The Virgin Mary: Mother of The Church and Exemplar of The Journey
Mary, virgin and mother, is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church (CCC 507).
Icon of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child
It is a privilege to be born in this time, a time which John Paul II refers to as "salvation time": in the fullness of time the Father sent his Son, the eternal Word who assumed human flesh and dwelt among us (see John 1:1, 14). This 'fullness,' notes John Paul II, "marks the moment when, with the entrance of the eternal into time, time itself is redeemed, and being filled with the mystery of Christ becomes definitively 'salvation time.' Finally, this 'fullness' designates the hidden beginning of the Church's journey" (RM 1).
This "hidden beginning" of the Church's journey originated inside the holy, grace filled womb of the Virgin Mary (see Luke 1:28), when the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, by the power of the Holy Spirit, assumed human nature and became Jesus the Christ. At that moment, Mary became the Mother of God and the Mother of the body of Christ. Thus Mary of Nazareth is the Church's own beginning (RM 1). The Church, explains John Paul II, "proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary (RM 2), who 'advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross'" (LG 58).
Just as Mary cannot be understood apart from her Son, the journey of the Church cannot be understood apart from Mary. For the Virgin Mary is, by her fait, the first Christian and the first disciple. Further, she is the spiritual mother of all the children of God, given us by our Savior from the Roman cross: "when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, 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 into his home" (John 19:26-27).
John Paul II observed that the Blessed Virgin Mary's "exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, for individuals and for communities, for peoples and nations and, in a sense, for all humanity" (RM 6).
The Pilgrimage of Faith: No Room For Doubt
In reflecting on the Virgin Mary's pilgrimage of faith, we learn a great many things. First and foremost, we see her total commitment to the Father's will. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Mary spoke these words in filial trust even though she did not yet fully understand the Father's plan of salvation. She did not yet know the trials, pain and sorrow she would face as the mother of the redeemer; nevertheless, in complete abandonment, Mary fully assents with both intellect and will to the salvific plan of God.
It is important to recognize that Mary gave her fiat in a condition of incomplete knowledge -- because Mary is not divine, but rather completely human, she lacked total understanding of God's plan. We could say that Mary's fiat was given in partial "darkness," for she could not, as a created being, enjoy the total "light" of a supernatural intellect. Nevertheless, the human condition of finite "knowing" is not a problem for Mary, for she assents unreservedly and eternally to the will of God.
Here we arrive at a distinction which applies to contemporary Christendom: the difference between doubt and difficulty. It is perhaps safe to say that there are no Catholics who do not experience some difficulty with a particular tenet of the Faith. But there are, however, many Catholics and other Christians who doubt, which is altogether different -- in fact, it is a problem which can inflict great harm.
For our purposes here, difficulty is best defined as incomplete understanding. There may be any number of doctrines of the Faith which we fail to completely understand -- that is why they are called "mysteries." Examples might include the Holy Trinity, the transcendence of the Father, or the change of substance from wheat bread to the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ during the consecratory prayer at Mass -- an effect termed as transubstantiation.
There is nothing wrong per se with a lack of understanding -- although we should strive to correct the situation insofar as is possible through study. Where we do go wrong, however, where we do fail to follow the path which Mary has trodden, is when we choose to doubt what God has revealed. For doubt is very different from difficulty. In the context of faith, to doubt is to reject, to ...
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