More than a theological category or doctrinal formulation, Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, sings the hymn of one woman’s surrender to the divine love that gently invites people to become more like itself. The sacramental Eucharist we celebrate today has its peak expression in the Last Supper that opens the original drama of the paschal mystery, but Jesus’ eucharistic offering is not limited to those hours of His life.
Mary’s life too, chants her Son’s eucharistic hymn of praise and self-gift long before she accompanies Him to the moment when He hands over all that He is on the cross. Eucharistic tones reverberate in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, in the Annunciation, in her hearing her Son proclaim the Kingdom, in her presence at Calvary, and in her sharing in the Easter glory.
Mary’s First Eucharistic Moment
The first eucharistic moment in Mary’s life, as in everyone’s, is the moment of conception. Like everyone else, Mary receives her unique and unrepeatable identity as nothing other than a gift, a gift to herself and to the world. Birth celebrates the overflowing of love from the Trinity’s heart into time and space, letting itself be known in the life of another. Life itself means receiving what we cannot give or produce on our own.
God creates Mary as one ready to welcome grace without resistance. Her very disposition is to seek always what is the delight of her creator and Lord. In her immaculate heart, Mary bows before the tender stirrings of the Spirit of Yahweh. Mary cooperates wholly in all that God desires for her.
The eucharistic motif appears in Mary’s life also in her obscurity and poverty. Her simple, humble existence in a tiny village reflects the Eucharist. There, Mary, depends utterly on God. Mary experiences a real — not just romantic — poverty. She feels with all who are poor, the realities of hunger, cold and powerlessness. Mary finds comfort and assurance in a faithful God who has pledged never to abandon the people He has chosen to be His own.
Mary’s Eucharistic Living
Mary’s eucharistic living is evident in the moment when divinity unites with human flesh at her consent, “Let it be done to me according to your Word.” The Lord instituted the sacramental Eucharist for us to consume and thereby have the divine life pulsating strongly within us. Mary’s “yes” to the invitation of God foreshadows our “Amen” at being offered the Eucharist. Amen, here, means “Yes, I believe it is the Body of Christ, and, yes, I wish to receive it.” It is implicitly a consent that the Body of Christ — broken, offered, received and consumed — may effect a change in us who partake of it.
Mary experiences deep within her the distinct energies of the Trinitarian persons, as if eavesdropping on the dialogue of the Trinity’s plan for her. Mary knows, then, a Father sharing His Son with her, and she knows this contemplatively in the depths of her being. The Father is handing over to her, and through her to all humanity, that which is most precious to Him, His beloved Son. Mary knows these truths with her whole being. Mary’s fiat opens the path for the eternal Word to enact His Incarnation in space and time. Mary is present to the moment when the Son clothes himself in the frailty, dependence, poverty and even death that mark every human life.
At the first moment made possible by Mary’s assent, the world begins to hear the Son whisper, “Take this, all of you and eat it, this is My Body; take and drink, this is My Blood, given up for you.” Mary silently possesses more than an inkling of the self-surrender that God envisions.
Mary’s Unique Communion
The Son empties himself by taking on human nature and Mary nourishes humanity’s self-sacrificing Savior toward His birth. She and He, both anticipate His self-offering on the cross, the offering that rises from burial into resurrection and is present each time the Eucharist is celebrated. Mary’s praying heart delights in the wonder, adoration and gratitude with which she accompanies the child she carries. With maternal love she worships thankfully the presence within her in a unique communion.
Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, plays a role in this formation of Christ’s followers into a eucharistic community. It means learning a new way of being loved by God. Their souls are being awakened to tolerate and then to rejoice that Jesus comes not to be served but to serve. Their hands and their hearts are stained with a grime of laboring in a world polluted by greed, prejudices, dishonesty and violence.
Mary joyfully waits at the center to share what she has received. Eucharistic nuances continue to pervade Mary’s discipleship of her Son, especially in her loyal, fearless participation in His death and resurrection. Mary’s consent to the angel at the annunciation reaches its climax in her Son’s perfect obedience to the inevitable, not a resentful passivity in the face of something she desperately wants to alter.
Mary’s Grief and Awe
Mary cooperates in the sacrifice of Jesus. Indeed, as Jesus struggles toward the altar of the cross, Mary’s spirit accompanies Him with the prayer that nothing may dissuade Him from His goal. Pope John Paul II says, “Mary embraces both the incomparable grief of a woman who witnesses her Son’s execution and the awe of one who witnesses a compassion as vast as God himself. Mary is the ‘Woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life.”
Mary teaches the Church how to adore the Lord at the foot of the cross, where blood and water flowed from the Savior’s pierced side. Jesus’ disciples, even His closest friends, had to learn of the empty tomb before their despair turned to hope, but Mary is deeply consoled even as she cradles Jesus’ lifeless body in her arms. It is Mary who leads the Church to the Eucharistic Lord. She is intimately involved in her Son’s love for the world. Her heart comes to us with the love that overflows from the heart of God.
FATHER JOHN SINGARAYAR, S.V.D., is a well-known writer and contributor to The Priest. He has written articles in international and national journals and is also the author of the book Wellspring of Love. Presently, he is doing his pastoral ministry at Sacred Heart Church, Andheri (East) Mumbai, India.