Mary and the Church
Two of the most distinguishable marks of the Catholic Church are the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. These are two of the greatest gifts that we have as Catholics. They ought to be cherished! At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday I spent s ome time speaking about the Eucharist. Today I would like to write about Mary. In the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, the Church spoke about Mary in this way… through the message of the angel Gabriel she “was redeemed, in a more exalted fashion… was endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God… is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit… far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth… is at the same time also united to all tho se who are to be saved… is ‘the mother of the members of Christ since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church’… is an outstanding model in faith and charity” (53).
In the first chapter of St. Luke’s gospel we hear the story of the annunciation and visitation. After Mary greets her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth recognizes the presence of God in the womb of Mary, Mary sings her song of praise, the Magnificat. She acknowledges that her whole being is ordered towards the glory of God. “My soul proclaims the greatness of The Lord.” It is not about her will. Rather, she wants to think, say, and do all for God. As Fr. Robert Barron comments, “as we have seen, God needs nothing, whatever glory Mary gives to hi m returns to her benefit so that she is magnified in the very act of magnifying him.” Mary becomes the abundant source of life… Jesus.
The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote a ballad The May Magnificat. He contemplates why May should be a month dedicated to Mary. At the same time he captures this sense of the magnification of Mary.
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
question: What is Spring?
Growth in everything.
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and green world all together
Star – eyed strawberry – breasted
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good,
When Mary magnifies the Lord, she becomes the mother of life. The spring itself, May if you will, is but a small taste of the life that our Blessed Mother brings forth.