Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This week, as we celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, one line from Scripture can focus our attention on what the feast can mean for us: “She became the mother of all the living.”
The first application of that phrase is to Eve. After the Fall of Adam and Eve, we hear: “The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.” There’s a note of hope there: The process that will eventually lead to the birth of the Messiah has begun. But the primary sense is sadness: All humanity will be born into the legacy of sin. And that’s not just some abstract doctrine. It summarizes our experience of brokenness in the world, in human relationships, and within ourselves.
The second application of that phrase, however, is to Mary at Pentecost. Scripture tells us that Mary was praying with the apostles at the time of Pentecost. In most images of the event, we see Mary at the center of the apostles. The reason for that is simple: Mary already received the Holy Spirit into her being at the Annunciation. So, while Pentecost is totally new for the apostles, Mary already knows what it’s like. That means she knows how to pray for it, and she knows how to mentor the apostles into saying a complete “Yes” to the Spirit.
We say that the Church was born at Pentecost. But the Church is the mystical body of Christ. It makes sense that Mary, who was the mother of Christ’s physical body, should be there at Pentecost as the mother of Christ’s spiritual body. In that sense, at Pentecost, Mary “became the mother of all the living.”
The final application of that phrase, however, is to Mary at the foot of the Cross. Scripture tells us that Mary and John were standing at the foot of the Cross when Jesus said to Mary, “Behold, your son,” and then said to John, “Behold, your mother.”
John, at that point, stands for all of us. Like him, we’re all invited to take Mary into our home and receive her as our mother. To receive that gift from Jesus, however, we need to stand where she stands. And she stands, unflinchingly, where her Son suffers. In order to receive her as our mother, we need to stand there with her — where her Son suffers again in every member of the human family. If we refuse to stand there, we’ll miss the opportunity to receive Mary as our mother.
The paradox of the Cross is that it becomes the source of life. So of course Mary stands there as the new Eve, because that’s where she becomes the mother of all the living.
Eve became the mother of all the living; through her we receive the inheritance of sin. At the Cross, and at Pentecost, Mary became the new mother of all the living; through her we can receive the inheritance of Jesus’ life. Let’s not be afraid to draw close to her, and take her into our homes.