Sassoferrato, The Virgin in Prayer 1640-50, The National Gallery London.
Our Lord God showed our lady Saint Mary at the same time; that is to say he showed her deep wisdom and faith as she beheld her Maker so great, so high, so strong, and so good. Seeing the greatness and nobility of God filled her with reverent awe, and she saw herself so small and so low, so simple and so poor in comparison with her Lord God, but this reverent awe made her feel very humble. And so this formed the foundation, from which she was filled with grace and every kind of virtue, surpassing any other created being. Julian of Norwich The Long Text 7.
I have spoken before about how I have come belatedly to an embryonic understanding and veneration of Our Lady, the mother of Christ. At first I struggled to understand but could see from the deep reverence of other believers that there was something important I was missing. Now, having prayed and pondered, she has become, for me a paradigm.
She is a paradigm of faith. When told she was to bear a child out of wedlock with all the shame humiliation and possibly disastrous consequences for her personally, she immediately said yes. She had faith that God would never let her down.
She is a paradigm of kindness. At the wedding in Cana when the wine ran out she didn’t gloat, laugh or criticise. Her first thought was for the young couple celebrating their most special day. Nor did she take any credit or put her son forward for recognition. It was all done with utmost discretion and sensitivity.
She is a paradigm for those who’ve lost a child. She had to watch her son wrongly accused, tortured and killed in a cruel and public way. It is a most hideous thing to lose a child but we cannot say that God and Mary have not gone before us and experienced it with us.
Of course she is a paradigm of motherly love. As he died Jesus’ last thought was for his mother. He gave her into the care of his beloved disciple but he also knew that with all the disciples she would be one of the foundations of his Church.
She is a paradigm of discipleship and her veneration as Jesus’ mother must have started in the earliest days. She would have known so much about her son’s life and surely would have talked about him, passing her knowledge to the other disciples in the early days of the church.
But she is more than a paradigm. Eternal life does not begin when we die – eternal life begins now as we enter into relationship with Jesus, Mary, all the saints and the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.
Mary was then and she is now and forever. Hallelujah.