The Handmaid of the Lord ‘eagerly, happily, willfully assumed her role in God’s plan of salvation’
By Deacon Bob Hunt
“Mary is the Mother of all the members of the Savior, because by her charity she has cooperated in the birth of the faithful in the Church. Mary is the living mold of God, that is to say, it is in her alone that the God Man was naturally formed without losing a feature, so to speak, of His Godhead; and it is in her alone that man can be properly and in a lifelike way formed into God, so far as human nature is capable of this by the grace of Jesus Christ.”—St. Augustine of Hippo
During this Marian month of August, I want to offer some reflections on Mary and her Son. She is the instrument by which the Second Person of the Holy Trinity entered history. She was the one who nurtured the child Jesus as He grew under the safety of her arm and that of His foster father, St. Joseph. It was she who presented Him, with St. Joseph, to the Lord in the Temple, and who would later desperately search for Him, only to find Him once again in that same Temple, harvesting the wisdom of the learned.
She “is the Mother of all the members of the Savior,” St. Augustine says. Without her, we cannot find Jesus. She is the one who presents Him to us, as “Emmanuel,” God-with-us. In baptism, we become co-heirs with Christ, His brothers and sisters, because He became one with us through His Mother. Why is this so difficult for some to understand? Without Mary, there is no Jesus of Nazareth. God did not force Himself on her. He asked, and she answered freely, giving her fiat and offering herself as the Handmaid of the Lord. Of course, she had been prepared for that moment, conceived without sin and imbued with grace to fulfill her unique mission. Even still, the moment, and the choice, belonged to her.
It was her desire that all men be saved by God’s grace, so she eagerly, happily, willfully assumed her role in God’s plan of salvation. She gave herself to the Holy Spirit, who filled her with ecstasy and impregnated her with the mysteries of the universe. In her womb grew the one who made all, so that the creature gave birth to the Creator. Created free of sin, she would be the instrument by which the one who frees all from sin would begin His mission. His mission did not begin in the tomb, or on the cross, or on the way of sorrows, or in trial before Pilate. His mission did not begin as He traveled the roads of Palestine, preaching the kingdom of God. Neither did His mission begin when He cured the sick, freed the possessed, calmed the seas, or even raised the dead. No, His mission began as we all begin, as the tiny conception in the womb of His Mother.
This is a mystery, I think, rarely reflected on. Jesus became Man and began His mission in the womb of Mary. It was in that dark, wet, warm place of energy, growing in secret and being prepared to break out into the light that Jesus began His saving mission. This is where He assumed His human nature, sharing in our nature in all things except sin. Even here, by simply growing each day to become the Man He would be, the Man who would walk this earth, preach the gospel, suffer, and die and rise again, He lived in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. Even here, He is saving us simply by being one of us, one with us. God became Man, not in some wood, or stream, or cloud that delivered Him gently into the arms of His waiting parents. No, He became Man the way we all do, amidst the blood and flesh and water that is the beginning of each of us. His life of perfect obedience began in His perfectly obeying the laws of nature, the laws He had created Himself eons before, and to which He has subjected us all. He did not spare Himself the same.
Neither did He spare Himself the vagaries of all that it means to be human: the pain, the humility, the agony, the brokenness. Neither did He spare His Mother all of what it means to be a Mother who watches her child in pain, in humility, in agony, broken and dead. Yet, by His resurrection as a Man, it made it possible for all men to follow Him in freedom from sin and into eternal life. By His resurrection, He gave hope to His Mother and every mother who desires nothing more for her child than the fullness of life in God.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Deacon Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.