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