Mary and the Early Church

I know, I know…I hear the groaning out their but I am trying to understand as much about the Catholic dogmas.

Can anyone tell me of any of the early church fathers who venerated Mary to the status that is given her now. I understand the “full of grace” message that is spoken to Mary by the angel. But, in reading some of the church fathers I am not seeing anything that could be shown as tradition of aski ng Mary to take concerns to her versus Jesus himself. I come to you for more expert info in this.

I’m not trying to be a pain but am genuinely interested to learn.

No problem. First of all there is no such thing as Marianism. You might refer to Mariology, or the study of Mary’s role in the plan of salvation. As for early Church fathers:

Justin Martyr

[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course that was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. 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 would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied, “Be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) (Dialogue with Trypho 100 [A.D. 155]).


Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying, “Behold, 0 Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.” Eve . . . who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband — for in paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only a short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children . . . having become disobedient [sin], was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient [no sin], was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. . . . Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith (Against Heresies 3:22:24 [A.D. 189]).


This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one (Homily 1 [A.D. 244]).


He [Jesus] was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle [Mary] was exempt from defilement and corruption (Orat. In Illud, Dominus pascit me, in Gallandi, Bibl. Patrum, II, 496 ante [A.D. 235]).

Ephraim the Syrian

You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these? (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A. D. 361]).

Ambrose of Milan

Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin (Commentary on Psalm 118:22-30 [A.D. 387]).

Gregory Nazianzen

He was conceived by the virgin, who had been first purified by the Spirit in soul and body; for, as it was fitting that childbearing should receive its share of honor, so it was necessary that virginity should receive even greater honor (Sermon 38 [d. A.D. 390]).


We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]).

If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, “The Word was made flesh”] let him be anathema. - Third Ecumenical Council 431 AD

Thank you for the quick responses. What would about church fathers in the 1st century?

Well if you get much earlier than St Justin you are getting into the time when the New Testament was being written. Of course you know the references in Scripture. St Ignatius of Antioch mentions the virginity of Mary. The Protoevangelium of James mentions Mary in the holy of holies and her being fed by the hands of an angel among other things.

What is the Protoevangelium of James? I’m just a humble Christian who doesn’t know a lot more than the few books I’ve been able to get my hands on.

I guess I was thinking there would be more teaching about this from the earlier apostolic desciples. I will do more resesrch tomorrow morning. I’m very thankful that you all have been so welcoming with my questions and all. God bless!

Really? Justin Martyr isn’t early enough for you? :slight_smile: You want statements from early Church Fathers at the time the New Testament was being written?

We believe John spoke of Mary in the Book of Revelation as the woman clothed with sun, with the moon under her feet and around her head a crown of twelve stars. You can accept that or not, but I’m not sure what would satisfy you.

The early Church Fathers were writing, for the most part, in defense of the faith against one error or another. These didn’t really begin to be a problem until the close of the apostolic period at the end of the first century.

I think it is evident from the quotes provided to you that the Church held Mary in high esteem. It is not as if what Justin Martyr said was something new and unheard of prior to his writing. He was reflecting the faith that the Church always held.

So lets put the ball in your court. Can you find any writings from the early Church fathers that argue against honoring Mary or even asking for her intercession?

Sorry. Just asking from people who have more knowledge than I about it. I think I mentioned that I have been studying some and was looking for more answers. I’ll stop asking. I apologize.

I am wondering where the term “Marianism” came from. There is little available regarding the etymology of the term.

In any event, you need not even leave home to read extensively about Mary. Just read what Martin Luther had to say on the subject.

But, doctrines do develop, witness the trinity. It was hundreds of years before that was settled.

You don’t have to stop asking. The Protoevangelium of James is an apocryphal gospel that details some of Mary’s life including her birth and childhood.

You don’t have to stop asking. It is just that I provided you a slew of quotes from the early Church fathers and you had no comment about what they said. Instead you ask for quotes from the first century.

So, what do you think of the quotes provided? Do they give you some indication of the view of the early Church toward Mary?

Once again, I spologize. I said “marianism” and did not mean to demean anything or anyone. And just because I attend a Lutheran Church that doesn’t mean I have a library full of theological books. I’m sorry you took offence with anything I wrote.

I think that when you list the passages that honor Mary it illustrates how important she was to the Christians of the apostolic age:

Luke 1:28 – “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”

Luke 1:28 – “Blessed are you among women!”

Luke 1:42 – “Blessed are you among women!”

Luke 1:45 – “Blessed is she who believed!”

Luke 1:48 – “All generations will call me blessed.”

Luke 1:49 – “For the Almighty has done great things for me.”

Luke 1:43 – “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:46 – “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior!”

Luke 1:48 – “He has regarded the lowly estate of His handmaid.”

Luke 1:38 – “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy Word.”

Luke 2:35 – “And a sword will pierce your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:19 – “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Luke 2:51 – “And his mother kept all these things in her heart.”

Mark 3:34-35 – “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

John 2:4 – “Jesus said to her, ‘Dear woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour has not yet come.’ ”

John 2:5 – “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ ”

John 19:26-27 – “Woman, behold, your son!” – “Behold, your mother!”

John 19:27 – “And from that hour the disciple took her as his own.”

Micah 5:2-3 – “Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is to give birth has borne.”

Acts 1:14 – “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.”

Ephesians 5:31-32 – “ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is a profound one, and I say that it refers to Christ and the Church.”

Revelation 12:1-6 – “And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Verse 5: “She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.”

Another important thing to note is the Magnificat. In Greek, it is written as a song, and it is one of the only ones in the New Testament. That indicates that the early Christians cared enough about Mary to write a song about her, and St. Luke thought it was important enough to preserve it in his Gospel. That’s a very Catholic attitude toward the mother of the Savior.

Thanks again for your responses. I will look thru all of them tomorrow morning when I can think better. My asking about the first century is just that I thought maybe there were more closer to the apostles. I am leery of teachings furthrr away as there could be possibly changes with the different teachings that were being addressed. I WILL look at the quotes more carefully tomorrow. Really, I’m just trying to learn and felt secure asking questions . Sorry again. God bless.

Well remember St Justin as an example was barely 60 years after the death of the last Apostle. Also, as a friend pointed out if something was written in say 150 AD it had to have been circulated before that. Some sources date the Epistle of St Peter to the early mid 2nd century. Certainly even the Gospels themselves hadn’t settled in their current form by the time St Justin wrote his Apology. Just reminding you to keep perspective. :thumbsup:

I also edited my reply. No offense taken! Martin Luther had strong views in defense of Mary - views that some Lutheran synods may have almost abandoned, because of their perceived catholicity. However, the Orthodox have a much bigger role for Mary in the Divine Liturgy than do the Catholics - and they also trace directly back to Christ. But, very few seem to notice that.

If one scours the scriptures, they will see that Mary was conceived of in the Divine intellect even before creation. They will see that Christ conceived of and created His own mother for the purpose of giving her flesh to Him. They will see that, according to Divine plan, she was with her Son from virgin womb to virgin tomb. They will see that, as is the case with Solomon’s mother Bathsheba, there is a seat placed beside David’s throne for the Queen mother to occupy, and that she has great influence with her son.

I am very sad to say that the faith has been horribly dumbed-down by the vast array of splinter denominations.

I would add one more thing to the OP. It’s very common for Protestants to come here and attack Catholic beliefs. That doesn’t seem to be what you are doing but that’s why some of the posters may sound a little defensive. Don’t take it personally. :slight_smile:

Here’s a link to the text.

The earliest preserved prayer to the Virgin Mary that I am aware of is found in the last paragraph of Methodius of Philippi’s Oration on Simeon and Anna, written about A.D. 300:
XIV. Hail to you for ever, you virgin mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return. You are the beginning of our feast; you are its middle and end; the pearl of great price that belongest unto the kingdom; the fat of every victim, the living altar of the bread of life. Hail, you treasure of the love of God. Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. Hail, you overshadowing mount of the Holy Ghost. You gleamed, sweet gift-bestowing mother, of the light of the sun; you gleamed with the insupportable fires of a most fervent charity, bringing forth in the end that which was conceived of you before the beginning, making manifest the mystery hidden and unspeakable, the invisible Son of the Father— the Prince of Peace, who in a marvellous manner showed Himself as less than all littleness. Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boastest in the confidence of your maternal honours, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in hymns august celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away.

Jimmy Akins’ book, The Fathers Knows Best, published by Catholic Answers in 2010, on page 356, also includes the prayer to the Virgin Mary found in Rylands Papyrus 470, written about A.D. 300:
Mother of God [listen to] my petitions; do not disregard us in adversity, but rescue us from danger.

St. Irenaeus (202 A.D.), bishop of Lyons and pupil of Polycarp, St. John’s disciple, declared, "The Virgin Mary . . . being obedient to His Word, received from the angel the glad tidings that she would bear God.

there you go. disciple of disciple of john.

and late church fathers did not invent doctrine, they got it from apostolic fathers who got it from apostles.

mary died most probably around ad 70. it was prudent for church fathers not to praise her to much to prevent mariolatry.

ancient times,difficult for texts to survive. persecution=more difficult

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