We were walking home from church when four-year-old Lucy suddenly stopped in her tracks, incredulous. “Wait…you mean God made His own Mother?!?”
The mystery of Mary is not just something to startle four-year-olds. Reflecting on Mary highlights the truth of the Incarnation, and the glorious plan of God.
The Maker of the Universe entered that Universe in the smallest way possible, as a single cell, hidden in the womb of a young girl in a small town itself almost unknown.
God could have come to earth in any way He pleased. He chose to enter the womb of the Virgin Mary. He did not choose her merely as a vessel, but as a Mother. He chose to be carried in a human body, to be nursed at human breasts, to be changed and swaddled and rocked in human arms. We are told that He was obedient to her and to Joseph, allowing His own creatures to teach Him to walk, to eat, to read and write, to pray.
In today’s Gospel we hear the story of the Visitation. Mary is carrying the newly conceived Jesus beneath her heart as she hastens to the hill country to her cousin Elizabeth. The mothers meet and so do the children within, as Baby John the Baptist leaps for joy at Mary’s voice and the presence of his Cousin.
“Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” wonders Elizabeth aloud. There is an echo of royalty in her words—this title was used for the mother of the king. But we must not rush past the very simple reality that a human mother was the Mother of God. The work of God was to be mediated through human bodies.
The Council of Ephesus had to confront the heresy of Nestorianism, which basically separated the humanity and divinity of Jesus and considered Mary the mother only of His humanity. The truth is that Jesus is One Person, who is both God and Man, and His Mother is Mother of that complete Person. She was affirmed in Ephesus as Theotokos, the God-bearer, and, incidentally, when the crowds heard this they rioted for joy!
Mary carried the child, God, first within her womb, and then in her heart as He walked the roads of Galilee, Jerusalem, and ultimately up the hill to Calvary. There at the Cross Jesus expanded Her motherhood to include the Beloved Disciple, and thereby all of us: “Woman, behold your son.”
Just as her motherhood of Jesus was not merely spiritual, but bodily, so also her concern for each of us and all of our needs. Her first prayer of intercession was only four words, “They have no wine.” A lack of wine would embarrass the wedding hosts. But Mary was also aware and awaiting the wine of a greater feast that Her Son would one day initiate.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Assumption. At the close of her earthly life, Mary was brought body and soul into heaven. She is a sign of our hope, as it is God’s desire that we too shall join Him in heaven, body and soul. She is also confirmation that the plan of God is to glorify what is human, including the human body.