Mary and Easter: Part 1
Fr Kevin Alban reflects on Mary and Easter in this first part..
The presence of Mary in the gospel accounts is highly significant, but suddenly after the crucifixion she seems to disappear, only to re-emerge very briefly in the Acts of the Apostles in the upper room, praying with the disciples as they await the Holy Spirit. Outside the scriptures, other writers have asserted strongly that the Risen Lord appears to his mother. Saint Ambrose, the fourth-century bishop of Milan, states: “Mary saw the Lord’s resurrection. She was the first who saw and believed.” In the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, the Fourth week begins with a meditation on the appearance of the Risen Christ to Mary. Surely it would have been impossible for the Risen Lord not to have appeared to his mother? Yet the gospels do not record this. There are some complex reasons behind this, but perhaps there is also something to help us as well.
Mary’s attitude in the gospels of Luke and John is particularly instructive here. In Luke we see a woman who is trying to make sense of the reality that she encounters:
But Mary was very confused about what the angel said. She wondered, “What does this mean?” (Luke 1:29)
Everyone was surprised when they heard what the shepherds told them. Mary continued to think about these things, trying to understand them. (Luke 2:18-19)
But they did not understand the meaning of what he said to them. Jesus went with them to Nazareth and obeyed them. His mother was still thinking about all these things. (Luke 2: 50-51)
The meaning of the phrase “thinking about these things” is that Mary was trying to work out what was happening to her. She is faced with some confusing and strange scenarios and she wants to understand what is happening and how she fits in. She does not claim to have all the answers, but she is prepared to think about and make sense of the reality around her. We are faced with the reality of the Church’s preaching that Christ has risen. How do we understand this in our own lives and what does it mean for the way we see our place in the Church’s preaching?
If we fast forward from the accounts of Jesus’ birth and infancy to his crucifixion, then we see a group of women in Luke’s gospel who watch the crucifixion. Was Mary in this group? Or was she devastated by what was happening to her son? Both reactions are possible, both are normal, both are human. Do we have the courage to contemplate the crucifixion or do we turn away, unable to bear it? Mary helps us in either case – a woman of courage, but also a mother.
Whatever we make of Mary’s presence or not at the Crucifixion, she was certainly with the disciples in the upper room:
The apostles were all together. They were constantly praying with the same purpose. Some women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers were there with the apostles. (Acts 1:14)
It is fairly clear that Mary has come to believe in the resurrection of her son, drawing on her capacity to work out the meaning and truth of the reality she encounters. She is also able to translate that discovery into engagement with the early Church – that same group of men and women she had known during her son’s ministry, but now transformed by faith. This challenges us to not only believe, but to put that belief into practice in prayer and in community. Presumably she shared not only the spiritual life of the group, but also the lifestyle that we read about:
All the believers stayed together and shared everything. They sold their land and the things they owned. Then they divided the money and gave it to those who needed it. (Acts 2: 44-45)
Our belief in the resurrection changes the way we live and interact with each other and with the world – and Mary is part of this process.
We will share Part 2 next week…
Let us pray…
Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel)
13th-century hymn to Our Lady attributed to the Carmelite St. Simon Stock
Flower of Carmel, tall vine, blossom-laden;
splendour of heaven, child-bearing, yet maiden;
none equals thee.
Mother so tender, whom no man didst know,
on Carmel's children thy favours bestow;
Star of the Sea!
Strong stem of Jesse, who bore one bright flower,
be ever near us, and guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies, that flowers among thorns,
bring help to true hearts that in weakness turn
and trust in thee.
Strongest of armour, we trust in thy might,
under thy mantle, hard pressed in the fight,
we call to thee.
Our way, uncertain, surrounded by foes,
unfailing counsel you offer to those
who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother, who in Carmel reigns,
share with your servants that gladness you gained,
and now enjoy.
Hail, gate of heaven, with glory now crowned,
bring us to safety, where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.
V. Holy Mary, Mother of Christ, hear the cry of your servants.
R. And bring down heavenly aid in answer to our prayer.
SAINT JUDE, PRAY FOR US; OUR LADY, PRAY FOR US.
Thank you, Fr Kevin Alban