Mary. The Mediatix of all grace. The Mother of God. The Star of the Sea. The Cause of our Joy. Mother of Mercy. There are many titles for Mary of Nazareth, but to me, for a long time, she was just scary.
Raised as a protestant, I was indoctrinated to think that any honor given to Mary was idolatry. It took away the honor, love, and relationship that was due to Jesus. But then I realized all the greatest saints were head-over-heels in love with Mary. So what’s the deal?
The first mountain to cover when it comes to Mary is the head, the second (and more daunting is the heart).
Beaten, broken, and dying, Jesus uses precious breath as he clings to his cross, speaking his desire for a relationship to last into eternity.
“Woman, behold, your son.” He first gave his disciple, John, to Mary.
“Behold, your mother.” He then gave his mother to his disciple.
So what? Some people could read this as a one-time exchange. You could say, “cool, John is supposed to be the new caretaker of Mary.” But that is lacking the richness of inspired scripture.
Notice that in this account, John’s name is never used. He is simply called “the disciple”. This has mind-blowing implications. This means that anyone who is a disciple of Christ can put themselves in John’s shoes.
Go ahead, do it. Grab your bible and look up John 19:25-30. Every time you read “the disciple” put your name. Imagine yourself there, at the foot of the cross with Mary, your mother.
This was a part of the mission Mary had been prepared for since her conception. She was to be the mother of the whole world. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a child of Mary.
This does not mean we worship Mary. In the early church writings, there were three words used to describe our reverence towards the things of God: latria, dulia, and hyperdulia.
First “Latria”, translated “adoration”. Latria is the manifestation of submission and acknowledgement of dependence that is due to an uncreated being. God, being the only uncreated being, is the only thing worthy of this adoration.
Second Dulia, translated “veneration”. Dulia is a manifestation of submission and reverence that is rightfully given to a created being. This means recognizing another’s excellence. Dulia is owed to those who went before us and lived lives of holiness: Mother Theresa, John Paul II, Pier Giorgio Frassati, or even your Grandmother who lived a holy life.
Third is hyperdulia. “Hyper-“ meaning “above”. This is the veneration of a created being that is above all other created beings in excellence.
Since Mary is a created being, Immaculately Conceived, the Mother of God, and said “yes” perfectly to the will of God, she is the only being worthy of this hyperdulia. She, by no merit of her own, but by the way God created her, is worthy of a special place of honor. We as Catholics are meant to give her a special place, above the other Saints. However, we do not worship (latria) Mary, we venerate her above other CREATED beings (hyperdulia).
I know what you’re thinking. This is all great. Whooo Theology. It makes sense in my head, but I can’t get it to my heart.
You see, we are all wounded from the faults of our parents, some bigger, some smaller. Like an animal nursing it’s cut, these wounds make us defensive and closed, sometimes making us unable to accept life-giving relationships with others, but especially with God as our Father and Mary as our Mother.
What do we do? Pray for the grace. The grace to be open, the grace to know our wounds, the grace to have humility in asking to be healed, the grace to have faith that the Lord will heal us the grace to soften our hearts, hardened by sin and shame. Only the grace of the Holy Spirit can heal those wounds. He is call the Diving Physician, the Counselor, and the Healer for a reason. Let Him in.
Sometimes it takes asking others to pray for and with you. I know that’s what it took for me. I had been praying for a relationship with Mary for months. I prayed rosaries, I read the consecration to Mary, I listened to talks. I got it all in my head, but not in my heart.
You see, because of my damaged relationship with my earthly mother, I was unable to be open (even though I tried) to a real relationship with the mother God wanted to give me in heaven. It was a slow unfolding. God gave me the grace, but only the amount I was capable of receiving in the moment. A small opening here, an encounter in prayer there, and the witness of countless men and woman whose’ love for Mary is purely out of love for Jesus. For me, it took an honest conversation with Mary, lead by the Holy Spirit, her spouse. It took patience, humility, and perseverance.
Now, something seems to have changed, I find comfort at the feet Mary, at the foot of the cross. But that doesn’t mean we know each other well – yet. Mary only wants me to know her as well as it helps me to know her Son, her Father, and her Spouse. She wants that for you too. So, be honest with yourself. Take your wounds to the foot of the cross, but don’t go alone. Invite Mary to go with you. Listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit. And trust in God’s timing.
Veni sacti spiritus, veni per Maria. Come Holy Spirit, Come Through Mary.