Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Solemnity of Mary, Mary, Mother of God: Mother of God and Our Mother
On Christmas, we focus on the infinite love that God has for each of us and all of us. He became one of us and our “soul felt its worth,” to quote the verse in O Holy Night. Today we consider another of God’s many gifts to us, the gift of a Mother, Mary the Mother of God and our Mother.
We know, if not quite understand, the theology. It is a mystery, after all. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became one of us by assuming a human nature. This happened when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. Mary is the mother of the human nature of Jesus not the divine nature. Nature answers the question “What? What is Jesus?” with, “He is human and divine.” But Jesus is one person, not two people. Person answers the question, “Who? Who is Jesus?” with, “He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.” Mary as mother of the human nature of the Lord, is mother of the one person of Jesus, therefore, she is Mother of God. That is what we mean every time we recite the Hail Mary and pray, Holy Mary, Mother of God.
Mary, is not just the mother of God, she is also our mother. Jesus entrusted her to us and us to her on Calvary when he told St. John to behold his mother and Mary to behold her son. St. John represented the faithful disciple of the Lord. He represented you and me.
But what does it mean when we say that Mary is our mother? A mother nurtures life. A woman’s body is built to nourish a baby. Her nurturing does not end when the baby is weaned. As the child grows she finds new ways to care for her child. Mary nurtures us. She does this by leading us to her Son, the Bread we need to sustain our spiritual lives. “Bake us some bread, O Mary, O Mary, bake us some bread, we need to be fed,” the children sing in the Advent hymn, The Baker Woman.
A mother continually teaches her child. Most of us learned to walk while our mothers held our arms. Our mothers did most of the work teaching us to talk. More important, most of our mothers taught us our first prayers. They taught us about God and how much we need Him in our lives. Mary teaches us. Her life is one of sacrificial love for God in union with her son. Jesus always comes first, even when it is painful to observe how the world responded to his love with hate. Simeon said to her in the Temple that a sword would pierce her heart, and it did, particularly as she stood under the cross. But her union with her Son would not allow her to turn away from His sacrifice. She joined him in sacrifice. She teaches us not to turn away from the sacrifice of the Lord, but to join Him in sacrifice. Mary teaches us that Christianity demands that we empty ourselves of all so we can be thoroughly united to her son.
A mother nurtures, a mother teaches, but mostly, a mother loves. We began life just under our mothers’ hearts. Elizabeth Stone wrote that making the decision to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. I am sure that every mother would agree with that. When our mothers call us, “Love,” they really mean that we have taken their hearts. We were cared for not out of obligation, but out of love. We grew and moved away from home, but never away from the love that transformed a house or an apartment into a home. The mother is the heart of the family.
One of the ways that we have experienced Mary’s love is seen throughout history as over and over again she appears to various people throughout the world, to lead them to her Son. She was there in Saragossa, Spain in the year 40 as Our Lady of the Pilar, appearing to the apostle James. She was there in 352 appearing the same night to Pope Liberius and John of Rome and his wife, telling them to build a Church that would become the Basilica of Mary Major. She was there in Mexico, a thousand years later, increasing the faith of the Catholic Native Americans and the Spanish missionaries of the New World at Guadalupe. She was there in Vietnam in 1792, Our Lady of Lavang, giving solace and healing to persecuted Catholics. She was there in Lasallete, France in 1846, and in Paris giving the miraculous medal to St. Catherine Laboure in 1870. She was there at Lourdes, in the Pyrenees on the border of Spain and France in 1858. She was there in Knock, Ireland in 1879, and in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. There are many other apparitions of Mary, all resulting from her love for us and all calling us to a deeper love of her Son. For that is what a true Christian mother does. A mother loves. She loves God, and she leads her children to love God.
On this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we are reminded that Mary is our mother too. We call out to her to protect us from the enemy who would destroy the life of her son within us and among us. We ask her as her children, to nurture us, to teach us and always to love us.
So does our devotion to Mary distract us from our devotion to Jesus? No, it strengthens our devotion to God. He gave us Mary to be our mother so that we might always be guided by her to her Son.