There are some movies that remain etched in your mind and heart until you die. For me the 1955 black and white production Marcelino Pan y Vino is one such movie. It is the heart-warming story of an orphan boy, left on the doorstep of a monastery. Unable to find a family they feel would love the boy, the friars bring him up themselves. It is poignant to see Marcellino discovering Jesus Christ in a sensitive, miraculous, and very moving way.
Marcellino loves his 12 fathers, however he yearns for a mother and focuses his search on Jesus’ mother.
Like Marcellino, we all need a mother in our life. Even Jesus needed a mother and God chose Mary, a humble Jewish girl, to be His. In doing so, He made her our mother as well. What is beautiful about Mary, the one we call Theotokos, birth-giver of God, is that she is actually one of us.
Though freed from original sin from conception, Mary had to go through this struggle of life, just like every other human being.
The Gospels portray her as someone who traveled a road that was often hard and shrouded in obscurity. Like all of us. The ‘sword of sorrow’ foretold by Simeon did not pierce her heart only on Calvary. In Nazareth she was probably gossiped about ruthlessly because she was pregnant before being actually married to Joseph. Because the child she carried was fully human as well as fully God, she must have experienced all the discomforts of pregnancy. She had to give birth away from home, in a stable – surely not the most hygienic place to give birth in.
She raised her son the best she knew how and, at one time, so scripture tells us, was even baffled by His activities, as so many of the parents are by their children. She did not always understand what was happening. Everything was so dark. Mysteries are always just that – inexplicable. She had to ponder the events of her life to see God’s hand in the darkness.
At times she misunderstood and had to be challenged by her Son, as when she reproached him for staying behind in Jerusalem, and when she pointed out to him the lack of wine at the Cana festivities and she had to face his odd answer, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
She had to separate herself from the love of her life, Jesus, when he, an adult, set out on his public ministry, leaving her home alone in Nazareth. His mission required that. Many in their family thought he has gone crazy, the Gospels tell us. And she suffered what parents pray they will never have to witness, the cruel death of her son
The Orthodox Church has a really incredibly beautiful hymn called the akathist dedicated to Mary. There Mary is acclaimed as “much-talked-of Wonder of angels, the Flower of incorruption, the Door of blessed Mystery.” And yet what is perhaps most beautiful, definitely most comforting, is that Mary is one of us.
Seeing her constancy in faith, we take courage in our doubts and misgivings about ourselves and God. Seeing her completely at the disposal of God, even when she could not possibly see the fullness of his plan for her, helps us to trust Him because He will never let us down. Seeing how she never turned back or tried to find an easier path, heartens us to be wholehearted and strong in our daily endeavors.
We have our joys and our disappointments. At times we feel very secure in God’s hands, very confident that we know what he is asking of us. But at other times he seems very distant. Things happen to us which don’t seem to fit the original plan and which are hard to patch up with his enduring love for us. There are times of hurt, darkness and anguish. We are thrown back on faith alone. All other comforts and support are taken away. ‘Naked faith’ as the saints are wont to call it. It is in times like these that we need someone like Mary, who went through what we are suffering and who knows what it is like. We need the Woman of Faith. She gives us hope.
Remember what Saint Augustine says. “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
With Mary as our companion, we may start again seeing what we believe. “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
Wonder, marvel, excitement… What happened to the eagerness of that little girl who rode a train with her mother? Looking out the window, she exclaimed, “Look! A horse!” And a moment later, “Look! Houses!” She gave every indication of keeping this up, so her embarrassed mother apologized to the man next to her. “I’m sorry my daughter is going on like this,” she said. “She still thinks everything is wonderful.”
Mary, the ‘one-of-us’ can teach us that really everything is wonderful…
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.