A Marian Primer

A recent convert to the Faith wrote us asking “how I can get to know Our Lady” because “the Virgin Mary has eluded me on my religious journey”? We sent him the following answer (edited for his privacy). We offer it to help deepen the Marian piety of our readers, and also to give you some talking points for the non-Catholics whom you try to convert.

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Regarding Our Lady, I have enclosed a book for your consideration. In this letter, I can do something, perhaps, to set the stage for your further thoughts, by giving you a quick “thumbnail” of the spiritual life and Mary’s role in it.

Each one of us who is baptized has been baptized into Christ. Christ is the Head and we are His members. That’s why the Church is called the “Mystical Body of Christ.” St. Paul said “we are members of [Christ’s] body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30). And: “So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” ( Rom 12:5 ). For this reason, St. Augustine famously called the Church, “the Whole Christ.” We are joined to Our Lord (and each other) by Baptism, and, in a more intense way, by the Eucharist. It can be said in all simplicity that the Christian life is the living of the life of Christ. Those who are particularly holy, the saints, let Christ live in them more than do the rest of us, but we are all called to the same end. We are striving to be what He is, namely a perfect child of God. He is that by nature. We are God’s children by grace, which makes us to share in His nature.

Where does the Blessed Mother enter into this design? Well, she is the Mother of Christ and the Mother of God. She is also the Mother of all His “members,” those of us who are baptized into her Son. In the Gospels we get little glimpses of Our Lady’s role, and in every case, we see her bringing God to men or men to God. She acts as a conduit between the human and the divine. The first instance of this, the Annunciation, was the singular event wherein God and man were first united in Person in the Incarnation. For this reason, one of the Fathers of the Church, St. Proclus of Constantinople, called Mary’s womb the “bridal chamber in which the Word espoused flesh unto Himself.” I’ll let you see it for yourself how rich the Gospels are in what they show us of Mary, but I’ll point out the references for you:

  • The first episode is the Annunciation (Luke 1:28 ff), where the Virgin accepts the vocation of being Mother of God, thus bringing Jesus into the world.
  • The next is the Visitation (Luke 1:42 ff), where she visits her cousin Elizabeth and recites her beautiful Magnificat, a prayer which humbly pays tribute to what God had done in her.
  • Next is the Nativity (Luke 2:7), where Jesus is born of Mary in utter poverty.
  • At the Epiphany (Mt. 2:1 ff), the Magi “found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him….”
  • In the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22 ff.) the aged Simeon tells God that “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation” because he saw Jesus in Mary’s arms. He also told Our Lady that “Thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed,” meaning that she would suffer with her Son for the salvation of the world. We who meditate on Jesus and Mary’s sufferings in the Passion are those whose “hearts” have “thoughts” revealed to them.
  • At the Finding in the Temple (Luke 2:46), we see Our Lady suffering the loss of Jesus but receiving the consolation of finding Him. At the end, she “kept all these words in her heart” showing that she meditated frequently on the words of her divine Son.
  • At the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1 ff.) Our Lord works His first public miracle, at the request of Our Lady. (He even seems not to want to do anything to help the couple at first: look at verse 4!). This passage deserves deep meditation to see how we can benefit from Mary’s help.
  • Finally, at the Cross (Mark 15:24 ff.), we see Mary suffering with her Son, as Simeon had prophesied. St. John records that Jesus gave John to Our Lady as her own son, and Mary to John as his Mother: “When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother.” (John 19:26-27). The common Catholic interpretation of this passage, one offered by many saints, is that St. John stands for all of us. Jesus, on the Cross, gave Mary to St. John and to all of the baptized to be our spiritual Mother.

All of the Catholic doctrines on the Blessed Virgin are somehow found in these passages, or logically flow from them: Her total immunity from sin, including original sin (the Immaculate Conception), her being the “Mother of God,” her bodily Assumption into Heaven. They all make perfect sense when you realize the special relationship that Mary has with the Blessed Trinity: She is the perfect daughter of the Father, the worthy Mother of the Son, and the faithful Spouse of the Holy Ghost.

I very much hope that these considerations will help you to get to know Our Lady so that she will no longer elude you. Take it from me, she assuredly wants you to get to know her!