“And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
When we read the words above from the Gospel of Luke, we see Mary reflecting on all that has happened surrounding the birth of her Son, Jesus. But this is not the only time the Gospel’s author stops to tell us Mary is a reflective and discerning woman. It is pointed out so often we become aware this kind of pensive quality is part of the very special nature the Father has given to the Immaculate Heart of His daughter, Mary. By doing so, He passes on to us an extraordinary example of quiet, humble strength to apply in our lives for our own greater sanctification. Our God is a God of purpose, and nothing He accomplishes, especially in the truly holy, is done in isolation. What Mary may have thought at any given moment can shed light and new meaning on where God has led us, and continues to lead us, in our own personal journey toward greater intimacy with Him.
This article will explore what Mary’s thoughts may have been during three most significant events in her life. We will begin with Mary’s thoughtful responses to the loss and finding of Jesus in the temple, then, stand with our sorrowful Mother at Calvary, and lastly, in honor of her great feast day on August 15th, we will end with her glorious Assumption into heaven. Just as we listen deeply to Jesus while meditating on His word in Scripture, we may also reverently ponder Our Lady’s story closely enough to hear the thoughts of her sometimes anguished, sometimes joy-filled, always open, gentle heart.
Our first stop finds Mary and Joseph in the crowded streets of Jerusalem after they have already been searching for their beloved boy for three days (Luke 2: 41-52). They have not slept more than a handful of hours during that time and are physically weary, but even more exhausted mentally from the worry that plagues them concerning His safety. Mary leans her head against Joseph’s strong shoulder after they pause a moment amid the many people stirring white dust into the thin arid breeze as they approach and leave the temple area just ahead.
Mary is thinking. “Why did I not ask Joseph if he was taking Jesus? And why did Joseph neglect to ask me? We have always been so careful about His welfare. It doesn’t make sense that after all we’ve been through together, the long travels, the threats to kill our baby, the estrangement from our land those years in Egypt, that God would allow His Son to come to harm here and now when we’ve journeyed to celebrate the Passover feast He established for our people. Certainly, God’s mighty hand must be in all of this. He will not abandon His Son, and He will not abandon us!”
In her heart, Mary prays. “O God, You know all things. You see my boy! Your boy, entrusted to me and my husband Joseph…carelessly we have lost Him! We are dying with anguish at the thought that He may be in danger or injured somewhere. Our love is so great for Him that we will surely die if You take Him from us right now. But, no. According to Your word, He has much yet to accomplish for Israel, and You are faithful, O God. You are leading Joseph and me to the very place You yourself have sent Your Son. Thank You for calming my heart, my Lord. Thank You for Your endless mercy.”
A faint smile of relief brightens Mary’s tired countenance as she looks up at her husband, whose eyes are gazing at the temple in the distance. Joseph presses Mary tenderly to himself and points his walking staff toward the temple. “We have searched everywhere else,” he says, looking into Mary’s hopeful face, “He is there. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, Mary.”
Mary gently replies, “God knows, my dear. God knows.”
Inside the temple, Jesus answers the teachers, imparting insights on the mercies of Yahweh toward His chosen people from the time of Abraham. Aware of His parents’ impending arrival, He decides to pose the last question concerning one of Isaiah’s prophecies before Mary and Joseph enter the scene, joyful, yet anxious for His return with them to Nazareth.
Our next stop occurs 21 years later, also in Jerusalem (John 19: 25-27). Mary, now a widow, has been free to follow Jesus the last three years during much of His public ministry. But now Jesus has been arrested and sentenced to crucifixion. Mary is there, at the foot of the cross, as her Son is suffocating in the greatest agony, bodily nailed to the crossed beams of wood. She has heard every agonizingly labored breath and strained word pronounced through swollen, bloodied lips. Now, He catches and holds her in the most compassionate and merciful gaze she has ever witnessed in that divinely beautiful countenance. Though He is tortured and torn almost beyond recognition, Mary still sees her boy. Human soul to human soul, they drink in each other’s agony and quench each other’s thirst, as no other human souls can understand.
Mary is thinking. “My heart is breaking, Jesus! What can I do to ease Your suffering? I can only share it with You; in that, I have no choice. We are one, my beloved boy! From the moment You drew life within me, You could not be separated from me.
“Dear Father in heaven, do not abandon Him! He cries out to You. Do not abandon Him! And hold me up, my God, to endure this with Him!
“Remember, my Jesus, how you wandered off among the crowds at Passover when You were only twelve? Three days we searched, Your father and I. Three days, we were physically separated from You. What a desolation! What a tremendous fear overtook my heart that I would not see You again in this life! I prayed. Oh, how I prayed to God that He spare You and not take You from me at that time because I was not ready! Am I ready now?
“I believe with all my heart that I will have You back again in three days, Jesus, because You have told me so. I can see plainly now that the three day’s search for You back then was but a foretaste to strengthen me for what was to come…this. This unbearable wrenching away of Your life before my eyes. Oh my Jesus, I love You! I will bear it with You! For this purpose, You came into the world! Because of this moment, countless souls will have a new inheritance in Your heavenly kingdom that none can ever take from them. Has it not been my life’s prayer, too, the salvation of our people? No; Your generosity takes in all of creation! But, oh, how bitter and crushing to look on You like this, my beloved, innocent Son!
“Jesus, You have forgiven them, and in that forgiveness is the salvation of mankind. How can I not forgive them, too?
“My God, what have You not given, and what have You not asked of me? But my “Yes” stands for all time.
“Jesus, I forgive, and I promise never to stop loving these through Your eyes and most compassionate heart. I love whom You love; I desire all You will. So much greater will be our joy in life unending, my beautiful Jesus! Oh, but I long to hold You close now, as I did when I found You in the temple! Hear my heart, my beloved boy. I desperately long to hold You close!”
An endless moment later Jesus speaks. “Woman,” Mary hears, as if to her He attributes the fulfillment of perfect womanhood, even perfect created humanity. He continues, “there is your son.” The new direction of His struggling glance indicates to Mary that Jesus means His disciple, John, who stands there beside her. Then to John, He also instructs, “There is your mother.”
Mary is thinking. “Yes, my Son! I will be a mother to him. By Your grace, I will be a most loving mother to all. Only never, never leave me, my beloved one! Without You, I can do nothing.”
Our last stop takes us once more to Jerusalem, to the hill of Mount Zion, where tradition tells us Mary died, surrounded by the Apostles.
Here we leave Holy Scripture and enter the important area of Sacred Tradition, which has been handed down through the centuries by word of mouth and preserved in certain writings from the days of earliest Christianity. Although The Assumption of Mary was not pronounced a dogma of the Catholic Church until 1950 by Pope Pius XII, it was a commonly held belief among Christians from the time of the Apostles that Mary had been taken up to heaven, body, and soul, after her death.
We are here, at the place of her “Dormition” or “falling asleep,” to listen to Mary’s thoughts as she nears death and her longing for reunion with her Son in heaven. She could never forget the pain of that Thursday morning when Jesus left to reclaim His seat at the right hand of the Father. Once more she knew and accepted that He had to leave her. From that day, a consuming love so overwhelmed her that nothing of earth could subdue it. Her mind and heart were lifted always toward heaven; the Eucharist, constant prayer and works of charity were the sustenance that made it possible to bear the remainder of her earthly pilgrimage. But now, her Immaculate Heart could bear the separation no longer. Jesus, too, yearned to lift the veil that had separated Him from His Mother, fashioned so perfect in love by the Father. It was time; He would bring her home to Him forever.
Mary can no longer speak to those beloved disciples and faithful friends who surround her, but she is thinking. “How kind they all have been to me! Some are crying…my dear, sweet John! Jesus will provide everything that you need, just as you provided for my every need, and such an abundance more! And Peter, how he weeps! Yes, my son, I will tell Jesus of your sorrow that still persists for having denied Him on that awful night. You must know that He has long and fully forgiven you, dear, humble man. In heaven, you will see much better…in heaven, where He will be waiting and all will be well. Yes…He will be there…in heaven, where I am going! Oh, Jesus! I am ready!
“How good You have been to me, Your lowly handmaid, O Lord! You filled me with Your graces to overflowing, even before my birth! You knew I could not bear the total self-emptying of sacrificial love, which only You are capable of, without completely covering me with Your grace and Holy Spirit. Ah! My God, my King, my Child! My life has been all Yours! Now I die of love! It is too much! Jesus! My Jesus, I love You! Jesus!”
Instantly, time is no more for Mary. She is eternally elevated above every saint and all the angels in heaven. No one can experience her joy, forever now in the arms of her Jesus, for no one has ever loved Him so purely, so totally, so much!
Happy Feast of Your Glorious Assumption, Dear Mother Mary.
For further reading:
“The Assumption of Mary: A Belief Since Ancient Times” by Father Clifford Stevens, at the following link: http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/AOFMARY.HTM
“Church of the Dormition,” at the following link: http://www.seetheholyland.net/church-of-the-dormition/