"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

Mary, the Holy Mother of God

tota-pulcra-3Born: September 8th (Traditional) at Nazareth, Galilee

Assumed into Heaven: August 15th

Proclaimed Theotokos / Mother of God: First Council of Ephesus in 431

Feast Day: January 1st

Patronage: Humanity

“If you put all the love of all the mothers into one heart it would still not equal the love of the heart of Mary for her children.” St. Louis de Montfort

So often we think of our lives simply as something we go through – another day that’s just going to pass by. And that’s so sad. For that which is true of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Mary, our Blessed Mother – she who was predestined from eternity to be the Mother of God by means of a decree of Divine Providence – is true of all of us. Each one of us was known by the Almighty even prior to our being formed in the womb. There is a plan for every human being who has ever been conceived, though often those plans lie beyond our ability to grasp. Just as a child comes to understand who they are by means of a loving mother’s tenderness over the years, when it comes to the spiritual realm, we who, through Faith, have become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father, only begin to understand who we are once we enter the school of Mary, our Blessed Mother, she who desires above all else to develop her children’s souls into souls worthy of Heaven.

Early Life

The Mother of God holds a very unique position among not only the saints, but among all of God’s creatures. She is exalted as Queen of Heaven and Earth, and yet she remains one of us. Thus we find many similarities in her life story that coincide with our own life experience. At the same time, her life example calls us beyond the bounds of how we define history. For example, whenever someone asks us about the humble beginnings of our lives, we go on to describe for them dates, places, and times that reveal how we came into this world. For example, I was born on August 2nd, the year was 1974, and it all happened in the hospital at Hull, Quebec. But when it comes to the life of the Holy Mother of God, it’s not the how that is as important as the why.

The life of Our Lady is one that was pre-announced in the pages of the Old Testament thousands of years prior prophetto her birth. It’s not the cold hard facts concerning the place and time of her birth that matter, but rather that she was to come! “She is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent, which was given to our first parents after their fall into sin (cf. Gen 3:15). Likewise she is the Virgin who shall conceive and bear a son, whose name will be called Emmanuel (cf. Is 7:14; cf. Mic 5:2-3; Mt 1:22-23).” [1] Just as our Saviour’s coming into the world was long foretold by means of the sacred writings, likewise the promise of the vessel that was to carry salvation was also hidden and yet revealed.

Even prior to her entry upon the world stage, prophecies spoken concerning our Blessed Mother reveal how we need to focus on the why of our existence rather than the how. The why for Mary’s existence was professed in abundance by the preaching of the Early Church Fathers who were not overly concerned about reading more into the few passages we have within the holy Gospels concerning the Mother of Jesus. Rather, they emphasized over and over again what has come to pass through Mary for the entire human race: “death through Eve, life through Mary.”[2] St. Iraneus put it this way: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”[3]

In light of the uniqueness of her role – she who with the assistance of the Holy Spirit knitted together the human and divine natures of the God Man within her womb – Mary “occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.”[4]

Journeying into the WHY of One’s Existence

From our vantage point in history, we have the privilege of having the fullness of truth concerning the identity of Mary revealed to us.  At this very moment, our Lady is “the mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come, she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come (cf. 2 Pet 3:10), as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during their sojourn on earth.” [5] That being said, Mary’s journey into discovering and embracing the fullness blessed-virgin-maryof the Father’s plan for her life is something that unfolded through time, and it required a willingness on her part to ponder the mystery of life on earth. Mary’s development into the fullness of the role she now occupies amidst salvation history teaches us that every life on earth is meant, through faith and grace, to develop into something wonderful! Through her journey of self-discovery, she who has become our Mother by the order of grace has a deep lesson in store for us.

The following highlights of her life assembled from the Gospels reveal a disposition of being that which we are all called to develop and foster in our own lives:

  • It happened in the sixth month that an angel was sent by God to bring Mary news of what we now call the Annunciation. After questioning that which was being proposed to her, she expressed her fiat: “Let it be done to me according to thy word (Lk 1:38).” We can only imagine the thoughts that must have crossed her mind during the course of this pregnancy.
  • Moments after the birth of God the Father’s Son, shepherds from nearby fields find the Christ Child lying in a manger and share with Mary and Joseph what the Angels had said about Him: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Lk 2:11).” The Scriptures go on to tell us, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (Lk 2:19).
  • Eight days following the Saviour’s birth, Mary and Joseph presented their Son in the Temple of Jerusalem for circumcision, according to the Law of Moses. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, an old man by the name of Simeon said to His mother Mary, “This child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed – and a sword shall pierce your heart – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare (Lk 2:34-35).”
  • We then jump ahead to when our Lord was 12 years of age. He had remained in Jerusalem talking with doctors of the law while Mary and Joseph had searched for Him for three days. Upon finding Him, they are told, “‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?’ Jesus went down with them to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother treasured all these things in her heart (Lk 2:49-51).

From being a young girl growing up in Nazareth, to fulfilling the prophecy of being the Virgin bearing forth t-16246-906-01Emmanuel (“God with us”), to discovering that her Child is Christ the Lord, to being told that a sword shall pierce her heart, and if that wasn’t enough, to being reminded by her 12-year-old Son that following God the Father’s will takes precedence over all human ties and things of this world, Mary’s development into understanding her role in the matrix of salvation history is one that unfolded through the passage of time. The key for us is that after each of these ‘big moments’ took place, we are told that ‘she treasured all these things in her heart.’ The verb that is used here to describe Mary’s response, syntêreô, is an extremely rare verb in the New Testament. It suggests a repeated meditation and questioning – in the weeks and months and years ahead – as Mary gradually penetrated more and more deeply into the significance of her Son’s life events and the impact they left within her heart.

The Divine Motherhood of Mary

theotokos-ann-chapin

Theotokos

While there have been a number of names ascribed to Mary throughout the centuries, that which most clearly defines her dignity is the name that was officially bestowed upon her at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431: Theotokos, which translates into ‘Mother of God/Birthgiver of God’. “This needs to be read against the Council’s declaration that in Christ there are two natures, one divine and one human, but only one person. Indeed, according to the Council the holy virgin is the Mother of God since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh. This decision was further explained by the Council of Chalcedon (451) which says with regard to Mary’s divine motherhood: ‘…begotten from the Father before the ages as regards his godhead, and in the last days, the same, because of us and because of our salvation begotten from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as regards his manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten…”[6]

The Template of Her Life’s Example

While official Church teaching focuses on how Mary became the Mother of God, we must always remember to keep the why at the forefront of our minds: to bring the gift of salvation from sin and death into o01-bosnia-herzegovina-pilgrims-1080ur world! Our Lord once said: “Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher (Lk 6:40).” Just as Mary’s growth into her new awareness of being designated to become the Divine Mother is one that happened by means of the passage of time coupled with pondering in her heart the wonder of her life’s events, we are meant to imitate her teaching example by way of keeping everything we know concerning her Divine Son Jesus at the forefront of our minds – within the deepest recesses of our hearts. That’s how we come to discover the why behind our own life purpose. We must turn to our Blessed Mother and allow her love for us to teach us who we are in light of our having been re-born in Christ her Son through the waters of baptism. “By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home.”[7] As St. John Paul II once remarked: “Mary, the first of the redeemed shines before us like a lamp that guides the way of all humanity, reminding us of the last end to which the person is called: sanctity and eternal life.”

Allowing Mary to lead us into the why of our existence

flickr-khatt-khattiA number of years ago, someone put up a link to a picture on Twitter and I clicked on it for I found it intriguing. An image popped up on my screen of a little girl, with her shoes off, curled up in a fetal position and sleeping on the asphalt. But that’s not all. You see, this little girl had a story. She lived in an orphanage and had never met her mother before – and she longed for her mother’s embrace. And so earlier that day, she had taken the time to draw an outline of a stick woman wearing a long dress complete with a veil on the asphalt. So hungry for her mother’s comfort was that child that she had removed her shoes, curled up in a fetal position, and laid her head over what would have been the stick woman’s heart. And there – under the superficial sense of an imaginary mother’s embrace – she fell asleep…

Our Heavenly Mother desires for us, her spiritual children, to huddle together under the cover of her protective mantle – so that she might continually lift us up before our Heavenly Father’s face in prayer so that we will receive the strength we need through the ministry of the Angels to persevere in faith along the path that’s been carved out for us by her Son’s example so that someday, this path of life will lead us into the land of eternal joy! This is the ultimate why behind everyone’s life existence on earth. For just as the Holy Spirit was active in the life of Mary, assisting her along the way of her own personal journey of self-discovery, likewise, the Holy Spirit is just as active in every man, woman, and child who opens their hearts in faith to the adoption reserved for us by God the Father in the sending of his Son to earth for our salvation. No one need remain an orphan child any longer.

Today, as we begin a New Year, the Mother of God has a special message for all of us:

I am your Merciful Mother, the Mother of all who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping and their sorrows and I will remedy and alleviate their guadalupesuffering, necessities and misfortunes. Listen and let it penetrate your heart: do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexations, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

(Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Fr. Jerome Lavigne

Footnotes

[1] The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II. Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1999., 55.

[2] St. Jerome, Epist. 22, 21: PL 22, 408; cf. St. Augustine, Serm. 51, 2, 3: PL 38, 335; Serm. 232, 2: col. 1108; St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. 12. 15: PG 33, 741 AB; St. John Chrysostom, In Ps. 44, 7: PG 55, 193; St. John Damascene, Hom. 2 in Dorm. B.M.V., 3: PG 96, 728.

[3] St. Irenaeus, Against Heretics, III, 22, 4: PG 7, 959 A; Harvey, 2, 124.

[4] Cf. Paul VI, Allocution to the Council (Dec. 4, 1963): AAS 56 (1964), 37.

[5] The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II. Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1999., 68.

[6] http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/mary/general-information/the-four-marian-dogmas/

[7] The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II. Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1999., 62.

 

 

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