Mary, our Mother.
Before I became more drawn to the Theotokos, I had simply thought (if I thought at all) that we were to consider her “mother” because Jesus had given her to John at the foot of the Cross. The words to John, “behold your mother”, I was taught, were meant for the whole Church.
And so they were.
But my reflection did little more than scratch the surface. I do not claim to understand very much more now – yet a bit more was given to me to see.
As we have been reading the narratives of Luke in the past week, I have pondered the appearance of Gabriel to Zachariah and then to Mary. Their responses to the angel have been especially intriguing to me.
Both Zachariah and Mary, like any human beings in such circumstances, where shaken by their visions and asked questions. Prior to this moment in their lives, both were faithful servants of the Lord.
Although I may be wrong, some of my translations give the impression that Zachariah’s questioning held just a bit more doubt than Mary’s. Even when it was explained to him who his son was to be, Zachariah seemed to ask, “Well, how can I be sure of this?”
Not an unreasonable question, from a human perspective. “If I’m going to be put in this position, I want to be sure that this messenger really is from God and that what he is telling me is the truth. I don’t want to be duped.”
But, in my reading, Mary’s response had a different flavor to it. She questioned, but it seemed more like she was seeking instructions, as in, “I don’t know how this will happen since I have not had relations with a man.”
It doesn’t seem so much that she is saying that she wants proof, as much as she seeks understanding. After all, she does not yet know what will need to happen for her to conceive this Child.
Once she is told, her response is seemingly immediate, “May it be done to me…”
Both of these great parents-to-be are given signs to strengthen their faith.
Zachariah is struck dumb. While this sign seems punitive, it was immensely powerful. As priest unable to speak, he had to move inward to listen for the truth. As a prophet, his public silence attested to God’s action in his life.
Mary’s sign was very different, but equally potent. In witnessing the pregnancy of Elizabeth, a barren woman beyond child-bearing years, she was shown that “nothing is impossible with God”. Her own virginity would not prevent God from bringing forth from her the Son of God.
Hence, it does not seem surprising that Mary would then rush off to see Elizabeth – for in Elizabeth was to be her sign.
Yet what we are told transpired there, in the meeting of these two women, is so very important.
Once greeted by Mary, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out,
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1: 45) (emphasis mine)
What we might have expected in this situation was that the younger woman, Mary, would have come to Elizabeth seeking reassurance, validation of her “sign”, that these astonishing things were really to happen to her.
Instead, holy Elizabeth, inspired, recognizes not only the truth of the coming of the Lord, but that Mary is blessed because she already believes it.
And this is what makes her our Mother.
Though I am much older in years than Mary was when all of this occurred, compared to her, I am but a little child in faith. I am a mere infant with regard to obedience. Humility? I am barely out of the womb.
Perhaps you are further along than me. But I need a mother to “raise” me – a mother deeply rooted in faith, humility and obedience. For was it not these things that Jesus later remarked made a person his mother (or sister or brother)?
The Church is my mother. And my earthly parents provided me with a good upbringing.
And yet I am still so very little.
Oh sometimes I think I’m a grown-up in the faith – and can even convincingly pass as one for short times. But then I stumble and fall. I need only skin my knee, so to speak, and I am crying for myself as though my hurts and needs were of the utmost importance.
I need a mother in faith.
And she is my Mother. A Mother who teaches me to be a mother – a mother of God.
Our mother… Holy Virgin.
Let us walk with her – no, let us ask her to walk with us, during these final pregnant moments of preparation for the Birth, which is, has been and is yet to come.