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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 Sep 9, 2011

Why Mary is Important

The Feast of the Nativity of the Mary – September 8


The Birth of the Virgin by Giotto, ca 1305

Since the fifth century AD, beginning in Jerusalem, the feast of the Nativity of Mary has been celebrated in Christian Churches. It is celebrated exactly nine months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast and others like it are a reminder that those remembered as holy ones in our community got their start the same way all humans do. They were born of a woman, into a family and a larger community of fallible, imperfect humans, who nevertheless managed to help them grow to adulthood and eventually to sainthood.  This should be a source of great hope to all of us.

Mary was no exception. Her parents, Joachim and Anna, had long awaited the birth of a child. Her coming to them was a great gift from God. According to tradition, she lived with them only three years before they took her to the temple to be dedicated to service there. They visited her regularly at the temple as she was growing up until they passed away when she was about 10 years old.

Most of us will never have children following prophecies or angelic announcements of their coming. Most will not take our children to be raised in the temple or our local church. Most of us will live to see our children as grown adults with families of their own. But we will share in the task of parents such as Joachim and Anna, or Zacharia and Elizabeth, or Joseph and Mary: we will do our best to raise the children who have been entrusted to us, to help other parents to raise their own children, and to love and care for children of those we don’t know in other communities around the world. The love, acceptance, patience, gentleness, and consistency we show them in our day to day contact and care will be the qualities that help shape and mold their view of the world and of God.

On this Feast of the Nativity of Mary, may we be open to see the wonder of God’s love shining through the world’s children today and celebrate the continuation of the great chain of birth and love that unites us all in the Lord, leading us to holiness through the adventure of life as it is here and now.

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