A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. Revelation 12:1
First Saturday Talk for Padre Pio Nashville, 8/6/2022, Feast of the Transfiguration.
Mary, Mother of the Church
Thank you for inviting me back to the Padre Pio Nashville to speak to you again this year. I am honored to be here.
The topic that was given to me to speak on is “Mary, Mother of the Church.” An important, if not overwhelming topic given all that is going on in our world.
It may seem strange, but I would like to begin with the definition of what a Sacrament is. For the sake of clarity and brevity I will use the definition of a Sacrament from the Baltimore catechism.
“A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by God to give grace.”
And so in pondering that meaning, I now want to take you all the way back to the beginning of time, to creation. I promise, I will bring it back around to the message for today.
Prior to the fall of man, all of creation was in union with God. Adam and Eve were in union, with God, and the created things were in union with them and God as they held dominion over creation. We know, because scripture tells us, that they were naked and unashamed. They were full of grace. In essence, all that they were, could be described as sacrament because all that they were, held the grace of God from within. As the keeper of the garden all that Adam and also his wife Eve consumed was the food of God. They could tell a fig tree to produce fruit and it would, as all things in the garden were ordered to their purpose. It is why we see later in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus curse a fig tree, because it was not doing what it was made for. That unproductive tree is a product of the fall of man. In the garden, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed in need of no garment other than the sun that lit their way because there was no perversion. It was peace and harmony. They were in essence, clothed in the sun. Eden was a temple and they were tabernacles that housed the Lord inside of them. All of creation was an outward sign of God’s grace.
It is worth pondering what this would look like, being clothed in the sun. We can actually see things in the darkness that we cannot see in the brightest of light. If the sun shines brightly upon something at first you may see the flaws more clearly, but the brighter the sun gets, the more the flaws fade away in the brightness of the light until all you can see is the brightness and it can seem that you do not know where the thing begins and the sun ends, even as you know that the two are distinct. So it was for Adam and Eve that their purity and hearts shone so brightly that they were clothed in the sun and held dominion over creation. There were no flaws for the sun to blot out back then, it was just purity.
But then they fell. It occurs to me from reading scripture that the first capital sin that entered in their hearts was sloth or what is known as acedia. Why do I say this? Well, there are two reasons. First, the command of God to Adam was to “keep” the garden. So if his job is to keep it, it begs the question of how the serpent got in in the first place. It makes me wonder if Adam was resting in contemplation with God on the 7th day, thus was he, “keeping the Sabbath”, a foretelling of the third commandment? If he wasn’t, it is no wonder the serpent was in the garden in the first place. And Eve, well we know from her conversation with the serpent that she wasn’t listening to God, for when the serpent asks her about the trees in the garden, she answers with something God didn’t say.
God said, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Genesis 2:16-17
But when the serpent questioned Eve about what she was not allowed to eat, she answered;
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” Genesis 3:2-3
Eve adds in something that God did not say. It is here one can glean that the devil himself had flung the idea at her “not to touch it” and when she answered with what he had suggested, he knew Eve believed his lies. He could show God how lowly these human beings really are.
Perhaps Adam and Eve did not feel the need to pray because everything in the garden was good. What need does one have to pray when everything is going well and is good? Comfort can be a plague that keeps us from thanksgiving and gratitude.
And so we know the rest of the story of how Eve grasped at the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and Adam caved too. We know that this was a mortal sin because the council of Trent defined it as such. It was a grave matter, they knew it was grave, and they did it anyway. The enemy, who invaded the walls of the temple of Eden through their sloth and acedia, had trained them how to think, planting a seed of envy to be godlike in their unguarded minds.
And in a flash, they were naked and ashamed. The light that had once lit their hearts so brightly became dim and the darkened knowledge came upon them. They could see evil, which is to say their view became perverted. No longer was goodness all that they knew. I would venture to say that envy to be godlike as the serpent promised, breaking their trust in God, entered in through sins of the flesh, like gluttony and lust. For Satan cannot possess our soul, but our bodies he can wreak havoc with. While we may never know exactly what the sin was we do know that this was not the end of their wrongdoing.
God came looking for them. The God of the Universe who is love came looking for them. Are we to believe that he didn’t know where they were? And instead of seeking Him out and trusting His love, they hid. Then God questions them and they begin to blame one another. It is here that we see something unforgivable, they did not ask for the mercy of God. They chose pride, judgment and justification, over admitting their wrongdoing and asking for the mercy of God. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if they just asked for mercy? This rejection of the mercy of God when you commit a mortal sin is known as the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I used to not know exactly what Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit meant and I hoped I had never done it, but then I realized how many times I had in my past. How many times I didn’t go to confession in my past for mortal sin committed. God cannot give us His mercy if we don’t ask for it. This is something we choose to reject and it keeps grace from living within us. And if we die that way, it gains us hell. Thankfully, as long as there is breath in our bodies, we have a chance to turn back and repent and ask for mercy. God forgives when mercy is asked for.
It is in this moment for Adam and Eve, in the rejection of His mercy, that their offense against the infinitely good God, who is love, echoed through the generations, a sin of infinity because it is against infinite goodness and so it marks generation upon generation with original sin and concupiscence, which is our tendency towards sin.
Eden, their bodies, creation, had been stolen. His house had been a house of prayer but they had turned it into a den of thieves. They had let Satan steal the gift that had been given to them. They were no longer an outward sign of God’s grace. The Spirit no longer dwelt within, instead it in scripture we hear of the Spirit – “falling upon” people – as if clothed from the outside, like a garment of skin, which is what Adam and Eve were clothed in after the fall – waiting for the Son of Man to restore what they had torn in two. Waiting for Jesus so the Holy Spirit could once again dwell within instead of God holding everything together from the outside. How do we get back to being clothed in the sun? How could man possibly undo this offense of infinity? How do we get back to Sacrament? It is in pondering all of this that we can come to understand the importance of Sacrament, for it is not enough to simply say, “God is everywhere” and believe we don’t need the church. For though God holds everything together in His love, we have to choose Sacrament, to choose to consume holiness, for grace to dwell within us.
We can see the effects of the fall in the infinite marks we have for offending the goodness and mercy of God. It marks us in our minds, where Satan trains us to think, and in our hearts, where sin takes over, and in our hands and feet, when we act on disordered desire and sin. These are the wounds of Christ, and try as we may, before he came all of our meager attempts atonement fell short and covenant after covenant was broken.
But God in His infinite goodness and mercy, has a plan, one that is still in motion today. This plan was to include a “woman clothed in the sun,” as the Book of Revelation calls her, in order that we may be redeemed. He wanted for the participation of this humble human person in cooperation with His Divine person for our salvation.
God in His Divine providence, knew that only God Himself could atone for the infinite offense. Atonement is the reconstruction of the damaged relationship, a way if you will, for the Spirit to dwell within once again. So the second person of the Blessed Trinity came in the form of the Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sin. That is, He came to reconcile us to Himself. He did this through His death on the cross and His resurrection. But he entered into this world through the waters of the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary being birthed and taking on our limited human nature.
He didn’t do this without her. Though God could have just restored us to the state of original justice, He did not. In His Divine Providence, through the prevenient grace of the Cross and Resurrection, God created the Immaculate Conception. A woman, who like Adam and Eve in the beginning, is full of grace. Clothed in the sun, the Holy Spirit dwelling within her. The remarkable thing about Mary, the singular thing, is that though she is conceived as they were, she actually does know of evil in the sense that she can see it around her, she can touch it, if you will, but she never consumes it. She touches it with the sorrow of suffering for us. She can see it in other people. She knows she can be killed for saying yes to this pregnancy, which would be an evil. But because of her posture of constant prayer, she knows no evil in her heart or mind. She thinks no evil, speaks no evil, and acts no evil. Her body and soul are a house of prayer, one that the Lord Himself has “kept” in order that we may be saved. Still, she has free will to choose, and she gives her FIAT, her yes and her soul Magnifies the Lord.
This woman clothed in the sun, has full dominion. And it is truly remarkable to think about what she did. Because no evil is housed in her, all of these gifts she chose to use for love of us. She chose to repair the damage we had done with her Son. Her yes to God, agreeing to bring God into the world, caused her much suffering, suffering that would make most of us flee. But for Mary, it is the remarkable trust in God that she demonstrates. Adam and Eve didn’t trust the goodness of God because they didn’t ask for mercy, but Mary, she trusts completely and she becomes the Mother of Mercy. The Divine dwells within her, not only in her soul, but physically makes His home in her womb and in her Immaculate Heart. She will be fruitful and multiply so all generations call her Blessed. She is our Mother.
One of her titles is Our Lady of Ransom. In Jesus’ time when someone could not pay a debt they were often thrown in prison until the debt was paid. You may ask, how could a person in prison pay a debt? The answer is that their family repaid the debt. Jesus was born to pay this debt for us, and Mary helped with our ransom. The walk of Mary with Jesus to the crucifixion was her cooperation to pay the debt for us. And we can partake in this too, this is what her message today is. We can partake in her Son’s repairing.
Jesus came through Mary to sanctify all that we had given away to the enemy. He came to destroy the works of the devil. And He did this by sanctifying the things that had been stolen from us. He gave us a place, and outward signs, instituted by Him to give us grace, so that ultimately in the end, the end of our lives and the end of time, we would be sanctified, we would be clothed in the Sun at the resurrection of the body once again, creation itself would be healed. While we still see the devil at work today there truly is a message to pay attention to in the life of Mary and her relationship with Jesus.
The Divine person of Jesus, came through this grace filled human person to atone for our infinite offense in the garden that marked generations. Her womb, the space where the Divine Person and Human Person meet. Her Immaculate Heart, the consolation for His Sacred Heart. In Jesus and Mary we see the unity that we had lost in their gaze of love for one another. And all things they went through point to the church. Jesus is the Way and Mary is His Mother and Mother of the Church. The path of the Way set clearly before us.
Together, Jesus and Mary bring us back to Sacrament which purifies us to redeem us. We can see the path they laid out – and the reason it is a path instead of something instantaneous is because God wants our free will to participate freely. He wants us to choose. This is because you can’t really love unless you choose to. While the path is narrow, and the road is hard, when we hand ourselves to Jesus the yoke becomes easier and the burden lighter.
It starts with making your soul a house of prayer. It took me most of my life to figure this out. Though I had been raised Catholic, taught the truths of the faith, taught the prayers of the faith, I don’t know if I ever really knew how to pray in a way that converted me. I often said the prayers but without meaning, and if I ever really did try to converse with God, it was usually to beg him for something I wanted. It was actually through suffering that I got real with God and began to have a conversation. I began to no longer hide all my flaws and wounds. I became transparent with God. And His mother showed me how to pray.
One only need to look at Scripture and the few words that Mary spoke to understand that she is the pinnacle of Mount Carmel, like an unblemished cloud of needed rain, steadfast in prayer and belief. There are only 4 instances where Mary speaks in the Gospels. They are found in the Gospel of Luke and John.
The first instance is when the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her of the Divine Plan. In her innocence she asks one question to help her understand and once she does, her words of consent to the will of God are seared throughout the generations, “let it be done, according to thy word.” God speaks, and Mary receives. Can we say this of ourselves? I can’t tell you how many times God asked me to do something, from wearing a veil, to kneeling for communion, that I argued and fought with Him before I acquiesced. I used to only approach God in my own suffering and tell Him what I wanted. Now I know to ask Him what He wants. If only we all would try to understand what the church teaches and receive what God wants, the world would be transformed. We see in Mary, she only asks in innocence and in awe, not in unbelief, and immediately does what God asks. After the angel visits her, we see her leave from here to go to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Even in a situation where Mary could have remained troubled, she didn’t, the angel satisfied her question, and she turns to thinking of another when she learns of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary is not focused on herself.
The second instance of Mary speaking is her words to Elizabeth when she goes to visit her. And here she speaks the Magnificat. The beautiful prayer we all know and love. Her soul magnifies the Lord. Her spirit rejoices in God the Savior. This is a woman who trusts God completely. She even speaks of the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. Think about that for a moment. Abraham came 18 centuries before Jesus and yet Mary can proclaim confidently that the promises made to him will happen and are happening. She is not short-sighted as we often get. We often get stuck in our own little circumstances and world that we fail to miss the larger plan God is working. I don’t know how many times a situation with my kids or my husband has sent me into anxiety and worry. The devil keeps us busy looking down in distress, but Mary’s eyes are lifted toward heaven, never doubting in God’s promises. Can we say that of ourselves? I know I can think of many times when it’s only in hindsight I see His promises come true, but all along the way I doubted. I think this is why it is so important to take to heart the Words of Divine Mercy, Jesus I trust in you! Do we believe when we look at the state of the church right now that the gates of hell will not prevail? Or are we constantly scanning headlines to see which pit of despair we can fall into next. Are we so wrapped up in the day to day sufferings in our relationships that we forget to turn to the Divine Healer and let Him act? This trust Mary has extends even when she is distressed.
Which brings me to the next instance she speaks in Scripture where she expresses distress. This may seem baffling at first, but upon further examination we can see a reversal of what happened in Eden is already taking place before Resurrection. In Genesis, Adam and Eve hide because of their shame and God goes looking for them. In this instance, Mary who stands unashamed before God is with Joseph and they are looking for Jesus. They are looking for God. She stands in an understanding of what we go through in our hearts in suffering the feeling of absence, yet without sin. She expresses her distress straight to Jesus and Jesus points her back to the house of prayer, His father’s house, telling her, did you not know I would be in my Father’s house? In this exchange, again Mary is troubled. She doesn’t understand yet what is happening. Mary questions God, but always in a purity and innocence, not as if she doesn’t trust, never as if she doesn’t believe in His goodness. We learn from her how to converse with the Lord when we are distressed. Our questioning from lack of understanding is something the Lord understands. It doesn’t come from a place of pride where we think we know better, for that is when we get ourselves into trouble. I have had many conversations with the Lord in pride, and He always shows me just how wrong I am and it is always humiliating, but I know this humility is good for me. Our openness to correction is important, if we can’t hear correction, we are in trouble. In the situation with Jesus and Mary Jesus points Mary back to the Father and the house of prayer. His question of her is actually an assurance, “did you not know I would be in my Father’s house?”, is a way of letting her know that though she felt He was gone, He was never gone, He was exactly where He was supposed to be and she as His Mother is always in His Heart. For God does not abandon us, even when it feels as if He does. This is a message for us. When we look for God, we find Him in prayer. Even if our prayer receives no immediate response and we have to wait, we can be assured that God is handling the situation. Mary entered this situation in distress and left pondering these things in her own heart. How many times do we think God is missing in our lives, how many times are we in distress? Do we go to the Father’s house in search of him? Are we willing to wait for His answer? Do we ponder what he tells us in our hearts? Or do we distract ourselves with worldly pleasures never searching for God in our lives at all? Do we fill our distress with worldly pleasures? Do we even read scripture to know what He tells us, or do we just look at that as some ancient book? Mary didn’t do that. We have so many distractions. We can even distract ourselves with devotions (which are good, by all means), never really having a true conversation with God, never bringing our fears or our wounds straight to Him so he can help us better understand.
The final time we hear Mary speak is at the wedding at Cana. She recognizes that there is an issue, “they have no wine”, and wanting to intercede for the wedding couple she advises the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Knowing that whatever He tells them will be the right thing to do. She doesn’t know for sure that this would be His first public miracle. She doesn’t try to tell Him what to do, she asks Him, and then she lets God be God and advises others to listen to Him. And Jesus responds to the heart of a Mother’s concern for others, even though “his hour has not yet come.” Her intercession hastens God’s plan. Their love for one another is on display. He sees the purity of intention in her heart and the love with which she asks. She lets Him be the Savior and do what God does. How many times in our own lives are we trying to twist God’s arm wanting Him to do what we want rather than letting God act? I could totally see myself in this situation trying to run to the nearest vineyard to “fix” the issue. Mary knows that Jesus’ action is far greater than anything she could accomplish with mere human means. We need to ask ourselves daily, are we trying to control that which isn’t ours to control, or are seeking God, asking God, and making room for Him to act? To be clothed as Mary is, we must be willing to step back from a situation and not try to control everything. Let Jesus perform the miracle in your life. In today’s day and age, one glance at the headlines, or at social media can send you into a tailspin. But we need not despair, instead we need to go to God and “Do whatever He tells you.”
In these 4 instances of Mary speaking we can also see a prefigurement of the Sacraments of Initiation and confession. This is because the message of the Woman Clothed in the Sun, is the message of the Mother of the Church. The Sacraments are the way back to transforming union.
When Mary says yes to the angel Gabriel, “let it be done,” the second person of the Blessed Trinity enters the waters of her womb. For us, our yes to our baptism, and our yes for our children, opens the doors for us to become the children of God once again, to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we too, like Mary, are saying, Let it be done!
Our willingness then to be Confirmed in the Spirit enables us to go out to others the way that Mary went to Elizabeth and proclaimed that her soul magnifies the Lord. It is a Christian witness of the Good News that God has brought to us. Our souls can magnify the Lord!
Like Mary in her distress we can go in search of Jesus. But for us, it is His mercy we need because of our sins. Jesus calls us to the Father’s house to reconcile. While Mary needed no reconciling, we can be assured that, she held close to her heart and pondered in prayer, all of us, who need the mercy of the Son more than we can imagine. The Finding of the Child Jesus is a sorrow and a joy for Mary. Her sorrow is a sorrow for us when we are lost. Her joy is a joy for us when we find Him and reconcile with Him.
And finally, the wedding at Cana, Mary’s complete trust in “doing whatever He tells you,” brings the best wine. We need only look at the chalice on the altar after the words of consecration to understand this Eucharistic communion that is the marriage feast of the Lamb. When we receive this Sacrament in a state of grace, we truly allow God to act, to purify our hearts, minds, and souls. Overtime we make our way back to being clothed in the sun, that is to say, totally transparent and unashamed before God so He can work Divine Life in us. You can all see this sunshine when you come across a Saint or when you know someone holy. It is the real sacramental grace at work.
The words of Mary in Scripture are not to be outdone by her actions. In all that she did, in everyday life, she walked in the will of God, all the way to the Cross. In her purity, not having any sin on the cross of her own, she knew that the cross was needed for our sin. She knew that it was God’s will. She knew the human will needed to be nailed to a cross in order that we can be filled with the Divine Will. And she was given at the Cross to John, a Priest of Jesus Christ, through whom the Sacraments are brought to us. Every Priest has Mary as his mother, and all of us do too. The Priests through the power of Jesus Christ makes our food sacred again, so that we can once again consume God. And consuming God sanctifies us on our path back to union.
Mary’s message and the message of her Son is the Sacramental life and the life of prayer. She lets us know the Church herself is Our Mother. Following the teachings of the church, is to follow Mary our Mother. These are the things that transform you into the likeness of Christ. These are the things that ultimately help you nail your own human will to the Cross so that you can be filled with the Divine Will.
In today’s society there are so many evils surrounding us. We can all see them. The evil of abortion. The evil of confusing male and female. The evil of disordered so called “marriage.” This is the fruit of what Adam and Eve consumed. Eve consumed herself, Adam consumed Eve, what is wrought when we keep on this path is destruction. It is a devouring of ourselves. When we eat the Eucharistic communion without taking our sin to the cross but only show up in our own pride, we end up where we can’t even define what a male or a female is, where a woman has a right to kill a child, where confusion is a plague we feed our children. And the devil has stolen our identity, killed our life giving fertility, and destroyed the vestiges of truth. We are being devoured.
For those of us who do see, it is easy to find ourselves outraged on a daily basis. We wonder how we can fend off the attacks that seem to come from every angle. We watch as our children or relatives get sucked into the abyss of sin. We are standing at our own cross, not knowing what will happen. We have to be careful to oppose all this evil without wishing ill upon others, without judgment and condemnation of souls that isn’t ours to convey, but God’s alone. We, like Jesus on the cross, have to be willing to forgive, and here me now when I say this, we must forgive, even if someone isn’t sorry. This kind of forgiveness isn’t done by focusing on the works of the devil, but by looking up at the one who can heal us and believing that His power is stronger than the devils, because it is. Make no mistake. There is nothing happening today that God cannot handle and handle in a way that the most souls are saved; including our loved ones.
Our souls must become houses of prayer in relationship with the living God and purified by His Sacraments. In Acts of the Apostles chapter 7, just before Stephen is killed for proclaiming Christ, Stephen says, “the Most high does not dwell in houses made with hands.” He goes on to say, “what house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is my place of rest?” It is a question for all of us. Is your soul a house for the Lord?
Mary, in all of her apparitions, in all of her words and actions, she lights the way, full of grace and clothed in the sun. She beckons us to look up to the Father of Mercy and to purify our own hearts. While she has shown hell to the children in Fatima and given warning of war and evil in so many places if we don’t repent, it isn’t because she wants us to focus on fear, but because souls are lost in real time, and she wants us to embrace love. She is asking of us prayer and sacrifice for poor sinners, but in order to be able to do this, we have to be living a prayerful Sacramental life ourselves. We have to pull the planks out of our own eyes and heaven will give us the grace to be able to do this. She is asking for us to repair for what is being done because heaven wants sinners to be saved. She wants us to be transformed into love because love changes everything.
While we try every human possible way to get people to do what is right and just we often don’t look up and don’t think big enough. God is way more powerful than Satan, and our worldly “prepping” is nothing compared to the plans of God. Mary says, look at my Son, imitate Him, and trust Him. It is something that happens inside a soul’s interior and each time a soul turns towards Jesus in prayer and takes Mary as his or her Mother and is obedient to the church, this is the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. We don’t have to wait for some future time to have her triumph in our own hearts right now. Why? Because when we embrace the church and all that she teaches and all of the sacramental grace, God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven, now, through us. This is the Triumph, this is the continual message. Mary, the woman clothed in the Sun, out Mother and the Mother of the Church, cooperated with God to bring His Kingdom back to harmony to the peace that was in the beginning. It is why she is Queen of the Universe.
Let me expound on that further. Sin darkens everything. Our sin darkens not just our hearts, it tore everything in two. Our bodies and our souls, our relationship with God, our relationships with each other, and our relationship with creation. The only way to have true peace in the world is to follow the Way. It is the way Jesus made for us and it came through Mary to all of creation.
We see at Pentecost, Mary is in the upper room, praying with the Apostles when the Holy Spirit reigns down. After this the Apostles are performing signs and wonders like we have never seen before. They raise people from the dead. Creation responds because they are purified and they are walking in the domain that was given to them. The problems with our environment would go away if each and every soul sought to purify their heart of sin and walked the Way that Jesus left us in the church with Mary as our Mother.
We see Saints who are able to do amazing and miraculous things. This is how Mary wants us to live. She is so pure and so in union with God, she is the Queen of the Universe, but she doesn’t want to keep it for herself. It is always about giving. God wants all of us to share in it.
This requires though, this life I am speaking of, this Sacramental life, nailing our human will to the cross to be filled with the Divine Will. This hurts. Letting go of our selfish desires feels like great suffering. And often times suffering comes upon us in unexpected ways. Each time we can respond in love when suffering comes our way, we conquer evil. Instead of fighting suffering, fight sin, fight the devil.
And while it is good to read prophecy, as Scripture tells us not to despise it, if it turns us inward on ourselves where we want to save only ourselves (and our physical being) at all costs, if we fill up our own barn when we see the storm coming with no thought of others, if we judge and condemn other souls and wish harm on them, then the point has been entirely lost. Rage and condemnation have no place in the Christian heart. It is not what we see Jesus doing on the cross. He forgave everything. Mary’s response to souls that are lost and opposed to her Son is sorrow and reparation, not resentment and rage.
What does this path look like in your life? Well I can tell you what it looks like in mine. I can tell you that 10 years ago if I had been asked to take my parents in to care for them in their old age while raising teenagers, I probably would have ended up in a mental institution or just flat out said no I won’t do it. Though I am still on the path and have such a long way to go in my journey with the Lord, I can say that because of prayer and the Sacraments and seeking the Lord with all my heart, that the difficulty of this situation has been lightened by God. The grace is there. Suffering is not something I am choosing to accept and to try to not fight against, instead my focus is fighting against sin. When suffering comes, because it always comes, I try to look up and Praise God in the middle of it. I would be lying if I said I don’t complain, but I do have a realization that complaint doesn’t make suffering stop, but praise, well it transforms the suffering into something beautiful. I have let go of trying to control the outcome of everything and started praying that God works through me and in the situations.
The message of the Mother of the Church is to desire Sainthood. As humans this can seem impossible. And on the human level it is impossible. But with God all things are possible.
Thank you for your beautiful reflection on the Mother of God. What a merciful Lord we have. We have such an important role to stand at the foot of the cross for souls. May the Lord transform all our souls, so we can bring His Living Flame of Love to a broken world. The Kingdom Come The Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven.
An Argument in Support of Going to Jesus Through Mary
Blessed Virgin Mary
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him that I languish with love
(Song of Songs 5:8)
Buried deep within the questions ”Why not go to Jesus directly? Why go through Mary?” is an assumption that an exclusive relationship between two individual persons is objectively superior to a familial relationship of three or more persons bound together in mutual love. If this were so then the Blessed Trinity would be eternally bound into a relationship that was less than perfect because it involved more than the optimal number of Persons. It shall be my argument here that the assumption is false, and that humans are designed to find fulfilment in relationship networks within which particular relationships may be privileged precisely because they enhance each of the other relationships as well as being satisfying in themselves.
It is often said that in each human heart there is a God-shaped vacuum but that is only half-true. The reason why Our Lord said that the second command, love your neighbour as yourself, was like the first, love God with every fibre of your being, is because each of us has a God-and-neighbour-shaped vacuum in our hearts and none of us can find rest until both of those shapes are filled-out with love. Therefore, in pursuing the Christian path we are not called upon to eschew assistance in getting closer to Christ, who is our goal, but, on the contrary, we are required to use all the assistance which we can get and which the Good God Himself has chosen to provide us with.
It seems probable that the idea that exclusive relationships were preferable to familial ones arose in relatively modern times because of three significant influences. Namely, the rise of individualism, the emergence of romanticism, and the worship of power alone-
Individualism– Throughout human history, and still today in most of the world, human happiness has, for the most part, been conceptualised in terms of family, clan and the people to which one belongs. That is, when starting out in life a young person envisages a future which involves a spouse, some children, an enduring relationship with parents, and a community of well-being with people like oneself in some significant way, through shared language, customs, beliefs or simple geographical location. The modern era, by contrast perceives human happiness as a purely individual concern which an autonomous person achieves through the process of being fully themselves (whatever that may mean.)
Romanticism- There has also arisen a notion that romantic love between two persons (although that number may rise as societal norms change) is all-sufficient as a vehicle for attaining perfect happiness. Which is to say that other relationships may exist alongside that pairing but they are at best add-ons to, and at worst detractions from, the turtledove bond at the heart of life. This may help explain why the word most often attached to childcare in the early 21st century West is ‘burden.’
Worship of Power– The idea that God is pure power and that we should be on His team so that not only do we escape His wrath but that we get to see Him inflict it upon others has related to it a visceral desire to knock out of the way anything that is seen to mediate between God and His exercise of power. In the contemporary world this attitude is most obvious from Salafi Islamists who literally destroy everything they consider as a manifestation of shirk (polytheism,) from the graves of Sufis to the monuments of ancient Assyria. But it’s present in a less destructive way among some Evangelicals too for whom praying to Mary and the Saints is seen as trying to obstruct God’s swinging arm.
I think, though, that Christians at least prior to 1517 understood salvation as a thing which individuals experience but which is not an individual thing. That is, only as part of the community of the saved can I be saved, and that if I value my personal salvation above that of others then I shall not be saved because I am loving myself more than I love my neighbour. Which brings me to the Song of Songs.
The Song is often seen as the archetypal description of the relationship between the believer as Lover and Christ as the Beloved. And, if that is an exclusive, romantic relationship then what has all this praying to Mary, the Saints and the Angels got to do with it? Well, firstly I would query the ‘if’ here. Throughout the Song both Lover and Beloved engage in a dialogue with the Daughters of Jerusalem, the Companions. Their presence is essential to what goes on and, moreover, as the Lover and the Beloved need the Daughters so the Daughters yearn for the Lover and the Beloved-
Return, Return, O Sulamitess:
That we may behold thee.
(Song of Songs 6:12)
Even on its own terms, then, the Song is about many and not only about two, although the beauty of the love of the two is essential to the happiness of the many who share in it. But for Christians the Old Testament is read through the lens of the New and the Bride/Bridegroom relationship of Lover and Beloved is spoken of there very much in an expanded, non-individualist, sense. In Ephesians 5:31-32 we read ”For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the church.” The Bridegroom, the Beloved, remains as He was in the Song, Jesus, but the Bride, the Lover, is seen to be the Church. Which is to say that each one of us goes to Him through her and in her and never apart from her. Our individuality consists of the unique relationship we have as members to the Body and through the Body to Him. And in the Apocalypse 21:2 we see-”I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” So the Lover, the Bride, becomes a huge city with many inhabitants while the Beloved, the Bridegroom, remains Christ. All of which points to an understanding of the relationship between each one of us and God as being necessarily, unavoidably and desirably a communal one where the shared love between neighbours is never absent.
”That’s all very interesting thoughtfully catholic,” you say, ”but what on earth has it got to do with going to Jesus through Mary?” Only this. God is Trinity. The Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph is three. The relationships modelled for us by Scripture are not exclusive twosomes. They are rather shared communities of love because that is how Christ wishes to come to us and for us to go to Him. So, if we, each one of us, His beloved children, go to Him hand in hand with His beloved Mother Mary then we are not violating His commands, we are fulfilling them.
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My other blog is thoughtfully detached.
The picture is Daniele Monteleone, “The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother”
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