I recently heard a podcast stating “that Mary lacked knowledge of Christ’s divine nature at some point in her life after his birth.” I’ll let that sink in. This was based on the producer’s private interpretation of Lk. 8:19-21.
If this sounds like a sour note in a piece of music, or more likely fingernails being scratched across a blackboard, thank your sensus fidelium. When we, in a state of grace (frequenting the Sacraments, prayer, fasting and alms giving) hear something that just doesn’t resonate, that is our sense of the Faith that indicates something is possibly wrong. We may not know the reasons why it isn’t quite right, but, we know something is amiss.
As we go through Advent, we will undoubtedly hear the song, “Mary did you know?” The lyrics of the song propose a series of questions to Mary about her knowledge of Her Son and what He will do. The song does not actually answer those questions, but rather simply leaves them for the listener. Consider in particular the question, “…And when you kiss your little baby, You’ve kissed the face of God, Mary, did you know?”
The idea that Mary only became aware of Jesus’ Divine personhood by degrees naturally follows the Nestorian Heresy. And so in answering the question of the son, we can look to Scripture, the Church herself, the Fathers, Saints, and then theologians.
Let’s start with the basics.
The one full of grace, the Mother of God or Theotokos, as dogmatically declared by the Church at the Council of Ephesus 431 AD, repudiated Nestorius. He was the bishop of Constantinople who taught and preached that the man Christ was not God, but rather that God only dwelt in him as in a temple, and that he became God by degrees and that there were two persons in Christ, one human and one divine. Logically following, he said that Mary is the mother of Jesus, but not of God. If that were the case, Mary would have “lacked knowledge of Christ’s divine nature at some point in her life after his birth.” Thankfully, Holy Mother Church has a long memory for those interested in knowing the Truth, and not latching on to passing novelties in sync with the fashionable prevailing thought of the day.
Pope Pius IX, aware of the Septuagint of Gen. 3:15, understood enmity in the Greek, εχθρα (echthra), to be a feminine noun form, meaning hostility by implication, a reason for opposition; hatred. Pius IX dogmatically teaches in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus “…so the most holy Virgin, united with him, [Jesus] by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.”
Why is this important? Because St. Jerome in his Vulgate translation; produced under the direction of Pope St. Damasus I, which, according to the dogmatic council of Trent, “has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and that no one dare or presume under the pretext whatsoever to reject it,” translated “she” (ipsa) as the one who crushes the head of the serpent. It is no coincidence that many Marian apparitions show Mary standing on the head of the serpent. St. Augustine agreed with St. Jerome in correctly stating that she shall crush his head. The interpretation of “she” being the one who crushes the head of the ancient serpent, has the agreement of three saints, two popes, two doctors of the Church and a dogmatically pronounced papal bull over one thousand five hundred years.
Mary must have knowledge of her Son in order to triumph over Satan and be “eternally at enmity with the evil serpent.” In the Nestorian heresy this enmity is emptied.
In the Old Testament we see many prototypical women who give us facets of the role and activity of the Blessed Mother. Highlighting the role of advocate and co-redemptrix we see, Queen Esther, Jael, and Judith. Queen Esther places her own life at risk to advocate for her people to save them from the treachery the evil Haman. Jael destroys Sisera, by driving a spike through his head and Judith by lopping off the head of Holofernes, both enemies of Israel. But these were prototypes in particular virtues that the “woman” would have when she came into the life of the people of God. But there is the particular characteristic that was, beside the complete fullness of enmity with the ancient serpent (immaculate conception), that of the virginal conception and birth of the savior, Immanuel, God with us. “Hear then O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel.” (Is. 7:13-14).
The Prophecy of the “Woman” Fulfilled in the New Testament
In the New Testament, Luke’s account of the Incarnation, (Lk.1:26-35) seems explicit enough to dispel the nonsensical, illogical and unsupported Modernist position that Mary didn’t know who her Son was, but only came to this knowledge sometime after His birth in which her bodily virginity was preserved (second Marian Dogma). But there are more passages that when properly interpreted, according to the fathers and enduring magisterium, lay to rest the silly notion that Mary was unaware of the reality of the Incarnation within her virginal womb. Since all Marian Dogmas are intimately tied to and intertwined with the revelation of her Divine Son, we can ask what this position (that Mary didn’t know) says about God the Father and the action of the Holy Spirit?
To believe that Mary was unaware of how, and with Whom she became pregnant and by Whom and how, reduces the Blessed Mother of God to an empty vacuous vessel or worse, that the Father used her without her knowledge and consent by the action of God the Holy Ghost. Like all of what the Church teaches about the Blessed Virgin Mary, it has immediate consequences to what we believe about God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Consider how the Archangel Gabriel addresses Mary, “Hail full of grace,…” (kecharitomene), and what exactly this means. The angel does not address Mary (Miryam) by the name given to her by her parents, but rather, “Full of Grace.” St. John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater writes,
The double greeting (Lk.1:28, 42) is due to the fact that in the soul of the “daughter of Zion” there is manifested, in a sense, all the “glory of grace,” that grace which the “Father…has given us in his beloved Son” (8).
For the messenger greets Mary as “full of grace”; he calls her thus as if it were her real name. He continues, “In the mystery of Christ she is present even ‘before the creation of the world,’ as one whom the Father has chosen as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation.” Notice in Luke’s account of the incarnation, the angel departs at the completion of Mary’s consent, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”
The dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity; before, during and after the birth of Jesus, was dogmatically declared at Lateran Council I, in 649. “How will this be since I know not man?” Mary asks the angel, not in doubt, but rather, in light of her vow of virginity. This is a question of mechanism, not if, as the heretics say. St. Augustine would describe the miraculous birth of the unique immaculately conceived Virgin’s divine Son, “As light passes through glass without harming the glass, so Christ passed through the body of Mary.” Aquinas, in Sum. III q. 28 a. 2,3 addresses this very issue, “Without any doubt whatever we must assert that the Mother of Christ was a virgin even in His Birth: for the prophet says not only: ‘Behold a virgin shall conceive,’ but adds: ‘and shall bear a son.’ (Is. 7:14)” Aquinas continues his answer and in part writes,
But since she gave birth to the Word made flesh, God safeguarded her virginity so as to manifest His Word, by which Word He thus manifested Himself: for neither does our word, when brought forth, corrupt the mind; nor does God, the substantial Word, deigning to be born, destroy virginity.
Continuing Aquinas adds,
And secondly, this is fitting as regards the effect of Christ’s Incarnation: since He came for this purpose, that He might take away our corruption. Wherefore it is unfitting that in His Birth He should corrupt His Mother’s virginity. Thus Augustine says in a sermon on the Nativity of Our Lord: “It was not right that He who came to heal corruption, should by His advent violate integrity.”
Aquinas provides a second Scriptural verse for her perpetual virginity, “It is written (Ezekiel 44:2): ‘This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it.’ Expounding these words, Augustine says in a sermon (De Annunt. Dom. iii): “What means this closed gate in the House of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? Even things that are holy, set apart for God’s singular purpose are not to be used or even touched in a banal or much less profane way (Dan. 5; 2 Sam. 6:6-7).”
The dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity is an article of faith and like all dogmas of the Faith, all Christians must ascent to it in order to remain a viable member of the Body. But how do these dogmas of the faith relate to Mary’s intellectual perception of the reality of the divine nature of her miraculously conceived and born Son?
Mary is the Immaculate Conception, eternally in the mind of God, as the “woman” at enmity with the ancient serpent who crushes the ancient serpent’s head with her Immaculate foot. As the Immaculate Conception, Mary never knew sin or any of its consequences. Sin deprives us of the clarity of intellect that has possession and dominion over the lower aspects of the soul, particularly the irascible appetites. Our intellects become clouded in judgement and the ability to distinguish the truth from a lie is often muddled. In short, mortal sin makes one stupid.
Because Mary was gifted with the plenitude of grace, without the clouding of the intellect, she had perfect dominion over her lower spiritual faculties. And because her intellect was not clouded by concupiscence, she perceived the spiritual realities without ambiguity and equivocation. Since a very young age, Mary was reared in the temple and knew the Law, prophets and writings. To believe that Mary didn’t know, one has to believe that she was unaware of the prophecies of the Messiah, the appearance of an angel, being addressed as one “full of grace”, the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and that the child will be called the Son of God; were not sufficient grounds for her to understand that the Child conceived within her was the One to rescue men from their sins. Mary knew.
Continuing in the Gospel according to Matthew, after the Incarnation, he writes,
and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ When Jospeh woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him;…
We must understand here too that St. Joseph is not some bystander in the plan of salvation of man. Notice two things, Joseph is designated as a “just man.” This means that he followed the law of Moses and not just by the letter, but in the spirit of it as well, the spirit of charity. The Law would have seen Mary as an adulterer and worthy of being stoned, since she and Joseph were in fact married (Deut.6:25; 22:13-24). We see Joseph, as the fathers understand this, not thinking himself worthy of such a task (the reverence theory) or at least certain of Mary’s integrity, and confused about the mysterious pregnancy, visited by an angel to accept this mission. St. Peter Chrysologus in commenting on the angel’s word spoken to St. Joseph (Mt.1:21), says this:
Let them approach to hear this, who ask, Who is He that Mary bare? He shall save His people; not any other man’s people; from what? from their sins. That it is God that forgives sins, if you do not believe the Christians so affirming, believe the infidels, or the Jews who say, None can forgive sins but God only.
So it would appear that St. Joseph knew the Son to be born of Mary was in fact God. How utterly silly is it to think that Joseph, who came to know of the miraculous conception of the God-man after the Incarnation, would know prior to the one in whom the God-man was indwelling in the flesh? Mary knew.
When Mary visits Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that she was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” And, “why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” So the Holy Spirit speaks through Elizabeth and calls Mary, the mother of my Lord. Jews in that time avoided using the divine name so as to insure they kept it holy, avoiding violation of the First Commandment even unwittingly. Mary’s response, in part is just as telling, “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed…” Why would all generations call this singular woman “blessed?” Because she is the Mother of God. And if she didn’t know, why would she make such a claim that all generations will call her blessed? Mary knew.
When the wise men come to Jerusalem and then directed to Bethlehem (Mic.5:2), “they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him (pipto proskyneo autos).” This means prostrate (face plant!) oneself in homage; to adore. There is no mention of St. Joseph, “the just man” or Mary correcting the Magi by quoting the law in Deuteronomy 6:13 or in light of the law, becoming disturbed by their actions (Acts 14:11-15). They accept that these Gentiles are worshiping the infant Son of Mary, the Son of God. St. Augustine writes about the gifts given to the child: “Gold as paid to a mighty king; frankincense, as offered to God; myrrh as to one who is to die for the sins of all.” Mary was present at all of these events and yet we are to believe that she was unaware of her son’s identity and mission as the Divine Messiah, long awaited and foretold since Genesis and through Micah, the last of the prophets, who would, “save his people from their sins”? Mary knew.
The Holy Catholic Church promulgates that this promise of redemption, after so great a fall, by a woman and her seed who are at enmity with the serpent is fulfilled in Mary and Jesus. As Dr. Mark Miravalle writes, “In the person of Mary, in fact, the second Eve will, in no manner, be imprudent and foolish as was the first Eve. The second Eve will be prompt to consecrate herself faithfully to the plan of salvation according to the will of God.” Yes, Mary knew.
 Mark Miravalle, Mariology, A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons (Seat of Wisdom Books, 2008), 5.