Mary stands in our garden holding her Son. Do we make too much of her?
We call Mary Mother of God in our prayers and creeds. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” She is “our life, our sweetness and our hope.”
We honor Mary because her role in the life and mission of Jesus Christ is beyond any other creature’s. We pray to her that “we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.” She leads us to him.
Mary, Witness to his Life, Death and Resurrection
Mary witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. She knew him, like Peter and the other disciples, but she knew him in a unique way. How do we know of Jesus’ birth and early life unless from her? She stood by the cross of her Son on Calvary. “She kept all these things in her heart and pondered over them,” St. Luke says. She was among the witnesses of his resurrection who gathered after he rose from the dead, the same evangelist states. Her memories of Jesus surely have a special place in the gospels.
Mary knew Jesus in a unique way. She knew him as his mother; he was subject to her as her son. When he began his public ministry and called disciples, she remained in Nazareth– although John’s gospel says she had a key role in his first miracle at Cana in Galilee, when he changed water into wine. As Jesus drew followers and performed great deeds, she was in Nazareth, living among those who mostly rejected him.
Mary was especially involved in two periods of Jesus’ life: his birth and early life at Nazareth, and his death on the cross and resurrection. Both periods belong mostly to his hidden life when his power was concealed. The Word of God humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, St. Paul says, hidden except from those with eyes of faith. Mary knew him by faith, and she guides those who walk by faith to know her Son.
Mary’s Mission in the Church
Mary has a special place in the communion of saints, who from their place in heaven, “guide us still.” When doubts and confusion occurred in the early church about the identity of Jesus, Mary was called on to give witness, and she spoke through the Spirit that Jesus, her Son, was both human and divine. By the 5th century, churches and feasts honoring Mary, the Mother of God, appeared throughout the Christian world.
Through the centuries Christians called on her to be their companion and guide in prayer and in faith. They recognized the graces she received and her place among the blessed. She was conceived without sin and assumed body and soul into heaven. She reveals the sublime destiny awaiting us, “poor banished children of Eve.”
Mary, the new Eve, “mother of all the living”, has a special role when her children’s faith is threatened. Her appearances in recent times of unbelief to children and ordinary individuals at Fatima and Lourdes raised their hopes, and those of the church, in the promises of Christ.
What about today? We seem to be entering an age when, in face of climate change, not only faith is God is questioned, but also faith in science and in the earth itself is shaken.
In the 14th century, when the Black Death took countless lives in Europe, Christians turned to Mary. They prayed the rosary. They planted Mary Gardens, reminders of Eden, where God blessed the first human family with blessings. Mary had a special role in renewing their faith in a God of Life.
Read again the Book of Genesis and other promises of faith, Pope Francis said in his Encyclical Laudatò Si, about climate change and the care of the earth. Mary is the woman of faith, who holds in her arms the God of Life.
She belongs in our garden.