As the feast of Christmas approaches some reflection on the Motherhood of Mary seems appropriate. As mother to Jesus she has carried him in her womb some nine months now, and the time approaches when she will give birth to him, will show him to the world. In this, she is not only his mother, but also his first evangelizer, holding up Christ for the world to see.

As mother to Christ she has the role of nurturing his human nature and caring for him in the most tender and intimate of ways. How magnificent and yet how human her motherhood is. Two strophes from music come to mind which illustrate the glory and the tenderness of Mary as Mother of God. The first is from a rather ancient source (the translation is my own):

Alpha et O (Alpha and Omega)
Matris in Gremio (is sitting in mommy’s lap)
–  From the Hymn In Dulci Jublio

Angels and Archangels may have gathered there;
Cherubim and Seraphim thronged the Air.
But only his mother in her maiden bliss;
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss
.
–  From the hymn “Ere the Bleak Mid Winter” by Christina Rosetti (ca 1872)

Yes, here is the mystery and the majesty of the Motherhood of Mary in all its humanness, and tender love.

And Mary is our Mother too. I am a witness of how she has helped by her prayer and intercession to nourish and care for Christ in me, drawing my infant faith in Jesus to a mature and adult faith. At an earlier time in my life when I struggled, rebellious against what I saw as an authoritarian Church and God (I was wrong), it was Mary and her tender motherhood who provided a way back for me. She, like she had done at Bethlehem and Cana, held Christ up for me to see. She clarified his role and both God and Man, Savior and Brother.

And in being a mother to me, she, who is also an image of the Church, showed also to me the Church as a tender, teaching and nourishing Mother.

Yes, Mary, Mother Mary. Mother to Jesus, and my Mother too. For she who gave birth to the head, also gave birth to the Body. I am by Baptism a member of the Body of Christ, and so she who is mother to Christ the Head, is also mother to me, a member of Christ’s body. And my love for her has deepened my love and reverence for Christ and also for the Church of which Mary is a beautiful symbol.

Blessed Isaac of Stella (Abbot) wrote this beautiful reflection:

The whole Christ and the unique Christ—the body and the head—are one: one because born of the same God in heaven, and of the same mother on earth. They are many sons, yet one Son. Head and members are one Son, yet many sons; in the same way, Mary and the Church are one mother, yet more than one mother; one virgin, yet more than one virgin.

Both [The Church and Mary] are mothers, both are virgins. Each conceives of the same Spirit, without concupiscence. Each gives birth to a child of God the Father…

In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary, and what is said in a particular sense of the virgin mother Mary is rightly understood in a general sense of the virgin mother, the Church. When either is spoken of, the meaning can be understood of both, almost without qualification….

Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.

From a sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella, abbot
(Sermo 51: PL 194, 1862-1863, 1865)

Mary is more than a Christmas ornament. She is Mother of God, Mother of Jesus and therefore our mother too. Let her give you a mother’s care this Christmas. For, in giving birth to Christ the Head, she also gives birth to His Body, the Church, and that includes you and me. In nurturing and holding Christ, she also holds you and me. In singing him a lullaby she also sings to us. And, as a Cana when she urged him to work his first miracle and begin his saving work, so does she urge us also to step out and witness to the power and majesty of Jesus her Son and our Lord and Head.

Let Mary show you a mother’s love this Christmas.

Here’s a little video I put together. The words to the song begin:

I saw a Maiden sitting
and singing unto her child, a little Lording
Lu-lay lu-lay my dear son, my sweetie
Lu-lay lu-lay My dear heart
My own dear darling

11 Responses

  1. Anthony Ekene Onyeahialam says:

    It is nice to read an article that focuses on the Motherhood of Mary alongside the underlying theme of Christmas.Our Lady will always remain the greatest example of the apostleship Our Lord Jesus calls us to; holding him and bearing him in our hearts for the world to see.
    Holy Mary,Mother of God,Queen of Apostles,Pray for us.

  2. Maureen says:

    Thank you for quoting Blessed Issac of Stella, one of my favorite Cistercian Fathers!

  3. RichardC says:

    Some very beautiful insights about and images of Mary.

    I was looking for this bible quote about Mary and ended up finding this:

    “But Mary, as St. Bernard justly remarks, is the channel (Serm. de temp on the Nativ. B. V. De Aquaeductu n. 4); or, if you will, the connecting portion the function of which is to join the body to the head and to transmit to the body the influences and volitions of the head–We mean the neck. Yes, says St. Bernardine of Sienna, “she is the neck of Our Head, by which He communicates to His mystical body all spiritual gifts” (Quadrag. de Evangel. aetern. Serm. x., a. 3, c. iii.).”

    from Ad diem illum laetissimum
    Encyclical of Pope Pius X on the Immaculate Conception, 2 February 1904.
    Mary, Mother of God and Men: sections 10-14 (paragraph 7)
    http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/marye5.htm

  4. MarkA says:

    Thank you for this piece, Monsignor. I love our Blessed Mother also. She brought me to her Son and am I’m consecrated to Him through her (on her Feast of the Assumption).

    Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix.
    Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

  5. Vijaya says:

    Love In the Bleak Midwinter … and the Lullaby. I didn’t get to know Mary’s loving direction until I consecrated myself (Feast of Annunciation). She’s my daily companion, a sure guide, always pointing the way to her Son. Our family is now consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Thank you for such a beautiful compilation of images and always, your words.

  6. edracruz says:

    Thanks for this, Monsignor.
    LORD JESUS CHRIST, our mediator with the FATHER, Who hast been pleased to appoint the Most Blessed Virgin, THY Mother to be our Mother also, and our Mediatrix with THEE, mercifully grant that whosoever comes to THEE seeking THY favours may rejoice to receive all of them through Her. Amen.

  7. toadehall says:

    My own favorite lines from hymnody at this time of year that bring Mary and Jesus into the sharpest focus for me:

    And that night so ever blessed
    When the Virgin Full of Grace
    By the Holy Ghost conceiving
    Bore the Saviour of our race
    And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer
    First revealed His sacred face
    Evermore and ever more….

    I could get lost in those words forever……

  8. Eileen McGinnis says:

    I was inspired many years ago to have a letter delivered to Pope John Paul II requesting that the words “and our Mother” be added to the Hail Mary after the words “Mother of God”. I was not expecting a response as I was just inspired to make the request. However, I noticed from that time onward in most of his writings and addresses the words “and our Mother” were included with the words “Mother of God”. Pope Benedict XVI more times than not also adds the words “and our Mother”. Three simple words added to the Hail Mary would
    speak volumes in this Year of Faith.

  9. Annette Strachan says:

    Not only for Christmas…The image of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians, is a gift to us, holding her Divine Son, Jesus,facing us, his eyes are on us, watching always, Mother and Child present with us. [But reflections can make it difficult for us to meet His gaze.]

  10. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    I have often felt that the one of the greatest gifts Christ gave us from the cross was the gift of his mother through St. John .
    I grew up in a family half Catholic-half Protestant. My mother and her family were all Protestants. My father and his whole family were all Catholic.
    As I was growing up some of my Protestant relatives kept challenging me to check things out in the Bible. I did. And found Mary far more important in the Bible than they were giving her credit for. Whether it was the Annunciation, the marriage feast at Cana, or her being given to us at the cross–it was clear to me, Mary wasn’t deserving of the “dissing” she was getting from them. And that started me on a trajectory toward the Catholic diaconate many decades later. May I always say –as Mary did to the angel: “Be it done to me according to thy word.”

  11. Anne Marie says:

    Tonight and tomorrow, will start the 33 days to prep for full consecration to Mary, as a woman who now is dealing with an aging human mother and now in the second half of my life, I realize I will have to begin to have my special relationship with her, she who said her “yes” to God and by both God’s word, the Bible and by her holy example that I too, must say my “yes” to God.

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