Mary, the Mother of Jesus
“Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does it happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Lk 1:41-43, emphasis added)
During this time of Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Word of God in human form, Jesus, at Christmas, the mass readings relate to the prophecies of the virgin birth and to the disruption of the life of a young Israelite woman in the small town of Nazareth. The Gospel of Luke tells us how the angel, Gabriel, came to Mary with the greeting, “Hail, full of grace.” (Lk 1:28) He then tells us of her willing agreement to God’s plan resulting in Jesus being conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. The angel also tells her of her relative, Elizabeth, who has conceived in her old age, exclaiming, “nothing will be impossible for God.” (Lk 1:37)
In preparation for Jesus’s coming, it is good to focus on the events surrounding his mother. Mary is very special. Without her willing accession to God’s will the world might still be in darkness. Regardless of how dark these times seem to be, they would be even darker without Jesus. Jesus is our hope. And Mary is our hope, for through her we get even closer to Jesus. When Jesus was twelve, he was separated from Mary and Joseph for three days. After they found him in the temple, Luke tells us he was obedient to his parents. (Lk 2:51) At the wedding in Cana, despite Jesus telling his mother his hour had not yet come, he was obedient to her wishes and changed the water to wine. Pope St. John Paul II tells us that “Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind.” (Redemptoris Mater, 21)
Our Protestant brethren seem to have a problem with our Blessed Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. They claim that there is nothing in the Bible that makes her special and deny that she was conceived without sin. It seems that they cannot understand that when a vessel, such as a soul, is full of something, there is no room for what is not that something. Perhaps their interpretation of Luke omits the greeting from the angel Gabriel when he addresses Mary, “Hail, full of grace.” (Lk 1:28) Some go so far as to claim that if it were not Mary, there would have been some other virgin the angel would have approached. I wonder, how many virgins at that time in Nazareth were betrothed to someone of the house of David, a key factor in fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. They also seem to besmirch the use of the term “Blessed” when referring to Mary. Perhaps that part of Luke’s Gospel is also missing from Protestant bibles, both in the words of her cousin Elizabeth, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45) as well as Mary’s own words “from now on will all call me blessed.” (Lk 1:48)
In a way it is sad as they miss out on all of the blessings and benefits that can result through the intercession of our Blessed Mother. They neglect the relation between Mary and her son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Church Jesus founded.
To further highlight and understand the importance of Mary, we have the eyewitness testimony of St. John at the foot of the cross. Jesus, weakened and in great pain because of the cruel torture of crucifixion, making it difficult to speak, made the effort to give His Mother to the Church, represented by John. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ (Jn 19:26-27) Luke specifically calls attention to Mary as an active member of the early Christian community in the upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14). In other words, Mary has always been an important figure in the Church.
And the Blessed Mother continues to be an important figure for the Church. Just look at her “approved” apparitions and the many miracles associated with them. The number of documented and verified miracles at Lourdes alone is astonishing. Devotion to the Rosary has helped fortify and strengthen Catholics for hundreds of years and, read up on exorcisms (they are real as possession by the devil is real) and you find that the rosary is a weapon against evil. Read about the Battle of Lepanto and how all the Christians had rosaries and prayed them and an outnumbered fleet averted defeat at the hands of the Muslim fleet.
Catholics pray the Hail Mary regularly, restating the words of the Archangel Gabriel, Mary and Elizabeth, and asking her to pray for us her children. This isn’t hard to understand. Jesus made us brothers and therefore heirs. “[Y]ou have received the spirit of sonship. … that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” (Rom 8:15-17, cf. Gal 4:7, Tit 3:7) So if we are brothers to Jesus, who is Mary’s son, then she is our mother as well.
And so, as we eagerly await the coming of Christ at Christmas, let us also take a few moments to thank Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, the first convert to Christianity, and our mother for her “fiat” to God. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)