Remind Thy Son
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Fr Dominic Ryan meditates on the maternal intercession of the Holy Mother of God.
It’s quite common for parents to have unique authority in the lives of their children. Of course that’s not always apparent whilst the children are growing up but once they become adults, even a word from a parent can have a significant effect. And the mother-son relationship is no exception to that.
Very often, a quiet word from a mother can have a remarkable impact on their child. It can produce a big change in behaviour when all manner of alternatives have failed. And it can turn lukewarm interest or indifference on the part of the child into something approaching enthusiasm. Indeed, it’s not unknown for shrewd judges of human nature to approach a son’s mother in order to get her to persuade the son to do something for them. But if that is the case for even the most obstinate son, how much more effective will a mother’s word be in the case of a perfect son?
And that’s exactly what we find in the relationship between Christ and his mother Mary. Christ is the perfect son and Mary is his mother. And like any mother we can expect Mary to have a big influence on Christ her son. So today when we celebrate the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, the Church affords us a good opportunity to think about that relationship and to give thanks to God for it. But here it gets a little more complicated because Christ is not just only human as we are, Christ is divine also, he is God: Christ is divine and human. And that makes a difference in the way Mary influences her son Christ.
But what difference? We have to be careful here. Being divine and human does not make Christ any less human than we are, it does not make Christ any less Mary’s son, and it does not make Mary any less Christ’s mother.
Being human is about being a person who possesses human nature; Christ is a person who possesses human nature, therefore Christ is human. Similarly, being a mother is about giving birth to a person who is human, Mary gave birth to a person who is human, therefore Mary is a mother. What distinguishes Christ from ourselves is that from eternity Christ existed as a divine person whilst we do not. However in time, through the Incarnation, Christ became human: so Christ was a divine person who was human. But a divine person who is human, is a person who is human and as such a full and true human being, one who had a mother and was a son to her.
So how does Christ’s being divine and human make a difference in the way Mary influences her son? Well when a mother tries to influence her son it is quite likely that the son does not how things will work out. Indeed perhaps he does not even care how things will work out. And regardless of whether he cares or not, it is quite likely he can be persuaded to act one way or another. But that does not work in Christ’s case. Christ, as we saw, is divine and human. Christ is God and as such he cannot lack any knowledge and must know how things will work out.
However God does not just possess full knowledge of how things will work out, God also governs creation providentially and there are no gaps in that providence. So we cannot say that God does not care how some things will turn out or is open to persuasion, cajoling or any other such thing that we can think about. And thus it is for God, so it is also for Christ.
But if that’s the case, what role is left for Mary to influence Christ her son? Not much it seems. Thankfully that is not the end of the story. In his providence God does bring some things about through our intercession. It’s not that he leaves a gap in his providence for us to have our chance so to speak. Rather we come to desire what God wants in particular situations, we ask for it and God brings it about.
However for most of us what God brings about through our intercession is quite small, because we do not play a crucial role in salvation history. Mary on the other hand does play a crucial role in salvation history and consequently God in his providence does bring about many things through Mary’s intercession.
Hence a prayer offered to God through the intercession of his mother Mary stands a much better chance of being answered than one which is not offered through the intercession of Mary. And that is the way Mary can influence her son, just as we would expect a mother to be able to do.