There sure are a lot of titles for Mary, the mother of Jesus — more than I can list, or even know and remember. Virgin Mary. Blessed Mother. Our Lady. Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Queen of Heaven and Earth. And so on and on and on, besides the names given to her apparitions throughout the world, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima …. All Mary.
I think it’s a case of giddiness — the good kind.
We Catholic Christians are simply beside ourselves when contemplating the Mystery of the Incarnation. Think about it. God, the Uncaused Cause, the Uncreated Creator, the Almighty Infinite and Eternal One, condescended to become a human being, one of us. The omnipotent Creator became a creature of flesh and blood, who began His earthly life as a teensy zygote in the womb of a woman. His little body was completely dependent upon hers for survival, for growth and development. “O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!” [*1]
We are so exuberantly joyful about this Mystery of the Incarnation that we ponder it deeply in our hearts … and bestow myriad titles upon the woman who said “Yes!” to this will of God.
Most of these titles, including my favorite ones, are all about Jesus:
Ark of the Covenant
The first Ark of the Covenant was, for the Hebrew people, where the Covenant, the Word of God, was kept, in the form of the miraculous signs of His promise and the tablets upon which God wrote the 10 Commandments. The Ark is also where God’s presence came to rest upon the cover [*2] to let His judgments be known
Think now of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, placed and protected in His mother’s womb…. As the Hebrew Ark held the concrete reality of the first Covenant, so Mary held the sublime, fleshy reality of the New and Everlasting Covenant: Jesus Himself.
Tabernacle of the Lord
For the Hebrew people, the dwelling place of God is the Tabernacle, the tent of meeting [*3], whose making God specified. As a cloud came down upon the tent, overshadowing it, the Chosen People knew that God was with them.
Mary, too, was specially chosen by God, to be the first dwelling place of God Incarnate. Now, think of the Power of the Most High that overshadowed Mary, so that God’s presence was made known bodily on Earth — Emmanuelle, God With Us. God truly with us!
And if you believe in the Real Presence of the Holy Eucharist, and you genuflect before your church’s tabernacle where the Body and Blood of Christ is held, then you can beautifully see the parallel to Mary, arrayed in the light of the sun, holding and bearing Christ.
Mother of God
Early Christians in the East called Mary “Theotokos”, the God Bearer, or One Who Gave Birth to God. This title is ancient and speaks directly to the divinity of Jesus. In the Gospel of St. Luke, Elizabeth declares that Mary is the mother of the Lord [*4] and, in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus is proclaimed as the Word of God made flesh. [*5] The Word that, from the beginning, was with God and the Word that is God, was made flesh and dwelt among us. This is Jesus Christ, who is God Incarnate — fully human and fully divine. O Mystery of Mysteries!
Some Christians cringe at this title, thinking that it suggests that Mary somehow preexisted God, but such preexistence is impossible, of course. Rather, “Mother of God” signifies that the very human Mary gave birth to a divine son. God the Father so loved the world, the Son of God so humbled Himself, that He chose a mother so that He could become one of us, like us in every way but sin — like us in growing in utero, like us in being born, like us in having friends, like us in working and sorrowing, like us in suffering, like us in being able to die … and like us in having a mother.
And she, Mary, was the first to ponder this great Mystery in her heart.
It is fitting and truly beautiful to honor her in the lovely month of May, filled with the glorious wonder of new life.
© 2021 Christina Chase
(Originally posted in 2016.)
If you want to read more of my reflections on Mary, please check these out:
And these imagined stories of episodes in Mary’s life:
A Stranger Appears in the Making of the Bread (Mary Series, Part 1)
In the Cloud of Glory a Portal Opens (Mary Series, Part 2)
Pregnant (Mary Series, Part 3)
*1 an exultation from St. Francis of Assisi
*2 Exodus 25:22
*3 Exodus 33:7-11
*4 Luke 1:43
*5 John 1
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.