I have been asked why I (Catholics) pray to Mary, and why this is not breaking one of the 10 commandments. I believe there is such a large misunderstanding of Mary's role in Christianity and I hope my response, to an acquaintance of mine's question, will help clarify what my faith teaches and, therefore, what I believe.
...I have so much to share about Mary, and am grateful for your question about reference to her in Sacred Scripture. I’ll try not to be too wordy, but this subject is one of my favorites! I’ll start by referencing Sacred Scripture and then explain to you how my Catholic faith, and walk with Christ has drawn me closer to His Mother (and mine).
-All good mothers pray for their children. Mary, especially prays for us because Jesus made her the mother of us all when he said “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27
-Jesus honored His mother, as we are commanded to do in the 10 commandments, particularly at the Wedding at Cana… Mary mentions to Jesus ‘they have no wine’ to which Jesus replies ‘how does your concern affect me, my hour has not come.’ Mary responds to the servants, saying ‘do whatever he tells you.’ He then proceeds to turn the water into wine (John 2: 1 -12). Jesus does honor His mother’s wishes even though; He does appear to initially disagree. If Jesus honored His mother, and then at the cross, gave her to us as our Mother; my faith teaches that we too should honor her.
-Mary is given to us as the Queen of heaven. King Solomon in the Old Testament honored the Queen Mother, Bathsheba. Jesus, the King, reveals His mother Mary as queen Mother in the book o f revelation. St. John had a vision of the woman in heaven “… and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Revelation 12:1
-I believe Mary was conceived without sin. She was called “full of grace” which means to be without sin. “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28 . We believe she is the Ark of the New Covenant as contrasted to the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, it was created perfectly, to hold the Word of God – the Ten Commandments. Mary was created without sin to hold the Word of God – Jesus. God could have sent Jesus to us any way He chose. (descend as He ascends after His resurrection, just arrived one day, came out of the water, etc.) God, chose to send Him to us through Mary. He could have chosen anybody, if He wanted, but He didn’t, He chose her. How could He place the Word incarnate in any tabernacle flawed? She would have to have been perfect, to be worthy of carrying our Lord and Savior. Catholics also look at that relationship as a perfect example of how to pray to Jesus. God sent us the Word incarnate THROUGH Mary, and therefore the best (not only) means of reaching Him, then would be praying through Mary, to Him. (deep, probably, but it is what we believe.)
-In the Gospel according to Luke, Mary says “… all generations shall call me blessed”. Mary knew that she would be called blessed because she carried Jesus, the Savior, in her womb.
-I also love how Mary is foretold in Genesis 3:15 – the fall of man when God speaks to the serpent “I will put enmity between you and the woman (Mary), and between your offspring and hers (Jesus); he (Jesus) will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.” We, as Catholics, believe this foretells the victory of Jesus over satan with His passion, death and resurrection. This is depicted sooooo beautifully in the movie the Passion of the Christ (the agony in the garden).
You know, I am embarrassed to admit, that even as a Catholic, I spent much of my life not having a real grasp of why Mary is to be honored as she is, and why she is so important in my walk with Christ. I too, did find myself turning to the commandments for clarity, as they are solid, and divine.
Where I gained understanding is where God commands us to honor our Father and Mother. Well, if Mary is Jesus’ Mother, He must have honored her. We are encouraged to live as Jesus lived. I believe then, that I am to honor her as well. However, I cannot worship her, as you correctly point out, to worship her would be a grave sin. Worship is reserved for God alone (“You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:3). As a Catholic, and child of God, however, I honor her. Even at the wedding at Cana, Jesus honored her, when, by her request, he changed the water into wine.
As a busy Mom with many small children, I am able to find comfort in Mary, as my Mother. As much joy as I find in my vocation as wife and mother, there too, is suffering (worthwhile, but suffering nonetheless)… Mary suffered greatly watching her son suffer and die, unjustly. She surrendered her will, for the fulfillment of the kingdom. I was able to receive her as my Mother as well, when I read in the Gospel according to John (19: 26-27), during his crucifixion, Jesus addresses his Mother “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple “behold your Mother.” I believe and my faith has taught me that in that statement from the cross, Jesus gave Mary to us, as our Mother and gave us to her as her children (to care for us, guide us and love us as our Mother and for her to care for our souls as her children).
I pray daily to be the Mother that Mary was… patient, humble, obedient, and disciplined. Her yes to the Angel Gabriel, was divine, humble, a complete surrender of her will to God’s… out of love. An example I truly desire to follow in my walk with Christ. To have the faith to say yes no matter what the circumstances. She said yes knowing that to be pregnant, “betrothed to Joseph, but not living with him yet”, often times resulted in stoning; she could have been killed. Out of obedience, after learning of her delicate condition and a ”… visit from an angel in a dream, Joseph did not quietly divorce her…” (Matthew 1: 18 – 25) and was a perfect husband to her; but she said yes anyway. If I could be that obedient and surrender my will to God’s as she did, imagine the Mother and wife I could be and the beautiful service to my extended family and community, all to glorify God and His Kingdom. For me, she is a perfect model of what I pray to be (which is why I like the prayer I sent so much, she just inspires me). My faith has taught me, and I do always close my prayers “in Jesus name”, as Jesus tells us again and again in scripture all things are possible when asked in the Holy Name of Jesus.
The Hail Mary, that we pray, is a prayer to honor her as Jesus’ mother. The Hail Mary comes from scripture “Hail full of Grace, the Lord is with you” Luke 1:28 “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” Luke 1:42 The prayer then calls on the most Holy Name of Jesus and ends with a request for Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death. The prayer does not worship her; it honors her as she is honored in sacred scripture.
In summary, I guess my biggest struggle with my walk with Christ is my inability to totally surrender my will to His Divine Will. Mary could… her Yes brought us our Savior. I find her to be the model that I hold dear in my heart and I aspire to. I want to be like her; a perfect model of complete, humble and beautiful abandonment to the Will of God.