In this article, I wish to examine three ways that Mary can teach us about marriage. This month presents us with the opportunity not only of thinking about Mary but also of our own mother and, perhaps, the institution of marriage as a whole.
Mary’s “Yes” is the “Yes” that We Depend on in Marriage
Mary’s “Yes” to God recalls the “yes” that the groom seeks from the bride. It can also remind us of the meaning behind the “yes” in marriage. As someone I know said, God’s desire for a “yes” from Mary put him in the vulnerable position of a man asking his beloved for her hand. A woman’s “yes” to a man can set in motion a virtual new world. Out of this “yes” come children and all the fruits of marriage. Likewise, St. Josemaria Escriva writes “O Mother, Mother! With that word, of yours, Fiat ‒ “Be it done” – you have made us brothers of God and heirs to his glory. Blessed are you!” (The Way, p. 512). Mary’s “yes” won us the incarnation and a savior.
Mary’s “yes” also provides married couples with a standard. Mary’s “yes” is a “yes” for a lifetime. Her fidelity teaches us to be faithful. Again, as St. Escriva writes “Have confidence. Return. Invoke our Lady and you’ll be faithful” (The Way, p. 515). Mary’s “yes” should be the beginning of every marriage and with Mary, we should say “yes” again and again throughout marriage.
Mary’s Search for Christ Mirrors Our Search for the Beloved in Marriage
Marriage is a continual search for the other person. Sometimes this search is literal but more often it has more to do with getting in touch with the other person. In The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander shows that Mary is continually seeking Christ. She seeks him as a boy in the finding in the temple, and later “among the crowd that thronged round Him in his public life” (p. 140). While this search is often literal, it has a spiritual dimension. Ultimately, Mary’s desire to follow Christ leads her to Calvary and to experience his pain. At the foot of the cross, Mary learns that “the condition of finding [Christ] was the loss of herself” (p. 142). In marriage, similarly, finding the other requires a loss of ego. Initially, this may appear both effortless and appealing, but eventually the desire to have it “my way” returns. Couples reject their self-seeking desires when they search for the other even when it means a death of self.
Mary’s Love for Christ was without Possessiveness
The pope writes that “Loving another person involves the joy of contemplating and appreciating their innate beauty and sacredness, which is greater than my needs” (Amoris Laetitia, 127). To love the other requires seeing him as distinct. Couples have pledged themselves to each other, but they do not own each other. Mary, whose own body held Christ, nonetheless knew that He was God. Houselander expresses this mystery with the words, “working, eating, sleeping, she was forming His body from hers” (p. 56). Likewise, Christ comes to us in the Eucharist, to be one with us, yet he remains God, far greater than us. True love seems to walk the line between complete fusion and complete otherness.
Taking the Lessons to Heart: Marital Happiness
Spouses will find marital happiness by imitating Mary: In her ‘yes’ for a lifetime of faithfulness; In her search for Christ, in their continuing search for one another; In her mutual love with Christ, in their mutual love for each other.