St. Paul who, being totally fascinated by the Risen Christ Who called and commissioned him, hardly even mentions Our Lady, nevertheless gives us a few words in her regard that reveal to us something of the innermost ‘secret’ of Mary:
God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to ransom those under the Law.
‘God sent His Son to ransom those under the Law’. However, His Son was born of a woman under the Law St. Paul tells us … could she, then, have been a woman yet ‘to be ransomed’? Obviously not! Therefore, Paul is assuming as known the forestalling ransom of Mary, that is the prevenient grace of her Immaculate Conception, enabling her to fittingly bear and give birth to the Son of God come ‘to ransom those under the Law’.
God did ‘great things’ for Mary as she would not just humbly acknowledge but exultantly proclaim to her cousin Elisabeth; but He dld not -- could not because He would not – do them without her co-operation: implicit, as regards her intellectual appreciation of what was happening to her and planned for her -- such as her Immaculate Conception and the strict Personal Divinity of the Son to be born of her, but totally explicit in her absolute moral self-commitment to the supremely holy and incomprehensibly majestic (above and beyond human comprehension) God of Israel, necessarily involving her relinquishing control of, indeed, embracing total abnegation of, self. God, I say, would not do such great things for her without her most radical and utterly simple self-commitment in love. Now, such self-emptiness before Him, such total openness, such absolute selflessness for Him, His purposes and His glory; that indeed, is the secret of Mary:
Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Your Will.
So absolute -- so complete and unreserved -- was the response of Mary to God’s initial words delivered to her by the angel Gabriel, that Jesus openly praised her for that above all else (Luke 11:27-28):
A certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!" But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
Blessed are those who hear the word of God, who like Mary let that word freely -- like a threaded needle -- introduce the Spirit of God into their lives, enabling Him to commence His work in them. Blessed indeed are those who then, turning neither heart nor head to right or to left, but always, simply and solely, walking in the way of God’s (W)ord and allowing God’s Spirit to lead them where He will.
We can recall here another Mary of whom the New Testament speaks most clearly in this same vein, for she is able to help us learn something more about Our Lady’s ‘secret’:
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed Him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving came to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me by myself to do all the serving? The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. (Luke 10:38-42)
Clearly, important choices have to be made, perhaps friends offended and opposition provoked; at times, even good, very good things left aside and behind, for what is better and best in the way of God: ‘Secretum meum, mihi.’
For further guidance we can also recall the experience of Elijah of old:
At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. The word of the Lord came to him, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will be passing by.’ A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here? ... ‘Go take the road back to the desert near Damascus. When you arrive you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram... Then Jehu, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’ (1 Kings 9, 11-16)
The voice of God had been ardently desired, long awaited, and carefully listened for, by the prophet in his great need. Ultimately he recognized it by its unearthly calm and peace-enshrining quiet which bespoke of holiness and led him to hide his face in his cloak before it, that thus he might listen more closely and understand most clearly what the Lord would have him do to achieve his destiny: Peace to those who are loved of God.
In our Gospel reading we learnt that those who searched for the Child found:
Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in a manger.
So it is for all those disciples whom Jesus has told to take Mary to their hearts as their own Mother: in our search for Jesus, we will find Him, most easily and most surely, with the help and comfort of Mary’s prayerful presence in our lives. Mary is no mere addition, certainly no complication, for Catholic spirituality. Indeed, we can readily appreciate the privilege of Mary that enables her to lead each and every one of us to Jesus when we recall that she is not simply the model of the Church, but that, during her pregnancy she was, in all literal truth, the original Church itself, the unique dwelling place on earth of Jesus, God’s Son made flesh, the New Testament Ark of God’s presence among His People; and that she still is the purest essence of the Church, without spot or wrinkle of any sort. Only in Mother Church can each and every one of us find Jesus truly and love Him fully, and that we will do most surely with Mary’s inestimable help.
St. Paul is quite explicit: it is the Spirit within us Who cries out Abba, Father!
As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into you hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”
It is not that, initially, He authorises us, permits us, or even, enables us to cry ‘Abba, Father!’ It is the Spirit Himself, first coming to us as God’s gracious and most gloriously mysterious GIFT -- the sublimely precious fruit of Christ’s sacrifice -- Who thus speaks in us and for us to the Father. Thus is Jesus, Mary’s Son, born anew in each of us for the Father. After that, everything depends on just how much ‘room’ – so to speak -- we give the Spirit of Jesus to work freely and fruitfully in us; and that means that we must appreciate, learn from, and develop in our own lives, something of the ‘secret’ of Mary our mother: for that will ultimately determine our human and Christian development as children of God.
We should recognise that Mary is our model and inspiration for our deepest and most personal relationship with Jesus, and in Jesus, with the Father, in so far as she was always most sublimely one with her Son:
Mary kept all these things (that she had experienced and heard concerning Jesus) and pondered them in her heart.
She is the supreme example and the surest guide for anyone seeking salvation, for anyone hoping and longing to find God as our true Father, in and with Jesus.
First and foremost, we should Imitate Mary in her total commitment of trust, and confidence in God the incomprehensible and supremely loving Father:
Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Your Will.
And then, by pondering in our heart -- in the power of the Spirit -- the Good News of Jesus handed down to us by Mother Church in her Scriptures and teaching which form us as His disciples, and which, indeed, together with her sacraments, mediate His very presence in our midst as members of His Church, and in our individual hearts, as His true disciples today.
Dear People of God, let us close our considerations with heartfelt words of gratitude and praise for Mary, the Immaculate Mother of Our Lord and Saviour and – ‘thanks be to God’ -- our most beautiful and gracious Queen:
You are the glory of Jerusalem, the surpassing joy (and) splendid boast of (all reborn in Christ). You have done good and God is pleased with what you have wrought. May you be blessed by the Lord Almighty forever and ever! And all the people answered, “Amen!” (Judith 15:9-10)
So be it today: Amen, amen! Deo gratias!