Mary the Mother of God
The extraordinary power of Mary’s challenge to us Christians.
1. The Salute
We salute you Mary for your great Jewish Ancestry from King David himself and before him Abraham and Jacob. You were chosen because of your lineage and that long noble line of your betrothed St Joseph himself. We humbly acknowledge your awe inspiring preparedness to accept the words of the Archangel Gabriel – yet initially so disquieting and unsettling they were in your heart and mind. You were troubled but not frightened to do the command of Gabriel the messenger from Heaven.
2. The Annunciation
If you believe this angelic exchange happened Mary was hearing the voice of heaven itself. I state my case: she heard and saw Gabriel – no mere miracle but the appearance of the Archangel to Mary and therefore only Mary’s word to prove it alone. This was no imagined interplay but a meeting of earth with heaven never to be repeated. The power of the moment lay in the message of the conceiving by the Holy Ghost and its accomplishment then and there in Mary’s womb. This was expressed creation without precedent and conception within woman by the Third person of the Trinity (the Holy Spirit). Simply greatly inspiring to generations of Christians who in Mary’s words shall (therefore) all call her blessed from this day forth. God was putting his trust in one woman and he was not mistaken – Mary responded after that initial hesitation with unwavering resolution and determination to carry out Gabriel the Archangel’s command – “Be it done unto me according to thy word”. Gabriel never reappears to Mary – she only had the one audience.
3. The Ripples
The ripples go out as Mary grows through her pregnancy and conveys the highly confidential secret to Elizabeth her kinswoman and her betrothed Joseph in absolute trust as the Archangel showed her himself. Christianity is built on such private and hidden moments as with Gabriel to Mary in the Announcement to be selectively passed onto only the tiny few.
Gabriel was announcing and Mary had no choice but to accept his instruction it appears – the task being given to her was momentous and of the highest value. With such acts of the highest goodness, humility and charity as with the scene of the Annunciation to Mary there appears to be no choice but to accept. Of course Mary could have declined the honour yet she did not quite rightly. God never takes away freewill however demanding He may be and His messenger’s words of decision appear. To demand is to request what you are entitled to. The Godly demands cannot be more justified or reasonable. Mary’s life was centred on this righteous demand by God. She was to have the greatest feminine privilege of being the Mother of God herself and eventually to be Queen of heaven and not to be corrupted after death. The Holy Assumption into heaven awaited her at her life’s end on earth. She had been conceived herself without sin. Yet despite all these favours she had been given the poisoned chalice that her only child and son would be the man of sorrows and crucified for our sins. An extravagant and extraordinary gift indeed inestimable yet the cost to her of this gift on earth meant a sword would pierce her very soul. As some mirror their lives on Mary’s they discover this symmetry of the painful suffering cost of goodness for those in Mary’s shoes particularly for those who are young women receiving the word of God in church or society.
4. Mary’s life and times after the birth of Jesus
She lived a good and decent life as we all should and without doubt a prayerful one. She comes to the fore with the exchange of tender glances with her Son as He carries His cross up Calvary – the last time he sees her before he is crucified. The fact she appeared then was risky in the inferno of his passion but thank God they recognised each other in that station of the cross (mother and son) – the incident not in the New Testament. Secondly La Pieta one of the most moving and impressively painted scenes in Christian belief- The Blessed Virgin Mary holding her lifeless son to her bosom and weeping just after He had been taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea the rich disciple and Nicodemus. Now the sword had pierced her heart itself in figurative terms. She was very close to her son in his life so she probably had at least an inkling of what was to come, namely his rising from the dead. Nevertheless she lived in the reality of the anguish of his passion and death whatever was promised at the Holy Saturday Vigil. She followed her son’s lead: “Why have you forsaken me” to His Father on the cross. Whatever he had taught his disciples on earth about rising from the dead they could not comprehend. But she as His mother perceived the Resurrection with greater clarity. She had been through the Announcement of her conception of Jesus after all and knew personally of the power of God. Of course she interred Jesus in the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre assisting Joseph and Nicodemus.
5. Conclusion and the message of Mary to us
We should remain devoted to Mary for her attitude to her life which is exemplary to us and very helpful and comforting to all. The words of the Hail Mary are sustaining. It is not the words alone but Mary herself who pervades that prayer and comes through the words directly to us in our saying the Hail Mary. Jesus was direct and his mother no less so – if you ask Our Lady to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death – she will respond punctually, instinctively and with the feeling of La Pieta. It is not prayers being answered - that is childlike but solidarity with Mary based upon our devotion to her. That results from the saying of the Hail Mary for centuries and presently. Because of Hail Marys she is with us and for us. That is good enough for me and my family. We ask no more – we almost sense her moral support. She will not necessarily work miracles for us but she will be with us in our “hour of need”. Holy Mary “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”. We know you will not deny us but stand by us. You are the Mother of God without doubt.