Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!

Luke 1:28

From Moses to Jeremiah, the Biblical pattern is clear. The Lord is with you is a sign that a human being is being called to fulfil an important mission that will be demanding and difficult. The future of countless lives that are yet to be is largely dependent on how well this selected soul will play their part in the destiny that is yet to unfold.

In the Biblical texts, it is the future of the nation of Israel that is at stake. Even during this very early pre-conception phase of Archangel Gabriel’s visit, Mary already faces an important decision. God has called her to a formidable task that will be with her for the rest of her life.

We know how the story ends, so there is no need to wonder if she will close herself off to the new possibility that is presenting itself to her. Mary decides to remain open to the Angelic Presence that is revealing itself. She takes this presence to heart and ponders the meaning of Gabriel’s presence.

Mother Mary was given a unique vocation. All of us, I believe, at sometime or another, will be called to do something we would rather evade or simply not do. Like Mary, we will need to choose between being open to a new path; or closing ourselves off from these new possibilities due to fear.

My Journey

I attended a Catholic school for around a year. My time there was not without its difficulties. I could not be a flower girl, partake in holy communion, the sacraments and the like–but I was, at the same time, zealously taught that Jesus loved all the little children of the world. One of my favourite images is that of Jesus sitting on a chair surrounded by little children who are listening to him.

There are many Catholic educational institutions all around the world and I attended one for only a year–a brief span of time. I was taught to pray using the Rosary, sing hymns as well as read Bible Stories with illustrations. There was one ‘problem’, though.

I was not a Christian and had no intention of ever becoming one. A part of me wishes that schools such as these would stop allowing non-Catholics to enrol. But unfortunately, to receive government-funding–Christian schools must admit and include non-Christian teachers and students.

But of course, they carry on with their evangelical ‘traditions’, not realising that they’re setting up some of their non-Christian students for a life of exclusion, confusion, doubt and terrible guilt. Then, there’s another problem–they openly and adamantly go against the secular curriculum that is required to be taught in school.

A year later, I would be transferred to an Anglican school. So I went to my new school with my Rosary and prayed to Mary (as I had been taught) and it wasn’t welcomed. I was told that I was doing something ‘bad’ and ‘sinful’ and that I should stop doing it.

The doctrinal differences between Catholicism and Protestantism were completely lost on a child that was only eight years of age.

The Hail Mary and The Lord’s Prayer were two prayers that I had been taught. When I transferred from my Catholic school to my Anglican school, I was told that I shouldn’t say ‘trespass’ but ‘sin’ when I recited The Lord’s Prayer. Not wanting to pray wasn’t an option. Anyways, somewhere deep down I must have liked Mother Mary and didn’t appreciate being told that praying to her was an abomination. I had always seen images of Mary with the baby infant Jesus. The representation of Mary as a loving mother is one that any child can understand and appreciate.

I loved the Nativity Scene that would lay out the lovely story of Jesus’ birth and the role that Mother Mary played in the coming of the King.

A lot has changed since my elementary school days and I’m more familiar with doctrine now than I used to be. I’ve studied in Jerusalem, the Holy City. For some reason, I seem to wind up with these teachings within earshot range. I understand that there are many doctrinal differences between the different sects of Christianity as well as the other Abrahamic faiths. I will leave that for other people to argue over.

The story that was taught to me when I was young–that of God’s love, of a Mother’s Love, and that Jesus loves children… I mean, it’s a beautiful story of eternal love and one that any child would take to–regardless of their religious affiliation.

Well, the older you get, the more you realise that these stories are not about God’s love; but about power and politics. The simplified version we tell children is the only version that retains the essence of the universal love of Mother Mary and God’s love for the world.

Everything else, well–let’s leave it to the clergy and all other interested parties to debate over. After all, it’s only been millennia and the jury appears to still be in deliberation.

The Prophecy of Two Births

In the Gospel of Luke, we are told the tale of two births that will come to define the tenor and trajectory of the Christian faith for millennia to come. It begins in Luke 1, when Archangel Gabriel appears and speaks to Zechariah and tells him that his wife, Elizabeth, who is ‘too old’ to bear a child; will bear a child. Parallels can be derived between the story of Abraham and Sarah and Zechariah and Elizabeth.

This is not the only instance in the Bible where the conception and birth of a child is foretold. This particular prophesy, however, came during the time of Herod. Zechariah, the future father of John, was a priest who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. Gabriel appears to Zechariah as he is burning incense; an act Zechariah must have performed daily. The angel stood at the right side of the altar of incense.

12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 

Luke 1:12

The birth and coming of both Jesus and John are not only prophesied, but their respective destinies are also foretold before their respective births. John is born first and Jesus is born after. Mary meets Elizabeth before the birth of John and they exchange words that will go on to form the basis of a new destiny that was on the verge of fruition.

John’s birth takes place in the grandeur of the temple; while Jesus’ birth takes place in humble conditions ‘because there was no guest room available for them’ (Luke 2:7).

Zechariah’s Song takes place after the foretold child had been born.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,

Luke 2:76

The Gospel of Luke notes both John’s birth and growth. It ends by placing John in the desert, where he will minister to the nation. The Apostle Luke, then, turns the story’s spotlight from John and shines it on the true rising star of his narrative, Jesus, the Davidic king who is destined to deliver his people into the light.

Church Mosaic of Black Madonna of Częstochow, Poland. Image Credit: Poeticbent

The Story of Queen Mary

Do whatever he tells you.

John 2:5

Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother is exalted in the Gospels and in the Catholic Faith. It is through her that the prophesy came true. Mary is not only part of Jesus’ blood family, but also his spiritual family. The importance of the Blessed Virgin doesn’t end with her bringing Jesus into the world. She was also one of his disciplines.

Mary’s faithfulness to her child as well as to God continues into Jesus’ adulthood and public ministry. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary’s role as a faithful disciple is exalted because she is the one who heard the word of God and kept it throughout her life. She is the first and model disciple. Like Sarah before her, Mary experiences the blessings of a new Exodus.

Mary’s command to the servants at the Wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you,” are her last recorded words in the Bible. With these words, she echoes the vocation of her lifelong faith. These words have profound effect and they inspire others to trust in Jesus’ message. Her last words at Cana are an encouragement to us all. This was not a doctrinal command, but are confident words born of her own experience, trust and faith.

All throughout her life–from her humble beginnings to the very end–Mary lived by the principle and article of faith. She trusts without hesitation and understands that she is Jesus’ disciple and student as much as she is his mother.

The Mother Who Heals

Deep down in my heart, I feel there is only one Universal Mother and she exists in all spiritual and religious traditions. Why do we long to connect with this Universal Mother? Because we know that it is from her womb that we emerged. She is the Co-Creator of our destiny on earth. There will be other mothers, too. Teachers, caregivers and so on–these women are part of our adoptive family. They love us as they would their own children.

I feel that the energy of the Universal Mother becomes strong in one’s life when one has healing to do surrounding the Mothers that one received. For some reason or another, there were disappointments and one did not receive the love that one needed.

The archetype of the Mother Goddess is very old. The archetype of the Father God came later, when we became aware of a father who resided in heaven (a Sky Father). I’m not sure why the Protestants decided to stop or halt this belief–and I don’t have the headspace to figure out why my school principal stopped an eight-year-old from saying Hail Marys. At the same time, it is also difficult to understand why my Catholic educators insisted on inculcating in a young child beliefs that were so different to her own traditional heritage.

But then again, are we that different? It’s up to us how many barriers we want to put up on the path to love. If you are not baptised, you are excluded. If you are a woman, you are excluded and so on. There are so many out there that have never recovered from the wounds that their collective mothers inflicted on them. Perhaps your Mother was incapable of taking care a child and abandoned you. These are all unhealed wounds that we carry with us from childhood.

Other wounds develop later in life–when we’re finding and discovering our own path. Our journey with our mothers doesn’t end with our childhood. It continues on into our adult years, when we embark upon our own path and have to fulfil our own birthright. For Mother Mary, that path required her to transform into Jesus’ disciple. She does so with humility and grace–as she always has. She is not only Jesus’ blood family, but also his spiritual family.

Mary’s role in the Catholic faith aside, I feel Mother Mary appears and makes her presence known to those who need a mother’s love. For those who have sensed her presence, it is unmistakable. Yes, you are always a child in your mother’s eyes… But when it comes time for you to fulfil your own destiny, you can count on her loyalty to welcome your new way of being with open arms.

She is known by many names, but I have often heard her referred to as ‘Our Lady’. Somehow, I like that title. She is not only a Mother, but a role model as a Mother; and the only one who was never afraid.

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