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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Mary (mother of Jesus)


Mary (c. 18 BC – AD c. 43) was a young woman who was engaged to be married to a carpenter called Joseph. She belonged to The Tribe of Judah and the House of David.

During her betrothal — the first stage of a Jewish marriage - the angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that she would give birth to a son. The angel told Mary that she should call her son Jesus. The angel also said that Jesus would save people from their sins. Mary did not doubt the message,but rather asked how pregnancy would be possible, since she was a virgin. The angel told her that God had made her pregnant through a miracle.

The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur

According to the law that Israelites follow, Joseph had the right to divorce Mary publicly, but he did not. In a dream Joseph was told that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.

At this time, the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, made a law that everyone in the Roman Empire had to pay a tax. Everyone had to go back to the town that their family came from, to have their name put on the tax lists. So Joseph took Mary to his hometown of Bethlehem. There, she gave birth to the baby, Jesus. She gave birth in an animal shed, because Mary and Joseph could not find a room to stay in.

Mary had four other sons after Jesus (James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon) and at least two  daughters, whose names are not known.

It is probable that Joseph died before Jesus started his public ministry.

Thirty-three years later, Jesus was killed by crucifixion. Many of Jesus' apostles were scared of the Roman soldiers and ran away. However, Mary stood by the cross and was with Jesus when he died. As he was dying, he told the young disciple John to care for Mary as if she was his own mother and the words were "Women,this is your son."This is your mother".

On the third day after Jesus' death, Mary went to Jesus' tomb with other women. They saw that the stone was rolled away from the tomb, and his body was gone. An angel told the women that Jesus had risen and is alive.

Mary was the only person to be present with Jesus at his birth and his earthly death. She comforted Jesus as He entered this world, and also as He left it to return to the Father

Mary continued to meet with the early church after the Ascension. Acts 1: 14 records Mary as the only person to be mentioned by name other than the eleven apostles who were in the upper room, when they returned from Mount Olive.

Eleusa Theotokos with scenes from the life of Mary, 18th century

Mary's death is not recorded in the scriptures, but Catholic and Orthodox tradition and doctrine have her assumed (taken bodily) into Heaven.


The Church of St Mary Major was dedicated in 435. It was the first church in Rome to be dedicated to the Mother of God.

In 431 The Council of Ephesus was called by Emperor Theodosius II. One of its chief concerns was the differences between Nestorius the Bishop of Constantinople and Cyril the Patriarch of Alexandria. Cyril insisted on the perpetual virginity of Mary and to glorify her, she should be called by the title "Theotokos" - the Mother of God. Nestorius maintained the view that Mary should not be called by the title "Theotokos," as she was only the mother of the human and not the divine Jesus. The western bishops decided in favor of the Patriarch of Alexandria in part because Cyril got Nestorius deposed before the late arrival of his Syrian supporters.

After the Council of Ephesus there was an increasing veneration of Mary and by the end of the sixth century, adoration was widely offered to her and prayers were being addressed to her.  Nestorius was seen as a heretic and banished to Antioch where he founded the Nestorian church.

In the later Middle Ages there was a surge in the veneration of the Virgin Mary as the teaching developed that she was free from sin from the moment she was born. Consequently Mary became to many the prime intercessor between humanity and God and she played a pivotal role in church worship.

Mary with an inscription referencing Luke1:46-47 in St.Jürgen church in Gettorf. By Agnete - Wikipedia Commons

Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur'an is devoted to her, also describing the birth of Jesus.

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