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May 1, 2013 WBAS Topics Prayer, WBAS Topics Saints, REL Topic- Saints

Mary as Model of Motherhood

“Lovely Lady, dressed in blue…”  I sang this lyric every spring with my classmates as we festooned with flowers the statue of Mary during the annual May crowning at my high school. This annual ritual was a sweet way to honor Mary, if a bit sentimental. Her portrait in the Bible is quite different. She appears infrequently in the Gospels, but when she does, the scenes are powerful and poignant. As the only person to know Jesus from his birth to his death, Mary offers a unique view of his humanity and a model of discipleship that we strive to emulate today.

St_Andrei_Rublev_IconsIt wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I began to appreciate the complexities of her story. It was then that I saw her, not as a lovely lady in blue, but as a flesh-and-blood figure who experienced an astounding transformation over the course of her life. No wonder that women have turned to her over the centuries for comfort and understanding as they struggle with concerns ranging from the routine to the radical.

We often refer to Mary’s “yes” in the account of the Annunciation as the doorway to redemption. She cooperates with the Divine Plan, thus becoming a critical part of the Incarnational event – God become flesh. Her open-heartedness is all the more touching when one recalls that she was just a young girl – perhaps only thirteen – when she received startling news from an angel. Nevertheless, her prayer of praise for a God who has demanded more than she could imagine, is a model of faith and trust. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Luke 1:46-47). The exuberance in the prayer we call “the Magnificat” is truly an example of her abiding love for God and respect for his Divine Power.

My friend, Father William McNichols, captured her maturation beautifully in an article called “Mary’s Fiat”. “She is a wide-eyed child, spellbound by the apparition of an angel, or a little slip of a girl with a baby almost too big for her arms…A frightened teen-ager being led away from the violence and mayhem in the middle of the night… A frantic mother of a lost child… The perceptive woman who quietly nudges her son out of the nest and into his ministry… The Mater Dolorosa…[who] cradles, once again, her naked child in poverty…” (Jesuit Bulletin. Spring/Fall 1984. Used with permission). Mothers across miles and millennia can relate to the mixture of joy and sorrow, confusion and clarity, anguish and exhilaration that comes with giving birth to and raising a child.

Perhaps my favorite image of Mary is at Pentecost. I picture her sitting amidst the disciples with a wizened and yet expansive heart. She alone knows the experience of the Holy Spirit first-hand, so perhaps she doesn’t flinch in the midst of wind and flame. Does she recall the first time she knew the workings of the Spirit in her life? Does she reflect back on the twists and turns of her wondrous story? And does the same prayer rise to her lips as she recalls once more the “mighty things” her God has, indeed, done for her?

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