This post is part of the Bright Maidens series of posts. Thanks to those lovely ladies for opening it up to all of us!
I've never really had a relationship with Mary.
I've often struggled with talking to her in prayer. I've certainly never been good at meditating on the mysteries of the rosary (I didn't even pray a full rosary until a year and a half ago!). Honestly, in prayer, I've just always wanted to go straight to Christ. Yes, I love my little saint intercessory prayers (my new favorite is a little rhyme to my confirmation saint, St. Frances Cabrini, for finding parking places in downtown DC... it works every time). I also send more than a few "Hail Mary" up to Heaven each day, but when I get deep down into prayer (which isn't often enough), I attempt to have a conversation with Christ (key word: attempt).
Sure, I understand why Mary is important. Her "Yes" made her the new Eve. Her "Yes" brought the new Adam into the world to redeem us all. God chose Mary to be His mother. That's a big deal. I understand and truly believe all of this, but there has still always been a roadblock between me and forming a relationship with Mary.
I think the biggest stumbling block for me is when I hear women say that it is easier for them to relate and talk to Mary, that they always take things to Mary, because she understands how it feels to be a woman.
I've always been confused by this, because I usually feel the exact opposite. Mary was perfect here on earth, and now she's perfect in Heaven. How on earth could I ever hope to relate to someone who is the perfect human being, and how could this perfect embodiment of submission to God's will ever be able to understand me?
Then, on Good Friday this year, I finally watched The Passion of the Christ for the first time. I was shocked and amazed at the brutality that Christ suffered for us. Yes, I always knew and understood that it was the ultimate suffering, and so it would be bad, but seeing it played out made it all the more real. I cringed when his flesh was ripped from his body at the scourging at the pillar. I winced when the crown of thorns was pushed onto his head. I literally curled up into a ball on my chair when the nails were driven through his hands and feet.
But my eyes as I watched Christ suffer? My eyes were dry.
I'm the kind of girl that cries in movies all the time. I've cried during The Prince of Egypt (*sob* God is *choke* soooo gooood! *hiccup*). I tear up during the scene in Pride and Prejudice as Lizzy and Mr. Darcy walk towards each other across the dew-soaked fields (he loves her *sooo* much that he did all those things just for her *tear*). I have been known to watch The Notebook when I just need emotional release through a good cry.
But as I watched Christ's Passion, my eyes were not moved to tears. Yes, I had the proper visceral reactions, but I had thought I would sob like I never have before.
Was there something wrong with me? Was I so cold that I couldn't even shed a tear for the One who died to redeem me? Cry, just CRY!, I screamed in my head.
And then I saw Mary.
I watched Mary place her ear against the stone ground, right above Jesus shackled underground, just to be nearer to her son.
I watched as she comforted Mary Magdalene, letting the young girl cry on her shoulder.
I watched as she used crisp white towels to soak up her son's blood from the cobblestones.
I watched Mary's memory of Jesus as boy: watching him fall, running to pick him up, whispering in his ear that she was there for him. I watched Mary run to whisper in the ear of her grown son, who was carrying the burden of the world on his shoulders, letting him know that she was still there for him.
I watched as Mary accepted John as her son when Christ gave him to her from the cross. I watched as he accepted her as his mother.
I listened as Mary cried out in agony, "Flesh of my flesh, heart of my heart, My son, let me die with you."
I watched Mary cradle her dead son as he was removed from the cross.
I watched her tears, watched her shake, watched her shudder in pain, but never to turn her eyes away from what her son was suffering. She always watched with a steadfast faith, even though her heart was being torn from her chest.
It was during these times when I watched Mary that I finally cried.
It was through this that I came to a new understanding of what it means to relate to Mary as a woman. It means relating to Mary as a mother, because all of us women are called to be mothers, whether it is physically bringing a child into the world or being a spiritual mother to friends and family. All women have that motherly instinct rooted within their souls, even though many "feminists" today try to ignore it and push it aside.
I was in too much shock to shed tears watching Jesus suffer, but I was able to cry whenever I saw Mary, because that motherly instinct rooted in my soul could experience an ounce of the pain she felt as she watched her son die.
I'm not a mother, and maybe I'm not called to be a mother, but serving and loving others as a mother would love a child is ingrained in what it means to be a woman.
This is why Mary is important to me, to all women, and to the Church as a whole. It's not just because she was perfect. It's not just because she was the vessel through which God was made flesh. Yes, those things are crucial.
But now when I ask myself - and more importantly, when others ask me - "Why Mary?" - I'll know the answer.
It's because she teaches us how to be women in how she teaches us to serve others by being the perfect mother.