Hierachy of Heaven Confusion

First let me say that I think scripture supports intercessory prayer and the value of it. For example: John 2: 1-11, where Mary intercedes at Cana and in James 5:16: that…”the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And I believe that the Saints, including Mary, are in heaven praying with us and asking them to join with us in prayer is important and effectual.

However there are some parts of the gospel which seem, to be a little in-congruent with some of the Church’s teaching about Mary’s place in the hierarchy of heaven. I am not saying it is, I just need some help to understand it.

We read in Mathew 12: 43*that Jesus is telling about an unclean spirit:“And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none.”

And during this lesson there was a crowd gathered outside and someone told Him that Mary and some of His relatives were outside wanting to see Him.

“47And one said unto him: Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee. 48But he answering him that told him, said: Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? 49And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren. 50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

This scene is also describe in Mark 3: 31-35

And is in Luke 8: 19-21 Luke also adds that during the unclean spirits talk, someone in the crowd shouted out about His mother, “27**And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. **28But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.”

So obviously if we are to set the scene, Jesus is inside somewhere talking about the unclean spirits, etc. to a those in the room with Him. And there is a crowd gathered outside. Mary, and the others, are trying to get in to see/speak with Him and for whatever reason can’t get through the crowds or are not being allowed entrance. So, people are letting Jesus know that they are out there “Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee.,” and apparently some in the crowd are upset that His mother is being made to wait and not given special treatment, hence the outcry of, “ Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck.”

To both of these Jesus gives basically the same answer, which is that those who obey God are blessed and that all, who hear the word of God and obey are equally loved and important.

Therefore it is easy to conclude that if there is a hierarchy in heaven it goes:

(1)The Trinity ----> (2)Angels----->(3)Souls of those who were righteous/obedient whilst on Earth

So it seems logical that the Saints and Mary would be in level 3, and if we pray to them it is beneficial to us since their intercessory prayers “avialeth much.” But why would Mary be above the Saints, and some say Angels too, as the Church teaches since Jesus didn’t single her out of the crowd. On the contrary, He seemed to deliberately put her in the group with the others who were blessed because they were obedient to God’s will. He made sure that her motherhood did not award her special treatment, she was the same as those who obey God’s will, blessed. Blessed but equal. No?

Could someone help me to understand when the belief that Mary was above all except the Trinity in heaven began? It shouldn’t be based on the Assumption, since Elijah and Enoch are also believed to have been bodily assumed into heaven and they aren’t presented as having any special place in the hierarchy… Elijah is seen with Jesus during the transfiguration, but so is Moses and he was buried not assumed bodily into heaven. So, when did it start and what is it based upon?

Or am I reading these passages incorrectly?

newadvent.org/fathers/1701010.htm

Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine)

Tractate 10 (John 2:12-21)

3…For in a certain place, when He was informed that His mother and His brethren were standing without, at the time He was speaking to His disciples, He said: “Who is my mother? Or who are my brethren? And stretching out His hand over His disciples, He said, These are my brethren;” and, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father, the same is my mother, and brother, and sister.” Matthew 12:46-50 Therefore also Mary, because she did the will of the Father. What the Lord magnified in her was, that she did the will of the Father, not that flesh gave birth to flesh. Give good heed, beloved. Moreover, when the Lord was regarded with admiration by the multitude, while doing signs and wonders, and showing forth what lay concealed under the flesh, certain admiring souls said: “Happy is the womb that bare You: and He said, Yea, rather, happy are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” Luke 11:27 That is to say, even my mother, whom you have called happy, is happy in that she keeps the word of God: not because in her the Word was made flesh and dwelt in us; but because she keeps that same word of God by which she was made, and which in her was made flesh. Let not men rejoice in temporal offspring, but let them exult if in spirit they are joined to God…

w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_11101954_ad-caeli-reginam.html

AD CAELI REGINAM

ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XII
ON PROCLAIMING THE QUEENSHIP OF MARY

  1. As We have already mentioned, Venerable Brothers, according to ancient tradition and the sacred liturgy the main principle on which the royal dignity of Mary rests is without doubt her Divine Motherhood. In Holy Writ, concerning the Son whom Mary will conceive, We read this sentence: “He shall be called the Son of the most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end,”[40] and in addition Mary is called “Mother of the Lord”;[41] from this it is easily concluded that she is a Queen, since she bore a son who, at the very moment of His conception, because of the hypostatic union of the human nature with the Word, was also as man King and Lord of all things.** So with complete justice St. John Damascene could write: “When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature.”**[42] Likewise, it can be said that the heavenly voice of the Archangel Gabriel was the first to proclaim Mary’s royal office.

35.** But the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation**. “What more joyful, what sweeter thought can we have” - as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI wrote - “than that Christ is our King not only by natural right, but also by an acquired right: that which He won by the redemption? Would that all men, now forgetful of how much we cost Our Savior, might recall to mind the words, 'You were redeemed, not with gold or silver which perishes, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb spotless and undefiled.[43] We belong not to ourselves now, since Christ has bought us ‘at a great price’.”[44], [45]

  1. Now, in the accomplishing of this work of redemption, the Blessed Virgin Mary was most closely associated with Christ; and so it is fitting to sing in the sacred liturgy: “Near the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ there stood, sorrowful, the Blessed Mary, Queen of Heaven and Queen of the World.”[46] Hence, as the devout disciple of St. Anselm (Eadmer, ed.) wrote in the Middle Ages: "just as . . . God, by making all through His power, is Father and Lord of all, so the blessed Mary, by repairing all through her merits, is Mother and Queen of all; for God is the Lord of all things, because by His command He establishes each of them in its own nature, and Mary is the Queen of all things, because she restores each to its original dignity through the grace which she merited.[47]

I think you have (2) and (3) backwards:

Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! [1Cor 6:3]

She’s not. Mary is one of the Saints. She has a human nature, just like all the other Saints. She doesn’t have some other nature (such as angels have).

But, among the Saints, there are some who are greater than others. There are great confessors and martyrs, and there are Saints who barely make it into heaven. Jesus alludes to this when he says, “in my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). We don’t all experience heaven in the same way.

A few of the Saints are notable enough that we commemorate their lives. One of these Saints was singled out by God from the beginning of time to bring salvation to humanity. Her motherhood was the first prophecy of Scripture (Gen 3:15). Regardless of whether you prefer “full of grace” or “highly favored daughter” for Luke 1:28, you cannot deny that Mary enjoyed a unique favor: “He who is mighty has magnified me” (Luke 1:49).

It started with Mary herself. She prophesied her own hyperdulia:

For behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed. [Luke 1:48]

In the Catholic Church, her most common title is “the Blessed Virgin Mary,” and has the common liturgical acronym BVM. The local Catholic radio station in Portland has the callsign KBVM.

Jesus in those two passages was making the point that Mary was not blessed simply because she had the opportunity to be near Jesus, but that it was her obedience to the will of the Father that made her blessed.

Mary was perfectly blessed because she perfectly kept and did the will of the Father.

Take as a counter example Judas. He had the great fortune of spending 3 years with God Himself, directly. And yet, what would normally be considered an IMMENSE blessing, actually turns to a curse because Judas did NOT keep the Father’s will.

Perhaps, but maybe not…

Hebrews 2:9
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that, through the grace of God, he might taste death for all.

That means when Jesus became incarnate, aka man, he became a little lower than the angels.

But that is actually besides the point. Wherever angels come in the hierarchy, Jesus seems to state from the passages I quoted that the blessed will be equal. That Mary’s motherhood would not warrant her any special recognition in heaven. She would be on the same plane as others (Saints) who dutifully obeyed God. However, many teachings from Saints, Popes etc. seem to raise her up above the others, because of her motherhood. And many posters on these forums say that Mary is the greatest Saint and that she is above all others, only is she below the Trinity, because of her motherhood. **My question is when did this belief start and what is it based on? **

Does that not go against what Jesus is saying? He knew His mother was blessed, He knew that she was chosen by God/Himself/Holy Spirit from the beginning of time to be His mother, He knew she could be called the new Eve, He knew she could be compared to the Ark of the Covenant, He knew she would be Assumed into heaven, and yet He made sure to point out that; a) all are equal, and blessed, who obey God and b) Her motherhood wasn’t what was blessed,it was her obedience.

So where did the idea come from that she was set above all the others?

Either I am reading these passages incorrectly, (and I might be) and Jesus is not meaning that or I am reading it correctly and many Saints, Popes, etc. have come up with something contrary to what Jesus is stating. 3 out of the 4 gospels speak of this, and intentionally call to attention that Jesus’ mother and family were trying to see Him and where not given special privileges and that would lead me to believe that we are to take away from them some important message. If it is not the message I came away with…what is it?

Correct, but where did the idea come from that she was above all the other Saints, or those blessed in heaven? Jesus is saying she is blessed because she was obedient, but He also makes that point that all are equal. Everyone who obeys God is His mother, brother, sister and they are all blessed for doing so.

Our Blessed Mother Mary was highly privileged. She was without original sin from her conception in the womb of her mother. (known as St. Ann.)

She had to be a woman of great faith during her time on earth. She wasn’t in a bubble of protection with a beam of light showing her every step of the way.

She stood at the Cross and her great faith was a comfort to our Lord Jesus Christ.

She was assumed into heaven, body and soul, by the Lord.

She is our Mother in the order of grace, given to us by Jesus at the foot of the Cross.

Doesn’t this go against what Jesus is saying? That Mary’s motherhood is not what is blessed but her obedience and that she is equal to others who obey the will of God. Am I reading the Gospels incorrectly…what do those passages mean? And why is Mary’s motherhood specifically pointed out as not warranting special treatment if it does?

It started with Elizabeth: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

and yet He made sure to point out that; a) all are equal, and blessed, who obey God

Are you suggesting that nobody in heaven has any greater standing than anyone else? That St. Paul will be equal in stature to some guy that barely makes the cut?

b) Her motherhood wasn’t what was blessed,it was her obedience.

It was both.

The Church believes that Mary’s freewill acceptance of God’s will was the precursor to our salvation. Had Mary disobeyed (as Eve did) then the Incarnation would not have happened. God would not have just gotten himself another girl, like a sailor striking out in a singles bar.

It started with Elizabeth: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
[/quote]

That is the belief that Mary is blessed. She is blessed because of her obedience. She was given the immense honor, out of all the woman who ever lived, of being the mother of the Christ. She is blessed, no question. My question is, in regards to Jesus’ statements, where do we get the belief that she is above all others who are blessed? And when did it start?

27And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. 28But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.”

Are you suggesting that nobody in heaven has any greater standing than anyone else? That St. Paul will be equal in stature to some guy that barely makes the cut?

I don’t know. If there are some greater than others, what does this mean?
47And one said unto him: Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee. 48But he answering him that told him, said: Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? 49And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren. 50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Doesn’t this suggest equality among those who obey the will of God?

It was both.

Then why in the passages we are discussing, does Jesus not make any special accommodations for Mary? Is there some other meaning in there passages that I am missing?

Elizabeth was not impressed by what happened at the Visitation (when she was obedient). There’s no reason to believe she even knew about it. Elizabeth was impressed by Mary’s motherhood - she specifically refers to her womb in the same sentence.

And my answer is still that it started with Elizabeth. When she said, “blessed are you among women” she means that, among women, Mary is singularly and uniquely blessed. And we understand that Elizabeth did not mean to limit her stature among women specifically - the phrase refers to all humanity.

We have absolutely no idea. Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, what God has in store for us. But we know, whatever it is, it is not the same for everyone. Jesus tells us this: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

Jesus was asked about this:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [Matt 18:1-4]

He doesn’t say, “well, nobody in heaven is any greater than any other person.”

Jesus said, "The one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than [John the Baptist].” [Matt 11:11]

And, at the last supper, the Apostles were asking about special honor in heaven:

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

…To sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” [Mark 10:37,30]

So, apparently, there are places of honor in heaven. We don’t know the specifics, but we know this much.

Perhaps because he felt it unnecessary. Like Elizabeth, the Church has always regarded Mary with a singular honor.

He doesn’t say, “well, nobody in heaven is any greater than any other person.”

What does this mean then?
“47And one said unto him: Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee. 48But he answering him that told him, said: Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? 49And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren. 50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and my sister and mother."

Perhaps because he felt it unnecessary. Like Elizabeth, the Church has always regarded Mary with a singular honor.

Nobody was honoring her though, and the woman who called out exalting Mary was corrected. Why?

If you do not heed the constant teaching of the Church that Mary was magnified by the Lord; conceived without sin, loyally caring for our Christ throughout His life; and assumed bodily into heaven, then you can see her as an equal to us all. However I would not be too forward with this opinion when you reach Heaven. At least, not within His hearing.LOL

Ok gotcha. I think I got my answer. :thumbsup:

I don’t see it as a correction…I don’t know anyone who obeyed the will of the Father better than Mary.
It sounds like Jesus made that statement to the others because they too are loved by Him and will benefit by doing the will of the Father.

In John 16:12 Jesus says “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”
The crowds that gathered around Jesus and were listening to all He had to say, were not ready to grasp everything about our Blessed Mother yet.

She wasn’t “corrected.” She was affirmed. Our Lord’s first word to her was to agree: Yes (yea). He then extended Our Lady’s blessing upon all who keep the word of God. The woman’s teaching was affirmed, but augmented.

This is exactly what the Church does today. Mary enjoyed a singular and unique Grace. This Grace extends to all faithful Christians.

This is nothing new.

Ok I understand. I was reading “yea rather,” which is a term normally defined as “on the contrary,” as a contradiction and therefore a correction. I was not isolating the “yea” and seeing it as an affirmation. So, I get it now. Thanks.

No, because Jesus clearly taught in the parable of the talents that people will be rewarded differently in Heaven. All of the “saved” servants are called “good and faithful” by God, but each is given a different amount of reward (10, 5, 1). So they all attain heaven, but the rewards in heaven are different.

Then why in the passages we are discussing, does Jesus not make any special accommodations for Mary? Is there some other meaning in there passages that I am missing?

Jesus performs His first miracle at Mary’s intercession. I’d say that was a special accommodation.

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=4269740&postcount=4

The translation of “On the contrary” is a faulty one.

The accurate translation was “Yes, and additionally”.

Also, that reading: “yea, rather” can be understood as: yes, and better still…
So for example someone might say your mother is such a good woman, and you might say, yea rather, all mothers (like her) are good women. :wink:

In the NT text, Jesus is trying to establish that it is her obedience to the will of God which makes her most blessed (not only the fact that she is His mother.) That is the ‘rather’.

There are one or two Evangelical translations that say “on the contrary” But that is wrong, and is not the intent in the original text.

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