What the title says, Mary is indeed the greatest woman who lived in this planet. However, that definintely needs to be put into perspective, namely, Who is she?
I'll let this section from the Catholic Encyclopedia explain itself:
"In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
Keith Thompson has also compiled in his article what this doctrine teaches and I would recommend checking this article for more information: http://www.reformedapologeticsministries.com/2013/10/the-early-church-did-not-believe-romes.html
William Webster also discusses this in his talk "Mary: Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity" which can be found here: http://christiantruth.com/audiolectures.php
Now the question is, Was Mary preserved from the stain of original sin? No. Cleansed later obviously by the meritorious works of Jesus Christ, but certainly not preserved from the state of original sin.
The first abuse of of the biblical text can be found in Luke 1:28 which says the following:
"28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”"
The word kecharitomene is used, which means highly favoured. It is often claimed that this refers Mary's immaculate conception. But such is folly as the context doesn't refer back to her birth and does not specify a particular occasion where she was highly favoured.
Furthermore, the same word, though masculine (Which is irrelevent), says the same in the book of Sirach in chapter 18:
"17 Yes, kind words are more effective than the best of gifts, and if you are really concerned, you will give both."
Does this mean that man has undergone the same thing as Mary? Well by the Romanist standard, that is what we would have to accept if we even accept their premise. (Bold emphasis mine)
Thompson notes the following in his paper:
" “Lo, is not a word better than a gift? but both are with a gracious [κεχαριτωμένῳ] man” (Sirach 18:17).
If the perfect participle form of the word grace in Luke 1:28 proves Mary was graced at the Immaculate Conception, then it also proves the man in Sirach 18:17 was graced at his Immaculate Conception as well. Yet Catholics believe Mary was uniquely graced at conception in the same way Christ was.
It is because of things like this that Roman writers and scholars will actually admit this word kecharitōmenē does not even prove an Immaculate Conception. For example, Catholic writer Jimmy Akin who states,
“And so it’s [the Immaculate Conception] something that is consistent with and coheres with the use of the word kecharitomene there, but it’s not something that the word kecharitomene requires. This is a Greek term that you could use in that exact grammatical formation for someone else who wasn’t immaculately conceived” (James Akin, Catholic Answers Live, audio file downloaded from www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4617).
Hence, although Roman writers are willing to admit the fact that Luke 1:28 does not firmly establish the Immaculate Conception (which is correct), many others refuse to admit the obvious and instead stick with the debunked idea that the verse demands the doctrine. For example, William Weary asserts the Immaculate Conception is “‘contained within’ the angel’s Annunciation greeting to her, ‘Hail, full of grace’ (Luke 1:28)” (William Weary, A Difficult, Daring Doctrine: The Immaculate Conception, ed. Peter M. Stravinskas, The Catholic Answer Book of Mary, [Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2000], p. 49). It is astonishing how Catholic writers who utilize more of a realist approach admit without second thought that the verse does not establish the Immaculate Conception since it is the best Rome has to offer concerning Scriptural support for this dogma. As Keating says: “Catholic exegetes, in discussing the Immaculate Conception, begin with the Annunciation” (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians”, [Ignatius Press, 1988], p. 268)." Keith Thompson, The Bible does not teach Mary's Immaculate Conception: http://www.reformedapologeticsministries.com/2014/03/the-bible-does-not-teach-marys.html
Furthermore, it is important to note the context in the very same passage that is often appealed to what Mary says in her song to God
"Luke 1:46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”"
If Mary was immaculately concieved, why in the word does she refer to God as her saviour? The obvious conclusion is that she was a sinner and no it is not a profession of HOW God the Father or God the Son saved her.
Take also into consideration this:
"John 2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”"
Mary asked Jesus at an innappropriate time to do something but he tells her that it isn't the time to for him for such.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown in his commentary observes the following:
"4, 5. Woman—no term of disrespect in the language of that day (Joh 19:26).
what … to do with thee—that is, "In my Father's business I have to do with Him only." It was a gentle rebuke for officious interference, entering a region from which all creatures were excluded (compare Ac 4:19, 20).
mine hour, &c.—hinting that He would do something, but at His own time; and so she understood it (Joh 2:5)"
Now some reading may say "Well she simply wasn't guilty of sinning delibrately but was only guilty of sinning by accident". However, though the TANAKH itself DOES acknowledge as well as the NT that there is a difference between wilfull and accidental sins or practising sin and falling into sin, the objection presented is vacuous and demonstrates nothing contrary to the Biblical position.
It is important to note that the claim that Mary was a perpetual virgin is ridiculous and is even refuted by the words of Matthew himself.
"Matthew 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."
Part of consummating the marriage would imply and give way to the fact that Joseph DID lie with Mary but not until Jesus had been born into this world, the context giving way also to the possiblity of Jesus having literal brothers and sisters, rather than a referrence to distant relatives or cousins.
"Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”"
"Mark 4:31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”"
The thrust of Jesus' point is not that he doesn't have a mother or brothers, but his point is who are his true family, in particular a spiritual family, namely those who seek to do the will of God.
The fact Jesus doesn't deny that his relatives are calling him only demonstrates the point that he acknowledges that he had siblings who were born after him.
Prays to Mary?
To quote the words of John MacArthur with respect to this exaltation of Mary:
"That's paganism, that would nauseate Mary, if she knew about and she doesn't. She never heard a prayer from anybody".
I couldn't have said it better myself. Although Mary is alive in Christ, this is not a proof that one can simply pray to her and ask her to go to the Son for a request.
Mary is physically dead, though alive with Jesus and the saints in heaven. HOWEVER, only Jesus has the perogative to be prayed to and as YHWH God can answer prayers.
The only way any individual can ever answer multiple prayers from across the globe is if they possess omnipresence, which is something Mary lacks.
Also, praying to the saints or to Mary is necromancy, namely praying to the dead. Asking a dead person in prayer to take your request to God is an abomination.
Isaiah makes the following point to his people in chapter 8 of his book:
"Isaiah 8:19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness."
Before anyone tries to appeal to the transfiguration, where Jesus speaks to Moses and Elijah, no that is NOT necromancy. God the Father allowed Jesus to speak to Moses and Elijah and no where in the context of Isaiah did God the Father ever grant such a thing to the people. It was a onetime scenario and it fails to take into consideration that Jesus is the one who came down from heaven, thus he would have the perogative to speak with Moses and Elijah because of the Father in heaven allowing it. Plus, Jesus is NOT seeking Moses and Elijah's intercession, which shoots the Romanist claims in the foot regarding this passage.
There is no endorsement from the NT that would allow us to pray to Mary.
Thompson says also the following regarding this matter in the same article I have linked to.
"However, the biblical prohibition in Deuteronomy 18:11 is that men should not pray to the deceased who are in Sheol, not that the transfigured God-man, Jesus, could not to speak to Elijah and Moses if they made an appearance on earth during Jesus’ advent. There is a big difference. Not once does Jesus beseech and seek help from Elijah, Moses or any other saint in heaven while on earth as He actually does in reference to the Father numerous times."
James White also states:
"“Are we seriously to believe that the unique, one-of-a-kind event of the Transfiguration itself is a meaningful foundation for communication with those who have passed from this life? Do I really need to point out that there is actually no example of communication between the apostles and Moses and Elijah, that it is limited to Jesus, and hence would not, even if it was pressed far out of its meaningful context, support such a concept?”" (James White, A Brief Comment on the “Communion of Saints” and Catholic Blogger “Devman).
Need I say more? It is obvious and clear that one cannot prove biblically that these doctrines of Mary actually exist.
While the Catholics may accuse me of hating Mary, this isn't so. I don't hate her, I am just simply putting her back in her proper place. Perhaps you should be asking if what you are doing may be something that Mary is going to see on Judgement Day is something that actually makes her ill and upset?
For more infomation on church history and church fathers which are not covered here, I suggest reading Keith Thompson's article and the talk by William Webster on the subject of Mary.