Is the Song "Mary, Did You Know" Actually a Heresy?

Is the Song "Mary, Did You Know" Actually a Heresy?
Photo by Walter Chávez / Unsplash

It’s that time of the year again, and many people will listen to the song popularized by the Pentatonix group on YouTube: Mary, Did You Know. But what most people won’t hear are the parts of that song that disagree with Catholic teachings.

The song begins with a conversation between the singer and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s written like an interview to try to get Mary’s perspective on the whole “Mother of the Son of God” thing that the songwriter assumes is a surprise to Mary.

The first few lines read:

Mary, did you know
That your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Immediately, you start to notice a problem.

The Minor Misunderstanding

The assumption here is that Mary might have been utterly clueless about the mission of Christ, just like everyone else around the time that Jesus was born.

But, given what we know about Christmas and the birth of Christ, that is not a correct assumption to make.

Mary was not kept in the dark about the plan of God. Instead, God asked her to participate in His mission to save mankind. The Gospel is very clear about that:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace (Greek: kecharitomene), the Lord is with you!” …

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. he will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

– Luke 1:26–28,31–33,35

From the beginning, Mary knew she wouldn’t give birth to an ordinary baby boy. He was “the Son of the Most High” and “the Son of God.” (Just in case we don’t know Who “the Most High” is.)

And the name Jesus in Hebrew is “Yeshua” which literally means “Saviour.”

Mary knew all of this and understood it and, most importantly, gave her consent to be used according to the will of God. (Luke 1:38)

Elizabeth and the 3 Wise Men

Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

The prophecy of the Archangel Gabriel was confirmed when Mary went to the house of her cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth, who lived far away from Mary and didn’t know about the Archangel’s visit (no phones or emails back then), saw Mary and said this:

“And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

– Luke 1:43

In one sentence, Elizabeth reconfirmed what Mary was told by the Archangel: Mary had become the mother of God.

And after Jesus was born, three men came to pay him homage. These men came with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Each one of the gifts had a special and symbolic meaning:

Gold = King (symbolizing the riches of a king);
Frankincense = Divinity (incense was burnt during worship to God); and
Myrrh = Death (dead bodies were usually embalmed with myrrh).

With their gifts, they communicated that Christ was a King and deserving of worship, but He would also die. Again, confirming what the Madonna had already learned from the Archangel Gabriel.

So yes, Mary knew she was carrying the Son of God and the Saviour of the world.

The Heresy-ish Part

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Many Catholics call this next part of the song a “heresy.” But let us first define what heresy is before we jump to conclusions here.

Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2089.

Now that we know what the Church calls heresy, let’s look at the following lyrics of the song. It reads:

Did you know
That your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you

The word I bolded in the last line, the “soon,” that’s the problem.

Let me explain.

The Immaculate Conception

Photo by Anuja Mary Tilj on Unsplash

In 1854, in a Papal Encyclical titled Ineffabilis Deus released by Pope Blessed Pius IX, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined:

“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

Ineffabilis Deus, paragraph 34

(P.S. Read the whole document to get the full gist.)

In simple terms, a dogma is a truth revealed by God that the Catholic Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church) has declared binding for all Christians to believe.

Some very popular Catholic dogma include:

  1. God is eternal,
  2. There is only one God,
  3. The baptism of children is valid and licit,
  4. The punishments of hell last for all eternity, and
  5. Christ’s Atonement does not extend to the fallen angels.

There are over 250 of these dogma, many of which we consider common knowledge today. But each dogma was revealed by God and defined by the Church, including the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

In other words, it is as binding on a Christian to believe that Mary was born without sin as it is for him or her to believe that God is eternal.

That is why Catholics have a problem with “soon.”

Mary’s role in salvation history

Mary wasn’t going to be “soon” delivered. God had already prepared her for His only begotten Son, applying the merits of Christ’s death to her — for God is not bound by space and time!

To believe anything else would be to believe something that is simply untrue.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved, the perfect Eden for the Second Adam; that Adam which would come to redeem through obedience what the first man lost through disobedience.

She was the second Eve, saying yes to the good Angel whereas the first Eve said yes to a fallen one. Where that Eve of old turned away from the Creator, the Immaculata turned back to Him.

With her yes, the Blessed Virgin Mary chose to work with God to bring about the whole world's salvation. In effect, she was the first disciple of Christ, believing, even before St. Peter, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Saviour of the world.

And so, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world took as His home for 9 months the Most Holy Tabernacle He could find on earth; that prepared by the God the Father Almighty Himself and sanctified by the Holy Spirit; that sacred womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

So… Is the song “Mary, Did You Know” a heresy?

I don’t know. I’m only a first-year Theology Major. I haven’t read nearly enough on the topic of heresies yet to be able to give a definite answer, assuming I even have the authority to do so. Hehe.

BUT… I’m sure the song would be a little more theologically accurate and less misleading if it didn’t have “will soon deliver you” in it.