Feast Day: 40 days after Easter, this year, Sunday, May 16th
We are contemplating marriage this month, and having given two weeks to St. Joseph, it now seems the right time to turn to turn to his spouse, and Jesus’ mother, Mary. But, we find ourselves at a particular place in the Church’s liturgical life: the last days leading from Easter to the day of Our Lord’s Ascension and Pentecost, when He fulfils His promise of sending the Holy Spirit upon the Church. How does Mary fit into this? And marriage?
… as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. …Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:9-14)
I include this entire passage because this week I want to invite you to pray through this scene with Mary. This is the very last time that Mary will be mentioned in Scripture (though St. Paul references Jesus’ birth in Galatians 4:4), but what last example does our Spiritual Mother offer us?
She is with the apostles and disciples (that would be us!) – begging for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit – and Mary is the perfect person to show what it means to be open and available for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, because that was precisely the gift she received at the annunciation, 30-something years before.
They are of “one accord” – of one mind, one heart, one mission, one hope; they are united, in communion, with the Lord – but wasn’t Mary the first one to be centered on Christ? She held Him in her womb for 9 months, and in her heart every minute since, how much she can teach us about unity around, and union with, Jesus?!
They are praying – united in worship of God, and entrusting their lives to Him – and as all the scriptures come into clearer focus, and all the teachings and actions of Jesus begin to set their hearts afire, isn’t it proper that Mary, the one who had so long pondered the Lord’s working in her own life, is there to teach them the ways of trust and surrender?
They are joyful, indefatigable, hopeful, on fire – but Jesus just ascended! – wouldn’t most disciples be discouraged by their master’s disappearance? Not these disciples, for Christ goes to prepare a place, and promises to remain with them, and once again Mary’s discipleship has preceded the Church’s. She had already said goodbye to her son as He began His ministry, and then called a new family of disciples around Him, and then took up the cross … and each time she found herself even closer to Her savior and son.
And lastly, we are considering the Ascension, when Jesus takes our humanity with Him up to heaven. What a glorious transformation, and promise of future transformation for us?! Mary is the only saint to have been carried aloft to life with God in this complete and bodily sense. There too, she follows closely after her Son, and shows us the path towards our own bodily resurrection.
In all these ways, Mary knows that discipleship and motherhood are related. Both the disciple and the mother have to be open to life from on high … or else fail to bear fruit. Both must be centered, captivated, consumed by love … lest their activities become scattered and meaningless. Both need a deep, quiet, personal life of prayer … because without relationship the burdens of either life can crush. Both must find joy in surrendering the life entrusted to them by God … for to grasp that gift is to lose it. And, both must surrender their bodies to the vocation to which they are called … to give our spirits to God, but not our bodies, is to fail to receive the fullness of His gift for us.
– Fr. Dominic Rankin prays the rosary every day. One day stands above all the others as including a profound encounter with God in that devotion. His spiritual director on the retreat before Theology I invited him to pray each decade imagining Mary, as a young girl, holding his hand and walking him through the mysteries she would live out in the years to come. Many blessings were found that afternoon allowing her to show me her Son.