Photo: Marian Archives
By the very fact that Jesus gave Mary to us as our mother, it is very important that we invite Mary into our spiritual lives.
A Dream Come True
By Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC (Dec 20, 2010)
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of our dreams, especially during Advent and Christmastime.
Ever since my conversion to Catholicism in 1992, I have felt that Mary, as my spiritual mother, helps me prepare for Christmas. Often in late Advent, my life is hectic — especially now that I am a priest and have to prepare liturgies, homilies, and various other seasonal events for Jesus' birthday.
Yet, even in the midst of the busyness, I have always found the time to contemplate the Divine Child in the womb of Mary as they make their way to Bethlehem. What a wonder! Imagine: Jesus is living in Mary and she can feel His every heartbeat, move, and turn. What a joy it would have been to hear Mary sing a sweet lullaby to her Divine Son growing within her body. The angels must have been in ecstasy when Our Lady raised her voice in song!
Saint Faustina, too, had a deep understanding of how the Virgin Mary could help her prepare for Christmas. When I first read the Diary of St. Faustina, I was surprised to note the number of times St. Faustina mentions this very point (see Diary, 785, 792, 829, 840, and 1398). Even while being driven through the large city of Krakow in Poland, St. Faustina reflected deeply on the journey of the Mother and Child to Bethlehem (see Diary, 844).
By meditating on the Incarnation of Jesus in the womb of Mary, we glimpse just how much God loves us. God became man, so we could become children of God. Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians sums it up perfectly: "In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman ... that we might receive the adoption of sons" (4:4-5). Christmastime is the season when we celebrate the Incarnation of God's Son "born of a woman." And it is also a time when we contemplate just how special this particular mother is for us.
To Dream of a Mother
One of my favorite ways of understanding the holiness and beauty of Mary, the Mother of God, comes from an explanation given by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. In his typical storytelling fashion, he invited his audience to imagine they were all-powerful and had the ability to create their own mothers. Seems like a crazy idea, but there is a great point in it.
Okay, so you now have all the power in the universe. I'm quite certain that, with your unlimited power, you would create and fashion a mother who was the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate, most understanding, holiest, and most beautiful woman. What child would not want his mother to have such qualities to the greatest degree?
Well, the point of Archbishop Sheen's story is that, though we do not have the power and ability to create our own mother, Jesus, the Eternal Son of the Father, did! Just imagine: The Eternal Son knows that He is going to come into the world as a little, adorable baby, so He has to prepare a woman to be His very own mother. What a wonder! How holy and lovely Our Lady, the Mother of God, must be!
From the very beginning of the Church, saints and mystics have tried to capture in writings and paintings the holiness and beauty of the Mother of God. For example, there is the tradition that St. Luke the Evangelist was an artist and painted many images of Our Lady, trying to capture her holiness and beauty. Also, men like St. Ephrem the Syrian tried to explain the wonders of the Mother of God through using poetry and hymns.
Saints and scholars in the Middle Ages would devote entire books to the topic of Mary's Divine Motherhood. In all of world history, the most painted woman by far is Mary. And it is precisely her role as Mother of God that we see depicted, for most of these paintings go under the title Madonna and Child — the image of Mary intimately holding her Divine Son for us to behold.
The Dream Becomes Reality
So, where do we see the profound preparation that God put into creating His own mother?
It is exactly in the gift of her Immaculate Conception. What the Immaculate Conception means is that Mary is completely pure, without sin, and created to be the mother of the Son of God. Thus, there is an intimate connection between the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Christmas mystery.
Interestingly, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) always occurs in Advent. It is almost as if the Church wants us to remember that Mary's Immaculate Conception is God's way of preparing her to be the worthy Mother of His Divine Son. After all, how could God's most holy Mother have any share in sin?
For her to be in bondage to sin and, at the same time, be the Mother of Jesus would be a contradiction. Mary's entire being points to Jesus. The Immaculate Mother of God is that pure and holy vessel that always leads us deeper and deeper into the saving mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
Mary is Our Mother
As if this were not enough, God shows His profound love for us in not keeping this most holy and beautiful of mothers to Himself. On the contrary, Jesus is so good to us and so concerned about our welfare that, at the cross, He gives Mary to us to be our spiritual mother (see Jn 19:26-27). What a gift!
By the very fact that Jesus gave Mary to us as our mother, it is very important that we invite Mary into our spiritual lives. Preparing for Christmas with Mary is an ideal time for us to do this. In giving birth to Jesus, Mary is also giving birth to every human person who will become a brother or sister of Jesus, her first-born Son. This is why Mary is both Mother of God and Mother of the Church; she gives birth to the whole Christ, that is, the Head (Jesus) and the members of His Mystical Body (the Church).
So, as we prepare for Christmas with Mary, let us desire to become like Mary in her purity and holiness. God desires our hearts, too, to become a resting place for the Baby Jesus. Through Mary's intercession, we can learn how to quiet down our busy lives and make our hearts a manger — even more, a tabernacle — for Jesus. Saint Faustina understood this well when she stated: "O Mother, Virgin, purest of all lilies, your heart was Jesus' first tabernacle on earth" (Diary, 161).
By turning to Mary as our spiritual mother and imitating her love of Jesus, may our hearts also become a tabernacle for the Holy Infant this Christmas, especially when we receive Him in Holy Communion.
Father Donald Calloway, MIC, is vocation director and superior of the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. He is the author of The Blessed Virgin Mary and Theology of the Body (Marian Press).
This story originally appeared in Marian Helper magazine. Receive a free copy of the latest Marian Helper.