May Devotion: 2013
My soul doth magnify the Lord
St. Therese of Lisieux once said that she wanted to be a priest. That has caused the proponents of women priests to sign her up for the cause. But you need to read on and see why she said such a thing. She did not want to celebrate Mass but be able to preach and specifically preach on Our Lady because she had heard so many bad sermons on the Blessed Mother. I suspect that most lay folks have had at some time or other the same attitude. I certainly have on those rare occasions, when I have to listen to some priest other than Fr. Duncan preach.
The fact is that the saint got what she wished for: she has had a much larger congregation to preach to than any priest. Her Autobiography is to this day a best seller and has been translated into over fifty languages.
What St. Therese said she would do, if she could preach on Our Lady was to stick to what the Bible says about her. I guess I had better follow her advice.
Some would maintain that there is really not much said about here in Scripture and it is true you can fairly easily list the passages in the Bible which refer to her: Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of Jesus, Presentation of the Lord, Jesus lost in the Temple, two appearances in the middle of the Gospels, one when Mary and the family are looking for Jesus and at the Wedding in Cana of Galilee, at the Foot of the Cross and with the apostles on the Day of Pentecost.
Not much maybe but enough. It is quality not quantity. She appears at the beginning of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where the question is who is this child? Only Mary knows at first, she has been told by the angel, and then Mary, Elizabeth and little John the Baptist know and for thirty years or so that is it. John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb can only give a kick of recognition. But Elizabeth herself, full of Holy Spirit, figures out something that it will take the theologians three or four centuries to figure out, namely that the Mary is the Mother of the Lord.
That, said Dr. Mascall, is the most important and most theological title Mary has: the Mother of God –the Theotokos. That is how come she is a virgin, that is how come there are angels at the birth of Jesus, this how come her Son is always in the temple. The importance of Mary then and now is she points to and tells us who her Son is. And I might mention in case St. Therese is listening in that she said “Mary is more mother than queen.” Again Dr. Mascall: there is more that might be said of Mary and it is not necessarily wrong to do so but this is what all Christians must say of her not only or even primarily to understand her but to understand who Jesus is.
The remarkable thing about the Mother of Jesus is that with apparently a small amount of information we can clearly form a picture of her character. St. Luke tells us more than once that Mary “kept these things in her heart.” So we know, whoever else Jesus was talking about when he said “blessed are those who hear the word and keep it,” he was certainly talking about his mother.
The Annunciation anticipates the Wedding at Cana and the Wedding at Cana confirms the Annunciation: “Be it unto me according to thy word” and “do whatever he tells you.”
At the heart of every conversion, every Christian vocation, every kind of following Jesus stands the fiat, the assent to the will of the Father expressed in the Son and confirmed in the Holy Spirit. By the same token Mary appears in the story as the first evangelist, the first to proclaim the Gospel of her Son, and she can only say to those who would follow Jesus what she herself had to say at the Annunciation and at Cana: “do what he tells you.”
At the foot of the Cross and on the Day of Pentecost “the Mother of Jesus was there.” She was there doing what she had always done: quietly and faithfully assenting to the word of the Lord and treasuring these things in her heart. Christian conversion is not simply having a dramatic experience and it’s all over. Christian conversion is sticking with Jesus to the end. Perhaps a quality that many mothers have but always the mark of authentically following Jesus.
These things show us why the Christian Tradition has never been able to ignore Mary, to forget about her, to say that she doesn’t really matter. Whatever form devotion to her may take and wherever theological speculation may go, it always leads us back to her Son.
My soul doth magnify the Lord