Excellent article for us to reflect on on this Solemnity of the Annunciation…
Mary’s innate tendencies led her to be not only the Mother of God, but also the Mother of All Creation. Once again, this spiritual reality had its roots in her biology as a woman. For example, studies of a woman’s brain have found that her brain puts the “emphasis on the personal and the emotional [which] enables her to embrace a wide variety of relationships without denying or diluting any of them” (Moir and Jessel 143). Edith Stein noticed this trend as well and saw that “woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal and whole” and “to cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning” (Stein 43). Prudence Allen as well, commenting on John Paul II’s teaching, notes that on account of a woman’s cycle of ovulation, her “body disposes her to receive new life these many times, even if she never gets pregnant” (Allen 20). As a result, we can see that Mary chose to embrace her natural longings and to hold within her self not only her son Jesus, but the entire living world. She continually put the emphasis on the personal and strove to encompass all living things inside her grasp.
Evidence for this is in St. John’s Gospel where, as John Paul II affirms, her “motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to the flesh” became evident where she displayed “solicitude for human beings” (RM 21). This took place at the wedding feast at Cana, where Mary recognized the need for more wine. She motioned to her son, telling him that “They have no wine,” in hopes that He would respond (John 2:3). Not only was this a practical concern, but it also “has a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s messianic mission and salvific power” (RM 21). Mary truly cares about the growth and nourishment of all human beings and desires that they be brought into the saving power of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. This becomes even more prominent after her assumption into Heaven where she sits next to her son so that, as the prophet Simeon said, “the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35). As a result, Mary responded to her innate call to motherhood not only by embracing her own biological child, but most importantly by enfolding the entire human race underneath her loving care.
To conclude, Mary has proven to be the leading archetype for all women in responding to their innate call of obedience in service, receptivity, “master of her own mystery” and motherhood. The Blessed Mother did not suppress her natural desires and inclinations, but she cultivated them and allowed them to flourish and bear much fruit. In her “fiat” at the Annunciation she pledged her life to God in perfect obedience, and accepted her role as a servant in Christ’s plan. She also was the “keeper of her own mystery” and responded to God’s invitation by being receptive to His desire for union and allowed Him total access to her “garden;” thus, paving the way for the Word made flesh. Finally, she fulfilled her inborn disposition to motherhood not only in the physical sense, but most of all in her spiritual motherhood. Mary encompassed every living thing within her care and continues that mission in Heaven by listening to all the wants and desires of God’s children. Consequently, Mary is the true archetype for all women and is a much needed example of what it is to be a woman. While women of today’s world struggle to find their identity and continually search for models to fashion themselves after, the Blessed Virgin Mary stands as an image that could answer all of their problems. If only the modern day woman could recognize the innate desires of her heart and see that there is a woman who has lived out those desires completely.
Allen, Prudence. “Mulieris Dignitatem Twenty Years Later: An Overview of the Document and Challenges.” Endow Catholic Women’s Conference. Denver, Colorado.18 October 2008.
John Paul II. “Redemptoris Mater: encyclical letter of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the pilgrim Church.” 1987.
Moir, Ann and David Jessel. Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women. New York: Delta. 1992.
Stein, Edith. “Essays on Woman.” The Collected Works of Edith Stein. Ed. Dr. L. Gelber and Romaeus Leuven, OCD. Vol. 2. Washington: ICS Publications. 1987. 41-85.]