The place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our spiritual life (John 2:1-11)
I greet you in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and our amiable Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year is unique as we have witnessed the centenary celebration of the apparition of our Mother at Fatima – Portugal. Interestingly on the 13th of May 2017, Pope Francis by the grace of God canonised the little shepherds of Fatima – Francisco and Jacinta as Saints. People who have attained the summit of the spiritual life. Now this little shepherds have become saints simply through the efforts of our Lady of Fatima. A great message for us! Again, we are privileged as a Church in Nigeria to have a Marian year to reflect on the place of Mary in our faith journey and her influences in our spiritual life. This has informed this reflection.
The four pillars of our spiritualities in the Church
All our spiritualities and devotions in the Church seems to be hovering around four pillars. Hence, we talk of the Eucharistic spirituality, the Marian spirituality, the Biblical spirituality, and Charismatic spirituality. Sometimes too we mistakenly divide ourselves according to the spiritual frontiers above. However, we have been commissioned by the Church through baptism to embrace all the foregoing with a balanced understanding and appreciation. It ought to be so since we are all Eucharistically inclined and in need of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6:53). We are all Marian because the spiritual life properly understood, has its foundation in the spiritual maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, knowingly or unknowingly. Accordingly, John says “So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple who was dear to him, he said to his mother, mother, there is your son! Then he said to the disciple, there is your mother! And from that hour the disciple took her to his house” (John 19:26-27). Notice that, the name of the evangelist was not actually mentioned in order to incorporate all of us as children of Mary. Thus, we may infer that, the gift of Mary as a Mother was an open gift. Furthermore, we are all Biblical because “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). What is the Bible? A book containing the word of God and meant to offer us the basic instructions before leaving the earth. Finally, we are all Charismatics because we were all baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity and the Holy Spirit was part of the Blessed Trinity during our baptism and beyond (28:19). The Holy Spirit has endowed all of us with numerous gifts – “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit (1Cor. 12:4). So, there is no room for breeding divisions in the body of Christ. Though as individuals and based on meaningful influences and upbringings, we may have attachments/inclinations to any pillar discussed above but that does not mean we should neglect other pillars. We need each of them for our holistic formation and accumulation of graces.
It is very obvious that many of us don’t have issues with our spiritual affiliations with the Eucharist, the Bible and being charismatics; our challenge is with the Marian dimension of our spiritual life. Please listen to the truth from St. Louis Marie de Montfort: “Just as in natural and bodily generation there is a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation there is a father who is God and a mother who is Mary. All true children of God have God for their father and Mary for their mother; anyone who does not have Mary for his mother, does not have God for his Father. This is why the reprobate, such as heretics and schismatics, who hate, despise or ignore the Blessed Virgin, do not have God for their Father though they arrogantly claim they have, because they do not have Mary for their mother. Indeed if they had her for their mother they would love and honor her as good and true children naturally love and honor the mother who gave them life.” Where is Mary in your spiritual life?
Mary our pedagogy
This age display the grossest absence of knowledge and faith experience about the person of Mary. Because Mary is not known and appreciated, many things have gone wrong ranging from a distorted identity of Jesus and coldness to Him, through shallow faith in Jesus, impiety and lukewarmness, to ungodliness (absence of holiness) and unhappiness; to the dominance of secularism, materialism and the celebration of the triumph of secular humanism and atheism. The foregoing are a consequence of poor and thin knowledge about the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the prevalence of blasphemous positions and statements against our Lady’s personality and Office.
Francis Bacon says, “Knowledge is power.” That is knowledge grants us the ability to control. What does the concept of control mean? It means the ability to manage or direct something or situations. The history of our salvation makes it clear that the Devil and man tried to thwart the creation of God and almost distorted the plans of God. However, God restored His creation and plans for man and the world. What was the chief remedy and instrument of restoration? It was MARY as Gen. 3:15 says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” God had conceived Mary as a Divine idea in His mind since eternity and He never started our divine salvation and plans without Mary. Now there are many outcomes of God’s relationship with Mary: the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Divine Motherhood of Mary, Mary’s initiation of the first miracles of Jesus (miracle of grace – Luke 1:44 and miracle of nature – John 2:1-11), her consolation of Jesus during His passion and crucifixion and her prayers with the infant Church at Jerusalem to welcome the Holy Spirit – Acts 1:14, etc. Christianity rests so much on these fruits of the relationship between God and Mary. However, we have failed to acknowledge and appreciate the points above due to what Father Faber calls human respect and carnal prudence.
It is the knowledge about Mary that Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI has accumulated over the years that led him to renew the incredible efficacy of Mary to the resolutions of the current crises bedeviling our world. He speaks, “To the crisis in the understanding of the Church, to the crisis of morality, to the crisis of woman, the (Pope) has a remedy, among others, to propose ‘A remedy whose reputation seems to be clouded today with some Catholics but one that is more than ever relevant.’ It is the remedy that he designates with a short name: Mary. … he continues, it is necessary to go back to Mary if we want to return to that ‘truth about Jesus Christ,’ ‘truth about the Church’ and ‘truth about man’ … ‘Mary must be more than ever the pedagogy, in order to proclaim the Gospel to men of today.’”
The question is, how eager are we to learn about the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary? For the little we know, how willing are we to apply them to our daily lives? Have we forgotten about the dignity and powers of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Her powers of intercession, her power to fight heretics and their heresies, her irreconcilable enmity and battle against the devil and his legion, etc. The aforementioned flow from her dignity and offices – Mother of God, Most Holy Virgin and Queen of All Hearts.
There are signs to proof our knowledge of Mary, namely, the spread of some good works in the name of Mary as people influenced by her maternal office; the success of some devotions in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the coming of some good time like the Marian Year, Marian Congresses, Marian Conventions, Individual and Family Rosaries and the promotion of her sodalities. These gestures if they are done and sustained, would bring alive in our days the manifestations and dignity of the Blessed Virgin as she did for the wedding couple at Cana in Galilee in John 2:1-11. Let us strive to have God as our Father and Mary as our Mother and be balanced in the kingdom of God. Hail Mary…