Calling our attention to the presence of the Mother of God in every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote: “Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist. This is one reason why, since ancient times, the commemoration of Mary has always been part of the Eucharistic celebrations of the Churches of East and West.”
(The article below was written by Fr Paul Watson, Director of the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England.)
Mary: Our Mother and Teacher
When we hear the phrase ‘the school of Mary’ what do we think about? Are we taken back to the classroom of our schooldays or college life? Do we think of some group we might have taken part in – an art class, a computer course, a prayer group or Bible study class, etc.? Usually there is someone who accompanies us to show us around and to introduce us to some new area of learning. In the school of Mary, we want to let Mary be our teacher, and to be aware that she accompanies us in our Christian life in the heart of the Church. More than any other person, Mary has a deep love and devotion for her Son in the Eucharist. We should not forget that, although Mary was not present at the Last Supper, she would have been present at the first Eucharist celebrated by the apostles after Pentecost. In the most real sense possible, Mary is also present at every Eucharist wherever and whenever the Mass is celebrated throughout thee world. Mary is an integral part of the paschal mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the mystery made present in every Eucharistic liturgy. At the foot of the Cross, Mary was the first (along with the beloved disciple) to put her faith in the sacrificial death of her Son and the first to receive the fruit of that sacrifice – the gift of the Holy Spirit! What better teacher could we have to lead us lovingly and devoutly into an appreciation of the sacramental presence and the saving of Jesus? Whatever schools we have been in, the first and most important school was that of our mother, whose love for us first led us to explore the mysteries of life. The motherly love of Mary will also guide us into the mystery of her Son.
Mary, the Tabernacle of Jesus
In her life now in Heaven and in her relations with each of us as members of the Body of Christ, the Holy Catholic Church, Mary has, in the fullest perfection, all those virtues that she manifested during her earthly life. Think of the account of the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke, Mary was so dedicated to the will of God in her life that, when the angel told her of God’s plan for his Son to become man for the salvation of the world, she accepted the awesome role of being the mother of God’s Son. She not only accepted God’s Son into her womb, but also made him the centre of her heart. Her life was now determined by what was made known to her. She was a temple of the Holy Spirit and the means by which God’s Son would come into the world, the means by which God would make Himself known to the world.
In a parallel way, each time we go to Mass and receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, we too, through the power of the Holy Spirit, receive God’s Son, Mary can show us how to receive Him into the centre of our hearts and lives. She guides us also in the ways that we might be a vehicle for the presence of Jesus in the world.
When Mary visited Elizabeth, tabernacled within her was the presence of Jesus, just as we become his tabernacles when we receive Him in the Eucharist. Mary had such confidence and faith in God’s love and action in her life that, without any arrogance or sense of superiority, she was able to lead Elizabeth to overcome her fears and place her faith and trust in the grace of God at work in her own life. Elizabeth rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and embraced the role that God had given to her an to her unborn child – John the Baptist – in the plan of salvation. It was Mary’s faith in the presence of Jesus within her that inspired Elizabeth both to rejoice in God and proclaim her faith. Later she would have had much to teach her own son, John. How many of us as parents can be similarly inspired by Mary, both to rejoice in the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives and to teach our children faithfully about the plan and saving action of God.
Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization
Mary is the ultimate model for us in the mission of evangelization. Not surprisingly, we can sometimes feel daunted at the prospect of evangelizing other people. How do we begin? What do we say? In the world that seems to be increasingly hostile to religion and Christianity we can be afraid and retreat into a quiet practice of our faith, believing that we are not supposed to force it upon anyone else. This is surely true! Faith cannot be forced. Mary never imposed her faith on others. Rather she interceded with her Son for his help for those in need, for example at the marriage feast at Cana. She also encouraged the servants to follow the instructions of her Son. When John the Evangelist was writing his account of the marriage at Cana, he saw it as an event that revealed something about the life of the Church. If we are obedient to the words of Jesus, we will see great blessings. Our seemingly weak (and watery) efforts will be transformed by Jesus into the new wine of the kingdom. The best wine is a sign of the saving mercy and forgiveness of God and the new life of the Spirit. The guests all tasted this wine because the servants were obedient. Mary’s example, and her encouragement to us to be obedient to her Son, will lead to many blessings in our families and among our friends, and will further the work of evangelization in the world.
In the end, our confidence about what to say will depend, like Mary, on our willingness to pray and to ponder on the truths of our faith contained in the Creed. The liturgy of the Eucharist is surely the very best source for our prayer and for reflection in quiet times before the Lord. It is invaluable to read and pray through the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass, so that they become familiar to us and, more importantly, fill our minds with the truths they contain. As the Holy Spirit, more and more, makes these truths known to us we will sense that they are life-giving and nourishing. We will find that the truths will also emerge from our hearts as a prayer of praise and thanksgiving or a proclamation of the gospel whenever God gives us the opportunity. This is precisely what happened in Mary’s life. As she prayed and pondered, she broke out with the Magnificat: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour… The Lord has done great things for me; Holy is his name… His mercy is from age to age on those who fear Him.” The Magnificat is Mary’s Eucharistic Prayer. Like the Last Supper, Mary’s Magnificat anticipates the paschal mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The great things God has done, the mercy promised to our fathers, God’s raising up of the lowly – all of these declarations are fulfilled in the salvation of Jesus made present in the Eucharist.