Mother Inviolate – A Defense of Mary, Ever Virgin Against the Errors in The Chosen.

I have attempted not so much to speak with authority of things that I know, as to seek to know them by speaking about them with reverence.

Saint Augustine, De Trinitate

The new show, The Chosen, has created a lot of buzz. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it is a creative, non-canonical look at Christ and the lives of the people who surrounded Him, all of which is based on the stories in the Gospel. The show is produced by Dallas Jenkins, son of the famous author of the popular Left Behind series. The show generally has done well in its approach to most of the characters, however, a recent episode has caused a stir in its treatment of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr. Dave Nix wrote an article addressing the errors. My thanks to Fr. Nix for calling this out and starting the conversation. After seeing the episode and reading his post, I shared it on my social media, but this too has mounted a response against him and myself. I have been accused of holding Janssenistic views and denying the humanity of Mary. Such extraordinary claims require a thorough response. I apologize for the delay to those that I promised a response to, as researching theological topics and writing blogs is not as easy now with a 16 month old tyrant running through the house.

While Fr. Nix’s article is certainly sufficient, I wish only to add some additional thoughts and fill out his already solid argument. I will do this by providing a working definition of blasphemy, how it relates to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mariological errors seen in the Chosen, and what the Traditional Teaching of the Church has been. I humbly submit this pithy work to the authority of Holy Mother Church. If there are errors contained herein, it is simply due to ignorance and not malice. I also urge the reader to commend me to the Blessed Virgin, whose praise I dare to sing with trembling voice.

Why Bother?


Over the years, my love for the Blessed Virgin Mary has grown immensely. It has, however , been learning about her that has made me love her more. Now, more than ever, I desire to honor her and to help her be loved by others. The more you honor Mary, the closer to Christ you become, and the more you experience a deeper love and reverence for both. The more you defend her honor, the more graces you receive. “The praise of Mary is an inexhaustible fount; the more it is enlarged the fuller it gets and the more you fill it so much the more it is enlarged” (Abbot Francone). I desire this for every potential reader, that their fountcof devotion to Mary would grow deep and wide. I can assure you that a solid understanding of and relationship with the Blessed Mother will be far more efficacious in the life of grace than watching The Chosen, and therefore is more necessary to promote.

A Working Definition of Blasphemy

The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a definition of blasphemy that I use as my framework. It states:

The second commandment forbids the abuse of God’s name, i.e., every improper use of the names of God, Jesus Christ, but also of the Virgin Mary and all the saints (CCC 2146).

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. St. James condemns those “who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called.” The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things (CCC 2148).

While I believe there are varying degrees of blasphemy, with direct abuse of the Most Holy Name of Jesus at the top, nevertheless, blasphemous acts can apply to the Saints as well, as they are truly united as His Mystical Body to Christ the Head of the Church. The Blessed Virgin Mary sits at the top of that list as she is perfectly conformed to Christ.

On each First Saturday, the Church makes reparation for the five blasphemies against the Blessed Virgin Mary. They include:

  a.    Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception
  b.    Blasphemies against her virginity
  c.    Blasphemies against her divine maternity, at the same time the refusal to accept her as the Mother of all men
  d.    Instilling indifference, scorn and even hatred towards this Immaculate Mother in the hearts of children
  e.    Direct insults against Her sacred images

Prior to releasing the Chosen, Jenkins produced a Christmas special for his protestant church a few years ago. This video received blowback by Catholics as it portrayed Mary as experiencing the pain of child birth – which Tradition makes clear that she did not (https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/was-mary-free-from-labor-pain).  Jenkins, in an interview last year admitted this blowback and stated that he wanted to get Mary right this time in the Chosen. Yet, years later, he got her wrong again, despite having a priestly advisor and Jonathan Roumie (faithful Catholic who plays our Lord in the show) assisting. Jenkins willfully chose to place the following words in the mouth of the Blessed Mother. Here is a bit of the script (taken from Padre Peregrino):

Rama says, “I feel like I need to not make anymore mistakes.”

Mother Mary responds, “How do you think I felt?”

Andrew says, “You probably feel that everyday. No?”

“Not anymore,” Mother Mary says. “He always reassured me. God always made me feel like I shouldn’t be burdened.”

“So how did you feel when it happened?” asks Mary Magdalene

“When what happened?” asks Mother Mary

“His birth. Even before that. How did you know, when did you know who He was?”

“I don’t know. We’re all tired. Do we really want to hear all that?” Mother Mary replies.

“YES”, they all respond.

“Oh,” Mother Mary says, laughing. “Well, nothing about it was easy, I can tell you that. It wasn’t in my hometown. My mother wasn’t there. We had no midwife. I don’t know if I’m ready to give all the details. Maybe some other time. But I do remember this. When Joseph handed him to me, it was like nothing I expected. It was like everything I had heard about having a baby but I thought this would be completely different.”

“What do you mean?” asks Simon

Mother Mary continues, “I had to clean him off. He was covered in, uh, I will be polite. He needed to be cleaned. He was cold. And he was crying. And…He needed my help. My help. A teenager from Nazareth. It actually made me think for just one moment, is this really the son of God? And Joseph later told me he briefly thought the same thing. But we knew he was. I don’t know what I expected. But He was crying and He needed me. And I wondered how long that would last. He doesn’t need me anymore. Not since we taught him how to walk and eat. He hasn’t needed me for a long time I suppose. And after Joseph passed, may he rest in peace, He grew up even quicker. And I wish I could say that made me happy. Of course as a Jew I’m excited to see everything He does for our people and I’m proud of Him. But, as a mom, it makes me a little sad sometimes.”

Jenkins is attempting to do theology in the form of filmmaking. Despite the medium, reverence in speech is of utmost importance when approaching theology, and yes, making a theatrical production around the life of Christ requires one to do good theology. It is better in the work of theology to go from a place of deep reverence than to start from a place of little reverence. “But he’s a Protestant producer”, I can hear you say. Yes, but that doesn’t diminish the act, only his culpability. This is a “failing in respect toward (her) in one’s speech – a form of blasphemy.

Before I get into the specific errors, I want to also note that while I have appreciated certain aspects of the show, in terms of its portrayal of Christ, my biggest enduring criticism of the show relates to the very purpose of this post – divine mystery. If one has read through the Gospels, one cannot help to be drawn into the mystery of the person of Christ. The mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, for example, fascinates the imagination 2,000 years later. These holy omissions in Scripture are not dead air waiting to be filled with our own presumptions, but mysteries waiting to be discovered in silence. Yet, like many modern theologians, Jenkins decided to take this divine mystery of the Incarnation and attempted to expose it, in an attempt to show the humanity of Christ. Throughout the show, Jenkins makes sure that nothing is left to mystery. It’s as if Jesus is like, “Who’s the Son of God?” *Points thumbs at himself* Surprise! It’s this guy!” Conversely, the Gospel writers, inspired by the Holy Ghost, chose not to give the nitty gritty details all the time, but left much to mystery. This is also the case for the Traditional Liturgical Rites of the Catholic Church, but I digress. 

Now let’s get into it:

Mary’s Dignity

When speaking of the Great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, one must do it with utmost reverence. Ludwig Ott states, “as the mother of God, Mary transcends and dignity all created persons, angels and men, because the dignity of a creature is the greater the nearer it is to God. And of all created things after the human nature of Christ, which is hypostatically united with the person of the Logos, Mary is nearest to the Triune God” (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). Mary is truly “full of grace” (in Greek transliterated, kecharitomene), as the Archangel Gabriel declared to her. The word kecharitomene is the past perfect tense, meaning that the action of giving grace had already occurred. She is kecharitomene because she was given the grace of Christ’s redemption at the moment of conception in St. Anne’s womb. From the moment of her conception, she was (and remained) in a state of sanctifying grace. For further reflection, consider her many titles given to her by the Church in the Litany of Loreto – https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/devotions/litany-of-loreto-246.

Mary’s Faith

Jenkins portrays Mary as a doubter – even for a second. Protestant theology around Mary is so utterly impoverished that they have to presume she doubted, at least once. Because to doubt is to be human, right? Wrong! Christ, the New Adam, shows us what it means to be truly human – He never doubted, even when His human nature was plunged into utter desolation on the Cross (but that’s another blog post). Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the great Doctor of the Church, in his work “The Glories of Mary” states, “she (Mary) saw Him fly from Herod and believed Him the King of Kings. She saw Him born and believed Him eternal. She saw Him poor and in need and believed Him the Lord of the universe. She saw heard Him weep and believed Him the joy of paradise. She saw Him in death, despised and crucified, and her faith remained that he was God”. Our first Mother, Eve was the great doubter who chose to sink her teeth into the lies of the devil. Mary, on the other hand, never doubted once. Saint Irenaeus states, “the evil done by Eve’s incredulity was remedied by Mary’s faith.” (Glories of Mary).  Saint Antoninus says: “Mary stood supported by her faith, which she retained firm in the Divinity of Christ”. Saint Albert the Great tells us: “Mary then exercised perfect faith, for even when the disciples were doubting, she did not doubt.”

This unwavering faith is made possible by those special graces she received at her Immaculate Conception and as a fruit of the Incarnation. Ludwig Ott states, “it is consonant with the dignity of the Mother of God that to her are attributed a high degree of supernatural knowledge of faith, and, after her conception of Christ, a special grace of mystical contemplation” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). Unlike us poor fallen creatures, Mary experienced a constant and uninterrupted influx of grace throughout her earthly life with which she continually cooperated. “In the expression ‘blessed is she who believed’, we can rightly find a ‘key’ which unlocks for us the innermost reality of Mary, whom the angel hailed as ‘full of grace’. If as “full of grace” she has been eternally present in the mystery of Christ, through faith she became a sharer in that mystery in every extension of her earthly journey.” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 19). The Blessed Mother truly “abandoned herself totally to God through the “obedience of faith”. (Redemptoris Mater, 26). There was not a drop of doubt, from the moment of her conception through the Annunciation, and even as she held the battered body of her beloved Son after his cruel death on the cross. No doubting, no despairing – only faith, hope, and charity in perfect union.

The Virgin Birth and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The Church clearly states that the birthing process for Mary was completely different than the rest of us. Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis says “it was she who gave miraculous birth to Christ our Lord” (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). Miraculous here is the operative word. Why miraculous? Because she remained fully intact throughout the process. Her virginal and reproductive integrity remained intact throughout the process. The Catechism of the Council of Trent states:

But as the Conception itself transcends the order of nature, so also the birth of our Lord presents to our contemplation nothing but what is divine.

Besides, what is admirable beyond the power of thoughts or words to express, He is born of His Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity, just as He afterwards went forth from the sepulchre while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which His disciples were assembled, the doors being shut; or, not to depart from every­day examples, just as the rays of the sun penetrate without breaking or injuring in the least the solid substance of glass, so after a like but more exalted manner did Jesus Christ come forth from His mother’s womb without injury to her maternal virginity. This immaculate and perpetual virginity forms, therefore, the just theme of our eulogy. Such was the work of the Holy Ghost, who at the Conception and birth of the Son so favoured the Virgin Mother as to impart to her fecundity while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity”

Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. 46

Ludwig Ott further explains, “for illustration of the mystery the Fathers and Theologians employ various analogs – the emergence of Christ from the sealed tomb, His going through closed doors, the penetration of the ray of sun through glass, the birth of the Logos from the bosom of the Father, the going out of human thought from the human spirit, Christ’s miraculous emergence from the unimpaired womb of the virgin mother finds its ultimate explanation in the omnipotence of god. Saint Augustine says ‘in such things the whole ground of the mystery is the might of him who permits it to happen'” (Ott).

Conclusion

After seeing the most recent episode of the Chosen and Fr. Nix’s response, I felt compelled to share his thoughts with my Catholic friends, as I felt they should be made aware of the error. The pushback I received in so doing only shows just how much we have failed in our education regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary. I will openly admit that when I first saw the show, even I was not immediately moved to action  but needed the push from Fr. Nix, who aptly and succinctly (unlike myself), defended the Queen of Heaven against such assault and negligence. The Lateran Council of 649 AD stated, “If anyone does not, according to the holy fathers, confess truly and properly that Holy Mary, ever virgin and immaculate, is Mother of God, since in this latter age she conceived in true reality without human seed from the Holy Spirit, God the word himself, who before the ages was born of God the father, and gave birth to him without corruption, her virginity remaining equally inviolate after the birth, let him be condemned.” So no, Mr. Jenkins, Christ did not emerge from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the other “contents of conception”. It was a miraculous mystery – it wasn’t messy. As for the faith of Mary, she never doubted once in her faith that her son Jesus was the Son of God – “Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 2:45). The beautiful mystery of the Incarnation, Nativity, and Perceptual Virginity is, as St. Ignatius of Antioch states a “mystery which must be proclaimed aloud” (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). May Mary, Mother Inviolate, the Immaculata, pray for us to be filled with a deeper love for Almighty God who has truly “done great things” in the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to save us, poor sinners.

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