Every Jan. 1 the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. This feast honors the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Mother of God. This recognizes that Mary conceived and bore Jesus, the God-Man. Now Jesus Divine nature has no beginning nor no end as it is the second person of the Trinity , however, his human nature was given to him through Mary. As John of Damascus wrote: "For the very Mother of God in some marvellous manner was the means of fashioning the Framer of all things and of bestowing manhood on the God and creator of all, Who deified the nature that he assumed, while the union preserved those things that were united, that is to say, not only the divine nature of Christ, but also his human nature, not only that which is above us which is of us" (Shaff). This quote reminds us that Jesus divinized human nature and how Jesus' natures were united; it also emphasizes that it was Mary whom "bestow[ed] manhood on the God and creator of all." This role in salvation history that Mary played makes her special among all humans and all women. As a result, God prepared her for this role by preserving her from original sin in her Immaculate Conception. Her sinlessness and perfect union with Christ makes her the model for all Christians in how to properly follow the Lord and approach him. Her Magnificat and her response to Simeon's prophecy exemplifies this. Luke presents in his account of the Nativity a beautiful prayer (a canticle) which Mary sings in praise of the Lord as a reply to Elizabeth's greeting. This beautiful prayer teaches me how to approach the Lord in all his majesty when he pours forth his blessings upon me.
"And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord./ And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour./ Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed./ Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name./ And his mercy is from generation unto generation, to them that fear him./ He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart./ He hath put down the mighty from their seat, an hath exalted the humble./ He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away./ He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy:/ As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever" (Douay-Rheims Bible, Lk 1:46-55)
Mary's profound humility shines forth in this prayer. A clear interior disposition presents itself in Mary. All the glory goes to God. Mary is but a young woman from a small backwater town in ancient Judea who has been graced to play such a pivotal part in the salvation of man. Yet, Mary doesn't glorify herself in this moment and extol the virtues she had likely built up over time (which actually demonstrates more that she had built up virtue before this point), but she turns and praises God. Mary points out that is only by God's grace that "all generations shall call me blessed" (Lk. 1:48). Her humility here reminds me how often I take credit for all the good things that happen in my life as if God just stand on the periphery when he is the one who gives me my gifts and talents and not myself; her humility humbles me and makes me want to strive to grow in this virtue which she had perfectly.
This beautiful prayer also highlights God's profound mercy. It brings out the connection between God's mercy and fear of the Lord. It makes me reflect on how God's mercy flows out towards all who reverence and worship him and even to those who ignore or reject him if they repent. I see from this prayer again how Fear of the Lord means that I should be in awe of God as Mary is here. Mary reminds me that God is always "mindful of his mercy" (Lk 1:54) and how grateful I should be for the gift of the Sacrament of Confession. Even when doubts arise about whether I am truly forgiven, I know deep in my soul that at the words of absolution (special blessing by a priest at the end of a confession) I am forgiven of all the sins I have forgiven and any I may have forgotten, perhaps by ignorance. The final line of this Magnificat stands out in a particular way to me.
Christianity being one of the Abrahamic religions traces its roots back to this ancient Patriarch of the Jewish tradition. It stands out to me that she mentions "his [Abraham's] seed" for in Genesis God tells Satan: "I will put emnities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel" (Douay-Rheims bible, Gn 3:15). Of course Jesus lineage stretches back to Abraham and so Jesus is the seed referenced in both lines. Jesus would crush the head of Satan with his Passion and death. Therefore, in this prayer Mary shows me how to take the joyful moments of life and turn them into opportunities to praise God and remember his love (which is expressed by his mercy). However, Mary also guides me to know how to look to God in sorrow.
Jewish law mandated that every firstborn male should be circumsized. Mary and Joseph being pious Jews took Jesus to the Temple eight day after his birth to perform this ritual. Here they meet the prophet Simeon and prophetess Anna. Only Simeon's prophecy is stated outrightly in the text of Luke and it is directed towards Mary.
"And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted;/ And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed" (Douay-Rheims Bible, Lk: 2:34-35).
Luke does not record Mary's response to this prophecy. I can only imagine the fear perhaps Mary experienced at this prophecy. Yet, in her perfect humility she accepted the path this prophecy foretold. Along the road of Jesus' life, Mary perhaps had small pains pierce her. She surely felt great distress when Jesus was lost in temple. But this prophecy refers more to her accompanying Jesus at the foot of the cross during his passion and death. She had to watch as he was jeered at and mocked, while he
suffered for the sins of the whole world. The sword that pierced her soul gave birth to the Church as Jesus gives Mary to the Apostle John (Jn. 19: 26-27). Mary must have pondered exactly how this prophecy would play out or maybe she was given knowledge by God to know how it would. Whichever is the case, Luke's exclusion of her response makes me ponder the importance of silence and how little silence exists in the world today. I often get caught up in the noise so not knowing Mary's response to this prophecy reminds me to take time in quiet to reflect on all that is around me good or bad and what God is calling me to do amidst the joy and the sorrow. Mary in living this prophecy given just after Jesus' birth during his death reminds me that one must stand steadfast even in pain and suffering. Mary's heroic witness in joy and suffering shows me that a true follower of Christ does just take the good nor only focuses on the bad but takes both and finds a way to glorify God in it.
Happy Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Mary, the Mother of God pray for us.