Dear Mother Mary: Part One
A prayer by Father Stanley Plutz SVD
These are a few thoughts that come to the mind of this writer when he thinks of Mary, our Blessed Mother. Some thoughts must arise in your heart, too, when you hear the beautiful name of Mary and think of the person of Mary.
Her heart was pierced by the sword of sorrow as she joined her Jesus in his life, suffering, and death. But she was then filled with great joy as she contemplated her son, raised from the dead. She now contemplates him in his glory in heaven. She intercedes with him for her children on earth.
St. Arnold would invoke Mother Mary as:
Daughter of the Father,
Mother of the Son,
Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit
Your brother in Christ,
Father Stanley Plutz SVD
Editor’s note: The following reflection is to be read as a conversation with Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
Background of the Mary Account
God created our first parents, Adam and Eve. He placed them in the garden of paradise, which He had planted. They enjoyed being there where everything was ideal: the climate, the food, their relations with one another, their relations with the animals and other creatures.
To prove their love for Him and their obedience to Him, God gave them a test, a simple test. They could eat the fruit of every tree in the garden but the one in the middle.
They made their first mistake by going to look at that tree. Standing before it, they admired the beautiful apples, which made their mouths water. In the tree appeared a crafty snake, which began a conversation with Eve.
The devil in the guise of that snake extolled the virtues of the tree and its fruit. Our first parents looked at the mouth-watering apples. Eve picked one, took a bite and gave Adam a bite. Thus they failed the test and were expelled from paradise. Before driving them out, God promised a new man and a new woman, who would obey Him.
Plan of God
Mary, you were to be the new woman and become the Mother of Jesus, who was to be the new man. You also were his perfect partner in the work of redemption. God said to the devil, "I will put enmity between you and the new woman. She will stomp on your head, and you shall bite at her heel."
The Immaculate Conception
To be a real enemy of the devil, you had to be without any sin, original or personal; hence, God gave you the privilege of the Immaculate Conception, being conceived without original sin and of being filled with divine life from the first moment of your conception.
God gave this privilege to you to prepare you to be the mother of the new man, Jesus. God gave this grace by the foreseen merits of your son’s redemptive suffering, death, and resurrection. In treating of the Immaculate Conception, a beautiful line from an English poet referring to you comes to mind, namely: "Our tainted nature’s solitary boast."
Mary, you alone received the privilege of the Immaculate Conception. All other children are conceived with original sin. They are deprived of sanctifying grace, divine life, which they receive only at baptism. You so gloried in the privilege that you called yourself the Immaculate Conception. When Bernadette asked for your name, you answered:
"I am the Immaculate Conception."
With the privilege of the Immaculate Conception—that is, being conceived with divine life in you—God gave you the three theological virtues, cardinal moral virtues, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit. These virtues and gifts needed only to be developed as you grew up.
All these gifts you received so that you could become the mother of Jesus and his partner in crushing the head of Satan. Mary, after you were born, the Holy Spirit kept giving you a continual flow of graces for each individual act and activity as you grew and developed. In contrast to other persons, you also were free of ignorance and concupiscence, the consequences of original sin. Shortly after your birth, you already had a clear mind and perfect control of your thoughts and desires.
You were a beautiful baby in body and soul. And you grew up to be a lovely child, then a graceful attractive girl. Mary, you were a true Jewish girl, conceived and born of Jewish parents. God had chosen Abraham to be father of the chosen people through Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. These people became known as Jews or Israelites.
Mary, you were conceived and born into this race, a Jewess. The history of your people is given in the Old Testament of the Bible. Your parents must have been truly holy persons. "By their fruits you shall know them," says Holy Scripture.
According to tradition the couple, Joaquin and Anne, had no children and were already old. They had prayed many years for a child, and finally, when it seemed humanly impossible, God heard their prayer. This delay happened that the child would be more known as a child of God than of just human parents. You, Mary, were the fruit of their prayers.
Presentation in the Temple
When you were three years old, according to tradition, your parents took you to the Temple in Jerusalem and offered you to God. You already had the use of reason at that young age since you were without sin. You knew God as your creator, and you had a personal relationship with Him.
You prayed to Him. If St. Therese of the Child Jesus could meditate at the age of four, why could you not relate with God at an even earlier age, Mary? There in God’s house you offered yourself, body and soul, to God to give Him glory.
Father Herman Mueller, a Scripture scholar, claims that you did not stay in the Temple, as some teachers say, but went home to Nazareth with your parents and were educated by them. For Father Mueller maintains that there were no Temple virgins.
Your birth and childhood, Mary, were the first steps of God’s fulfilling the promise of a new woman and new man. You had received sanctifying grace at your birth and you likewise received actual graces continuously from moment to moment during your development.
With these graces you faithfully cooperated. Being free from ignorance and concupiscence you could cooperate in a manner pleasing to God. And in God’s marvelous plan, Mary, you were thus prepared to be the mother of the new man.
The new man would be the "Divine Word," the second person of the Blessed Trinity, who would take a human body in you and of you, Mary, and become man while remaining God. He would take a human nature by being conceived and born of you, a virgin mother. Thus after God had prepared you; God asked your free consent to become the mother of this new man, the God-man.
Because God respected your dignity, he sought your free consent. He had given you a free will and would not force you to be the mother of the promised messiah against your consent, especially since the dignity of being the mother of God meant suffering. God would invite you to freely consent to your part of His plan of redeeming humankind.
Education, Home Schooled
Your mother, St. Anne, told you about the people of the Old Testament, especially outstanding ones. Your father, St. Joaquin, narrated more fully the Old Testament history of God’s people. You prayed the psalms with your parents. You learned of God’s choosing the Jewish people, your own people, and of his providential care for them. Your mother taught you how to keep house and cook. She also taught you how to sew. You would need these skills as wife and mother. In general, you had a peaceful quiet life as a girl with your parents in Nazareth.
According to the customs of the times, your parents, no doubt, arranged for the marriage of their daughter to a virtuous young man, a carpenter working in Nazareth. His name was Joseph. You were perhaps 15 years old, the usual age for the marriage of a young lady, when you became engaged to Joseph.
Joseph was perhaps 19 years old according to the usual age of a young man when he wed you, Mary. The ages of 15 for you and 19 for Joseph when the two of you married makes more sense than considering Joseph an old man to safeguard the truth of your virginity.
Joseph was a virtuous young man and was given special grace both to preserve your virginity and his own. One saint made the observation that when God calls one to a special office, He gives the graces needed to fulfill that office. Mary, you had prayed that your parents would find the right young man for you. And God did find him, for He had prepared that young man in a special way to be your husband. He, like you, had cooperated with the grace which God had given him.
The marriage according to the customs of those times was held in two stages: namely, the signing of the marriage contract and, a year later, the husband taking the wife to live with him.
The annunciation and incarnation took place sometime after you had signed the marriage contract but before you lived together. Since you were husband and wife, Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born into a marriage of husband and wife, into a family, and thus had a mother and father. Jesus had a father in every way except by physical generation. He was born, as mentioned, into a family. Such was the wonderful plan of God.
The Annunciation and Incarnation
Mary, you were living at home, when Archangel Gabriel appeared to you. The proposal of God through Archangel Gabriel and your consent is nicely presented by the prayer of the Angelus.
"The angel of the Lord declared to you, Mary."
And you responded after learning that the Holy Spirit would accomplish the miracle of the incarnation in you by humbly declaring:
"Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done to me according to your word."
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."*
* The Angelus in summary and in a little different arrangement than is the usual way of praying it.
The Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, came down from heaven and entered the egg in your chaste womb, Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit united the Son of God with that egg while creating and infusing the soul into it.
Mary, you would take a great risk in consenting to become the mother of the messiah. You had the necessary trust in God and the courage, however, to consent. If Joseph had reported you to the synagogue authorities, you could have been stoned to death. The law required that a young woman found to be pregnant, not of her husband, be stoned to death.
Who would have believed you if you had said that you conceived the child in you by power of the Holy Spirit? Thus in consenting to be the mother of the promised messiah, you ran the risk of great shame and even death. Yet you did not hesitate to consent once you were convinced that it was God’s will. You had the courage to be become the mother of the promised messiah, the son of God, the future suffering servant of the Lord.
You had great trust in God that he would help your mother believe you as you told her of your pregnancy. Did you first inform your mother about the appearance of Archangel Gabriel and your pregnancy by the power of the Holy Spirit? And did she inform your father, who in turn informed Joseph? And did they believe that by the grace of God, the Son of God, the Divine Word, had taken up his abode in you. Did you also tell them the good news of Elizabeth being with child already for six months? Did you then ask permission to go and visit her?
Did your father arrange for you to join the next caravan heading out of Nazareth for Jerusalem? It would be hard to believe that you set out alone, as sometimes portrayed by artists, on a 100-mile journey with robbers and wild animals along the way.
After some time, you could feel the presence of the child in your womb. You felt his presence more and more from day to day as the baby grew and developed in you. You perceived at a certain moment his heartbeat. What a thrill!
In your womb, Mary, Jesus had the loveliest tabernacle he ever had and was to have throughout all ages. During the trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem and then to Ain Karem, did you sing melodious lullabies to the infant in you?
Artists beautifully and graphically portray your meeting with Elizabeth. The evangelist Luke tells of the babe in Elizabeth’s womb being given the divine life of sanctifying grace as you and Elizabeth embraced.
As a sign of the gift of divine life given to him, the child in Elizabeth leaped for joy. Luke wrote down your song, Mary, in response to Elizabeth’s greeting. To me, your song gives the best idea of true humility.
Your song speaks of all that you are. Your greatness—being the mother of God—you attribute to God. You credit yourself with nothing apart from God. You do not deny your greatness, but you give the entire honor to the grace of God. To say that you are not great would be a lie; it would be denying the favor of God.
Mary, the joy given to your elderly cousins by your presence in their home can be imagined. Your delicious cooking can be tasted. You and Elizabeth must have discussed the coming messiah and of his herald and their respective roles in God’s plan for the redemption of humankind.
On your way back from Ain Karem to Nazareth accompanied by Zachary, did you visit the Temple in Jerusalem and thank God for the gift of John, the fruit of your cousins’ prayer? Did Zachary renew his commitment to be faithful to God as his priest?
Your parents and Joseph welcomed you back to Nazareth. When Joseph was deliberating on what to do and deciding to write a note—telling you that he was stepping out of his relationship with you because the Holy Spirit had espoused you—did Archangel Gabriel appear to him in a dream? Did Archangel Gabriel assured him that it was true that you had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and that in God’s plan Joseph was to complete the marriage ceremony and take you into his home?
He was to be the father of your child in every way possible except by physical generation. He was to be the head of the holy family, consisting of you, him, and your child. And he was to pass on his Davidic ancestry to your child for ancestry was traced through the father. So by the instruction of the Archangel, Joseph took you into the home that he had built.
Continue to Part Two