Blessed Virgin Mary

This article is about the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican understanding of Mary; for other views, see Mary (mother of Jesus) and Islamic view of Virgin Mary. For the religious order BVM, see Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
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A modern popular Roman Catholic image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, displaying her Immaculate Heart
The Blessed Virgin Mary, sometimes shortened to The Blessed Virgin or The Virgin Mary, is a traditional title specifically used by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, some Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, and others to describe Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.

The term carries not merely belief in the virginity of Mary but of her continuing role within the church and in the life of all Christians. In the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (21 November 1964), passed during the Second Vatican Council, Mary was also given the title Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. Mary is often referred to colloquially as Our Lady.

The Blessed Virgin Mary in Catholicism

Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy focus on Mary as a living person who can intercede to her Son, Jesus, on behalf of humanity. From the beginning of the Church, Catholic theology has maintained that Christ is the sole Mediator between God and Man.[1] Yet as theologian Ludwig Ott observes, "there is nothing to prevent others in a certain way (secundum quid) from being called mediators between God and man, insofar as they, by preparing or serving, cooperate in uniting men to God" (emphasis added).[2] Mary's willed obedience[3] is contrasted with Eve's disobedience,[4] an idea with roots in the writings of the Church Fathers. Mary herself required redemption and is not equal to Jesus in Catholic theology. Nonetheless her role was pivotal, as emphasized by Jerome, Irenaeus 180–199 (see Jurgens §224), Tertullian c.212 (see Jurgens §358) and others including herself in Scripture: "behold the handmaid of the Lord."[5] Mary is also described by Ambrose as "the prototype of the Church."[6]

Marian devotions play a key part in the ritual and liturgy of Western and Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. While many of the traits attributed to her and devotions given her within Western Catholicism are not found among the Eastern Orthodox & Catholics, the opposite is also true. For instance, in the Paraklesis service of the Byzantine liturgy, Eastern Christians appeal to her: "O most holy Theotokos, save us!"[7] This appeal to her to save us is not used in Western Christianity, but it is explained by the Eastern Orthodox as "ask(ing) the Most Holy Theotokos to 'save us' not in the sense of the eternal salvation found only through Christ, but in the sense that those drowning call out to those on dry land for assistance in their plight."[8] For more on the place of Mary in Eastern Orthodox tradition and theology, see The Ever-Virgin Mother of God by Archpriest George Florovsky.

Cult of the Virgin

Origins

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Early image of the Virgin and child from the Roman catacombs, 4th century.
The Council of Ephesus in 431 sanctioned the cult of the Virgin as Theotokos, Mother of God, allowing the creation of icons bearing the images of the Virgin and Child. Devotion to Mary was, however, already widespread by this point. The early Church Fathers saw Mary as the "new Eve" who said "yes" to God as Eve had said no. The non-canonical Gospel of James, written around 150, is an example of early devotion to Mary, advocating her perpetual virginity. Mary, as the first Christian Saint and Mother of Jesus, was deemed to be a compassionate mediator between suffering mankind and her son, Jesus, who was seen as King and Judge. Biblical support for this position was found in the story of the Marriage at Cana whereat Mary entreated Jesus to turn water into wine (Gospel of John, Chapter 2). Elizabeth's praise of Mary "blessed art thou among women" and "who am I that the mother of my Lord would visit me?" in Luke 2 are also cited, among other passages of Scripture.

Early representations show Mary as the "Throne of Heaven" with Mary and the Child Jesus both crowned as Royalty. She was further identified with the Bride in the Old Testament Song of Solomon, by such noted theologians as St. Bernard of Clairvaux. She became the prototype for the Church itself. During the Middle Ages, and especially in France, the great Cathedrals were thus named for Mary. The Marian Rosary was popularized by the followers of St. Dominic.
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Coronation of the virgin by Fra Angelico
The image of Mary as Queen was softened somewhat by Mary as Mother of the Child Jesus. St. Francis of Assisi popularized the image of the Nativity scene using live animals. This representation of the helpless Jesus suckled by his mother brought Christmas into the hearts and homes of the people. And, as journeys to the Holy Land became difficult, Mary's role in the Passion (Christianity) story became part of the popular Stations of the Cross as the Mother of the suffering Jesus. During the great plagues such as the Black Death, Mary became greatly popular as a compassionate intercessor and protector of mankind against the just judgment of God.

Devotion to the Virgin Mary as the "new Eve" lent much to the status of women during the Middle Ages. Women who had been looked down upon as daughters of Eve (first woman), came to be looked upon as objects of veneration and inspiration. The veneration of Mary both as woman and prototype of the Church was greatly responsible for transforming the Germanic Warrior code into the Code of Chivalry. This reinterpretation of women flowered in the Courtly Love poetry of Medieval and Renaissance France. Mary, as the original "vessel of Christ" may have also influenced the legends of the Holy Grail. Her selflessness, obedience and virginal humility were reinterpreted in the literary figure of Sir Galahad, finder of the Grail.

Accusations of idolatry

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Our Lady of Lourdes
Modern popular image of the Lourdes Apparition.
Some Protestants have accused Catholics and Eastern Orthodox of "Mariolatry," suggesting that Catholics adore the Virgin Mary in breach of the Ten Commandments, which condemn keeping "false gods." This point was offered especially by John Calvin. In Catholic theology there is a clear distinction drawn between the worship or latria (adoration, which may be offered only to God), and veneration and praise, or dulia. Catholicism has traditionally accorded to the Virgin Mary the veneration of hyperdulia, which rests in part upon the angelic salutation, "Hail, full of grace" (), a phrase with momentous theological impact. Over the centuries, according to the Catholics, the nature of Mary within theology became clearer. By 403 we find Epiphanius refuting a sect called the Collyridians who adored Mary, telling them: "Mary should be honoured, but the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost should be adored. Nobody should adore Mary" (in Ott, Bk III, Pt 3 Ch. 3, §8). Thus we find, from the third century Church, veneration of Mary. Later, the belief that Mary intercedes for us with her Divine Son, and a clear distinction between latria and dulia together with a rejection of the notion of giving latria to Mary. The saints, for their part, receive dulia. This distinction between latria, hyperdulia, and dulia, is key to understanding Roman Catholic Tradition (Eastern Catholics and Orthodox do not distinguish hyperdulia from dulia).

These proclamations by the Catholic Church, in addition to calling Mary the Mother of God, which echoes the term Theotokos, instituted by an Ecumenical Council (instead of the mother of the human body of Jesus, which may echo the term Christotokos, specifically condemned as Nestorian by an Ecumenical Council), the Queen of Heaven, and the Queen of the World has led to such accusations. However, Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that Mary is the Mother of Jesus, and that He is both God and man. Catholics counter the Protestant attack by stating that some Protestants have fallen into the Nestorian heresy which claimed that the "man Jesus" is not both fully divine and fully human, two natures (ousia) united inextricably in one person (hypostasis). Instead, Nestorianism claims that the "man Jesus" had Divine nature bestowed upon him at some time later than His conception and, therefore, Mary could not have been the Mother of God. Instead, the Nestorian doctrine was that she was merely the "mother of his humanity". Catholics do not believe Mary is the source of Jesus' Divine nature, but the source of his human nature. Yet as a person he is truly God and truly man, thus making her His mother. This has led to disagreement between Catholics and Protestants.

"Marianism" describes the excessive veneration of Mary, as opposed to Jesus. The term was first used in the 19th century to condemn the "perversion of Christianity into Marianism".

Marian theology

Marian theology or Mariology is the area of Christian theology concerned with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It not only deals with her life but her veneration through Roman Catholicism, and her aspect in modern and ancient Christianity.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon called Mary the second Eve because through Mary and her willing acceptance of God's choice, God undid the harm that was done through Eve's choice to eat the forbidden fruit.

See full articles Mariology and Marian dogmas

Divine motherhood

Main article: Theotokos


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Our Lady of Guadalupe
Highly venerated image in Mexico.
The Divine Motherhood of Mary is the teaching that Mary was predestined from all of time to be the Theotokos, which translates from Greek as "God-bearer" or more commonly, Mother of God. The title of Theotokos is documented throughout the history of the early church, and was officially given to the Blessed Virgin at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The title does not emphasize Mary, but puts focus on the inseparable dual nature of Jesus Christ, both man and God. Scripturally, this is supported by St. Elizabeth's inspired salutation to Mary from : "And how [have I deserved that this honor should] be granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" The designation of Mary as The Mother of God stands in stark contrast to the pagan notion of God and emphasizes the miracle of the incarnation: the uncontainable God of creation containing himself within the womb of the Virgin.

Perpetual virginity



It is a fundamental Catholic and Orthodox teaching that Mary remained a virgin her entire life. Several explanations are offered regarding verses such as Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, which list "adelphoi" of Jesus. Jerome translated the ambiguous Greek term "adelphoi" to possibly mean certain types of close relatives such as "cousins".[9] Several early writers (the Clementine literature, Hegesippus-Eusebius) suggest that they were stepbrothers of Jesus, sons of a previous wife of Joseph.[10][11][12] It is important to note that the perpetual virginity of Mary is linked to the belief in her Immaculate Conception, or sinlessness: her physical virginity is reflective of her spiritual virginity. Mary's perpetual virginity also stresses her exclusive love and dedication to her offspring, Jesus Christ. Catholics and Orthodox Christians, as well as some Early Church Fathers such as St Jerome, cite Ezekiel 44:2 as evidence for Mary's perpetual virginity:
He said to me: This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed.


This teaching is rejected by the majority of Protestant theologians and some academic New Testament scholars, who interpret "adelphoi" in the usual sense of "brother," although most Reformers regarded Mary as ever virgin.

Immaculate Conception

Main article: Immaculate Conception


Since the Middle Ages, Roman Catholic theologians had argued the question of whether or not Mary had been subject to original sin. In general, the Franciscans argued in favor of her "immaculate conception", the doctrine that she, from the moment of her conception, had been preserved by God from all sin and all tendency to sin; the Dominicans, on the other hand, including most notably Thomas Aquinas, argued that Mary's sinlessness is a grace granted to her at some time after her conception. In 1854, Pope Pius IX effectively ended the debate for Roman Catholics by proclaiming the dogma of the "Immaculate Conception", stating that "the Blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin by a singular privilege and grace granted by God (cf. Luke 1:28), in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race." ("Ineffabilis Deus", issued on 8 December 1854). It was subsequently claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary during her sixteenth appearance in Lourdes on March 25 1858 announced to Bernadette Soubirous "I am the Immaculate Conception". The term Immaculate Conception is also widely used within Roman Catholicism to refer to the Virgin Mary.

Assumption

Main article: Assumption of Mary


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The Assumption of Mary into Heaven by GB Piazzetta
In 1950, speaking ex cathedra, in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption, in which he stated that "at the end of her earthly course, Mary was assumed into heavenly glory, body and soul". This was a long held belief by Christians since the time of the early Church, despite its recent definition as dogma. Pope Pius XII also stated that he was relying both on scripture and on "apostolic tradition". As an infallible pronouncement, the Dogma of the Assumption is thus a mandatory belief for Roman Catholics. No pope since has issued an infallible dogma. This doctrine is based on the vison of John in Revelation 12:1: A great sign appeared in the sky a Woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
  • The Marian appartions support this as well.

Co-Redemptrix

Main article: Co-Redemptrix


Some Catholics in the late twentieth century urged Pope John Paul II to infallibly declare Mary Co-Redemptrix, not meaning by this title that Mary herself redeems mankind, but that she cooperates with Jesus in His redemption of the world; as a co-pilot is not equal to the pilot of an airplane, so is the case with Jesus and His Mother as well as with any other Christian faithful who, by the Baptism, becomes member of the Mystical Body of Jesus and, as such, "co-redemptor".

Professor Mark Miravalle of the Franciscan University in Steubenville in the United States launched a petition to urge Pope John Paul to make such a move, by defining the teaching of the Church that Mary is Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the People of God. More than six million signatures were gathered from 148 countries. Signatories included Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, 41 other cardinals and 550 bishops. However, such a proposal was also heavily criticized by many Catholics who suggested that only Jesus could be a Redeemer and that such an act would drive a wedge in relationships with other apostolic tradition Christian faiths, notably the Orthodox Church and Anglicanism, neither of whom would accept such a designation. Though both Pope Pius XI in 1935 and Pope John Paul II himself in 1985 did use the word co-redemptrix to refer to Mary, no formal infallible dogma supporting such a designation has been issued, notwithstanding the petition.

Mary as Co-Redemptrix is entirely tied to her role in the Incarnation of Jesus. Because Jesus was miraculously incarnated in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the physical, human nature of Jesus was thus derived from Mary. In a very real sense, the blood Jesus shed on the Cross was the blood he received from Mary. And since Jesus saved mankind by his incarnation, and this was made possible by the obedience of Mary, this becomes a source of understanding Mary as Co-Redemptrix. Mary's role, however, is totally dependent upon her relationship to the redeemer, Jesus, and her total obedience to the Will of the Spirit.

In support, Mary herself said in Luke 1:48, "...for behold, henceforth ALL GENERATIONS 'SHALL' CALL ME BLESSED".

Controversy

Some Biblical scholars, as well as some Jewish[13] and even Christian commentators, claim that the tradition that the Messiah would be born of a virgin arose from a mistranslation of a prophetic text in Isaiah 7:14. The original Hebrew stated that an almah ("young girl" or "virgin") would give birth to a figure called Emmanuel (whom Christians traditionally identify with Jesus), but the Septuagint translated almah into Greek as parthenos ("virgin"). The Peshitta text (Aramaic)of Isaiah also states a "virgin."[14]

The tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church is thus: one of the translators of the Septuagint hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 "Behold a virgin (almah) shall conceive", doubting the possibility of a virginal conception. Instead of translating 'almah' with 'parthenos' (virgin), he translated it with 'gyne' (young woman) - also admissible from the Hebrew . According to this same tradition, an angel appeared to him and advised him that 'virgin' was the correct translation, and that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin. Thus the scholar-translator remained in the Temple of Jerusalem for over three hundred years, awaiting the sign. This was the Simeon the Righteous, the "just and devout" man of Jerusalem who, according to , met the Virgin Mary and Jesus as they entered the Temple to fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses on the fortieth day from Jesus' birth. On taking Jesus into his arms he uttered the prayer Nunc dimittis, about having finally seen the promised salvation.

Marian prayers

See main category:


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Rosary beads
The earliest known Marian prayer is the Sub tuum praesidium, or Beneath Thy Protection, dating from late 2nd century. A papyrus dated to c. 250 containing the prayer in Greek was discovered in Egypt in 1917, and is the earliest known reference to the title Theotokos. This title was authorized at the Council of Ephesus in 431 commemorating the Virgin's role in the incarnation of Jesus as the Word of God, and her place in the History of Salvation

Beneath your compassion, We take refuge, O Mother of God: do not despise our petitions in time of trouble: but rescue us from dangers, only pure, only blessed one.

A popular Marian devotional is the Rosary of St. Dominic, a form of prayer in which an Our Father, ten Hail Marys and a Glory Be to the Father (together forming a "decade of the Rosary") are recited five times while meditating on the mysteries of the life of Jesus and Mary (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious) to be followed by a prayer called the "Hail Holy Queen" and perhaps the "Litany of Loreto".

Other famous Marian prayers include the "Magnificat," the Angelus and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Marian hymns include O Mary, we Crown Thee With Blossoms Today, O Purest of Creatures, the Regina Coeli, and the Ave Maria. May and October are traditionally seen within Roman Catholicism as Marian months.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a weekly cycle of prayers said throughout the day, based on the Liturgy of the Hours, and consists of hymns, psalms, scripture, and patristic readings.

Marian apparitions

Main article: Marian apparitions


The central role of Mary in the belief and practice of Catholicism is reflected in the fact that many Roman Catholic churches contain side altars dedicated to the Virgin Mary. She is also celebrated through major religious sites where it is claimed apparitions or appearances of the Virgin have occurred, often with claims by witnesses that messages to humanity were delivered.

Marian titles

See main category:


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Byzantine icon adopted into Roman Catholicism as Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Among the most prominent Marian titles in the Roman Catholic Calendar are: Among the most prominent Marian titles in the Greek Orthodox Calendar are:
  • Panagia Myrtidiotissa
  • Panagia Evangelistria (Our Lady of the good Tidings)
  • Aeiparthenos Maria (forever virgin Mary)
  • Hyperagia Theotokos (most Holy Mother of God)
  • Axion Esti (it is worthy to bless Thee, the Virgin)
  • Panagia Despoina (Our Lady and Queen)
  • Rodon to Amaranton (the Unfading Rose)

Marian Feast days

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San Albino Church, Mesilla Village, Las Cruces, New Mexico (January, 1985).
Among the most prominent Marian feast days in the Roman Catholic Calendar are[17]: Among the most prominent Marian feast days in the Byzantine Calendar are:

Marian shrines



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Side altar to the Blessed Virgin Mary in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin
In the culture and practice the Roman Catholic Church - a shrine to the Virgin Mary or Marian shrine is a shrine marking an apparition or other miracle ascribed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or a site on which is centered a historically strong Marian devotion. Such locales are often the destination of pilgrimages.

Many of the shrines have acquired a symbolic value for patriotism and nationalism in their area.

Among the shrines considered most significant for their apparitions: For the Greek Orthodox the major Marian Shrine is the Church of Our Lady of Tinos, at Tinos island in Greece which constitutes the most important christian pilgrimage in the Aegean.

Anglican Recognition of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary's special position within God's purpose of salvation as "God bearer" (theotokos) is recognised in a number of ways in the Anglican Church. The Church affirms in the historic creeds that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and celebrates the feast days of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple; the Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin; the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin; and the Birth of the Blessed Virgin.

The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is kept in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. In certain Anglo-Catholic parishes this feast is called the Immaculate Conception. Again, the Assumption of Mary is believed in by most Anglo-Catholics, but is in considered a pious opinion by moderate Anglicans. Protestant minded Anglicans reject the celebration of these feasts.

Prayer to and with the Blessed Virgin Mary varies according to churchmanship. Low Church Anglicans rarely invoke the Blessed Virgin except in certain hymns, such as the second stanza of Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones. Anglo-Catholics, however, frequently pray the rosary, the Angelus, Regina Caeli, and other litanies and anthems of Our Lady. The Anglican Society of Mary maintains chapters in many countries. The purpose of the society is to foster devotion to Mary among Anglicans.

See also

References

External links

Mary (Judeo-Aramaic: מרים, Maryām, from Hebrew Miriam), called since medieval times Madonna (My Lady), resident in Nazareth in Galilee, is known from the New Testament[1]
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Virgin Mary in Islam ("Maryam" in Arabic) is the mother of Jesus (Arabic Isa). Jesus is considered by Muslims to be one of the prophets of Islam.

According to the Qur'an, Isa was born miraculously without a human biological father, but by the will of Allah (God).
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Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known by their initials BVM, is a Roman Catholic religious order founded in the United States by Mother Mary Frances Clarke. BVM Sisters work in twenty-five U.S. states and three foreign countries.
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Our Lady may refer to:
  • Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe, a 16th century painting, a Roman Catholic icon and Mexico's most popular religious image

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Mary (Judeo-Aramaic: מרים, Maryām, from Hebrew Miriam), called since medieval times Madonna (My Lady), resident in Nazareth in Galilee, is known from the New Testament[1]
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Jesus (8–2 BC/BCE to 29–36 AD/CE),[2] also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, and is also an important figure in several other religions.
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Virginity is a term used as an expression of purity. In its most common context, it is a concept that refers to the state of a person never having engaged in sexual intercourse. A person who still has his or her virginity can accordingly be described as being a virgin.
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Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council. The Constitution was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, following approval by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,151 to 5.
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November 21 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

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The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, or Vatican II, was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It opened under Pope John XXIII in 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI in 1965.
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Jesus (8–2 BC/BCE to 29–36 AD/CE),[2] also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, and is also an important figure in several other religions.
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Adam (Hebrew: אָדָם‎, Adam, "man"; Arabic: آدم
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Irenaeus (Greek: Ειρηναίος), (b. 2nd century; d. end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyon, France.
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Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian, (ca. 155–230) was a church leader and prolific author of Early Christianity. He also was a notable early Christian apologist.
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Ambrose[2] (c. 338 – 4 April 397), was a Frankish bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the fourth century. He is counted as one of the four original doctors of the Church.
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Marian may refer to:

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A liturgy is the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to their particular traditions. In religion, it may refer to, or include, an elaborate formal ritual such as the Catholic Mass, or a daily activity such as the Muslim Salats (see
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The Byzantine Rite, sometimes called Constantinopolitan, is the liturgical rite used (in various languages) by all the Eastern Orthodox Churches and by several Eastern Catholic Churches.
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