The Importance of Mary
Even a brief snippet of a Marian song gives the listener a sense of how much Catholics revere and are devoted to Mary, the Blessed Mother. Many non-Catholic denominations paint Our Lady as simply an unknowing young girl who carried our Lord in her womb as a vessel carries water, and after the Nativity of Jesus, her usefulness was complete.
The Catholic understanding of the importance of Mary is so deep, rich, beautiful, and Biblically-based. Catholics are blessed to have a fullness of understanding of her role in salvation as well as a personal relationship with her. The lyrics of some of the most-loved Marian hymns shed light on why Mary is not only warmly loved and respected as a mother figure, but also why, theologically, Marian dogmas are sound and foundational to the Catholic Faith.
Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing,
Who reignest in splendor with Jesus our King. (Immaculate Mary)
When Our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico in the year 1531, during the throes of the Protestant Revolt, she introduced herself as "The Immaculate Conception". Mary, the future Mother of God, was conceived without the stain of original sin so that she would be worthy to carry within her and to raise the Son of God. In His infinite wisdom, The Almighty would not have chosen a sinful woman to carry and raise His Son, and so He deemed that her soul would be preserved from sin. Like Jesus, she knew temptation because she was human, but she did not possess the inclination to succumb to the allure of sin. This made her a fit Mother and example to our young Savior, as she raised Him with St. Joseph. When the angel Gabriel first greets Mary in the opening chapter of the Gospel of Luke, his greeting "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28), indicates that she because she was full of God's grace, there was no room for sin in her soul. In a fascinating modern twist, scientists have found that DNA from unborn babies migrates across the placenta during gestation and into the mother's body through nursing and takes up residence in the mother's blood and brain for the remainder of her life. The connection between the Immaculate Conception and Jesus deepens: the Blessed Mother retained in her pure body the actual DNA of her Son for her lifetime. That is astounding to consider!
Thy name is our power, thy virtues our light,
Thy love is our comfort, thy pleading our might. (Immaculate Mary)
Mary, Queen of Saints, is the exemplar of virtue. Her very being is a living example of all the virtues we try to practice, though we often stumble. Humility, the cornerstone virtue for Christians, the virtue opposing the sin of pride, is magnificently embodied by the Blessed Mother. Throughout the Scriptures, she consistently put the will of God first and thought of herself last. She surrendered her will and her very life to His hands, without complaint and without bragging of her special place in Salvation History. She kept silent and pondered these things in her heart.
Our life, our sweetness, here below, O Maria!
Our hope in sorrow and in woe, O Maria! (Hail, Holy Queen)
The love Mary had and always will have for Jesus is beyond what our imaginations can fathom. Now try to understand how much she loves you! Our Blessed Mother loves and cares for each of us like we are one of her very own. Approach Mary with the same comfort with which you approach your earthly mother. And if your own mother is not in your life any longer, perhaps due to estrangement or death or some other painful circumstance, go to Our Lady that much more fervently. If you ask her, she will wrap you in her mantle and hold you close. Just as Simeon predicted in the temple to Mary at the Presentation of Jesus, she indeed suffered so much sorrow by being the Mother of God. She knows intimately the pain we experience, and she comforts us in our own sufferings. Lumen Gentium explains this eloquently,
"By her motherly love, she takes care of the brothers of her Son who are still in pilgrimage and in dangers and difficulties, until they be led through to the happy fatherland."
Advocate and loving mother,
Mediatrix of all grace. (Daily, Daily Sing of Mary)
Christ is the One Mediator, and Mary's fiat at the Annunciation is the channel through which Christ's graces flows. Her free-will answer of "Yes!" to God provided the means for Christ to be incarnated and to be our singular Redeemer. Peggy Frye explains the relationship between Redeemer and Mediatrix of All Graces:
"Whether or not we would have a mediator was dependent on Mary’s "yes." Had there been no "yes" from Mary, there would have been no mediator. Thus the graces that come through Jesus may be said to come to us, in a secondary way, via Mary—not as the origin of the graces, but as a conduit."
To put it simply, Mary always leads us to Jesus. The closer we grow in our relationship with Mary, the closer she will bring us to Jesus. Even Martin Luther, leader of the 16th century's Protestant Revolt, voiced full-throated agreement with Marian dogma:
"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God" (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521).
As the Queen of Heaven, in eternal joy with her Son, no one is a more reliable and powerful intercessor on our behalf than Mary. Just as she first quietly interceded for the wedding hosts in Cana to save them the embarrassment of running out of wine, she quietly intercedes for us, if we so much as approach her and request it. It is the reason Mary is the focus of so much Catholic jewelry - wearing her close brings you closer to Jesus.