The following article is from the Echoes of Faith® program. Echoes of Faith is a video assisted catechist training program that was developed by the National Conference of Catechetical leadership (NCCL) and RCL Resources for Christian Living®.
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Mary in the Church
By Rev. Robert J. Hater, PhD
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you!
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
For centuries this prayer has encapsulated the meaning and the place of Mary for millions of believers all over the world. The role of the Virgin in our history, and in our lives, is reflected in the beautiful stories of the annunciation and birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. These stories have some differences as to detail, but the reality and truth that they reflect is the same, that is, that Jesus is fully human and fully God and Mary was an integral part of his earthly existence.
God sends angels to announce the coming of Jesus in each of the Gospels. Luke has the angel go directly to the Virgin. “Greetings, favored one,” the angel says, “The Lord is with you . . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you . . . The child born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:28, 35). In what has become one of our greatest assertions of faith, Mary responds to the angel, “Here am I, the [handmaid] of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Whenever God sends angels as messengers to people, it is a sign that we need to pay attention to the unfolding of a great mystery. In the case of the conception and birth of Jesus, the Gospels alert us to the depths of unknowing that swirl around the Good News of Jesus’ human birth. The consistent doctrine of the perpetual Virginity of Mary speaks for the Church’s uncompromising faith in the greatness of God’s love and power to enter into our lives in a myriad of surprising ways.
Mary was the first witness to Jesus, and his first disciple. She was chosen to be the Mother of God, and God gave her special gifts. The greatest gift given to her was to be completely filled with grace. That is, she was conceived without original sin and, because of her special relationship with Jesus; she was preserved from all sin throughout her life. The great love and devotion of Mary to Jesus, and Jesus to his mother, made it fitting that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven to sit next to her Son.
What is often overlooked in the relationship of Mary and Jesus is her persistence and teaching of Jesus so that he would truly claim his own power. For example, in the Gospel of John, Mary challenges Jesus to begin his ministry. In the beautiful passage of the Wedding at Cana, Jesus is moved by the passion of his mother’s faith in him to turn the ordinary waters of life into the deep rich wines of a shared life (John 2:1–12).
The great depths of this mystery of faithfulness in the Sacred History of our Redemption places the Virgin in a special role as the Mother of the Church. Through her heartfelt assent to God, and her firm and loving hand in guiding the Christ child to adulthood, Mary is truly the Mother of All Believers. Jesus has gifted us with the presence of the Virgin as our Mother in Heaven. In her special relationship to Jesus, she intervenes in our behalf, she prays for us, and we can send our needs and prayers to her to give to her Son. This unique holiness that is Mary’s comes from Christ and from her unyielding desire to do the will of God. The Virgin was one of us, a human being born of a woman, and struggling to understand her role in the world.
We are inspired by Mary, though, because her dramatic YES! to God’s invitation models for us the holiness each one of us is called to by our Baptism in the Lord. With the help of our Heavenly Mother, we can aspire to have meaningful and holy lives as we walk with Jesus’ people today. Mary models for us how we ought to live our lives in a world too often filled with injustice and pain. It is, then, Mary’s total life of trust and faithfulness of God’s presence and commitment to her child, family, and community that captures our hearts and minds and truly places the Virgin at the very center of our lives as believers.
Mary is the Mother of the Church . . . truly the Mother of all believers.
loving Virgin Mary,
never was it heard
that anyone who turned
to you for help
was left unaided.
Inspired by this
confidence, though burdened by my sins,
I run to your protection for you are my mother.
Mother of the Word
of God, do not despise
my words of pleading
but be merciful
and hear my prayer.
How does Mary serve as a model for you in your life?
Reverend Robert J. Hater is a nationally recognized teacher, writer, and speaker on topics of theology, religious education, and pastoral ministry.
This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith, I Believe, We Believe, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 1997.
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