We have seen that even the Son of God himself chose to have a human mother, to experience love through the look, the smile, and the care of a woman. Mary is thus caught up, irreversibly, into the divine plan of salvation. In a way she stands at its very heart, where God’s immense love meets the yearning of humanity, and the two become united in her womb.
Mary gazes upon each one of us with an intimate and tender love, and she wants us to experience this gaze. Just as the look of any mother, this gaze is life-giving; it is a look of radical acceptance, of tender affirmation, of selfless gift, and of spontaneous joy. Indeed, it is a gaze that acts as a kind of “womb” for our wounded and fearful hearts. In other words, her gaze is a safe place where we can open ourselves again, through her, to God’s all-enveloping Love, letting ourselves be re-born into freedom and joy.
This is because her gaze of love unveils the deep truth of our identity in the eyes of God, an identity of which we may not be aware. My identity does not come from my activities or achievements, my desires or experiences, or even my personality. It is something deeper than all of this. It is the very gift of who I am in my inmost being. In a profound way, I am God’s gaze of love upon me. What God sees as he gazes upon me is the simple truth of who I am: the very reality of his love for me.
As John Paul II has said:
We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.
We can be tempted to see our unique personal beauty through the lens of our weaknesses and failures, and thus to struggle to see it at all. But on the other hand, we are invited to see ourselves as God sees us, and this means to see our weaknesses and failures through the light of our beauty—the beauty that the heavenly Father sees when he looks lovingly upon us and which is his gift to us. This deep and unspeakable beauty, unique and unrepeatable in the heart of each person, is the deepest and most authentic truth of who we are.
Because of wounds, fears, and sins, however, we find ourselves “out of touch” with this reality of who we really are. But it remains true nonetheless, in the inmost core of our being…at the deepest center of our personality in which we are in direct contact with God. This place in the core of our being, which the Bible calls the “heart,” is that reality that we refer to when we say “I.” It is the place from which we live, the deepest origin of our thoughts, desires, and decisions, and the end-point of every experience. We ourselves cannot define or adequately explain it, or even experience it, for it is fully known to God alone. As the Psalmist says: “O Lord, have you searched me and known me… For you formed my inward being, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:1, 13). And as Saint Augustine so beautifully expressed to God: “You are more interior to me than my inmost self, and also higher than my highest being.”
The center of our heart has been called the “virgin-point,” because this place is an interior sanctuary deeper than any human hand, any human word, any human act can touch. It is something that cannot be taken away, but is sheltered by the loving hand of God himself. Indeed, our heart is deeply oriented toward relationship with God and can find rest only in profound intimacy with him.
Mary, in a very special way, can help us to return to this place. She does this through her own maternal gaze—which simply reveals the paternal gaze of our heavenly Father—since her motherhood is but a transparent reflection of God’s own immense love, which is the very source of all created fatherhood and motherhood. Indeed, she can gaze on us in this way because she herself, first of all, lives from this sacred place in the center of her own being, at the core of her identity as God’s beloved child.
From this space, which she never leaves, she opens herself to us and loves us as she has been loved by God. She welcomes us into her motherly heart and fosters us through her gentle love, preparing us to encounter our loving Father himself in the fullness of his infinite Tenderness.
This is the reality that we want to begin immersing ourselves in during the coming week. Before looking in depth at Mary’s spiritual motherhood, there are a few other things we want to try to see in Mary first. In a word, we cannot understand Mary if we see in her only the role of mother, for she is much more than this. Her motherhood is the expression of a yet deeper identity: namely, the identity of childhood, and also the blossoming love of a spouse. These, however, are themselves expressions of her closeness to us, since we too have been created for the same reason; they reveal in a very pointed way the truth of our own identity before God, and thus the intimate relationship he desires to mature throughout our life as unfolds within his enveloping Love.
In being child and spouse, Mary helps us therefore, not only by her role of mediation between God and us (her motherhood), but also by being the first and most perfect disciple of her Son. In a word, she allows herself to be the Father’s beloved child, and also a spouse who opens herself to the immense love of the heavenly Bridegroom; it is precisely in this relationship of profound intimacy that her motherhood also blossoms.
Therefore, in Mary we discern the contours of the three most fundamental relationships of our human existence, into which each one of us also finds ourselves invited. In this she opens the way for us to healing and transformation in God’s Love, by opening the very “space” in which our own response to God’s Love and his invitation unfolds.
– Do I find myself capable of “looking into God’s loving gaze upon me”? Or am I held back by shame, discouragement, or some other obstacle? What about with Mary, can I look into her motherly eyes?
– Do I feel like I am in touch with my heart, with this “virgin-point” within me that is thirsting ardently for God? Can I try to get more deeply in touch with it by praying silently and trying to “collect” myself in my interior being as it reaches out toward God?
– Do these three primary relationships (of being child, spouse, and parent, both physically and spiritually) resonate with me as being foundational for my own life? Which one attracts me the most? Which one do I struggle with the most?