Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you! (Lk. 1:28)
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus! (Lk. 1:42)
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
DO YOU LOVE YOUR MOTHER? If you do, great! If you do not, then start. I ask this question in two respects. The first is quite obvious: your earthly mother, the woman who bore you in her womb for 9 months and then went through excruciating pain to bring you into this world. The woman who worked, cried, laughed, and sacrificed with you and for you your entire life. When I was younger, I would have this competition with my parents about who loved who most, and each of them would respond in different ways. The exchange I would like to focus on right now is that which I had with my own mom. It would go something like this:
Me: I love you!
Mudder: I love you too.
Me: I love you more!
Mudder: I love you more.
Me: I love you most!
Mudder: No, I love you most.
Me: I’ve loved you my whole life!
Mudder: I’ve loved you your whole life, and since before you were born.
At that point I knew I couldn’t win, she had me beat, she had loved me since before I was born, and this is true for all mothers. They knew us and they nurtured us long before we were even aware we existed, from the very beginning they have loved us; and, it is due to this love, love that has been there since before we were born, love that inspired us and supported us, cared for us and demanded of us and nurtured us, that we owe the utmost love and respect to our mothers. This is why I say that if you do not love your mothers, start right now.
The second respect is less obvious, unfortunately, especially in our day and age: Our Heavenly Mother, Mary. This woman is absolutely amazing, for a variety of reasons.
- SHE BORE GOD IN HER WOMB
- AND IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO BEAR GOD IN HER WOMB, SHE WAS CONCEIVED WITHOUT ORIGINAL SIN. THIS WAS DONE BY THE MERITS OF THE CROSS BEING APPLIED TO HER PRIOR TO HER CONCEPTION (GOD IS OMNIPOTENT AND ETERNAL, HE CAN DO THAT KIND OF THING!)
- GOD THE FATHER LITERALLY CHOSE HER TO BE THE MOTHER OF HIS DEARLY BELOVED SON
Just to list a few. Mary is an absolutely incredible woman, and if you don’t believe me, allow me the opportunity to explain to you just how awesome she is. So, first of all, at the time of the Annunciation, which can be found in the Gospel of Luke chapter one, verses 26-38, Mary was approximately 14 years old. Now, imagine that you’re Mary, only 14 years old and sitting in your garden when all of a sudden an angelic being, resplendent with glory, appears to you and proclaims, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Now, all throughout scripture, whenever an angel appears to a human, they always begin with saying, “Be not afraid,” but not here. Why? Well, for one, Mary was not afraid. A 14 year old girl is not afraid at the apparition of an angelic being when countless full-grown warrior men throughout Sacred Scripture were. However, scripture does say that she was troubled, but not by the angel, but rather by his greeting, “full of grace.” Then, Scripture says, “she considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” Only people who are calm consider things in their mind, Mary was calm; and she was calm for the exact reason that Gabriel said: she was “full of grace.”
What does it mean that Mary was full of grace? If you are familiar with the hierarchy of being, then you know that angels are higher than us in this hierarchy. They are purely spiritual beings that possess both a will and an intellect and they are constantly worshiping God in the Beatific Vision; they have the grace of literally being in God’s presence, which is the highest thing that any existing thing can attain to. Yet, Gabriel, one of the seven Archangels who stands before the Throne of God Almighty, appears to this young, innocent village girl and says to her, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” What does this mean? There are several things going on here. First of all, there is the Immaculate Conception. If you are not sure what the Immaculate Conception is, don’t feel too bad, there are a lot of Catholics who are not familiar with it either; however, this does need to be remedied. The Church’s dogma (which means that the Church had definitively stated that this is the way it is, so you must believe this) on the Immaculate Conception says this, “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” What this means is this:
- The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, free and completely untouched by original sin. This does not refer to the birth of Christ.
- Mary is not some sort of exception to God’s plan for salvation, and by this I mean, she, like every other human being, receives salvation and freedom from sin by the merits of her beloved son on the Cross. But, how can she be kept free from original sin prior to her conception when Christ did not die on the cross until after she was born? This question is confusing because to our human brains, this makes no logical sense; however, since God is outside of time and eternal, He is able to apply the graces of Christ’s sacrifice to anyone at anytime. Such is the power and love of God.
- Mary was preserved from sin because she was the one chosen by God, from all eternity, to bear the Son of God in her very womb. God is perfect, therefore His mother would also need to be perfect; and so God made His mother perfect. Mary’s humanity is second only to that of the Sacred Humanity of Christ, but she is the most perfect mere creature. She is not God, but she is the mother of God, and even though she is His mother, her Son exceeds her.
How, then, are we to love our Heavenly Mother? First of all, how do we even know that she is our mother? There are many Protestant groups who do not view Mary as any more special than any of the other Saints in heaven, and because of this do not view her as their mother. However, like any good mother, she is always there for her children whether they know it or not. There is scriptural evidence for this though, and it appears in the Gospel of John:
When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (Jn. 19:26-27).
Some, however, say that isn’t proof that Christ gave His mother to us, all that the Scripture says is that Christ gave His mother to the “disciple whom He loved.” This is a fair objection, I’m not denying that it isn’t, because they would be right. Literally, the Scripture only says that He gave His mother to the “disciple whom He loved,” which Church tradition identifies as the Apostle John. However, when we are interpreting scripture, there is always a spiritual sense behind the literal sense. The literal sense in this instance is that Christ is giving Mary to His closest friend (which is also proof for the perpetual virginity of Mary, because the way that society worked then was that the next of kin would take her in, ie., a brother). However, the wording here is important. Christ gave His mother to His disciple whom He loved, and are we not also His disciple whom He loves? Are we not followers of Christ? Do we not know that Christ loves us? If we don’t believe that Christ loves us, we need to go back and read Scripture again, especially the Gospels. The spiritual sense behind the giving of His mother to the “disciple whom He loved” is that Christ gives His very own mother to us, for us to “take into our home.” Our “home” can mean many things. It can mean our literal home, the home that we live in with our family, where we learn to love Mary with the rest of our family. Our “home” can be our workplace, where we let Mary guide us in what we do. Our “home” can also be our heart, our innermost being, where Christ resides if we let Him. I think that this is the most important “home” to take Mary into, because it is by first letting Mary into the home of our heart that we are able to take her into the other “homes” in our lives.
How do we do this, though? How do we take Mary into our “homes”? How do we learn to love Mary? Well, there are certainly some activities that we can do. We can pray the Rosary, we can pray the Angelus, we can wear the Brown Scapular (which I definitely encourage), we can do lots of practical things that Mary asks us to do. However, even if we do not do these things, there is something that we must always do: Join her at the foot of the cross. Saint Pio of Pietrelcina once said, “Even Mary, the Mother of Jesus, knew that through His death, man would be redeemed, and yet she cried and suffered, and suffered much.” So, the greatest way that we can love Mary is to love her Son with her at the foot of the cross. A priest here at Benedictine said it this way, “The birth of Mary’s firstborn son was painless, it had none of the pain or the effects of original sin. The birth of her second and third and one-thousandth, though, was very painful, because where she gives birth to her other children, everyone of us, all whom we see before us, is at the foot of the cross.” Love of Christ at the foot of the cross is the best way that we can love our Blessed Lady.
However, we are not always at the foot of the cross, and sometimes we just can’t seem to get there ourselves, I know I certainly struggle with this. So, the second best way, I think, that we can love our Lady is to just let her be our mother. When I was in high school, I was absolutely awful to my mudder. She’ll say that I was one of her easier children, but I know the truth, I know I was bad, and I regret it. I remember that I would get so upset when she would tell me to change my clothes into something nicer for Mass, or for the Spring Formal, or whatever. I remember that I would get so upset when she asked me to wash the dishes, or sweep the floor, or to simply pick up a piece of trash off the floor. I remember that I would get so upset when she would tell me to turn off my computer so that I could go to bed and actually be a well-rested human being who could function properly the next day. Yet, it wasn’t until I was much older, and by the Grace of God, that I began to realize that as much as I loved my mudder in desire, I did not love her in actuality, because I was not letting her be my mother; and it wasn’t until I slowly began to submit and recognize that all those things she told me to do were only told to me out of love that I began to enter into a deeper relationship of love with my mudder. The same is true for Mary, and, in fact, it is most true for Mary.
I’ve actually been giving this a bit of thought here recently (God is so good to me by allowing me to have these thoughts). Now, all of this is pure speculation and is by no means official Church teaching, but Mary is the Queen of the Angels, which means that she is above the angels by grace. Our Guardian Angel, which is a being created specifically for us, is infused with God’s love for us. This means that, in the case of the angel, they are infused with a perfect created love, and if Mary is above the angels in every respect, this means that she must also love us with this kind of perfect created love as well. The tradition holds that when Christ’s Heart was pierced by the spear, her heart was also pierced, and in the words of the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen:
If He willed to be a ‘Man of Sorrows,’ He willed that she be the ‘Mother of Sorrows.’ But it was no imposed will; she accepted it all in her original Fiat in the Annunciation. The Sword He plunged into His Heart, He, with her cooperation, plunged into her own. He could hardly have done this if she were not His Mother and if they were not in a spiritual sense ‘two in one flesh,’ ‘two in one mind.’ The sorrows of His Passion were His, but His Mother considered them her own, too, for this is the meaning of compassion” There were not seven swords but only one, and it plunged into two hearts. The Seven Dolors are as seven thrusts of the Sword Christ, one edge for Him as Redeemer, the other edge for her as the Mother of the Redeemer. Christ is the Sword of His Own Passion; He is the Sword of her compassion. Pius XII says that she, as the true Queen of Martyrs, more than any of the faithful, filled up for His Body the Church the sufferings that were wanting to the Passion of Christ! (Taken from “The World’s First Love” by Fulton J. Sheen).
That spear that thrust through the Most Sacred and Merciful Heart of Christ also pierced through the Most Sorrowful Heart of His Mother, uniting the two hearts in the perfect fire of the Divine love of the Divine Redeemer. If this is true, we cannot neglect to love her or let her love us. She is our Mother, given to us by Christ Himself, given to us by Him so that she may love us. If she was the one whom God made perfect so that He could come to us in the world, then she is the one whom God gives us so that, just as she brought Christ to us, she may bring us to Christ. If Christ, in His perfect Wisdom, who is Perfect Wisdom itself, saw no better way to enter into this world, then there is no better way to enter into Him. Let us love Mary, let us let her love us. In the peace and love of Christ, God bless.
“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
–Saint Maximilian Kolbe