We spoke about how Mary’s faith, hope, and love—her trusting surrender to God in poverty, obedience, and chastity—allows God to lead her ever deeper into the depths of his Love. This “pilgrimage of faith” climaxes in the Passion of Jesus and finds its confirmation and consummation in his Resurrection. Mary’s radical trust in the Father, and in his Son who so powerfully enters into and transforms her life, allows her to follow Jesus even to the foot of his Cross. She does this, as we have said, not by breaking down the boundaries of her littleness, her human limitations, her dependency, but simply by allowing herself to be cradled and carried by Eternal Love at every moment. This Love communicates itself to her in and through the very concrete reality of each moment, through which it swathes her entire existence like a seamless fabric.
Let us turn back to Scripture and see the path Mary walks toward the fullness of the Paschal Mystery. Let us try to see how Jesus begins to draw Mary from the intimacy that she knew with him in his youth to a union more mysterious and yet more intimate—at the heart of the Cross and Resurrection. This process, as we saw yesterday, begins already in his infancy with the prophecy of Simeon, and in his adolescence with his staying three days in the temple (a clear prophecy of the “loss” of Christ during the three days between his death and his Resurrection).
Further, during his public ministry Jesus explicitly prepares Mary for the new and deeper form of relationship to which he is inviting her. He shifts the very locus of their relationship from the flesh to the spirit—from a natural human intimacy to an ineffable divine communion. Of course, this spiritual union was the core of Mary’s relationship with Christ from the beginning, but now he is leading her out, through a kind of “night of faith,” into a yet more profound and total reliance on absolute Love. This Love is the space in which their relationship can be sustained, and in which it can also flower in ever deeper communion.
In other words, Mary is drawn to an ever deepening reliance upon the Love that cradles her life entirely within itself—a Love that provides security and stability, not merely in times of palpable consolation, but also in times of struggle and darkness. By living in faith Mary opens her being to welcome the Light that shines brilliantly even in difficult moments—finding herself drawn closer to Christ and to the Father even, and perhaps especially, in these places. In this way, her relationship with her Son—and with the entire Trinity—is continually deepened. On the other hand, this deepening itself is sustained at every moment within the already present Love which cradles her unceasingly.
When, during his ministry, Jesus is told about Mary’s presence—”Your mother and your brethren are seeking for you”—Jesus speaks about the new bonds of love which create a family that surpasses the bonds of flesh: “Whoever does the will of my Father is my brother, my sister, and my mother” (cf. Mk 3:32-35). Jesus has come into a human family and made its life his own, but he has done so, ultimately, in order to create in himself a new and universal family, a family sharing in the very life of the Family of the Trinity. He therefore directs the attention of all to the absolute Love—the “will of my Father”—which he desires to be the very “space” in which all hearts can be truly and eternally united.
At another time, when his mother is praised—“Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you”—Jesus replies: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (cf. Lk 11:27-28). Surely Mary heard the word of God and kept it! We have seen this very clearly. She is blessed, not because of a mere physical union with Christ, but because, as Elizabeth said: “Blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her from the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). True blessedness cannot be reduced to a physical relationship, to the merely human sphere. Rather, all human love is invited to open itself to the horizons of infinite Love, received in faith and obedience, in the poverty of a trusting and virginal heart.
Mary, too, had to undergo this path of deepening and transformation, not because of any sin or impurity in her love, but simply because of the very nature of love itself. God invited her to walk the path by which this world becomes ever more transparent to the eternal Mystery, by which the veil of mortality is stretched thin to allow the light of Eternity to shine through. It is only within this Love, within this all-enfolding Mystery, that true and abiding blessedness can be found—and in which the goodness of the world can reveal its true meaning. This is, we might add, precisely the meaning of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:1-12), in which the poor heart which relates to God and to others in vulnerable nakedness, in loving trust, is the one which is truly happy and blessed.
Throughout all of this, Mary clings to Christ—and clings, with Christ, to the loving and provident hand of the Father. She allows herself to enter, with him and in him, ever deeper into the sphere of the Trinity’s Love. She finds the horizons of Love unfolding before her loving and contemplative gaze—surpassing her comprehension and yet enfolding her on every side. She enters, too, within this Love, into the Trinity’s loving plan for the salvation of the world, into his intention to redeem all persons and unite them as one through the saving Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. This movement, which occurs throughout Jesus’ life, therefore climaxes at the foot of the Cross and finds resolution on Easter morning. Jesus came in littleness and humility, living our life in the midst of this creation—as we ourselves experience it. But his ultimate desire was to take up our existence—our whole being and our whole life, in all of its joy and all of its anguish—into his own Compassionate Heart, in order to immerse it into the endless stream of the Trinity’s life of love. This is what is accomplished through the Paschal Mystery, through Jesus’ Eucharist, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension.
And Mary, before everyone and in the name of everyone, allows herself to be inserted into the heart of this Mystery. She lets herself be led and carried, by the Love which has cradled her from the first moment of her existence, into the space of Christ’ redeeming Passion. Here she is enfolded in the very mutual self-giving of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in their ceaseless dialogue of love, which has now penetrated into the deepest darkness of the world in order to illuminate it from within. In this place of unspeakable suffering, in which she feels that she is losing her Son on the human level, something mysterious happens. In this very place she is united with him yet more intimately, more deeply than she has ever been before…within the all-enveloping Mystery of Love which penetrates and transforms all.
At the foot of the Cross, Mary’s openness meets the openness of the Crucified One, who is naked, with his arms stretched wide, and indeed with his very Heart soon to be opened by a lance. And this mutual openness flowers in a shared self-giving, in which her “Yes” mingles together with his “Yes,” and they both surge back in response to the perfect “Yes” of the Father. Her loving trust in God—her openness of heart in faith, hope, and love—has allowed God to lead her into the space of most intimate spousal union with himself…and to immerse her in the very Ocean of the Trinity’s life.
She stands in this place, the Mother of Christ but also, through the profound mutual self-giving that occurs here, his Bride. Through her receptivity to the loving gift of Jesus, she allows Divine Love, which has knit their hearts together from the beginning, to show itself stronger than suffering and death. Yes, the bond of love that binds her heart to the Heart of her Son cannot be torn asunder. And this bond that joins them together is so strong, so pure, simply because it is an expression of the bond of that Eternal Love which cradles both of them unceasingly within itself: the enveloping Mystery of the Trinity’s life.
Yes, in the place of suffering, in which Christ takes us into himself with the burden of our sin, our sorrow, and our unspeakable loneliness, he shows that Love is stronger than everything. He reveals that even in this place the Father gently cradles his beloved Son, holding him unceasingly in his undying Love. And therefore the Son, too, can hold and cradle us, pressing us to his loving Heart and carrying us, beyond the boundary of death, beyond our fears, our hesitations, our sins, into the fullness of the endless life of intimacy in the bosom of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
– It is precisely the “already” of God’s cradling Love which enables Mary to let herself to be drawn into the “not yet” of ever deeper intimacy with Christ. In my own times of suffering, or in times when I feel myself invited to let go of control and trust more radically in God, am I able to rest in the “already” and the “always” of God’s Love which holds and shelters me?
– Do I see how all natural human relationships, as good as they are, ultimately find their enduring meaning through their openness to the Eternal Love that wants to be expressed within them? And in the spiritual union toward which they are ordered, a union of hearts that, because it is rooted in God, continues into eternity and indeed finds its consummation there?
– Am I able to see the union effected at the foot of the Cross, the self-giving of Mary and Jesus that flowers in a profound intimacy stronger even than death? Do I realize that I, too, am invited to experience this kind of unbreakable intimacy, precisely through the same kind of openness in total mutual self-giving?