It's a little past Christmas, but I forgot to ask this question based on the song "Mary did you know", which really raises the question. Did Mary know?

As a Catholic, there are lots of traditions around the Nativity of Mary, that she was brought up as a temple virgin, well versed in scripture, a humble, sinless and beautiful person with a timeless grace etc... So, when I hear that song, "Mary, did you know?" I think she did know.

But, what do the saints and great Catholic writers, like St. Dominic or St. Alphonsus Ligouri say about the foreknowledge of Mary?

Also, is the line "the child that you delivered, will soon deliver you" heretical?

3 Answers 3


Not Heresy

That's a great line from a great song. It's a play on words, using "deliver" in such completely different ways. It is saying that Mary would deliver--give birth to--Jesus, the eternal Son of God who became a Man, and then that Jesus would one day deliver Mary, that is redeem her and all mankind from the power, penalty and presence of sin.

So, if it were suggesting that Mary was going to somehow be the savior of Jesus, that would certainly be heretical, but it's not. It's simply using a nuance of the English language in a very poetic and powerful way.

Did Mary Know?

From a biblical perspective (and admittedly not from Catholic writers specifically), we do know what the angel told Mary.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:30-37 ESV

So, Mary was specifically told the name of the child would be Jesus. She no doubt understand that this name meant literally, "The Lord saves". She was also told that He would be called the Son of the Most High, that He Himself would reign forever (not just His lineage), and that His Kingdom would last forever. She also knew that He would have no earthly father.

We can also consider the greeting Mary received from Elizabeth:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:41-45 ESV

Finally, we have what the angel told Joseph:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ[e] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[f] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Joseph was given the specific reason why He would be named Jesus--because He would save His people from their sins. This was pretty significant, and it is at least likely that Joseph shared this with Mary in explanation as to why he decided to go ahead and take her as his wife.

Mary was also part of a culture that had received the promises of a Deliverer.

So, from a biblical perspective, it is quite likely (at least) that Mary did have an understanding that Jesus would one day "deliver her" and the whole world from the power of sin.

  • 5
    The reason a Catholic might consider the wording heretical is because we believe that she was "delivered" by a singular grace before her birth. So, if they were going to sing that song in a Catholic church I'd think they'd want to change "soon deliver" to "already delivered". (in any event, that's what I sing when I sing along with the radio :-)
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 28, 2012 at 15:44
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    @PeterTurner Ah yes, I do remember that now. So, possible heresy from a Catholic perspective, but not a Protestant perspective... not sure about Orthodox.
    – Narnian
    Feb 28, 2012 at 15:45
  • Yeah, the only reason I asked that part is, from a Catholic perspective, suspicious. I just don't know if we'd actually consider it heretical to the point it should be excluded from being sung at Mass.
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 28, 2012 at 15:51
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    Comparing this line from the song with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, it's important to remember that Mary was preserved from original sin because of the foreseen merits of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary. So, although she was already sinless when she delivered the Savior, the cause of her sinlessness was still in the future. So I'm not sure the song is actually heretical, although it could easily be understood heretically. Dec 5, 2013 at 0:34

You are correct in pointing out that Mary was immaculately conceived and therefore freed from original sin... but she also was sinless in life by the grace of God... Hail Mary, full of grace (no room for sin if you are filled with grace), and the angel of God (word of God) confirmed this upon greeting her during the annunciation. So, Jesus did not die for her sins. The best I can say for this song to make any degree of sense (and it is a stretch) is that Jesus "delivered" her from sinful earth when he assumed her body and soul into Heaven for all eternity (the assumption). But, I think the song implies Jesus died for her sins, so it is heresy.


I agree that Mary was delivered from sin by the savior. She was human and even though she may have been sinless in terms of sexual relations, She surely sinned in her lifetime. Christ came and delivered the world from sin and she surely was a part of that world who are delivered because of belief in Jesus. John 3:16

Yes I believe that Mary must have had some foreknowledge of her Son's future because it was forecast by angles( Matt. 1-21 - She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.) and later she was told of the grief that He would cause her by Simeon at the temple. (Luke 2:34-35) I do not think that being human she could fully grasp the immense ramification of the savior and the great I Am. So in a sense she did not quite "know" the massive nature of some things even though they were prophesied. No man can fully comprehend the scope of the Great I Am. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

  • 1
    Hi, and welcome to Christianity SE! If you haven't already, check out the tour page and what makes us different (especially point 8). We're strictly a Q&A site; this question asks for an answer from a Catholic perspective, and though I agree with you, this isn't a Catholic answer (the other answer isn't either). Roman Catholics do believe that Mary was sinless.
    – Ryan Frame
    Dec 26, 2013 at 15:47

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