Mary, Our Mother
by Fr. Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
“When the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman…” (Gal. 4:4). The woman St. Paul referred to, as we know, is Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, the Savior of mankind. All of her privileges, all of the graces showered upon her, and the great dignity with which she is honored, flow from the fact that Mary is mother of a divine Person, Mother of God.
But there is another great truth that is evident from the study of the Scriptures and from the pronouncements of the Church; namely, that Mary is also the Mother of all mankind.
Through the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived in her womb the Savior of mankind. From her He took His human flesh and blood, just as does every child born of a human mother. In the order of grace, she is also mother of each of us. We will examine that truth a bit, to see how this is so, and when it became so.
Not a mere Figure of Speech
As we saw, when we speak of being a member of Christ’s Mystical Body, we are not speaking in a figurative or metaphorical sense. It is true in a very real sense. So too, when we speak of Mary as our Mother, this is not just a figure of speech. It is true in a very real and wonderful way.
She is not only the Mother of Christ’s physical body, in the natural order; she is also the Mother of Christ’s Mystical Body in the supernatural order, the order of grace.
Every mother cooperates with God in bringing new life into the world. In the natural order all human life comes from God, but through the mother. In the order of grace, all life comes from God, but through Mary.
Mary’s Universal Motherhood
To understand Mary’s relationship with the whole human race, we must understand that her place was unique in a similar way that the place of Eve was unique. The Fathers of the Church in various ways contrasted her role to that of Eve. For example:
- Christ is the counterpart of Adam, the new Head of the human race. Mary is the counterpart of Eve, the new Mother of the human race.
- Eve is mother of those who die in Adam (and who need redemption); Mary is the Mother of all who live in Christ (of all the redeemed). At the invitation of the fallen angel, Eve associated herself with Adam’s disobedience, bringing death. At the invitation of the Angel Gabriel, Mary associated herself with Christ’s obedience, in the work of restoring life. As St. Iraeneus expressed it: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.” (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, n. 4)
- Eve is our mother according to the body, through which death and the other effects of original sin are transmitted. Mary is our Mother according to the soul — insofar as its life (divine grace) comes through her. In a word, a woman (Eve) was associated with Adam in the downfall of the human race; so a woman (Mary) was associated with Christ in its restoration.
When Did Mary Become Our Mother?
We all know when Mary became the Mother of Jesus. At the moment of Mary’s consent to the words of the Angel Gabriel, through the intervention of the Holy Spirit she conceived her divine Son. At that moment the divine Word became a member of the human race in the womb of Mary. Yet, it was not until nine months later at Bethlehem, that she brought Him forth.
As we see, at the same moment that Mary became the Mother of Jesus, she became the Mother of all mankind. Yet, the fullness of her universal motherhood, the bringing forth of her spiritual children, was not accomplished until many years later on Calvary.
TO KNOW HIM: THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE
The above article is an excerpt from To Know Him: The Way, the Truth and the Life, Vol. II, by Fr. Paul Duffner, founder and former Director of the Rosary Center. These volumes are a collection of essays published in the Rosary Center's newsletter over the course of more than twenty years. Fr. Duffner shines the light of St. Thomas Aquinas, Scripture, Tradition and the words of the Popes on the most fundamental truths of Catholic faith and morals.
Available online - Volume 1, Volume 2.
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