Knowing the possible consequences, she embraced God’s request and never looked back
By Larry Peterson
A dear friend gave me a gift on Christmas that I never expected or imagined. It was a print of a painting which is among the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is of the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus and a lamb. The title is L’innocence, painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, one of the most renowned artists of the 19th century. The baby Jesus and the lamb signify “innocence.”; hence the title L’innocence. What did it mean? What did it represent?
In less than a week, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. But we must journey back to the Third Ecumenical Council which took place in Ephesus (in today’s Turkey) in 431. This was the Council that affirmed, in perpetuity, that it was God who was the Father and that Mary was, the Mother of Jesus Christ. This is known as the Dogma of the Divine Maternity. This settled for all time the central mystery of the Catholic faith which is the Incarnation; Jesus Christ is one person with two natures; one divine and one human. This is a mystery we embrace and believe but will never fully understand.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 495: Mary’s Divine Motherhood; Called in the Gospels, ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, “as the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly the ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos).
It seems to me that we may be prone to think of Mary as an innocent fourteen-year-old, who just wanted to do what God had asked of her. Well, she most certainly wanted to serve God but she was also fully aware of the situation that was putting her very life in danger. She knew what she was doing and any suggestions to the contrary are foolish. She was, after all, filled with a love of God that knew no bounds. She was also filled with the grace and love that filled her with courage. Let us consider her behavior after the Annunciation.
Our Blessed Mother was a young, innocent woman of about 14 years of age when the Angel Gabriel came to her and announced to her what God wanted from her. What could have gone through her young mind as this was asked of her? She must have been so afraid. How could she have had any possible idea that she would be the new Eve who would give birth to the new Adam who, in turn, would save us all? And what of her “innocence?”
When she knew she was pregnant, she told her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. She knew how they would react, and she never tried to hide it from them or delay in telling them. Then she went off to her cousin Elizabeth’s home and told her and her husband, Zachariah, who was a Jewish priest. Jewish law said she could be stoned to death. She knew this and could not have known what to expect when she saw them. But she went to them and told them and today we know this as the “Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin, St. Elizabeth.”
Lastly, let us not forget her betrothed, Joseph. This young, devout Jewish man, is told by his betrothed, that she is pregnant. He must have felt so betrayed by the woman he loved. He must have been heartsick. It must have been something for the two of them to go through- especially in such a strict Jewish world. But we know the angel came to Joseph and this decent, kindly, and loving man embraced his betrothed and the rest is history.
This mystery of faith is so profound. This young woman, in effect, was chosen by God Himself to be his spouse. Their child would be both God and Man. He would change the world forever. Mary’s virginal motherhood sealed in perpetuity the truth of the Incarnation. She gave Christ the body He possessed. She gave Him the humanity that was part of Him. And all the time he was God…and she was His Mom. All the DNA that runs through Jesus Christ comes from Mary and only Mary. Pondering the Divine Motherhood takes your breath away.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019