Mariolatry at Nazareth, Rome and Blackburn

Where does Mariolatry come from? By this I refer to worship of Mary by Roman Catholics and Orthodox devotees. Of course, they would insist it is merely honouring and venerating rather than worship, but I would beg to differ. Even Mohammed, the founder of Islam, reacted against the overly exalted role of Christ’s mother. Seeing the corruption and idolatry of so-called Christianity, he sought to found a purer expression:

And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?' (Surah 5:116).

Christ’s divinity is clearly taught in scripture; his mother’s is most definitely not.

So to return to my earlier question, I propose it comes from the Roman paganism from which Catholicism developed. There’s no evidence of interest in Mary in the Church until 150AD. Irenaeus in 202 suggested that the sin of the ‘virgin Eve’ was atoned for by the ‘virgin Mary’, which may be the origin of Catholicism’s awarding her the title of co-redemptrix. The earliest picture of her is found in the Priscilla Catacomb in Rome and dates from the second century.

When Constantine made the empire ‘Christian’, thousands of Isis, Diana, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite and Vesta worshippers were able to divert their devotions to the new religion’s equivalent- Mary. Churchmen must have greedily considered the revenues this goddess worship could bring, and may have thought that it would aid the transition from pagan to Christian. This syncretism, or blending together of pagan and Christian, continued for hundreds of years. The Virgin of Guadalupe, an apparition of Mary appearing in Mexico in 1531, is simply a rebranding of the goddess Tonantzin, an Aztec mother deity.

I was particularly grieved to see Mariolatry so prevalent in the Holy Land and Lancashire. What- not Rome? Well I expected it in Rome. The picture below is of a huge fresco in the Vatican apartments showing Pope Pius IX declaring Mary sinless in 1854.

The Holy Land, however, the place where Jesus walked and much of the scriptures were written, is a particularly unworthy location for the worship of idols. Below is a statue of Mary outside the Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth. It shows her foot crushing the serpent’s head. This is a reference to the coming Messiah in Genesis 3:15; here though, it’s not the Messiah who reverses the Fall, it’s Mary. 

Inside the church, nations around the world have submitted huge images of her, that pilgrims might before them worship.

Here in Lancashire, our Anglican cathedral at Blackburn has at least three images of Mary publicly displayed. Why are they located in a protestant place of worship? Why have they spent money honouring someone who can’t save a sausage? She can’t hear prayers and wouldn’t answer them even if she could. She too is a sinner saved by grace, a Christian like any other. That the Anglican hierarchy should pollute its cathedrals is particularly opprobrious. Unlike the Reformers, I don’t believe in smashing other people’s idols; my prayer is that they’ll do it for themselves.

The picture below I took at St John Lateran, Rome. It shows Mary physically supporting Christ upon the cross; His efforts to save humanity were apparently insufficient. Only Jesus Himself deals with our sin; indeed, neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)