When did Mary worship first start? I’m trying to witness to my Christian Catholic friend who still prays to Mary.  I asked SIRI and an article came up with your web page entitled: “Was Mary worshipped by the early Christian Church in 250 AD as my Catholic friend claims?” I would like to print it out to give to her.


You will not be surprised to learn that there is no date we can point to that is the first time Mary was worshipped or prayed to.  If you were to ask Catholic Church leaders, they would deny that Mary is worshipped or even prayed to by Roman Catholics.  They claim that they venerate her and that they pray through her, but not to her.  We need to be fair and point this out.  However, if you have much experience with actual Catholic people, you will figure out right away that many actual Catholics do not understand the distinction between veneration and worship, and that many Catholics do in fact pray to Mary and worship her, even if the official position of the Roman church is one of veneration not worship and prayer through, not to.
As for when this started, like I said, there is no starting date.  By the early fourth century, worship/veneration of saints was common, but this was not worship or veneration of Mary. Rather, it was principally veneration of the martyrs.  By the fifth century, the phrase, “Mary, Mother of God” had become common, but at this early date, it was primarily about Mary being the mother of Jesus, who was God.  It was not principally about veneration of Mary.  It was not until about the sixth century that veneration of Mary began to rival that of the saints.  An important point in this development was the influence of Pope Gregory. He strongly emphasized superstitious worship practices such as veneration of saints, using relics for worship and veneration of Mary.  He also invented the idea of the Immaculate Conception—that Mary was born without Original Sin.  Something close to the modern Catholic level of worshipping and praying to Mary evolved in the twelfth century with the influence of Francis of Asissi.  By this time, Mary came to have a place only second to Jesus in the hierarchy of holiness in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Western church had emphasized the deity of Christ over his humanity, and veneration of Mary humanized Christianity for the church.  This is when using rosaries and praying “Holy Mary, Mother of God” took on stronger theological implications.
It is my opinion that this is not a salvation issue.  We ought to point out the error of this kind of worship to our Catholic friends, but not use it to “prove” that Catholics are wrong.  We should point people to true biblical Christian worship, and let then figure out for themselves that such practices are not biblical.  I would point people directly to Jesus and directly to the Bible, rather than condemn these practices, even though I personally find them offensive and harmful spiritually. That is my suggestion. I hope this helps.
John Oakes

Comments are closed.