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Cross

Christianity
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Reflections on St. Mary, Mother of God

by Rev. Fr. K. K. John

Soonoyo Perunnal - August 15th

Today’s reading is from John 19:25-27. Jesus Christ is beaten, bruised and nailed to cross. He bleeds, suffers acute pain and agony and yet He is fully conscious. Just before committing His soul to God the Father, Jesus sees his beloved mother bitterly wailing at the foot of the cross. He said to his mother, “Woman, behold thy son and then to the disciple whom he loved, Behold thy mother. From that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” 

This is one of the seven verses Jesus said on the cross, according to four gospel accounts. 

Other relevant readings for the day are from Mathew 12:46-50, Mark 3:28-35, Luke 2:42-51, 10:38-42, 11:23-32, and John 2:1-11. These Gospel portions either directly or indirectly involve St Mary. I do not wish to go into all those details now.

This instance best portrays the perfect human nature and sentiments of Jesus, a dutiful and loving son. Even in the midst of severe forsakenness, pain and agony Jesus showed genuine concern about safety and welfare of earthly mother in his earthly absence and ensures adequate protection. 

Jesus was a perfect Jew, law abiding and fully conscious of his earthly obligations. The Jewish law was explicit; it was non-negotiable duty of sons to ensure adequate provision and care of parents in their old age. Sons, or daughters in the absence of sons, were bound to take care of all needs of aging parents and society and religion looked upon them to fulfill such obligations without grumbling. Parents especially sick and incapacitated were not considered excess or source of encumbrance curtailing freedom of youngsters. Old-age homes were totally unknown in Jewish community. Sons invariably considered it a high calling and eagerly waited to receive parting blessings of parents rather, parting blessings were considered a treasured inheritance. Thus we see patriarch Noah blesses his sons, Gen 9:26-27, Isaac blesses his sons Jacob and Esau, Gen 27:28-29 and 39-40, Jacob blesses his sons and sons of Joseph, Gen 48:15. Esau was thoroughly heartbroken when Isaac told him that Jacob subtly took all the blessings from him. Esau bitterly weeps and pleads with Isaac for blessings, Gen 27:38, which shows that parental blessing was held in high esteem and necessity. 

In our contemporary individualistic, free, self-centered, scientific and technically advanced nuclear family setting this important aspect is almost vanished or forgotten that as children we miss parental blessings and grandchildren miss love and affection of grandparents, which in turn has considerably contributed to moral apathy in society. I hope this would enable at least to review one’s relationship with parents.

Pertinent question why Jesus committed his mother to the disciple, who are brothers, etc I have already dealt with elsewhere (article, “Mary-Yoldath Aloho”) and hence avoid repetition. Here, I would rather consider a sermon perspective not doctrinal perspective, why our Church gives utmost importance to St Mary, even higher than all saints and the apostles and reasons thereof.

1, Mother of humanity.

Jesus created a new relationship between the most blessed mother and believer by committing her to disciple John, that is, she is mother of all believers. I have no shame but rather extremely proud to call St Mary ‘my mother’ for she gave birth to ‘My Lord and My God Jesus Christ.’ Blood of Christ that streamed on the cross of Calvary is the best and the only detergent that washes off my sins and debts. That blood was drawn from the fragile earthly body of Mary and hence she deserves adoration and respect more than any other human beings. 

2, Mary is blessed of all women, said archangel Gabriel, Luke 1:28. 

Blessedness according to worldview is radically different and opposite to biblical perspective. The worldview says, one who posses good fortune, social influence, position of authority, talents, etc with which one can lead a trouble-free, worry-free, pleasurable, successful life is blessed. Unfortunately, this predicament misled many a people to adopt many nefarious means to attain the goal they desired.

But the facts prove otherwise. These may help one attain certain degree of comfort but not blessedness at any rate. Angel is not the only one who declared and confirmed Mary was blessed; there are also others. 

1, Elizabeth, “Blessed are you among women”, Luke 1:42, 
2, Holy Spirit through the mouth of Mary, “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed,” v 48, 
3, Woman from the crowd, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts which nursed you,” Luke 11:27. (In Jesus’ reply to it v28.) 

When we closely study Mary’s life we would marvel if Mary ever had a blessed life! 

The first salutation of Archangel caused trouble in her mind. She traveled long way, about 100 KM, from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was weak and unable to undertake journey being full pregnant with child. 
She had neither friends nor relatives to help nor a place to rest in Bethlehem and in her utter helplessness she delivered Baby Jesus in a cave. 
She had no good clothe to wrap the babe according to Jewish custom, which any mother would reasonably wish but she had to content with swaddling clothes. 
She was so poor that she could not afford a goat or ram to sacrifice in the temple. 
In the temple, old Simeon said, “A sword shall pierce through you your own soul,” Luke 2:35, which invariably escalated her grief. 
After census registration she moved back with the child. Before fully settling in Nazareth the angel advised Joseph to escape to Egypt to protect the child and mother from Herod the tyrant. She fled to Egypt with the child and Joseph, needless to mention the difficulties on the way. After death of the cruel king Herod, the angel advised return to Nazareth with the child and she obeyed. 
Then she faced turmoil when Jesus was not found among the caravan. 
She witnessed the arrest, false charges, trials, beatings, mocking, stripping naked and hanging on the cross like a worst criminal forsaken by even the chosen disciples. 

In the worldview, she was most despised, poor and afflicted woman and yet we call her blessed, which adds a new dimension to the concept, ‘blessed.’ It is not the externals such as wealth, popularity, power, authority, charisma or poverty, afflictions, sufferings, etc that makes one blessed but the internals such as peace of mind, togetherness with God, and freedom that one enjoys in Christ. In this respect assuredly Mary was blessed for God was with her. 

We see many blessed persons in the Bible namely those 
who are called by God, Is 51:2, 
who are chosen by God, Ps 65:4, 
who are disciplined by God, Ps 94:12, 
who put their trust in God, Ps 2:12, 
who fear God and walk in His ways, Ps 128:1, 
who are undefiled, 
who walk in the law of the Lord, 
who keep His testimonies and seek Him with whole heart, Ps 119:1-2, 
who know Christ, believe and suffer for Him, Gal 3:9, 
who endures temptation, Jas 1:12, 
who keep off from sin,
who is righteous, 
who show mercy, 
who are poor in spirit, 
who make peace, Mat Ch 5, 
whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sins are covered, Ps 32:1, 
who has part in resurrection, Rev 20:6, etc. 

St Mary qualifies to be blessed by all these standards. 

3, She is full of grace or highly favored according to certain versions, which also archangel Gabriel said, Luke 1:28. 

Grace is unmerited favor, which God gives when a recipient is not expecting or deserving. It was not that Mary deserved by virtue of her extraordinary birth or
deeds but God in his infinite veracity so chose to favor and dwell in her. God was gracious to Israel by giving them prosperity, delivering them from distress, from enemies, forgiving them, etc. 

Grace is given at the sole discretion of God. In other words, He favors whomsoever He pleases, Ex 33:19. Apostle elucidates grace in relation to love of Christ. God demonstrated his own love toward us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Rom 5:8. Believer receives salvation by grace, not by merits.

4, Trinity manifested in her person

This happened on seldom occasions such as 
1, at creation of man, Gen 1:26. 
2, at Babel tower to diffuse language, Gen 11:7. 
3, At Mary’s conception, (a) Holy Spirit will come upon thee, (b) Power of the Highest will overshadow you -Father, (c) Holy one who is born will be called the Son, Luke 1:35. 
4, when Jesus baptized. 

5, God is with her, the angel told, which entitles her unparalleled Excellency. 

This assurance made her frank and fearless. She was aware of the possible hazards ahead if she were found pregnant because the rigid Mosaic Law required death by stoning in such cases. She could not imagine that Joseph, her betrothed spouse, would protect her but that did not deter her to accept the challenge because she experienced God’s presence and she believed nothing was impossible to God. 

Who shall we fear if God is with us? 
God assured Moss, “I will be with you,” and Moses did great things. 
After the death of Moses Joshua was a bit shaky but God assured, “I will be with you as I was with Moses,” which strengthened and encouraged him, Josh 1:5. 
We are far more privileged because He sent Holy Spirit to dwell with us permanently and made us His temple, 1 Cor 3:16. Conviction of such inseparable togetherness with God radically transforms the believer into a new creation. How blessed is the situation being God with us! 

6, Mary willingly submitted to God’s plan of redemption saying, “Behold maidservant of the Lord, Let it be to me according to your word,” Luke 1:38. 

The word servant has special significance, which we are unable to comprehend in the present social situation. Servant had no rights other than what the master gave on those days. Servant was considered no better than animal. Master could sell or kill servant, no one would dare say a word. Servant had no identity independent of the master. 

Knowing fully these constraints Mary said, “your maidservant,” which meant perfect dedication, forfeiting all her individual rights in favor of master’s will. Mary’s perfect obedient submission is the most important factor in the divine plan of redemption. Her unconditional submission to the ultimate will of God is a worthy
example for all of us to follow. World has never before or after produced a better model of humility and for the same reason God exalted her above all others. 

Jesus also taught us the value of servant-hood. Are we willing to accept servant-hood? God wants each one of us to accomplish greater things, which are possible only when we submit in humility, ‘Here I am Lord, be it according to your will.’ 

7, Mary’s soul magnified Lord, her spirit rejoiced in God. 

Though Mary was not highly educated her song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 known as “Magnificat” is of considerable poetical and theological value and we recite it in all our prayers, which well explicates Mary’s utmost desire to glorify God. She has fatigue out of the just finished tedious journey and yet she is more curious to glorify God than to relax. 

Do we have such an urge to glorify God before everything? Very purpose behind creation of human beings is to glorify God. But we often fail. Man has an innate tendency to exalt himself rather than God, which is great sins and reason for all failures!

8, She is the first Christian. 

Christians through faith and by baptism put on Christ, Gal 3:27 and yet, real Christian is the one in whom Christ lives or in substantial union with Christ. 

St Paul said, “I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,” Gal 4:19. 
“I have been crucified with Christ it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me,” Gal 2:20, 
“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” Phil 1:21. 

Christ was formed, grew and lived in the womb of Mary. Word took flesh from her, thus she became Mother of God and first Christian at the same time.

9, Mary was the most loving and compassionate of all human beings ever lived. 

She took courage to be at the foot of the cross and saw her beloved son dying in pain without least fearing soldiers or inimical Jews because she loved her son so ardently. John says there is no fear in true love, 1 John 4:18. She was only an invitee at the wedding of Cana but when there was a deficiency she voluntarily extends her helping hands. John adds that the first ever miracle was performed at the mediation of the blessed mother thus becoming guest and host at the same time not only at the wedding at Cana but in every believer’s home for, there is no Christ without mother and no mother without Christ; both are so naturally together at all times.

10, She was a law-abiding citizen. 

She was very feeble being in advanced pregnancy, when law required her to go a long way to Bethlehem with Joseph for census. She obliged happily without hesitation. She is a precious model for all mothers, wives and womanhood. 

11, She was devout in prayer, meditation, family matters and well known in the society.

Venerable Church fathers expounded, ‘Angel appeared to her when she stood before God in prayer.’ Behind the success story of every hero in the bible there is a committed prayer life.

12, She was meek and always in self-control. 

She had neither pride nor ever claimed self-righteous. She thought lowly about her, not boasted though she could and kept cool both in times of joy and sorrow. 

It was unprecedented that an angel would appear to a young girl, heralding good news that she was “full of grace” (‘Highly favored one’ is translation error) followed by another salutation from aunt Elizabeth as “Mother of my Lord,” 
Unnatural events at birth of Jesus Christ such as host of angels singing/praising, special star rising in the sky, wise men from the east offer presents and worship, shepherds come and worship, Simeon blesses saying, “Mine eyes have seen Your salvation” and the Child is “Glory of Israel and light of Gentiles” and Anna the prophetess thanks Lord, and much more had sufficient reasons for her to feel fulfilled and pride. But instead, she kept these things in mind, Luke 2:51. 

Even in times of extreme sorrows she does not get over-stricken by grief.
For example: 
Joseph doubted her integrity to the extend of forsaking privately, 
she had to hurriedly journey to Bethlehem with Joseph in her advanced pregnancy, 
had to flee to Egypt for safety of the child with Joseph, 
she saw her son, despised, mocked, stripped naked, beaten, bruised, bleeding and dying on the cross like a defenseless criminal. 

No one in history suffered the affliction she endured and yet kept cool at all times which is rare quality attributable to great souls. ‘Good people would not forsake their character even in danger; Camphor emits more fragrance in fire.’

13, She was holy. 

Holy God cannot dwell in unholy places. Jehovah God admonished Israel, “Be holy for I am holy,” Lev 11:14. Holy Spirit sanctifies everything. 

Mary was sanctified and purged from the original sin just at the moment of conception of the Word consistent with the
holiness of God. 
She was free from all personal sins too. She was not defiled by human lust any time. Joseph having self-convinced beyond doubts on the basis of his personal encounter with
the angel and affirmation received thereto about her chastity and divine indwelling treated her with awe and wonder and indeed kept her in high regard without a ray of thought to defile her for, he was just, the gospel says. 

St Paul had in mind the exemplary sacrifice rendered by Mary in conceiving the Word of God and her immaculate life thereafter when he exhorted every believer to, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service,” Rom 12:1. 

What is thronos in our Church? It is the seat of Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thus St Mary is the hallowed living-thronos to a believer.

What is Madbaho (Kduskudisin) or Holy of Holies? That is where God dwells, right? Then, St Mary is Holy of Holies where God dwelt for a believer. 

The celebrant holding the bread and chalice says, “This is my body and this is my blood.” When the celebrant says these foundational words of the Eucharist he visualizes Mary bearing baby-Christ. Priest is thus endowed with great and
divine privilege to hold the redeemer in his fragile hands even as St Mary held. 

14, She is first of all saints. 

Saint is the one who is set apart for God’s holy purposes. Church is the holy body of those sanctified in the name of Christ and who live in union with Christ. Believers who are baptized into the body of Christ are saints, though we recognize certain saints for their total devotion in a special way. Same way Mary is first saint and
saint of all saints. Church fathers rightly exalted her above all saints. 

She is also the first and foremost intercessor. She tirelessly supplicates for the entire world. Jesus Christ grants her supplications. The Holy Trinity is pleased to grant her request not as the one coequal but as the one highly favored, which favor no other human beings ever enjoyed. She stands out in the crowd!

Conclusion: 

May her prayers be strong refuge to us! Oh Morth Mariam Basluth Yoldath Aloho pray for us.

I attest confidently, St Mary is mother, helper and intercessor for all those who repose confidence in her. Supplications directed to her will not go unheeded.

See Also:

Virgin Mary, Mother of God
In this ground-breaking work, Cicily Sunny presents the results from her life-long search for Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. It contains information, that was not known before or was not widely known. There are detailed visions of the end of the world and the shape of the coming Kingdom. This is a must-read for all the Christians.

Annunciation to St. Mary
Annunciation reminds us that Mary obeyed God and willingly submitted to God's will and helped to take away the curse that has  brought about suffering and death. She became the WOMAN whose son took away the sins of humanity and abolished death. So Mary provided a body to God  who is spirit, so that he can suffer on our behalf and die.

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