Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16- 21) “The Motherhood of Holy Mary” PDF Version
Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God 2018 (Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21)
Many have claimed that Catholic and Orthodox Christians have profaned the salvific Gospel of Jesus Christ by encouraging devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Accusations of turning Mary into a goddess continue to be prevalent in polemical writings among Christians, which means we must continue to look at how we honour The Blessed Virgin and understand her in light of what Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition teaches us about Mary of Nazareth.
That humanity has sought refugee in the divine feminine is something that goes back to the very origins of religion. Nearly every ancient religion spoke of male and female deities, beseeching male gods to assist them in war, commerce and governance, while asking female goddesses to provide fertility, protection in childbirth and a safe hearth and home.
The one curious exception to the belief in multiple gods and goddesses was the People of Israel, who held to the countercultural and radical idea that there was only one God who promised to be the Everlasting Father of all peoples. Nonetheless, Israel was frequently tempted to abandon their monotheistic beliefs to worship the gods and goddesses of their neighbors, notably female deities like Astarte who they asked to bless them with fertility and an abundance of children.
The First Christians encountered similar challenges in evangelizing their pagan neighbors to abandon their cherished goddesses that had long been thought to care for their families, homes and assured many future generations to support their nations. Many were willing to accept that God was the Most Holy Trinity, but was there not room for the goddesses of old to remain, offering a feminine counterpart to the revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
It was in Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God, that all the hopes and joys of the goddesses of ancient days came to their fulfillment, but with one very important distinction: This woman named Mary was no goddess, but a human being of flesh and blood, with a beating heart that could feel joy, happiness, pain and sorrow and who did not claim to have divinity within her being, even if she was especially graced by God of having never known sin, of being a virgin for the entirety of her life while still bearing a son that was bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh, and of witnessing as her mortal body was taken into heaven, never knowing the corruption of the grave.
In Mary, humanity no longer needed to look for a goddess to worship, but a mother to honour and imitate, a mother who bore in her womb the Eternal Word of God, carrying her Creator within her while also knowing He was her son in the truest sense of the word.
To speak of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary is to also discover the manifold ways in which she is not only the Mother of God, but also the spiritual mother of all who have sought salvation in her Divine Son. St. Paul affirms us today that in the fullness of time, not some random moment, but THE perfect and certain moment, God sought out Mary to be the Mother of His Son, not only to bring about our salvation, but also to make us fully into the sons and daughters of God.
It was in Mary’s yes to be the Mother of the Messiah that allowed everyone the opportunity to be baptized into the saving death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, a baptism that frees us from Original Sin, makes us a Temple of the Most Holy Trinity and truly a child of God.
If God is truly our Father, than Mary is our spiritual mother. Not a goddess who bore God’s Son and then became indifferent to humanity’s joys and fears, but a mother who desires to remain close to her children, even if she reigns in heavenly glory near the throne of her Son. To discover her as our Mother, let us turn today to three passages of Holy Scripture to see how she offers her maternal love to enter our lives.
At the Wedding of Cana, Mary sought to aid a couple in need, beseeching her Son to reveal himself for the first time as the Messiah of Israel, even if His hour had not yet come. The only motherly word of advice she offered the stewards that day was “do whatever he tells you.” This same advice is what our Mother tell us throughout our Christians lives, do whatever my Son tells you, being humble and obedient to the ways in which He speaks, be it through the words of Holy Scripture, the treasury of Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority that He gave to His Church, beginning with St Peter to be passed down through the centuries.
The best mothers always guide their children in the right direction, even if the path is hard and demands much sacrifice on our part. Our Mother Mary will never lead us away from Jesus, but will instead draw us ever closer to Him, encouraging and if need be admonishing us to do whatever He tells us, most especially when we rebel and complain that what we hear from the Lord and His Bride, the Church, is hard to hear.
At the Holy Cross, when all had abandoned our Lord save a few brave women and St John, Jesus made sure that His mother would be cared for after His death and resurrection. He both asked and commanded that St John take Mary as his Mother and care for her until He would deem it time for her to be assumed into heavenly glory. But in that moment, Jesus revealed in those simple but profound words “Behold your Mother” that all who would be saved by the Wood of His Cross would also receive a new, spiritual mother.
At the Cross, Mary became both the Mother of Sorrows and Mother of Consolation for all who suffer. Our Lord intentionally choose the Cross as the place where He would give humanity His Mother, showing us that it is in the pains and sorrows of life that we will most powerfully discover the Motherhood of Mary. No one has or will ever suffer as she did, none of us will know the full weight of the Cross of Christ like her, and so we can have confidence that we can go to her when suffering begins to crush our spirits and challenges our faith in the goodness of God. In her motherly embrace, the bitterness of the Cross becomes easier to bear.
In the silence of the Bethlehem Stable, Mary began to understand that to be the Mother of the Saviour would be discovered in a life of contemplation and silent observance of the teachings and deeds of her Son. In Bethlehem, she had her first glimpses of heaven, of what it is like to be totally with God, to adore Him without ceasing and to know a peace that this world cannot give.
It was in the moments of silent prayer before the Infant Christ that Mary, the Mother of God, was giving her first experience of being with her son for eternity, memories we can be sure she carried with her through the trials of her life and may have come to mind as she realized her earthly life was coming to an end and the time to contemplate the face of her son once again was imminent.
So too we must turn to Mary to help us in the final moments of life, to help us fight temptations to despair or be deceived by the lies of the enemy that heaven is a farce and nothing awaits but shadow and infinite darkness. As a loving mother, she will inspire us to turn our eyes to Christ just as she did when she wondered at His infancy. She will be near to help us confess our sins which we have neglected to confess or in our pride thought we did not need to bring before her priests; for she loves them as her sons and sees in them the saving power of her Son at work, despite them being sinners and unworthy of forgiving sins in the name of her Son.
Mary will not allow any soul to fall into hell if we seek her maternal assistance when our hour comes. Let us then recite with renewed hope those words which we have recited thousands of times, perhaps while distracted or with little faith in our hearts: Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.