Mother of Our Divine Life
When preaching the word of God to his people, Jesus solemnly declared this holy and saving truth: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world… He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day… He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him… As I live because of the Father, so he who eats of me will live because of me…” (Jn. 6:51, 54, 56-57).
We see from Jesus’ words that whoever receives his Body and Blood in Holy Communion (worthily, that is; see 1 Cor. 11:27-30) will live forever. Yet such a person already has eternal life, says the Lord. This life is “in you” (6:53). What we usually think of as “eternal life” is the “live forever” part, which is, of course, true. But this doesn’t express the whole truth. To say that eternal life is in us when we eat and drink the Flesh and Blood of Christ, is to say that eternal life is divine life, the life of God, of Christ, in us. God is eternal and therefore the life He gives is eternal—beginning now and lasting forever in Heaven.
Our divine (eternal) life begins at baptism and is strengthened by faith and prayer, but primarily by the Holy Eucharist. Jesus’ Flesh and Blood were given to us as food, “for the life of the world.” We have this life of Christ in us; it is given as a gift. It is for us to do our utmost to help maintain and preserve it so that we may be “raised up on the last day.” But because of our weakness and inborn inclination to sin this is extremely difficult, and we risk losing our eternal life and happiness.
This is where Our Lady comes in. Mary is Mother of God the Son incarnate; she carried Him in her womb, gave birth to Him, nursed Him, raised Him, and took care of him. What she does in our souls is analogous to what she did for Jesus on earth. She nurtures his presence within us, from the moment of baptism to the hour of our death. Mary is the universal Mother, given to us as such on Calvary. She is now glorified in Heaven and exercises all the power God grants to her as Mother and Mediatrix of Grace. It is her task to preserve and bring to full maturity the divine and eternal life in us, to keep it safe for the Kingdom of Heaven.
We ought to be more consciously aware, then, of the presence of the Mother in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist at every offering of the Holy Mass or Divine Liturgy. We may not always reflect on the fact that, as the mystery of Our Lord’s death and resurrection is sacramentally re-presented on every Catholic altar, the whole redemptive event—including the presence of Mary at the foot of the Cross—is likewise made present. Blessed John Paul writes of this in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (Church of the Eucharist):
“In the memorial of Calvary [which is the Eucharistic Sacrifice], all that Christ accomplished by his passion and his death is present. Consequently all that Christ did with regard to his Mother for our sake is also present. To her he gave the beloved disciple and, in him, each of us… To each of us he also says: ‘Behold your mother!’ (cf. Jn. 19: 26-27). Experiencing the memorial of Christ’s death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting—like John—the one who is given to us anew as our Mother. It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us. Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist” (#57).
Therefore we continually receive the gift of Mary as Mother every time we participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This makes it all the more clear that she is the Mother of our Divine Life, which is in our souls as Christ’s abiding presence given to us in Holy Communion.
Concerning Mary as Mother of Christ’s life in us, Fr Marie-Dominique Philippe, OP, writes: “Mary is eternally the Mother of the members of Christ: Mother of their divine life, a mother who never ceases to beget them to this divine life; a mother who never ceases to watch over them, carry them, feed them, sustain them, educate them and direct them toward the Heart of Jesus and toward the Father while teaching them to be completely docile to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit…
“In His wisdom, God willed to fully establish Mary as Mother of His Son so that she might fully be Mother of [Christ’s] members, in order that she might eternally play this role as Mother of our divine life. That is why the gift of this divine life which she gives to her children is realized in this particular modality of maternity. She is the vital milieu where their divine life can blossom. She is the one who carries and envelops their Christian life, who disposes their souls to the action of the Holy Spirit… Mary’s maternal rule over us primarily concerns the blossoming of our Christian life, the perfection of our life of faith, hope, and love…” (from The Mystery of Mary; see his fuller treatment of this insight in Appendix C).
The whole of our life is held in her motherly arms, wrapped in her mantle of holy protection, watched over carefully to preserve the Divine Life within us. This is her main concern and is also the concern of our guardian angels and patron saints and whoever we call upon in Heaven for help. Nothing is more important to them (and nothing should be more important to us) than allowing this Divine Life—Christ abiding in us and we in Him—to flourish in us.
It is almost as if our souls are like Mary’s womb, for we carry the life of Christ delicately within us, waiting for the full revelation of his Mystery when all is finally manifest. The Divine Life in us seems as fragile and vulnerable as an unborn child, because with the terrible gift of our free will we are able to cast it from us by turning away from the Lord in a deliberate or even definitive manner. So all of Heaven is praying for us, that the Divine Life in us will “come to term,” will grow and become ever stronger, sanctifying us and preparing us for an eternity of irrepressible life and joy in the Kingdom of Heaven.
So in a spiritual sense Our Lady brings to birth countless children of God, nourishes and cares for their Divine Life as the heavenly Mother. She sees and loves Jesus in us and takes care of us with the love with which God enabled her to love Jesus in such a surpassing manner, like no other. The Infant or Child Jesus in Mary’s arms can be for us a symbol of our Divine Life that she holds and draws to her Heart and loves and cares for. We are reflections of Him for her: the brothers and sisters of her Only-begotten.
In the measure we give ourselves to her, she can embrace and protect our lives and insure that the Divine Life will grow in us in ways we could not accomplish on our own, even with the ordinary help of grace. For if Mary, the all-holy, all-pure one, is leading and guiding us, and if we have placed everything in her hands, the life of Christ will come to perfection in us. She can do this by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, with whom she constantly and intimately works. This is the main reason we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Heaven weeps if we disregard or reject the gift of divine and eternal life, offered through baptism and Holy Communion. The saints and angels do all in their power to help us restore it if we have foolishly lost it or thrown it away. The meaning of our life is simply to cherish this inner Divine Life and make it bear fruit through whatever mission the Lord gives us. For once we have the Divine Life in us, we are called to help others to open themselves to receive it, according to our particular vocations.
Make sure, then, that you receive and live from the Divine, Eternal Life that is in you, especially through the Sacraments, through worthy and devout reception of Holy Communion. Then allow the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of your Divine Life, to see to it that this Life grows and matures and is kept safe for the Kingdom of Heaven. The Divine Life is everything. There is no other reason we are in this world—except to share the knowledge of this precious gift with others, so that all the children of God can come Home to eternal happiness.
To be continued…