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The Disciple Contemplates the Mother (Part One) | Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
| An excerpt from The
Way of the Disciple
Part One | Part
Because a Christian disciple is above all a Christ-bearer, there exists
a deep and indispensable relationship between Jesus' disciples and the
Mother of Emmanuel.
By an ineffable design of his grace, God has appointed us to be the visible
manifestation of Jesus Christ in the world, the visibility of him who
is the Son common to the living God and the humble Virgin of Nazareth.
It was she who first made him visible among us, this Virgin whose childbearing,
in Isaiah's promise, is inseparable from her Son's labor to "save his
people from their sins". We, too, should carefully take to heart the
angel's words to Joseph: "Do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that
which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."
Now, this communion with the Mother of Jesus, far from being an eccentric
and misguided departure from the purity of the Gospel, is precisely that
to which the Lord Jesus is calling us if we would follow him perfectly.
When in Luke 11:28 Jesus proclaims the great beatitude: "Blessed . . .
are those who hear the word of God and keep it", surely he intends a great
deal more than simply the observance of specific commandments. For the
"Word of God", used in the singular and in such a solemn proclamation,
must refer above all to Jesus himself as eternal Son of the Father, especially
in the context of an anonymous woman declaring Mary's womb to be blessed
for having borne him as Savior. Likewise, the Greek word [phulassontes]
in this same context conveys much more than simply "observing" or "keeping":
indeed, its full range of associations extends to "defending", "cherishing",
"fostering' safeguarding", all meanings directly relevant to the conception,
bearing, and rearing of a child.
"To keep the Word of God", as Jesus enjoins, cannot at bottom mean anything
other than allowing the Holy Spirit to implant the Son of the Father in
the womb of our Souls, and then for us to give birth to this Word into
the world in union with Mary, the historical Mother of Jesus and the perennial
Mother of the Church. The kerygmatic birth of Jesus into the world from
the womb of the apostles' faith cannot be a substantially different birth
from the historical one that took place in Bethlehem, for there is only
one Christ Jesus. The "keeping of the Word of God" in this sense is in
full harmony both with the Father's proclamation at the Transfiguration
("This is my beloved Son ... ; listen to him") and with Mary's advice
to the guests at Cana ("Do whatever he tells you!").
Both the Father and the Mother point to the incarnate Word with love and
pleasure. The Holy Spirit conceives him in us, and the Word, bent on redeeming
us, points to himself as revelation of the Father. Mary is the purely
human form of the divine will to save.
To be a Christian and a disciple, then, means becoming Christ-bearers
in the world in the most radical and literal sense. However, such a visible
presence and communication of the total Jesus through us cannot occur
without our being in constant communion with both the Father and the Mother
of Jesus, the two origins of his divine and human life. The Holy Spirit
cannot accomplish the fullness of redemption in us, cannot effect the
conception of the Son of the Most High within usand we cannot
become another Mary, the Christian vocation in a nutshell unless
we seek the company of her through whom and in whom he is permanently
present, not only among the choirs of angels in union with his Father
and their Spirit, but also visibly and humanly in his Church and within
the landscape of this world, so wretched yet so graced.
"Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and
every one who loves the parent loves the child." This is the descending
order of love in John: If you love the parent, you must also love the
child, which here refers both to Jesus himself and to those begotten by
faith in his messiahship, Must we not also hold this order of love with
regard to Jesus' human Mother? If we love Jesus as Son of the only Father,
can we avoid, without a grave breach of all decency, loving his only Mother?
We love Jesus for the sake of the Father, and we love Mary for the sake
of Jesus and the Father, and thus our love for her is not based on whim
or mere sentiment, but on the firm foundation of God's own trinitarian
Being and of the economy of redemption he has wrought.
"Going into the house [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother, and
they fell down and worshiped him." It is impossible to find Jesus in
isolation from the two essential communities to which he belongs by his
nature as incarnate Word. In his divinity we cannot embrace him apart
from the community of the Holy Trinity; and in his humanity we cannot
approach him apart from the family through which he enters our race and
shares our human condition to the full. "What God has joined together,
let no man put asunder."
As the Magi find him "with Mary his mother", they "fall down and worship
him". Note well two things here: first, that they worship only Jesus,
but, at the same time, that in bowing down in adoration before him they
must necessarily incline with reverence in the direction of the Virgin
Mother who is holding him out to them and to the world. Thus, worship
of Jesus is inseparable from deep reverence for the Mother by whose obedient
faith he has come into the world and made himself available for our own
adoration. Mary's faith has thus made it possible for us to adore God
We surrender our whole being in worship to him alone and, through him,
to the Father. But, in so doing, we render an homage of deep gratitude
and love to her who first believed and, through her faith, has made our
finding of Jesus possible. Nor is this finding of Jesus with his Mother
limited only to his babyhood, when he physically had to be held and presented
to the world by his Mother's arms. His dependency on his Mother is a sign
of the manner of humiliation and weakness whereby the Word has chosen
to redeem us, and this kenotic existence persists all through his work
of redemption and into our own spiritual lives today. Therefore, we must
never forget that, since all the works of his divine love become efficacious
through the means of his human body, emotions, will, intellect, and Heart,
consequently the Mother who gave him the gift of her humanity is also
continuously present in his every work even when she is invisible to us.
Especially at the moment when he sheds all his blood on the Cross, we
must remember that this very blood has no other source than his Mother's
body. His Father gave him the will to die for us, but Mary gave him the
body and the blood to perfect and consummate the sacrifice. Mary alone
gave Jesus the blood with which to drown man's sin!
We must meditate deeply on the mystery of natural human motherhood, femininity,
and childhood in order to develop on that basis the full understanding
of how God chose to redeem us. And a major part of that mystery is the
manner in which a childand this Child most especially, since he
has no human father!derives all its being from its mother. Is it
not striking indeed that both in Genesis 3:15-16, when God promises a
Redeemer who would "bruise" the head of the serpent, and in Revelation
12:9, when the "ancient serpent" is finally thrown down to earth, it is
a woman and a mother who plays an essential role alongside the central
activity of the male Child, both as his individual Mother and as Mother
of the race of his followers?
How could these two towering moments in the history of revelationimmediately
after the Fall and immediately after the final victory over Satanbe
divorced from the Incarnation, Golgotha, and Pentecost, pivotal events
all three where the Woman Mother is likewise indispensably present? How,
after contemplating all of this, could anyone say that Mary is in no way
different from any of the rest of the redeemed?
Such an assertion would appear to be a grave violation, not only of orthodox
Catholic teaching, but of explicitly revealed scriptural truth. Denying
Mary a divinely decreed uniqueness in the work of redemption surely must
result in a very skewed and prejudiced theology. Often it would seem that
persons holding such an opinion are primarily motivated by an implicit
but unrelenting anti-Catholic polemic, ingrained in generations of Protestant
believers since the sixteenth century; but with a paradoxical result:
that the defeat of a paramount Catholic dogma should be more important
than accepting the full truth of revelation.
The Child's dependency on his. Mother, of course, does not contradict
what is equally true: that a child grows to maturity and becomes in many
ways independent of his parents. However, because we are here dealing
with the conception of a Child as a result of divine initiative, and with
the corresponding response of faith by a Woman, it would seem that the
forces radiating from Mary's first act of faith must extend outward, not
only to the actual birth and early nurturing of Jesus, but indeed to his
whole subsequent existence, including the events of the Resurrection and
of the Savior's present reign in glory.
A conception out of pure power and goodness on God's part, and pure faith
and sinlessness on the Mother's part, must surely produce a great deal
more than simply a nine-month pregnancy and physical birth! Indeed, it
is the beginning of the Body of the Church, the dawn of the Kingdom of
God on earth and in heaven. Mary's act of faith and love, as the indispensable
condition for the redemption, urgently concerns and involves each of those
who have ever or will ever believe and become followers of her Son.
"A voice came out of the cloud, 'This is my beloved Son; listen to him.'"
"His Mother said to the servant, 'Do whatever he tells you." Both the
heavenly Father and the earthly Mother do one thing only: point to their
common Son, Jesus, and command us to obey his word. Thus, the so-called
"mediation" of the Blessed Virgin Mary can be properly understood only
in terms of her unceasing response to and active cooperation with that
coming to her of the Holy Spirit that resulted in the Incarnation. Saint
Paul's "until Christ be formed within you"  cannot occur without her
mediation. For, if she was necessary for the historical Incarnation, the
source of all redemption, how is she to be less necessary for Christ's
coming to us by the interior grace of regeneration?
of "The Disciple Contemplates the Mother"
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