“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God, My Saviour.
For He has looked upon His Handmaiden in Her lowliness.
From henceforth, all generations shall call Me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for Me
and holy is His Name.”
– Gospel of St Luke, ch.1:46-49
It is sometimes said – wrongly – that devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is not such a good thing, that our devotion should be for God alone.
It is as though in being devoted to the Mother, we have taken the wrong path and lost sight of Her Son, as though the path leading to Mary stops there; as though we can be devoted to God or to Mary, but not both; as though devotion to Mary (it is supposed, again, wrongly) in some way detracts from devotion to God.
Of course, this thinking neglects one unavoidable fact.
‘Through Mary’ is the explicit way this same God chose to come to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. He had no need to do so – the Lord could have simply appeared amongst us as a man without need of Mary and Her divine maternity. And yet, He chose to come to us, to enter our humanity and to share in it, in this way – that is, through Mary.
Not only this, but for the next thirty years, He was devoted to Her and subject to Her in the hidden life of Nazareth. We know almost nothing at all of these years other than they were spent in the company of His Mother and under Her authority. Concluding his brief covering of those years, Saint Luke says this when relating the story of the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple –
“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and His Mother kept all these things in Her Heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favour before God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52)
What lesson do you suppose the Lord is teaching us in these lines from Scripture?
At the Visitation of Our Lady to Saint Elizabeth – the feast of which we celebrated just a couple of days ago – we read the words of the Magnificat, that great song of love from the Blessed Virgin directed towards God. The first few lines are quoted on the left of this page. What is very clear is that Mary holds back for Herself absolutely nothing whatsoever. Everything, without exception or reserve, is given to God. When She is praised, She immediately praises God. God gives Her a Son – She immediately gives Him back to God and maintains that act of giving even to standing at the foot of the Cross.
Authentic Marian devotion is never an end in itself. Following the example of Mary, our devotion to Her is simply a path that leads to God; but it is the most perfect path, for it is the path laid out before us in the example of the Lord Himself in those thirty hidden years.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote beautifully on the nature of authentic Marian devotion. The eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution On The Church, is about the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her role in the divine plan of salvation, and our relationship to Her. It characterises what our devotion to Mary should be like and it is very clear on Her relationship to the Lord and to each one us. In that chapter, we read –
“There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the Apostle, ‘for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a redemption for all’. The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.” (Lumen Gentium, n.60)
And so the teaching of the Catholic Church is very clear – authentic devotion to the Mother of God always leads us to Her Son; it does not stop with Her. Nor does it in any way whatsoever diminish our adoration of the Lord – rather, it fosters it.
In some ways, Mary is like a great heavenly window, a window onto the divine.
We may stand in front of a window and marvel at the warmth and light and power of the sunshine streaming in through that window. The window does not produce light of it’s own – it simply allows the sunlight to pass through it. The window, of course, in no way diminishes the sunlight; it does not mute it’s power, nor colour it’s light, nor subdue it’s warmth. The window, if entirely transparent, allows that heavenly light to pass through it unchanged, undiluted, uncooled, undiminished.
So it is with Mary.
She does not proclaim Her own greatness except to magnify the Lord, Who ordains it so. She rejoices not in Herself, for She is as nothing in comparison to Him, but She rejoices exclusively in the Lord. She does not adore Her own name, but His.
And so, if this is the nature of Mary – and it most certainly is, for the Church and the Saints constantly tell us so – then we need have no fear of going to Her and of then being led astray; always assuming, of course, that our devotion is properly authentic as described by the Church. What we present to the Mother of God, She presents to Her Son. She holds nothing back, keeps nothing for Herself. In Heaven, She continues to do what She expressed at the moment of the Annunciation – She gives Her never-ending ‘Yes’ to the Almighty and submits Herself perfectly to His divine will.
May She pray for us and assist us always, that we might do the same.