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26 March 2010

Contemplations on Mary

Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation. For those who don't know what that means, it is the celebration of the day that the angel came to Mary and told her what was to come. She was to become the Mother of God, full of grace and blessed amongst women. This feast day always makes me think about my faith journey, so I thought I would share.

Growing up Protestant, Mary was no big deal. In fact, no one ever really talked about her or even thought of her except around Christmastime. Even then, she was a very minor player in a much bigger play: The Birth of Jesus. In fact, on of the reasons that the Catholic Church split oh-so-long ago was because of Mary. Some Catholics felt that Mary was being praised and honored to the level of her Son and they felt that this was idolatry. Hence the schism and the creation of Protestantism. They were "protesting" the tenets of the Catholic Church. I understand this and never really questioned it. In all honesty, I never actually really thought about Mary all that much ... even despite that fact that she is who I am named after.

Three years ago this Easter, I officially converted to Catholicism after a long year of faith formation classes and experiences. During that formation, I became much better acquainted with Mary and her importance in the Church. The emphasis that Catholics place on Mary makes so much more sense to me that the neglect of the Protestants. Mary is important for so many reasons.

Mary is not only the Mother of God, but she is also the Mother of the Church. If Christ is the Church, and Mary is His mother, the logic is clear. Upon His crucifixion, Christ said to his disciple standing next to His mother at the foot of the cross, "Behold, your Mother." Mary is OUR mother just as much as she was Christ's. And, as the Ten Commandments require, we must honor our mother.

Mary is also what we should all strive to be as Christians. She is obedient, loyal, self-sacrificing, and faithful without questioning the rewards or purpose. When she was told that she was going to be the mother of Christ, she accepted her role without any real argument. She questioned the methods but only because she had no carnal knowledge of men and wasn't sure what was to happen. She willingly accepted her gift and responsibility, knowing that she could possibly be stoned to death because of her condition. She never wavered or hesitated. She accepted God's call willingly and with a joyful heart. We all, as Christians, should be this way. We should learn to not question God's plan and to accept His Word. I'm not saying that we should all be drones that cannot think on their own, but we must be more willing to live in Mary's image. We must also learn to be faithful all the time and not just when it suits us or when it's easy. After all, if Mary had decided that God's plan didn't really fit with her own, where would we be now?

I attended a mission talk at church last night that addressed the Annunciation, and it was a really nice experience. I did have a moment of guilt during the service though. When I got married, I changed my name to MaryBeth, combining my first and middle name. I never really like my given name because I always thought it was plain and boring. Last night, I felt some major guilt about those feelings. After all, if it was a good enough name for Christ's mother, it should be good enough for me, right?

I also learned last night at church that the Feast of the Annunciation was specifically placed on March 25th because the Church believes that the original Good Friday was on March 25th. (Who knows how they figure these things out, but I'm sure it is with all kinds of fancy charts and calendars and things). The Church placed this feast day on the original Good Friday to draw a nice parallel between the start of the sacrifice and the ultimate end. A nice move on the Church's part, if you ask me.
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