17 Nov Chapter 5: The Virgin Mary’s Journey of Faith
Read ~ Chapter 19: The Virgin Mary’s Journey of Faith
The teachings contained in this chapter are based on Holy Scriptures, the Tradition of the Catholic Church [especially the First and Second Vatican Councils, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Fathers of the Church (especially St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine)], the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (especially Pope Saint Paul VI, Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis). All Apostolic Encyclicals and Letters are found on the Vatican Website: Vatican
Mary’s journey of faith is led by the Holy Spirit
- Everything God the Father does in our history, he does it through the Son in the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit is the agent at work to bring everything through the Son back to the Father.
- Every character involved in the history of salvation (Mary, Elizabeth, Simeon, etc.) is filled with the Holy Spirit as they accept God’s plan in their lives.
- As characters enter in contact with Mary, they reveal and confirm what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing in her.
- As Mary’s life evolves, she comes to a deeper understanding of God’s plan. Her mysterious journey will be totally clear only after Pentecost: the Holy Spirit begins her journey with the Incarnation, and the Holy Spirit completes it with his descent at Pentecost. Only then does Mary fully understand her Son’s mystery like no one else.
Mary’s first journey of faith: the ANNUNCIATION
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her ‘Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his Kingdom there will be no end’. And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Lk 1: 26-38)
The Implications of the Annunciation on Mary’s journey of faith: This first step of Mary’s journey of faith has several implications:
- When Mary was age 14 (more or less), the Angel Gabriel appeared to her in Nazareth announcing the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity: God the Son. The expression “Full of Grace” (kecharitoumene in the original Greek) appears nowhere else in the entire Bible (Lk 1:28).
- The use of the expression “Full of Grace” eliminates any time in which Mary was not ‘”Full of Grace.” An accurate translation would be: “Hail, you who have always been Full of Grace, are now Full of Grace, and will always be Full of Grace.”
- The expression “Full of Grace” becomes the name of Mary. It indicates who she is and what mission is being entrusted to her by God. In fact, the Angel omitted her name: he said, “Hail Full of Grace.” He did not say, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace.”
- “Full of Grace” is one reason why Pope Pius IX proclaimed Mary the “Immaculate Conception” as a dogma of faith in 1854. This confirms that Mary was immune from original sin when she was conceived in the womb of her mother Ann. Later on in her life, she freely cooperated with God’s grace to remain immune from sin.
- “Full of Grace” is the only accurate translation of kecharitoumene. “Highly favored one” is the worst possible translation because it destroys the theology of grace (Charis). Ephesians 1 explains how God bestows his grace on us in Christ since the foundation of the world. At the moment of creation, God foreknew that he would be saving us through Christ’s birth (through Mary), death, and resurrection. The translation “highly favored one” destroys the concept of God’s grace and is, therefore, a disgrace to the theology of the Catholic Church.
- “The Lord is with you” occurs many times in the Bible. It indicates a permanent situation: the Lord will never leave Mary.
- “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.” Mary’s journey is real, human, historical, and concrete. She was not a robot; she was endowed with free will, feelings, and human mentality: the apparition of the Angel Gabriel was supernatural and Mary’s frightened reaction was fully human.
- “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” Mary knew that the name “Jesus” means “God saves.” The words of the Angel are enigmatic and challenging. Only God knows whether Mary, at that moment, thought about the words of Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and will call him Emmanuel” (Is 7:14).
- “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” The greatness of the child described by the Angel are a promise of a good future for Israel. In what way will Jesus be great, however, will be better understood as Mary witnesses the events of his life.
- “And Mary said to the Angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?'” Mary’s question shows how real is the Annunciation: her inquisitive mind needed to understand how it is possible to conceive if she is not having a sexual relationship with any man.
- “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” The Angel’s statement reveals the ultimate purpose of his visit and the way Jesus’ conception will take place: by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Being a Jewish girl, Mary was not expecting a Messiah who is divine by nature: the identity of her child as the “Son of God” is already acknowledged, enigmatic and mysterious. Neither was Mary expecting to conceive a child by the Holy Spirit without the involvement of a man. The Angel’s promises are the most challenging statements to any human mind. But the answer is simple: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
- The Angel’s challenge is what our faith is all about: “To believe means ‘to abandon oneself’ to the truth of the word of the living God, knowing and humbly recognizing ‘how unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways’ (Rom 11:33)” (St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 14).
- “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.'” The Angel is delivering a message, so his words are God’s Word. God is requesting the consent of Mary to a mysterious project that goes way beyond all human understanding. Her cooperation is necessary for God to enter our history as an authentic man. If God chose that way, then that is the only way: “The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son….” (Lumen Gentium, 56)
- With Mary’s “yes,” the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son, assumed an authentic human nature in her womb. Her faith was the only instrument of Jesus’ Incarnation. Mary conceived Jesus in her mind before conceiving him physically in her womb: “The divine Motherhood would have been of no value to her had Christ not borne her in his heart, with a destiny more fortunate than the moment when she conceived him in the flesh.” (St. Augustine, De Sancta Virginitate, 3, 3)
- With Mary’s “yes,” God entered our history like never before. The belief that a woman will conceive God himself was out of the question for the Jewish mindset: “From the moment of the Annunciation, the mind of the Virgin-Mother has been initiated into the radical ‘newness’ of God’s self-revelation and has been made aware of the mystery” (Redemptoris Mater, 17). In contrast with the Old Testament, God is now working from within human history and not just intervening “from heaven.” That is why the Angel called the child “Jesus,” which means “God saves.”
- Mary’s “yes” explains St. Paul’s statement: “When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” (Gal 4:4). To save humankind, God sent his Son to be incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary; he did not remain in heaven.
- Mary’s “yes” explains why Christianity cannot be reduced to a doctrine, or to cultural practices, or to a way of living: it is a historical encounter between God and the human person (Pope Francis, Homily, April 26, 2020). In fact, God became human himself: in Jesus Christ, God and man meet in an irrevocable way.
- With Mary’s “yes,” we discover that, even though the search for the divine is innate in the human heart, God is always the one who initiates contact with humanity: The Angel came to Mary, not the other way around. God searches for us before we search for him.
- With Mary’s “yes,” we learn how the divine cooperates with the human: God invited Mary to conceive; Mary freely accepted God’s grace. Such cooperation is a paradox because it appears that God is doing all the work in Mary; yet, Mary is still exercising her authentic freedom to accept God’s plan. St. John Paul II beautifully describes this paradox by saying, “She responded, therefore, with all her human and feminine ‘I,’ and this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with ‘the grace of God that precedes and assists’ and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit” (Redemptoris Mater, 13). St. Augustine rightfully taught in general terms: “the One who created you without your will, will not save you without your will” (Confessions X, 29).
- With Mary’s “yes,” her long journey of faith into the mystery of Christ began. It was impossible for her to have understood everything she was getting herself into. Vatican II emphatically urges the faithful to look at Mary as an authentic human being, not a “superwoman” who knew everything that would happen. St. John Paul II compares her faith in the Angel’s words to that of Abraham: “Just as Abraham ‘in hope believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations’ (cf. Rom 4:18), so Mary, at the Annunciation, having professed her virginity (‘How shall this be, since I have no husband?’) believed that … by the power of the Holy Spirit, she would become the Mother of God’s Son…” (Redemptoris Mater, 14).
- Mary was introduced into the mystery of her Son as the events of his life evolved. From the Incarnation to her place at the foot of the cross, Mary had to “piece together the subsequent events of which she was to be a witness and protagonist” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, January 1, 2008).
- Spiritual message: we each have our own Annunciation. Every day there is an angel who announces to us God’s plan. Often, it does not match our own plans and does not even make any sense to us. We are always allowed to ask questions and “challenge” God’s will. However, it is the “obedience of faith” to his mysterious plan that will ultimately bear everlasting fruits in us. Walking in the dark is frightening only when we are not entrusting our entire existence to Christ. Before we know it, he will wake up in the boat and calm down the storms of our life. Mary our Mother is the best person to hang on it because, on the human level, there is no one who can compare to the care of the Mother. When we receive the Eucharist, we need to ask Mary to help us receive Jesus with the purest possible heart and soul, just as she received him
Mary’s second journey of faith: MARY MEETS ELIZABETH
Mary meets Elizabeth on “the Mountain”: The Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant. As soon as Mary heard of her cousin’s pregnancy, she was on the move: “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed the fruit of your womb! and why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord’ (Luke 1:39-45).
The Implications of encountering Elizabeth on Mary’s journey of faith: As she greeted Mary, Elizabeth had an unprecedented experience. Her son, the fruit of her unexpected pregnancy, would now meet the Son of Mary while both infants were still in the womb. What are the implications of this encounter?
- Since Elizabeth became pregnant at an advanced age, and since the Angel promised Mary a supernatural pregnancy, Mary was now curious about God’s plan. She decided to travel some 90 miles (long and hard travel time in those days) to question Elizabeth.
- Mary traveled to meet Elizabeth in a town called Ain Karem, in the hill country of Judea (four miles from Jerusalem). Mountains in the Old Testament are symbolic of the presence of God: among others, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus go up the mountain to meet and communicate with God. The Virgin Mary travels to the mountains of Judea carrying God himself. Elizabeth becomes the Old Testament character who encounters the Lord “in flesh and blood” in the womb of Mary.
- At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary “Hail Full of Grace.” In this encounter, Elizabeth greeted her “Blessed are you among women.” If we add both greetings we have the beginning of the “Hail Mary,” the key prayer that we recite in the Rosary.
- Elizabeth’s words, “Blessed are you among women,” confirm the Angel’s words, “Hail Full of Grace.” Both expressions indicate Mary’s unique place in God’s plan of salvation: No woman will ever be “Full of Grace” or “Blessed … among women” like Mary, because she alone has carried God in the flesh. Mary was so united to God in her mind that he became flesh of her flesh.
- Just like the expression “Hail Full of Grace,” “Blessed are you among women” is another reason to support the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
- As St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph 1:3). This blessing applies to Mary in an essentially different way than to all other human beings in the history of humanity: Jesus’ human nature, taken from her, will be the instrument of our salvation.
- Regarding her Son, the Angel told Mary: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Elizabeth confirmed the Angel’s words when she said to Mary, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
- The Angel Gabriel told Mary that her Son would be called “Son of the Most High.” Elizabeth confirmed the Angel’s words by calling Mary “the Mother of my Lord” (Kyrios). This expression is behind the dogma of the Divine Maternity: Mary is Theotokos (Mother of God).
- In the Old Testament, the expression Kyrios is used exclusively to describe Yahweh, God. Calling Jesus Kyrios is the most explicit proof of Jesus’ divinity and equality to God the Father.
- Upon encountering Mary, Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptist, witnessed and confirmed the words of his mother by leaping for joy in her womb.
- St. John Paul II connects Mary’s being “Full of Grace” with Elizabeth’s words “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” St. John Paul teaches that God’s initiative is to give Mary the gift of being “Full of Grace.” In believing the words of the Angel, Mary freely accepted God’s gift of being “Full of Grace.” Elizabeth’s words, “Blessed is she who believed,” refers primarily to the moment when the Angel greeted Mary as “Full of Grace” and she believed. St. John Paul II teaches: “The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary’s faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the Visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift”(Redemptoris Mater, 12).
- Elizabeth became an instrument to help Mary advance one more step in understanding the mystery of her Son.
- When John the Baptist was born, his father Zachariah was able to speak again. Of course, Mary was aware of this fact, which confirms the words of the Angel, the words of Elizabeth, and the supernatural dimension of the birth of her Son and that of John the Baptist.
- Spiritual message: Just as Elizabeth was able to encounter the Lord in the womb of Mary, every time we look at the Virgin Mary we meet Christ in the deepest recesses of her being. We can also experience Christ’s presence when we look at the innermost being of every person. Every person is the “other” Christ to us: love everyone without reservation because love will forgive our sins and help us avoid God’s judgment.
***Mary’s third journey of faith: CHRISTMAS
Christmas: Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be enrolled according to Caesar Augustus’ decree, “and while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the Inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’ When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made know the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:6-20)
“When they (Wise Men) had heard the king they went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. The, opening their treasures, the offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” (Matthew 2:9-12)
Implications of Christmas on Mary’s journey of faith: The physical birth of God the Son has several implications for Mary:
- When Mary went up to Bethlehem, she knew that the time to deliver her baby was near.
- Because of her supernatural conception, Mary was not expecting a ‘regular’ child like other children.
- The journey was definitely scary when there was no place for them in the Inn. Delivering a child in a manger was not the normal comfort for any mother. Most likely Jesus was delivered under a house that hosted animals (See Isaiah 1:1).
- The angel that appeared to the shepherds was not called by name. It could be that it is the Angel Gabriel again.
- Both Mary and the shepherds were frightened by the appearance of the angel.
- the angel said to both Mary and the shepherds be not afraid since his message is nothing but a good news and a great joy.
- The angel’s words to the shepherds about the birth of Jesus confirmed the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation and the words of Elizabeth when encountering Mary: for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
- The angel’s words identified the new born baby as the Savior who is Christ the Lord.
- The Greek expression Lord Kyrios (Lord) that was used by Elizabeth to describe the identity of the baby, is also being used by the angel who appeared to the shepherd.
- The angel’s words to the shepherds are the same as God’s words since he is only the messenger: When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us’.
- The experience of the shepherds with the apparition of the angels was ecstatic. They came and told Mary the entire message that was delivered to them about the birth of the Savior. It sounds like the shepherds did not tell only Mary about the angel’s message because Bethlehem was filled with people who came to enroll: And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made know the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
- Now Mary has another message that confirms the words of the Angel Gabriel and those of Elizabeth: the testimony of the shepherds. Their message added more security to her state of mind: And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. Pondering the identity of Jesus is the best reaction to all messages. No words were able to describe what was going on in her mind.
- According to Matthew’s Gospel, Wise Men came to worship the new-born child: When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. They offered gold (symbol of kingship), frankincense (symbol of Jesus’ divinity), and myrrh (symbol of his suffering).
- Besides the messages of the Angel Gabriel, the words of Elizabeth, the witness of the shepherds, Wise Men are now giving an additional message that would help Mary advance a little more in understanding the mystery of her Son.
- If everyone around her is saying the same thing it must be true.
- When Christ was born and Mary was able to look at him, the mysterious message of the Annunciation, of Elizabeth, of the shepherds, and of the Wise Men became a reality, a face, a Person. God’s message through them became history with the birth of the baby. It is impossible to know what Mary was thinking when she saw her Son for the first time.
- Jesus Christ is a baby now who has needs like all other babies of our world. He was not a little ‘superman’; he needed protection, care, food, and home. His earthly existence is real, authentic, concrete, and is subject to the limitations of our human conditions.
- Because of his supernatural conception, Jesus’ relationship with Mary and Joseph was unique and somehow strange. It was impossible for her to have had a normal relationship with her Son who was conceived without the cooperation of a man. Her mind must have been constantly focused on his mysterious identity.
- Christmas is both the end of a journey and the beginning of another. The ‘Word’ of the Angel are now ‘flesh’. But being in the flesh is the beginning of a long journey filled with surprises. Details of the unknown will be revealed as the child grow.
- The birth of Christ is an encounter between him and his Mother for the first time face to face. We also have a similar encounter when Jesus was born the first time in our heart and our mind. Our journey into the mystery of Christ will be fulfilled when we leave this earth.
- Spiritual message: God the Son became man so man can become ‘god’: Without Christmas there is no salvation. Christmas is not a season; it is a way of life. Every day is Christmas because, once God entered our world, God will never leave it. Live everyday with deep awareness that God entered time. Jesus Christ is God himself living in time physically for 33 years but will remain with us in time until the end of the world.
Mary’s fourth journey to the Temple: The Circumcision of Jesus
“When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)
The Implication of the Circumcision:
- Mary is aware of Jesus’ supernatural conception and of the Jewish law of circumcision. Should Jesus be circumcised even though he is definitely like no other ‘regular’ Jew?
- By bringing him to be circumcised, Mary confirms that Jesus is not above the law. He is part of the Jewish people with the mission to embrace and to save the entire human race. Although a Jew, Jesus’ divinity transcends Judaism to be a universal savior.
- The circumcision proves that the supernatural cooperates with the natural. Being the author of the Jewish law, Jesus still wanted to be subject to the law: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.” (Galatians: 4:4-5)
- Incorporating the supernatural identity of Christ with the usual Jewish law was not easy. Yet, Mary followed the law of Moses without any prideful presumption that her Son is above the law.
- Because he submitted himself to the law, Jesus’ circumcision proves that he executed the salvation of humanity working from within, not from without.
- Spiritual message: we are invited to commit ourselves to get rid of our vices and old habits of sin. The physical circumcision of Jesus becomes our daily spiritual circumcision in which we unite our mind, heart, and will to Jesus Christ to stay away from sin. There is no other way.
Mary’s fifth journey to present Jesus to the Temple: The prophet Simeon confirms the identity of Jesus
“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and to offer the sacrifice of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’ The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed’.” (Luke 2:22-35)
Implications of Simeon’s prophecy for Mary: The words of Simeon have several implications:
- All characters involved in communicating God’s plan to Mary, were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Evangelist Luke emphasizes three times that the Holy Spirit is behind Simeon’s mission in the temple.
- The Holy Spirit was upon him. The same Holy Spirit that came on Mary at the Annunciation and filled Elizabeth when encountering Mary, is now “upon Simeon.”
- It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord: The cooperation between the divine and the human reaches here its highest point. Without any doubt and in a way not known to human mind, Simeon received a special revelation by the Holy Spirit that he will see the Messiah before he dies.
- He came in the Spirit into the temple in order to reveal the identity of the child to Mary and to the people of Israel.
- The name Simeon is of Hebrew origin. It means “to hear, listen.” Indeed, he spent his entire life listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
- Like all other devout Jews, Simeon lived in the hope of a Messiah and was “awaiting the consolation of Israel.”
- Mary was also expecting a Messiah who would deliver his people. All Jewish women were hoping that one of their sons will be the awaited Messiah.
- When Jesus was presented in the temple to be circumcised, the prophet Simeon acknowledged him to be the awaited Messiah: For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.
- The eyes of Simeon have seen ‘God’s salvation’ which is exactly the meaning of the name ‘Jesus’. The name Jesus means ‘God saves’. Mary heard this statement and became more aware that her Son is Israel’s salvation.
- The words of Simeon confirm the words of the Angel at the Annunciation, the words of Elizabeth, the message of the shepherds and the Magi. It is another step in confirming the enigmatic identity of Jesus. This explains why, again, the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.
- Simeon said to Mary: Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Jesus will be a sign of contradiction in Israel: his mission will not be following the normal steps of the prophets. His will cause friction and will be challenging to even people of the same household. Jesus’ mission will be radical and exclusive.
- The words of Simeon reveal a new dimension in Mary’s motherhood: It will be filled with sacrifices and suffering. Only when Mary stood at the foot of the cross, the prophesy of Simeon will be understood and fulfilled.
- Thw words of Simeon are called a ‘second annunciation’ by Pope Saint John Paul II: “Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow” (Redemptoris Mater, 16)
- Now Mary is conscious that the journey will be rewarding (words of the Angel Gabriel, of Elizabeth, of the shepherds and the Magi) but also challenging (words of Simeon) at the same time.
- But the journey must continue because Mary freely decided to follow God’s plan.
- Mary knows now that her journey will be mixed with sorrow but she does not know the details of how and when this sorrow will take place.
- Spiritual message: We are naturally afraid of pain and suffering in our faith journey. Just like Simeon, Christ’s will for us is often revealed through the words and actions of others. If through these messages we sense a future filled with suffering, we need to immerse ourselves in the will of Christ with a blind confidence and trust. If we don’t, we will fall into despair because life is a long journey filled with difficulties.
Mary’s sixth journey to the Temple: The prophetess Anna confirms the identity of Jesus
“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38)
Implications of Anna’s prophecy for Mary: The words of Anna have several implications:
- Anna is another character who spoke about the identity of the child Jesus in front of Mary and Joseph.
- Anna associated the future of Jesus with all those awaiting the redemption of Israel.
- Anna reconfirmed all the messages that were previously given to Mary.
- Anna’s prophecy is another step in Mary’s journey. Jesus is only 40 days old and yet so many messages have been given about him: the Angel Gabriel, Elizabeth, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and now Anna.
- Spiritual message: Anna adopted a second virginity life style after being married for seven years. Being consecrated to God body and soul, she became aware of the signs of time and was able to sense and proclaim the presence of the Messiah in the temple. Only when we entirely dedicate ourselves to Christ through prayers and good actions, are we capable to submit our will, mind and heart to his will. Then, and only then, the Holy Spirit will create in us an acute awareness of Christ in our daily activity that prompts us to act according to God’s plan. The grace of the Holy Spirit is not a magic intervention; it is rather the fruit of a total submission of our mind, will, and heart to Christ.
Mary’s seventh journey to Egypt: first sign of her sorrowful Motherhood
“When they (Magi) had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.’ When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazorean’.” (Matthew 2:13-23)
- Sometimes when Jesus was under 2 years old, king Herod the Great wanted to kill him because he felt threatened by Jesus’ identity as king. The angel communicated a message to Joseph: Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.
- Today we jump on a plane and travel around the world in no time. It wasn’t like that back then when Mary and Joseph got up and had to flee to Egypt. Traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles on a donkey is very tiring.
- Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt: Traveling by night is much more dangerous. The road Joseph took to get to Egypt is not a highway controlled by police. It is rather a dry desert filled with wild animals and robbers. Mary who was still a teenager was aware of all that.
- Beside the physical challenges of the journey, the anxiety and fear of Herod’s threat made the situation unbearable. What mother wouldn’t be frightened knowing that a powerful king is seeking to kill her son?
- Sometimes we think that since God providentially was accompanying Mary and Joseph, they didn’t mind fleeing to Egypt. Don’t forget that there is no ‘magic’ presence of God in their lives. The challenges of the journey were real, concrete, frightening, and tiring.
- Mary knew about the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem under 2 years old. It shows the cruelty of a king who would do anything to kill Jesus.
- When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead: Another dangerous journey is to travel again hundreds of miles to go back to Israel.
- The fact that Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, became the ruler of Judea (where Bethlehem is), is still a threat on the life of the child. Therefore, the angel told Joseph to depart to Nazareth where the Virgin Mary lived.
- The flight to Egypt is the first sign of Mary’s sorrowful motherhood. By entrusting her destiny to the words of the Angel who appeared to Joseph, Mary shows her obedience of faith to God’s plan. One thing is to obey God when things are good and promising; another when all promises of God’s messengers are being put to the test. Traveling to Egypt was equal to traveling the dark night of faith submitting her will to God no matter what the outcome is.
- Spiritual message: Mary and Joseph fled from the evil king in order to fulfill God’s plan. As we wage spiritual war against evil, our best weapon is to flee from the occasion of evil. St. Therese of Lisieux said she always turned her back whenever Satan tempted her. In this way, she didn’t even had to fight because Jesus and Mary did it for her.
Mary’s eighth Journey to the temple: Mary’s sorrowful Motherhood continues when losing Jesus
“Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.’ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:41-51)
The implications of losing Jesus in the temple on Mary’s journey of faith:
- The age 12 in Judaism indicates the beginning of maturity. Boys and girls at this age start to bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law, traditions, and ethics. They become part of the Jewish community life.
- Even though Mary and Joseph went up every year to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover (Jewish Easter), that specific year was very special because Jesus was 12 years old.
- Mary and Joseph lost Jesus because he stayed in Jerusalem when the caravan left for Galilee.
- Mary and Joseph found him in the temple conversing with the teachers and asking them question. The people’s reaction is very similar to that of Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, the shepherd, the Magi, Simeon, and Anna: And all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.
- Imagine the fear and anxiety of Mary and Joseph as they were looking for him an entire day: When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety. Mary and Joseph were astonished because Jesus decided to stay behind and interact with the teachers in the temple. The amazement and astonishment has been the attitude of all characters since the Annunciation. Notice that Mary is the only one who addressed Jesus. Her question (Son, why have you done this to us?) indicates a mother’s authority challenging an answer from her Son. She was seeking the real reason behind his action, even though she was aware of his supernatural condition.
- Jesus answered Mary: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Jesus reveals his absolute dedication to the Father’s mission and invites Mary to start understanding that his mission goes beyond all human relationships and affairs. His words challenge Mary’s mind to a different dimension of his Person and work. Later on during his public ministry Jesus will confirm again the priority of the Father’s plan when he tells people around him, ‘my father, mother, brother, and sisters, are those who listen to the word of God’.
- And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.” (Luke 2:48-50) The reason Mary and Joseph didn’t understand his answer was because Jesus called Yahweh ‘Abba’, a term that was used between father and son in a Jewish family. Jesus was implying that him and the Father have the same equal, intimate relationship as a Jewish father has with his son.
- Right in the temple, the center of Judaism, Jesus gives a summary of his Person and work. Unlike the Jewish way of addressing God, Jesus calls God ‘Abba’ to the absolute dismay of the Jews. His relationship with the Father is ontological and on a different level then anyone; that’s why the Jews wanted to kill him. Being who he is, Jesus was on earth to accomplish the work of the Father no matter what the conditions of life are.
- He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them: Being divine by nature, Jesus was also fully human and therefore subject to the necessities of the human condition. The same God of Israel who commanded to ‘honor your mother and father’ cannot contradict himself. The wonder of the Incarnation consists in the fact that God is so humble that, as a man, accepted to be subject to the human authority of his Mother. Such a humility is really what destroyed the pride of Satan and the fallen angels.
- And his mother kept all these things in her heart: This deep summary of Mary’s attitude explains it all. What can she say as events evolve in her life who are totally supernatural. What girl gets pregnant without a man? what girl hears her cousin telling her she is the ‘Mother of my Lord’? What girl hears shepherds confirming that the child is the savior of Israel? What girl sees kings bowing down to her Son? What girl hears devout prophets in the temple proclaiming the presence of the redeemer? What girl after all that has to flee to Egypt because a powerful king is seeking to kill her Son? What girl lives under the same roof with a child who has such a mysterious identity? Mary’silent and prayerful attitude is the best answer to the mystery of Jesus her Son.
- Spiritual message: We often lose Christ in our lives because of our bad decisions, our consent to our temptations, and our distractions. Like a fish outside of the water, we immediately become fearful, full of anxiety, and about to die spiritually. Mary did not think for a second when she lost her Son; she took the decision to look for him regardless of the obstacles. Our free will is the best to move toward Christ and knock on his heavenly door. He will always answers because the doors of heaven are always open to everyone because God made us to share heaven with him. Those of us who experienced the incredible presence of Christ in us and the peace it produces, feel lost without it. Our mission is to preach Christ in every occasion and bring others to experience him. But only the Christ whose truth has been preached by the Catholic Church. Ask the Virgin Mary to help you in your search because she was able to find him and she will do it for you.
Mary’s ninth hidden journey: Raising the child Jesus
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40)
“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52)
The implication of raising Jesus on Mary’s journey: It is impossible that Mary’s mind stops for one second of being aware of Jesus’ supernatural origin. As he lives with her and Joseph, she must have been observing everything he is doing and saying. Growing indicates a natural development of Jesus human body and faculties. The Person what was humanly growing is God himself.
- After his words at the temple, Jesus went down to Nazareth and was obedient to them. Such a statement confirms the authentic human relationship between Jesus and both Mary and Joseph. Just because he is divine, Jesus in his humanity did not disregard God’s commandments to “honor your mother and your father”.
- This obedience is shown when Jesus granted Mary’s wish in Cana to change the water into wine.
- This obedience will continue in heaven turning into an intercession. Jesus obeyed Mary on earth. Jesus does not change his ways in heaven. Jesus will obey Mary in heaven: This obedience shows the humility of God who “emptied himself” in order to save humanity.
- But Mary also invites every human person to obey Jesus; “do whatever he tells you” she said to the servants in the wedding of Cana in Galilee.
- So God in flesh obeys Mary; Mary obeys her Son and invites us to do so. Therefore, as long as it is the will of God, God and us obey each other: If we pray for the will of God to happen, God obeys. If God orders for his will to happen in our lives, we obey.
- Jesus obeyed Mary and Joseph in his hidden life in Nazareth because it was God’s will.
- The supreme majesty and infinite power of God is not in contradiction with him washing the feet of the human person. Those who believe in a prideful God are wrong. God begs the human person every day to follow the paths of divine wisdom and accept salvation.
- Because God is infinitely powerful, he is infinitely humble and loves us. Otherwise, we would be in deep trouble.
- God will never abuse his infinite power over us. He uses it in order to direct our will to do whatever is good for us.
- Spiritual message: Every person could be another Mary. If God revealed to us that he was obedient to Mary because she was fulfilling his plan, he will ‘obey’ our wishes when we follow his will too. The Incarnation reveals to us the wonders of God’s nature who, because he is infinitely powerful, is also infinitely humble and caring for us.
Mary’s tenth journey of faith: The ‘Woman’ at the wedding of Cana in Galilee
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” (John 2:1-11)
The implications of the miracle at Cana on Mary’s journey:
- The Gospel of John is all about the new creation.
- The Gospel of John is the New Genesis: The old creation that introduced sin is replaced by the new creation that brought about salvation.
- The old water of sin is replaced by the New Wine, symbol of the time of the Messiah.
- Throughout John’s Gospel, the God-Man Jesus Christ is called ‘Man’ symbolizing the New Adam.
- Throughout John’s Gospel, Mary is called ‘Woman’ symbolizing the New Eve.
- The resurrection of Jesus that created us anew happened on the third day; “on the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee.”
- “And the mother of Jesus was there” points to the presence of the New Eve with the New Adam as he creates us anew.
- “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine’.” Why would Mary approach Jesus to supply the wine? Did she foresee a miracle?
- “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Those who think Jesus was disrespecting his Mother know nothing about the Gospel of John. Jesus here is confirming her to be the ‘Woman’ the New Eve. Even though his hour has not yet come to start his miracles and public ministry, he did the miracle because Mary asked him.
- “His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” This strong confidence on the part of Mary implies she probably knew he was going to do something about the situation. The servants represents the entire humanity: Mary will be forever repeating this command to every person in the history of humanity. The sound of her words will re-echo in the ear of every person until the end of time: “Do whatever he tells you.“
- Jesus the only savior changes the water into wine; Mary the mediator asks him to do so.
- The miracle was the first confirmation of Jesus’ divinity.
- All the promises made to Mary from the beginning now become concrete: the mysterious identity of her Son Jesus is proved by a supernatural miracle.
- This miracle develops a new awareness in Mary’s mind. If her Son is capable of changing water into wine, what’s next?
- Spiritual message: Allow the words of Mary “Do whatever he tells you” to be the norm of your life. Our salvation consists in seeking and fulfilling Christ’s will. We wonder in faraway lands of sin in many periods of our lives; but the Good Shepherd does not want any sheep to perish. It is his will that all should be saved. Therefore, if you make it your daily bread to ask the Blessed Mother to show you what Jesus wants you to do, your prayers will be answered. It is the nature of God never to reject anyone. The doors of heaven are always open when someone knocks and Mary is that door. If Mary interceded for the miracles to happen, she will intercede for many miracles to happen in the history of humanity. If God himself revealed in Scripture that Mary comes to the aid of humanity in our need, who are you to deny what God has revealed as a truth of faith in John, 2? When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
Mary’s eleventh journey of faith: The experience of Jesus’ public ministry
“Then his mother and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you’. He said to them in reply, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it’.” (Luke 8:19-21)
“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’ He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:27-28)
The implications of Jesus’ public statement on Mary’s journey: That is not the first time Jesus puts God’s plan and will above all human affairs. We have heard him when he was 12 years old saying to Mary:”Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). The anxiety of Mary and Joseph did not matter to Jesus when it comes to him fulfilling his Father’s plan of salvation.
- “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21) “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:28) In both statements from the Gospel of Luke, it looks like Jesus was ignoring the virtue of his Mother as he focuses on the Word of God. But that is not true.
- Mary is the best person ever in the history of humanity “who hear(s) the word of God and observe it.” In that in the Bible? yes.
- First, St. John Paul II teaches that Jesus “wishes to divert attention from motherhood understood only as a fleshly bond, in order to direct it towards those mysterious bonds of the spirit which develop from hearing and keeping God’s word.” (Redemptoris Mater, 20)
- Then, at the annunciation, Mary said to the Angel Gabriel: “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) These words are not said once and for all; rather, they will be repeated as Mary’s awareness of her Son’s mystery became clearer to her. As Mary progresses in understanding the mission of Jesus, she will continue to repeat the same words in the same attitude: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word.” St. John Paul II beautifully comments that Mary’s firm attitude in following Jesus, makes her the first disciple of her Son and “the first to whom he seemed to say: ‘Follow me,’ even before he addressed this call to the Apostles or to anyone else (cf. Jn 1:43)” (Redemptoris Mater, 20).
- Also, when meeting Elizabeth Mary said: “From henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” The woman in the crowd who exclaimed “blessed is the womb that bore you” started a chain of praising Mary that will never end until the end of time: “If it is true that ‘all generations will call her blessed’ (Luke 1:48), then it can be said that the unnamed woman was the first to confirm unwittingly that prophetic phrase of Mary’s Magnificat and to begin the Magnificat of the ages.” (Redemptoris Mater, 20)
- Continuing, as she reacts to the messages of the shepherds and the Magi at Christmas, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
- The highest point of believing in God’s words and acting on them is when Mary stood beneath the foot of the cross.
- In summary, Throughout Jesus’ entire life “Mary kept all these things in her heart.” It is the heart of a Mother pondering God’s Word communicated to her through many messengers.
- How about the woman who praised Mary?
- As Jesus was preaching, an unknown woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him: “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” (Luke 11:27) Such a public statement by a woman who most likely does not know Mary (Mary stayed in Nazareth most of the time during Jesus’ public ministry), throws light on Mary’s persona for the first time in public.
- The words of the woman praised the physical aspect of Mary’s motherhood. It was very common in Jesus’ culture to compliment a mother’s nursing when the child is outstanding in every aspect.
- Remember that Jesus was acting in the midst of a crowd astonished by his Person and miracles. When Mary was brought out of her hidden identity, people were looking at her through Jesus because he is the center of attention. St. John Paul II said: “Through these words, there flashed out in the midst of the crowd, at least for an instant, the gospel of Jesus’ infancy. This is the gospel in which Mary is present as the mother who conceives Jesus in her womb, gives him birth and nurses him… Thanks to this motherhood, Jesus, the Son of the Most High is ‘flesh,’ like every other man: he is ‘the Word (who) became flesh’ (John 1:14). He is of the flesh and blood of Mary!” (Redemptoris Mater, 20)
- How did Mary feel and what was she thinking as Jesus publicly shifts the attention from Mary’s physical motherhood to the supremacy of God’s Word? Was it a little bit challenging for her even though she was given her all the graces to cooperate in God’s plan? Even though she has been accepting all the steps of Jesus’ life, it was still painful to go through it as Simeon told her earlier: “A sword will pierce your heart.”
- Spiritual message: God’s Word and plan is above all the human affairs of the world. In that sense, St. Paul said: “(But) whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:7-9) As we live God’s Word, it will resound in our ears in heaven forever.
Mary’s twelfth journey to the Cross: Mary’s deepest suffering in human history
“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.” (John 19:25)
The implications of the cross on Mary’s Journey:
- Mary’s ultimate test was at the foot of the cross where all promises made to her about Jesus were put to the test.
- The message of the Angel Gabriel announcing that Jesus’s kingdom will last forever is now challenged.
- The words of Elizabeth proclaiming Mary as the ‘Mother of the Lord’ is now challenged.
- The good news of the shepherds proclaiming Jesus as savior of Israel is now challenged.
- The meaning of the Magi’s gifts is now challenged.
- The witness of the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna that Jesus is the redeemer of Israel is now challenged.
- As Jesus hang on the Cross, his fate did not seem to match what was said about him from the beginning. How could Mary keep the faith when Jesus is experiencing the most cruel death in front of her eyes? St. John Paul II describes it by saying: “The recent events on Calvary had shrouded that promise in darkness, yet not even beneath the Cross did Mary’s faith fail. She had still remained the one who, like Abraham, ‘in hope believed against hope (Rom 4:18)” (Redemptoris Mater, 26).
- Against all odds, Mary kept the faith and stood at the foot of the cross thus experiencing the deepest possible suffering. Mary never left the cross in the absolute darkest moments of her life. St. John Paul II taught that her presence at the foot of the cross is “perhaps the deepest ‘kenosis’ (self-emptying, suffering) of faith in human history” (Redemptoris Mater, 18).
- Mary’s faith that kept her at the foot of the cross, is not the result of an emotional move. It is rather a free decision of a strong mind that ignored how she feels. As St. John Paul II so beautifully observes, “How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s ‘unsearchable judgments’! How completely she ‘abandons herself to God without reserve, offering the full assent of the intellect and the will’ to him whose ‘ways are inscrutable’ (cf Rom 11:33) … in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened” (Redemptoris Mater, 18).
- Elizabeth’s words to Mary “blessed is she who believed” are now being fulfilled. Only she who believed was capable of standing at the foot of the cross: “From the Cross, that is to say from the very heart of the mystery of Redemption, there radiates and spreads out the prospect of that blessing of faith.” (Redemptoris Mater, 19)
- Simeon’s prophecy that a sword that will pierce Mary’s heart is now being fulfilled.
- The pain of traveling to Egypt now reaches its highest point.
- Spiritual message: Pain and suffering is part of every person’s life. So we have two choices: either we accept it or reject it. Rejecting suffering does not help because it makes us bitter and revolt against God. Accepting suffering is not easy either because it hurts. However, only by carrying the cross we are capable of transforming suffering into a saving power. It is still challenging to carry the cross in the darkest moments of our lives because we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The saints who went through the dark night of the soul did not have ‘fun at all’. They did it only because they followed Mary’s journey. Note: Christians are not masochists. We don’t seek suffering to enjoy it. We accept it with great honor only because it is a sharing in the suffering of Christ.
Mary’s thirteenth journey to be Mother of the Church and humanity
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
The implications of Mary’ motherhood on her faith journey:
- ‘Woman, behold, your son’. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother’. At the foot of the cross the motherhood of Mary is extended to the entire humanity. Here Jesus entrusts his Mother to the care of John the Beloved Apostle who represents the Church. St. John Paul II teaches: “One can say that if Mary’s motherhood of the human race had already been outlined, now it is clearly stated and established. It emerges from the definitive accomplishment of the Redeemer’s Paschal Mystery” (Redemptoris Mater, 23).
- In an official Magisterial document, Pope ST. Paul VI declares Mary as “Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.” (Discourse, November 21, 1964)
- This is the second time Mary is called ‘woman’ by St. John, at the wedding in Cana and at the foot of the cross. On both occasions, Mary represents the New Eve.
- At the wedding of Cana, Jesus called his Mother ‘Woman’ as she replaces the old woman, Eve. At the foot of the cross Jesus calls Mary ‘Woman’ again because the new creation is taking place through the death and resurrection of Jesus. St. Irenaeus says in this regard: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.” (Saint Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses III, 22, 4: S. Ch. 211, 438-444) And again St. John Paul II: “How can one doubt that especially now, on Golgotha, this expression goes to the very heart of the mystery of Mary, and indicates the unique place which she occupies in the whole economy of salvation?” (Redemptoris Mater, 24).
- Eve brought sin by eating from the old tree of knowledge of good and evil; through the New Eve salvation is accomplished at the foot of the New Wood, the cross.
- The old Adam and Eve who were condemned are now being replaced by the New Adam and the New Eve who remove humanity’s condemnation.
- The disobedience of Adam and Eve is now being replaced by the obedience unto the cross of the New Adam (Philippians 1) and the ‘obedience of faith’ of the New Eve.
- “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:27). Every person, just like John, need to take Mary to their own home. Being Mary’s children, she defends us when we have her in our own spiritual home. St. John Paul II comments: “Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, ‘welcomes’ the Mother of Christ ‘into his own home’ and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that is to say into his human and Christian ‘I’: he ‘took her to his own home.’ Thus the Christian seeks to be taken into that ‘maternal charity’ with which the Redeemer’s Mother cares for the brethren of her Son…” (Redemptoris Mater, 45).
- Spiritual message: If Jesus chose Mary to be his Mother from the womb to the tomb, are you better than Jesus when you refuse to accept her as your Mother forever? I don’t think so.
Mary’s fourteenth journey to the Resurrection of Jesus
The Implication of Jesus’ Resurrection on Mary’s faith journey:
- The cruel death of Jesus was the darkest moment of Mary’s journey of faith.
- All the promises made to her from the beginning seem to be vain.
- The resurrection of Jesus was an unprecedented event in the history of humanity and especially in the life of the sorrofull Mother
- Only after the Jesus’ resurrection did Mary understand, as humanly as possible, the full picture of God’s mysterious plan.
- With his resurrection, Jesus revealed the entire mystery of Mary’s journey: her motherhood and faith had to suffer the ultimate temptation of doubt before his identity was vindicated.
- Against all hope, Mary remained faithful until her faith was rewarded.
- Only God knows the explosive joy Mary experienced with the Resurrection of Christ. No human being will ever experience that joy like her. Such a joy was on the level of her Immaculate conception: The holier a person is, the deeper they experience the glory of Christ’s resurrection.
- The joy of Jesus’ Resurrection experienced by Mary is also on the level of her deep kenosis (self-emptying).
- When Jesus was alive everyone looked at Mary through Jesus because he is the center of attention. When Jesus rose from the dead, everyone looked at Jesus through Mary because she was the only one present from the beginning. Now the Apostles and disciples are looking for answers that only Mary can give.
- Spiritual message: As the Church is introduced daily into the mystery of Christ, she looks up to Mary and tries to stay by Christ in the darkest moment of her journey. Every day we are invited to live the mystery of Christ, even though on many occasions there seems to be no hope. Yet, staying at the foot of the cross is our only option because the mystery of the cross is always followed by the mystery of the Resurrection.
Mary’s fifteenth journey to Pentecost
“When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers…When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Luke 1:13-14 and 2:1-4)
- 50 days after his Resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles in the Upper Room.
- The measure of the presence of the Holy Spirit depends on one’s life of holiness.
- Mary was filled by the Holy Spirit like no one else in the history of humanity: Being immune of all stain of sin from the beginning of her life, Mary’s human nature was disposed to receive the Holy Spirit as much as it was humanly possible.
- The Resurrection of Christ fulfilled the redemption of humanity.
- Pentecost extends the redemption of Christ in space and time forever: The Church becomes the ‘place’ where Jesus’ redemption is celebrated ever day through the sacraments.
- Pentecost gave birth to the Church and ended Mary’s earthly ministry: Her long journey on earth was fulfilled; she disappears from the Gospels after Pentecost.
- In the Incarnation, Mary conceived God the Son himself in the flesh; during Pentecost she received God the Holy Spirit himself in her flesh. Both events were on the same level, the Incarnation physically and Pentecost spiritually. St. John Paul II says in this regard: “And so, in the redemptive economy of grace, brought about through the action of the Holy Spirit, there is a unique correspondence between the moment of the Incarnation of the Word and the moment of the birth of the Church. The person who links these two moments is Mary: Mary at Nazareth and Mary in the Upper Room at Jerusalem” (Redemptoris Mater, 24).
- Mary Mother of Christ becomes during Pentecost the Mother of the Body of Christ, the Church.
- Spiritual message: The holier our life is, the more the Holy Spirit will fill it. Sin is like clouds that prevent the rays of the Spirit of God to reach us. The grace of the Holy Spirit will surprise us with incredible strength if we avoid sin at all cost. As we journey, we must hold Mary’s hands and ask her every second of the day to lead us so the Holy Spirit will grant us the graces of Christ. Her words at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you” makes the journey simple: we know what Christ wants but unfortunately we don’t follow them. St. paul is so right when he said: ” We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:14-15)
Mary’s ‘journey’ in heaven: the woman of the Book of Revelation
“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days. Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time.” (Revelation 1:1-12)
- As long as we abide in this body we are foreigners to the reality of heaven: “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4)
- On earth, we live the mystery of Christ only through faith.
- Faith can be very challenging because we can’t experience God using our senses. They are the natural channels through which we communicate with all realities outside of us. Jesus’ words to the doubting Thomas will re-echo throughout the history of humanity: Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:18)
- Even Mary lived the mystery of her Son only through faith. As St. John Paul II explains: “Thus even his Mother, to whom had been revealed most completely the mystery of his divine sonship, lived in intimacy with this mystery only through faith” (Redemptoris Mater, 17).
- After her earthly pilgrimage, Mary was taken up body and soul and soul to heaven. Now she starts her heavenly ‘journey’ for ever.
- Everything she was on earth, she continues to be in heaven but in the most perfect way.
- Who is the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars? She represents the Virgin Mary and the Church at the same time.
- All the heavenly elements that are serving her (sun, moon, and stars) express her perpetual state of glory. They also express the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church (see also Revelation 21).
- “She was with Child.” The entire scene is about the birth of Christ physically from the Virgin Mary. It is also about how the Church gives birth to Christ through the sacraments.
- The image of the red dragon trying to devour the woman’s child represents Satan who fought the Incarnation of Jesus and is fighting the Church until the end of time.
- “Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God…” The male Child is Jesus Christ who is divine. This verse also expresses the protection of the Virgin Mary and the Church from the attack of Satan.
- Now the journey of Mary is about her powerful presence in heaven. At the end of time, the Church will be experiencing the same glorious fate because of God’s ultimate victory over evil.
- Spiritual message: This vision is full of hope. The Virgin Mary shares in God’s glory and the Church is doing the same. Even though here on earth the Church is still journeying in faith, she is destined to God’s eternal life. Just because God is victorious, it does not mean that we should stop living the faith and fight the spiritual battle.
Mary’s ‘journey’ forever: Mother, Virgin, and icon of the Church
- The fact that Christ himself chose to unite her to himself in such a unique, special, supernatural, unprecedented, and irrevocable way, shows his will to place her above all creatures. All the preparations for her role in the Old Testament are now fulfilled. Vatican II teaches that Mary “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established.” (LG, 55)
- Mary is not above the Church. She remains a member of the Church, however in a complete unique way. No one will ever be united to Christ physically and spiritually like her. Mary is a “preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 53)
- After her Assumption into heaven, the Church looks at Mary as the model for Virginity and Motherhood and tries to imitate her in every aspect of her consecration.
- Mary was Virgin physically and Spiritually. The Church is also a virgin in the sense that she “”keeps whole and pure the fidelity she has pledged to her Spouse.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 64)
- Mary is our spiritual Mother. The Church is also our mother when through baptism “she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 64) In that sense, St Paul said to the Galatians” “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!’.” (Gal. 4:19)
- Mary’s pilgrimage of faith is no longer historical since she sees God “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The Church continues the journey in which “the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin, and so they raise their eyes to Mary, who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as a model of the virtues.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 65)
- Mary was united to Jesus from the womb to the tomb. Mary will be united to the Body of Jesus, the Church, from beginning to end becoming thus the Mother of the Church in the order of Grace: “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.” (Lumen Gentium, 61)
- We tend to think collectively when we think of Mary as Mother of the Church. Even though billions of people make up the Church of all time, every single person is treated as a unique and special individual by our Mother Mary. St. John Paul II comments: “Even when the same woman is the mother of many children, her personal relationship with each one of them is of the very essence of motherhood. For each child is generated in a unique and unrepeatable way, and this is true both for the mother and for the child… It can be said that motherhood ‘in the order of grace’ preserves the analogy with what ‘in the order of nature’ characterizes the union between mother and child. In the light of this fact it becomes easier to understand why in Christ’s testament on Golgotha his Mother’s new motherhood is expressed in the singular, in reference to one man: ‘Behold your son’.” (Redemptoris Mater, 45)
- Mary’s journey of faith started earlier then the Church. They both will continue together until the end of the ages. Mary lived the mystery of Christ like no one else did, does, or will. The Church in turn is invited to live Christ’s mystery in the deepest possible way. Therefore, every single person in the history of humanity who is trying to live the mystery of Christ is somehow sharing in Mary’s faith. St. John Paul II says: “This heroic faith of Mary ‘precedes’ the apostolic witness of the Church, and ever remains in the Church’s heart hidden like a special heritage of God’s revelation. All those who from generation to generation accept the apostolic witness of the Church share in that mysterious inheritance, and in a sense share in Mary’s faith.” (Redemptoris Mater, 26)
- God lives only in the eternal present and has no past or future. Therefore, Mary was in God’s mind since the beginning of creation as the instrument of Christ’s Incarnation and as the Mother of Church. Also the Church was in God’s mind since the beginning of creation, even though she was publicly revealed only at Pentecost.
- Chronologically, Mary appears before the Church on the horizon of salvation and precedes the Church in sharing God’s glory in heaven. Therefore, Mary will always be present in a very special way in the journey of the Church. St. John Paul II says: “Thanks to this special bond linking the Mother of Christ with the Church, there is further clarified the mystery of that “woman” who, from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis until the Book of Revelation, accompanies the revelation of God’s salvific plan for humanity.” (Redemptoris Mater, 47)
- The goal of the Church is the eternal resurrection of all the bodies uniting them with Christ at the end of time. Mary is already in heaven body and soul. Mary becomes therefore the icon of the Church because the Church aims to be what Mary already is: On her journey, the Church advances along the same paths trodden by the Virgin Mary, who “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58) Because of that union with her Son until the end, Mary became “a model of the Church in the matter of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 52)
- St. John Paul II beautifully summarizes Mary’s role as a model and icon of the Church by saying: “Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, for individuals and for communities, for peoples and nations and, in a sense, for all humanity. It is indeed difficult to encompass and measure its range.” (Redemptoris Mater, 6)
- Spiritual message: As we journey toward Christ, Mary is not only a model but also a powerful intercessor. She can intervene in the most difficult times of the Church’s life to support, heal, intercede, and help. Entrusting ourselves totally to her like St. John Paul II is the securest anchor in the midst of life’s storms and challenges. If the saints have done that for the past 2,000 years of the life of the Church, why should we try another way? St. Paul VI emphatically states: “Knowledge of the true Catholic doctrine regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary will always be a key to the exact understanding of the mystery of Christ and of the Church” (Discourse of 21 November 1964).
Capitulo 19: La Presencia de María en el Misterio de Cristo
Las enseñanzas en este capítulo se basan en las Escrituras Sagradas, la Tradiciones de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica (CCC)), los Padres de la Iglesia (especialmente San Thomas Aquinas y San Agustín) él Magisterio de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente San Papa Pablo VI, San Papa John Paul II y Papa Benedicto XVI).
El Comienzo del Viaje de María: El viaje de María es uno de la humanidad verdadera. A la edad de 13 o 14, el ángel vino a Nazaret para anunciar la Encarnación de Dio el Hijo. El Ángel la saludó con “granizo llena de gracia el Señor está contigo… tú concibes un hijos… su nombre será Jesús… él será genial… él heredará Reino de David para siempre… su trono nunca tendrá un fin… será un salvador…”. Todas estas promesas maravillosas desafiantes para María, una humana inteligente con voluntad libre. Ella le preguntó al ángel “¿Cómo puede pasar esto, no he tenido una relación con ningún hombre?” El ángel le respondió con que el poder del Espíritu Santo lo hizo pasar. Eso fue el primer paso de introduciendo María al misterio de Cristo su hijo. No lo den por sentado que María entendió en lo que se estaba metiendo. La única cosa que ella sabía por seguro era que ella era dedicada a Dios y estaba conciente que todas las mujeres Judías estaban esperando que Cristo fuera su hijo.
María Conoce a Elizabeth, Otro Paso en el Misterio de su Hijo: María fue a conocer su prima Elizabeth en un pueblo llamado Ain Karem, cuatro millas de Jerusalén. Cuando Elizabeth la miró, Juan el Bautista lloro con felicidad porque Juan reconoció a Jesús en la matriz de María. Elizabeth exclamó “¿Porque merezco que la Madre de mi Señor se venga a mi?”. Elizabeth estaba confirmando las palabras del ángel de nuevo indicando que María es la Madre del Señor. María ahora está avanzando poco a poco en el entendimiento del misterio de su Hijo.
El Nacimiento de Cristo Otro Paso para María: Cuando Jesús nació en Bethlehem, los ángeles aparecieron a los pastores y confirmo el cumplianos del Salvador. Ellos vinieron y le dijeron a María del mensaje de los ángeles. María está contemplando estas cosas en su corazón, pensando y meditando ¿qué tipo de hijo era este? Los Reyes Magos vinieron a visitar al niño ofreciendo oro (símbolo de monarquía), incienso (símbolo de la divinidad de Jesús), y mirra (símbolo de su sufrimiento). De nuevo el mensaje de Ángel Gabriel en la Anunciación fue confirmando otra vez y María agrego más conocimiento al contenido del misterio de Jesús.
La Presentación al Templo: Cuando Jesús fue presentado al templo para ser circuncidado, el profeto Simeón admito la presencia del Mesías “ahora Señor puede dejar su sirviente irse en paz porque ojos han visto tu salvación”. Luego Simeón le dijo a María “una espada perforara tu corazón” simbolizando su sufrimiento profundo como va esta parada al pie de la cruz. Una nueva dimensión ahora está agregada al viaje de la fe de María: su maternidad será llena de sacrificios y sufrimiento. Pero el viaje sigue.
Perdiendo Jesús en el Templo a la edad de 12 en el Templo: María perdió Jesús a la edad de 12 en el templo. Cuando lo encontró y le preguntó la razón detrás de su acción, él le contestó: “Porque estas tan ansiosa, yo tengo que estar en el negocio de mi Padre”. Revelando su dedicación a la misión de su padre sobre las preocupaciones humanas revela a María más de su persona y misión misteriosa.
María en la Misión Pública de Jesús: Cuando Jesús estaba predicando, María fue a verlo con los primos y le dijeron que su madre lo estaba buscando. Él dijo “mi madre … es el que escucha la palabra de Dios”. Su respuesta confirma que nadie escucha la palabra de Dios más que a María. De hecho, Elizabeth le dijo antes: “Bendita tú que has creído que se cumpliría lo que el Señor le había dicho”. María ahora comprende mejor la prioridad de la palabra de Dios y sobre todo los asuntos y planes humanos.
Al Pie de la Cruz: Al pie de la cruz, todas las promesas hechas a María fueron puestas a prueba. Las palabras del Ángel Gabriel, Elizabeth, Pastor y los Reyes Magos, y el profeta Simeón ahora son retados. Contra todo pronóstico, María mantuvo la fe y se paró al pie de la cruz. El Santo Papa Juan Pablo II dijo, su presencia al pie de la cruz es el kenosis más profundo (sufrimiento profundo) que cualquier ser humano podría atravesar. En ese momento, la identidad y la misión de su hijo fueron puestas a prueba y solo después de la Resurrección y el descenso del Espíritu Santo, María comprendió la foto completa.