Refuting Rome’s Biblical arguments for Mary as Mediatrix
In order to make the case that Mary suffered at the base of the Cross in a saving manner regarding redemption, Catholics bring up Luke 2:34-35 which reads:
Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Remarking on this passage, Catholics writer Alessandro Apollonio asserts:
“The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:22-40) further clarifies the bases of this mediation: not only Mary’s vocation as Mother of God, but her role as Co-redemptrix in the Realization of the redemptive sacrifice which secures the ‘salvation of his people’” (Allessandro M. Apollonio, Mary Mediatrix of all Graces, ed. Mark I. Miravalle, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacans, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, [Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., 2008], p. 434 italics mine)
Yet the fact that Simeon prophesied that a sword would also pierce Mary’s soul at her Son’s death is supposed evidence for Romanists in that she had in some manner a restoring gift of supernatural life to souls and that her faith, obedience, and hope somehow made this happen. Anyone that reads Luke 2:34-35 would never come up with that sort of bizarre and shockingly bad interpretation from the passage. It’s true, Mary suffered when she saw her Son nailed on the Cross, like any mother would suffer after seeing her son being slaughtered on a wooden cross in such a humiliating death. It’s true, Mary would be ached at the heart, yet to interpret from this text that she would also have a part in the gift of salvation, the office of salvation, etc., is entirely ridiculous.
Roman Catholic Scholar Ludwigg Ott claims that since Mary is supposedly the spiritual mother of all believers as stated in John 19:26-27 then consequently she helps and mediates in heaven for believers. Supposedly this is biblical evidence for Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces and Advocate, quote:
“It [John 19:26-27] corresponds to the position of Mary as spiritual mother of the whole of redeemed humanity that she, by her powerful intercession, should procure for her children in needs of help all graces by which they can attain eternal salvation” (Ludwigg Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, [TAN Books and Publishers, 1960], p. 214 brackets mine)
The passage being discussed reads:
“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ 27 Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27)
Catholics erroneously deduce from this that Jesus was identifying Mary as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, Mediatrix, giving her a saving office, and giving her the task of granting us eternal life. Nothing comes close to how bizarre and ridiculous this is. Anyone reading the passage would never come to that conclusion. The fact of the matter is Jesus entrusted the care of Mary His mother to the Christian community surrounding Him at the Cross. The fact of the matter is He required His followers to treat Mary in the same manner He would have treated Mary His mother after His death. No connection exists whatsoever to the strange Roman Catholic claims about Mary based upon these two texts (Luke 2:34-35; John 19:26-27)
The passage refers to John the beloved disciple, not the human race. Second, as D.A. Carson states, the words are:
“reminiscent of legal adoption formulae” (D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, ed. The Pillar New Testament Commentary, [Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991], p. 616)
Which shows that Jesus was leaving Mary in the care of John by which John would provide for her. Not all of mankind is adopted by John, and therefore, not all of mankind is Mary’s metaphorical child. The context is merely concerned with John being tasked to watch over Mary when Jesus ascended. Third, it’s crucial to point out that verse 27 states, “from that hour that disciple took her to his own home”, which confirms the outcome of Jesus’s words was that John cared for Mary. Hence Catholics are completely backwards when they emphasize Mary caring John or the Church. As Carson states:
“Roman Catholic exegesis has tended not so much to see Mary coming under the care of the beloved disciple, as the reverse.” (D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, ed. The Pillar New Testament Commentary, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991], p. 617)
As a matter of fact, this passage actually calls into question the Catholic’s view. As A.W. Pink commented:
“We surely need no stronger proof here than we have here, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was never meant to be honored as Divine, or to be prayed to, Worshipped and trusted in, as the friend and patroness of sinners. Common sense points out that she who needed the care and protection of another, was never likely to help men and women to heaven, or to be in any sense a mediator between God and man!” (A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, [Zondervan, 1975], p. 1056)
Rome frequently brings up Rev. 5:8 and 8:3-4, both of which say the same thing, as alleged evidence for saints being prayed to, as well as them presenting these prayers to God. The passage says:
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Rev. 5:8; cf. 8:3-4)
Catholic writers Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch argue from this text, saying:
“The saints in heaven mediate the praises and petitions of the saints on earth (8:3)” (Scott Hahn, Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, [Ignatius Press, 2010], p. 499)
The Catholics are at fault in twisting this passage. The body of facts indicate that these 24 elders do not have prayers because they were prayed to as Catholic authors propose, rather they have prayers which people offer to God alone and they symbolically bring them to God.
The twenty-four elders clothed in white raiment are representative of the church according to most Bible scholars. The fact that they are in white robes in Rev. 4:4 is the church is to be clothed in white robes, the righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ (Rev. 7:9,13-14). They also have golden crowns on their heads representing the various crowns that believers will receive (1 Cor. 9:24,25; 1 Thess. 2:19, 20 & Dan 12:3; James 1:12 & Rev. 2:8-11; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). Since they have white robes and crowns of victory, this implies a conflict and endurance that we as believers go through. In Rev. 5:9 these 24 “Elders” sing a song of praise in which they say Christ has “redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”, meaning that these 24 Elders represent the whole church of God, both in the Old-Testament and in the New-Testament state; not the ministers of the church, but rather the representatives of the people. So in Rev 15:3, "the song of Moses, and of the Lamb," the double constituents of the Church are implied, the Old Testament and the New Testament. "Elders" is the very term for the ministry both of the Old and New Testament, the Jewish and Gentile Church. Most likely these “Elders” are the 24 Patriarchs in the line of the promised seed of Abraham found in Genesis, but it’s not certain.
Now in Rev. 5:8, the 24 Elders present before the Lamb of God golden bowls full of incense, which symbolically represent the prayers of the saints. However, they are not interceding for the saints, functioning as mediators for God's people. First, we are reminded that there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). These elders are not praying for the saints, and this in no wise justifies the Roman Catholic practice of praying to the saints, asking them to pray for us. Second, the connection between prayer and incense is shown in Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
In this we see how precious the prayers of the saints are to God. He regards them as a sweet smelling incense, as if set in precious golden bowls. Third, when comparing Rev. 5:8 with the other references to petitionary prayers of the saints found in Rev. 6:10; 8:3-4, we come to understand that the prayers of the saints are directed towards God Himself, and NOT to some supposed mediating saints. In Rev. 6:10, the contents of the prayers of the saints are one of justice for their martyrdom in which they ask God to avenge them.
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?’”
In Rev. 8:3-4, these same prayers are symbolically represented as the incense inside the golden censers being offered on the golden altar. As the smoke of the incense ascend to God, this symbolically represents the prayers of the saints ascending to God. These prayers, which are directed to God, and NOT the alleged mediating saints, are then answered through the judgments of the seven trumpets. Hence, when one reads Rev. 5:8 in relation to Rev. 6:10; 8:3-4, we find that there is no contextual nor exegetical grounds in this verse for Catholics to claim that believers can offer their prayers to mediating saints.
Tim Staples adduces Luke 9:21-31 as supposed proof that Jesus prayed to the dead during His Earthly ministry. He erroneously argues:
“Our Lord ascends a mountain with Peter, James, and John. There, He is transfigured before them, and Moses and Elijah appeared and ‘talked with him’ about his death (cf. Luke 9:30)….At His transfiguration, Jesus prays to the saints. And aren’t Christians supposed to imitate Christ?” (Tim Staples, Nuts and Bolts, [Basilica Press, 2007], p. 60)
However, what Deut. 18:11 forbids biblically is that MAN must not pray to the dead, not that the transfigured God-Man Jesus could not talk with Elijah and Moses if they appeared on Earth at the time of His First Coming. There is a significant difference. Jesus never beseeches nor seeks help from Moses, Elijah, or any of the saints in Heaven during His Earthly ministry as He evidently does so many times when referring to His Father. Furthermore, James Whites correctly reasons:
“Are we seriously to believe that the unique, one-of-a-kind event of the Transfiguration itself is a meaningful foundation for communication with those who have passed from this life? Do I really need to point out that there is actually no example of communication the apostles and Moses and Elijah, that it is limited to Jesus, and hence would not, even if it was pressed far out of its meaningful context, support such a concept?” (James White, A Brief Comment on the “Communion of Saints” and Catholic Blogger “Devman”)