In Christ’s dying moments, the Lord gave us His mother Mary to be our mother (John 19:25 – 29). Jesus desires that we should find consolation in our mother-child relationship with Mary, which also means we are His brothers and sisters. We follow the example of St. John when we welcome Mary into our homes and hearts.
The Prophet Isaiah says, “Console, console my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1), thereby opening the doors of consolation and freedom to the people of Israel. These people had been in exile and could now look forward to the future and their return home, with much hope. Isaiah addresses the people who have passed through a dark time, and have undergone a very hard trial; but now assures them, that the time of consolation has come.
This is the reason for the invitation, to let ourselves be consoled by the Lord. The Lord will now turn their sadness and fear into joy with the freedom and salvation that He brings. The Lord brings us this very same consolation through the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the avenue that God Himself chose and prepared to come into the world.
As St Augustine says, “The Church is truly the mother of Christians” (St. Augustine. De moribus Ecclesiae, I, 30, 62-63: PL 32, 1336). We come to Mother Church for consolation in our afflictions because Mother Church just like Mary qualifies us for Consolation. There are three dogmas of the Catholic Church which can help us to understand how Mary indeed qualifies to be our consolation and thereby qualifies us for the True Consolation, the Lord Jesus.
Even as God sent forth His Son, He had to prepare a body for Him. Thus He wanted the free co-operation of a creature, from whom this body was to be obtained. For this purpose, from all eternity God chose a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee to be the mother of His Son. This daughter of Israel was a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and this virgin’s name we know was Mary (Luke 1:26-27).
From Lumen Gentium, we learn that Mary was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to the role of being the mother of the Saviour (Lumen Gentium, 56). This is why we hear Angel Gabriel salute her as full of grace (Luke 1:28). Think of it in this way – in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation as mother of the Son of God, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. This could only have happened if she was redeemed right from the moment of her conception.
This thought is in keeping with the proclamation by Pope Pius IX that by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved immune from all stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803). This means that Mary was enriched from the first instant of her conception by the splendour of an entirely unique holiness which comes wholly from Christ Himself. She was therefore redeemed because of the merits of her Son. She was the first human to receive redemption by being preserved from original sin, right from her conception.
We can borrow from St. Paul and state that Mary was blessed by God the Father more than any other created person in Christ, with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Thus our consolation comes from the fact that Mary was (and through her, we, her children were) chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him, in love (Ephesians 1: 3 – 4). As such, Mary was made to be free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature. All this happened by the grace of God so that Mary would her whole life long remain free of every personal sin. Our consolation is that this is how she could make the decision and commit for our sakes, to the words which she uttered in response to Angel Gabriel’s message, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). These are words that are truly enriched in faith, hope and love.
By deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood, the Church confesses Mary’s real and perpetual virginity in giving birth to the Son of God, made man. It is argued that Christ’s birth did not diminish His mother’s virginal integrity, but indeed sanctified it (Lumen Gentium, 57). Thus the Church celebrates Mary as the Ever-virgin.
We know that Mary remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to Him, a virgin in carrying Him, a virgin in nursing Him at her breast, and remains always a virgin (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999). Our consolation is that with her whole being, Mary is perpetually the handmaid of the Lord, a role which she continues to perform to date.
The Church asserts that Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom He came to save. This Son whom Mary brought forth is the One whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love. The Lord Jesus Himself commissioned this motherhood as He hung dying on the Cross (John 19:26-27).
We have our consolation in St. Paul’s writing about those who were foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of this Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29). However, we must understand that Mary’s virginal motherhood was always present in God’s Salvation Plan. This was of great importance for the person of Christ and His redemptive mission, and also for the welcome which Mary gave to this mission on behalf of all humanity.
God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation is manifested in Mary’s virginity. With it, Jesus has only God as Father. He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which He assumed at the incarnation. He is naturally Son of the Father as to His divinity and naturally son of His mother as to His humanity; but He is properly Son of the Father in both His divinity and His humanity (Luke 2:48-49).
We know that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb and is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation. As St. Paul puts it, the first man, Adam, became a living being; while the last Adam is a life-giving spirit. This first man was from the earth, and therefore a man of dust; the second man is from heaven (1 Corinthians 15: 45 & 47). This means that Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit right from His conception because God gives him the gift of the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). We have our consolation in that we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness as the Head of redeemed humanity (John 1:16 & Colossians 1:18).
This virginal conception of Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. We are further consoled by our participation in the divine life which arises not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13). The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit’s gift to man. Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith which is unadulterated by any doubt, and of her undivided gift of herself to God’s will (2 Corinthians 11:2). Her faith enables her to become the mother of the Saviour. As St. Augustine so aptly puts it,
Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ (St. Augustine, De virg. 3: PL 40, 398).
And we receive our consolation in embracing Mary as simultaneously virgin and mother, the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church. The Church receives the Word of God in faith and becomes herself a mother. By preaching and baptizing she brings forth sons who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, thereby bringing them to a new and immortal life. So we have consolation in the Church as Herself being a virgin who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith that she pledged to her spouse, the Lord Jesus.
Assumption Into Heaven
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that when the course of her earthly life was finished, the Immaculate Virgin, having been preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory. Here she was exalted by the Lord of lords as Queen over all things so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son (CCC 966). We have our consolation in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin because it is a singular participation in the Resurrection and also an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.
We must recall that in giving birth to our Saviour, the Blessed Mother kept her virginity. Now in her dormition, the Mother of God did not leave the world but was joined to the Source of Life. This then is our consolation because we know that she, who conceived the living God, will by her prayers deliver our souls from death (Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition, August 15th) because she is our Mother in the order of grace.
We appreciate that this motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she gave so loyally at the Annunciation; and which she sustained without wavering beneath the Cross; and which she continues giving until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. When she was taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving office; but by her manifold intercession, she continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. So we find our consolation when we invoke the Blessed Virgin in the Church under the given titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix ( Lumen Gentium 62).
We must remember that Mary functions as mother of mankind without obscuring or diminishing the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its very power. The Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ and rests on His mediation. The fact is that Mary’s intercession for us depends entirely on the mediation of Christ and draws all its power from it ( Lumen Gentium 60).
Thus we have our consolation in the priesthood of Christ which is shared in various ways both by His ministers and the faithful, even though there is no creature who could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. This unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude. It rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but, a sharing in the one Source ( Lumen Gentium 61 – 62).
Adapted from the book, Rediscover Mary – our Consolation by Fr. Mogwanchi Evans, IMC and Dr. Pamela Mandela Idenya.