Jesus among the Doctors – Duccio di Buoninsegna
When Jesus was 12 years old he and His parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. When they began their return trip to Nazareth Jesus and His parents became separated. Finally Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple; “they were astonished; and his mother said to him…”
1st Conversation (Luke 2.48-51)
Mary: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
Jesus: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary was distraught. But Jesus had the last word in this brief exchange. Then they left together; “And he went down with them…” Apparently they both took the conversation to heart: Jesus “was obedient to them”, and “his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
Wedding at Cana – Duccio di Buoninsegna
About 18 years later at the outset of our Lord’s public ministry they had another conversation in Cana at a wedding feast. The account starts out; “On the third day….” This is interesting because the prior conversation considered above was introduced as follows: “After three days they found him…” The wedding feast becomes remarkable because they ran out of wine, and the conversation is initiated out of concern for the newly married couple.
2nd Conversation (John 2.3-8)
Mary: “They have no wine.”
Jesus: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Did Mary learn a lesson from the last conversation? She now limits herself to a mere four words. Jesus calls her “woman”; the same title that Eve was given by Adam (Gen 2.23). And again Jesus gets the last word. Or does He? They now both turn away from each other and address the servants (who represent the Church)….
Mary: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus: “Fill the jars with water…..Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.”
Remember those later miracles when Jesus instructs individuals to go to the Priest so that the healing can be officially ‘verified’? Similarly, Jesus sends the servants to the steward, and as John points out, this was “the first of his signs”. Apparently, His hour had arrived – it coincided with a marriage ceremony and prefigured His own relationship to His Bride, the Church. With four words Mary becomes a match-maker. And once again, mother and son leave together; “After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and…..” He is going out on His own, with His disciples, but we see Mary and Jesus in sync, working together, in unison.
All three conversations are associated with a feast day celebration; the first and third with Passover. When Jesus is on the cross, He sees His mother and ‘the disciple whom he loved’ standing near. This time, Mary – who is again distraught – is actually silent, but we might say that figuratively – or rather mystically – she “speaks” to her son from her heart….. perhaps through her eyes…. The scene unfolds with our Lord’s eyes, or gaze; “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother……”
3rd Conversation (Jn 19.26-27)
Jesus: “Woman, behold, your son!”
Jesus again calls her “woman”; this time it certainly seems to be like a title, because it takes on the semblance of a “last will and testament”. And Jesus has the last word. From the cross, now close to death, He draws the Church into His personal conversation with His mother. “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” In their ‘2nd conversation’ it was Mary who drew the Church into the conversation with her son. This time Jesus draws the Church into the conversation. The account ends with these words: “And from that hour the disciple took her (Mary) to his own home.” So Mary (“woman”) becomes Mother to the Church, as Eve (“woman”) was “the mother of all living” (Gen 3.20).
Jesus dies, and according to tradition, He is placed in His mother’s arms, so once again they ‘leave’ together at the conclusion of the conversation. Unlike the prior two conversations, that were preceded by ‘three days’, this conversation signals the beginning of the ‘three days’ until His resurrection.
But in a way, Christ’s entire life was like an intimate conversation with humanity: “And the Word became flesh…” within Mary’s womb. As the Word of God, Jesus Christ had been conversing with His Mother from that very first day, and their conversation continues even now, and as the Church, we too are invited to join in – through prayer and love – as servants, as beloved disciples. We are especially invited to join in the ‘dialogue of the Church with her Lord’ in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass which recalls Passover, and in all the other sacraments such as Holy Matrimony.
For me personally, The Queenship of Mary is one of my favorite feast days of the 365 day Liturgical Year. I also like watching the Olympics. Let me explain.
Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics. Their origins go back before the time of Christ, and St. Paul, an educated Roman citizen knew that. So when Paul was writing to the Greek Christians in Corinth about the challenge of Christian living he felt it appropriate to speak about athletic competition:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly… (I Cor 9.24-26)
Years later, near the end of his life in a letter to Timothy, he stays with his athletic analogy, but the wreath is now a crown, and there is no longer just one winner:
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules…… I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” ( II Tim 2.5, 4.7-8) Who loved the Lord’s “appearing” more than his mother? Like Paul she “fought the good fight…finished the race…kept the faith”!
The early Church knew very well that the Christian faith was demanding:
“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” (Heb 12.1)
“Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1.12)
“And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.” (I Pet 5.4)
The crown awaiting each Christian is “imperishable”, a “crown of righteousness”, a “crown of life”, an “unfading crown of glory”. Mary’s crown is all this and more: “a crown of twelve stars…” (Rev 12.1). A tradition of Saints and scholars (including John Paul II; The Gospel of Life, #104) tells us it is Mary who is crowned in Revelations 12.
But every Christian crown will be gained by virtue of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” the three wise men asked? What charge did Pilate bring against Jesus and have inscribed on the cross? “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” The archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary about the kingship of her son. In the Book of Revelations we find references to Christ as King, and to His reign. Many Christians mistakenly think that Jesus is a king only in a symbolic sense, since he is not a political figure and we have evolved beyond monarchies. The Kingship of Jesus Christ is a spiritual truth which enlightens, a wonderful reality which we will enjoy in heaven.
We know a Queen through her ancestry and relationships, and we recognize her by her crown. As the Mother of Jesus Christ, Mary comes to her queenship supernaturally by the Will of God; as Mother. The “race” she ran is unparalleled in all human experience, and she excelled in every respect. For a succinct biblical presentation of her life see; Litany in Honor of Mary the First Christian.
Mary honored Unborn Jesus by accepting wholeheartedly the Plan and invitation of God to be mother to the Messiah/Savior and by then loving Him (Lk 1:38).
“In all these days, my gaze has necessarily focused on this depiction of the Annunciation of Mary (see above). What fascinated me is this: the Archangel Gabriel holds a scroll in his hand, which I believe is the symbol of Scripture, of the Word of God. And Mary is kneeling within the scroll; that is, she lives her whole life in the Word of God. It is as though she were steeped in the Word. Thus, all her thoughts, her will and her actions are imbued with and formed by the Word.
Since she herself dwells in the Word, she can also become the new “Dwelling Place” of the Word in the world.”
“The Virgin is involved with Jesus and she is the only one in the whole world involved with Jesus. Thus she is the only one in the whole world adoring the mystery of the Incarnation, which was brought about on earth for the earth but unknown to the earth. She is the only one adoring Jesus. The more that she is the only one captivated by such a great subject, the greater is her involvement. She is devoted to it with all her faculties. All her senses are brought to bear on it, for it is a tangible mystery and tangible within her. All her senses should pay homage to her God made tangible for human nature. Her whole mind is concentrated on it. And the Spirit of Jesus, which enlivens this little divinized body, enlivens the spirit and body of the Virgin as well, through grace, love and a holy, gentle influence.”
Cardinal Berulle (1575-1629) – writing about Mary’s attitude in the hours and days after the Annunciation.
We can imitate Mary in honoring Unborn Jesus by living his word and welcoming Him into our lives and by loving Him with our whole heart, mind and will. We also honor Unborn Jesus when we welcome unborn children into our world by our witness to their sacredness and by giving loving help to their mothers.
Annunciation Benedictine, Art Collections St. Lambrecht, Germany 18th Century, unknown artist from Styria
There are many parallels between Christ Unborn and Christ Eucharistic. Here we present just three biblically focused parallels in honor of Corpus Christi Sunday (Corpus Christi means ‘Body of Christ’).
1. The first parallel is between the words the Incarnate Christ spoke to His Father immediately upon entering the world (see Heb. 10.5-10), particularly: “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me…Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God…’” Compare this to the “words of consecration” spoken by our Lord at the passover Last Supper; “This is my body which is given for you…”, followed by the words of offering He spoke in the Garden of Gethsemane; “Father….not my will, but thine, be done.” The same human body prepared for Christ, would be offered up by Him on the cross after being truly and sacramentally presented during the Passover by Christ Himself.
2. Understanding that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, unfolds the second parallel for us; see Rev 11.19 -12.2. Also, recall that both the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant and Mary had both been ‘overshadowed’ by the Holy Spirit. The 3 month visit of (pregnant) Mary to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah a few miles west of Jerusalem, is actually prefigured in the Old Testament when the original Ark of the Old Covenant (containing Manna from Heaven) is brought by King David to the home of Obededom, located a few miles west of Jerusalem for 3 months (Sam 6.1-13). David dances for joy before the Ark, unborn John the Baptist leaps for joy before pregnant Mary. David says, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth says, “…why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Note: The Manna was the bread which came down from heaven, and Jesus referred to that Manna years later when He proclaimed Himself to be the Bread of Life (Jn 6.31-35).
3. The third parallel occurs in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph enter Bethlehem with the Unborn Christ Child, to fulfill prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah. The name “Bethlehem” means “house of bread”. Mary carries within her “the bread of life” – and this Unborn Jesus who is “the Bread of Life”, will be born here for us. He is the “the true bread from heaven” (Jn 6.32) sent into the world for our nourishment and Salvation!
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman…”
The Lord God said to the serpent….“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.”
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
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 to his own home.
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun…she was with child…And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child…she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron……and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God…And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle…The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman…But the earth came to the help of the woman… and swallowed the river…Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.
Painting of Virgin Mary, Croatia, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, Rector’s Palace
The angel Gabriel’s words in Nazareth: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1,28) also cast light on the scene at Calvary. The Annunciation comes at the beginning, the Cross signals the fulfillment.
At the Annunciation, Mary gives human nature to the Son of God within her womb; at the foot of the Cross, she welcomes the whole of humanity within her heart in the person of John. She was Mother of God from the first moments of the Incarnation, and she became the Mother of humanity during the final moments of the life of her Son Jesus on earth.
She, who was without sin, on Calvary “experienced” within her own being the suffering of sin that her Son had taken upon himself to save humankind. At the foot of the Cross on which was dying the One whom she had conceived at the moment of her “yes” at the Annunciation, Mary received, as it were, a “second annunciation”: “Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn 19,26).
Filed under: Incarnation, Mary, Quotes from Great Christians, The Eucharist, Unborn Jesus
“Now Jesus Christ, God and Man, enters into us and enacts a mystery similar to the one wrought in Mary’s womb….the Eucharist passes into our bodies and, uniting with us, prolongs, extends the Incarnation to each of us separately.
In becoming incarnate in the Virgin Mary, the Word had in view this incarnation in each one of us, this Communion with the individual soul; it was one of the ends for which He came into the world.
Communion is the perfect development, the full unfoldment of the Incarnation, as it is likewise the completion of the sublime sacrifice of Calvary, renewed each morning in the Mass….without Communion the Sacrifice would be incomplete. Thus the Body of Jesus Christ is united with our body, His Soul with our soul, and His Divinity hovers over both.”
St. Peter Julian Eymard Holy Communion
“So much can be gained by reflecting on the way Mary learned from Jesus!
From her very first “fiat”, through the long, ordinary years of the hidden life, as she brought up Jesus, or when at Cana in Galilee she asked for the first sign, or when finally on Calvary, by the Cross, she looked on Jesus, she “learned” him moment by moment.
Firstly in faith and then in her womb, she received the Body of Jesus and then gave birth to him. Day after day, enraptured, she adored him. She served him with solicitous love, singing the Magnificat in her heart.”
Filed under: Incarnation, Mary, Mother of the Lord, The Incarnation, Unborn Jesus
We read about the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary in Lk 1:26-38. This event, mystically linked with Mary’s conception of Jesus Christ immediately afterward, is the ultimate intervention of God in the life of an individual. With the Incarnation of God, the world and humanity were instantaneously and radically changed forever. Let us consider for a moment how Mary was directly impacted by this singular event. Following are ten blessings Mary received during this event:
Blessing of Angelic Visitation (Lk 1:26-27): The angel Gabriel “was sent from God” and appeared to Mary. Gabriel is a unique angel, an Archangel “who stand in the presence of God” (Lk 1:19). His appearance to a human being was, in and of itself, a profound and deep act of Divine blessing.
Blessing of Divine Election (Lk 1:26-28, 30): Mary had been chosen by God for an unprecedented role, or office, in Salvation History; Mother of the Son of God, Mother of the Savior of the World, the First Christian.
Blessing of Announcement (Lk 1:30-33): The Incarnation Mystery is announced first to Mary. She represents humankind and is entrusted with this Divine Message for safekeeping. But more, what is announced almost simultaneously occurs through a Divine act within her physical body. The Announcement “takes flesh” within her.
Blessing of Illumination (Lk 1:31-33, 35): Gabriel explains the meaning of the message, the truth of the Incarnation. “…his name Jesus…the Son of the Most High…the throne of his father David…reign over the house of Jacob…his kingdom…the Son of God” and conceived by “the Holy Spirit”. These are theological concepts of uncharted prophetic and intellectual import; like Divine sunbeams penetrating her heart and intellect.
Blessing of Conception (Lk 1:31, 35): We might almost say that there are two consecutive “annunciations” to Mary; 1. Gabriel appears to her, 2. The Holy Spirit overshadows her. In the first she conceives the Word in her heart, in the second she conceives the Word in her womb (as the Fathers of the Church observed). She is transformed for eternity, from “handmaid of the Lord” to “Mother of God”, by one sublime act of Divine Intervention.
Blessing of the Divine Presence (Lk 1:31, 35): At the moment of the Incarnation, God is present with Mary with an intensity and reality beyond human comprehension or explanation. As Mother, she enjoys the real physical Presence of God, as First Christian, this Presence imbues and directs her daily life.
Blessing of Prophetic Fulfillment (Mt 1:20-22): A lengthy list of Messianic prophecies, beginning with Gen 3:15 and running down through the centuries, were fulfilled within the womb and being of Mary in that very moment of “the fullness of time” (Eph 1:9-10), on that very first day of the “new creation” (II Cor 5:17). When Gabriel announced the redemptive name of “Jesus” to Mary, our Redemption was already upon us.
Blessing of Encouragement (Lk 1:30, 37): Gabriel gave Mary two personal messages of encouragement and strengthening; 1. “Do not be afraid…you have found favor with God.” and 2. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” This was an immediate blessing to Mary, but also a touchstone message for the rest of her life, especially during those times of trial that would come upon her.
Blessing of Divine Guidance (Lk 1:36): Gabriel reveals to Mary the prophetic pregnancy of her kinswoman Elizabeth, which serves as a spiritual signpost for her new journey with God. Also, this news of God’s Divine intervention and activity in the world around her are a promise of a continuing guidance throughout her life.
Blessing of Remembrance (Lk 1:26-38): This foundational event, the Incarnation of Christ by the Virgin Mary, which defines Christianity, and the accompanying teaching message from Gabriel, which informs Christianity, were to be shared by Mary with the early Apostolic Church at the appropriate time. This was a sacred remembrance given only to Mary for the holy edification of the Christian Church for all time. This blessing was understood by Mary; “…henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).
Filed under: Mary
This is the 2nd of two reflections on the Assumption of Mary. (The first was entitled Revelation 11, the Assumption & Unborn Jesus.)
It has often been said that there is no biblical basis for belief in the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Not withstanding the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (Gen 5:24, Heb 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-12) being taken up into heaven, and the tradition of Moses also being assumed into heaven (Deut 34:5-6), there is Revelations 12 which is a stunning presentation of a fait accompli; Mary was assumed – and here she is! (Rev 12 has many parts to it: Mary is pregnant, she delivers, she flees into the wilderness and “was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent…”)
The Assumption of Mary into heaven is a living testament to the Resurrection of Jesus and our resurrections into heaven. Because Mary is the first Christian, God deigned to demonstrate her resurrection in a unique manner (by virtue of the death and resurrection of her only Son). Just as Christ came into the world – to His Mother – in a singular fashion, so God has deigned that Mary should go to heaven – to her Son – in a singular manner.
St. Peter says: “…we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” (I Pet 1:3-4) Mary has embraced this glorious reality through her assumption into heaven. Who better to manifest this undefiled inheritance for all of us who journey forward, than Mary the Mother of Jesus Christ, and by extension in all truth, Mother of His (Mystical) Body (the Church) also.
The Christian life is a journey. A journey from this earth of trials to heaven and glory! Lest we get discouraged, God has given us many signs of hope for our journey. One of these hopeful signs is Mary our Mother following after her only Son, close to Him, just as she was on earth.
Vatican II spoke of Christ our Lord going before us: “He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning.” (Gaudium et Spes, #22). Mary followed Christ’s trail, following His signs, and leaving some of her own as well – a Mother’s prerogative – an extra effort on her part to ensure that none of her Christian children get lost along the way. In heaven Christ is waiting, arms outstretched, and nearby His Mother waits too, pointing the way to the Savior of the World. “Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein!” (Rev 12:12)
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple…. Rev 11:19
Above is the last verse of Revelation chapter 11. The next verse, the first verse of chapter 12, begins to narrate the portent of the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child….”
But there is a continuity here from Rev 11:19 to Rev 12. Mary is the “new ark” of the New Covenant”. What made the old ark in the Old Testament especially valuable was its contents. So too with Mary who was with child; containing within her the Unborn Savior of the world.
Numerous biblical scholars, theologians and Bishops have found a remarkable parallel between Old Testament accounts of the ark of the covenant (Sam 6:1-13, and elsewhere) and the Incarnation /Visitation accounts in Luke. (See Unborn Jesus Our Hope, Chp. 2, footnote 13.) So, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, carrying Unborn Jesus within her. She is also the Woman clothed with the sun.
There is within Christendom the ancient tradition that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul, and in a prophetic sense, Revelations 12 confirms that tradition, bearing witness to the reality of it. Read Rev 11:19 again. Here is one possible interpretation of Rev 11:19: Then God’s temple in heaven was opened and Mary, the pregnant Mother of Jesus our Savior stood within the temple. Perhaps this is heaven’s version of a Nativity scene; a revelation of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ (within the new Ark). Note: Mary is Not Divine, she is Not worshiped, it is Not her temple! She is privileged however, as the faithful and ever-loving Mother of Jesus Christ, to be with Him always in a special manner; and in Rev 11:19 He is her unborn baby.
Humanity’s “solitary boast”, as William Wordsworth would say of her (‘The Virgin’, Ecclesiastical Sonnet XXV).
There is a beautiful teaching in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians about God’s peace:
“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:7
We find this peace first and foremost in the Person of Jesus Christ – even when He was an infant, a little baby. Just after the birth of John the Baptist, when Mary was just about 3 months pregnant, Zechariah (the father of newborn baby John) proclaims the future prophetic role of his baby son. Zechariah also speaks of a time “when the day shall dawn upon us from on high….to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79).
That day had surely begun to dawn in Bethlehem. And so the angel of the Lord and the heavenly host which appeared to the shepherds in the nearby fields, ended their proclamation with these words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).
The shepherds go to the stable and worship the newborn Christ. Later the wise men come and worship as well. There is, in fact, a correlation between worshipping God and encountering the Peace of God.
After the shepherds left, Luke tells us: “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). The words and experiences were so deep and profound, that only her heart could touch them. Mary’s heart was at once, the vessel from which her worship poured forth and a receptacle for the breath of God’s Peace.
Mary was the first to touch that Peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding, or rather – the Peace of the Unborn Christ (and later newborn Christ) touched her, enveloped her pondering heart…guiding her “feet into the way of peace”…
“Let us imagine the Virgin’s state of mind after the Annunciation, when the Angel left her. Mary found herself with a great mystery enclosed within her womb; she knew something extraordinarily unique had happened; she was aware that the last chapter of salvation history in the world had begun.
But everything around her remained as before and the village of Nazareth was completely unaware of what had happened to her.
Before worrying about herself, Mary instead thought about elderly Elizabeth, who she knew was well on in her pregnancy and, moved by the mystery of love that she had just welcomed within herself, she set out “in haste” to go to offer Elizabeth her help. This is the simple and sublime greatness of Mary!”
In Numbers 13 the Lord instructed Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan to scope out the land and the people and the various fortifications around their cities. The spies went into Canaan and spent forty days there as the eyes of the Lord. They returned, but most of them were weak in their faith and gave pessimistic anxious reports of what they saw. Joshua and Caleb however, were true faith-filled spies and saw things more optimistically – they had a more inspired interpretation of the land, its inhabitants and God’s designs for Canaan and the chosen people.
Eyes, apparently are not enough to see clearly. The eyes function in unison with the intellect and the heart. Joshua and Caleb saw things as God wanted things to be seen and understood.
In a unique and singular sense, as the time for the Incarnation of the Son of God approached, – God’s radical invasion of our world – and then later during those initial months and years of the Incarnation, the Virgin Mary’s eyes were God’s eyes in Israel. Her outlook was dependable. As the angel Gabriel said to her: “…you have found favor with God” (Lk1:30). But more, for that particular time in the history of the world, God wanted maternal eyes scoping out the land and the people and sheltering His only-begotten Son.
Mary’s maternal eyes – and her maternal heart – were key to the Incarnation of the Son of God. She could see the will of God – she could understand the will of God as well as any human heart could fathom it. She became during those days – as Joshua and Caleb did in their own time – a Faith Leader for the people of God!
In our own time, we look to Mary and we must see in her this continuing role of Faith Leader for the Church. And more, as the Mother of Jesus Christ, she becomes a mystical Faith Leader for each member of the Mystical Body of Christ. She helps each member of the Church to see the Presence of God in His Church, she helps each one to see the unfolding designs of God for His Church, she encourages each one in following the Will of God. We can say that she understands the Incarnation and the Plan of Salvation and helps interpret these mysteries for us, in our individual lives.
When Mary reports to you what she has seen in God’s plan for your life – listen to her! She is only human, but 2000 years ago God specially equipped her for her role then and now in these latter times, God has specially equipped her for her new ongoing role within the Church, for now and for ever.
This is our sixth post in a series exploring the Creed of Christian faith being revealed to Mary during her pregnancy, trimester by trimester, event by event. We now come to the third trimester. Lk 2:1-7 explains that Caesar has inadvertently determined the place for the Christ Child to be born. According to the census (enrollment) ordered by Caesar, Joseph would have to travel to Bethlehem to fulfill his obligation. Mary (and Unborn Jesus) would accompany him.
Micah the prophet had prophesied this eventuality (see Micah 5:2, Mt 2:4-6):
“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.” Mt 2:6
Before hearing of the enrollment, Mary probably did not know for certain where her Son would be born. This news from Rome was like a piece of a puzzle, which enabled Mary to connect the dots and it is very possible she related the above text from Micah to her specific travel itinerary, and praised God. The verse not only identifies the place of the birth, but states that her Son will be “a ruler who will govern my people Israel”. Mary can now add this information to all of the prior information she had been receiving from angels (Gabriel and the angel of the Lord), remnant Saints (Elizabeth, Zechariah, Joseph) and the Holy Spirit. Now politicians and prophets are enlightening her concerning the Will of God and the mystery of the Incarnation.
It is worth noting also that during these nine months Mary clearly would have ascribed other Old Testament prophecies to her Son (and herself) and would have been thereby further enlightened. One example should suffice: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). If nothing else, she could derive from this verse the fact that she as virgin Mother held a Messianic office and the prophets through the centuries were preparing the people for this great dawning of the Messianic Age.
The third trimester ends when the child leaves the womb and is born. So we still have another third trimester event to consider. Mary and Unborn Jesus, along with Joseph, were turned away at the Inn “because there was no place for them”. Here is a profound message for Mary about the difficulty and rejection in store for her Son. Like many of the prophets before Him, her son would no doubt meet with some rejection. (Mary may have even gone so far as to possibly relate the Messianic Psalm 22 to her Son even now, before He had even been born: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”; verse 1).
So they end up in a manger, in humility, and she senses the meekness of God’s Plan for her Son, even now before He is born. She intuitively senses here in this manger, the order of Creation, and perceives that her Son has come indeed to restore a proper order to all things; from the animal kingdom to the angelic realms. She will no longer be heavy with child, but her heart will remain full of Incarnation truths and mysteries, both lived and believed.
We all know of Joseph’s dilemma. But when did this occur? Mary (and Unborn Jesus) probably returned to Nazareth after visiting Elizabeth (unborn/newborn John) and Zechariah, just as the second trimester of Mary’s pregnancy was getting underway. The first page of the New Testament presents this huge problem and holy solution: somehow Mary “was found to be with child” (Mt 1:19). An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream:
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”.
Joseph does as the angel instructs him. And he tells Mary what he was told by God’s messenger. This is the pattern, each person drawn into the Messianic Mission shares his or her inspiration or spiritual experience with Mary (or she in fact witnesses it) and as John Paul II says “Mary is the contemplative “memory” of the Church…” Message for 77th World Mission Day #3. She cherishes the revealed information within her heart and memory. Let’s consider four points from the angel’s instruction.
“Son of David” – this is how the angel addresses Joseph. It is as if Joseph is given a “Messianic office” while he will faithfully do the will of God, parenting the true Son of God. Mary can see in this the supernatural dignity of Joseph’s role as adoptive father of her son. Her relationship with Joseph is solidified and they will act as a team, in harmony with God who is closely watching over their lives. Thirty years hence, Joseph’s son will be called by the same title on many occasions (Mt 9:27, 12:23, 21:9, Mk 10:48). This title then is shared between father and son; perhaps Mary sensed that this would be one of her son’s titles.
“Holy Spirit” – this reference to God is a New Testament term, and here it is on the very first page of the New Testament, revealed for the world to hear, by the angel of the Lord to Joseph. But the same term, “Holy Spirit”, had already been spoken to Mary in the same context, by Gabriel. For Mary this is not a coincidence, not even a mere confirmation, it is a holy revelation of the first order – it was fitting that it was revealed to Joseph not by human lips, but by the breath of an angel, commissioned to deliver the message for the glory of God and for the particular good of Mary and her Unborn Son. The angel’s words to Joseph were a sign for him, a sign for Mary and a timeless sign for the universal Church.
“Jesus” – we spoke earlier about this name. Mary sees here the intimate detail revealed to her alone thus far, now being shared by God with one other special person. The family of three is now complete, built up around this Name, this Person; “Jesus”.
“He will save his people from their sins” – finally, here is the reason for the Incarnation, the reason for this Messianic Mission! This is a supernatural remedy for the fallen condition of humanity. Adam and Eve’s misdeeds will be undone by this Savior. Mary is given a ringing proclamation to ponder, a motto for her life which will always give perspective to every event, every question, every hope. Mary can read between the lines here and see one word loud and clear: MERCY. Her Son, as Savior, will embody God’s Mercy.
The early Creed of Christianity, in its embryonic statement is taking shape within the heart of Mary, encounter by encounter, methodically, trimester by trimester. But one other sign came to Mary during this second trimester, not mentioned in the bible, but mentioned by every woman who has ever carried an unborn baby to term; the Unborn Son of God poked her, pushed at her, prodded her – with His hands, His feet, even His elbows – what did she think of that?
Mary and Elisabeth Meet Zachariah Lorenzo Salimbeni
Luke 1:56 tells us that Mary (and Unborn Jesus) stayed with Elizabeth (and unborn John) and Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah for three months. Most spiritual writers through the centuries have understood this to mean that Mary was present for John’s birth (and for the circumcision and naming of John eight days later). In fact, many believe that it was Mary who told Luke the details of these various events – or if not Mary directly, that Luke learned of them through a Marian tradition.
The priest Zechariah was the first representative of Israel to be informed of the immediate coming of the Messiah. See Lk 1:5-25. When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah he received but a lukewarm reception. Gabriel was not impressed and struck Zechariah silent, unable to speak. Nonetheless, Zechariah would have relayed the words and events in a written form to his wife Elizabeth and also to his guest and relative Mary (especially since Mary was the mother of the Messiah).
Mary would have been immensely interested in every word that Gabriel spoke. While most of the angelic message was actually about the son Elizabeth would bear, there were multiple references to the Lord (v. 15, 16, 17). Curiously, and in light of Gabriel’s next visit to a representative of Israel – that is, Mary in Nazareth – each of these references to “the Lord” could be understood also as references to Jesus. (Recall Elizabeth’s later comment when Mary arrived: “And why is this granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” v.43)
All of these references to “the Lord” revealed that there would be a period of preparation during which John would have a tremendous ministry to the people of Israel. One reason this is significant is because it indirectly predicts the early success of “Christianity” within Israel (for example on Pentecost and following). At any rate, this was an optimistic message from the angel about what was to come, albeit, within an indefinite time frame.
Not only was Gabriel’s message to Zechariah very optimistic, but Gabriel even described it in a telling phrase: “I was sent…to bring you this good news” (v. 19). This characterization by God’s messenger of what is coming, confirms in Mary’s mind that God’s Mercy is at work and is a wondrous force for good and blessing. But perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Gabriel’s message was when he said of Elizabeth’s son: “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (v. 15). This explains the mystery of John leaping for joy when the Unborn Christ approaches him and Mary greets Elizabeth. Would Mary remember that spectacular event more than thirty years later when she was in the Upper Room with the early Church on Pentecost Day when the Holy Spirit would fill each member of the Church? (see Acts 1:13-14, 2:1-4).
Finally after the baby’s birth, when Zechariah obediently names his son John – according to Gabriel’s instructions – Zechariah is now filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks! He proclaims what we now call the Benedictus (Lk 1:67-79). Zechariah points to the mystery of Salvation that is dawning upon Israel. He speaks of Christ as “a horn of salvation” raised up by God Most High. Mary is nearby with this “horn of salvation”, the Christ, growing within her womb (unbeknownst to the neighbors gathered around for the blessed ceremonies). Zechariah confirms that all of this is “as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” – a phrase reminiscent of the Nicene Creed reference: “We believe in the Holy Spirit…He has spoken through the prophets”.
So once again, Mary is the recipient of all of this Divinely inspired information about the Messiah, His mission, the meaning of it, the supporting characters involved and so on. Mary’s heart is like a holy depository of sacred Messianic information. Mary – because God has called her to this function, as part of her “office” as the mother of “the Son of God” – is now the filter, the arbiter of the message of salvation, carrying it within her heart, to deliver at the appropriate time (while she carries the Christ within her, to be delivered after nine months).