Does biblical revelation give the Mother of Jesus a role in the unity of the Church and the world? We can find the answer to this question in at least three passages of the New Testament: The Annunciation, Luke 1:26-38; The Adoration of the Magi, Matthew 2:11; The Crucifixion, John 19:26-27 and 11:52.
1) The Annunciation to Mary took place in a town in Galilee, in a profane region deemed non-Jewish
“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth” (Lk 1:26). Let us juxtapose the announcement made to Zechariah (Lk 1:5-25) with the announcement here made to Mary (Lk 1:26-38).
For Zechariah, the apparition took place in the Temple of Jerusalem “on the right of the altar of incense.” This is the most sacred place in all Israel for the people of the First Covenant.
The announcement to Mary, in contrast, took place in a small town in Galilee called Nazareth, in a profane region, “Galilee of the Gentiles” as it was called (cf. Is 8:23 and Mt 4:14-15) since it had a large non-Jewish population. This is the paradox of God’s plan.
Where men had delivered a verdict of marginalization, this is precisely where the Incarnation of the Son of the Most High took place in the womb of a young virgin. It did not happen in Jerusalem or in the Temple, but in Galilee: an inconsiderable fringe of the Holy Land, where Jews cohabitated with non-Jews. On God’s atlas, Nazareth and the person of Mary appear as the first symbols of Christian globalization.
Anywhere in the world could be a highly blessed sanctuary for His dwelling
From now on, in as much as the birth of the Son of God is significant in the eyes of humanity, anywhere in the world could be a highly blessed sanctuary for His dwelling. And everyman who welcomes the Word of the Gospel could be a sanctuary of the Divine Presence: “My mother and my brothers,” said Jesus one day, “are those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice” (Lk 8:21; cf. Jn 14.23). “God has no favorites, […] anybody of any nationality who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Since the Incarnation, the presence of God is in every human being. This explains why anger against our neighbor is anger against God and even has the same gravity, as Jesus said: “You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, you shall not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you, anyone who is angry with a brother will answer for it before the court; anyone who calls a brother "Fool" will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him "Traitor" will answer for it in hell fire” (Mt 5:21-22).
And for the same reason: “When the Son of man comes in His glory, escorted by all the angels, then He will take His seat on His throne of glory. All nations will be assembled before Him and He will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.’ Then the upright will say to Him in reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?’ And the King will answer, ‘In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’” (Mt 25:31-40).
2) The Adoration of the Magi shows Jerusalem as the Universal Mother, as a gathering place for all the nations of the world
“They saw the Child with His mother Mary” (Mt 2:11). The Adoration of the Magi is a scene clearly inspired by chapter 60 of the Prophet Isaiah. In this oracle (vv1-6) the prophet celebrates the glory of Jerusalem when the exiles returned from Babylon. Other similar passages from the same book exalt the Temple lifted up from the ruins as the place where the Lord unites not only Jews who have come back from bondage in Egypt but also all other nations (Is 56:3-8; 66:20-21). Jerusalem, then, becomes the Universal Mother. Actually, within its walls, Jerusalem embraces all nations who come to the holy city to worship the one Lord in the Temple.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote about Jerusalem that kings and princesses “will prostrate before you, faces to the ground, and lick the dust at your feet” (Is 49:23). “Your oppressors’ children will humbly approach you, at your feet all who despised you will fall addressing you as ‘City of the Lord’, ‘Zion the Holy One of Israel’” (Is 60:14). Jewish literature describes the Messiah who will reign in the New Jerusalem as the Universal Mother. The Greek version of the Septuagint from Psalm 44 speaks of the sons of Tyre who worship before Him (the Messiah King).
They come to worship Jesus on Mary’s lap
Among the Psalms of Solomon (50 B.C.), we read that nations will see His glory and the glory of the Lord with which God has glorified Him to the ends of the earth (Ps 17:31). All these ancient traditions converge in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-11. Here we find the worship of people from distant nations bearing rich presents: the Magi replace the kings and princesses, they offer gold, frankincense and myrrh (Mt 2:11), and they prostrate themselves on the ground… But they do not go to the Temple nor to Jerusalem, they come to worship Jesus on Mary's lap. The lap and bosom of the Blessed Virgin Mary became the natural throne, the seat of the Royal Majesty Child, Emmanuel, God with us. Through the Magi, the Evangelist Matthew signifies all pagans who embrace faith in Christ.
Crossing the threshold of this mystical mansion, which is the Church, what is the vision that unfolds before their eyes? The Evangelist replied: “…they saw the child with His mother Mary” (Mt 2:11). Mary is closely bonded to her Son, like the root from which a flower grows. And Mary presents to the world the God made baby, God with us, the God who attracts and gathers together all nations.
Mary, the mother of God's children raised to life by Jesus, is Jerusalem, the mother of the dispersed children brought back together by God
Listening to and observing the Law of Moses, and returning to the Lord, has a strong importance in the process of bringing back together the dispersed children. Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd who gathers together and protects the preys of the wolf, i.e. Satan, who “scatters the sheep” (Jn 10:12, cf. 16:32).To hasten that final unity, we must listen to the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:16).
The second Temple becomes an emblematic place of this unity (Is 56:6-7; Is 66: 18-21; Zp 2:15). Jerusalem is hailed as the Mother of her sons and knows the surprise of a universal and prodigious maternity (Zc 2:14-17).
Jesus is the Temple not made by human hands. He asks the Father for His disciples: “that they may be one as we are one, with me in them and You in me” (Jn 17:22-23).
The high priest Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus "would die for the nation, not only for one nation, but to bring back in one fold the dispersed children of God the Father" (Jn 11, 51-52).
The unity of the world, prior to being humanity’s goal, was God’s will: the place where Jesus gathers together the scattered children is the divine unity, the unity of the Father with the Son.
Mary, the mother of God's children drawn together by Jesus, replaces Jerusalem the mother of the dispersed children gathered together by God. And, to use biblical language, Jerusalem is depicted by the image of a woman, and can you understand why Jesus speaks to His mother by calling her “woman” (Jn 2:4 and 19:26).
In the language of the Synoptics, Jesus considers His own mission as the time of the harvest (Mk 4:9) just as Isaiah prophesied that the gathering together of exiles in terms of “threshing” the harvest (Is 27:12-13). We can find this same theme when John chooses the words “bringing in”, “picking up” and “reaping” (Jn 4:35-38 and Jn 6:12-13).
At Cana, we are made to understand that the mother of Jesus has an active role in making Christ’s word heard (Jn 2:5), and through her strong faith, she creates unity around Jesus.
We must still wait, since His “hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4): His passion and resurrection (Jn 13:1).
At the time of Christ’s Passion, the Master prophesied: “Listen; the time will come – indeed it has come already – when you are going to be scattered, each going to your own place (Jn 16 :32). In the Greek the words “each going to your own place” - "‘eis ta idia" - can be translated by each “going home” or “back to his own business” or “according to his own interests”.
At Golgotha, Mary became the mother (Jn 19:25-27) of all the children of the New Covenant. “And from that hour the disciple took Mary home.” The word “home” is again a translation of the Greek "‘eis ta idia".
So it was fulfilled (Jn 19:30), and the prophecy of the dispersed children as well (cf. Jn 11:51-52).
One’s own selfish interests disperse the members of the Church, (Jn 16 : 32) while taking Mary home brings the members back together (Jn 19, 25-30).
It is also interesting to the description of Christ’s seamless tunic, which the soldiers did not tear. This tunic symbolizes the unity of the Church (Jn 19:23-24), as in the final passages where Jesus gives His Mother to humanity (Jn 19:25-27) : The intercessory role of the Church in its unity is connected to the intercessory role of the Mother.
et Françoise Breynaert