We all know how Gabriel the angel appeared to Mary, and addressed her thus-
Hail; thou full of grace! The LORD is with thee!
Again, we know that Elisabeth, Mary's elderly relative, spake thus of her-
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is The Child thou shalt bear!
But here's the thing: is Mary, the mother of God Incarnate, worth hailing? Is it scriptural to hail her, ask her intercession, invoke her protection, beseech her mercy, and ask for her love and favour?
Since the beginning of the Christian era, Mary the mother of Jesus has been honoured and respected by Christians. Most of these Christians form the Catholic church, as well as the Orthodox church. In my native place, the St. Thomas Christians and the Orthodox and Catholic believers there, as well as the Church of South India(CSI), honour and respect Jesus' mother. Mary is the only named woman in the Qur'an as well!
Jesus Christ is the only person in history to be known by His mother's name- we don't call Him the Son of Joseph as much as we call Him the Son of Mary. "Son of Mary" is a very dear title to Jesus, no doubt.
Mary herself said that all generations will call her blessed. But does all this mean that we should honour Mary as our "spiritual mother", the "Queen of heaven", &c., &c.,?
I've seen some pictures on the Internet like this: Jesus is saying, "Does putting My mother down bring Me up?". In another such image, it is stated thus: "If Jesus honoured His mother, we should honour her too".
There are a few problems with these assertions. The first thing is this: just because Jesus Christ is our example, does not mean that we must honour His mother Mary. What logic is that? Rather, since Jesus honoured His mother, we ought to honour our
mothers. Again, no Protestant puts Mary down! What Christian can dishonour a servant of God like that- especially the mother of the Lord? Mary deserves our special respect, but not veneration and honour. All that is due unto God alone.
Again, Mary is important. There is no denial. God chose her, and all that God chose was holy and separated and sanctified for His use by Him. I do not wish to say that I believe in the Immaculate Conception, but that is for another discussion. Mary was obviously a righteous and godly girl(hence the angel called her "full of grace; the LORD is with thee"), and so her righteousness, and the notion that the Messiah was to appear suddenly and without much public attention would've been deciding factors as well. Nazareth in Galilee was such an unlikely place for the parents of the Messiah to be from. The way God works out His plans!
Mary is necessary. Not for salvation, not for praise, not for worship- but for the Incarnation. She was chosen by God. Moses was necessary, Elijah was necessary, David was necessary, and Esther was necessary in their own ways. The same goes with Mary. But what originally was a certain respect for this lady, several decades later turned into prayers, pleas, and requests to the "Theotokos". Huh?!
How did this happen? No doubt, everyone was respectful of Mary and asked her prayers and blessings in the Jerusalem church(she was with the apostles and the holy women for the Passover, and witnessed the Crucifixion, and Jesus appeared to her as well). Since she was the Mother of the Lord, people would've been especially mindful of her. But I still don't get how high respect for the Saviour's mother turned into requests for protection and prayers to a saint!
I treat the idea of praying to saints and asking their intercession like modern Christians in today's churches ask each other to pray for them. Since the saints in heaven are our spiritual brothers and sisters, we must love them and respect them, and praise God for using them and pleasing Him in whatever way they have done so. Paul addresses the Christians living in his time several times in his epistles as "saints". Therefore, the idea of asking fellow saints for prayers and intercessions is scriptural- to an extent.
But the Catholics ask Mary's blessings, her protection, her mediation, her intercession, &c., &c. Wut?! I really don't see any explanation-logical or biblical- for invoking saints' blessings. An argument Protestants give for not venerating Mary is that Jesus called her "woman" quite a few times. Jesus did so because, in spite of being His mother, she was nonetheless His creation. God may address His creations in any way He chooses. In fact, in the Bible, He is never depicted as addressing her as "mother" at all! However, in an original Aramaic version of the Gospels, Jesus addresses her in all the places where He calls her "woman" as "mother". As in
Mother(not woman), My time is not yet come.
Mother(again, not woman), here is your son.
I say that all Christians must respect Jesus' mother Mary. She deserves our respect and special mention, because He Himself indirectly referred to her when He said
Rather, blessed are they that hear God's Word, and keep it.
Who is My mother, who are My brethren? Behold My mother and my brethren! For whoever doeth the will of My Father in heaven, the same is My mother, My brother, and My sister.
We must also note that if Mary never got to be Jesus' mother, no one would've even heard her name. See how Jesus gives a reason for His servants to be His servants! See how Jesus glorifies His servants, and how He, the Sun of righteousness, shines upon the moon of His life- His dear mother Mary, and lifts her to His heart, and blesses her with the great privilege of being His mother- the Mother of the Messiah! It was rightly said by one of the popes when he said
The Lord Jesus gave St. Peter the keys to the Kingdom; He gave Mary His mother the keys to His heart.
Mary got to know God in the person of her Little Bundle of Heavenly Joy- her Jesus Christ. According to a vision, Mary described Jesus as being highly knowledgeable in the things of God, and when persons were in distress, they used to go and speak with the Divine Child. Mary described Him as being as social and amiable as other children His age, and all the boys and girls were taught the simple, but great, truths about God through Jesus the Child. She was so faithful to her Son, that she followed Him unto the cross. When the male disciples who had vowed to never leave His side actually fled from Him, His mother became privileged enough to be mentioned as being among the faithful few women who stood by the Cross. And Mary got to see Him alive again as well. According to tradition, Jesus first appeared to Mary His mother- then to Mary Magdalene. Jesus comforted her and spent time with her-not just His disciples alone- during His final stay on earth for forty days. Mary was also a witness to the Ascension, and is now before her Son continually. Mary is someone to be envied and cherished.
The "Queen of heaven" is a pagan figure mentioned in an Old Testament prophecy. The woman mentioned in Apocalypse is interpreted as being Mary the mother of Jesus, but again, there is a contradiction- Catholic belief maintains that Mary gave birth to Jesus painlessly, but the woman in Apocalypse is described as "crying out in pain; being about to give birth". The woman, according to a variant interpretation, is not then Mary, but the Nation of Israel. The birth pangs the various trials the Jews had to endure, and the Man Child a personification of Jesus Messiah.
In my opinion, the very birth of Jesus was probably miraculous in itself- Catholic belief maintains that Mary gave birth to Jesus without any afterbirth, blood, or pain. She was unharmed in the birth process. This may be because Jesus intended not to cause suffering for anyone, starting from His birth. Again, I have no problem in thinking that Jesus' "brothers and sisters" were not necessarily blood-sibling, but very close cousins. The relationship I have with my cousins is more like siblings than mere cousins. Probably the same went for Jesus. James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, Mary and Salome- they would've been very close cousins. Jesus considered them His brothers and sisters because He may have spent a lot of His childhood with them, since Jewish family ties were very close and strong even among the children.