No. 14 Mary
Catholics honour Mary, the mother of Jesus, and turn to her in prayer and in the events of daily life. Many other Christians wonder why. ‘Go straight to Jesus’, they say. ‘Why turn to Mary?’ Some go further, and cry out, ‘Mariolatry!’ After all, don’t we Catholics hail her as the ‘Mother of God’? Had you been in Protestant shoes wouldn’t this have got your hackles up? So, should we see well-meaning ignorance here rather than malice?
We pray through Mary, and ask for her intercession, and seek her guidance and motherly care. The tradition is longstanding and biblically based. It is inseparably bound to our faith in Jesus, the Christ. Why? Because it is part of sacred tradition and all of sacred tradition, along with the bible, has been entrusted to the Church by Jesus Christ. The Church relies on Jesus’ promise and command to Peter, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to clarify and develop understanding, teaching and doctrine, with no shade of heresy or misrepresentation being involved.
Mary, in Perspective
For our own benefit and that of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters may we try to put our love and hope and devotion to Mary in some perspective. We know that after the awe and mystery of Creation, came the even greater wonder, blessing and joy of the Incarnation – the Eternal Transcendent Word becoming flesh (as God promised, in Genesis 3:15). For this to happen in the manner that God ,wanted it, there needed to be someone fitting, open to God and unblemished by sin, who would freely consent to being the handmaid of the Lord and mother of God in history. Had there been no freely given ‘fiat voluntas tua’ (‘Thy will be done’), would there have been the Incarnation as we know it ? For this, Mary was chosen from all women by the Father, for the Son, and in her virginal conception of the Christ child (foretold in Isaiah 7:14) was deemed worthy to be the spouse of the most Holy Spirit (made known to us by the message of the angel Gabriel. (See Luke 1:26 – 38). If God could so honour and trust Mary, could any of us sinners have the pride and effrontery, shall we say the ‘brass’, to relegate her to the status of a mere incubator, to be used and forgotten? What do you think?
A fundamental Christian truth
Is she not the purest of creatures, the pride of the human race, its highest honour? And isn’t all this reason enough for recognising Mary as the Mother of God? Not because of Catholic sentiment gone overboard, but because of our proclaiming the fundamental Christian truth that the son of Mary, was indeed God Himself become incarnate for us out of love and mercy? If Mary (together with Joseph) was considered by the Divine Father to be the most suitable protector, comforter and teacher for the child Jesus, leading him wisely and tenderly in the ways of the Lord, which she continually pondered in her heart, can we not be confident that she would do the same for those who turn to her, and not lead them astray?
Mary, exemplar and model, God’s gift
For us, Mary is the exemplar of virtue, the strength and dignity of womanhood, and the model for all women. Mary, the one who men should try to see and respect and bring forth in all women. Whereas her own immaculate conception was God’s gift to her, on her part Mary’s greatness lay in her total, trusting, unreserved self-giving Yes! to her Lord, when called to be mother to the divine child, the Son of God. This remains her richest and most important lived message to us who are so proud, so rebellious and so self-centred. Hers, then, was an active faith in, and conscious and complete surrender to the will of God, in all of life’s circumstances. In joy, in work and in grief; in her comforting presence and caring blessing for others, her soul magnified the Lord and rejoiced in God, her saviour, in Whom she trusted (Luke 1: 46 – 55). At the wedding feast at Cana (John 1:1 -12), no one told Mary to ask Jesus to intervene when the wine ran out. But Mary felt deeply for her hosts (just as she does for us, whatever our need or predicament might be) and she knew that her Son would do what was necessary to put the situation right once she mentioned it to him. All Mary did was to tell Jesus, ‘They have no wine’, and to the stewards ‘Do whatever he asks of you’ (the same as she asks of us: ‘Listen to Him’).
Mary is also friend, sister, mother, teacher to those who turn to her. She was, as his mother, perhaps closest to her son, who learned from her and who heeded her unspoken request, whether the time was right or not. She stood by her son in his time of suffering, abandonment, disgrace, death, and apparent defeat. Her heart was indeed pierced with a lance, and yet she did not complain, become bitter, or lose faith. Mary was Jesus’ dying gift to humankind, given to us through John from the cross: ‘Woman, behold thy son.’ Likewise, she was given to us as mother, ‘Son, behold thy mother’ (John 19: 26 – 27), someone to turn to. Mary never lost faith or hope or confidence in God’s promise, and was united with the disciples who were fearful, confused and at a loss after Christ ascended into heaven. At the Cenacle in the upper room, her presence and prayer helped to put paid to fear and uncertainty, and bring down the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Mary was there when the Church was born. She remains, through all its suffering, weakness and magnificence, the Mother of the Church in its commission to carry Christ to the very ends of the earth. She remains the perennial sign of God’s forgiveness and promise of mercy and victory over evil, and always with us in life’s journey? Is it being faithful to the Lord to shy away from Mary, His Mother? What do you think?
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, now”.