Mary! My Mother told me the sweet name of Mary together with the name of Jesus, when I was a child. When grown a youth, Mary was to me the ideal of how to love Jesus and to keep away from sin in the temptations of life; grown into manhood, I felt I could not live without her help. Mary I hope to love till I die and after death forever in heaven. This little book is written in her honour, the Mother of Christ and our own God-given Mother. It deals with her holy life, our devotion to her and our love for her.
THE LIFE OF MARY
The beginning of the life of Mary leads us back to eternity. When God in His infinite mercy decreed that His only begotten Son should become man in order to redeem mankind from sin, He also decreed that Mary should be the mother from whom the Son of God should take His human nature. Mary is thus the eternally chosen one. The Church applies to her the words of Holy Scripture:”From the beginning and before the world was I created and to the world to come I shall not cease to be” (Eccl. xxiv, 16). St. Bernard called Mary the divine concern of the ages, which means that God planned her life, when He prepared the way for the Incarnation of His Son.
Let us see how God prepared the way for her, who was to become the mother of Jesus.
In the very first book of the Holy Scriptures we read that Mary was promised by God to mankind. God inflicting punishment on the tempter of our first parents said:”I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and the seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head’ (Gen. iii, 1). Here we have a first prophecy referring to Mary; a woman is promised by God, who shall be the deadly enemy of the tempter, the serpent. This woman is Mary, who through her divine Son shall be so completely victorious over the devil, that she shall crush his head. The crushing of the head is fatal to a serpent. So is Mary’s victory over the tempter to sin.
A second prophecy referring to Mary we find in the book of Isaias, who said: “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel (God with us)” (Is. vii, 14). The virgin mentioned here by the prophet more than 700 years in advance is Mary, who was to conceive Christ, the Emmanuel in a miraculous way. Such is the authentic explanation of this prophecy by St. Matthew (Matt. i, 18).
A third prophecy with regard to Mary and her Divine Child is made by the prophet Michaeas (v, 2), who declares Mary as the mother of the Eternal King to be born at Bethlehem.
TYPES AND FIGURES
But Mary is not only promised by God and foretold by the prophets; she is also foreshadowed in types and figures throughout the holy books-the Ark of Covenant was the sacred place where God’s presence manifested itself in a special way among His people. Mary is the true Ark of the Covenant, because in her womb God Incarnate was really present. Furthermore, in the Ark of the Covenant was the Manna, the bread that was rained from heaven to nourish the Chosen People of God. Mary carried in her womb Him Who is the true Manna of His people in the Blessed Sacrament.
It is written about the Ark of Noah, that it alone was saved in the deluge, which destroyed everything else. Thus Mary alone escaped the deluge of sin, which swamped all men.
There is given in Holy Writ an account of a bush that was afire and yet not consumed. In like manner Mary was a mother without losing her virginity. Referring to this the Church exclaims:”In the burning bush, which Moses saw, we recognise, O Mother of God, thy stainless virginity.”
There is mention in the Song of Songs of an enclosed garden and a sealed up fountain. Mary’s soul is this enclosed garden; for the enemy never gained entrance into it, not even in original sin. Mary’s soul is the sealed up fountain; for the purity of her soul was never touched by any sin.
As Mary was foreshadowed in types, so also is she in figures. There is Eve, the mother of all the living in the order of nature; Mary is the new Eve, as she is the mother of all the living in the order of grace. There is the sister of Moses who saved her brother and through him made free the Israelites; in like manner Mary saved mankind through her divine Son. Furthermore, as the sister of Moses led her people from exile to the Promised Land and sang a hymn of praise to God, so Mary leads us from the servitude of sin to our heavenly home and sings her hymn of praise to God in the”Magnificat.”
There is Esther, the queen, interceding for her people and by her intercession saving them from ruin; Mary intercedes for us and her intercession is called”Intercessory omnipotence.”
There is Judith destroying the enemies of her people; so does Mary help us to victory over the enemies of our souls.
There is the mother of the Machabees, whose sons were martyred in her presence; like another Machabean mother, Mary stands sorrow-laden beneath the cross of her divine Son.
St. Bernard meditating on Mary exclaims: “O Mary, mother of God, from all eternity thou wert chosen by the Most High, prepared for Him, protected by the angels, foreshadowed by the patriarchs and foretold by the prophets.”
Thus God had prepared the way for Mary to enter this world.
II MARY'S LIFE ON EARTH
At the appointed time in history a fact took place known to us by divine revelation: Mary was conceived immaculate; from the very first moment of her existence, by a singular grace of Christ the Redeemer, Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin. Not only was there no vestige of sin, but she was filled with divine grace. Her entire life was to be lived without an actual sin or imperfection. Her life is grouped around the life of Jesus. He is the sun and Mary the sunflower bending towards Him. Therefore the best description of Mary’s life is in relation to the life of Jesus, her divine Son.
The first phase in her life is that before the Incarnation of Jesus. Here we follow mainly tradition, according to which the holy parents of Mary, Joachim and Anne, possessed two houses, one in Jerusalem and another in Nazareth. Mary was born in their house in Jerusalem, as St. John Damascene tells us. Mary is therefore really”the glory of Jerusalem and the daughter of Sion.” Mary was of kingly descent, being descended from David. The prophet Isaias had foretold her as the flowering plant, springing forth from the root, which was Jesse (Is. ii, 1). St. Augustine, commenting on these words, says: “Jesse is the father of David, the root from which there came Mary the plant and Jesus the flower.” The angel Gabriel points out that the Son miraculously born of Mary without the agency of man shall be given the throne of David, his father (Luke i, 32). If Mary were not of Davidic descent, then St. Paul could not have called her Son Jesus, the seed of David (Rom. i, 3).
Tradition again tells us that Mary was a child received by her holy parents after many prayers. But their child Mary was predestined and privileged as no other child, entering this world. From the very outset her soul was filled with grace and untouched by original sin. Her birthday was an occasion for rejoicing the world over. Holy Mother Church recording this auspicious occasion exclaims:”Thy nativity, O Virgin, Mother of God, heralded joy to the whole world; for from Thee arose the Sun of Justice, Christ Our Lord who, destroying the curse, bestowed on us His blessing, and confounding death has blessed us with life everlasting.” Truly we must rejoice and thank God on the birthday of the child Mary; for her coming announced the coming of Christ as the dawn announces the rising of the sun.
Mary was a beautiful child, it being fitting for her to be so, having been chosen by God to bear His Son. As she grew in age, so did she in wisdom and grace before God and men. These words, which describe the childhood of Jesus, can certainly be applied to Mary as well; for her life was in every respect like that of her divine Son.
Of the early childhood of Mary the Church in her feasts commemorates the occasion when her holy parents took her to the Temple in Jerusalem, to dedicate her life to God. Mary about this time began her schooling also. St. Ambrose is of the opinion that her parents were now living again in their house in Jerusalem, which was not far from the Temple and the school. Mary could thus easily attend her school and visit the Temple, where she often prayed. Both at home and at school Mary was the perfect child, loving God and her parents, being kind to others, obedient, pious and intelligent. How much she advanced in learning and piety we can see from the”Magnificat,” the canticle she composed, when she was only about fourteen years of age.
When Mary ‘s school years were completed, she moved with her parents to Nazareth. Now a grown-up girl, perfect in body and soul-her body of great natural beauty, untouched by any sin, her soul pure and endowed with all that was good, beautiful, noble and heavenly-her parents were anxious to see their daughter engaged and married, because of the hope of the Saviour Who, according to the prophets, was to come from the descendants of David. Mary being obedient agreed, although she had already, under divine inspiration, made the vow to remain a virgin. She trusted that God, under Whose inspiration she had made her vow, would enable her to keep it also in marriage. The bridegroom predestined for Mary was St. Joseph, like her of Davidic descent and after her the greatest Saint. He would certainly consent to and protect the vow of his holy spouse. By this time the plant, Mary, spring from the root of Jesse, had grown and was ready to bear the flower, Jesus.
What now happened in the life of Mary we learn from the Gospel itself: the virginal conception of Mary’s divine Son, the wonder announced by the angel, performed by the power of God, and so perfectly expressed in the classical words of St. John:”The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” This climax of Mary’s life is recorded by St. Luke in his simple but masterly words:”In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city called Nazareth to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Mary; and the angel being come in said to her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. And when she had heard, she was troubled at his saying and thought within herself what manner of salutation this should be” (Luke 1, 26- 29). We can well understand that Mary the humble virgin was confused, when the angel with divine authority spoke to her about her fulness of grace and her future peerless dignity; true humility is always confused when praised. And the angel said to her: “Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace with God; behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and thou shalt bring forth a Son and thou shalt call His name Jesus; He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke i, 30–33).
With these words the angel had conveyed the substance of his message, namely, that, the Son of God would become man in order to establish His kingdom on earth, and it was through Mary that He would enter the world. Mary believed and so she inquired how this should be done, since she had made a vow of virginity, and yet the angel’s words promised her the dignity of motherhood.”How shall this be done, because I know not man?” The angel thereupon explained to her that she would remain a virgin, as the Son of God would be her Son without having a human father.”The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God.” (Luke i, 35–87). Mary having fully understood the divine message said in adoration of God:”Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word” (Luke i, 38). We too believe with Mary in Jesus, Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, and was made man (Credo). And because of the exalted dignity which God has bestowed on Mary we shall never cease repeating the salutation of the angel,”Hail Mary.”