Learning about Mary, Mother of God

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MaryImage

It is hard to put my devotion to the Blessed Mother into words, for those who simply do not understand.

“Okay, so she was the mother of Jesus, I get it.  She was chosen and did her job.  Move on.”  

Um, back that train up!  Are you hearing yourself?  She was the mother of God.  The MOTHER of GOD!  Let’s think about that for a minute and allow our minds to be blown.  

Mary, the Mother of God, carried Jesus Christ in her womb for nine months.  Her womb of flesh and blood became the living tabernacle; the dwelling place of the Divine presence.  In the Old Testament, the tabernacle, filled with “the glory of the Lord” accompanied the Jews to the promised land (Ex 40:34-35).  Anyone other than the appointed priests who came near to the tabernacle were put to death (Num 1:51).

Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in the same way that the tabernacle had been overshadowed in Exodus.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35).  Her womb was immaculately sanctified by God, in order to be a perfect dwelling place for His Son.  Her womb was set apart, as was Mary, from all women.  The beautiful gift of carrying a child within her, was infinitely magnified by carrying the Savior.  

God could not have come to dwell within a sinful vessel, because sin separates us from God (Is 59:2).  It is exhausting to read the great lengths that God made the Israelites go through in preparing the tabernacle, the altar of the tabernacle, the court of the tabernacle, the vessels of the tabernacle, the vestments of the priests, and the consecration of priests for the tabernacle (Ex 26-29).  How much more then would God do for the living tabernacle in preparing her for the dwelling of His very Son?  

This creature, Mary, birthed Jesus.  Mary and her husband Joseph were the first to greet him into his earthly life and the only two to know his true nature from the start.  In his flesh, Jesus was genetically born only of Mary, and therefore he would have received 100% of her genetic makeup (Heb 2:17).  Imagine their similarities in looks, temperament, and mannerism!  His mother, Mary, nursed Jesus, giving to him all the nourishment he needed as a baby from her own body.    

The lives of the Holy Family were guided by messages from angels.  From the Annunciation of the angel to Mary, Joseph’s reassurance in entering into matrimony (Mt 1:20), Joseph’s instruction to flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13), and then safely return to Israel (Mt 2:19-20).   

Mary walked with Jesus for every one of his years on earth and she knew him more intimately than any other human being.  We often admire the disciples who knew Jesus during his public ministry of three years.  We can’t imagine the wealth of information they received from him, beyond what was recorded.  “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).  If John could say this about three years, imagine what Mary could have written about thirty-three.

John’s Gospel is written as a parallel of the Creation account in Genesis.  In his record of the Wedding Feast at Cana, Jesus uses a common Hebrew Figure of speech in answering his mother regarding the wine that has run out.  Jesus says to her literally, “what to me and you” (Jn 2:4).  This is a huge moment for Jesus and Mary and should not be glossed over or misinterpreted.  The same phrase is used several times throughout the bible, particularly in a similar way in Josh 15:18, translated as ‘what can I do for you?’  

Mary is fully aware of what Jesus is capable of, and she knows that once his public ministry begins, “a sword will pierce her own soul also” (Lk 2:35).  One of Mary’s few recorded statements, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5), is extremely powerful.  Mary is submissive to the will of her son, who always honors her.  She gives her consent and blessing upon his ministry, preparing her own soul to suffer alongside his.  Jesus immediately preforms his first miracle, turning water into wine.  After this sign, “his disciples believed in him.”  But there was an earlier disciple who needed no convincing.  She traveled with him to Capernaum, and so it began.

Jesus calls his mother “woman,” which seems unusual.  This is not derogatory, but rather meant to remind the reader of the first creation account, in which God called the partner to man, “woman.”  Eve was the first mother of the living and she said “no” to God.  Jesus “makes all things new” and ushers in a new kingdom.  Mary is the first mother of the living in the new kingdom and she said “yes” to God.  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).  St. Augustine said that “By the fall a poison was handed to mankind through a woman [Eve], by the Redemption man was given salvation also through a woman [Mary].”  

Jesus again calls his mother “woman” from the cross.  “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved (John) 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 to his own home (Jn 19:26-27).  Scripture tells us that after Jesus spoke these words to Mary and John, he knew that “all was now finished.”  Wow!  This is so much more than a good Jewish boy honoring his mother until his last breath.  These words from the cross will be remembered, studied, poured over, prayed, and ultimately imitated.  

His mother stood with him from his coming into this world until his departure from it.  We, as disciples of Jesus, are to follow all that He did and taught, from the breaking of the bread and the washing of the feet, to beholding Mary as our mother, and taking her into our home.  The rest of her earthly life was spent with the disciple John and the many disciples whose company they kept.  Mary would have been able to share much about Jesus that the Gospel writers did not know, such as the infancy narrative in St. Luke’s Gospel.         

St. John Paul II sums up Mary’s holy faithfulness:

“When she was asked to become the mother of the Messiah, Mary’s faith enabled her to give a humble and generous response…Mary’s faith was frequently tested during the public life of Jesus, especially when she witnessed the rejection of her son.  At the foot of the cross, her pilgrimage of faith had its moment of most severe testing.  Mary continued to believe that, because Jesus was the Son of God, his sacrifice would bring salvation to humanity.”

For deeper study:

Copyright 2014, Kimberly Cook

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About Author

Kimberly Cook holds a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology and a Bachelor of Science in Mental Health. She is the author of children’s book, Mommy, Mommy, When You Pray. Kimberly lives with her husband and three children in Virginia. You can follow Kimberly at http://thelionofdesign.com/ where she blogs on Faith, Art, and Motherhood.

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