Reflection on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Numbers 6:22-27 Galatians 4:4-7 Luke 2:16-21
It is an article of our faith that Mary brought Jesus to life in a relationship entirely and exclusively with God. We take for granted that no other woman had such a relationship with God nor bore such a god-child. We celebrate Mary as the Mother of God.
I like to imagine that the entire universe held its breath 2,000 years ago, as a young Jewish girl pondered an angel’s announcement, questioned its meaning and said yes. A unique vocation for an ordinary girl, agreeing to bring God into the world.
In the weeks I’ve been pondering this morning’s message, I’ve come to an understanding that never occurred to me before: As unique and astonishing as Mary’s vocation was and is, as necessary for the salvation of the entire world as her yes was and is, my vocation and my yes is just as unique, astonishing and necessary for the well-being of all the world. I am called and each of you are called, like Mary, to mother the spark of divine life implanted in each of us. Indeed, every creature in the universe has Mary’s vocation: to mother, nurture and manifest the spark of divine life which abides in each creature, having brought it into being.
While Mary’s mothering began with the angel’s astonishing invitation, it continued in the obscurity of an ordinary woman’s daily life. We can guess that Mary became increasingly uncomfortable while with child; we know only that she shared the excitement and anxiety of pregnancy with her cousin, Elizabeth, whose own yes would bring another child of God into the salvation story.
Each Christmas season celebrates the brief manifestation to a wider world of Mary’s child as she presented Jesus to a diverse group of shepherds and sages. What Mary thought of all the stir she kept in her heart. Not many weeks later, in a temple ritual, Simeon prophesied that Mary’s heart would be pierced by a sword of sorrow — surely no revelation for a mother of her time. Raising any child of God in any age is a feat of wisdom and grace and takes a good deal of courage. Mary’s crowning work lay in preparing her child to say a trusting and total yes to the fullness of divine life.
Our religious traditions about original sin can blind us to the undeniable fact that all life, my life and yours, begins just like Jesus’ own human existence, with an animating spark of divine love. There may not have been an angel to announce it, but the fact remains that the Spirit of God has been a part of us from the moment of our conception. We were each conceived as God’s child.
Of course, we each had mothers and fathers, whose contributions to our life we don’t wish to minimize. In the course of our young lives some of us had strong and loving parents; others of us are simply grateful that our parents did the best they could. As we matured, however, all of us have had to accept the responsibility of parenting ourselves. In our adult lives we are presented, not just once but many times, with invitations to mother the divine life in us. We are invited to tenderly embrace that life in us which is both personal and divine, striving to faithfully love ourselves without condition. We are invited to nurture the holy and human life in ourselves, nourishing and encouraging the sparks into becoming a steady flame. We are invited to manifest that which is of God in us to our daily companions and our needy world.
Our vocation is the same as Mary the Mother of God. For us Lorettos, Charles Nerinckx pictured our vocation in our 1812 original seal: We stand close to Mary at the foot of the Cross, our open hearts beating with hers as her son lives out his final yes. With Mary we say yes —
yes to that of God within us,
yes to the flame of divine love which animates us,
yes to the holy-human life growing in us,
yes to the unique child of God becoming in us,yes to mothering God in ourselves.