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Mother of the Redeemer

By Deacon Keith Fournier

"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). This tender scene speaks to us of the depth of the Love which inspires, informs, and transforms all human love, the Love Incarnate who gives us His Mother.

Christian Art and the Tradition of the Church are filled with reflection on the profound mystery and implications of this gift of a Mother named Mary to the Church. She was a real mother who was privileged to, (along with Joseph), raise the One who lived within her for nine months after He was born. In her presence and with her human influence, the biblical texts tell us He "grew in wisdom and stature" in His Sacred humanity (Luke 2:52).

In the undivided Church, East and West, for the first 1,000 years, devotion to and love of Mary was a shining light of the profound prayers, reflections and writings of the Christian Church. When  one probes the lives of Augustine of Hippo, Bernard of Clairveaux, Therese of Liseux, the late Theresa of Calcutta and so many others within the western Christian tradition.

 Jesus called her "Mother" and he entrusted her, as one of his last and greatest gifts to his beloved disciple and to the entire Church with these tender words of entrustment in the Gospel of John: "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).

Mary was there at the Incarnation, Birth, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of God Incarnate. She was there throughout the often called "hidden years" in Nazareth. In the life of the Redeemer, every word and every act was redemptive, revealing as it does the very life of God, the mystery of heaven touching earth, and the deeper purpose of our own lives. She was there in those moments whose impact is timeless. They are still as filled with the invitation of grace today as they were when they first occurred.

She was there on the great day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. She was there as the first evangelizer and disciple who gave the first Christian testimony to her cousin, Elizabeth, and won the first convert "in utero" in the person of John the Baptist. This event, traditionally called "The Visitation," is recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke l: 39-45).

This encounter immediately follows the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:6-38) and is one of the fruits of her humble obedient response. That response was not a onetime reaction. It was the fruit of a life of surrender and stretched forward to characterize her whole life on this earth and her participation in the eternal communion of Saints. The Prayer of Mary is more about being than doing. It is about surrendered love to God.

Madonna and Child and the Young St John the Baptist - Sandro Botticelli - 1490-95

Madonna and Child and the Young St John the Baptist - Sandro Botticelli - 1490-95


Madonna and Child - Fra Angelico - 1433

Madonna and Child - Fra Angelico - 1433

Her "Fiat" (Latin, let it be done) in response to the visitation from the messenger of heaven, the angel, provides a pattern of prayer and a way to live for us. It immediately issues forth in the fruit of her praise, her "Magnificat." She said "Yes" to the invitation to love and she humbled herself. She confronted her own fears and she entered into a way of living. All of this was in continued response to an original invitation of love, a gift, initiated by a loving God.

It reveals the meaning of life for all men and women. God is not an "add on" to our life. Rather, He is its source and its summit. There is a way, a pattern that all men and women are invited into - not just once, but daily. It reveals the path to authentic peace and is the portal of the mystery of meaning itself. It is what Christian Scripture calls the "more excellent way," the way of love. Mary understood and walked this way with extraordinary humility (1 Cor. 12:31). She shows us the pattern of love surrendered to Love.

Is it any wonder that the early Christians painted her image in the catacombs during their moments of fear, persecution and doubt? They found great inspiration from this little woman of great faith. In her "yes" they came to understand that ordinary people can change human history. They were inspired to add their own "yes", their own "fiat" to hers.

Justin Martyr and many other early Christian apologists found in her "fiat", her obedient "yes" to the angel, the undoing of the "no-I will not serve" given by the first woman Eve. They called Mary "The Second Eve", the mother of a new creation. In her womb was carried the One whom Scripture calls the "New Adam", he was born from her as the first born of a new race of men and women who would find a new birth through His life, death and Resurrection.

That same Redeemer now resides within, and lives through, all those who respond to the invitation of Love like she did. Mary's choice, her response to the invitation of a God who always respects human freedom, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history. However, it is meant to be much more. It is an invitation to each one of us to explore our own personal histories and to write them anew in Him by exercising our own freedom by choosing the more excellent way.

Mary shows us the way to surrender to God's loving invitations in our daily lives; a path, to living a life of surrendered love. When we embrace it , It allows Love Incarnate, the Savior whom Mary bore to be, in a real sense, to be "incarnated" in and through each of us so that He can be given to others. We become "God Bearers."

We become the tent and the ark within which that same God takes up His residence, comes to dwell, in our age - which is so desperately needs His saving presence. When we begin to touch and grasp this profound insight we not only find ourselves transformed but learn how to become the vehicles through which Love is incarnated for all those around us. He comes to dwell in all men and women who say "Yes" to Him. "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him." (John 14:23)

Mary shows us how to participate in the ongoing incarnation of God's Love for the sake of world; to live redemptively, participating in the ongoing redemptive work of her Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

We are called to bear God to an age in need. In living this kind of surrendered life we are transformed and participate in the mediation of God's love to others. The ongoing creative and redemptive work of God's love continues through us. That is, if we learn to respond the same way Mary did: "Behold the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word."


More Mary, Mother of God



Appearances of Mary

Apparitions and Appearances

Apparitions and Appearances Image

The term "appearance" has been used with Marian apparitions and visions of Jesus Christ. The Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required by divine faith. Read More

Evaluating Apparitions

Evaluating Apparitions Image

A Roman Catholic approved Marian apparition is one that has been examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and has been granted approval by the local Bishop or the Holy See. Read More

Approved Appearances
Traditionally
Vatican
Bishop
Coptic
Un-Approved Appearances
Approval of Faith Expression
Unapproved Apparitions

Mary as Mother

Mother of God (TheotoKos)

Mother of God (TheotoKos) Image

From antiquity, Mary has been called "Theotokos", or "God-Bearer". The word in Greek is "Theotokos". The term was used as part of the popular piety of the early first millennium church. Read More

Daughter of the Father

Daughter of the Father Image

Mary is "full of grace," because it is precisely in her that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled. Read More

Mother of the Redeemer

Mother of the Redeemer Image

Mary was there at the Incarnation, Birth, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of God Incarnate. She was there throughout the often called "hidden years" in Nazareth. In the life of the Redeemer... Read More

Spouse of the Spirit

Spouse of the Spirit Image

Throughout God's relationship with Israel He promises to espouse His people to himself (See, e.g. Hosea 2:19). This language of spousal love, of nuptiality, is also present in this overshadowing... Read More

Mother of the Church

Mother of the Church Image

Since the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. She is acknowledged as... Read More

Mother of the Domestic Church

Mother of the Domestic Church Image

Mary is the mother of every domestic church, of every Christian family. She fully understands the naturally supernatural realities of family life because she lived them. Read More

Our Mother

Our Mother Image

I found that every one of the great influences in my Christian life from that communion of saints to which we are all joined was profoundly "Marian". Francis of Assissi, Bernard of Clairvaux... Read More



Mary as Model

Mary in the Scriptures

Mary in the Scriptures Image

Christian Scripture calls the "more excellent way", the way of Love. Mary understands this Way and walked on it with extraordinary humility. Follow her in journey through the Scriptures. Read More

Mary in the Tradition

Mary in the Tradition Image

To understand Mary in the Tradition of the Church we have to understand what is meant by the word "Tradition" - and why it matters. In his second letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul... Read More

Mary and the Councils

Mary and the Councils Image

A Bishop named Nestorius objected to the title of Theotokos, Mother of God or God Bearer for Mary. The Council of Ephesus met in 431AD and affirmed Mary was the "Mother of God"... Read More

Mary in the Liturgical Year

Mary in the Liturgical Year Image

The Second Vatican Council did not offer one particular document on Mary, the Mother of God. Rather, the Council fathers incorporated the meaning and mission of Mary, as well as her... Read More

Mary East and West

Mary East and West Image

Devotion to - and love for . Mary, the Mother of God, is a foundational part of the Christian Church both East and West. The Eastern Christian emphasis, both doctrinally and devotionally, is... Read More

Mary and the Early Fathers

Mary and the Early Fathers Image

Among the multiple and profound references to Mary, the Mother of God, found in the writings of the early Church Fathers is one of my favorites in the Cappadocian, Gregory of Nyssa... Read More

Mary and the Saints

Mary and the Saints Image

Among the titles given to Mary is "Queen of all the Saints". In one of his reflections on this woman whom he loved with such devotion, Blessed john Paul II proclaimed "This woman of faith... Read More


Mary as Disciple

Mary as Disciple

Mary as Disciple Image

We were made to give ourselves away to the Lord and, in Him, for others. Mary's choice, her response to the invitation of a God, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history. Read More

Handmaiden of the Lord

Handmaiden of the Lord Image

"I am the handmaiden (servant) of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word." (Luke 1:38) When Mary spoke those few words, human history was forever changed. Read More

Model of Holiness

Model of Holiness Image

From antiquity the early Christians reflected on a "mystery" of the faith- how the Incarnation of Jesus Christ came about through the free cooperation of this little Virgin of Nazareth... Read More

First Disciple

First Disciple Image

She was the first evangelizer and the first disciple of her Son Jesus. She gave the first Gospel testimony to her cousin, Elizabeth, without words, as the Redeemer in her womb drew the child in her womb... Read More


Way of Mary

The Message of Mary

The Message of Mary Image

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (The Gospel of Luke 2:34-37) Read More

The Meaning of Mary

The Meaning of Mary Image

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." "At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without... Read More

The Prayer of Mary

The Prayer of Mary Image

Mary's Prayer teaches us to stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows. Mary's way is to become an ark within, where the same God who became incarnate within her... Read More

The Song of Mary

The Song of Mary Image

"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you... Read More

The Titles of Mary

The Titles of Mary Image

From the earliest theological reflections in Christian history we find the defense of the most important of the titles of Mary, "Theotokos" in Greek. It is translated God-bearer... Read More


Mission of Mary

Mary and the Eucharist

Mary and the Eucharist Image

In a beautiful apostolic exhortation entitled the Sacrament of Love, issued in 1997, Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words under a section entitled The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary... Read More

Mary & the New Evangelization

Mary & the New Evangelization Image

Throughout his pontificate, Blessed John Paul II called for this "New Evangelization." Pope Benedict XVI made this a central pillar of his pontificate. He erected a Pontifical Council... Read More

The Path of Mary

The Path of Mary Image

Before they were called Christians (Acts 11:26), at Antioch, they were referred to as "the Way". A Rabbi named Saul spoke of persecuting "the way" (Acts 22:4) before he was profoundly converted... Read More

The Marian Moment

The Marian Moment Image

Over the last two decades a recovery of the significance of the life and witness of Mary has occurred among many Christians, even those who descend from the communities of... Read More

Mary's Mission

Mary's Mission Image

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother... When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son." Read More

Marian Prayer and Piety

Marian Prayer and Piety Image

Marian prayer and piety developed very early in the history of the undivided Christian Church of the first millennium. It has been kept alive in a myriad of piety practices in the both the Catholic... Read More


Message of Mary

What Does She Say?

What Does She Say? Image

The message of Mary is the message of the Gospel, to repent and believe the Good news. The message of Mary is conversion to Her Son by saying "yes" to God's invitation. That is the path to true... Read More

Marian Prayer and Devotion

Marian Prayer and Devotion Image

The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs the faithful on just how Mary prayed. Mary still prays. She has a special role in the plan of salvation and is a model for all Christians... Read More

Marian Consecration

Marian Consecration Image

To consecrate means to dedicate. It is used in reference to worship and means to be set aside or set apart for God. It is also a word which speaks to the very core of the Christian... Read More


Devotion of Mary

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary Image

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them... Read More

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary Image

My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed... Read More

Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary Image

But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered... Read More

Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary Image

While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory... Read More

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