Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

Today’s Gospel passage is from John 19.  Jesus, from the cross, is looking out for others.  Most especially, he looks out for his own mother.  First, ‘he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.”’

In the first century, the family took care of their elders.  There was no Social Security, no Medicare or Medicaid, and no nursing homes or assisted living facilities.  A widow facing the death of her only son was also facing an existential threat.  Her survival was in jeopardy.  So, Jesus gave his mother to John so that he would care for her.

This passage is also significant because, in giving Mary to John, Jesus was also giving Mary to the Church.  The Mother of God also became the Mother of the Church.  While we never worship Mary, we do pay a special veneration to her.  The Greek word used is hyperdulia to distinguish from the lesser veneration, or dulia, that we pay to the saints.  Mary is God’s greatest creature. 

Some struggle to have a devotion to Mary.  They cannot distinguish between the worship due only to God and the veneration that we have for Mary.  But we are called to allow ourselves to be conformed to Jesus Christ.  That resistance to a Marian devotion is resistance to conformance with Christ.  We cannot be fully conformed to Christ if we cannot also accept Mary as our mother too.  We cannot be fully conformed to Christ if we cannot be devoted to his mother too.  And Mary does not exist to gain glory for herself.  She wants to point us toward her Son. 

As Marcia Vinje writes, in an article on the University of Dayton website, “Mary is often depicted in icons, and one of the most common types of Marian icons is known as ‘Hodigitria,’ which means ‘Pointer of the Way’ or ‘Guide of the Church.’ This style is associated with Mary’s words at the wedding feast of Cana, ‘Do whatever He tells you.’ The mother points to her child as if to say, look at Him, not me.”

As Mother, Mary points the way for the Church.  She points toward her Son. 

How have we embraced Mary as our mother?  Do we recognize the role that she plays as Mother of the Church?  Do we allow Mary to point us toward her Son?  How is our Marian devotion evident in our prayer life?