Mary, Mother of Jesus, led an instrumental life of prayer and service in the shadow of her Son. At the annunciation, Mary pondered the greeting of the angel and discerned God’s will by faith with the guidance of the angel. She consented unconditionally to God’s will, with humble trust and obedient acceptance as she replied: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1.38)
At the visitation, Mary promptly responded to the angel’s word and travelled through the hill country of Judea to be of service to her cousin Elizabeth for three months. When Mary arrived, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, greeted her as the mother of the Lord. Mary responded to Elizabeth’s greeting with her prayer, the Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55). Her prayer praises the Lord’s majesty, celebrates His mercy to the humble and poor of heart, and rejoices in the mission He has chosen for her, as the Mother of God.
The birth of Jesus was preceded with a pilgrimage, when Mary traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem. At the moment of His birth, heaven joined earth in praising God, as the angels announced the good news to the shepherds. The shepherds went promptly to pay tribute to the newborn Son. As they announced to Mary what they had seen, Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2.19)
At the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Mary and Joseph participated in the liturgy of their faith. She marveled at what Simeon said about her Son, and she accepted the prophecy for her role: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce).” (Luke 2.34-35) Mary accepted all that had been told to her, and she remained faithful to God’s will.
At the wedding in Cana, Mary interceded for the wedding party, presenting their needs to her Son: “They have no wine.” (John 2.3) Then she instructed the servers with words which are also addressed to us today: “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2.5) As Mother of God, Mary intercedes for us before her Son, and she invariably leads us to Him, instructing us to obey Him.
When Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem at age twelve, Mary and Joseph searched for Him frantically for three days until they found Him in the temple, discussing doctrine with the teachers. Mary relayed the full impact of their trial of faith to Jesus when she questioned Him: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2.48) From that day until the beginning of His public ministry, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2.51)
Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, and especially at the pinnacle moment of His passion and death, Mary was united with her Son in prayer. As He hung dying on the cross, Mary stood by Him, her heart pierced with the sword of Jesus’ passion. Jesus entrusted His mother to the beloved disciple John, as He entrusts her to us today: “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 19.26-27)
Following the Resurrection, Mary united herself in prayer with the disciples: “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1.14) Just as her prayer was instrumental in drawing down the Word of God into the flesh of her womb, so was her prayer pivotal in drawing down the Holy Spirit at the birth of the Church.
St Teresa of Jesus gives us an account of Mary’s role in her life: “When my mother died, I was about twelve years old-a little less. When I began to understand my loss, I went in my affliction to an image of our Lady, and with many tears implored her to be my mother. I did this in my simplicity, and I believe that it was of service to me; for I have by experience found the royal Virgin help me whenever I recommended myself to her; and at last she has brought me back to herself.” (Life, 1.7)
This poem celebrates the prayer of Mary which is ever present in the shadow of her Son.
To the conception of the Lord,
Mary consented with her prayer:
“Let it be done as per your word”
By the Spirit, the Son she’d bear.
From His conception past His death,
Mary prayed in Her Son’s shadow;
Unto the cross from Nazareth,
Her heart carried her Son’s sorrow.
The Spirit’s arrival was sought
In Mary’s prayer with His brethren;
In prayer the Church herself was wrought
With Mary, blessed of women.
By the lowly Virgin of earth;
The Son of God wrought our re-birth.
O Mary, Mother of our Lord,
May we say yes to Your Son’s will;
And stay faithful with one accord –
Through you, God’s calling, we’ll fulfill. Amen.
St Teresa Of Jesus, Her Life
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2617 – 2619, 2673 – 2679
(c) Paul Buis, 2005