by Fr. Edwin Quinan
Many years ago, when I was chaplain of a center of Opus Dei in Iloilo City, there was a student of the University of the Philippines in the city trying to invite a friend of his to see the most beautiful woman he had seen in his life. His friend excitedly accepted the invite. They went to see this lady. He led him to Tuburan Study Center oratory and they knelt down. He motioned to his friend to look up and behold the Woman. She was in the reredos of the chapel. His friend indeed admired the Woman in the painting. He agreed she was most beautiful!
She was the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. I wanted to tell you about her so that we appreciate her a bit more this month of May 2023.
I learned about Mary when I was a child. My mother introduced me to her. Right after telling me about Jesus, she told me about this very special woman. I thought she was most special simply because she was Jesus’ mother. Since Jesus was very special as the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Woman He selected to be his Mother would have to be singular as well. I understood that quickly.
Only much later when I studied a Mariology course did I improve my grasp of the extent of that understanding. Since Jesus is God, He could create His own Mother! Human beings, as limited as we are, need to be content with the mothers who brought us to this world. If we could create our moms, we would surely choose the one we have but incorporate into her all the other good qualities we could imagine.
Venerable Fulton Sheen ventured to say that She was the Woman Whom God even dreamt of before time began. He is God and He could make that dream woman real, especially when He foresaw the Fall of the first Man and Woman and He needed to come up with Plan B to fix the tampered human nature resulting from that first sin. His plan entailed becoming man to regain man’s love and in order to become man, He needed a human nature. He therefore sought a Woman who did not yet exist. This extraordinary Woman could not come from any of the women descending from the first couple, Adam and Eve. They would only inherit the wound of original sin and they would suffer also the dire effects of their own personal sins. The Woman God sought after needed to be immaculate from the first moment of conception. That was no problem for Him. Hence, in chapter 3 of Genesis, the first book of the Holy Bible, we read the following,
“14The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Hence, that special Woman could not be Eve because this latter had just capitulated to the Serpent-Devil. She needed to be in enmity with the Devil. Satan would have no power over Her. Thus, God created the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary!
From her, God would get what He needed to become a man. Only as man would He be able to suffer and die on the Cross for us and our sins to be forgiven. Oh, how important this Woman would be!
Hence, I understood that for God’s Plan of Salvation to succeed, He needed the fiat of this Woman. He was not going to violate her freedom or coerce Her into doing His plan. So, He sent an Archangel to see Her. St. Gabriel brought His plan to her attention. “Hail, full of grace.” That was how this admirable archangel greeted her (cf. Luke 1:28). He approached her in some form that She could discern. He was not without trepidation in the presence of this soon-to-be Mother of His God. She gave her consent! Oh, how I imagined the joy of the heavenly host, those in some kind of limbo awaiting to be green-lighted to go to heaven, and those on earth awaiting anxiously for Christ or the Messiah! The entire Creation rejoiced for the light at the end of the tunnel could be seen. The painful and frustrating yoke of the Devil began to feel lighter. Salvation was coming!
It was also interesting to hear Our Blessed Mother’s only question about how She would have a child when she did not know man. The Old Testament uses this euphemism to designate marital embrace. Mary was a virgin although she was married to St. Joseph. He must have loved Her so much that he agreed to the arrangement. She accepted him because he was the only one who understood her commitment to celibacy. And thus, he would remain virgin too .
Some might think this arrangement to be preposterous or unlikely. How could one get married and not engage in sex? Was not marriage all about raising children? An interesting chapter in the Book of Numbers sheds light on this matter. Chapter 30 of Numbers is all about pledges and vows women may make before, during or after being married. It is the second case that we are interested in. If, being married and in the presence of her husband, the woman pledges to deny herself and her husband the marital embrace without the husband opposing it then her pledge and vow would stand.
Another special thing about Her was that she did not have sexual relations with a man. St. Joseph was Her husband but she had agreed with him to remain virgin in the marriage via a special call from God to do so. So, she conceived Jesus Christ by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, just as St. Gabriel the Archangel explained to her when he revealed to her God’s design for her life.
I wanted that kind of Woman too. Who wouldn’t? Imagine! She would be without any defect, no original sin, no personal sins, so holy, humble, patient, understanding, etcetera, etcetera. You name it! She had that perfection. That’s courtesy of God’s Dream of Her for eternity!
So, Mary is the Mother of God! And She is also our Mother! That caught me by surprise! She became our Mother too at the foot of the Cross when Jesus was dying. Being a good son He did not want to leave His Mother without a companion to care for Her. So, this happened according to St. John’s account in his Gospel chapter 19,
25 And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister,
Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother,
“Woman, here is your son.”
27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
What the soldiers just did was toss lots to see who would win His tunic that was without seam. The rest of Our dear Lord’s possessions were divided among them.
Jesus gave his Mother to St. John to care for her. This was always interpreted by our Mother the Catholic Church as meaning that He gave His Blessed Mother to each one of us. What John did at the end of the quotation is what each one of us is asked to do with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Have we come around to doing this?
I may have had devotion to Her but I had not brought Her home that deeply yet. My devotedness went up many notches higher when my own mother passed away when I was still in university. I was 19 years old when she succumbed to breast cancer. I could not understand why God took her when she was still so young at 47 years old. But little by little I grasped His plan. I had to cling more to the Blessed Virgin Mary much more from then on. I did nothing without Her. I begin with Her, I continue being with Her, and end with Her. Totus Tuus of St. John Paul II inspired me to the core.
Oh, how many details of affection I show here! Rosaries every day… contemplation of her life together with Jesus in the other mysteries of the rosary, glances at her in her images and pictures and statues in and outside my home and room, kissing her all the time, sending her I love you’s throughout the day. She is everywhere in my life and lair, in my sleeping and waking hours, in each project and undertaking….
Back in college, I heard my friends’ many run-ins with my born-again or Protestant friends. I was invited to their Bible Study sessions. But I noticed they never paid attention to the Mother of Jesus. They seemed to fear bringing Her up because we would be like removing some attention from Jesus Christ. She was more of an Idol or another god to them. It was therefore idolatrous to worship her.
There could be nothing further from the truth. I never worshiped Her as God. Neither does any right-minded Catholic. We never claimed that She created us or the universe. That is what God does. She is the Mother of God because She is Jesus’ Mother. And Jesus is God. And the logical conclusion would be that She is the Mother of God! I never heard anyone assailing any of these logical steps, from the premises to the conclusion. I eventually left the group. They lacked something essential.
We never said or meant that She made God exist. She only gave part of Jesus’ Sacred Humanity since His Soul would also have to be created by God. Mary, just like any mother, contributed to the making of the Body of Jesus. But, just like any mother on earth, She is the Mother of the Person born of Her. No mother is said to be the mother of the human body or the human nature of her son. Neither do we claim that Mary is the Mother of Jesus’ human nature or Body. She is simply Theotokos, the one who bore God.
Look at how close Jesus and Mary are. Mary only contributed what women give to the conception of a baby. She miraculously conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, the baby had only the genes of Mary. He is like a clone of His Mother. They looked very much alike as a clone would!
Another contentious issue was about Her perpetual virginity. She was always acclaimed as a Virgin since the earliest times of the Church. The conversation She had with the Archangel during the Annunciation only shows she was a Virgin before and during the conception of Jesus. During the rest of the marriage is when it gets blurry. In fact, Sacred Scriptures, particularly the New Testament, seem to indicate She did not remain a Virgin after Jesus was born. He had brothers (Greek: adelphoi). On this issue, I learned a lot from Brant Pitre’s Jesus and and the Jewish Roots of Mary: Unveiling the Mother of the Messiah).
Take for instance the following texts.
First, we have Matthew 1:
24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,
25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Then, from Matthew 12:
46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside,
wanting to speak to him.
47 Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Another from Matthew 13:
54 He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue so that they were astounded and said,
“Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power?
55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?
And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?”
57 And they took offense at him.
Even from Acts 1:
All these were steadfastly continuing with one accord in prayer and supplications,
together with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1:14).
On the other hand, the Hieronymian view provides us with the plausible explanation of the brothers of Jesus (cf. Brothers of Jesus. (2023, April 25). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brothers_of_Jesus). In St. Jerome’s view, the one belonging to the one who translated the Holy Bible to Latin, is that they were sons of another Mary, the wife of Clopas. Look at Mark 15:40
There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene,
and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.
We compare this with John 19:25
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister,
Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
There is another Mary! She is the wife of Clopas and apparently an aunt of Jesus. Now let us examine the names.
From Mark 6, we gather the following:
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon,
and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
This was when his own townsfolk rejected Him. They could not figure out how He got so much knowledge and power when He was just like them. But let us focus on the names of Jesus’ brothers, namely, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. He had sisters too, apparently.
Mark names two men common in Mark 6 and Mark 15. They are James and Joses. But these are the sons of another Mary, not of the one who is the Mother of Jesus. Furthermore, in Mark 16, we read the following.
1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices,
so that they might go and anoint him.
Matthew also attests to the different Mary who is the mother of the brothers (Greek: adelphoi) of Jesus. He only uses the proper Hebrew name of Joses: Joseph (cf. Matthew 27:56).
So, why were they called brothers (Greek: adelphoi) of Jesus? In the ancient Jewish context, adelphoi could be used as a synonym for close relatives. Everyday I go through mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Eventually, I end them with the consideration of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of the Universe. Gosh, that is also my daily goal, i.e., to cap my day by offering everything lovingly and well as my way of crowning her as the Queen of my universe. I praise and thank God for her and I hope to do so for eternity. I do not wish to do that alone. Hence, if this article would have done some good to the reader, I hope it is that you strive to know and love her more. I wish to hear Jesus tell me when I meet Him in Heaven, “I heard my Mother speak well about you!”