The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and this is deemed significant for there are only three birthdates that the Church celebrates in its liturgical calendar, the birthdates of John the Baptist (Jan. 24), Blessed Virgin Mary (Sept. 8) and Jesus Christ (Dec. 25).
The fact that we celebrate the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as her Assumption gives us an overview of the importance of the role that the Blessed Virgin Mary has in our Church. In reply to the question is salvation possible without Mary, let us quote from what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says about salvation.
CCC169 states, “Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: ‘We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation.’ Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.”
CCC 2030 also says, “It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation. From the Church he receives the Word of God containing the teachings of ‘the law of Christ.’ From the Church, he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary.”
Both the Scriptures and CCC show that salvation comes from God alone, and we are not contending that point but what our Church is saying is that the Blessed Virgin Mary had a part in the redemption of mankind; it was through Mary, with the power of the Holy Spirit, that salvation came into the world with the birth of her son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not only scriptural but also historical.
The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary originated in Jerusalem. It began in the fifth century as the Feast of the Basilica Sanctae Mariae ubi nata est, now the Basilica of Saint Anne. In the seventh century, the Feast was celebrated by the Byzantines, and in Rome as the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast is also celebrated by Syrian Christians on Sept. 8 and by Coptic Christians on May 9.
The Church also honors the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the greatest of all Christian saints. The Virgin Mother “was, after her Son, exalted by divine grace above all angels and men.” Mary is venerated with a special cult, called by St. Thomas Aquinas hyperdulia, as the highest of God’s creatures.
The principal events of her life are celebrated as liturgical feasts of the universal Church because Mary’s life and role in the history of salvation are prefigured in the Old Testament, and the events of her life are recorded in the New Testament. Traditionally, she is recognized as the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne. Born in Jerusalem, Mary was presented in the Temple, and she took a vow of virginity.
She lived in Nazareth where she was visited by archangel Gabriel, who announced to her that she would become the Mother of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Betrothed to St. Joseph, she went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was bearing St. John the Baptist.
Acknowledged by Elizabeth as the Mother of God, Mary intoned the Magnificat.
The first recorded miracle of Jesus was performed at a wedding in Cana, and Mary was the one who called Christ’s attention to the need. Mary was present at the Crucifixion in Jerusalem, and there she was given into John’s care. She was with the disciples in the days before the Pentecost, and it is believed that she was present at the resurrection and Ascension.
While there were no scriptural records of Mary’s last years on earth, the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven is one of the oldest traditions of the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XII declared this belief a Catholic dogma in 1950. The feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception — that Mary, as the Mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, was free of original sin at the moment of her conception — was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 .
St. Paul observed that “God sent His Son, born of a woman,” expressing the union of the human and the divine in Christ. As Christ possesses two natures, human and divine, Mary was the Mother of God in his human nature.
Pope Benedict XV wrote in 1918: “To such an extent did Mary suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to such extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man’s salvation, and immolated him — insofar as she could in order to appease the justice of God, that we might rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ”.
Mary possesses a unique relationship with all three Persons of the Trinity as she was chosen by God the Father to be the Mother of his Son; God the Holy Spirit chose her to be his virginal spouse for the incarnation of the Son; and God the Son chose her to be his mother.
Honoring Mary shouldn’t be the subject of any debate as her role as Mother of Our Lord is undeniably true. So the question is not why do we need to honor Mary, but why not?