Mary from Creche to Cross

Falling as it does exactly nine months before Christmas, the 25th of March is typically the Feast of the Annunciation. It is the day we remember and celebrate the gracious intervention of God in the life of Mary as recorded by Luke; an intervention that transformed her from Mary of Nazareth, a nondescript, betrothed teenager, into Mary, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God.

We remember Gabriel’s words, “Greetings, favored one!” and his wondrous announcement that she would bear the Son of the Most High. We remember her straightforward question, “How can this be?” and Gabriel’s words of assurance, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Most of all, perhaps, we remember her confident and faithful affirmation of Gabriel’s message: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me as you have spoken.” The feast is a powerful reminder to all Christians, regardless of confession, that God’s desire to save us comes to pass not apart from us, but in and through us. In and through Mary, whose womb would contain the uncontainable God.

This year, the feast is “bumped” to April 8 to accommodate the final stages of our journey to Easter. That is understandable. It is also unfortunate. It is unfortunate because it might be seen to suggest that the incarnation and crucifixion-and-resurrection are separate and discrete events, when in fact they are deeply integrated. After all, do we not confess with the Creed that “for us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven and was incarnate”? In the Creed, Christmas and Easter are crammed into one sentence. There is no sharp distinction to be drawn between the two. No sharp distinction between the Incarnate God and the climax of his saving work.

The Blessed Virgin Mary
There is also, I have come to see, no sharp division to be drawn between mother and Son. The Incarnate God who enters history as a man, lives and dies as a man. He does so clothed in the humanity he received from his mother. So it is that, in John, when Mary is invited to behold her son, it is a twofold command both to behold the immolation of her boy and to behold his beloved disciple as a son. This is not simply a loving son making provision for his mother in his final hour. In this word from the cross, Jesus creates a new family, the Church, in which his mother is an esteemed member, a mother for all the disciples who would come after.

As the first disciple, our “mother,” we regard her fiat, her “let it be to me,” as the high mark of the life of faith to which all disciples aspire. For it is a declaration of obedience not because the future is secure. Her future, as we see it in snippets in the Gospel of Luke, is anything but secure. It contains moments of deep ambiguity. Her future, as it is presented by John, includes standing at the cross of her Son as he breathes his last. No, she entrusts herself not to a secure future, but to the One who has given her his favor, who has chosen her to be the mother of his Son.

Originally posted at EerWord

Tim Perry is rector of The Church of the Epiphany in Sudbury, Ontario, and a sessional lecturer in religious studies at Laurentian University. His latest book, The Blessed Virgin Mary (in the Guides to Theology series) is co-authored with Daniel Kendall, SJ.

Click to order The Blessed Virgin Mary by Tim Perry and Daniel Kendall, or to visit Tim Perry’s blog, Texas Flood.