Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God:
The Integration of Physical and the Spiritual
The title of today’s celebration is an expression we use often, but if we step back from it we can see that it is rather shocking. The title of the feast is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. We use that title of Mary every time we say the Hail Mary, “Holy Mary Mother of God Pray for us sinners”. But, what do we mean by it? We certainly do not believe that Mary was a goddess. That’s polytheism and paganism. The understanding of today’s feast flows from and understanding of whom Jesus is. We believe that Jesus Christ is one person, with two natures, human and divine. There is only one Jesus, but he is both God and Man. At Christmas we celebrate the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, becoming One with us: “The Word Became Flesh and dwelt among us.” The One who was for all eternity divine, takes upon himself in time a human nature. Mary is the Mother of the Eternal One who has taken a human nature through her. She is therefore, the mother of God.
That’s the theological side of today’s feast. Let’s look at the spiritual side by focusing in on Mary. Mary is the paragon of a person of faith. She has an interior relationship with God that renders His Presence so real in her life that she conceived His Presence in her heart before she conceived His Presence in her womb. This is the way that St. Augustine explained Mary’s interior life.
Ultimately, faith is the integration of the spiritual and the physical, the invisible and the visible. Faith is an interior relationship with the Source of All There Is. Externally, faith is the way we deal with the world. Through faith we make the relationship to the spiritual, physical. With faith we make the relationship to the invisible, visible. Through faith Mary made her relationship to God visible. The spiritual became physical. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. The physical birth of the eternal Son of God is the result of Mary being thoroughly “full of grace.”
She is the best of us. She is the one with the most profound relationship with God. Yet, the gospels continually note that Mary steps aside from the astounding events surrounding the birth of Jesus and, for that matter, His entire life. Mary ponders things in her heart, the scripture says. Why does St. Luke even bother to note that? Certainly any one who was present at the Nativity would ponder this within their heart. Certainly, anyone who is told by an old man in the Temple that her child would be the cause of the rise and fall of many and that a sword would pierce her heart would dwell on this for the rest of her life. Certainly, anyone who searched for a missing 12 year old and found Him teaching learned men would wonder what all this was about. Why does the Gospel of Luke mention this “pondering in her heart” over and over again? Perhaps, because the Gospel of Luke wants to emphasize that Mary is not just an simple and ignorant bystander to the event of salvation. She is quite aware that God is working His miracle of redemption for His people. She is also aware that her role in God’s plan is be sure the focus is on the divine initiative, not on her. She allowed God to work without obscuring His actions with her own interventions. This is the very essence of the spiritual life: to allow God’s work to be seen, and His Presence to be experienced in us and through us without deflecting the attention to us, The great American spiritual writer, Thomas Merton, put it this way: Mary is in the highest sense a person because she does not obscure God’s light in her being. When we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, we celebrate Mary being a person in the highest sense. She is the one who allowed the spiritual to become physical without allowing herself to diminish His work, His very being, with her own physical limitations.
We are all so unlike Mary. We want others to be well aware of our participation in the spiritual. We want others to be well aware of our holiness so they might be thoroughly impressed with us. We forget that if we allow the attention to focus on us we are obscuring the Presence of God trying to work through us. Mary, the paragon of faith, the Mother of God, must be our model for the Christian life. If we really want to be people of God we have got to be sure that the focus of all we do as Christians is on God, not on ourselves. If and when we do this than the spiritual is able to become physical and our faith is able to become real.
No, Mary is not a goddess. Her faith life has shown us all how to bring God to earth and how to allow others to experience the spiritual become physical, the Word Become Flesh. She is the Mother of God. Today we ask her to help us to have the faith, humility and courage to allow God to become real in our lives, in our families and in our world. May, Mary, Mother of God, teach us how to bring Jesus to a world that longs for Him.