May 12, 2017

Editorial

Mary, virgin mother of Jesus Christ

Mary is the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. The theologian Karl Rahner once wrote that this statement contains the essence of what the Catholic Church teaches about Mary. Much, much more can be said about Mary, and hundreds of titles and attributes have been assigned to her over the past two millennia, but the most important thing is that she is the virgin mother of Jesus Christ.

We Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, equal and identical in nature with the Father. Jesus is the Son of God (second person of the Trinity) who has become fully human, the child of Mary of Nazareth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because he was born of Mary, a devout Jew, Jesus takes on our humanity with all its strengths and weaknesses. Although he was sinless, he inherited the consequences of our sinfulness, and he gave his life to redeem us from the dreadful results of our sin.

The fact that God freely chose to become a human being is God’s ultimate means of self-communication to us, but this “gift of self” was made possible only because a virgin, Mary, agreed (freely and fully) to God’s intervention in her life and in human history.

Mary’s “yes” to God’s will is the model for all humanity. It shows us how to respond to the Word of God however it manifests itself to us in our daily lives.

Mary is called “blessed” because she said yes to God’s mysterious, and often painful, call to become the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. And as a result of this free acceptance of her unique vocation, Mary of Nazareth is honored by Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout the whole world.

We Catholics honor Mary in a special way during the month of May. We seek her intercession for our most intimate and urgent needs, and we honor her for the purity of her life and the courage she showed standing before her son’s cross, faithful to the bitter end.

Honoring Mary during the Easter season is especially fitting because Mary was the first Christian disciple, the first to accept him as her Lord and the first to follow him unreservedly. Mary was the first missionary disciple, the first evangelist. Her whole life—including the early years of her son’s growth in wisdom, grace and age, and the later years of his public ministry, suffering and death—was a profound witness to Jesus Christ. After her son’s resurrection from the dead, she gave witness to the mystery of our salvation as the Mother of God and Mother of the Church.

Mary points to Jesus. She says to us, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). She lives a life of humble obedience, confident that God knows what is best for us, his children, and that her son can and will lead us to lasting joy.

It’s true that during the past 2,000‑plus years, countless tributes have been paid to this simple woman. From the humblest origins, she has been exalted as Queen of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom, Mother of Holy Hope and much more. But in the end, the titles that matter most to her and to us are “virgin” and “mother.”

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ and our mother, guide our efforts to follow her son. May she inspire us, in the words of Pope Francis, by her “eloquent humility” and teach us by her loving care for all.

—Daniel Conway

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