Sunday, May 08, 2011

Immaculate Mary, the Virgin Mother

May is the month of Mary, and today is Mother's Day. So what better time than now, in our study of the Sacrament of Confirmation, to discuss our Blessed Mother Mary?

The Marian doctrines really say more about Jesus than it does about Mary herself. That is because, in all things, just as when she said at Cana, "do whatever He says," Mary always points us toward her Son.

But, at the same time, Mary also points towards ourselves. Or, more accurately, she points us to the people that God made us to be, the people we should strive to be. The entire life of Mary is not only a model, but the model for all of us. Her entire life, not merely her earthly life, but her eternal life is a model as well.
(1) Immaculate Conception – Full of Grace – Mary is the “New Eve,” who was redeemed and given the life of grace from the first moment of her conception, so that she was preserved from Original Sin or other sin in her life. The grace won by Christ on the Cross was applied to Mary in anticipation of this saving event. In this way, Mary could be a proper and pure “living temple” for the Son of God in her womb. “She is the living house of God, who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man.” – Pope Benedict XVI. It was this fullness of grace that gave Mary the total freedom, unimpaired by the errors of sin, to say “yes” to God at the Annunciation and throughout her life.

(2) Ever Virgin – The virgin birth of Jesus goes beyond merely demonstrating that the true Father of Jesus is God, not a man. Mary gave herself to God completely, in the entirety of her being, soul and body, including her perpetual virginity. This means that Mary was a virgin before the conception and birth of Jesus, during these events, and after these events. At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church, our pure and holy mother of all on earth, truly made in the image and likeness of the Triune God, a loving communion of persons that brings new life.

(3) Theotókos, the Mother of God – Mary is not merely mother of Jesus in His humanity or merely mother of the Christ, but is rightly called the Mother of God because Jesus is one, both fully human and fully God. The Lord dwelling within her, she is a living temple and Ark of the Covenant.

(4) Bodily Assumption into Heaven – At the end of her earthly life, Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. She did not experience the corruption of the grave. Jesus being eternal, just as He is forever on the Cross, so too is He forever in the womb of Mary. And she is forever joined to her Son, so that if He is in heaven in the entirety of His being, soul and body, so too must His Mother Mary be in heaven in the entirety of her being, soul and body. The bodily assumption of Mary also points the way to all the faithful in the resurrection of the body.

When he appears to Mary, the angel calls her "Full of Grace," as if that were her name. "Full of grace" describes not only who she is, but what she is. And it was the fullness of grace that gave Mary the total freedom, being unimpaired by the errors of sin, to say “yes” to God, in the fullness of her being, at the Annunciation and throughout her life.

Mary was not a mother in spite of her virginity, rather, she is a mother because of her virginity. In her perpetual virginity, she gave the entirety of herself to God, and it was because of the pureness and fullness of that love that Mary’s relationship with God was not only unitive, bringing her into communion with Him, but fruitful, such that a virgin could conceive and bear a Child.* In the mystery that is the all-powerful God who is in need of nothing yet choosing to need our help in the work of salvation, Mary, the New Eve, Virgin Mother of God and model of love, gave her very body to the Redeemer, without which there would have been no salvation.

In her fiat, Mary’s loving "Yes," the Handmaid of the Lord intimately carried Jesus within her very self. She clothed Him, fed Him, cared for Him, and followed Him even unto the Cross, where her heart was pierced, but where she also was made a gift to us all as our own "mother."

This same sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and His subsequent Resurrection, which, being eternal, that is, beyond human time, "worked backward" to the very conception of Mary in the womb of her holy mother Anne, so as to preserve her from Original Sin (the Immaculate Conception), also "worked forward" to the end of the Virgin's earthly journey, such that she might immediately know the resurrection of the body, rather than her body having to wait to the end of human time for the resurrection (bodily Assumption into heaven).

Mary is the "new Eve," the new mother of all of those who are truly living, that is, those who have eternal life. Just as she was our model in her earthly life, so too is Mary, now in the New Jerusalem, our model for eternal life. While we were not immaculately conceived in this worldly life, the faithful will be made pure so as to be immaculately conceived into eternal life.

She, the Queen of Heaven who is "with child" and "clothed with the sun," is the eschatological destiny for all the faithful. (Rev. 12:1-2) The bodily assumption of Mary into heaven anticipates the resurrection of the body of all of the faithful into a life full of grace in communion with He who is Love and Truth. We will not be bodily assumed into heaven, but we do profess a belief in the resurrection of the body. We who "die" in Christ Jesus will see our own bodies rise with Him in His Resurrection. On the last day, the old world will pass away, and those who remain faithful to Him, who are privileged to make themselves clean and pure in the Blood of the Lamb, will be raised up and given glorified bodies, fit to inhabit the New Jerusalem where Mary now dwells.

* Mary is the model of love. And through Mary, although so very little is said about him in the Gospels, we can see that her husband Joseph is also a model of love – true love – not the false so-called “love” of feelings and emotions, of merely making himself happy, of satisfying his own wants and desires, but true and complete love, the intense thirsting of purified eros and sacrificial gift of self of agape. The spousal love of Joseph for Mary, and the spousal love of Mary for Joseph, was made complete by their spousal love for God, and it was in that fullness of love that the virginal marriage of Joseph and Mary was both unitive and procreative. (See Bl. John Paul II, Theology of the Body)

The spousal meaning of the human body, male and female, is not merely one of complimentariness, but shows that we are made for relationships that are (a) unitive, which brings about, not simply a partnership, but communion with the other, a mystical transcendental joining with the other such that many become one, and (b) creative, a fruitfulness that is not limited to the biological (sexual), but is transcendent – it was by the love of the Logos that the universe itself was created, and it is by the fruitfulness of love that Jesus transforms death on the Cross into eternal life. In this way, although Mary and Joseph never “consummated” the marriage in the flesh (i.e. sexually), one can say that the marriage was a real marriage, made complete and whole spiritually, in the spirit of love. Their virginal marriage was unitive and fruitful in that very virginity, i.e. in their complete gift of self to God and, therefore, complete gift to each other, intimately receiving the other’s heart into his or her own person in the fullness of love.

The Holy Family is the “Church in miniature” and, together with Jesus, Joseph and Mary mirror the Trinity, a loving communion of three persons in one family, one body. Their spousal love resulted not only in communion with each other and God, but was fruitful — not only the Child they raised together and shared in spirit, if not the flesh (cf. St. Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia, I:12-13), but also all those children who call His Father their Father.


See also, The Blessing of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God

(Note - the above has been previously printed in various postings here and at Cinema Catechism.)

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