Mary Mother of God and Epiphany, Year A-2011

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I will make you a light to the nations" (Is. 49:6—NAB)

The faithful are struck with terror and all creatures are lost when the Lord hides his face (Ps. 30:8; 104:29). When the Lord, however, shines his face on people and looks kindly upon them, they experience not only rescue and relief but also peace—wholeness, well-being, happiness, prosperity, success, triumph, salvation, revelation (Ps. 4:6; 13:1-2; 22:23-25; 27:7-9; 31:16; 44:3; 66:1-2; 69:17; 80:3, 7, 19).

Thus the Blessed Virgin Mary is joyful and effusive in her praise of the Lord, recognizing explicitly that the Lord has looked with favor on her, a lowly handmaid of his. Surely she was greatly troubled earlier, wondering what the angel Gabriel’s greeting could mean, and a little later asked the angel a hard question. But heeding Gabriel’s assurance not to be afraid and believing his explanation, she gives her assent and accepts joyfully and humbly her being highly favored and being smiled upon by the Lord. She consequently delights in peace, in her being most blessed among women because of her faithful obedience to God’s will that she give birth to the Son of the Most High and being the woman that, in the fullness of time, confers flesh and full humanity to God’s Son (Gal. 4:4).

Mary’s title of “God-bearer” or “the one who gave birth to God” or simply “Mother of God,” theologians say, is more an affirmation of the divine identity of the blessed fruit of her womb and less an assertion of her privilege, of her being most blessed among women [1]. It is just as well, I think, that it is so. After all, it is not herself or her privilege that Mary wants to call attention to.

It is the Lord’s greatness that she proclaims. She only makes mention of herself, of her joy and her lowliness, in order to accentuate God’s might and mercy and to point out also his predilection for the despised, the lowly, the hungry, the subjugated. Far be it from Mary also, the obedient new Eve, to want to usurp for herself what rightfully belongs to God alone. And being one to listen, witness with wonder the remarkable, if obscure, events surrounding Jesus’ birth and reflect on them in her heart, and likewise do, along with St. Joseph, what the law and custom prescribe, Mary is surely counted among those Jesus considers truly family and blessed above all for their attentiveness to and observance of God’s word (Lk.2:21-24, 27, 39, 41; 8:21; 11:27-28) [2]. She knows, no doubt, that it is not she who matters so much as it is God’s Word, her son Jesus. She leaves it up to him and instructs others to do whatever he tells them (Jn. 2:11). She too realizes that she is not the light but only a witness to it, and she too admits that her son must increase and she must decrease (cf. Jn. 1:7-8; 3:30).

Mary’s blessedness, in other words, lies in her poverty, and her greatness, in her being the least in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:3; 11:11; Lk. 6:20; 7:28). The almighty Lord’s name invoked upon her, his lowly handmaid, through the priestly blessing made perfect in Jesus, Mary is truly and highly blessed (Num. 6:22-27; Heb. 5:1-7; 7:11-26). Lifted from lowliness by the Lord, the Mother of God stands out signaling to us that there is sure hope and solace for us who still sojourn on earth and struggle [3]. She summons us to rise up with her in splendor, for the light she bore is here, the Lord, his glory, is shining upon us.

But do I respond with the kind of wonder and haste that the shepherds had or the sort of excitement, single-minded search and commitment the magi from the east displayed? Do I not continue looking for Jesus in the wrong places perhaps, in royal palaces, in corridors and halls of power? Do I seriously consult Holy Scriptures to be properly guided or do I simply pick and choose from them to gain advantage or further my interests? And assuming I have found the Lord, do I become radiant at what I see and does my heart throb and overflow? Am I so excited that I cannot but spread the word? Do I myself, does my life style and or anything about me, prevent my testimony to the light from being credible? Don’t I somehow give enough impression of racial, cultural or intellectual arrogance that I undermine the revelation that ought to be proclaimed that the door of membership in the body of Christ, or of partnership in the Christian promise, is open to Jews and Gentiles and closed to no one? Am I ready and willing to contribute to shining the light by being an intercessor with those unlike me in a similar way that Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, D.C. [4], was an “intercessor with Muslims”? The risk there is in this is being ridiculed as naïve, misguided, or even going against God’s will—if the replies to the America editorial, “Two Peoples, One State” are any indication [5]. But I must recognize the “crux of the matter” and contemplate the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross, where her motherhood was brought to ultimate fullness and made to surpass, needless to say, her motherhood in the order of nature (Jn. 19:26-27).

Mary, the Mother of God, is our mother also. And don’t we pledge to be, with Jesus, her children especially at the foot of the cross, so to speak, when we consume his body and blood and celebrate the memory of his passion?


[1] Brian E. Daley, S.J., “Woman of Many Names,” Theological Studies 71 (December 2010) 851; cf. also (accessed December 30, 2010).
[2] Brian E. Daley, S.J., “Woman of Many Names” 849.
[3] Cf. Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, 68.
[4] Cf. (accessed January 31, 2010).
[5] Cf. “Letters,” America (December 6, 2010) 28-29.