The Heart of the Mother
Mary was created to be the Mother of God. This is her reason of being and her mission in this world. St Maximilian Kolbe says that her mission was not something in addition to her being, for she was created, destined from the very beginning, to fulfill God’s will by giving birth to the Son for our salvation. This is why Mary was immaculately conceived. She was uniquely chosen, and hence uniquely graced, for this most sublime mission, one that has no equal in the lives of the holiest of saints.
So the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a motherly Heart. A mother’s love is the strongest, most loyal and tender love there is, and Mary’s Heart held within it the fullness of maternal love, for her Heart was created to love God as her own Son. Thus the Immaculate Heart of Mary has a limitless capacity for love—and also for suffering, for whoever loves much will inevitably suffer much.
The Bible tells us the story of the birth of Jesus: the census, the difficult journey to Bethlehem, the rejection of the innkeepers, the birth-giving in poor and harsh surroundings, the apparition of angels, and the testimony of the shepherds who came to worship the newborn Lord and Savior. St Luke ends this account with a very precious detail: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19). This is the first mention of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, which, as we see, is not only a loving, motherly Heart, but also a contemplative Heart, one that reflects upon the mysteries of God.
Mary silently, prayerfully meditated upon all that God had done in and through her. She was probably amazed to find herself at the very center of God’s plan of salvation for mankind. But as Handmaid of the Lord, she willingly consented to be his Mother as well, exercising a maternal care and even authority over the One who humbled Himself to become an infant, dependent in all things upon his Mother.
We can’t possibly imagine the joy and wonder Mary must have experienced as she held her newborn Son and nursed Him at her breast. This was not Joseph’s son; this was God’s Son! He was Mary’s Son, too. This Son is the Word through whom all things were made. That means that He who created Mary humbled Himself so much—and loved Mary so much—that He accepted to become so helpless as to need the milk of Mary’s breast just to live! This is the beginning of the boundless, sacrificial love for us that the Son of God manifested. Throughout his life, and for all eternity, He would love Mary most of all.
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand why God would always love Our Lady far more than any other creature. She alone was chosen to give humanity to his Only-begotten Son. Therefore every gift of which the eternal, infinite Divine Mind could conceive was lavished upon Mary. Because she was created precisely to be the Mother of the Son of God, nothing would be spared in making Mary the absolute summit of created beauty, perfection, and holiness. How could it be otherwise? If God withheld any perfection whatever from the Blessed Virgin, for what nobler creature could it be reserved? There is none, of course, so God chose to give everything to Mary.
Like Little Children
Perhaps here we can reflect a bit on what the relationship of Mother and Son says about our relationship to the Blessed Mother. I’ll have more to say about this later, for it is through our relationship with Mary that we find Heaven in her Heart. For now, let us reflect on the fact that we are like little children before her, and it is only as little children that we become fit for the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jesus often said.
A nursing child lives in complete and constant dependence upon his mother. She is the source of life, love, warmth, security, and simply everything for the child. So the child rests in her, opens completely to her, finds full contentment in her, needs her at every moment and cannot endure being separated from her.
Our relation to our heavenly Mother is similar, even if it cannot be precisely the same. Mary provides us with spiritual warmth, nourishment, and the security that only a profound and constant maternal love can offer. In return we offer her our trust, surrender, and dependence upon her love and her mediation of divine grace to us.
St Louis de Montfort (1673 – 1716) develops this in his writings. He reminds us that if the Son of God Himself chose to be dependent upon Mary and obedient to her as his Mother—and if we must become like children to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven—then we have every reason in the world to submit ourselves with love and trust to the motherly care and protection of Our Lady, who will nurture us as her own dear children. “Like newborn infants,” St Peter urges us, “long for the pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2). This is what our Mother provides for us as Mediatrix of Grace. Through her constant nurturing presence, we will, as the Apostle continues, “grow up to salvation.” Of course, we are adults, not infants, yet there is still something precious we can derive from this sort of biblical imagery and the intimate relationship with our heavenly Mother that it suggests.
The most intimate adult relationship is that of marriage. Even though this type of union or bonding is profound and precious, by the very fact that we are adults it is always possible for us to be independent, calculating, even dishonest and unfaithful, or to withhold affection or respect. A little child can do none of that. A child can only love, give, receive, draw life from her who gives it, and embrace her with his whole being in return. This is what we ought to learn in our relationship with Mary, our heavenly Mother. There should be no place for calculation, the sense of self-sufficiency that comes from pride, or anything that humans tend to do to create distance from each other. Spiritually seen, we ought to be like innocent, trusting children, secure in our Mother’s arms, allowing her to press us lovingly to her Heart.
Since we are considering Mary’s motherhood and the mystery of Jesus’ birth, I would like to present a little Christmas scenario, something that speaks of our intimacy with both Mother and Child, something that speaks of hearts. This came to my mind’s eye in prayer, and since it moved my heart I thought I would share it with you.
I approached the little cave where Christ was born. Only He and his Mother were there at the time. He was still lying in the manger. I entered on my knees, and approached them that way. The Divine Infant was lying quietly, and Mary was close by, looking at Him lovingly. She also looked at me, her eyes seeming to question me as to what I was seeking. I told her I wanted to bring a gift to the Child, but I was grieved that I had nothing to offer. Mary said to me, “You still have a heart.” I asked, “Will He accept that?” She looked toward Him and then to me, nodding slightly.
So in spirit I removed my heart from within me and placed it in his little hands. He took it and placed it against his Heart, and it disappeared inside. Then Mary took the Child Jesus into her arms, and pressed his Divine Heart lovingly to her Immaculate Heart, with mine somewhere in between. She then looked at me, smiled beautifully, and said, with sweetness and satisfaction: “There. Now your heart is ours, forever.” And I knew that this is what Heaven would be like.
This precious intimacy will be our Paradise. It will begin now, if we so desire, if we do whatever it takes to render our hearts pure and open to grace. To belong to God, to belong to Mary: this will be our joy in time and in eternity.