Five dogmatic truths about the Virgin Mary


Marian doctrine, developed throughout the centuries, led the Church to a recognition of the privileges granted to the Virgin Mary, as well as the consequences of these privileges. Mary was predestined to become the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To this divine motherhood is added what is called the spiritual motherhood of Mary. This second dimension of her motherhood – Mary’s second mission – is to intercede before the throne of God for man’s salvation. Mary’s spiritual motherhood allows us to enter into a filial relationship with her.




The Development of Marian Doctrine

Marian doctrine has grown throughout the ages, providing a prime example of the Church’s principle of the development of doctrine. God reveals Himself in time, allowing for mysteries to be unfolded little by little. This progressive revelation is the work both of the entire people who, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, perceive the unity of the faith (this is called the common sense of the faithful) and of the bishops (as well as of the Fathers of the Church, Councils) who receive the mission to teach the people of God. This principle applies also to Marian doctrine, which has been revealed gradually over time. Thus, for example, there is still a controversy regarding a particular aspect of Marian teaching: some people hope that Mary will one day be officially proclaimed co-redemptrix with Christ.

In one of his papal audiences, Pope Saint John Paul II explained the role of the Second Vatican Council in the development of Marian doctrine:

“The Constitution Lumen Gentium wishes to give proper emphasis to the fact that the Blessed Virgin was intimately associated with Christ’s redemptive work … in profound and constant harmony with her divine Son. … The gift of her universal spiritual motherhood stems precisely from this co-operation: associated with Christ in the work of Redemption, which includes the spiritual regeneration of humanity, she becomes mother of those reborn to new life. … Mary’s universal mission is exercised in the context of her unique relationship with the Church. With her concern for every Christian, and indeed for every human creature, she guides the faith of the Church towards an ever deeper acceptance of God’s Word, sustains her hope, enlivens her charity and fraternal communion and encourages her apostolic dynamism. … The full value of her role appeared after the Assumption and is destined to extend down the centuries to the end of the world. … [The heavenly Father] wanted to unite to the Redeemer’s intercession as a priest that of the Blessed Virgin as a mother. It is a role she carries out for the sake of those who are in danger and who need temporal favors and, especially, eternal salvation.”1

Four Marian Doctrines

The mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary is founded first of all on what is called her integral motherhood. That is to say, her divine motherhood, which we recognize by calling her “Theotokos” or “God-bearer”, makes of her a living monstrance, for she carried in her womb the Son of God. This divine maternity is established with Mary’s free acceptance, her fiat at the moment of the Annunciation. Further, the Church recognizes Mary’s sanctity from the moment of her conception: God allowed that this creature, chosen from among all women, be conceived without sin in order to welcome in her womb His Son, the Redeemer. This is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, promulgated in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. Additionally, Mary’s divine motherhood allowed her to bear Christ and yet remain a virgin, for nothing is impossible with God. Mary’s perpetual virginity, before, during, and after the birth of Christ, is part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church. The hymn Alma Redemptoris Mater proclaims this great mystery in a magnificent way: “Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum genitorem”/ “To the wonderment of nature, you bore your Creator”.

Finally, Mary’s spiritual motherhood, which is seen clearly after the Ascension, after Pentecost, and ever since her Assumption, and Mary’s personal glorification, body and soul, until the end of time, was offered to her and accepted by her at the foot of the Cross. There Christ confided to her this mission with the words reported in St. John’s Gospel: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church

The constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council contains a chapter entitled “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church.” Mary’s spiritual motherhood, poured out upon the whole Church and all men, springs from two sources: first, from her cooperation in man’s redemption as she stood at the foot of the Cross and united her own sufferings to her Son’s for the salvation of man; and second, from the mediation which she has provided in a particular manner ever since her Assumption into Heaven, since she intercedes for man at the throne of her Son. This intercession is acknowledged by the Marian prayer taught by the Church for centuries: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.” Mary mediates for us as a mother in a deeply personal way, in the heart of our lives, transmitting to us the divine gifts and interceding in our favor constantly with her Son. She touches the spiritual life of each and every Christian. Additionally, in a more general way, Mary mediates for us regarding historical events and sends us signs, apparitions, and healings, that we must learn how to read and believe.

1 John Paul II, Audience of Wednesday, September 24, 1997.



Organisation of the section


Organization of this section in the Marian Encyclopedia:

The first part of this study centers on the divine motherhood of Mary, then on her sanctity thanks to the Immaculate Conception. The divine motherhood is accompanied by the privilege of virginal motherhood, fulfilling the vow of the Virgin Mary, whom we profess “always a virgin”.

The second part of this study focuses on the spiritual motherhood of Mary: her cooperation in redemption and the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1950.