"As for the Eucharist, no-one believed that the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ until Paschasius Radbertus, a Benedictine monk in the early 9th century!"
Is this true?
In Gen. 14, 18, Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest, offered sacrifice under the form of bread and wine.
Ps. 110  foretold that Christ would be a Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek," that is, would offer a sacrifice of bread and wine.
Dan. 9, 26-27 speaks of the end of Jewish priesthood and sacrifices:
"After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator."
The Jewish Priesthood and sacrifices would be replaced by Christian ones as predicted by the Prophet Malachias:
"I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun, even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts" (1, 10-11 [Douai]).
Christ instituted the sacrifice of the clean oblation in the Last Supper:
"Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (St. Luke 22, 19).
This bread and wine would also be a spiritual food, as insinuated by Our Lords words to the Jews in St. John 6, 51-60:
"...the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? So Jesus said to them, Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you...for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink...When many of his disciples heard it, they said, This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?"
Since Pentecost, the Church has in the Mass carried out Christs words "Do this in remembrance of me" in Her daily worship:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2, 42);
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2, 46);
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10, 16);
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11, 26);
"It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him, You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7, 15-17).
For those who do not partake of the bread or the wine worthily dire consequences await them:
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died"(1 Cor. 11, 27-30).
By giving us His Body and Blood to drink, Christ has left us the legacy of His very self: "He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him" (Ps. 111 , 4-5). St. Alphonsus de Liguori comments that Satan, through heretics and blasphemers, tries to deprive the world of the Mass and thus also the Eucharist, making them precursors of the Anti-Christ, who, before the coming of Christ, will succeed in abolishing the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar as a punishment for the worlds sins, according to the prophecy of Daniel: "And strength was given him against the continual sacrifice, because of sins..." (Dan. 8, 12 [Douai]).
The Didache (C. 90 - 150 A.D.):
"Assemble on the Lords day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; But first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one...For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord and my name is the wonder of nations (Malachias 1, 11,...)."
St. Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians (C. 98 A.D.):
"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release."
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Philadelphians (C. 110 A.D.):
"Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons."
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans (C. 110 A.D.):
"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes."
St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, C. 66 (C. 155 A.D.):
"For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus...The Apostles, in the Memoirs which they produced, which are called Gospels, have thus passed on that which was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread and, having given thanks, said, Do this in remembrance of Me; this is My Body. And in like manner, taking the cup, and having given thanks, He said, This is My Blood. And He imparted this to them only."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (C. 180 A.D.):
"If the body be not saved, in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His Blood; and neither is the cup of the Eucharist the partaking of His Blood nor is the Bread which we break the partaking of His Body."
St. Athanasius, Sermon to the Newly Baptized (370 A.D.):
"Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so as long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine - and thus is His Body confected."
St. Augustine of Hippo, Explanation of the Psalms (C. 400 A.D.):
"And he was carried in his own hands. But, brethren, how is it possible for a man to do this? Who can understand it? Who is it that is carried in his own hands? A man can be carried in the hands of another; but no one can be carried in his own hands. How this should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. For Christ was carried in His own hands, when, referring to His own Body, He said:This is My Body for He carried that Body in His hands."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
The doctrine thus defined is a natural inference from the words of Scripture. When instituting this Sacrament, our Lord Himself said: This is my body. The word this expresses the entire substance of the thing present; and therefore if the substance of the bread remained, our Lord could not have truly said: This is my body.
In St. John Christ the Lord also says: The bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. The bread which He promises to give, He here declares to be His flesh. A little after He adds: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. And again: My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Since, therefore, in terms so clear and so explicit, He calls His flesh bread and meat indeed, He gives us sufficiently to understand that none of the substance of the bread and wine remains in the Sacrament.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 1345: As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:
On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits. When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves...and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation. When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren. He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks that we have been judged worthy of these gifts. When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: Amen. When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those who we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.
"Mary is not so important, she is barely mentioned in the Bible. This so-called veneration of the Virgin Mary as Mother of God is nothing but Mariolatry and blasphemy!"
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gen. 3, 15). This passage, called the "protoevangelion," is the first promise of the Messiah, and the future defeat of the Devil.
The woman in the above passage is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her offspring is Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is distinct controversy among Biblical scholars as to whether the text should read "she", "he" or "it shall bruise"(or crush). St. Jerome, who was supremely fluent in the ancient Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, when translating the Bible into Latin, rendered it to read Ipsa, or she shall crush, rather than Ipsum, he shall crush. So, likewise, do the other Fathers of the Church read this passage. In any case, the meaning is the same, as it is through Her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Blessed Virgin Mary crushes the Devil.1
Genesis 3, 15, together with the following passages, form the basis for veneration of the Virgin Mary as Mother of God:
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, His name shall be called Emmanuel (i.e., God with us)" (Is. 7, 14 [Douai]);
"For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Is. 9, 6);
"And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (St. Luke 1, 28 [Douai]). This passage is also a source of much controversy. Most Protestants would prefer to render the original Greek kecharitomene as "highly favored" rather than "full of grace." In fact, a strict translation of kecharitomene is "thou who hast been graced." Of the two options, "full of grace" is a more clear and definite rendering of the angels words than "favor." For this conclusion there exists the authority of the Latin Fathers; the Codices of Alexandrinus and Ephrem; the Syriac and Arabic versions of the Bible; and even the writings of the Heresiarchs Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Beza;
"(St. Elizabeth to Our Lady) And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?" (St. Luke 1, 43);
"...for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (St. Luke 1, 48);
"...Woman, behold your son...(Son) behold your mother" (St. John 19, 26-27);
"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" (Rev. 11, 19). The Ark of the Covenant was a symbolic type of Our Lady. The original Ark was covered completely in gold and contained within itself a pot of manna, the priestly rod of Aaron, and the tables of the Ten Commandments (Heb. 9, 4). It was overshadowed by a propitiatory, or mercy seat, upon which God Himself dwelt (the Shekinah) between two statues of Cherubim (Exod. 25). The Ark accompanied the Jews into battle, being carried by four men handling two poles. It was forbidden for anyone to touch the Ark on pain of death. Our Lady, in comparison, was a greater Ark, being a rational creature immaculately conceived who carried within Her womb not simply the symbols of Christ, but Christ Himself. She, likewise, was overshadowed by God when the Holy Spirit conceived Christ within Her, the Angel Gabriel having announced the glad tidings. Being a perpetual virgin, no-one could, or did, "touch" Her. Joshua prostrated himself and venerated the Ark for hours (Josh. 7, 6). As "Joshua" means "Jesus" we have a type of Jesus venerating a type of Mary. Applying this to the New Testament figures themselves, it symbolically represents the Son of God paying veneration to His Mother.
"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" (Rev. 12, 1);
"And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne" (Rev. 12, 5);
"Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 12, 17).
The Church distinguishes emphatically between cultus dulia, which translates as "the homage of veneration," and cultus latria, which signifies "the worship of adoration."
Veneration is paid to the Saints; a higher form of it, called hyperdulia, is given to the Mother of God; but adoration is given to no one but God. Any attempt to give it to a creature would certainly be false worship - but the Catholic Church has never given it. She adores God and God only.
Most Protestants abhor the title of "Mother of God" because in their minds it insinuates that Catholics believe that Mary existed before God, and that God only came into existence after being born from Mary. Such, of course, is an absurdity. In fact, the term "Mother of God" was defined by the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) in response to the Christological controversy ignited by Nestorius, then Patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorius held that in Christ there existed not one divine Person with two natures, human and divine, but two Persons, one human and one divine, with two natures, human and divine. Further, these two persons were not hypostatically united, but separate, the human being insignificant compared to the divine. Consequently, Our Lady, as She supplied only Christs human flesh and not His divinity, was only mother of Christs humanity and therefore in no sense could be called Mother of God. The Church, upholding that Christ was one divine Person only, and noting that Mary was the mother of this divine Person ("Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother..." [St. John 19, 25]), defined dogmatically that She could properly be called "Mother of God."
St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (155 A.D.):
"For Eve, a Virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent, and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High God. And she replied: Be it done unto me according to thy word."
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies (C. 180 A.D.):
"Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying: Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word. Eve, however, was disobedient; and when yet a Virgin, she did not obey. So also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race...Thus, the knot of Eves disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith."
Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ (C. 210 A.D.):
"Likewise, through a Virgin, the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus, what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex, was by the same sex re-established in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight."
St. Ambrose of Milan, The Virgins (377 A.D.):
"Marys life should be for you a pictorial image of virginity. Her life is like a mirror reflecting the face of chastity and the form of virtue. Therein you may find a model for your own life...showing what to improve, what to imitate, what to hold fast to."
St. Cyril of Alexandria, The Twelve Anathemas (430 A.D.):
"If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel is in truth God, and that the Holy Virgin is Mother of God, because she bore according to the flesh of the Word of God when He became flesh: let him be anathema";
"If anyone does not confess that the Word of God the Father is united hypostatically to the flesh, and that Christ with His own flesh is one, that is to say, the same one is God and Man at the same time: let him be anathema."
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Scholia on the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten (Post 431 A.D.):
"The Word, then, was God, and He became also Man; and since He was born according to the flesh for the sake of mankind, it is necessary that she who bore Him is the Mother of God. For if she did not bear God, neither is He that was born of her to be called God. If the divinely inspired Scriptures name Him God, as God having been made man and incarnate, He could not become Man in any other way than through birth from a woman: how then should she who bore Him not be the Mother of God?"
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. Then began the fulfillment of the splendid promise made by God to Abraham, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should one day be blessed; for Mary, whom we truly proclaim and venerate as Mother of God, because she brought forth Him who is at once God and man, was descended from King David.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 495: Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus," Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her Son, as "the mother of my Lord." In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Fathers eternal Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos).
No. 970: "Marys function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgins salutary influence on men...flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it. No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source."
No. 971: "All generations will call me blessed": "The Churchs devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of Mother of God, to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs... This very special devotion...differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration." The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the Rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.
"St. Paul clearly states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. How can Catholics therefore claim that Mary was perfect?"
The Immaculate Conception is Our Ladys glorious privilege of being preserved by a special grace of God from Original Sin through the future merits of Jesus Christ.
Protestants assert that Our Lady could not have been immaculately conceived for then She would not have needed redemption. Yet, She Herself proclaims in the Magnificat that "my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (St. Luke 1, 47).
The Catholic Church does not deny that the Virgin Mary required salvation, for She was a child of Adam like the rest of humanity. Yet, Her redemption was effected in another, more perfect manner, namely, "redemption by pre-emption." One can be cured of a disease after having contracted it, or one can be spared of that same disease by being inoculated against it in advance. Our Ladys redemption was effected in this latter manner, thus sparing Her from ever being under the dominion of Satan.
The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady was solemnly defined and proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on the 8th December, 1854:
"The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin" (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854).
The Immaculate Conception has always been the belief of the Church, being implicitly contained in the Churchs teaching of Marys absolute purity and sinlessness. Just as Our Lord "grew in grace and wisdom," that is, manifested increasing signs of wisdom as He increased in years, so the Church, which possesses the wisdom of God from Her origin, manifests it only according to the order of providence and Her childrens needs. If the Church did not believe in the Immaculate Conception before 1854, She could never have established a feast in its honor during the twelfth century. Further, in the centuries before 1854, the Popes and Councils made continuous and explicit references to the Immaculate Conception in their pronouncements:
(i) Pope St. Martin I, Lateran Council (649), Canon 3 on the Trinity;
(ii) Pope Sixtus IV, Constitutions Cum Praeexcelsa (1476); Grave Nimis (1483);
(iii) Pope Paul III, Council of Trent (1546), Decree on Original Sin,
(iv) Pope St. Pius V, Bull Ex Omnibus Afflictionibus, (1567);
(v) Pope Alexander VII, Bull Sollicitudo Omnium Eccl. (1661).
The Church finds support for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in the words of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women" (St. Luke 1, 28 [Douai]). She, who was to conceive the Incarnate Word, the Holy of holies, must Herself be supremely holy, and therefore be preserved, not only from actual sin, but also from all stain of Original Sin. The Angels words would not have been fully truthful had Mary, for even one moment, been deprived of grace.
The Church, furthermore, asserts that God, immediately after Adams sin, cursed Satan and said: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head" (Gen. 3, 15). It was by the seed of Mary, that is, Jesus Christ, that the kingdom of Satan was demolished. It was not fitting that She, who was to co-operate in the defeat of Satan, should ever be infected by his breath or a slave to his kingdom of sin. The enmity between Our Lady and the serpent placed by God was Her triumph over sin, Her Immaculate Conception. St. Bernardine of Siena says that "we cannot think that the Son of God would have willed to be born of the Virgin Mary, or to have clothed Himself with Her flesh, if She had been stained with original sin."
"But Mary herself admitted that she was a sinner when she presented herself in the Temple for purification in accordance with the Law of Moses: she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf, and she shall be clean" (Lev. 12, 8).
Our Lady observed this Law not because She believed Herself to be defiled by giving birth to Christ, but to give an example of humility and obedience by fulfilling all outward observances. For Our Lady was not subject to this particular law by virtue of what God Himself had laid down in prefacing it: "If a woman having received seed shall bear a man child, she shall be unclean seven days..." (v. 2 [Douai]). The conception and birth of Christ was not due to the reception of male seed but rather to the power of the Holy Spirit. In no way can it be claimed that in conceiving, bearing and delivering Christ Our Lady was made "unclean." In fact, the opposite would have occurred, that is, She would have received an augmentation of grace. Also, by presenting Herself and Her Son in the Temple Our Lady was avoiding any future excuse of His enemies to calumniate Christ after the beginning of His public mission.
That God should have created Our Lady in a state of holiness as He had formed Eve and the angels is also befitting the honor of God: of the Father, whose daughter She is; of the Son, whose mother She is; and of the Holy Spirit, who, in the incarnation, took Mary to be His spouse. Further, as the "new Eve" and mother of the new Adam, Our Lady cannot appropriately be anything less than the original Eve; on the contrary, as Christ excelled Adam, so Mary (though to a lesser degree) should excel Eve.
Finally, for Catholics, the infallible pronouncement of Pius IX was given heavenly ratification by Our Lady Herself when She appeared at Lourdes in southern France in 1858 and announced to St. Bernadette Soubirous that She was "the Immaculate Conception." The subsequent flow of numerous miracles stemming from the waters of the Lourdes grotto attest to the authenticity of Our Ladys apparitions and are a matter of public record for all the world to examine.
Protoevangelium of St. James (C. 170 A.D.):
"Our most holy, immaculate, and most glorious Lady, Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (+ 202 A.D.):
"It was meet that the God of all purity should spring from the greatest purity, from the most pure bosom."
Origen (+253 A.D.):
"She was neither deceived by the serpent, nor even tainted with his breath...the sinless mother worthy of the sinless Holy God."
St. Dionysius of Alexandria (+265 A.D.):
"The only daughter of life, the tabernacle most holy, not made by hands of man, preserved incorrupt, and blessed from the head to the feet."
St. Ephrem of Edessa (+ 373 A.D.):
"Of a truth (O Lord), You and Your Mother are they alone who are in every way wholly fair; for in You, O Lord, there is no spot, in Your Mother no stain."
St. Ephrem of Edessa (+ 373 A.D.), Precationes ad Deiparam:
"Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity...my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate."
St. Basil the Great (+379 A.D.):
"The Virgin was not subject to the law of purification in Deuteronomy: since without human generation she became Emmanuels Mother pure and holy and undefiled; and, having become Mother, remained still a Virgin."
St. Ambrose of Milan (+397 A.D.):
"Receive me not from Sarah, but from Mary; that it may be an uncorrupted Virgin, a Virgin free by grace from every stain of sin."
St. Augustine of Hippo (+430 A.D.):
"With the exception therefore of the Holy Virgin Mary, with regard to whom, when sin is in question, I cannot, out of respect of Our Lord, permit of any discussion."
St. Epiphanius (+440 A.D.), Orat. de Laud. Mar.:
"God alone excepted, she was superior to all...to Cherubim and Seraphim, and the whole angelic host...Hail full of grace, who satisfiest the thirsty with the sweetness of the eternal fountain. Hail most holy Mother Immaculate, who didst bring forth Jesus."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
This immaculate and perpetual virginity forms, therefore, the just theme of our eulogy. Such was the work of the Holy Ghost, who at the Conception and birth of the Son so favored the Virgin Mother as to impart to her fecundity while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 492: The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son." The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love."
No. 493: The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia) and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature." By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
"The belief in the assumption of Mary is just another medieval Catholic invention. There is no mention of it in the Bible!"
Another aspect of Our Ladys uniqueness and exceptional holiness is Her assumption. The meaning of this doctrine is as follows: that by a special and singular privilege bestowed by God, Our Lady was taken up body and soul into heaven and re-united with Our Lord Jesus Christ to live and reign with Him in His kingdom for all eternity.
From the moment when Our Ladys Immaculate Conception was defined as a Dogma of the Faith, numerous petitions were sent to Rome asking for a definition of Her assumption as the crowning glory of Her privileges stemming from being Mother of God. After receiving over 85 000 petitions from Religious and Clergy, and over 8 000 000 from the lay faithful, Pope Pius XII infallibly proclaimed and defined the Dogma of Our Ladys assumption on November 1, 1950:
"The Immaculate Mother of God, Mary Ever-Virgin, after her life on earth, was assumed, body and soul, into heavenly glory" (Munificentissimus Deus, 1950).
This Definition, though, left open the question as to whether Our Lady died before being assumed into heaven. Prima facie, as Our Lady was free from Original Sin due to being immaculately conceived, She would also have been free from all its consequences, death being one of them. There are a number of great saints and theologians, however, such as St. Louis de Montfort, who hold that Our Lady did die before being assumed due to Her wishing to be more conformed to Her Son who died for all humanity. Yet, this death was not accompanied by pain and suffering but rather, according to St. Francis de Sales, was a death of love, with Her soul leaving Her body out of Her great desire to be re-united with Christ.
The theological reasoning for belief in the assumption of Mary is as follows: Christ, by His glorious death, resurrection and ascension, gained a perfect victory over the devil, sin and death. Our Lady, as the immaculately conceived Mother of God and the New Eve, is most intimately associated with Christs perfect victory (Gen. 3, 15). If there was no assumption of Our Lady, She would have been vanquished by death and Her parallelism with Christ would therefore be destroyed
No one can reasonably doubt that Marys soul is now in heaven; Jesus Christ would not have it otherwise: "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...And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron" (Rev. 12, 1; 5). The doctrine of Our Ladys assumption is not contained explicitly in Sacred Scripture, but the fact that Scripture does not record an event is no absolute argument against it. The Bible does not record the death of St. Joseph either, but all believe this must have happened.
Belief in Our Ladys assumption can be traced back to the earliest days of the Church. A first century work attributed to St. Denis the Areopagite entitled the "Books of Divine Names" records a funeral panegyric pronounced by a said Hierotheus, who purported that the Apostles had been divinely warned of the impending death of the Blessed Virgin. All, except St. Thomas, managed to return in time for Her death and funeral. For three days the Apostles and other faithful kept up a vigil at Our Ladys tomb, where they heard at times the distinct sound of heavenly music. When St. Thomas finally arrived, he requested to see the body of Our Lady. To everyones surprise, when the tomb was opened Her body was not there, only flowers and Her burial shroud being left in the sepulcher.
As early as the fifth century Catholics were celebrating a "memorial of Mary." This primitive celebration eventually evolved into the Feast of the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Virgin, and during the 6th century homilies on the Assumption appear. In the 8th century the following prayer was written for August 15:
"On this day the Holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but could not be held fast by the bonds of death, who gave birth to Our Lord made flesh."
The bodies of the glorious Apostles, the Martyrs who shed their blood for Christ, men and women noted for their holiness, have been carefully preserved and venerated in the Church from the beginning of Christianity. Whilst the remains of St. Peter and St. Paul are jealously possessed in Rome, no Christian city or center has ever claimed to possess the bodily remains of Our Lady. No doubt relics of Our Lady would have been regarded of greater value than those of other Apostles or Saints, so close She was to Christ.
Of the Mother of God no relics were to remain. The Immaculate Conception, formed by the Holy Spirit, and which formed the body of Christ, would not be allowed to see corruption. In Her assumption, Mary shows forth the fullness of redemption, and is an example of what will happen to all one day. After all, as God took Her glorified body into Heaven, so will He take the glorified bodies of all the just on the last day.
The Fathers1 :
St. Epiphanius (+403 A.D.):
"Marys holy body is enjoying the bliss worthy of her through whom light shone upon the world...In her immortal and glorified body, she received the reward of her chastity and of her martyrdom: These things are certain beyond doubt for me."
St. Jerome (+420 A.D.), Commentary on Psalm 44:
"The Queen stood on the right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety (Ps. 44, 10). We read how the angels have come to the death and burial of some of the saints, and how they have accompanied the souls of the elect to heaven with hymns and praises. How much more should we believe that the heavenly army, with all its bands, came forth rejoicing in festal array, to meet the Mother of God, surrounded with her effulgent light, and led her with praises and canticles to the throne prepared for her from the beginning of the world."
St. Augustine of Hippo (+430 A.D.):
"This venerable day has dawned, the day that surpasses all the festivals of the saints, this most exalted and most solemn day on which the Blessed Virgin was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. On this day the queenly Virgin was exalted to the very throne of God the Father, and elevated to such a height that the angelic spirits are in admiration."
St. John Damascene (+780 A.D.), Orat. 2, in Dormit. Virg.:
"From ancient tradition we have received that at the time of the glorious falling asleep of the Blessed Virgin, all the holy Apostles, traversing the whole earth for the salvation of all nations, were in one moment borne on high and carried to Jerusalem; and whilst they were there, they saw and heard angels; and thus amid divine glory, she yielded her soul into the hands of God. Her body, which God in some unutterable way has taken, was borne amid angelic and apostolic hymns, and was put in a tomb at Gethsemane, where angelic songs lasted for three consecutive days. The angelic singing ceasing after three days, the tomb was opened by the Apostles, who were then all together; for Thomas, the only one first absent, had come the third day, and desired to adore (sic) the body which had received God (in it). But nowhere could they find her body...Astonished at this mysterious miracle, they could only conclude that He who was pleased from the Virgin Mary to take flesh and to become man...the same was pleased, after her death, to preserve incorrupt her immaculate body, and to honor it, before the common and universal resurrection..."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
The Catechism of the Council of Trent made no reference to Our Ladys assumption into heaven.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 966: "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Sons resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:
In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our soul from death (Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Dormition).
No. 974: The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Sons Resurrection, anticipating the Resurrection of all members of his Body.
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