Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church

By Chris Sparks

She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. … Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus — Rev 12:5, 17.

We’ve already marked one Mother’s Day in May, honoring our earthly mothers. Now, we mark another, supernatural one, honoring the spiritual mother of us all.

Today is the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, a new feast established by Pope Francis, but one that arises from the deepest sources of our faith. It’s no accident that it comes on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Mother Mary and the apostles gathered in the Upper Room. They’d spent nine days in prayer, making the first novena, starting with the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and culminating in the extraordinary miracle of the Holy Spirit descending onto the Church, into the hearts of the little remnant of Christians, and beginning the remarkable spread of the Church across the world.

The Church has always seen huge significance in Mary’s presence on Pentecost. Just as she was there in the stable in Bethlehem birthing the physical body of Christ, just so was the Spouse of the Spirit present at Pentecost when the Church was birthed by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Where the physical body of Christ was birthed in water, the Mystical Body of Christ was birthed in fire.++

It’s that fire, the Holy Spirit, that is the soul, the animating principle, of the Church. The Church can offer eternal life because she has eternal life. She has the life of God flowing through her members down through the centuries. Her saints can perform miracles because they are sharing in the life and love of God through the Holy Spirit.

And we get this from our mother.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest of all creatures, the greatest human person to have ever lived. She was chosen by God to be daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. Through the Incarnation, Jesus became the Savior of the world, and so Mary became the Mother of All the Living, of all those who accept the life and love of God offered through Jesus, the Divine Mercy Incarnate.

Mary is the Mother of the Church, of all the members of the Body of Christ, of all of us, every single one of us — and she is mighty to help us. She is the Queen Mother of the King of Kings, the powerful intercessor in the heavenly court of the Son of David. Mary has been entrusted with the role she shares with her Spouse — the Advocate, the Paraclete, the defender in the court of Heaven. Mary is called the Refuge of Sinners for a reason.

Saint Don Bosco told us that as the Church sails through troubled waters, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, and her Eucharistic Son are the two pillars to which we must hitch ourselves. Our stability is the Star of the Sea and the Son of God. We may suppose that our rope to tie ourselves to Our Lady's assistance is the Rosary.

So let us honor our Heavenly Mother today, and show our love for the Mother of the Church. Let us bring to her all our needs and intentions, especially all the wounds of the Church. Let us talk to Mary about the abuse scandal, about the many sins and failings of many members of the Church, and the wounds these have left on too many souls. Let us come to Our Lady with the problems and challenges facing our efforts at evangelization, especially in the present culture of death. Let us ask Our Lady for her mighty intercession to help overcome every obstacle of the world, the flesh, and the devil barring the way for souls to come to the tremendous grace of God. 

Let us honor her by praying in the words of St. Faustina:

O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,
Pure crystal for my heart,
You are my strength, O secure anchor,
You are a shield and protection for a weak heart.

O Mary, you are pure and unparalleled,
Virgin and Mother at one and the same time;
You’re beautiful as the sun, by nothing defiled.
Nothing is worthy of comparison to the image of Your soul.

Your beauty enthralled the Thrice-Holy One’s eye,
That He came down from heaven, forsaking th’eternal See’s throne,
And assumed from Your Heart Body and Blood,
Hiding for nine months in the Virgin’s Heart.

O Mother, Virgin, this will no one comprehend,
That the infinite God is becoming a man;
It’s only love’s and His inscrutable mercy’s purpose.
Through You, Mother — it’s given us to live with Him for ever.

O Mary, Virgin Mother and Heaven’s Gate,
Through You salvation came to us;
Every grace to us streams forth through Your hands,
And faithful imitation of You only will sanctify me.

O Mother, Virgin — most beautiful Lily.
Your Heart was for Jesus the first tabernacle on earth,
And that, because Your humility was the deepest,
Wherefore You were raised above Angel choirs and Saints.

O Mary, my sweet Mother,
To You I turn over my soul, my body and my poor heart.
Be the safeguard of my life,
Especially at death’s hour, in the final fight (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 161).

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

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Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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