Humbly Submitting to the Mother of God
Having recently celebrated the New Year by first giving due honor to our Blessed Mother, it is incumbent upon us to continue to reflect on our call to enter into this special relationship that Christ has chosen to share with us.
Christ sought to give us His own mother as a necessary component of His work of Salvation. As good-Catholics we know that Mary is not a savior, nor is she one to be worshipped. We must quickly move past such preoccupations lest we only speak about what she is not. She is a mom to us, and a mom to Jesus. It is jarring that we would say that we ought to submit our wills, and our minds, and our hearts to her, while also saying we should only surrender to God. But the two are not in contraposition. Had they been, Jesus’ submission to St. Joseph and Mary would have been blasphemous. I’d like to therefore examine how to enter into a relationship with Mary by first examining Christ’s own example, the implications for us, and the practical application of this teaching.
Christ’s Special Relationship with Momma-Mary
On display, in that moment at the temple, where Jesus is found by his human parents, He embodies kenosis by submitting himself to their human-authority. This is a consequence of truly becoming fully-human. His Divine-Nature does not give him a run-around of the 10 Commandments, nor does he fail to fulfill the law to its fullest.
When the Eternal Son choose to become Human he did not simply take on our nature, but he took upon himself everything married to it. Many Islamic theologians, in attempting to safeguard the otherness of God, refuse to embrace the Incarnation. They see the notion of this as both illogical (when discussing Trinitarian Theology), and a type of undermining of God’s authority and transcendence. I appreciate their desire to safe-guard God’s authority, avoid illogical assertions, and to maintain a sense of God’s otherness. Nonetheless, it is precisely the act of the Incarnation that offers us a spiritual-otherness to God: namely in a paradox. In God’s humble act of becoming a creature while remaining His own Divine-Person, He displays to us a self-emptying debasement (kenosis). Yet this debasement, in allowing common-human nature to be united to Divinity, He communicates Divine-Love. It is precisely this act of self-emptying and love that fosters for us the paradox that can easily be explained by the two wills subsisting within Christ. No one else, to the extent that the Son of God did, can self-effacingly express to us such love. Sure, a parent can play with their child as if they are a child themselves. A Bishop can speak of his own shortfalls to his priests, and a politician can admit his desire to become a saint. Yet none of these measure up to the Word, through whom the universe was created, becoming Himself a man who makes things out of wood. In this action, Christ truly embraces everything about human living including His own human parents - and this involves obedience to human authority.
Now, let us pause for a moment and remember that we are called to imitate Christ’s own example. If God could be obedient to an inferior creature in His Divine-Wisdom and Person, to whom can we not be obedient to? We always stress that such obedience must in the end be united to God’s will, lest we sin. Nonetheless, for us to bathe in life of Christ we must find ourselves in various circumstances where we are obedient to those in a lesser state than ourselves. For priests, consider the criticism of a parishioner who even though it may be done uncharitably and perhaps with venom, they hold to some truth which we must bend under. For the parishioner, it could be the young priest who is inexperienced and unpolished in his method of teaching, or even flippant and resentful - but if he speaks some truth, one must bend to it. What of a child in all innocence pointing out a hypocrisy of a parent? Or a police officer accepting insight from a cadet? All of these examples demonstrate a type of participation in Christ’s own obedience, yet they fall short of just how much the Son bent.
For some Christians, the notion of being obedient or developing a personal relationship with Mary seems blasphemous in the same devotion to maintain God’s transcendence and authority, as seen in Islamic Traditions. In fact the Islamic religion was partly influenced by the Nestorian movement. Think of it like this: to say that you would only be obedient to God, yet not to those that God Himself was obedient to, is to place yourself above God’s own actions of self-abasement. We need to sit (meditate) with this consideration. Theologically, if we are having a difficult time wrapping our head around the notion of being obedient to our Heavenly Mother, and how this is reconcilable to being obedient to God essentially - we need not go further than to the idea of obedience to our Guardian Angels who are sent to us; or to be obedient to the Son who was sent by the Father; or to be obedient those God commands us to obey. We do not obey Mary as though she were the ultimate end of our own obedience - but as the order in which Christ has established His Kingdom.
Inheritors of the Life of Christ
We inherit everything that Christ possesses when we are baptized. This means we are initiated into the family of the Holy Family - Christ’s human and divine family. So quickly do we set aside Christ’s human nature to draw attention to His Divine Nature. But we cannot neglect either - its the integration of the two that Christ in His person reconciles all things. We are not orphans in the Heavens nor in the Human-Family - we have a mom, a dad, and a Heavenly Father, Holy Spirit and Divine Brother. There was no contradiction to these in Christ’s life, so there won’t be any in ours. Now, we do not inherit everything about Christ’s life - for instance, not all of us are born in Bethlehem. We do not all have his skin-color, sex, appearance, and personality. These accidentals belonging to Christ are important to salvation history, but are somewhat trivial when we’d think they’d equally apply to us. For this reason we must distinguish, reasonably, about what we inherit in Christ’s life, and what we do not. What is essential to Christ is the relationships we build - that is a matter for the Kingdom: not Gentile, Slave, Free, Jew, Male nor Female. None of this means that these dimensions are unimportant or part of God’s will, but they are particular components of our own life, that ought to nonetheless be conformed in rightly ordered relationships.
Did Christ see his mom and earthly dad as mere accidents (non-essential components of His life)? The answer is no. Christ could have come to us as a fully grown man, and shaped the prophesy as such. But He chose to be made known to us through the family, in which He first instituted in the Garden. Part of God’s recreation of the world through His work of redemption meant coming to us in the context of a family - in the Line of David, through a virgin. Christ emphasizes this upon the Cross as He gives the woman to the beloved disciple. Who is Jesus’ beloved disciple? Its all of us who have His mother in our own home, in a relationship. Had this not been essential to Christ, he wouldn’t have mentioned it at one of the most important moments of His ministry.
From the Cross, and the very act of the Incarnation we inherit His Mom, and all His relationships, most especially the Heavenly Father. And in this we subject ourselves to her and her authority. Not in some cold manner of fearful subservience, disconnected to God’s plan. But in the same way God the Father entrusted His only Son to their care. So the Father entrusts us at the moment of baptism to their intercession, their paternity.
We do not want to exclude those whom God sends into our lives. Jesus reveals that if others deny His apostles they are denying Him. Likewise, this is the case for anyone whom God seeks to connect us with. Christ is known not only as an Individual localized in a human body, but also through His Spirit shared in the Body of Christ - the Kingdom, the Church. The Church includes Mary in a particular role, and therefore we must discern what she envisions for us as a way to unite ourselves to her Son more fully.
Begin by praying to her, and asking her for guidance. Obedience does not simply mean an external execution of an action that has been commanded. It means a type of inner-listening, a heart open to hearing her speak and guide. Read scripture, understand her own example. Pray the Rosary, meditate on the Mysterys with her. Join her at the Eucharist; that is, join her at the foot of the Cross.
Entrust yourself, just as God did, to her care. Enact that in a prayer, follow through with it in your way of life. Consecrate yourself to her maternal intercession, and allow her to nurture the very growth in Wisdom that