Let us continue speaking about these three relationships—childhood, spousehood, and parenthood—that we discern in the person of Mary. We spoke about her deepest identity before God as that of a beloved child, the truth of her belovedness, which is revealed in the gift of her “divine name”: kekaritomene, or she who has been, is, and ever will be loved by God. Then we saw how her awareness of this awesome love of God—the conviction of God’s total, everlasting, and unconditional love for her, which is the source of her own unique personal beauty—opens her heart to a “bridal” receptivity to God’s invitation and his desire to give himself to her.

This bridal consent of Mary, since it springs from the perfect love of God for her, is total, pure, and irrevocable. This is because her assent is without the least shadow of sin, which, as we have seen, is precisely the “wound” of fear which causes us to turn away from the cradling arms of Love, grasping instead for a false independence. This fear is rooted, further, in a loss of trust in the absolute goodness of our heavenly Father, such that we lose the confidence, simplicity, and freedom of childhood before him. We begin to fear that his love for us is unreal or inauthentic—that he wants to “lord” his power over us, or wants to “use” and “dispose” of us as a mere instrument for his divine purposes. But our hearts spontaneously recoil from such a vision of God, because deep inside we thirst to be loved absolutely and for our own sake. We thirst, in other words, to be completely known and loved as we are, to be cradled within the sheltering love of another…and in this love to be intimately desired, with no other reason than that the other is drawn to us in love and the desire to hold us in their embrace.

This deep thirst for love within us, this thirst to be known, loved, and desired, and to be united to the beloved within this love…this is not a lie. God himself has impressed this desire upon our heart, and it reveals, more than anything else, his own desire for us. Our thirst is simply an expression of his deeper thirst for us. It is the “imprint” of his loving gift sealed forever on our inmost being—this “virgin-point” that we spoke of previously. To get back in touch with this inmost truth of who we are before him…this is to get back in touch with the mystery of belovedness before God: with the truth of being his beloved child and precious spouse.

Therefore, what we see so clearly in Mary—her awareness of God’s love, and of being a child and spouse—is completely true for each one of us as well. Mary knows that God is the most tender Father, the most loving Spouse, whose will is identical with his love, and whose ardent thirst is simply to unite his children intimately to himself, now and for all eternity. This awareness of the total love of God, therefore, awakens and sustains her own total response of love.

Thus, when Mary hands herself over into God’s hands, it is completely and forever. Nonetheless, this handing-over is made present and alive—it becomes “incarnate”—in each succeeding moment of her life. Though she has given herself totally to God and has given him complete permission to touch her and to act in her life, God does not simply “use” her without eliciting anew at every moment her free and conscious “yes.” And indeed his intention is not to “use” her at all, but to love, embrace, and cherish her for her own sake. Only from this space of absolute cherishing, absolute intimacy sought for its own sake, does the movement of “cooperation” flow. In other words, from the reality of intimacy, which is God’s absolute desire for each one of us, the reality of creativity and fruitfulness also blossoms, in which we share in the outpouring of his love in this world.

God utterly respects and reverences Mary at every moment of her life, and never does anything in her or through her without seeking her willingness, her loving and trust-filled acceptance. The Annunciation is the first and most vivid expression of this profound respect of God, bending down to ask the permission of his creature to pour out into her and through her the immensity of his love. This is above all simply because her “yes” is actually what he desires more than anything else—that is, the free love of her heart willingly given, so he may unite her intimately to himself. Anything else just flows from this fundamental “yes” of love, in which the heart of Mary is joined to the heart of God in intimate love—in which the two “Yeses,” that of God and that of Mary, encounter and interlace in a profound unity. They are like two rings that have been interlocked and, while remaining distinct, are inseparably joined to one another.

From this union of “Yeses”—and even more, from this union of hearts—all fruitfulness and goodness spring forth. In Mary’s case, this is first of all the very supreme “fruit of her womb,” the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom she consents to conceive precisely in her bridal “yes” to God. And later in her life, God seeks her “yes” again in a profound way by asking for her loving and compassionate presence at the foot of the Cross of Jesus. Here her openness to God flowers in the fruitfulness that makes her the Mother of all the faithful—of all those who are born from the complete gift of Christ’s love on the Cross, begotten from the blood and water that flow from his pierced Heart.

Mary stands here at the foot of the Cross in faith—in complete trust in the goodness and love of God, which gently cradles her and her Son even in the darkest place. And here her “yes” matures and expands in a profound way, such that she is truly the Bride receiving the gift of the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Crucified, and giving herself to him in return. From the side of Christ—and through Mary’s loving presence to receive this gift—all of the children of God are conceived and born throughout history. In Mary’s virginal receptivity at the foot of the Cross, her life is like a “womb” to receive the life-giving gift of Jesus, and to bear it for the sake of the entire world. Therefore she stands, forever, at the very heart of the Church, from which, as from a wellspring, all the activities and movements of grace and salvation in this world flow, and to which they return.

Reflection Questions:

What stood out to me the most from this reflection? Why might this be the case?

Do I see how Mary’s abiding always at the “virgin-point” of her inmost heart in belovedness before God also allowed her to abide at the foot of the Cross, receiving in virginal love the gift of Jesus Crucified?

There is a direct connection between receptivity to God and authentic love for others. To the degree that my heart is open to accept God’s love for me, I can also accept others and cherish them with the same love I have first received. How can I deepen my living of this truth?