Manufacturing a Miracle

In December 1854, as Pope Pius IX ruled over the Vatican, the bishops from all parts of Catholic dominance were called to Rome to establish a new twist in devotion to Jesus as Christ the Savior.  In an elective process of collected bishops it was decided, with only four dissenting votes, that when Mary had died she had been raised bodily from the dead and “ascended into heaven.”   With this set in place as official church declaration Mary would henceforth be addressed and worshiped as the “Immaculate Conception.”   All this was made official despite the fact that there is not one line in original scriptures that ever implied that Mary was “immaculately” conceived—or, for that matter, that she could make atonement for sin because she was at the foot of the cross at her son’s crucifixion—“her heart pierced with grief.”  With this allegation made official, the terms “Sacred Heart” and “Queen of Heaven” became ingredients of the church’s religious phraseology.

Although nothing in any original writings of the early Christian movement had ever presented any such storyline, Pope Pius IX proclaimed that the Immaculate Conception must “be believed firmly and constantly by all,” and that any dissenter is “condemned” and “separated” from true Christianity!  (Pope Pius XII would echo the same declaration of the Assumption in 1950.)

The faithful today are not troubled that this declaration of “assumption” simply reinstated much older Pagan concepts.  The Greek grammarian Apollodorus (flourished 2nd century BCE) stated in his history of Greek religions, On the Gods, that Bacchus (symbolizing the reproductive force of Nature) carried his mother to heaven.  And according to the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE), Bacchus addressed his mother as Thuone, the feminine of Bacchus’ Latin name Thyoneus, meaning “the lamented one.”  Thus Thuone was the Pagan lamenting goddess–the role reinstated with Mary’s 1854 papal promotion—a role complete with all the attributes and honors once given to the Babylonian/Assyrian goddess Ishtar and the Roman goddess Juno (and other similar Pagan goddesses).

Only a mere four years after Mary’s promotion, in 1856, a fourteen year old peasant girl, Marie Bernadette Soubiroux, declared that she had eighteen visions of the Virgin in a grotto at Lourdes, France, which occurred from February 11 through July 16.  One of the more peculiar aspects of this miracle is that the Virgin is said to have repeatedly referred to herself as the Immaculate Conception—a precept initiated by the church only four years before!  The Lourdes grotto quickly became a shrine, and by 1862 the faithful were assured that they were justified in believing in the reality of the apparitions.  A basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle where the visions were said to have occurred.  Twenty-one years after the spate of apppartitions, 1876, the basilica was consecrated and a statue of the Virgin was solemnly crowned.

The Catholic Encyclopedia thus assures the faithful that devotion at Lourdes was “…founded on the apparitions of the “blessed Virgin” to a poor 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux.”  It does not mention that the timing of these apparitions could not have been better for the politics of the church.

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