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Posted by on May 22, 2015

Why Mary is Important

Why Mary is Important

Hail Mary - F Fong

When we think or speak of Mary, the Mother of God, it is always important to keep in mind that she is best understood in the context of her relationship with her son, Jesus. Said formally, Mariology is always constructed in the context of Christology. This is so because Christ is the redeemer and the sole source of salvation. Everything in creation came to be through him. Mary, because of her role, participates in the creative and redeeming action of God in a special way.

Mary’s exceptional conception as sinless affords her the choice to live fully for God. She was not programmed to be good, but rather, Mary did not carry the deep fear of interference and resistance against God that exists in all other human beings. The rest of the human race has the grace and possibility to work with and overcome fear and anger, but we must work to limit our desire for control and instead surrender to God’s grace. We often do not choose right away to stop being resentful or angry. We often project onto others the responsibility for our own self-inflicted injuries. Mary had a clear vision of her place in life. She was born totally honest and prepared to grow. She chose to say “yes” over and over to these qualities, even when they brought suffering.

According to the Scriptures, Mary grew in her understanding of her son, herself, and the work of God in the world for salvation. We read more than once in the Gospel of Luke that she “pondered” how their lives were unfolding and what God was doing. She did not have a road map to reassure her of where they were going, but she had given her consent at the Annunciation and she trusted over and over. Her pregnancy was unexpected and controversial. The choices that Jesus made had consequences. His declaration in the synagogue that he was the Messiah brought immediate violence and ejection from the community. We find him and Mary later in the Gospel living in a completely new town, Capernaum, not a hill village like Nazareth but a fishing village.

Icon of the Wedding at Cana - Lucia 398 - CCWhen Jesus began his itinerant preaching and healing ministry we know that Mary, her sister and a group of women accompanied him as well as the crowds. This was not a normal lifestyle for first century Jewish women. Mary had to give up her reputation, village, old friends and the comforts of a house. In all of these ways she was an excellent listener of God as he called her out of the usual, the expected. She had to be quite aware of the danger that Jesus was in. In the Gospels, in village after village, the rage and jealously grew in the scribes and Pharisees. They hated his penetrating honesty, his clear perception of their air of superiority. They despised Jesus’ humility and closeness to the cast-offs of society. Mary must have constantly had to put her worries in the hands of God. She modeled an exceptional surrender to God and acceptance of His will. No one could have gone through this without being in deep prayer and interior connection to God all the time. She stood by Jesus from Cana to Golgotha and we have no reason to believe that she knew that “everything was going to be all right.”

Throughout the centuries Mary has been understood as the second Eve who reversed the willfulness and disobedience of the first Eve. Even when this story is understood metaphorically, Mary still is understood as the first human to be perfectly and happily obedient. She is also appreciated as the mother of the Church because she remained as the center of the early church community and loved them as her own. But it is her maternity of Jesus which stands out as the most important role she has because of its eschatological (future reaching) character. What is meant by this is that she is not just a person who did something unique in the past. Mary was and is “full of grace.” In the spiritual relationship which she has with her son and the whole of creation, Christ’s grace pours through her as the first disciple to all of humanity. Mary mothers us (protects and strengthens us) if we let her. Catholicism understands all of humanity, living and dead, to be in spiritual solidarity, a mystical body. Because of this solidarity or communion, Mary can help us to have a readiness to commitment, trust even in unbearable loss, and unimaginable joy when we are united to her son.

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Posted by on May 31, 2013

Why Mary is Important

Feast of the Visitation – Celebrating Blessings Hidden Within

The Visitation - Mary and Elizabeth meet - Luke 1:39-45

The Feast of the Visitation is a celebration of the meeting of Mary with her cousin Elizabeth when both women are expecting their firstborn children. Mary, a very young woman, has given her consent to become the mother of Jesus in response to God’s request. Elizabeth, a much older woman who has never been able to have a child, has conceived a son miraculously in her old age following the visit of an angel to her husband while he was serving in the temple. Word of Elizabeth’s pregnancy has been offered to Mary as a sign that “nothing is impossible with God.” Knowing how difficult the last months of pregnancy can be, especially for an older mother, Mary hurried to help her cousin.  The joy of their meeting and the song of praise Mary offers to God for the wonders they are experiencing have resonated through history. In fact, Mary’s prayer, known as the Magnificat from its first word in Latin, is part of the daily prayer of the Church, included as part of Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Celebrating the Feast

This feast is remembered among the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary. Readings and prayers for the Mass celebrated on this feast are all focused on the great joy of the gift of these two improbable pregnancies and of the women themselves, as well as our joy with and for them. The prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours also remind us of the event.

The Magnificat has been set to music by many gifted men and women through the ages. David Haas, John Michael Talbot, and Rory Cooney have composed some of my favorite versions.

One way to celebrate this feast is to make cream puffs and share them with family and friends. Praise God for coming to share life with us through the Incarnation of his son. Give thanks for all the women who have courageously born and raised children, treasuring the wonder of sweetness and life hidden within their wombs.


 JESUS MAFA. The Visitation – Mary and Elizabeth meet, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved May 31, 2013].


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