Why did God choose Mary? What was His reason for giving her this particular place in His plan of salvation? This question can arise in us, from time to time, when we think of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Christianity is not simply a religion. First and foremost, it is an event, the manifestation of a divine act in and through human history. Our history is a history of salvation because God himself has entered it. After Christ, the virgin from Nazareth is the principal person in this historical sequence of events that is concerned with the Mother of one definite person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Mary is the mystery of a virgin mother who had a child. Yet, this historically conditioned life is the revelation of the divine act of redemption. And, in Mary’s Child, this became a reality, which was at the same time also a historical reality. If we consider this mystery of Mary in its human and historical dimension, we obtain an insight into the quiet simplicity of a pious, ordinary woman of the people whose vision of life was steeped in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition.
But, the history of Mary’s life is also a revelation. It is the tangible, visible and historical aspects of a supra-historical dimension of the Marian mystery that affects the salvation of all human beings. It is for this reason that Scripture records only those human facts of Mary’s life, in which this supra-historical dimension plays a vital part. All the other human facts of the virgin’s life are of secondary importance compared with those human events which indeed have the special privilege of transmitting to us in a visible form God’s supra-historical act of redemption.
We tend to forget that the whole of Mary’s earthly life was passed under the veil of faith which neither saw nor comprehended, but continued to trust in the unfathomable dispensations of God’s providence. It is quite clear that Mary’s faith was always coming up against contradictions.
The prophets foretold that the Messiah would be a king and that the government would be upon His shoulders. Yet, He was born to Mary in a cave because, as St. Luke observes, there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn. What is more, in her life she was obliged to seek refuge in Egypt with Joseph and her Son. The same royal Child grew up later in quite ordinary human circumstances. The final contradiction for Mary must have been to see her King go to an inglorious death on the cross. Mary had no idea how everything would eventually turn out, but she continued to believe and trust in the message of the angel. She persisted in her faith in God despite all outward signs that seemed to contradict it.
In spite of all these contradictions, God was with Mary. This was her grace. But, grace is always accompanied by a commission. In Mary’s case the exquisite grace, “the Lord is with you,” went together with her sublime commission to be with the Lord. And she fulfilled this commission in a magnificent manner.
When she conceived Jesus it was not simply a question of the living God coming to her. She also went to Him for whom she had been waiting so long, and her conception was a religious assent to the Messiah. Incarnation took the form of a living encounter between God the Redeemer and humankind waiting for the Messiah.
Jesus came to those who shared Mary’s faith, but “His own received him not. . .” (Jn 1:11-13) because they had not been waiting for Him in their hearts. Mary was all expectation and longing for the God who was to come, and this is why she received Him when He actually came. Her longing anticipated the reality of this loving encounter in her heart and her womb because God was already with her from the very first moment of her existence. Mary’s intimacy with God was so close that He, in His nearness to her, was able and ready to become human as flesh of her flesh. We know from the Scripture how Jesus lived for years in the closest intimacy with His mother Mary. And it has revealed to us the essence of her holiness, though here it is necessary to read between the lines.
It was pure love-in-faith which brought about Mary’s motherhood. God gave His love to her, and she in giving love in return for His love became the Mother of the God in love and faith. From this moment Mary grew so intimately together with Christ that His actions became hers, too, though their ways were difficult.
Our task here is to consider the depth of Mary’s religious life and its growth toward explicit faith in and through her intimacy and daily contact with Christ’s humanity. We are also particularly concerned with the fact that, by reason of this growing faith, Mary is a pre-eminent example for us. When we follow Mary, the most beautiful creation of God, we too can become a beautiful creation in the hand of God. “Hail, Mary full of Grace . . . ” — this Holy prayer explains our understanding of Mary in our everyday lives and lets us recite the prayer often and, with the Grace of God, touch our Savior in Jesus through Mary. TP
BROTHER SINGARAYAR, S.V.D., belongs to the India Mumbai Province of the Society of the Divine Word.