Mother Mary: At The Centre Of The Pilgrim Church

By Leon Bent —

Jesus’ mother, Mary, did not directly receive apostolic mission. She was not among those whom Jesus sent “to the whole world to teach all nations” (cf. Mt. 28:19), when he conferred this mission on them. But she was in the Upper Room, where the Apostles were preparing to take up this mission with the coming of the Spirit of Truth: she was present with them. In their midst Mary was “devoted to prayer” as the “mother of Jesus” (cf. Acts 1:13-14), of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

And that first group of those who in faith looked “upon Jesus as the author of salvation” (Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 9), knew that Jesus was the Son of Mary, and that she was his Mother, and as such she was, from the moment of his conception and birth, a unique witness to the mystery of Jesus, that mystery which before their eyes had been disclosed and confirmed in the Cross and Resurrection. Thus, from the very first moment, the Church “looked at” Mary through Jesus, just as she “looked at” Jesus through Mary. For the Church of that time and of every time, Mary is a singular witness to the years of Jesus’ infancy and hidden life at Nazareth, when she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19; cf. Lk. 2:51).

As the Council says, “Mary figured profoundly in the history of salvation…. Hence when she is being preached and venerated, she summons the faithful to her Son and his sacrifice, and to love for the Father.” Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 65.

For this reason, Mary’s faith, according to the Church’s apostolic witness, in some way continues to become the faith of the pilgrim People of God: the faith of individuals and communities, of places and gatherings, and of the various groups existing in the Church. It is a faith that is passed on simultaneously through both the mind and the heart. It is gained or regained continually through prayer. Therefore, “the Church in her apostolic work also rightly looks to her who brought forth Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, so that, through the Church Christ may be born and increase in the hearts of the faithful also” (Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 65).

This article is meant to explore and underscore the role of Mary in the mystery of Christ and her active and exemplary presence in the life of all Christians. “It is precisely this bond between humanity and Mary that, has led me to proclaim a Marian Year in the Church” (Redemptoris Mater, 272.)

“God, the Father, wishes Mary to be the Mother of His children until the end of time, and so, says to her: “Dwell in Jacob, that is to say, take up your abode permanently, in my children” (St. Louis Marie de Monfort, True Devotion).

“Mary’s role in the life of Christ and Christians, as that of Mother, is the reflection and extension of her Motherhood of the Son of God” (Redemptoris Mater, 279).

What does Mary mean to us, today?

Mary appeared as Mother on two occasions in Luke 8:19-21; 11:27-28); on both occasions, the Gospel writer emphasizes her continuity of Discipleship. Luke 11:27-28 is a beatitude on Jesus’ Mother. A woman in the crowd cries out: “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you were nursed. Jesus’ replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Mary did this to the fullest extent possible. Hence, she is a Model and Mother of Christian Discipleship.

Mary at Centre of Salvation History

Further, the study of Mary has shown that she has a pivotal place in the life of every Christian. “She stands at the centre of Salvation history. Mary, as we have seen, is the Mother of Christian Discipleship” (Raymond Brown, ed. Mary in the New Testament, New York: Paulist Press, 1978); William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Philadelphia: Westminister, 1975; Joseph A. Grassy, Mary, Mother and Disciple: From the Scriptures to the Council of Eohesus, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc.1988; Joseph Neuner S.J., and Heinrich Ross, The Teachings of the Catholic Church, Cork: Mercier Press, 1967).

Mary is the Mother of humankind in the order of grace (See Lumen Gentium, 61). In conceiving her son she conceived the whole Christ, she conceived the Mystical Body of Christ. At the foot of the Cross, she was commissioned to become the spiritual Mother of humanity in general and of all disciples in particular. Her new maternal responsibility of developing and nurturing the spiritual life of the Church can only be fulfilled by the actual experience of redemptive grace by her children. This she did in a phenomenally singular way by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour, in restoring supernatural life to souls (See Lumen Gentium, 40). In this, Mary had a privileged but dependent cooperative role in the transmission of life. It is a mediating maternity and in the Pauline sense, a co-redemptive one.

Mary’s spiritual motherhood is defined as a supernatural activity, received and subordinate, in the work of the redemption of another human being, by which a created person receives and transmits to another person the divine life. Spiritual maternity presupposes divine paternity and human fraternity (Blessed Virgin Mary: Unique Co-operator in the Redemption, Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil C.SS.R., July 29, 2008). That is why Karl Rahner rightly stated: “Christianity is the only religion that needs a Mother.”

The divine mystery of Salvation is revealed to us and continues in the Church. Mary’s role is primarily as Mother and associate of Christ, but simultaneously, she is the representative of humanity and type of the Church. Mary as a wholly unique member of the Church, shares with us her experience of the redemptive grace of her Son. Mary is our role model and a type of the Church and humanity because she, by her maternal compassion shared in the suffering of the Redeemer See DE MARGERIE, “Can the Church Define Dogmatically the Spiritual Motherhood of Mary? Objections and Answers,” Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. Theological Foundation Towards a Papal Definition?, ed. M. I. Miravalle, Santa Barbara, 1995, p.194.

The phrase “born of the Virgin Mary,” implies more than the fact that Mary is the Mother of the Lord. It gives the Son of God his earthly, and fleshly, existence. Our Lady became mother. It was in her flesh and through her faith that the eschatological event of salvation took place. Mary, then, appeared as the perfectly redeemed. This concept of perfect redemption is dynamic rather than static. It is open to a continued growth in understanding.

In her earthly life and in her life now in glory, Mary serves as the eschatological bridge, linking the “already,” of God’s saving action with the “not yet fully,” of our earthly lives. Her life can be seen as the mingling of the water of her humanity and the wine of Christ’s divinity, so that we may participate in divine life in the fullness of our redeemed humanity.

Lean Bent is an ex-Seminarian and studied the Liberal Arts and Humanities, and Philosophy, from St. Pius X College, Mumbai. He holds Masters Degree in English Literature and Aesthetics. He has published three Books and have 20 on the anvil. He has two extensively “Researched” Volumes to his name: Hail Full of Grace and Matrimony: The Thousand Faces of Love. He won The Examiner, Silver Pen Award, 2000 for writing on Social Issues, the clincher being a Researched Article on Gypsies in India, published in an issue of the (worldwide circulation) Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, New Delhi.