Monica Miller has just authored a book, The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church, in which she devotes a chapter to Mary. In comparing Mary to Eve, she cites this wonderful piece of St. Irenaeus:
For, whereas the Lord, when born, was the first-begotten of the dead, and received into His bosom the primitive fathers, He regenerated them unto the Life of God. He Himself becoming the beginning of the living, since Adam became the beginning of the dying … And so the knot of Eve’s disobedience received its unloosing through the obedience of Mary; for what Eve, a virgin, bound by incredulity, that Mary, a virgin, unloosed by faith.
Pope Francis’ promotion of Mary, the untier of knots, has fascinated me. This quotation from one of the Fathers of the Church has helped to clarify this devotion for me. We honor Mary during this month of May. As Dr. Miller puts it: “Mary is God’s true partner in redemption, and is so precisely through her femininity. God re-created the world through a woman.”
We were bound up under sin, the sin of our first parents. This played out, as we know so well, in the Old Testament accounts of God’s people being rescued, being covenanted to God, falling into sin and experiencing the painful effects of sin, only to plea to God for another rescue. This is a real knot, a knot most of us experience in our own spiritual development. It is so difficult to escape from the knots that bind us up in sin, or in difficult family situations or even in societal messes.
Mary knows how to untie those knots. At Cana in Galilee, she simply asked the servers to do whatever Jesus told them. Mary always points us to Christ. If we watch him and listen to him and do as he urges, then those knots will be loosened. The great joy of our lives is that Mary wants to help us. As she stood at the foot of the cross with St. John, she was given to him and to us by Jesus to be Mother.
We must believe that Jesus wanted her to mother us as she had mothered him. Dr. Miller recalls my favorite scene from the Passion of the Christ, where Jesus falls carrying his cross. After a flashback to the time of Jesus’ childhood when Mary helped Jesus who had skinned his knee, we see Mary now run to Jesus to be with him and to urge him to get up and carry his cross. The will of the Father is all that matters. To do God’s will in our lives is the ultimate way to untie the complexities that seem to confound us.
My sisters and brothers, the best way to honor Mary is to follow both her words and her example – to watch Jesus and listen to him because he is the perfect sign of fidelity to the Father’s will, and then to seek and follow God’s will for our own lives. We can be assured that Mary is always there to help us get back up, to refocus, and to fulfill our destiny of being God’s sons and daughters. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.