The Real Mary of Nazareth

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2015/12/29 at 12:00 AM

Sometimes we can think that all we need to know is about Jesus and that knowing about Mary is optional. However that is not right for the following reason. If we don’t have a good understanding of Mary we won’t have a good understanding of Jesus and that is why a good understanding of Mary is not optional.

I think it is good to make it clear that we believe that Mary was 100% human and 0% divine. She is not worshipped as worship is something that is only for God himself. Some people think that Catholics worship Mary but that is absolutely not true.

I am going to use two doctrines of Mary to show this and tie it into our gospel reading today.

The first is our designation of Mary as the Mother of God. Again this tells us about Jesus. The designation of Mary as the Mother of God is an ancient belief of our faith. Here is what it reveals about Jesus. He is 100% divine and 100% human in the one person of Jesus. His humanity isn’t diminished by his divinity nor is His divinity diminished by his humanity. Being God, the Son was begotten by the Father before time began. He has always been. Yet His human nature had a beginning when he was conceived in Mary’s womb. Mary was not the source of His divine nature but was of his human nature. Since Jesus was born of Mary, and since Jesus is God, therefore we can say that Mary is the Mother of God. But when we say that Mary is the Mother of God, we’re not saying she is the mother of the Trinity. It is a statement of the absolute unity of the two natures of Jesus Christ. Fully human, fully divine: one person. That is the first truth about Jesus that we can understand thru Mary.

The second designation of Mary is her immaculate conception which says that she was born without original sin. That is what the Immaculate

Conception means. Again this reveals Jesus to us and it has to do with Jesus being the New Covenant. The old covenant was established with the Jewish people through Moses and identified with the Ten Commandments. By his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the old covenant and inaugurated the New. And, just like the first covenant had an Ark of the Covenant, so does the new one – the new one is Mary. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.

How do we see this through Mary’s immaculate conception? If we look back in the book of Exodus chapter 25 we see the people preparing the Ark of the Covenant to house the tablets and it was believed that God’s presence dwelt in the ark. The materials used in the ark were acacia wood plated with pure gold. Acacia wood was prized as it was resistant to decay and gold was most suited for its beauty and stability. Only the finest most pure materials were used in the arks construction – what else would be worthy to hold the presence of God?

Our reading today shows Mary pregnant with Jesus visiting her cousin Elizabeth. We can see Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant when we look back at when the ark of the covenant was brought to King David in 2Sam . First we hear that David was dancing before the ark. Second In our gospel John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb. King David was so overwhelmed (v.9) he said “How can the ark of the Lord come to me”. Elizabeth says when seeing Mary “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me”. Third Samuel (v.11) says the ark stayed in the house of Obededom for three months. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1).

Jesus is the New Covenant and these examples show that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.

Let’s look at the former Ark of the Covenant. What was in it? It contained the ten commandments, a jar filled with manna, and Aaron’s rod. Christ fulfilled all that was in the original ark. Aaron’s rod symbolized the true priesthood and Christ became the new high priest (Heb 2). The commandments were God’s word to his people. Christ is the Word of God (John 1). The manna was the bread of life for the people as they wandered through the desert. Jesus said that he was the bread of life (John 6). Christ fulfilled all that was contained in the ark.

If the ark which contained these items was made of the finest materials and merely held symbols of the presence of God, then it makes sense that Mary who truly contained the presence of God within her would also not be a common vessel. It makes sense that the presence of God would not dwell in a vessel that was corrupted by sin – even original sin. Mary was conceived without sin so she would be able to agree to receive the Lord, to become the Ark of the New Covenant.

So what do these understandings of Mary reveal to us about Jesus whose birth we celebrate in a few days. It brings clarity that on Christmas Day we celebrate that God himself was born as a human while also being God. We also see that Jesus came as the new covenant to save us all and fulfill the old covenant.

Jesus is our Savior and we understand him best when we also understand His mother. As we get ready for the coming of God into our lives as a baby who would save us let’s know that that he wants us to know him well and that we can know him better as we know His mother also. This is a time of great joy let’s embrace all that God has in store for us as we await Him at His birth.

Deacon Jack Staub at St. Mathew Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC


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