The Divine Motherhood
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The Gospels, which carefully recount the life of our Savior, provide few details on the Blessed Virgin.
They tell us nothing of her spotless conception, nothing of her nativity, and nothing of her childhood in the Temple of Jerusalem. Although the Evangelists develop at length the admirable scenes of the Annunciation and the Visitation, these are the only two mysteries in which Mary appears as a central figure.
Subsequently, we find only extremely brief allusions in the Gospel as to her role. We see her presenting her newborn Son to be adored by the poor shepherds and the three kings. Then we see her bearing the Child Jesus to Egypt in hurried flight. Passing references alone indicate her long life of intimacy with the divine Master in the little house of Nazareth.
When Our Lord finally begins his public ministry, the figure of Mary almost disappears into discreet shadows. We see her only for a moment at the wedding in Cana. Here and there the sacred writers mention her humbly listening to her Son teaching the crowds. We find her at last on Calvary, standing at the foot of the cross during the tragic hours of the Passion. That is all the Gospels tell us of Mary. Does it not seem that our piety would gain much from knowing more about so moving a subject?
The Fathers of the Church asked themselves the reason for this strange silence.
They unanimously responded that, in establishing the Savior’s genealogy, Saint Matthew sums up Our Lady’s greatness and glory in a single line. “Jacob,” he writes, “begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”1
Thus, if you desire a more profound knowledge of Mary’s role, study with pious attention the most incomparable of her privileges, her divine Motherhood.
I will not conceal from you the almost insurmountable difficulties presented by such a sublime topic. Before broaching the subject, I reread several passages from the many discourses devoted to her by the Doctors of the Church. I was not surprised to see that in the presence of such greatness, they felt overwhelmed by great discouragement. What words would be strong enough to convey their thoughts? What comparisons true enough to communicate such a mystery?
Saint Epiphanius, one of the most brilliant of the Eastern Church Fathers, recounts one by one all the glories of Heaven. He examines the choirs of angels and the different categories of saints. He then adds: “But the Mother of the Word far surpasses them all. Save for God, she is superior to all. No human tongue can worthily sing her praises.”2
Saint Thomas Aquinas, the uncontested master of Catholic Tradition, tells us that divine Maternity confers an infinite dignity upon Mary.
He shows us Our Lady reaching the boundaries of the divinity in her ascent to God.3
An abyss separates us from the Most High. While we are nothing, He lives in all eternity in light inaccessible to our mortal eyes. Though we can do nothing of ourselves, He created the universe by the power of a single word. Deserving our adoration, He reminds us that our homage serves Him no purpose. “To what purpose do you offer Me the multitude of your victims? saith the Lord. I am full; I desire not holocausts or rams, and fat of fatlings, and blood of calves, and lambs, and goats.”4
Nevertheless, while this God is sovereignly independent from His creatures, He chose to have recourse to the Immaculate Virgin to accomplish the great designs of His Infinite Mercy. To solicit her consent in the work of the Incarnation, He sent the Archangel Gabriel.
This God, so distant from our smallness, chose to establish such a profound relationship with Mary that I dare say she enters, as no other, into the very intimacy of the adorable Trinity.
The Holy Ghost miraculously fructified her incomparable virginity, becoming her Spouse. Secondly, the Eternal Word drew from her flesh His most holy body and infinitely precious blood. After His birth in the grotto of Bethlehem, He was nourished for many months by Our Lady. This truth so charms and delights us that we exclaim with Saint Augustine, “The flesh of Christ is the flesh of Mary!”—Car Christi, car Mariae. Since children’s traits are often similar to those of their mothers, the Savior, the most beautiful of children, most probably wanted to resemble Mary.
Finally, the Queen of Heaven shares in the Father’s glory. He, Who eternally begets the Son, says to Him at the moment of His baptism: “Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.”5 Mary did not give Our Lord His divine nature, but clothed His divinity with a mortal body similar to our own.
Together with the Father, she can say of Jesus, the immortal King of ages, the Word that fills the blessed in Heaven with awe: “Thou art truly my Son. I gave Thee Thy human life and surrounded Thee with the entire strength of my tenderness, O Beloved of my heart.”
By her divine Motherhood, the Blessed Virgin possesses indisputable rights over the Savior.
In the first place, she has rights over His will. The Child Jesus had to obey His mother.
The Evangelists clearly call this to our attention by showing Him submissive to both His mother and adopted father: “And He went down with them…and was subject to them.”6
Nevertheless, we must not exaggerate this fact. The Savior received from the Most High a mission beyond the authority of Our Lady.
Indeed, at the age of twelve He remained in the Temple among the doctors without informing His parents. In so doing, He wanted us to fully understand that while His mother could not command Him in all things, she had a great influence over His adorable will. Was it not also at her request that He worked His first miracle at Cana?
The Blessed Virgin also has rights over the heart of her Son, and these are inalienable.
On earth as in Heaven, Jesus pays His mother the entire respect and tenderness of a son. It is therefore impossible that He would refuse to fulfill her wishes.
It is likewise impossible that He would reject our prayers if we present them in the name of the love which is and always will be due His mother.
What should we conclude about this privilege that elevates the Blessed Virgin so high above all other creatures?
First of all, it should inspire us with gratitude. We live amid an abundance of supernatural blessings that souls did not possess in ancient times. Right after our births, we were taken to church, where the sacred water of Baptism made us children of God. When the weight of our sins burdens our conscience too heavily, we relieve the burden of our scruples and remorse at the foot of the altar. We depart with lightened souls and the certitude of having received pardon. When tempted, we can seek strength or consolation amid our labors by kneeling in prayer before the altar. Jesus is truly present, waiting to open His heart to us. In the Tabernacle He anxiously awaits the offer of the hospitality of our fragile and wretched souls. These graces, running in unceasing torrents upon the world, are at our disposition. We need only take a step to be engulfed by them.
Have you ever supposed you might somehow be indebted to the divine Motherhood of the Virgin Mary? Have you ever thought to express your gratitude to her? One day Our Lord cured ten lepers. These miraculously healed and blessed men immediately presented themselves to the priests as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. Only one returned to thank his Benefactor. “Were not ten made clean? Where are the nine?” asked the Savior sadly.7 Could not the Blessed Virgin say the same? “I gave Jesus to souls and they forget that they received Him through me.”
Therefore, let us thank Our Lady today. Indeed, let us thank her often for what she has done for us! This simple practice will call down upon us abundant blessings.
Once again, Divine Motherhood should inspire us to unlimited confidence. Mary is all good and her prayers are “all-powerful” with God. Let us frequently invoke her.
When Saint John the Apostle reached a very old age he would have his disciples carry him among the faithful whose pastor he was. He often addressed them with the same words: “My children,” he pleaded, “love one another.” His listeners eventually grew weary of hearing the same teaching and asked him: “Why do you always repeat these same words?” The beloved disciple, who had learned charity from the bosom of the Savior, responded: “to love one another is the Master’s command.”
If you are surprised that I should insist in telling you to pray without ceasing to your Mother in Heaven, I shall answer: “It is the great means of perseverance and salvation.” God entrusted to us this precious key which opens the Heart of Jesus, the richest of all treasures. We would be remiss in not drawing from it the abundant consolation, illumination, and strength we need for the journey.
We hear much talk about efficacious prayers. There are very efficacious prayers to Saint Expeditus, for example. There are efficacious novenas to other saints who, with the Church, I profoundly venerate. Yet, there is one saint who far surpasses the other elect in glory and power.
And there is one prayer that is the most perfect of all after the one taught us by Our Lord Himself.
With this prayer and with the humility that is so pleasing to God, we ask for the necessary graces for the present moment as well as for our final hour. “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
The whole prayer is really quite ingenious, for it includes the Blessed Virgin’s magnificent privileges—her Immaculate Conception and her sublime Motherhood.
It also contains within it an act of praise addressed to the divine Son she so dearly loves: “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Our Lady cannot help but hear this prayer and be moved!
Saint Bernard habitually greeted a statue of the Madonna in his monastery. Each time he passed by he recited a Hail Mary. A legend says that one day the statue came to life and Our Lady’s face lit up with a smile. She graciously inclined her head to the saint and said, “And I greet you, Bernard.”
Let us be devoted to the Hail Mary. Let us often recite it with attention and piety. The Blessed Virgin may not miraculously greet us as she did Saint Bernard, but she will protect us during our lifetime. She will come to our aid at the hour of our need with maternal love and will lead our souls to the Paradise of which she is the Queen.
1. Matt 1:16 Jacob autem genuit Joseph, virum Maria d qua natus est Jesus, qui vocatur Christus.[back to text]
2. Cf. Stain Epiphanius, Homil, 5a in Laud. S.M.V.[back to text]
3. “Ad fines divinitatis propria operatione atigit.” Summa Theologica, II-II, q.103, art 4, ad.2.[back to text]
4. Isaias 1:11.[back to text]
5. Luke 3:22.[back to text]
6. Luke 2:51.[back to text]
7. Luke 17:17.[back to text]
This devotional article is taken from Crusade Magazine, November-December, 1999; a Special Edition dedicated almost entirely to the Most Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the form of a work by Fr. Raymond de Thomas de Saint-Laurent as a token of reparation for the many blasphemies and insults that are continuously hurled against them.