Have you ever been driving at night when it was so dark that you could barely see the road illuminated by your headlights? I remember one time making my way across the hill country of Texas, headed from College Station to Austin with some companions, I tried to take a short cut and shave off some time. Yep, we got lost.
We could see the Austin city lights just over the horizon, but the darkness and the trees prevented me from getting my bearings. Just when it seemed we'd be lost forever in the darkness, I spotted a signpost that pointed the way to the city. With directions, we managed to make it safely back to the highway. Without that signpost directing me to the city, there is no telling how long we'd have wandered around the hills outside Austin before stumbling upon it.
In our journey to Christ, we have a signpost who leads us always to Christ: the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first thing to remember about Mary is that everything we believe about her says something about Jesus Christ. In fact, the only reason we believe what we do about the Blessed Virgin is because of what it says about our Savior. The Catechism, quoting the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, underscores how Christ-centered Marian devotion is:
The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.” The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (#492)
To be sure, there are many other role-models for the Christian, but Our Lady is the role model par excellence. From even before Christ's birth, she was singled out for honor and devotion, that through her we may come to know Christ more personally. She was the one human being who carried the child Savior within her womb, who nourished Him at her breast, who bathed Him and held His hand. Regarding her, Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul (cf. Lk 2:35). Mary lived hidden with Second Person of the Trinity for 30 years. We can only glimpse such grace when we approach our Lord in the Eucharist or in Adoration. Mary was with Him at the most important times of His life on earth: His annunciation, birth, dedication, the beginning of His ministry, His Passion and death, His Resurrection and ascension. Then, along with the Apostles, she was present for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room.
Mary is also known as Queen of Angels, and the Angel Gabriel greeted her as he would a queen. He spoke with respect and honor, calling her “full of grace,” (Lk 1:28) this from a being “who stands before God” and presumably knows exactly what “full of grace” means! When the Blessed Mother went to visit St. Elizabeth, her cousin greeted her as “the Mother of my Lord.” (Lk 1:43) The Greek word used in the Scripture is Kyrios, which is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH (transliterated into the English “Yahweh”) the name of God. St. Elizabeth, then, was the first to recognize the Blessed Virgin as the Theotokos, or God-Bearer literally, the Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 recognized this fact and proclaimed her such.
We recently celebrated the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the western Church. This feast recognizes the kingship of Jesus Christ that by acknowledging Him as our King, we also recognize the Blessed Virgin as the Queen-Mother. In his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, Pope Pius XII recognized what had been the long tradition of Christian people dating back to “the earliest times” to proclaim the Blessed Virgin as “Queen.” The pope stated clearly that her royal title is derived exclusively from Christ's crown: Certainly, in the full and strict meaning of the term, only Jesus Christ, the God-man, is King; but Mary, too, as Mother of the divine Christ, as His associate in the redemption, in His struggle with His enemies and His final victory over them, has a share, though in a limited and analogous way, in His royal dignity. For from her union with Christ she attains a radiant eminence transcending that of any other creature; from her union with Christ she receives the royal right to dispose of the treasures of the Divine Redeemer's Kingdom; from her union with Christ finally is derived the inexhaustible efficacy of her maternal intercession before the Son and His Father (#39).
The Catechism calls Mary “the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church…The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope” (#2679). Through her intercession, and learning from her at the school of prayer, we are afforded the opportunity to join in the family prayer she offers to God. We can approach her Son through her and beside her, and the closer we are to her, the closer we can be to our Divine Lord. That's really what Marian devotion is all about, finding a sure path straight to the feet of our Lord. She's an excellent signpost.
© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange
Mickey Addison is a career military officer, and has been a catechist at the parish level since 2000. He and his wife have been married for 19 years and they have two children. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was previously published on the Rosary Army’s website and is used by permission.