Why do people sing ‘the angel Gabriel from heaven came’ at Christmas time? It makes no sense. Why do they treat Christmas as the celebration of the word made flesh? It is entirely wrongheaded. For Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ but his ‘becoming flesh’ occurred today at the moment of conception; on this the feast of the annunciation. Exactly 9 months before Christmas. This was the occasion when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and she consented for her womb to become a living tabernacle in which God could become man.
Today all Christians should therefore honour Mary. As our churches are closed why not recite the rosary and pray for those adversely affected in this time of crisis? But however you choose to do it, honour her well. For the Blessed Virgin Mary is worthy of of praise. And the bible makes this clear for it is there that the title ‘blessed’ is given to her. Indeed Mary is called “blessed.” not once, not twice but three times in just one passage: – “Blessed are you among women … blessed is she who believed. … Henceforth all generations shall call me blessed…”
And in the life of the Catholic church we find no less than seven separate feasts dedicated to “Blessed Virgin Mary”. So if you doubt her blessedness go back to school. And here are five lessons to help you realise why your doubt is misplaced.
Firstly Mary is blessed because she’s God’s chosen instrument. From all women, in all ages, she was chosen as mother of Christ; grounding his birth in reality. It is because of Mary we do not recall a myth but an historic event. Mary gave birth. God inherited his humanity through her. Via the tabernacle of her womb God arrived on earth- not with a puff of smoke as in a Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tale, but in real earthy frankness. With all the mess a human birth entails. This challenges our religious sensibilities. We romanticise the stable, sterilising it with serene donkeys and silent babe, but the real Jesus was not born in saccharine gloss. Mary gave us a God who is physical and real. Rooted in authentic experience.
The second reason Mary is blessed, is for providing Jesus with human identity, a tangible history. Through Mary Jesus inherits his Jewish credentials. Alongside S. Joseph she taught him the Torah, took him for circumcision and organised his Bar Mitzvah. It is Mary who ensures the promise made to Abraham was fulfilled. She provides Jesus with DNA- a unique and necessary lineage ensuring he became the new Adam.
Thirdly Mary is blessed for bringing equality to the incarnation. God chooses woman to bring hope to the world. In Mary we discover proof that women are part of God’s divine plan. Mary reveals how motherhood and family life are sacred vocation. A role of discipleship. Women are to be at the centre of the Church nurturing, caring, feeding, upholding, protecting. Now Society thinks equality means women should be like men, as if gender does not matter. But Christianity teaches, and Mary reminds us- God created us different; complementary but equal; male and female. So Mary lives out a vocation as woman, informing Catholic women everywhere to embrace their femininity. To be women for the Lord and never ashamed of it. When people tell you the church is sexist remind them; the greatest of all Saints is a wonderful woman.
And this leads to the next reason Mary is blessed. Mary is blessed because she protected the child in her womb. When she visited Elizabeth the unborn Christ caused another foetus, John the Baptist, to leap for joy! So even in the womb Christ was at work- blessing John’s ministry. That passage, in which the unborn Jesus and John interact is only possible because of Mary, and it is proof positive- from scripture- of the value and validity and sanctity of unborn children. Mary, protectress of the unborn Jesus, becomes protectress and mother of all unborn children. Life must be protected from conception to the grave.
And finally Mary is blessed for being a perfect model of faithfulness. Its her willingness to trust God – to say “yes” – without knowing the consequence, accepting a life of sacrifice in the process, that makes her holy and blessed. Mary’s concrete trust in God, from her entry into history to her exit, marks her out as the “handmaid of the Lord.” Her obedient response must this day become our own. We too must put aside an agenda of self, so prevalent in modern culture, to do HIS will.
So “Hail Mary full of grace, you really are ‘blessed among women.” All together now…