Mary a Mediatrix? Isn’t there just One Mediator?

by Steve Ray on October 30, 2013

The Bible says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Yet Catholics refer to Mary as a Mediatrix (feminine form of the word mediator).

So, isn’t that prima facie evidence that Catholics make up doctrines, worship Mary and disregard the Bible?

I was again challenged with this the other day. Interesting how the same old, same old keeps coming up no matter how many times you answer it. Interesting how these same misconceptions keep coming up as though some contentious power keeps inserting them into gullible minds. Interesting how people love to twist the rubber nose to make it obscene, grotesque, and distorted.

So here was my short response — again!

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Cross in Woods smtIn 1 Timothy 2:5 Paul recognizes that there is a huge chasm between the holy God and sinful men. Paul states that there is only one mediator that can bridge that uncrossable gorge.  How do we sinners reach a holy God across such a chasm?

God has provided the solution. He has provided the-one-and-only Mediator (1 Tim 2:5), the bridge, the stairway between heaven and earth, (John 1:51 based on the ladder seen by Jacob). This one Mediator is the God-Man Jesus Christ and he is the only one that can bridge the gap–mediate–between heaven and earth to bring reconciliation between God and men.

Thus, there is one Mediator to reconcile God and man. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant as the writer of Hebrews informs us three times, for example: “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Heb 8:6, 9:15, 12:24). No one else could have ever become such a mediator of the New Covenant.

However, after Jesus has accomplished such an act of redemption and mediatorship, he calls us to share in his ministry.

I remember my father saying to me before I joined the Catholic Church, “When you become Catholic you will pray to Mary and remember that Paul says there is only one Mediator between God and man.” I lovingly but sternly replied to my father, “Dad, never ask me to pray for you again!”

My father was shocked but understood my meaning. As soon as he asks me to pray for him — he asks me to be a mediator between him and God. I told him that to be consistent with his Protestant theology he should not ask me or anyone else to intercede for him, to be a mediator — one who stands in the middle — but he should pray directly to Jesus himself.

m74But Scripture constantly commands us to pray for one another, to intercede for our fellow humans. We are all “mini” mediators sharing in the mediatorship of Christ. And it goes the other way too. When God tells us to share the Gospel with lost sinners he is asking us to stand between himself and the sinner to share the Gospel, although he could have chosen to communicate with them directly.

Mary is not the infinite mediator, nor does she impose on the prerogatives of her Son. She, like us, intercedes for sinners and the people of God. Mediatrix is simply the feminine form of mediator. All of us share in the ministry of Christ, mediating and praying for our fellow man. In this sense, all of us are mediators and the females among us are mediatrixes.

I am frequently asked, “Where does the Bible say we should pray to dead saints?” to which I usually ask, “Where does the Bible say that saints are dead?”

Those of us, including most Protestants, believe that when a person dies in friendship with Christ they are still alive in Christ.

To prove that those who died in a state of grace were not dead, Jesus said to the Sadducees (who didn’t believe in the resurrection which is why they were “sad you see” — as my dad used to joke with us kids), “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt 22:32). Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive.

Those who say “Why do you Catholics pray to dead saints” need to understand that those who die in Christ are not dead. Catholics affirm that they are alive and in the presence of Christ and that they can intercede for us as much as my father or I can intercede for each other.

Mary and the saints do not answer our prayers, any more than I answer the prayers of my dad. Rather, Mary, the saints and you and I all are intercessors. We do not answer the prayers, we simply intercede with the Father through his Son Jesus.

When I take pilgrimage groups to Israel I always take them to the top of Mount Tabor where the Transfiguration took place. I always ask people how a “dead guy” like Moses could be talking to Jesus about things that are taking place on earth (Lk 9:31).

copelandWhen my father asks me to pray for him he asks me to stand in the middle — to be a mediator, an intercessor — and when God commands me to preach the gospel to the lost, he tells me to stand in the middle — to be an ambassador for Christ as Paul says,

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).

(Opps, to the right is a Pentecostal preacher Kenneth Copeland acting as a mediator, interceding with God, standing in the middle as they pray for this man!)

I hope that helps explain why we call Mary a mediatrix and why all of us are mini-mediators sharing in the ministry of Christ — the one-and-only mediator of the New Covenant, but certainly not in any way claiming to be the one mediator of the New Covenant, nor in any way arrogating to ourselves or to Mary the unique prerogatives and ministry of Jesus.

One last thought on this matter. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding of the differences between prayer and worship. In the Catholic tradition they are very different things. In Protestantism prayer and worship are sometimes used as synonyms. Pray simply means to ask, whereas worship is to adore.

If a Catholic says he “prays to Mary” it’s perceived as worship by many Protestants, but the Catholic it simply making a request that Mary intercede for us — the same as when my dad asked me to intercede for him. In Catholicism there is a big difference between pray and worship.

DVD_Mary_01We honor, love and venerate Mary. We ask her to pray for us. But we worship God ALONE!

For more on this and other Marian topics, all filmed on location in the Holy Land, check out my documentary MARY, MOTHER OF GOD here.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

roz July 19, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Thanks, Steve, for this balanced and articulate explanation of an issue that creates huge obstacles in the hearts of many well-meaning brethren.

Patricia Earp July 19, 2009 at 4:43 PM

Thanks. I will keep and save this article and use it to e-mail my protestant friends when they ask me the Why’s concerning Mary and the Saints? ~Patricia

Alice July 19, 2009 at 7:42 PM

Some have a mindset no matter what.

robert elder July 21, 2009 at 11:06 AM

thank you for this information, it helps me

Howard July 25, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Let’s suppose I need to cross from West Virginia to Ohio. I have to cross a bridge over the Ohio River to do that. (I’m ignoring all other physically possible routes — no analogy is perfect!) To get me across, the bridge has to sit in West Virginia on one side and in Ohio on the other, just as Christ is both man and God and spans the divide between man and God, giving us access to God. There is only one “bridge” because only one person is both God and man.

But even saying “there is only one bridge between West Virginia and Ohio” does not mean “there is only one bridge between Charleston and Ohio”. I may have to cross several bridges on my way, but each of these bridges will lie entirely within West Virginia. Such a bridge is like Mary, who is only human.

“There is one mediator between God and man” does not mean the same thing as “there is one mediator between God and Howard”!

Bill Stoewer July 25, 2009 at 9:45 PM

We are fortunate that in our time Jesus sends his mother, Mary, to act as a Mediatrix. Like “Jacobs Ladder” that you mention many can approach Jesus through his Mother – with ease, as she always listens to our requests, and our continual need for renewal and conversion. Your simple explanation is heartening and useful.

David August 8, 2009 at 1:32 AM

An important point missed: The issue that Mary and the Saints are not omniscient is mysteriously left out. Even glorified in Heaven, they are still finite beings with limitations and couldn’t possibly hear the prayers of millions of people? Your Dad (on the other hand) doesn’t need to be omniscient because you can ask him face-to-face. Please take this well, but as a suggestion, you may wish to ask your Dad’s forgiveness as your response may have hurt him.

Ok… We can agree that the Bible is the Word of God. Yes? If the Word of God is our rule-book (2 Tim 3:15-17), then where are we instructed to ask anyone in Heaven to pray for us? If this is important, then were the apostles mistaken by not mentioning the importance of asking someone in heaven to pray for us sinners?

I respectfully submit that it is plainly clear that praying to Mary or the saints is completely different from asking someone here on earth to pray for you. One has a strong Biblical basis, the other has no Biblical basis whatsoever.

Written in sincerity and love,

STEVE RAY HERE: DAVID, I DON’T DOUBT YOUR SINCERITY AND LOVE, AND I APPRECIATE YOU WRITING AND YOUR KIND AND MEASURED TONE. I ALSO RECOGNIZE YOUR OBVIOUS ACCEPTANCE OF THE FAULTY PROTESTANT TRADITION OF MEN.

A few comments. We do not know the “technology of heaven” and what saints can and cannot do there. They have new bodies and are outside of space and time as we know it today. Are you saying you know and fully understand what the state and capabilities saints are in heaven? And if you deny that they can hear or be interested in the petitions from fellow believers on earth, what passage of scripture do you offer as a denial or proof of your point?

We are told the angels bring bowls to heaven full of the prayers of the saints. We do not know how all of this works, but I will go with the constant teaching of the Church, which by the way, is how we even have a Bible today and know what books belong within its canon. It always amazes me that Protestants unquestionably accept the canon of the NT handed down from the councils and bishops of the Catholic Church (along with the definition and defense of the divinity of Christ and the Trinity) yet consider the Church unreliable on other matters of constant teaching.

You make an assumption here that does not hold water and therefore your argument leaks like water from a sieve. You accept the Bible as the “rule book” which you offer no proof of it as the ONLY source of authority. We Catholics also regard Scripture as the unique, infallible, authoritative, inspired word of God, but we recognize other authority as well. All Christians did until the Protestant revolt where the rebels formed a new, man-made doctrine of Sola Scriptura. 2 Tim 3:15-17 as you cite above does not even come close to claiming scripture as the ONLY authority. In fact, if you use this you prove too much since Paul was referring here only to the Old Testament since there was no NT yet.

Paul said, “Hold fast to the traditions I left you” (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6). It is NOT Scripture alone. To assert that everything has to be explicity stated in the Bible is unbiblical. Where do you find in the Bible that you have to prove everything explicitely from the Bible? You don’t and therefore again your argument falls down.

So, you start with faulty premises which is why you end up with faulty conclusions. Again I could write much more but I am limited in time. This has been answered so many times that it is not necessary for me to write a full explanation.

You can read more on this here http://www.catholic.com/library/Praying_to_the_Saints.asp

Chris Hankins November 7, 2009 at 7:12 PM

Respectfully, I am investigating Catholicism intently, as I never see myself entering the doors of another Protestant church, but I would like to lovingly comment about the analogy between intercessory prayer to Mary and intercessory prayer made at someone else’s request, as is common of Protestants. The difference between the two is simple but profound: Catholics offer intercessory prayer directly to Mary, a Saint but non-deity. Protestants offer intercessory prayer to Jesus, the eternal Son of God, so it doesn’t matter to them who is saying the prayer. One is praying to Mary, the other to Jesus. That’s where Protestants have their hang-ups. Thank you.

Steve Ray November 8, 2009 at 9:46 AM

But actually, “pray” means to make a request. We can make a request to Jesus, to Mary or to Aunt Millie. “Pray” does not mean worship or recognize as a deity. What Catholics actually do when they “pray” to Mary is ask her for her intercession.

Gini January 1, 2010 at 3:09 PM

This article makes perfect sence!
The problem I see, though, is when we ask another human to intercede for us in prayer, it is face to face or voice to voice. I don’t see how saints in Heaven can hear our prayer requests without omnipresence.

Gini January 1, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Oops! You answered that a couple of posts ago!
So basically, one can’t really know for sure that the saints hear our requests, but since it is not a practice that God has forbidden, then why not, I mean, we need all the help we can get!

Liz Combs December 21, 2012 at 4:41 PM

I would just add that just as the author delineates between prayer and worship (and the Protestants do not, as the author claims, use the terms interchangeably. Prayer is a form of worship, as is song, servitude and Bible study); there is a difference between the concepts of mediator-ship and intercessor-ship. Jesus directed us to pray to the Father and we do so in the Name of His Son, Jesus. Prayer directed toward any other is idolatry.

STEVE RAY HERE IN CAPITAL LETTERS. THIS OF COURSE IS PURE AND SIMPLE FUNDAMENTALIST PROTESTANT TRADITION BEING ESPOUSED BY LIZ. I APPRECIATE HER CANDOR THOUGH. WORSHIP IN THE CONTEXT OF HISTORICAL CHRISTIANITY HAS BEEN EXPRESSED AT ITS HIGHEST IN THE MASS. THIS IS INCONTESTABLE AND ONLY DENIED BY THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW THEIR HISTORY.

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN MEDIATOR-SHIP AND INTERCESSOR-SHIP IS A PURE FABRICATION. IT IS LIZ’S OWN IDEA. TO BE A MEDIATOR IS TO BE IN BETWEEN. THERE ARE DEGREES OF MEDIATION BUT TO PRAY FOR SOMEONE IS CLEARLY A FORM OF “IN-THE-MIDDLE-NESS” (AND YES, I MADE UP THAT PHRASE).

PRAY DOES NOT MEAN WORSHIP, IT MEANS TO ASK. PEOPLE FORGET THEIR OWN ENGLISH LANGUAGE OR NEVER LEARNED IT WELL IN THE FIRST PLACE. PRAY MEANS TO ASK. WE CAN ASK OTHERS TO PRAY FOR US. THIS ACCORDING TO CHRISTIANS FROM THE FIRST CENTURIES MEANT ALSO THE SAINTS IN GLORY WHO ARE NOT DEAD BUT VERY MUCH ALIVE. IDOLATRY IS THE WORSHIP OF OTHER GODS, NOT THE REQUEST OF SAINTS TO PRAY WITH AND FOR US. OTHERWISE IT WOULD BE IDOLATRY TO “PRAY” TO MY WIFE TO PRAY FOR ME.

At the moment of His death, the earth opened and many of the dead (about 500) were raised and went about the people; and the veil in the Holy of Holies was torn in two signifying the end of the time of The Law and beginning the period of Grace in which all who believed in Christ, submitting to His Lordship, had direct access to God the Father, hence why we pray “Our Father, Who art in Heaven….” Praying in this way acknowledges Jesus as the Mediator, the only Mediator. When we pray for one another (intercessor-ship), we pray in like manner, directly to the Father in the name of Jesus. There is no where in Scripture one can point to where we are directed to pray, or speak to a saint who has passed (saint comes from the word which means sanctified or made holy), and all who have submitted to the Lordship of Christ are in a continual state of advancing sanctification. That any saint would pass on an intercessory prayer to Jesus through Mary is not based on Biblical instruction. There is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, which testifies that those who have gone before us to heaven cannot communicate with those who are alive on earth:

“26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” Luke 16.

IT IS SAD TO SEE SCRIPTURE MISUSED LIKE THE QUOTE FROM LUKE. WE ALL AGREE WE ARE PROGRESSING IN SANCTITY AS WE SUBMIT TO CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT. CATHOLICS PRAY TO GOD, THROUGH THE SON, BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. THIS IS NOT WORSHIP, IT IS PRAYER. WE CAN ALSO PRAY TO PEOPLE AS YOU WILL SEE IN ANY BRITISH COURT THAT PRAYS TO COURT FOR LENIENCY. PRAY MEANS TO ASK. WE CAN ASK OTHERS TO PRAY FOR US. THE PROBLEM IS SOME PEOPLE THINK THE SAINTS ARE DEAD AND GONE AND CANNOT MAKE REQUESTS TO GOD FOR US. THIS IS WERE THE PROTESTANT IS SADLY IMPOVERISHED.

The only way saints can communicate with God is through Jesus who has the authority to cross that chasm. Mary does not have that authority…at least not anywhere in Scripture.

NO PERSON OTHER THAN JESUS HAS THE POWER TO BRIDGE THE GAP AS A MEDIATOR BETWEEN SINFUL MEN AND A HOLY GOD. BUT ONCE THAT HAS BEEN BRIDGED BY THE ONE MEDIATOR JESUS CHRIST, HE IMPLORES US TO JOIN HIM IN HIS MINISTRY OF MEDIATION. THUS MARY AND I CAN BOTH MEDIATE IN A SPECIAL THOUGH LIMITED WAY.

PROTESTANTS LOST A LOT WHEN THEY DECIDED TO PROTEST.

De Maria November 28, 2013 at 8:54 AM

David August 8, 2009 at 1:32 AM
An important point missed: The issue that Mary and the Saints are not omniscient is mysteriously left out. Even glorified in Heaven, they are still finite beings with limitations and couldn’t possibly hear the prayers of millions of people?

I don’t think that’s true, if we look at Revelations, we see the Saints saying, “How long Lord?”
Revelation 6:10
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?

Apparently they were aware of events on earth. Otherwise, how would they know that their blood had not yet been avenged?

We also see Father Abraham, thousands of years after his death, having knowledge of the rich man’s (i.e. Dives) five brothers and their activities upon the earth.

We also see the reference to the cloud of Saints which surrounds us. Protestants deny that there is a reference to the Saints walking with us. But Scripture interprets Scripture. We can compare:

Hebrews 12:1
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

and

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

It seems probable that the author, St. Paul, was clearly expressing that once we are baptized we walk amongst the saints in heaven. I believe this is the message that Jesus intended for us on the mount of Transfiguration when he, while still in the flesh, walked and talked with Moses and Elijah in the presence of Saints James, John and Peter.

Your Dad (on the other hand) doesn’t need to be omniscient because you can ask him face-to-face. Please take this well, but as a suggestion, you may wish to ask your Dad’s forgiveness as your response may have hurt him.
I’m not really sure what you mean by this.

Ok… We can agree that the Bible is the Word of God. Yes? If the Word of God is our rule-book (2 Tim 3:15-17), then where are we instructed to ask anyone in Heaven to pray for us? If this is important, then were the apostles mistaken by not mentioning the importance of asking someone in heaven to pray for us sinners?

The thing is that we need to understand the entire Bible. Doesn’t St. Paul say that he calls us all to pray for all mankind? Doesn’t Hebrews 12 say they were surrounded by a cloud of witnesses? Doesn’t Hebrews 12 also say that we walk amongst the Saints? Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that those who live in Christ will never die? Doesn’t Scripture say that we are to imitate Christ?

If all these things are true, then at what point do we stop praying and interceding for all mankind? If we are still alive although we have died, what is stopping us from praying in obedience to the Lord’s will?

I respectfully submit that it is plainly clear that praying to Mary or the saints is completely different from asking someone here on earth to pray for you. One has a strong Biblical basis, the other has no Biblical basis whatsoever.

The thing that Protestants forget is that Jesus Christ did not write the Bible. He didn’t write down anything at all. He taught his doctrines by word. Then he established the church and commanded the church teaches doctrines to the world. The Catholic Church is that church. And the Catholic Church wrote the New Testament based upon the doctrines of Jesus Christ.

The reason that Protestants can’t understand the teachings of Jesus Christ from Scripture is because they have discarded the traditions upon which the Scripture is based and denied the church which Jesus Christ established to teach his doctrines.

[Written in sincerity and love,

sincerely,

De Maria

Daniel June 23, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Hey,

I have three very serious questions for the author (or anyone else who can answer it):

1. Where exactly does the Bible say that people from heaven can hear our prayers? That’s an assumption for which I’ve never heard an answer.
STEVE RAY HERE (IN CAPS TO DISTINGUISE) WHERE DOES IT SAY IN SCRIPTURE THEY CAN’T? WE DON’T UNDERSTAND THE “TECHNOLOGY” OF HEAVEN. WE SEE MOSES, THOUGH DEAD, DISCUSSING WITH JESUS ABOUT THINGS GOING ON ON THE EARTH. WE SEE ANGELS BRINGING GOLDEN BOWLS TO HEAVEN WHICH ARE THE PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS (IN REVELATION). ONE PERSON ASKED ME, “WHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY WE SHOULD PRAY TO DEAD SAINTS?” I RESPONDED, “WHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY THAT SAINTS ARE DEAD?” THEY ARE VERY MUCH ALIVE AND KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON DOWN HERE. THEY CAN INTERCEDE FOR US.

2. Why do Catholics pray to Mary and not another person from heaven? Why don’t you pray to Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father, or to Moses, or to David, or to Jacob? Why specifically to Mary? Where in the Bible are we commanded or instructed or advised to pray to her?

WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY WE HAVE TO FIND EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE? THE VERY FACT THAT YOU BELIEVE THERE ARE 27 BOOKS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THAT THEY ARE INSPIRED CANNOT BE FOUND IN THE BIBLE. AND, WE DO PRAY (ASK TO INTERCEDE FOR US) TO THE OTHER SAINTS. THAT IS COMMON CATHOLIC TEACHING AND PRACTICE — AND DONE SO SINCE THE FIRST CENTURIES OF CHRISTIANITY. IT WAS ONLY DENIED IN THE RECENT FEW HUNDRED YEARS.

THE CATECHISM SAYS THE MEN OF OLD ARE ALSO SAINTS (PARAGRAPH 61) AND WE DO ASK THEM TO INTERCEDE FOR US. BUT MARY IS UNIQUE AND THE MODEL OF FAITH AND OBEDIENCE. SHE IS THE MOTHER OF GOD (THE DIVINE PERSON JESUS). A MOTHER ALWAYS HAS A UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP WITH HER SON.

3. Why shouldn’t we pray directly to God Himself? Do Catholics have the impression that we shouldn’t pray directly to God because He won’t heard us or because He doesn’t have time for us or because He’s intimidating? Hebrews 4:16 says that we have free access to the throne of God and can approach it with confidence.

WE DO PRAY DIRECTLY TO GOD. WHY DO YOU THINK CATHOLICS DON’T. IT IS CENTRAL TO OUR BELIEF AND PRACTICE. YOU SHOULD VISIT A MASS SOMETIME AND SEE WHO WE PRAY TO. MY FATHER ONCE SAID, “THERE IS ONLY ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN AND THAT IS JESUS – NOT ANY ONE ELSE.” I SAID TO MY FATHER, “DON’T EVER ASK ME TO PRAY FOR YOU AGAIN! WHEN YOU DO YOU ARE MAKING ME A MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND YOU — PRAY TO GOD ALONE AND NEVER ASK A PERSON TO MEDIATE FOR YOU.”

ANYWAY, THANKS FOR YOU HONEST QUESTIONS AND GOD BLESS YOU. I SUGGEST YOU VISIT http://WWW.CATHOLIC.COM AND READ THEIR TRACTS ON MARY.

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