When I told my husband that my first post for Grow Christians would celebrate the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, his response did not alleviate my newbie jitters. Barely a beat passed before he responded, “Wow. Go big!”
Where do you begin writing about someone who looms as large in our faith as Saint Mary the Virgin? Mary is featured throughout the gospel narratives of Jesus’ life — from her pregnancy and Jesus’ boyhood antics in the temple all the way to the foot of the cross. Besides being a focal point of the Christian faith, Mary is also featured prominently in the Quran and remains an inspiration for Muslims around the world. Where to begin?
When my now 5 year-old daughter began daycare, my husband began a tradition that continues each morning on the way to daycare, camp, or school. In charge of drop off, he began singing the Angelus on the car ride to daycare each morning. The first time I accompanied him to drop off during maternity leave with our almost 3 year-old daughter, our oldest daughter’s little voice surprised me with a declaration from her carseat, “And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.”
And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us. I invite us to spend some time today thinking about Saint Mary as the Theotokos — the God-bearer, a term borrowed from our friends in the Eastern tradition. In thinking about Saint Mary, we are ultimately reflecting on someone who said yes to not only bearing Christ in her womb for nine months, but also someone who said yes to bearing the life altering responsibility of parenthood and caregiving. Just to add a smidge more pressure, Gabriel tells her that the child she will bear will be the Messiah, the savior of God’s people. Mary says yes, even as I can imagine my own response as, “Would you mind repeating that? I think we had a bad connection.”
And yet, isn’t it the fundamental call of all Christians to take on the role of God-bearer? Are we not called to carry the message of Christ into a world that so desperately needs renewal and inspiration to do the hard work of the Gospel? Just as Saint Mary said yes to bearing Christ into the world, we make commitments of our own in the baptismal covenant. We promise to be God-bearers in many ways, but here are just a few highlights:
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
My daughters will have the opportunity to affirm these commitments in their Confirmations, but for now, my husband and I have said yes to the weighty responsibility of sharing with them the duty of their faith. It is not enough for them to recite the words of the Angelus or go to Mass with us each Sunday; they must bear God out in the world, proclaiming the love and power of Christ, serving their neighbors, and working for justice in a sinful world. This is an overwhelming task, but thankfully the order of Confirmation assures us that we do not take on the responsibility of bearing the Good News on our own. We are only able to say yes with God’s help.
As we ponder these things in our hearts, I wonder who has been a God-bearer in your own life?
If you are a parent or caregiver, how does this vocation change your role as a God-bearer and what do you hope the children in your care learn about God?
What are you called to speak love and justice into in your own context, with the help of God?