In the Catholic Church, we reserve latria, Greek for supreme worship, to God alone. But to Mary we give “the highest form of reverence to a created being, a veneration called hyperdulia.” (Zia 84) In fact, St. Joseph, Mary's spouse, is given the first place of veneration after Mary, known as protodulia. The saints then are given honor and veneration known simply as dulia.
Why do we give Mary this highest form of veneration? For many reasons. The first is that Mary is the Theotokos, the God-bearer. Because of this, all Mariology always is Christocentric. The heresy of Nestorianism said that Mary could only be the Christokos, meaning Christ-bearer, and not the Theotokos, which would mean that Jesus was not God. The heresy was condemned at the Council of Ephesus. “Thus the fact that God chose Mary from all eternity to bear the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity as the Theotokos is in itself sufficient reason for us to acknowledge her singular greatness among all created beings.” (Zia 86)
A second reason is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Mary was free from original sin and remained sinless her entire life. Mary, Jesus' mother, is the most perfect creature God created. Jesus redeemed Mary in advance. She received this singular grace and privilege from her Son. Now it must be said that Mary did indeed need to be redeemed, but God chose to redeem her in advance of Christ's redemptive death on the Cross. “Thus, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception does not detract from Christ nor imply that Mary did not need to be redeemed. It shows forth the power of God working within Mary's free choice always to do his will.” (Zia 87)
Another aspect of Mary is her perpetual virginity. Mary remained a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. “Mary's virginity attests to the intensity of her love for God. It was a love so total and pure that she could not share her body, the tabernacle of the Most High, with any other person.” (Zia 88) Many critics argue that Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus. Some mention the “brothers and sisters of the Lord”, discussed in the New Testament. This can easily be understood as Jesus' cousins because there was no Hebrew word for cousin. Others discuss Jesus being called the “firstborn” of Mary, implying that Mary had other biological children. These critics fail to understand that in the East, the firstborn son, is given special honor, even if he has no siblings.
Because Mary was the most perfect creature, and free from original sin, she was assumed into heaven, body, and soul. Her body was free from corruption and was immediately glorified. There are two views on Mary's Assumption, that can be accepted by Catholics. There is the mortalist view, which says that Mary after completing the course of her earthly life, did die, and after three days, was assumed body and soul into heaven. Then, there is the immortalist view, which says that Mary after completing the course of her earthly life, did not die, and was assumed body and soul into heaven. Since we do not know for sure which view is historically accurate, both are acceptable for the faithful to believe, since it does not really matter how Mary was assumed, all that is necessary is to know that she was.
Mary is the Mediatrix of Grace. “As Mediatrix of Grace in virtue of her active cooperation with the life, passion, and death of her Son, Mary is a powerful intercessor on our behalf.” (Zia 91) As our mother and intercessor, Mary has an important role in Salvation History. “The graces Jesus won for us through his cross are distributed to the human race by Christ through Mary.” (Zia 89) Thus, when praying, we often ask Mary to intercede and help us, because we know that Christ has willed that all graces are given to us through Mary. Mary was given to us as our mother at the foot of the Cross: “It was on Calvary that Mary became the mother of all Christians.” (Zia 90)
In fact, Mary's intercession for humanity is already seen before the crucifixion. One instance of intercession is when Mary goes to visit and help her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with St. John the Baptist: “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:39-40) It should be noted that Mary went with “haste” showing us that Mary will always come to our aid quickly. Another instance is when Mary asks Jesus to intercede at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him. 'They have no wine.' And Jesus said to her. 'O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:3-5) Jesus then proceeded to work his first public miracle.
St. Louis De Montfort, a big promoter of Marian consecration, always said to go to Jesus through Mary. He likened us to beggars, who would bring our fruit that was of little worth before the king (Christ), and that the queen (Mary) would put that fruit on a silver platter and present it to the king. The king would accept it because it was the queen who presented it. This analogy shows us that if we give all our good works over to Mary, she will present them before Christ at our judgment.
In the end, Mary is a model for all of humanity, “the main ministry of Mary is to incline men's hearts to obedience to the will of her Divine Son” (Zia 92) Mary only spoke seven times in the entire New Testament, as such an exalted creature, she is also a great example of humility. We must become more like Mary, and always say YES to God no matter what he asks of us. I think Venerable Fulton J. Sheen put it best: “God has to have two pictures of us: one is what we are, and the other is what we ought to be... There is, actually, only one person in all humanity of whom God has one picture and in whom there is a perfect conformity between what He wanted her to be and what she is, and that is His Own Mother.” (Zia 86) We ought to be like Mary and live our lives by giving constant glory to God.
Zia, Mark J., The Enduring Faith and Timeless Truths of Fulton Sheen. Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2015.