When, in the lesson on “Our Lady in Spiritual Life”, I present our place in Mary, I use different images and drawings as theological iconographical diagrams. One of these images is of the Sun (Jesus-God) and the Moon (Mary). I also use two chairs, with Jesus and Mary seated on each respectively and we are called to find our place in her. Other images to be taken into account are the images of The Good Soil (Mary) and the Seed (Jesus, Word of God) and the New Skin (Mary) and New Wine (Jesus).
The difficulty that arises regarding our place in Mary is how to situate Mary with regard to Jesus. Dogmatically something does not seem to fit perfectly. And this is because of our failing to see the relationship between Mary and Jesus, or better said: how Mary relates to Jesus.
This in turn impacts on our understanding of what is means to dwell “in Mary”, which does not seem to be totally aligned with the “dwelling in Christ”. On one hand we understand the Church as being Jesus’ Body, but it is a struggle to find the correct “place” for Mary.
In faith we acknowledge that she is the Mother of the Church, we know that Mary is the New Eve, but we still have reservations about how it fits dogmatically.
A brief inroad into Theology itself is necessary here, in order to be able to articulate these different “elements” of the dogmatic structure of our faith.
We easily understand and admit dogmatically our own place in the Trinity. But before talking about it, let us look at the Trinity after the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Let us see the relationship between Jesus, the Second Person Incarnate and the Father.
On this diagram we can easily see the structure of the Son. His created humanity (body, soul, spirit) is united to his divinity in the unique Divine Second Person of the Trinity, the Son’s Person. The Son is the Perfect worshiper of the Father.
Now, through baptism we are inserted or grafted onto Christ, and our dwelling place is in his human nature: his body is the dwelling place of our body, his soul of our soul and his spirit of our spirit. And all our being, dwelling in his Humanity, becomes automatically united to his Divinity and can relate to the Father, in the Holy Spirit, as follows:
As the diagram illustrates, our nature (to the right of the diagram) is called to dwell in Jesus’ human nature. With Jesus being the perfect worshiper and our being grafted onto Him, we can worship the Father in the Son and in the Spirit.
This diagram, furthermore, is the classic one, understood by all the Fathers of the Church, it constitutes our faith, and it structures our prayers. We always pray to the Father, while being in the Son (dwelling in Him), through the Holy Spirit.
Now, if we leave this classic theological representation of the Trinity with the Son Incarnate and our place in Him, and we move to the second theological diagram representing the relationship between Jesus and Mary, as well as between Mary and us, using images of the Sun (Jesus) and the Moon (Mary), we can see a similar picture emerging:
Two factors can now be easily accepted:
1- That Jesus is God incarnate, the object of our worship because He is God; being perfect God and perfect man, He is « our everything » and we find in Him all that we need.
2- That Mary is the perfect disciple of Jesus.
This diagram above now illustrates the perfect relationship between Mary and Jesus.
If we explore the Parable of the Sower, and admit that “The Good Soil” is Mary, the only soil that bears fruits, we can then represent it this way:
Each one of the three first soils, seen above, represents us, and the fourth, Mary, is what we would like to be for Jesus : the Good Soil, capable of receiving Jesus and Jesus’ Words, and bearing fruits. In this sense, a prayer like the “Hail Mary”, lifts us from where we are to being inside of Mary as follows:
We are lifted by the Holy Spirit in Mary, we receive her Eyes and Her Heart, so we can contemplate Jesus and love Him with the perfection of her way. As we see here, her capacity is given to us, her eyes and her heart, the way the Holy Spirit works in her – all this is given to us.
In this sense we are called to dwell in her.
The difficulty now emerges because we cannot see how to reconcile this diagram, with the first one.
First, let us return to the second dogmatic diagram and try to gain a clearer understanding of Mary’s place. An objection here can arise: in the first Dogmatic diagram, Jesus is seen as the perfect subject of our faith. Since we enter in Him and we face the Father, we become in Him the perfect subject. How can we align the first diagram with the second one? Where can we superimpose the Sun-Moon diagram onto the Trinitarian diagram? Let us proceed step by step. First let us examine the doctrine of the Mystical Body as presented by St. Paul. Here we can still use the Trinitarian Dogmatic Diagram, and within the Son we can represent Christ the Head (of his Body) and Christ the Body (his mystical body). In this case, we see the doctrine of the Total Christ, or the Whole Christ, which integrates Christ the Head and Christ the Body – the Body being all of us, the Church, his Mystical Body.
Next, in order to represent Mary inside of this diagram, the temptation is to copy St. Bernard and say that Mary is the neck of the Church or the neck of Christ’s Mystical Body. So we would have something roughly along these lines:
This representation, however, is not perfect for it doesn’t help us understand the exact role of Mary vis a vis us and therefore the integration of the second diagram (Sun-Moon) inside of the Trinitarian diagram is not quite clear.
What would really make more sense, then, is to represent Mary in this way:
Mary, as it were, seems to appear in two lights: as Jesus’ disciple and as the mother of all the elect, having them all in her “womb”. In this sense, Mary herself is “head” and “body”, because she is virgin and mother. In this sense, “Christ’s Body” (the Church, the New Jerusalem) coincides with Mary but the enlarged Mary, the whole Mary, the total Mary, the pregnant Mary, pregnant with all humanity enclosed in her Womb.
The Easter Liturgy of the Byzantine rite seems to endorse this for therein Mary is sung to, inviting her to rejoice because of the resurrection of Our Lord and his appearing to her, and then moving on to describe her as being simply “Jerusalem.” Her womb in fact contains all of us. Dwelling in her is also dwelling in Him absolutely because She is in Him.
As we can see in the diagram above, the two diagrams are integrated into one. In fact the development of St. Paul in his Apostolic letters (Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians) explaining the mystery of the mystical Body of Jesus, the Church, her coming out of Jesus’ Side, his being the New Adam and the Church being the New Eve, is a step toward the final doctrinal adjustment where Mary (totally absent from St. Paul’s teaching) takes the first place after Jesus place as taught by St. Luke, from his first chapter onwards: Mary’s Faith is the only way to believe in a fruitful way.
Also acceptable is to represent a combination of both diagrams, the Trinitarian one and the Sun-Moon one, in this way:
Now, let us go back to one of the hidden meanings of the Immaculate Conception, in order for us to really appreciate who Mary is in relation to Christ. This leads us into deeper waters.
The definition of the Immaculate Conception says the following: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
What should capture our attention is that Mary is not parallel to Christ. She is not receiving this “privilege” independently from Christ. This unique grace given to her, saving her in anticipation, is given “by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ” the only saviour and Her Saviour. This is what she says and recognises in the Magnificat: “my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”, i.e. Jesus. She owes her salvation, her being immaculate from conception, to Jesus the redeemer. In this sense if she contemplates the Lord on the Cross, if she contemplates his open side, she finds in it her origin.
Are we able to take in the enormity of this? Mary is the first Creature that comes out, saved, immaculate, from Jesus’ Side. It is not the Church, it is the Mother of the Church, the New Eve that comes out from Jesus’ side first. The Church comes afterwards. All her being comes from Him. Do we really understand this?
When the first Adam says: ““At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh!”” (Gn 2:23), we can also hear Jesus talking about Mary after she came out of his side, contemplating her, in an amazing ecstasy. Mary is indeed part of Him! She owes her entire being to Him, she is this rib taken from Adam, part of Him, built immediately afterwards, and in the end IS “bone of his bone” and “flesh of his flesh”. What is the Eucharist, then? It is Jesus who gives us His Body and His Blood (or bone). By receiving the Eucharist, we become part of Jesus, his body and his blood. This is why, in fact, St. Paul says: you are Jesus’ Body.
But before us, we have Mary, and the way she comes to life, comes into being saved, into being the Immaculate Conception, comes directly from Jesus. When Jesus gives Mary as Mother to John (John 19), He makes of her the mother of the Church. She is the New Eve, and mother of the Living.
Jesus on the Cross is the direct and sole origin of Mary.
“She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’” (Gn 2:23) These words encapsulate a great mystery. Taken from “man”….Her name is made of his name. She comes from Him, hence her name. This is the reason for the Lord to call her twice in St. John (forming a literary inclusion): “woman” (John 2 and 19). Why? He is naming her! Jesus names Mary, He gives Mary her true name: woman. He says to us: she comes from me, directly, saved in anticipation. By calling her “woman”, He is saying to us: let me explain to you who Mary is, my mother, from where she comes, her origin, her relationship with me. She comes from my open side! She is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, she is taken from me, THE MAN, this is way I am calling her: Woman.
So, dwelling in Her, is dwelling in Him. Because she dwells in Him, She is inseparable from him.
What does Dwelling in Mary’s Womb Mean?
St Augustine says (quote by De Montfort) that it is during this lifetime that the Elect (the chosen) are hidden in Mary.
If we clarify this we note that we become like Mary; we are transformed in her.
Baptism offers us two things: God and the Capacity to deal with God, called “Faith”. But it is Mary’s Faith. Initially we don’t have this understanding, we think that the theological virtues received in Baptism hang in the air, but in the fact, they are Mary’s Faith, Hope and Love. One day as our spiritual life grows, we become more aware of this, and during the deepest purification, going through the Passion, the light dawns that the new man in us is in fact Mary, who is received in Baptism.
So, we are not merely hidden in Mary, carried by her, and then we leave her! No! It goes deeper than this: we are transformed in Her, she grows in us, and her capacity to contemplate and to love becomes ours. Think of the Holy Spirit who works in Her, and think of the perfection in which He works in Her. Her purity (she is immaculate) is given to us (during the deepest purification) her being is communicated, as it were, transmitted or grows in us. Can we leave her ever? Before death or after it? Of course not, it is nonsense! We become like an extension of her. Without losing our identity or personality, we are her children in the sense that she is alive in us. Indeed, to paraphrase the words of St. Paul regarding Christ, we can say: “it is not I who live as a subject of faith, it is Mary who lives in me”.
“I ask Mary to come and sit on the throne of my heart so when I receive Communion, Jesus has the impression to enter in her and dwell in her” (and is immensely pleased), says Thérèse.
Similarly, St. Paul says: The Father sees the Son in us, and therefore is immensely pleased. St. John of the Cross says it in a way: God is only pleased by God or by anything that has God’s life in it. We can say the same: Jesus is pleased if He sees Mary in us, or the greater degree of transformation of us in Her.
Mary’s place in Jesus, then, means being transformed in Her. a transformation into Her. We come to resemble her more and more. As St. Paul says about Christ: we are called to resemble Him more and more.
This living image of Mary in us should never come to an end! It is in the measure of our transformation in her that we have the measure of our future Glory in heaven. She is the New Jerusalem, not as a physical outside wall, or womb, but rather because she is the New Jerusalem in us, alive in us.
We can say: Mary becomes my mystical reality while retaining her unique distinct person. In the same way we understand Christ present in us yet also transcending us in His person, retaining his unique distinct person.
Indeed it is a mystical reality. The fact that Mary is our “Spiritual Mother” involves a mystical dimension and reality. Baptism itself is a mystical reality: it grafts us in Christ, it communicates to us the theological virtues.
Receiving Communion is a mystical reality.
Union with God, Union with Jesus is a mystical reality.
To say with St. Paul that “Jesus lives in me” is also a mystical reality.
To say that we are Jesus’ Body is a mystical reality.
To dwell in Mary, is a mystical reality. To receive her way (the Holy Spirit) of dealing with Christ is a mystical reality. The fact that in the Annuciation she said “yes” in our name (Catechism 511), is a mystical reality. Human maternity is a communion, where the mother shares her blood with the child in her womb. She gives life. Mary becomes Our Mother from the first moment Divine Charity enters in Her and is active through her, and this dimension in her grows. Her spiritual Maternity, through the work of the Holy Spirit in her, allows her to give us Divine Life.
The Holy Spirit Himself is THE mystical reality par excellence.
Redemption is a mystical reality. Christ on the Cross, while not moving with his body, is “moving” by the action of the Holy Spirit, immersing himself in us, in our dark world. This is a mystical reality. “There is a Baptism with which I must be baptised” (Luke 12:50) says Jesus, i.e. I need to be immersed in each one of you, in order for you to receive the Holy Spirit and in order for you to be united with me.
Forgiving our brothers and blessing them is a mystical reality: because we send them the Holy Spirit, i.e. our forgiveness
Can we understand this prayer of Thérèse: “O Mary, if I were Queen of Heaven and you were Thérèse, I would want to be Thérèse so that you might be Queen of Heaven!!! (September 8, 1897).” ? It is a mysterious sentence, carrying a mystical intensity.