By: Amber Chinnapper “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” Maximilian Kolbe I was watching a theatre piece of Jesus’ final days during Holy Week, and I noticed something that didn’t sit well with me. The female focus of the production was Mary Magdalene, her persona and experiences in relation to Christ were thoughtfully and tenderly portrayed. However, at the dawn of the Crucifixion scene my captivation with Magdalene waned. Many Catholics would probably concur that they too felt a distinct sense of someone missing… Mary, the Lord’s mother, was excluded not just from the scene we’d expect to see her the most, but also from the whole performance. This stark contrast to Mary’s natural (and biblically-recorded) presence at her dear Son’s brutal death struck me, especially because I had just participated in Good Friday’s Stations of the Cross which happened to reflect of Mary’s perspective. And how incredibly moving it was to reflect on Our Lord’s Passion through His Mother’s eyes. And this got me thinking, why does Mary tend to be forgotten or avoided among other Christian denominations? What makes the Catholic perspective of Mary different? If we meditate upon the first references of Mary in the Gospels, we come to understand what a remarkable woman she was (and is). Whilst reading Luke’s account of Christ’s birth we can imagine the rustic scene humbled by animal noises and smells, dust and dirt, and the great awe and wonder of simple men. We can also imagine the great throng of angels glorifying the Lord in their own transcendent praise. A poignant scene indeed. But amidst it all Luke inserts a quiet tenderness: And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) Having just given birth to the Saviour of the world, I’m sure Mary was possibly feeling some excitement and bewilderment. But despite the intense feelings she probably felt, this verse captures her incredible calm and submission to the will of God. How was she to know how to be the best mother of God Himself, let alone all of us! And yet she embraces her calling; meekly, quietly, and prayerfully. This is also the way she accepts the news of The Annunciation, despite the fact that God’s plan at that point would’ve seemed completely impractical and frightening. Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1: 38) The Catholic Church also aims to extend our understanding of Mary beyond Scripture reference. There are many Catholic traditions, devotions and teachings that intend to draw us into an even more enriching comprehension and admiration of this Jewish woman who lived a life of simplicity and complete devotion to God. This is owing to the Church’s appreciation of Mary as not merely any ordinary woman, but the woman chosen by God to bare His own physical being into the world. She had to have been someone very special. The Church informs us of this primarily through the doctrines of her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption. To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. (CCC: 490) With a little faith in tradition and theology, these doctrines make a lot of sense and open our minds to a greater understanding of Mary. But what is her significance for our lives at present? How do we embrace Mary with our hearts in a relationship with her? By no means does the Church promote worship of Mary of any kind, but it does encourage us to go to her in prayer, viewing her as our Mother as well as Christ’s. “Mary’s will does not differ from the will of God. Calling upon her without reserve, you manifest a love for the will of God, for her will is so perfect that in nothing does it differ from His. Thus you give glory to God that He created so perfect a creature and took her for His Mother.” Maximilian Kolbe We are reminded to seek Mary’s intercession before the throne of God every time we say the Hail Mary: Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. However, I once wondered why seeking her prayers was necessary when we can simply ask God directly in our own prayers, before someone gave me some clear insight I’ve never forgotten: It’s kind of like when you know it’ll take a lot of persuasion to convince your dad of something you may need (we’re obviously talking about something moral), and you ask your mom to help you convince him. Much like what Mary did at the wedding feast at Cana. Jesus was not ready to perform His first miracle at that time, but she, as His mother whom He loves so much, gave in to her request and turned the water into wine (John 2: 1-11). “Prayer is powerful beyond limits when we turn to the Immaculate who is queen even of God’s heart.” Maximilian Kolbe On my personal faith journey I have found profound guidance and comforting solace in Mary as my heavenly Mother, and that is her significant role for all humanity. My relationship with her deepened through a time of great inner turmoil and vulnerability, and to this day I implore her help in attaining greater glory of and union with her Son. I picture her enveloping me with her mantle, and I hold her hand during Mass. We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ. (CCC: 975) About the Author Amber Chinnapper Many times I have felt born in the wrong era. But God destined me for this one, so here I am! I am a woman who has learning to embrace and enjoy her many facets. I am artitsic, wild, traditional, and I feel deeply about the essence and truth of our individual beings. I am inspired by Mary the Mother of Jesus; classic literature and poetry; the vintage and the simple; Native American wisdom and connections to God and His creation. I need to spend time in nature and open spaces, and although I have recently moved to New Zealand, I love South Africa, my home soil. I have an inner yearning to create and to embrace health and fitness. Family life is incredibly important to me.