Mary, Mother of God

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January 1 2020 | Eleanor Suther, OSB

Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

Happy New Year! It is New Year’s Day. It is the Octave of Christmas. It’s the feast of Mary Mother of God. (When I was younger, before Vatican II, this was the feast of the Circumcision). It’s the Day of Prayer for World Peace. That’s a lot to ponder. Let us reflect on them in our hearts.

If you grew up in the 50’s, Marian spirituality was often part of popular preaching. Often that preaching reflected a man’s perspective…often presenting a patriarchal world view. For myself, and for many women, this world view no longer resonates. The restoration of this feast as one for Mary, Mother of God, reflects an attempt to focus Marian devotion on the Gospel, and its contemplation in the liturgy. As Pope Paul VI noted in his apostolic orientation “On Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary” (1974), spirituality reflects the culture of a particular time. Thus the first four hundred years of the Church, reflected the Greek intellectual tradition and the Roman empirical structure. In December, we celebrated our Lady of Guadalupe, which reflected the cultural experience of the indigenous people who had been colonized. And the 1950’s with its devotion to Our Lady of Fatima reflected the Cold War, the desire for the conversion of Russia, and the resistance to the modern world. So in our pondering today, we reflect our own times, the rise of feminism, the desire for equality, etc. 

Pondering includes thinking, but is not just intellectual. It includes reflecting in one’s heart. I like to walk in St. Scholastica’s Chapel. It calls to mind…or to my heart… memories and feelings of so many events that happened in that chapel…summers as a postulant or novice, liturgical renewal, summer time home from mission, jubilees, Christmas and Easter liturgies. I think about (and recall feelings) at different stages in my life… 

I am reminded of one of my grandnieces who became a mother the summer after graduating from high school. Her ponderings often appear on Facebook. And they have reflected a growing awareness of what it means to be a mother, what it means for her life, and how she has learned from the whole experience of mothering her daughter. 

Mary was about that age when the angel came to her. She said “yes” not knowing what that would mean. What was it like for her, what did she feel when the baby came while they were on a journey and she had nowhere but a manger to lay him down? What was it like for her when the shepherds came? What did she think? What questions did she have? 

What was it like for her, when she did all the things mothers do, nursing him, changing diapers, playing with him, helping him learn to walk and talk? Did he get into trouble like other boys do? What about when he was a teenager? What did she learn from that experience…pondering the Word of God as a human being? What about that time she and his relatives decided they needed to give him a talking to about the trouble he could be getting himself into? And then he says, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And the way of the cross, was she prepared for that? And then the resurrection? And the life of the early church? 

Pope Paul VI suggests that in the liturgy, we ponder the Word of God as Mary did. We reflect on the word of God…some of it we understand, some of it we don’t. Here and there we get glimpses of what it means for us. Often God’s wisdom is beyond us. Often we have an insight that would never have occurred to us when we were younger. 

Like Mary, we want to say “Yes.” We want to be open to God’s Word. We want to ponder, to reflect on them in our hearts. 

When, with Mary, we all seek to see the Word Incarnate in the ordinary human beings around us, not only in our own families and communities, or the people we agree with, but in all people, even those with whom we disagree, whom we may see as alien, then our world will know peace. 

“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May God’s face shine upon you and give you peace.” Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.