Mary is the Virgin mother of Jesus Christ and the wife of St Joseph. She is the Mother of God (Theotokos) and the Mother of all Human Race. Virginity and Motherhood, two contrary qualities are united in her by God in His Omnipotence and love. For truly “to Him nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37)
Mary grew up in the home of Sts Joachim and Anna, who gave birth to her after years of childlessness. At the age of three, in keeping with the promise they had made to God, they gave Mary to serve at the temple. Mary stayed on in the temple until she was about 16 years of age (there is no conclusion as to the exact age). She was then given to St Joseph in marriage according to Jewish customs.
MARY’S UNIVERSAL MOTHERHOOD
The universal motherhood of Mary started from the time of her fiat and continues even after her death. For she has not put this noble task aside (according to Fathers of the Second Vatican Council) but continues it until she sees all her children in heaven. Christ is the Head of all things and the son of Mary, so since Mary gave birth to the head, it is fitting that she also gives birth to the rest of the members. This is the Christian understanding of Mary’s Universal Motherhood.
Mary accepted the burden of being the “woman” (a title which Christ often reminds her of whenever salvation is in question) alongside the “man” (a title which was proclaimed by Pontius Pilate when he said “Ecce Homo” which means “Behold the Man” Jn 19:5). By accepting to be Mother of all things, she accepted to go through the pangs of child birth along with Christ in bringing forth the Church, she accepted to die along with Christ, she accepted to work with God in “making all things new” and in reconciling all things in Christ. By so doing she has joined in the work of salvation like no other mortal is able to; she has been given a singular place in the distribution of grace to all men.
MARY’S DIVINE MOTHERHOOD
In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, there arose among the faithful the practice of addressing the Virgin Mary as “Theotokos” or “Deipara”, “Dei Genitrix” – Greek and Latin words meaning “God-bearing” or more simply put “Mother of God”. This raised serious doubt in the mind of the then newly installed Patriarch (Archbishop) Nestorius, of the See (Diocese) of Constantinople (then called the Rome of the East, because Emperor Constantine relocated the capital of the empire to Constantinople and so the power of the Patriarch of Constantinople rose over other Sees). Even today, many people still cannot just accept this title as true and valid.
Nestorius could stand people address Mary as “Christokos” (Mother of Christ), but Never “Theotokos” for he believed that Christ was not actually one person with the Eternal Word. Rather he held that He was a (very extraordinary) man that was united in so way with the Word but was distinct in his Personhood from the Word. The implication of this is that, when the Word took flesh, another person sprung from this union. Therefore, the Eternal Son is one person, and Jesus of Nazareth is another person (human). This is contradictory to the teaching of the Apostles who proclaimed the Divinity of Christ and His Humanity as united in the One Divine Person of the Eternal Word of God.
Mary gave birth to a “Person” (a Divine Person) not just a “nature” for the later must be united with a subject of whom alone we can predicate birth, filiation etc. and this subject must be a person (you cannot say that someone gave birth to a nature but to a person with a particular nature). Therefore, the Person of the Word while not ceasing to be Divine took flesh IN the womb of Mary and became Man. Christ, therefore is not a Human Person, but a Divine Person with two natures; divine and human. For as I said before only a person can possess a nature, so for the human nature of Christ there did not arise any new person but the Eternal Person of the Word of the Father, who while not leaving the bosom of the Father, took a human nature from Mary. Since it is this same Word that was born of the Virgin Mary, she therefore merits the singular title of Mother of God for the Person she gave birth to is God the Son. This is the Faith of the Catholic Church.
If this Word were not the same Person as the Human Christ, then there may be no salvation for anyone, for no Human Person can possibly pay for the guilt of Humanity, for according to Archbishop Fulton Sheen “no man can raise himself by his own shoe lace”. There is need for an external hand to help, and that hand needs be from outside. But God alone would not do the “paying” for it is not Divinity that sinned but humanity. Hence the necessity of the hypostatical Union of Natures (as I understand it). This is the reason why God deemed it fitting to come as man, becoming fully God and fully Man: that the punishment due unto the sins of the world could be atoned in him (through the sufferings endured in his body) and through his blood give salvation (For he is God, who alone has power to save) to all who call to him with their hearts.
The Angel’s greeting
The greeting of the Angel Gabriel reveals the preordination of Mary as the Mother of all. “Hail Mary, full of grace the lord is with you”. “IS” “Full of Grace” she had already been prepared and filled with the Spirit of God beforehand; sanctified even before her birth through the merits of Christ yet in anticipation.
She was here representing the whole human race. I believe that just as Eve ate of the fruit first and cooperated in the fall of man, so here God gives the world a second chance in Mary to utter her “fiat” for the whole of humanity, thus cooperating in the salvation of all mankind. It was through disobedience to God and obedience to creatures that man fell, for sin is two-dimensioned. While it is an aversio a Deo (a turning away from God), it is also a convertio ad creaturis (turning towards created things) at the same time (for instance, a rejection of light is in itself an acceptance of darkness, there are no middle courses). Through Mary the beginning of a new convertio ad Deo dawned. It is fitting that just as the old aversio a Deo was initiated by “the woman” the new convertio ad Deo would come through another “woman”. The former fall was through Adam (as he was the head of humanity) and this time the reconciliation is through Christ (the New Man and Head of the New Creation). In the former the woman played an active role so in the later it is fitting that the New Woman plays an important role too, this is the reason why she had to consent to the will of God in place of the whole of mankind and therefore merit the title of Co-redemptrix. The end of history is in the reconciling of all things in Christ. It is the placing of Christ’s enemies under his feet; Christ becomes all in all. Therefore since the end of history is in the “Christification” of all things (as Karl Peschke puts it) it follows that Mary has merited for herself a permanent and irreplaceable place in the work of “reconciling all things in Christ” for she was the first co-worker of Christ in this work.
MARY MEDIATRIX OF ALL GRACES AND PATRONESS OF THE FAMILY
For an average Catholic, whenever this topic is introduced, what quickly comes to mind is the feast at Cana. Here Mary played a great role. One of the most touching things about that incident is the fact that those, for whom she was bothered, neither knew about the situation nor asked for help, she just took their pain upon herself and interviened. This teaches us the importance of Mary in the lives of Christians, and to the family. It is not without reason that this role is showed by God in a marriage feast. Maybe to show her role as patroness of the family; to show her ability to protect the family even when they do not know what dangers lie ahead of them; even when they do not know what to ask her, and even when they are not devoted to her. What then would she not do for her clients; for families dedicated to her?
She wielded great power “over” her son. The power, which is exclusive to her: the power of motherhood. Her motherly love was the cause of the extraordinary faith she had in him when she turned to the servants (ignoring His “excuses”) and said, “Whatsoever he asks you to do, do it” (Jn 2:5).
As has been shown above, Mary is the mother of all. She intercedes for all those who do not know how to pray to her Son; for those whose sins intimidate them to approach the throne of the Almighty. She is in the best position to assist the family, since she herself had undergone different difficulties in her own home here on earth. She understands your heart when you grieve for the loss of your child (to delinquency) for she had also lost her child for three days. She understands your plight when poverty tears your family from all sides for she was also too poor that she offered two pigeons instead of a ram in the temple. She feels your sorrow with you when you grieve over the death of a loved one, for she has watched her son die before her, and was given his dead body to carry. She is beside you when you do not know how to handle certain pressing situations for she herself was confused when asked to leave Jerusalem for Egypt to sojourn there as a refugee. There is nothing she cannot understand, for no matter the shape the difficulty takes, she had already tasted something similar to it.
Subjectively speaking, all that Mary is would be useless if she were nothing to us. If we are not able to plunge ourselves into the ocean of her mercy, if we are not able to please her by calling upon her; by being faithful to the workings of the Spirit in us, then she is nothing to us. We are always her children, but who is she to our families? to us indivivually ? How can we become her clients? It is simply by forming devotion to her and being faithful to her directions. The Rosary is the greatest of the Marian devotions for now and one which she often speaks of in most of her apparitions. She can fill our souls with graces when in reciting her Rosary we also try to imbibe her virtues.
She blesses us when we learn to be decent in word and dressing, when we are humble, when we try to seek the will of God in every situation just as she did. Always pondering over those considerations recommened by St Ignatius “What have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what ought I to do for Christ”