Although occurring by the work of the Holy Spirit and a Virgin Mother, the birth of Jesus, like that of all human beings, went through the phases of conception, gestation and delivery. In addition, Mary's motherhood was not limited to the biological process of giving birth, but as it happens with every other mother, she also made an essential contribution to her son's growth and development.
A mother is not only a woman who gives birth to a child, but one who brings him up and teaches him; indeed, we might well say that, according to God's plan, the educational task is the natural extension of procreation.
Mary is the Theotokos, not only because she conceived and gave birth to the Son of God, but also because she accompanied him in his human growth.
Mary was particularly suited to being a teacher
We might think that, since Jesus possessed in himself the fullness of divinity, he had no need of teachers. But the mystery of the Incarnation reveals to us that the Son of God came into the world in a human condition similar to us in all things except sin (cf. Heb 4:15). As is the case with every human being, Jesus' growth, from infancy to adulthood also needed his parents' educational activity (cf. Lk 2:40).
The Gospel of Luke, particularly attentive to the childhood period, says that at Nazareth Jesus was obedient to Joseph and Mary (cf. Lk 2:51). This dependence shows us that Jesus was receptive, open to the teaching of his mother and Joseph, who also carried out their task by virtue of the docility he constantly showed.
The special gifts which God had showered on Mary made her particularly suited to her task as mother and teacher. In the concrete circumstances of everyday life, Jesus could find in her a model to follow and imitate and an example of perfect love for God and for his brothers and sisters.
Along with Mary's motherly presence, Jesus could count on the paternal figure of Joseph, a just man (cf. Mt 1:19), who provided the necessary balance in the educational activity. Carrying out his role as father, Joseph co operated with his wife in making the home in Nazareth an environment favourable to the growth and personal maturity of the Saviour of humanity. By later introducing him to the hard work of the carpenter, Joseph enabled Jesus to be involved in the world of work and social life.
The few elements that the Gospel offers do not allow us to know and fully appreciate the ways in which Mary taught her divine Son. Certainly she, together with Joseph, introduced Jesus to the rites and prescriptions of Moses, to prayer to the God of the Covenant by using the Psalms, to the history of the people of Israel centred on the Exodus from Egypt. From her and Joseph Jesus learned to attend the synagogue and to make the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Looking at the results, we can certainly conclude that Mary's teaching was deep and effective, and found very fertile soil in Jesus' human psychology.
Mary and Joseph are models for all parents
Mary's educational task with regard to such a unique son presents several special features in comparison with the role of other mothers. She only provided favourable conditions for the development of the potential and essential values for growth, already present in the Son. For example, the absence of any form of sin in Jesus demanded a constantly positive orientation from Mary, which excluded any form of corrective intervention. Furthermore, although it was his mother who introduced Jesus to the culture and traditions of the people of Israel, it was he from the time of his finding in the temple, who would reveal his full awareness of being the Son of God, sent to spread the truth in the world and exclusively follow the Father's will. From being her Son's "teacher", Mary thus becomes the humble disciple of the divine Master to whom she had given birth.
The importance of the Virgin Mother's task remains: from his infancy to adulthood, she helped her Son Jesus to grow "in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man" (Lk 2:52), and to prepare for his mission.
Mary and Joseph can therefore be seen as models for all educators. They sustain them in the great difficulties that the family encounters today, and show them the way to their children's precise and effective formation.
Their educational experience is a sure reference point for Christian parents who are called, in ever more complex and difficult conditions, to devote themselves to the service of the integral development of their children's personality, so that they will live lives worthy of man and corresponding to God's plan.
Saint John Paul II, Audience of December 4, 1996