She Who Carried God in Her Womb


Or as the Greeks would say, “Theotokos.”

Mary has innumerable feasts through the liturgical year; this is one of the important ones. The simple western title “Mother,” profound enough, does not always capture for us the image of child bearing or birthing.

Pope Benedict caught some of it with his reference to Mary giving Jesus his earthly body and blood. The whole picture of pregnancy includes bearing the child, and there is an implication at least of burden. Is God a burden to us? Likely so, when our will comes into conflict with his. Constructively, we can take the burden and struggle of fulfilling God’s will, and turn it around into something outside of our selves, something we give birth to, a way in which we make Christ evident in our lives.

My observation is that we do this repeatedly. Few Christians seem to have transcended the struggle and difficulties and dry deserts of faith. But when we do encounter them, what would it be for us to accept them as Mary accepted her pregnancy? What would that look like?

God’s challenge is taken to our interior, to the place of reflection, contemplation. We give God and ourselves time to get used to some new challenge. The time will come–the one being borne (and born) knows when the time is right. Some new aspect of our faith life, of Christ, could burst out of us. We would be participants in a spiritual way, showing forth Christ to those around us.

Or if you prefer a more agrarian image: think of the spiritual struggles as a farmed field. Lots of work and labor go into cultivating life and producing food. The harvest is an evident time of plenty and blessing–when it goes well.

I’ve often overlooked today’s psalm, but it has echoes throughout the psalter and today’s theme of “Theotokos.”

May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us.
So shall your rule be known upon the earth, your saving power among all the nations.

Of course. We sang about this on Christmas, in Psalm 98:3b, in which we proclaim:

All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Earlier NAB’s sing of “salvation” rather than “victory,” but the combination of the two words is apt.

May the nations be glad and shout for joy; for you govern the peoples justly, you guide the nations upon the earth.

Again, singing of God’s desire for universal salvation.

The earth has yielded its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.

Like Psalm 98:7-8 (Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell there. Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy … ) 67:7 speaks of nature: the yield of the harvest, a fruitfulness that also echoes the Nativity as well as the human spiritual life.

May God bless us still; that the ends of the earth may revere our God.

Communal confidence. Others notice because God has transformed our lives, brought a harvest of grace. And like Mary, the blessed community (or individual) keeps the focus on God, like those many icons of Mary in which her gesture toward the Son helps us keep things in perspective.

Much good reflection on Mary, but if you don’t cover it all, there are plenty of liturgical feasts to return you to the theme.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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