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For many non-Catholics, one of their main stumbling blocks to Catholicism is the devotion that most Catholics have to the Blessed Mother. But why do we call her "Blessed"? And perhaps perplexing even to Catholics, why did Jesus refer to her simply as "Woman"?

For most of us, if one of our children refered to his mother as "Woman", his mother would be less than happy with that appellation. She may even consider it rude. Was Jesus being rude or dismissive of his mother? Absolutely not.

As a convert to Catholicicm, one of the things I most appreciate about Catholic interpretation of scripture is the fact that the unity of scripture is shown by the readings from the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament fullfills the Old Testament. Some other sects do not see this unity in the same way as Catholics do.

In a book written by the late Pope John Paul II, "Redemtoris Mater" (The Mother of the Redeemer), Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote in the prolog that parts of the book of Genesis are seen as a "proto-Gospel", a precursor or prediction of the fullfillment yet to come.

After Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying God, God said to the serpent, "because of what you have done, I will put enmity between you and the Woman, and between her seed and your seed, and He shall crush your head as you strike at his heel." Who was the "Woman" that God spoke of? Clearly it was not Eve, who had already fallen from grace. No, the "Woman" He spoke of was she who would be "Full of Grace", the one who would do God's will to bring about the redemption of mankind. She who would be "conceived without sin" would become the "New Eve". Because of this statement that God made that He would put "enmity" between the serpent and "the woman", we know that the "New Eve", the "Mother of the Redeemer", is the enemy of the Devil.
Thus anyone who has devotion to her, has her protection against the evil manipulations of the Devil as well.

In Revelation, John speaks of "a great sign in the sky...a woman dressed in the sun and upon her head a crown of twelve stars...and the woman was about to give birth to a son...and the dragon, who was the serpent of old, waited to devour her child". We see here that again, the "woman" and the serpent were present, as God had told way back in the beginning. But this woman is waiting to give birth to a child. The scene is somewhat surrealistic. It tells of the child being born - a male child, who was then swept up to Heaven, and the woman fled into the wilderness and was protected by the people. We know that Mary, the mother of Jesus, after the Crucifixion and Resurrection was with the apostles in the upper room for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentacost. And at some point she traveled with the apostles to Ephesis, in what is modern day Turkey.

These two chapters of scripture are like bookends for the Gospel. In Luke's Gospel, the "angel of the Lord" appears to Mary and calls her "Full of Grace". When Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth calls her "blessed among woman". Following this passage, which in essence is where the "Hail Mary" prayer comes from, Mary herself proclaims, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, because He has looked down upon the lowliness of his handmaid, and henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed, for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name". Mary herself explains why she will be called "Blessed", because God has raised her up and conferred upon her this great honor.

Jesus calls other women in the Gospel by name, "Martha, Martha, your sister has chosen the better portion", and after the Resurrection when He finds Mary Magdalene weeping, but she does not recognize He says, "Mary, it is I". Why, then, both at the Wedding at Cana "Woman, what has your concern to do with Me?" and at the Crucifixion "Woman, behold your son", does He call His mother simply "Woman"?

It is precisely to show that she is the "woman" that His Father spoke of to the serpent, precisely the same woman that John would later speak of in Revelation. The "Woman" who was predestined from all time to become the mother of the Savior, and through John at the foot of the cross as the only representative of Jesus's deciples, she became for all time Our Mother as well.

Why do we honor Mary? Why should we not - God did!