There are a number of feasts in the Catholic Church that celebrate Mary, the mother of Christ. Today we commemorate Mary in her privileged state as mother of God, the Theotokos (Greek for “God-bearer”). Because she was so chosen and because of her total willingness to accept her role, tradition intuits her life – from conception to death – as seamlessly sinless and the Church calls this feast the Immaculate Conception. Mary has been a great model of holiness for women throughout the ages, a great comfort especially to mothers who pray through her to God for their children.
Some years ago theologian Elizabeth Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph and professor at Fordham University, undertook an exhaustive study of Mary’s life from three perspectives: history (the life and times of first century Nazareth), Scripture (reflection on the 13 texts of the gospels where Mary appears) and the development of “Mariology” (what theology has said about Mary over the past 2,000 years). She called the book Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints. The title is instructive of her conclusion (if I may be so bold as to interpret), which is that far from raising her to a level of holiness far beyond our ability to achieve, Mary’s privilege is a beacon, drawing us to grow into God-bearers for our own times. She is a model of living a life of fidelity in her marriage, of joy and pain in her motherhood and of pure, intense willingness to do whatever God asked of her throughout her life.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (1:3-6) gives us a hint this morning of what is true for all of us that might be useful as we reflect on Mary’s life. Paul says, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before God…In love we were chosen…through Christ.” (italics mine) So it seems that although we have not birthed Christ physically (and this is good news especially for the men in our midst) we have been chosen to be models of love and willingness to bear God into the world now. How we will do that is up to us – according to our confidence in God’s choice of us and the humility necessary to believe we are up to the task which is never achieved alone. A worthy reflection for an Advent Monday…