The Malta Independent 15 July 2020, Wednesday


Sunday, 13 October 2019, 08:35 Last update: about 10 months ago

Here are a few historical facts about the Marian cult. In the year 431, Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria, in a sermon at Ephesus applied to Mary many of the terms fondly ascribed by the Ephesians to their Great Goddess Artemis-Diana.

Gradually, the tenderest features of Astarte, Cybele and Isis were added to those of Artemis-Diana in the worship of Mary. Honorific names that had belonged to Cybele and Isis, such as Nostra Domina (Our Lady), Stella Maris and Mater Dei were taken over by Christians and incorporated in their Marian cult.


Nestorius, archbishop of Constantinople and Cyril's rival, preached that Mary was the mother only of the human nature of Jesus. He was condemned for his teaching but his followers flourished in Syria and Mesopotamia and founded communities in Central Asia, India and China. They survive to this day, still denouncing Mariolatry.

In the Middle Ages, Christians prayed so often to Mary that popular fancy pictured Jesus as jealous. In Germany, one particular prayer was addressed to the only really popular Trinity: "Glory be to the Virgin, the Father and the Son" (Leopold Ranke, History of the Reformation in Germany).

In his History of Religious Ideas (Volume 2), Mircea Eliade observed that "the increasing sanctification and deification of Mary are chiefly the work of popular piety.

"Even today," wrote historian Will Durant, "the Mediterranean worshiper appeals more often to Mary than to the Father or to the Son". In Malta, the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows attracts more followers than the statue of the Risen Christ.

"Why are we supposed to worship the Son," asked Leonardo da Vinci, "when all the churches are dedicated to the Mother?"

Durant quipped that "Christianity had to wait for Voltaire to raise a chapel to God".


John Guillaumier

St Julian's

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