By: Tony Capobianco
There are three degrees of worship in Catholicism called Latria, Dulia, and Hyperdulia. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia defines them as follows:
“1.) Latria: is the worship which is due to God alone. It is the superior, absolute, supreme worship and adoration of God alone. This degree of worship, if directed at any creature, would be idolatry.
2.) Dulia: is when worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honours the creatures of God for their peculiar relations with Him. It is a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration (cf. Chollet, loc. cit., col. 2407, and Bouquillon, Tractatus de virtute religionis, I, Bruges, 1880, 22 sq.).
3.) Hyperdulia: As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia (for the meaning and history of these terms see Suicer, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus, 1728).”
The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia beautifully gives further explanation of the special honor granted to the Most Holy Mother of God through hyperdulia:
St. Bonaventure explains that the Blessed Virgin is due more glory than everyone except God:
Why is Mary the Virgin Most Powerful? Why does she receive hyperdulia? This title and this degree of worship is right and just for many reasons. First and foremost, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Holy Mother of God. All of the following reasons are bound together in the truth that she is the Mother of God. Secondly, she is the Queen of Heaven and Earth, so it is fitting for her to also have the title of Virgo Potens (Virgin Most Powerful). Thirdly, she is The Immaculate Conception. Fourthly, The Most Blessed Virgin is the humblest of all creatures. Fifthly, Mary Ever Virgin is the New Eve. Sixthly she is The Ark of the New Covenant. Seventhly, Our Lady of Sorrows shared in Our Blessed Lord’s Passion in a unique way as she faithfully stood at the foot of the Cross and therefore she shares in His glorifaction in a way which far surpasses all other creatures. Furthermore, it is pleasing to The Lord Jesus Christ that His Mother be raised above all other creatures. Jesus is the best Son and we can never love His Mother more than He does. The Most Blessed Virgin reflects the light of her Son more perfectly than all other creatures combined. For good reason, the saints have often said that Christ is the Sun and the Blessed Mother is the moon.
Holy Mother of God
The fact that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God is made clear through both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia says:
Being the Mother of God causes the Most Blessed Virgin Mary to have an absolutely unique relationship with the Most Blessed Trinity. This awe inspiring privilege, this great mystery of faith, is truly ineffable. It also has a relation to her Immaculate Conception, her Queenship, her sea of grace, her humility, her obedience, and her sharing in her Divine Son’s Passion, Triumph, and glorification. As the Mother of God, she is the Ark of the New Covenant and she is the New Eve and the Mother of the Church. This unique relationship as Mother of God indicates that she is closer to the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity than any other creature and as such she is closer to His Power, thereby making her most powerful.
Queen of Heaven and Earth
The Virgin Most Powerful is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. God willed that the Most Blessed Virgin receive a heavenly coronation elevating her higher than all the angels and saints. No creature, neither angel or saint is more powerful than the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Heavenly hierarchy is God above all, then followed by the Blessed Virgin, and then the angels and saints. At one time Lucifer enjoyed the highest rank, under God, until he rebelled and fell like lightning across the sky. The Blessed Virgin Mary, however, is far higher in rank, grace, glory, beauty, honor, holiness, and perfection than Lucifer ever was before he fell from grace.
In chapter 6 of his inspirational work, Mirror of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Bonaventure brilliantly writes of Mary’s power:
The following passage has two meanings as it speaks both of the Blessed Virgin and of the Church. The Church fits this passage more fully but nevertheless it also relates to and depicts the Blessed Virgin as the Queen of Heaven. This double meaning is appropriate because the Blessed Virgin is the mother of the Church and she is also the most preeminent member of the Church. The phrase “A woman clothed with the sun” is very fitting because Mary receives her light and her ocean of graces from her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. The Most Blessed Virgin is truly clothed by her beloved Son as He adorns her with the most brilliant light, grace, and truth of His splendor. Within Sacred Scripture St. John shows us that Mary is the Queen of Heaven:
The Immaculate Conception means that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without sin in her mother’s womb. Applying Christ’s merits and victory of the Cross backwards in time, God created Mary free from the stain of original sin. This is entirely fitting because she was to be the Ark of the New Covenant as she was to carry the Word of God Himself within her virginal womb. Of all of God’s creatures, she is the most excellent and she has by far, the highest level of grace. It is for this reason that the angel greeted Mary thus:
On account of the special privilege granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary by God through her Immaculate Conception, she was filled with an ocean of graces. These graces, lavishly and lovingly bestowed upon her by God, raise her to the most exalted place above all other creatures in heaven. These divinely granted graces imbue her with power which is only second to God. Doctor of the Church, St. Bonaventure wonderfully expresses it like this:
Pope Pius IX defines the beautiful Dogma of the Immaculate Conception:
Humility of Our Lady
The perfect humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary is clearly shown through the Magnificat:
The perfect humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the very reason that the Lord has exalted her. There is no sinful pride to be found in the holy Mother of God. For even though she received the greeting “Hail, Full of Grace” from the archangel and she knew that through her fiat, she was the Mother of God, carrying the Word of God in her virginal womb, she still responded that she was the lowly handmaid of the Lord. Such a humble response to being the recipient of such an unfathomable honor is mind boggling to sinful creatures, such as ourselves, who struggle with concupiscence. The holy humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary is most pleasing to God. In the Sacred Scriptures God has said that the first would be last and the last would be first. This holy humility is another reason that the Lord has exalted his Mother as the Virgin Most Powerful. St. Louis Marie de Montfort speaks of the elevation of Mary on account of her humility:
Blessed Mary Ever Virgin is the New Eve
Eve, in the Garden of Eden was deceived by an angel, a fallen angel. This succumbing to the first temptation by our first parents affected the entire human race as Adam and Eve committed the first mortal sin, The Original Sin. So in accordance with God’s holy will, it is most fitting that He brought about the potential salvation for the human race through a New Adam and a New Eve. Just as a fallen angel, Satan the ancient serpent, was the herald of sin, death, and condemnation entering into the world through his diabolical treachery in the Garden of Eden; So too was a heavenly archangel named Gabriel, the herald of the good news of redemption and salvation to The Woman named Mary, during the Annunciation. In his classic work Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus explains:
The advent of the New Eve was foretold in Genesis 3: 14-15 and indeed this prophecy is in large part, why Satan and the demons tremble at the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The above prophecy clearly illustrates the great power of the Most Blessed Virgin. More evidence that she truly is the Virgin Most Powerful is in the fact that in addition to her role in crushing the head of the wicked serpent, the diabolical forces of darkness exceedingly fear her. Doctor of the Church St. Bonaventure says:
Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant
To explain this glorious truth, an extensive quote from an excellent article by Brother Andre Marie will be cited:
In Sacred Scripture it is written:
Our elder brothers in the faith, the Jews of the Old Testament, highly honored the Ark of the Covenant and rallied around it. So too ought we Catholics honor and rally around the Ark of the New Covenant, the Holy Mother of God. The Ark of the Old Covenant contained the 10 Commandments which were made of stone and in addition the ark held the mana which came from heaven. That ancient Ark was built by human hands, under the precise specifications of God. How much greater is Mary? She who was created and sculpted by God Himself? How much more worthy of being honored is she? This Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant is the Holy Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven and Earth. This Mary carried the Word of God made flesh within her virginal womb. The Ark of the Old Covenant was a biblical type of Jesus and Mary. Jesus and Mary, as the New Adam and Eve are so connected to each other that they share many things together even though Christ is always the Head. Certainly we ought to desire to be knights in her army.
Our Lady of Sorrows Shares in a Supremely Unique Way the Passion and Glory of Jesus Christ.
The link between Jesus and Mary is so strong that Simeon at the Purification at the Temple prophesied that Mary would share in her divine Son’s Passion:
The unique relationship between the New Adam and New Eve is so great that the Blessed Virgin cooperates in her Divine Son’s mission in an absolutely unique way as they work together to redeem mankind from the fall of our first parents. The sword that pierced the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Sorrows was her cooperation in offering her Divine Son as a sacrifice to God in expiation for our sins. On account of Mary’s immaculate conception, her sinlessness, and her tremendous level of sanctification, she felt an unfathomable level of sorrow as she watched her innocent and divine son hang on the cross. As a perfect creature, she was able to feel pain in a way that no other human person could even imagine. So entwined are Jesus and Mary that we see in The Gospel According to St. John 2: 4 , where Mary intercedes on behalf of the bride and groom and asks her sweet Jesus to work His first public miracle at the wedding feast of Cana to which Jesus responds, “Woman, what is that to me and to thee?” This response harkens to the Woman foretold in Genesis and Jesus is telling his mother that what affects Him will also affect her. This cooperation is so immense and so uniquely profound that many theologians express it through the title of Co-Redemptrix. That Mary is called the Co-Redemptrix does not mean that she is equal to Christ, rather it means that she is subordinate to Christ while maintaining an essential participation in redemption. Pope Pius XII in his encyclical on the "Mystical Body of Christ", Mystici Corporis, said:
Now it has clearly been shown how intimately united to Jesus Christ the Blessed Virgin Mary is and how this union causes her reception of the degree of worship entitled hyperdulia to be right and just. The reality is that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Holy Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Immaculate Conception, perfectly humble, the New Eve, the Ark of the New Covenant, and the Co-Redemptrix in Christ’s mission of Redemption and Salvation as she shares, in a subordinate manner, the Passion and Triumph of Jesus Christ. These mystifyingly magnificent realities illustrate how and why the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Virgin Most Powerful (Virgo Potens). Mary is the best mother and Jesus is the best son. Christ the King has been pleased to exalt His Holy Mother as the Queen of Heaven and Earth and as the Virgin Most Powerful. Jesus chose to come to us through His mother and fittingly He is pleased to have us come to Him through His mother. Go to Jesus through Mary. Trust in the unfailing, sweet, and loving intercession of the Virgin Most Powerful and be confident that her will is always in union with the will of her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.
There seems to be no better way to conclude these sublime meditations than with a prayer from the Auxilium Christianorum devotion to the Virgin Most Powerful.
August Queen of the Heavens, heavenly Sovereign of the Angels, thou who from the beginning hast received from God the power and the mission to crush the head of Satan, we humbly beseech thee to send thy holy legions, so that under thy command and through thy power, they may pursue the demons and combat them everywhere, suppress their boldness, and drive them back into the abyss. O good and tender Mother, thou wilt always be our love and hope! O Divine Mother, send thy Holy Angels to defend us and to drive far away from us the cruel enemy. Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us, guard us. Amen.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us.
Virgin Most Powerful, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
All You Holy Angels, pray for us.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*The quote from Pope St. Pius X at the top of the page comes from: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Popes and the Papacy (2001) by Brandon Toropov, p. 26
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