After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles… entered [Jerusalem]… they went to the upper room where they were staying. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1: 12-14)
Many years before St. Luke referred to Mary as “the mother of Jesus” in his Acts of the Apostles, Mary prophesied (during her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth) that “all generations” (or ages) would call her “blessed” (Lk 1:48). In fact, St. Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:41) weaves this wonderful theme into Mary’s Magnificat by declaring Mary “blessed” three times immediately before Mary’s proclamation.
Mary’s prophecy has been fulfilled in the Catholic Church which reverently calls her, “Blessed Mother” and “Blessed Virgin Mary”. Yet some still claim that Luke’s Gospel only meant to point out that in the future people would say things like “Mary was blessed to be the mother of the savior” and that Mary’s prediction did not mean that “blessed” should be given to her as a title. Yet, how else would all the generations have accomplished calling Mary “blessed” without using that term in her title? It appears that many generations of Protestants by not using this term for Mary have forgotten about it completely even neglecting (and sometimes abusing) the blessedness of Mary, while at the very least tending to normalize Mary as a common, rather than a “blessed”, instrument of God.
The key to understanding the wonder of the Church’s singular fulfillment of this prophecy of Mary is found right in the Bible: it is there for all Christians. It is found in Luke’s portrayal of Elizabeth. First, Elizabeth calls Mary blessed “among women”, hence among all women for all time. Then she calls the fruit of Mary’s womb “blessed” meaning not only that Jesus is blessed (for He is of course divine) but that Mary is a blessed instrument. Finally, Elizabeth declares that Mary is blessed because she “believed” what was spoken directly to her from God, thus anticipating the words of Jesus to the woman in the crowd which do not, as some say, lessen Mary’s role but elevate it . Luke, our earliest Mariologist, recounts that event specifically to emphasize Mary’s unique faith (Lk 11:27-28). Two other points must be made. First, John the Baptist leapt in the womb of Elizabeth at the sound of Mary’s greeting and second, Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord” which if this does not translate to you as “Blessed Mother of God” (Greek: theotokos) then, respectfully speaking, you have hardened your heart!
On this 7th Sunday of Easter we place on our bulletin cover a fragment of a work by the medieval Siennese painter Duccio entitled The Apostles of Mary (1311). We see here Mary surrounded by apostles. Mary is on a couch, yet she is not reclining as one at rest but upright and ready for conversation. Duccio has created a sort of religious symposium with Mary at the center. A symposium was a Greek banquet of men-only lying on couches while, for instance, they debate over an important subject. Hence in the Byzantine (Greek) artistic style Duccio replaces the likes of Socrates and Alcibiades with the Blessed Virgin Mary as the apostles gather around her.
In fact, this work is most often called The Virgin’s Farewell to the Apostles. Thus, the apostles have come to be near the Blessed Mother to glean all that they can from her before she reclines into her holy death or Dormition, thence proceeding to her glorious Assumption.
In this month to Mary, let us recall all the well-deserved titles of Mary and let us become as overjoyed as Elizabeth and John the Baptist when each of her titles reaches our ears.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services