Monday, August 25, 2008

The Simplicity of Our Blessed Mother, Mary

A reflection on the Blessed Mother by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB.

It was not through the extraordinary that Mary achieved holiness, but simply living the ordinary in an extraordinary way. This is a basic truth of holiness, and it is the mark of many a hidden monastic who unbeknownst to us reached great heights of sanctity and are the hidden jewels of God on earth. It is not the interaction of heaven in Mary’s life, as seen in the Annunciation, but her response in pure humility and obedience far beyond that of that holy mother, that pause in time, that changed the whole course of mankind at her simple “yes”.

Mary was without sin, yet there is nothing about her life that is recorded in the Gospels or anywhere else, that says she ever expected to be treated special because of this privilege. It’s quite the contrary in fact. She shared deeply in the life of her Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As Jesus was obedient unto death, Mary too shared in this life of obedience. Once married, Mary was obedient to Joseph, for it was to Joseph that the angel appeared with the instructions to flee Herod who was seeking the death of Jesus. Mary shared so deeply in Christ’s life, and shared so much in the suffering, and yet hers is a soul of hope.

In the Gospels we hear that Jesus' family is concerned about Him: “He went home again and once more such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relations heard of this, they set out to take charge of him. They said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Mk 3:20-21) Think of all the talk and sorrow that came – Mary was steeped in real life. She did not have the privilege of heaven telling her every moment, “this is going to happen” or “don’t worry, everything will be okay.” Each time we read of her in the Gospels, there’s something that we can share in our own lives that makes her one of us.

We think of Mary as sinless, therefore it we conclude that it should have been easier for her. She did not share the inclination to sin. Thus she would not have felt bitterness towards somebody in the same way we do. But I think her sinlessness would have made her more compassionate and thus, she suffered greatly.

After Christ died, and she had been through the whole passion, we see her Son on the Cross giving her to John. Imagine that grief – her son was God, who then says: “Woman, behold your son!” (Jn 19:26) What a moment. And then, once more, she was obedient to John, he was now the head. Mary never lived a moment in which she did not have to be obedient to somebody.

The last thing we hear about Mary, in the Acts of Apostles, is “With one heart, all of these joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus.” (Acts 1:14) Mary was not a chosen leader in the Church. Mary did not head a group, we don’t hear any of that. She lived simply a life of prayer. And isn’t that what we are called to? We hear of the early Church that all lived as one heart, and we know that’s also what St. Benedict taught. Therefore, our lives can be close to Mary’s. She lived so simply, and we are called to the same.

Mary spent the rest of her life praying for the Church. If we ever believe that praying for the Church is a small thing, we can look at Mary. We too can join her in prayer for the Church. This should cause us to live in pure hope of our own resurrection, when we will be called to be with Christ, body and soul, in heaven.

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