I am in a heavy debate on Mary on an evangelical forum. Would you mind reading this and telling me if there are any holes to poke in it? Thanks, Gene
It might be helpful for everyone who has been following the discussion about Mary, to know that Marian devotion arose in the eastern part of the Church.
It was in the East, that Mary was first invoked in prayer in the third-fourth century. In the East, legends of Mary were first related, hymns composed, and churches named (fourth century), feasts of Mary introduced and images of Mary produced (fifth century).
Above all it was in the fifth century at the Council of Ephesus, that Mary, regularly called the "mother of Jesus in Scripture, was defined “Mother of God”. This was a new, post-biblical title, attested with certainty only in the previous century, after Cyril’s intervention, and taken up with great enthusiasm by the people of Ephesus, the city of the ancient “Great Mother” (originally, the virgin goddess, Diana),
Eastern forms of devotion became established eventually in the West but not without opposition. Even Augustine, does not mention any hymns or prayers to Mary, nor does he speak of feasts of Mary. The first appearance of a Latin hymn addressed to Mary appears only in the fifth century.
In Rome, it was only in the sixth century that Mary’s name was introduced into the Canon of the Mass (that of Joseph by John XXIII in the twentieth century). Only in the seventh century were the Eastern feasts of Mary (annunciation, visitation, nativity, purification) taken over. And only toward the end of the tenth century did the legends start about the miraculous power of prayer to Mary.
From the definition of “Mother of God” in the fifth century up to the twelfth century the emphasis came to be laid less on Mary’s past action as mother of Jesus and more to her present role for Christians as the ever-virgin Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.
While the older Church Fathers had still spoken of Mary’s moral faults, she now began to be credited with perfect sinlessness and the doctrine of her sanctity even before birth. As a result, her preservation from original sin began to be taught expressly in the West from the twelfth century on.
Yet at the same time in other respects, like Jesus himself, Mary was regaining more human features, especially under the influence of scripturally minded men like Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis of Assisi.
From the twelfth century the biblical Ave Maria - in the present form, with her plea for her aid at the hour of death, only from 1500 - became the most widespread form of prayer linked with the Our Father.
The Angelus stems from the thirteenth century. The Rosary was introduced from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, but it has only been in the nineteenth and twentieth century that there have been May and October devotions, some apparitions of Mary and Marian pilgrimages to Lourdes and Fatima, national and international Marian conferences and associations.
The reformers in the sixteenth century were opposed to these developments and went back to the biblical roots. In his interpretation of the Magnificat in relation to Christ, Luther venerated Mary as the model of faith and humility; J. S. Bach set the Magnificat to music. But Protestant veneration of Mary declined with the Enlightenment.
During the Counter Reformation, mainly the Jesuits, in an anti-Protestant spirit, propagated Marian devotion. After a temporary setback through the Enlightenment, it was again revived in Catholic Romanticism.
From the time of Pius IX, who after the definition of the Immaculate Conception (1854) had papal primacy and infallibility defined at Vatican I - the popes have promoted Marian devotion by every means.
The peak of the Marian age was reached in the year 1950 when Pius XII, against all Protestant, Orthodox, and even Catholic misgivings, defined the dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary into heavenly glory at the end of her life. There is nothing about this in Scripture or even in the tradition of the first five centuries. It appeared at first only in the apocryphal sources, in legends, pictures and feasts.
This was reinforced by Pius XII’s consecration of the whole human race to the immaculate heart of Mary in 1942 (under the influence of Fatima) and by the Marian Year of 1954 - came to a sudden end a few years later.