers to the Mary the Mother of God were already under way that we know of.. Jun 15, 2017 at 23:20
  • Related to the text quoted by @curiousdannii, I've asked a follow-up question: What is the earliest known instance of a petition directed to Mary? Jun 16, 2017 at 20:26
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    She did not become the mother of God she became the mother of the body that God inhabited. That body was not God, that body merely allowed God to experience what it means to be incarnate or human. That is erroneous to assume Jesus’ mortal body was God. God (Jesus’ eternal Spirit) was inside that mortal body Mary delivered which the Holy Spirit gave her to carry.
    – Autodidact
    May 24, 2019 at 23:30
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    You cannot be the mother of a "body." A body is a thing. A person is a person. Mary's Son is the Son of God, i.e. God. Hence abortion being murder: a piece of flesh hasn't the right to live; a person does. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Hence the Church says, "If anyone confesses not that Immanuel is God in truth, and that consequently the holy Virgin is the mother of God (inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh, as it is written: The Word was made flesh), let him be anathema." Jesus was not a puppet for the Word.. Jesus is the Word made flesh. May 25, 2019 at 12:02
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What is the basis for the Catholic teaching that Mary is holy?

The short answer is yes, Mary is Holy and called Blessed by all generations.

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Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known in the East as The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.

The answer is yes, Mary the Mother of Jesus is Holy, not simply because the Virgin Mary received special and unique graces from God, but also because she fully cooperated with this graces her entire life in all humility and humbleness. Not only was Mary’s sanctity superior to all member of humanity (save her Divine Son, Jesus Christ), her holiness surpassed that of all the Angels in heaven.

Mary, who is full of grace, was equally the object of God's pleasure, exalted her above all the angels and the saints, lived an ordinary life. From the Annunciation to the Crucifixion of her Son, Mary can be seen as God's ultimate validation of free will. The Virgin Mary's obedience to the will of God as conveyed to her in the Angel Gabriel's message was no less voluntary in its affirmation than the disobedience of the virgin Eve had been in its negation. Mary’s will was completely and wholly united to God, yet remained humble and obedient: ”And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48).

Mary's perfect sanctity

Some few patristic writers expressed their doubts as to the presence of minor moral defects in Our Blessed Lady. St. Basil, e.g., suggests that Mary yielded to doubt on hearing the words of holy Simeon and on witnessing the crucifixion. St. John Chrysostom is of opinion that Mary would have felt fear and trouble, unless the angel had explained the mystery of the Incarnation to her, and that she showed some vainglory at the marriage feast in Cana and on visiting her Son during His public life together with the brothers of the Lord. St. Cyril of Alexandria speaks of Mary's doubt and discouragement at the foot of the cross. But these Greek writers cannot be said to express an Apostolic tradition, when they express their private and singular opinions. Scripture and tradition agree in ascribing to Mary the greatest personal sanctity; she is conceived without the stain of original sin; she shows the greatest humility and patience in her daily life (Luke 1:38, 48); she exhibits an heroic patience under the most trying circumstances (Luke 2:7, 35, 48; John 19:25-27). When there is question of sin, Mary must always be excepted. Mary's complete exemption from actual sin is confirmed by the Council of Trent (Session VI, Canon 23): "If any one say that man once justified can during his whole life avoid all sins, even venial ones, as the Church holds that the Blessed Virgin did by special privilege of God, let him be anathema." Theologians assert that Mary was impeccable, not by the essential perfection of her nature, but by a special Divine privilege. Moreover, the Fathers, at least since the fifth century, almost unanimously maintain that the Blessed Virgin never experienced the motions of concupiscence.

Mary received many graces and privileges throughout her life, but she equally fully cooperated with these gifts from God as well as His Divine Will which produced within the soul of the Virgin Mary that no man or Angel could attain such perfection.

Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin by a Divine privilege.

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. - Ineffabilis Deus

It is the constant tradition and teaching of the Catholic faith that Mary never committed any actual sin, thus preserving the initial grace of her Immaculate Conception.

Mary’s singular holiness is uniquely magnified at the Cross when Christ died for our salvation. Not only was Mary present at the foot of the Cross of her Son, she was there supporting Jesus in his Passion.

In 1873, Blessed Pius IX approved a book written by Msgr. van den Berghe entitled Mary and the Priesthood. In it, the author employs the term "Virgin Priest." The Pope justified its use by the fact of Mary's role in the sacrifice of Jesus as divini sacrificii socia. In 1906, St. Pius X granted an indulgence for a prayer containing the invocation, "Mary, Virgin Priest, pray for us." Pius X explained this designation by stating, with St. Antonius of Florence, that, although Mary had never received the sacrament of Holy Orders, she nevertheless possesses as much dignity and grace as are found in the priesthood. - [Priestly Dimension of Mary](Priestly Dimension of Mary)

Mary is holier than all the Angels!

Mary is Queen of the Angels since her mission is higher than theirs. They are but servants, whereas she is the Mother of God. she is as much above them as the word 'mother' surpasses the word 'servant'. She alone with the Father can say to Jesus: 'Thou art my Son, I have begotten Thee.'

She is higher than the Angels also by her fulness of grace and glory , which surpasses that of all the angels united. She is purer than they, for she has received purity for others as well as for herself. She was more perfect than they and more prompt in her obedience to God's commandments and in following His counsels. By her co-operation in the redemption she merited de congruo for the Angels themselves the accidental graces by which they help us to save our souls and the joy which they experience in doing so.

As Justin of Miechow well remarks, if the Angels have served Our Lord, how much more did not Mary serve Him, she who conceived and bore Him, who cared for Him, who carried Him into Egypt to escape Herod's anger? - The Queenship of Mary

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