Saturday, January 3, 2009


Existence in time is cyclical: geophysically, the earth rotates on its axis, the sun rises and sets each day; the earth completes its orbit of the sun every 365/6 days, and we begin another year. Morally, we stumble and fall, and rise and begin again, many times each day; but these cycles of falling, rising and beginning again, should spiral and bring each one higher, and closer, each time, to that definitive union with God which is our end, the ultimate purpose of human existence, the meaning of our life.

On the First of January, the beginning of each year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, because, for our weak and wounded human nature (such infants!), there is no better way to begin—to start again on the path to sanctity—than by gazing lovingly at our Lady. Like the star that led the Magi from the East to the Child (Mt 2:1-11), Mary is the guiding star that should lead us to her Son. She is the sure sign that we are on the right path, that we are going to Jesus. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” (Is 7:14), “… ‘God with us.’” (Mt 1:23). “(The shepherds) went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger” (Lk 2:16). We know it is the Lord Jesus whom we are seeking, and not any other, through Mary, His mother; and it is this being mother of God that constitutes Mary’s greatest honor, the source of all her other privileges, the foundation of her identity.

Mary is Mother of God because Jesus Christ is the Emmanuel, “God with us”, “perfect God and perfect man” (Athanasian Creed); the two natures—Divine and Human—united in the One Person of our Lord. Mary is the mother of the Person of our Lord.

In his Gospel, St. John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). Jesus is the Word, the Father’s knowledge—“mental image” or reflection—of Himself. This mental image necessarily corresponds perfectly with the reality it reflects, because God’s knowledge cannot be less than perfect; hence, this Word is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, co-eternal with the Father but, in time, became man, born of the Virgin Mary. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14); and from then on, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity will forever be the union of the Divine and Human—our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary—thus enabling all mankind, by incorporation in Him, to become children of God; to participate in the Life and Love of the Blessed Trinity.

If we are children of God in Christ—members of Christ’s body (cf. 1 Cor 6:15)—which we are by grace, then we are indisputably also children of Mary. Our Lord meant it in a real sense when He gave John (the Apostle and Evangelist) to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Woman, behold, thy son”, and she to John, “Behold, thy mother” (Jn 19:26-27).

How is it possible to love God and not love His mother who is also our mother? And yet, there are some who claim to be Christians but who would recoil before a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as if it were something to abhor. Since our sanctification also hinges on our imitating Christ in His Sacred Humanity, we should want to be close to Mary, to keep her in mind constantly, using any and all human devices (pictures, objects) to remind us of her. We could never go wrong by excess in our love for Mary because we will never be able to equal—much less exceed—the love which the Perfect Man has for His Perfect Mother.

Having been given Mary to be his mother, John recalls: “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:27)—which, parenthetically, argues against the possibility of our Lord having natural siblings (who should otherwise take care of Mary), and supports the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity.

It was precisely because John was with the Blessed Virgin (which, in turn, is proof of our Lord’s predilection for this beloved disciple) that he was able, in the first place, to remain at the foot of the Cross (unlike the rest of the apostles). It was also because of this closeness to Mary that John could reach such theological heights as to be traditionally represented by the “eagle” (one of the “four living creatures” in the Apocalypse [4:7] associated with the Evangelists: Matthew is the “man”, because he begins with the names of people, the genealogy of our Lord; Mark, the “lion”, because he begins with John the Baptist in the wilderness; and Luke, the “ox”, because he opens with Zachary, father of the Baptist, a priest whose main function is to offer sacrifice, the ox being an animal of sacrifice). It is John who transmits to us the “new commandment” of love; tells us, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16); and gives us our Lord’s most comprehensive discourse on the Eucharist (Jn 6).

St. Josemaria writes: “(John) brought Mary into his home, into his life. Spiritual writers have seen these words of the Gospel as an invitation to all Christians to bring Mary into their lives” (Christ is Passing By, No. 140). May we, indeed, live the year that is beginning as true daughters and sons and Mary.