Getting to Know the Blessed Mother

Mary is the exemplar of women and mothers, and inspiration for all men and women throughout the ages. Today, sadly for a few, she is misunderstood as a woman that history used to cast women into servitude.
by Dr. Virginia Kimball | Source:

            The Bible reveals a deep and abiding love story.  It is God’s love letter to the world. Throughout the texts we find words describing God’s passionate love for humanity. Remarkably, love and life are intricately fused and it all begins with a pregnancy.   

At the center of this love story is a mother, a bearer of life. She was a young woman who fully trusted God, accepting God’s remarkable plan of salvation.  

After the great chasm of separation occurred as recalled in Genesis 3, God planned to restore life through a loving bond with humankind, a life for people to be with God, life which would never end and be forever bound in love. 

All this – God’s design to reunite with humanity once again in an incredible loving way -- unfolded in a real young woman’s life. 

God’s promise of saving humanity begins in earth’s time … and continues into forever. Miriam, a young girl in Nazareth , became a real mother at a tender and gentle age, walking courageously into motherhood. Hers was a “then, now and forever” motherhood: with the son Jesus whom she bore, she was a mother in time for all the living, and a mother for forever as the mother of the Son of God. 

            For 2,000 years, art has portrayed Mary – in early Christian scratched images on walls at pilgrimage sites; in fresco painting on the walls of tombs in the catacombs; in icons painted anonymously in the Byzantine ages; in medieval illuminations in prayer books; in carved wooden and stone statues in medieval churches, monasteries, convents and homes; in stained glass and statues in Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals; in Renaissance realism and Baroque paintings; in static 18th and 19th century devotional tradition; in contemporary modern motifs; in 20th – 21st century folk art; and finally in contemporary pop art culture.  

Mary the mother has surrounded faithful in the music of the heart: in early Christian Greek chant; in Arabic and Coptic chants; in Latin Gregorian chant; in medieval polyphony; in Renaissance musical genius; in Baroque tonal splendors echoing from balconies of a cathedral; and in devotional hymns and folk music of our modern age.  

The fathers and mothers of the early church reflected on the meaning of Mary’s life, identifying Christ’s two natures by knowing the reality of his mother: Jesus was truly God and truly Mary’s human son. After three hundred years of dissent in finding a way to best explain the real Jesus, the Church adopted a special name for her, and called her the “Theotokos.” This Greek word means she is the one who bore God. She was not a goddess. She was human and her son was human but also divine.   

            Rosary prayers pour off the tongues of faithful people worldwide from many centuries past until this very day.  Eastern Christians plead for the help of the Theotokos bending reverently before her icon and kissing the holy image. They offer petitions in long hymns composed centuries ago.  Protestant tradition gave birth to a famous Christmas carol, once sung in Germany when small country congregations wrapped baby Jesus in a blanket on a cold winter Christmas Eve, placed him on an altar, and softly sung him to sleep with a lullaby called Silent Night.  

Mary is the exemplar of women and mothers, and inspiration for all men and women throughout the ages.  Today, sadly for a few, she is misunderstood as a woman that history used to cast women into servitude. This error has driven away many young girls and mothers, career women and radical feminists, not only from her care but also from her Son’s church. Today, in ecumenical circles, theologians are working hard to reconcile differences between Christian faithful in the Reformation tradition and those in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox tradition.  

Mary was the first disciple of her son Jesus, the first to know the truth that he was the Christ. She stood at the center of the first community of believers as Christ rose to the Father after 40 days on earth following his resurrection from the grave.  She was in the Upper Room with all Christ’s dearest friends and believers when the strength and power of the most Holy Spirit of God descended upon the fledgling Christian disciples. 

Today it is compelling that we reconnect with Mary, whom God chose as his human mother.  Throughout the world believers see and hear her words in apparitions. Her memory remains in the biblical text.  Tradition has lots to tell us about this brave young woman and the mother she has become for the world. It is time to begin to know her. 

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