We’re blogging our way through the “Apostles Creed”, one of the earliest statements of core doctrines developed by the early Church.
“…born of the Virgin Mary…”
Luke 1:28 tells us, “The angel went to Mary and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’” The word “favored” here is related to the word “grace”. It could be translated, “Greetings you who are highly graced.”
In the Catholic Rosary, the suggestion is that Mary is “full of grace” which she will then pour upon believers who pray to her. Clearly though the intent of this angelic greeting is to assure Mary not that she is full of grace, but that God is full of grace, and that God is now pouring his grace and favor on her.
Why does Mary need grace? Because what God is going to ask of her is something more amazing than anything she could possibly imagine, and something more difficult than anything she could possibly imagine. To become pregnant, first of all. Then to become pregnant while still unmarried. Talk about your shame and scandal. Think of the social media mobs! In accepting this assignment, Mary was signing up for ridicule and misunderstanding. And it began with Joseph, her fiancé.
But this wasn’t the worse of it. The hardest part of what God was asking Mary to do did not surround the circumstances of this child’s birth, but would surround the circumstances of his death. When Jesus was born and was brought to the temple for his dedication, an older prophet named Simeon, walking the halls of the temple, picked up the infant Jesus and prophesied over him that Jesus was God’s salvation for the whole world. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,” Simeon declared concerning Jesus, and then he looked square into Mary’s eyes and said, “And a sword will pierce your own soul also.”
That sword cut through her when she watched Roman soldiers crucify her son on a cross years later.
Let this be a lesson for Mary to teach us today. When God asks us to do something difficult, or to go through something difficult, he is going to give us the grace, the favor, the strength to see us through. No matter what hard times await us, no matter who wins the election, no matter the diagnosis, know that God in Christ – not Mary – will see us through. God in Christ – not Mary – will get us safely home.
Mary is just pointing the way for us with her faithful example, and for that she is worthy of the highest honor.