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Mary, Mother of God



The original version of this paper was presented at a meeting of the "Hirst Christian Fellowship" in July 1985. I am publishing it here for two reasons. First, because it hardly seems proper for a traditionalist Catholic to say nothing about the Blessed Mother of God. Second, because recently a disturbing article was posted on a number of lists suggesting that the traditional Catholic view of the Mother of Jesus was incompatible with scripture. It did this by presenting a somewhat hysterical overstatement of authentic doctrine and spirituality and then highlighting its absurdities and where it went beyond scriptural warrant. I hope that this article will make some small contribution to righting the balance. It is intended to be a calm account of the main points of Catholic belief regarding the Blessed Virgin. The emphasis is on showing how much can be established from or linked to Scripture.

The Witness of the New Testament

The Annunciation and Visitation [Lk 1:26-45]

The angel comes to Mary and salutes her:
"Hail, favoured one: the Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what sort of greeting this might be.
The girl who is to become the mother of Jesus is addressed as favoured. Whatever the exact meaning, this greeting meant more than "hello!" The saying astonished Mary, how was she favoured and in what way was the Lord with her? Still, she was not frightened or shocked at the sight of an angel, just troubled at his words. It is as if the angelic vision was not a surprise, perhaps Mary was accustomed to such happenings? The angel continues:
'"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God."
This speaks of some kind of merit, of God having looked upon His lowly handmaid and seeing that she was worthy of a singular vocation: to be the instrument of the incarnation. Mary replies:
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word."
She willingly co-operates with Divine grace as befits a creature: by conforming her will to the vocation that she has received. She is confident that God's will for her is for the best. She accepts the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and becomes the God-bearer. Mary then visits her cousin Elizabeth:
When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ..... blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
Holy Spirit leads Elizabeth to recognize what God has worked in Mary, even before she has been told. Elizabeth accurately identifies the origin of Mary's merit: her faith; her open-ness to God's grace; her trust and willingness to surrender to God's care and concern, for her and for all that He has made. If Mary had not accepted the message of the angel, she would not have become the Mother of Christ. Her willingness to go along with God's proposal to her was the foundation of her divine motherhood.

Elizabeth is inspired to extol Mary as "Blessed among women." This surely means that Mary's role as Jesus' mother was a privilege. Not a luxury to be revelled in, nor a status to be paraded before others: but still something to be aspired after. Every jewish girl of the century was hoping that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Mary was indeed blessed, favoured and privileged just by virtue of her motherhood. This privilege has inevitable consequences for the character of the relationship between Mary and her God. These can be seen at work in the response of Elizabeth to Mary's visit. Elizabeth considers that it is a privilege simply to meet her cousin, now that she has this new role.

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple [Lk 2:46-52]

"Son, why have you treated us so. Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." He said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" They did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.
Here we have the first of a number of texts which show a certain distancing of Christ from his mother. Some readers may see even a rebuke or rejection, but let us look at the text objectively.

The Wedding at Cana [Jn 2:1-11]

The mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." Jesus said to her, "Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour is not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
This text shows Jesus' mother interceding with her son for someone else's need. Jesus seems to be surprised, taken off guard: almost affronted. His apparent rebuke is followed by an act of quite faith on her part. The outcome is well known. Mary seems to change the game plan of her son. She prompts him in his mission. Before she speaks it was not the hour of the Son of Man, when she speaks the Messiah "manifested his glory" by revealing himself to the world in "the first of his signs". Mary is not only the instrument of the incarnation, but now the instigator of this epiphany of her son.

It is worth commenting on the style of Jesus' address to Mary. He calls her Woman, an odd manner in which to address his mother, even if he is trying to correct her perception of the nature of his mission. It is yet more odd that he should so address her, when he promptly accedes to her request! The explanation is simple yet profound. Jesus is recorded as addressing his mother in the same manner on one other occasion: when she stands before him at the foot of the cross. On both occasions, it can be perceived that he addresses her formally, as befitting an office or station; rather than personally, as his beloved parent. This role is truly that of Woman. Just as Jesus is named by St Paul "The Second Adam", so is Mary "The Second Eve". This can be better discussed in the context of the redemption, and will be taken up again there.

Jesus' family [Mk 3:31-35]

"Who are my mother and my brothers?" Looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whosoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
A repudiation by Christ of his mother? How so? All that Jesus points out here is that human blood ties (family values) are of little significance in the Kingdom of God. What counts is the response of a human soul to the divine vocation: the offer of friendship. As we have already seen, Mary is a prime example of a soul co-operating with Divine Grace, and so "doing the will of God."

I discuss the question as to whether Jesus had brothers and sisters later.

The Woman in the crowd [Lk 11:27-28]

A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and blessed the breasts that you sucked!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
This is an important text. Like the previous one, it cannot be seen as a repudiation of Mary: according to Luke she did "hear the word of God and keep it". It is however, another repudiation of blood ties per se. Later in this paper I shall make much of the fact that Mary is Jesus' mother. It is important to realize that the motherhood that matters is a spiritual and inter-personal motherhood. It is the motherhood that is equally of the adoptive parent or the genetic. The fact that Jesus took physical substance from Mary is important only that it makes him truly human. That fact does not set up any particular dynamic between Jesus and Mary. Jesus shares his flesh with the whole of humanity, through Mary. His humanity is not so much Mary's but ours!

Of course a dynamic does exist between Jesus and Mary. We shall see this at the foot of the cross. It is based on the relationship established between child and parent. It is between two persons: an encounter and mutual discovery. It is love.

On this account of the dynamic existing between Jesus and Mary, it is inevitable that a similar dynamic must exist between Jesus and Joseph. It doesn't matter at all that Joseph made no genetic contribution to Jesus' physical make-up. Joseph was Jesus' human father every bit as much as Mary was his human mother. Moreover, he was a "just man" [Mat 1:19] and also "heard the word of God and kept it" [Mat 1:24]. The implications for the dignity and significance of the role of Joseph in the Divine Economy was first pointed out to me by Paul Hammond, well before he became a Catholic; when he had no devotion to either Mary or Joseph! The Church is only gradually becoming conscious of this facet of the Apostolic Tradition. God the Father's begetting of God the Son is of an entirely different order to that in which Jesus took substance from Mary. It does not conflict in any way with the paternity of Joseph, the Father of God.

The Foot of the Cross [Jn 19: 25-27]

He said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother."
Mary is implicated at the beginning and end of Jesus' public ministry. We have seen how she initiated it at Cana, now we see her taking part of it on herself at its end. Imagine the anguish that she bore as she watched the life blood of her beloved Messiah-son drip away and heard his ever more laboured breaths. Surely a sword pierced her soul that day [Lk 2:35] if not before. It was her vocation then to be the first believer to "complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" [Col 1:24]. Apart from the simple care that Jesus has for these two dear figures: his mother and the beloved disciple, his words constitute Mary as the Mother of the Church, in the person of John. Jesus commits to her motherly care (as a second Eve: the mother of all living [Gen 3:20]) all his friends and exhorts them to acknowledge his mother as theirs.

In the Upper Room [Acts 1:12-2:4]

We meet Mary for the last time in the Upper Room, after the Ascension of Christ. She devoted herself, with the Apostles to prayer, alongside "the other women" and Jesus' "brethren". She is given no specific role in the text that we have, and indeed I suspect that Mary had no part nor interest in whatever planning or decisions were made at this time. That was not her place within the Church. It is nevertheless important to realize that it was not just the Apostles, the root of the hierarchy, who were "filled with the Holy Spirit" at Pentecost. Mary was almost certainly present, together with other lay folk: "they were all together in one place .... in the house where they were sitting" [Acts 2:1,2].

A Woman clothed with the sun [Apoc 12:1-6,13-17]

This text is difficult to interpret. I shall not attempt a full exegesis, but highlight a few matters for reflection. It is pretty clear that the child of verse five is Christ and the dragon Satan. Who then is the woman? It seems to me that she has three significances:
  1. She is the Jewish Nation, that gave rise to the Messiah.
  2. She is the Christian Church, whose offspring "keep the commandments of God and bear witness to Jesus" [Apoc 12:17]
  3. She is Mary. The Apostle John twice records Jesus as referring to his mother as "Woman".
Really, these three significances are one and the same. Mary was the member of the Jewish Nation that actually gave birth to Jesus. Moreover, she was one of the first members of the Church. Arguably she was its very first member: united to Christ by faith from the very moment of the incarnation.

The Protoevangelium [Gen 3:15]

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall crush your head and you shall strike its heel."
This verse is variously rendered into english. The pronoun "it" is often replaced by "he", apparently because the male pronoun is used in the Greek Septuagint. By contrast, Jerome used the feminine pronoun in his latin version, the Vulgate. As far as I can determine, the Hebrew original is ambivalent. Though I favour, on doctrinal grounds, the use of "crush" and "strike", many translations use the same word, e.g. "bruise" in each place. As far as I can determine the Hebrew uses the same word twice.

The word protoevangelium means first good news, for this verse is the first glimmer of God's plan of salvation. The serpent is told that he and his minions will inflict minor, non-fatal injury on the descendants of Eve. Eve is promised a final victory over the power of Satan. As St Paul comments:

.... I would have you wise as to what is good and guiless as to what is evil; then the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet .... [Rom 16:19,20]
Of course, St Paul well knew that the offspring of Eve who truly crushed the head of the serpent was Jesus.

Obviously, "the woman" referred to by God is primarily Eve. However two considerations suggest that there is intended a further and deeper meaning:

  1. Why was the Christ referred to as the seed of the woman? This is a most peculiar idea. Offspring are conventionally referred to as the seed of a man. It was thought (wrongly!) in antiquity that the woman did not contribute to the nature of her children, but only nurtured them: first in her womb, then at her breast. It may be that this strange usage hints at the virginal conception of the Messiah. If it does, we must acknowledge that Mary is also meant by the word "woman".
  2. The use of the word woman, indeed the phrase "the woman" is striking. I suggest that it was precisely because Eve, "The mother of all living" [Gen 3:20] is repeatedly called "the woman" in the early part of Genesis that Jesus called his own mother by the same title to indicate her role as "the Second Eve".



    "As Eve by the speech of an Angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing His word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the Angel's speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to His word. And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin's disobedience by a virgin's obedience."
    [St Iraenius, the pupil of St Polycarp, who was the pupil of the Apostle John: "Against Heresies"]

Implications of the Incarnation

In the year 428 AD, a new Patriarch of Constantinople was installed. His name was Nestorius. He brought a close friend along with him from Antioch, the presbyter Anastasius. One day Anastasius declared, when  preaching :
Let no-one call Mary the God-Bearer, for Mary was but a human being; and it is impossible that God should be born of a human being.
This caused a great sensation. The people saw this as a clear rejection of the divinity of Jesus. Nestorius, who was perhaps neither overly intelligent nor well informed, proceeded to defend the position that his friend had adopted. It doesn't seem that Nestorius really doubted the divinity of Jesus: however, he may have wished to play down the idea of the incarnation. St John tells us that "The Word became flesh". Nestorius baulked at the idea of Jesus' humanity being so united with his divine nature as both to be possessed by His One Person: that of the Eternal Son of the Father. In Nestorius' teaching there was a clear splitting of Christ into two distinct entities: the Son of God and the Son of Mary. The first divine, the second human. This was not orthodox belief and in the year 451, the Fathers of the Oecumenical council of Chalcedon declared:
We .... confess our Lord Jesus Christ .... the same perfect in Godhead, the same perfect in manhood .... begotten of the Father before the ages as touching the Godhead, born of the Virgin Mary, the God-Bearer, as touching the manhood, one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures ..... not as if Christ were parted and divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God...
The title God-Bearer, Theotokos in Greek, was joyfully employed by the assembled bishops to declare the exact manner of the incarnation. The Eternal Word really did take upon Himself the nature of a man and really was born of a human maid, who loved and nurtured Him as her son, and whom He loved as His Mother. There is simply no way to avoid the titles "God Bearer" and "Mother of God" without watering down the doctrine of the Incarnation: either making Jesus into an inspired prophet; or a phantasm that had merely the appearance of man, but could neither sympathize with our condition nor suffer and die with and for us on the Cross. An instinct to reject the proposition: "Mary is the Mother of God" may be founded on a wholesome repugnance with the idea that God has any origin, still less an origin in a human creature! This is, of course, not what the doctrine of Mary's Divine Motherhood teaches. Mary is indeed Mother of God, by virtue of the Incarnation.

Mother of God

A mother is not the mother of a nature, but of a person. Mother signifies love, care and authority over a child: a personal relationship. It is not a mere biological statement. Biologically, it is nonsense to say that God has any kind of parent! After all, God is not a biological entity, so no true biological statements can be made about Him! If Jesus is really human, then Mary is really His Mother. If the historical person Jesus Christ is identical to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity: God the Son, then Mary has a maternal relationship with God the Son. She is God the Son's mother, and so is Mother of God. God the Son regards Mary with filial affection, through His Sacred Heart. Jesus is still human: his risen and glorified nature is now "in heaven", whatever that means exactly. The Almighty Father rejoices in Mary as the temporal mother of His Eternal Son. Holy Spirit delights in She who co-operated in the conception of the Messiah.


We have seen Mary standing at the foot of the Cross. Her sufferings there were joined to those of her Son, just as all the passions of the martyrs and confessors are joined to the redemptive act of Jesus. Whenever Christians take up the cross that is offered, and carry it faithfully, they contribute to the expiatory work of Christ. Mary was the first, and the Church believes the exemplary, Co-Redemptrix. A similar statement can be made about every authentic Christian soul. All are called to be  Co-Redeemers of the World, with Christ.

Mediatrix of all Graces

As we saw at the marriage at Cana, the regard of Jesus for Mary means that He looks with approval on her petitions. He knows that all that She will ever ask of Him is inspired by Holy Spirit. All Her willing is caught up in the Divine Life of God. No request She places before Him can ever be refused. He cannot refuse Her because of the love He has for Her. He should not refuse Her because She is the Seat of Wisdom. The Church believes that She is involved in all of God's initiatives, her Motherhood is towards all God's children, so she is the Help of All Christians and the Mediatrix of all Graces.

The mystery of intercessory prayer is revealed here. God is omniscient and benevolent. He knows what is good for his creatures whether or not they ask for His help. He does not need to wait to be asked or told what to do! It is obviously a waste of time, from this point of view, imploring God to work some miracle or other. Nevertheless, God chooses sometimes to inspire us to ask for His help and then answers the very request that he places in our hearts. This has two gracious purposes: to confirm our faith and encourage us; and simply to ennoble us by involving us in his Life and causal activity.

Mother of the Church

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ: Christians are its members, as Jesus is its head. We are his friends, siblings and co-heirs of all that He won for us. As Mary is the Mother of Christ, and as christians are incorporated in Him: Mary is also the Mother of every christian soul. We have seen Jesus give His Mother to the care of St John, and St John to Her as a son. Jesus does this for all who are dear to him, for all his friends. He constitutes Mary as Mother of the whole Church, delighting to set Her up in this maternal role of love and solicitude towards his spiritual family.

Immaculate Virgin

Because of this great vocation: as Mother of God, Mother of the Church and Help of Christians; which the Father envisaged  for Mary before all ages, it was appropriate for Him to grant the "handmaid of the Lord" abundantly favoured treatment. The Church teaches that there was never an instant when her soul was estranged from God, that from the inception of her life she was a friend of God: in a state of grace. Satan had not an instant's sway over her. Moreover, the Church holds that God prevented Mary from ever sinning by a singular care and protection for her soul: she was always "full of grace". The Church also teaches that not only did Mary conceive Jesus while yet a virgin, but also that she never had sexual relations. This is not because the act of making love would have been an occasion of sin, but rather because Mary's love (as also that of Jesus, and Joseph too) is for everyone indifferently and profligately. Any act that might be seen to focus her love on one person (other than her Divine Son) would have mitigated from this holy promiscuity.

Assumed Queen of Heaven

The Church also teaches that Mary's body was preserved from decay, and that like her Son, she was assumed body and soul into Heaven. The exact meaning of this doctrine, beyond the direct physical implication that Mary's body vanished from the space-time continuum in the vicinity of Earth, is difficult to elucidate. Its intentionality is to emphasize the triumph of God's grace over death and to make it clear that this applies to ordinary human beings as well as the God-Man Jesus. Now in Heaven, Mary presides alongside her Son and is honoured by the highest angels as Queen. This is staggering, but simply demonstrates the glorious vocation made to all people. Such is the Kingdom of God's friendship!

Answers to Objections

Neither the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception nor the Bodily Assumption can be supported from Scripture. To an ear unacquainted with them, they may sound strange. On reflection they will be found reasonable. Nothing is said of Mary that is not said first of her Son. Both were conceived in a state of grace (without original sin): but Jesus of a Virgin; both were assumed into Heaven: but Jesus then sent Holy Spirit. If God the Father was able to do these things for His Son, why should God the Son refrain from so honouring His Mother? The effect was not to separate or make her independent of Her Saviour, but rather to more closely unite her with Him, and to set forth the relationship of the Redeemed Mother of God and the Victorious Son of Man.

One Mediator

For there is one God, and there is One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all .... [1 Tim 2:5,6]
This has no bearing on the question of Mary's intercessory role, unless christians should not pray for each other! Either it must be admitted that Mary and the saints can mediate for their friends still alive on Earth [Apoc 6:9-11], or else praying for anyone must be avoided!

All have sinned

 .... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Rom 3:23]
Taken literally and out of context, this clearly contradicts the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception and sinless life. However, it would simultaneously make Jesus into a sinner too. Clearly, the "all" has at least one exception: Jesus Christ. The Church maintains that it had at least one other: Mary. Of course, in context the "all" really refers to Jews and Gentiles as races, rather than individual persons [Rom 3:9,10].

The brethren of Jesus

It is often objected that Mary cannot possibly have maintained her virginity after the birth of Jesus because on a number of occasions the New Testament refers to "the brothers" [Acts 1:14] and indeed "sisters" of Jesus. The Church has always resisted interpreting these passages in the literal sense, and for good reason. To show that the "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus could be close blood relatives - but not His siblings - it suffices to show that one individuall clearly called "the brother" of Jesus was clearly not His sibling. Surprisingly, it is simple to do so.

A complication in the analysis is the fact that the names Mary, James, Judas, Joseph and Simon are so common in the group of Jesus' disciples. Two Apostles are called James. One is distinguished as the brother of John and the other as the son of Alphaeus. The true name of the Apostle commonly known as St. Jude was Judas. His name is generally changed to ensure that he is never confused with Judas Iscariot. Peter's original name was Simon (or Simeon, more accurately). The other Apostle of that name is generally distinguished from Simon Peter as Simon Zealot.

The most famous "brother of Jesus" is "James (or Jacob) the Just" [Mat 13:55; Mk 6:3; Jn 19:25; Acts 12:17; 1Cor 15:7]. He was the first Patriarch of Jerusalem, who governed the Jewish Christians even in the days of the Apostles [Acts 21:18; Gal 1:19; 2:9,12] and who it seems presided at the Apostolic Synod of Jerusalem [Acts 15:13]. Personally, I believe (along with the Eastern Church Fathers) that "James the Just": the "brother" of  Joseph and Simon was neither "James brother of John" nor "James son of Alphaeus" and hence not one of the Twelve Apostles. Clearly, he was not the brother of John the Apostle, as Luke tells us both that this James [known as "the Greater"] was martyred in the early days of the Jerusalem Church [Acts 12:2] and also that "James the Just" was active and influential in the Jerusalem Church years later [Acts 21:18].

It is, however, possible to identify "James the Less" (who was the son of one "Alphaeus") with James the Just. This was the common opinion of the Western Fathers of the Church. Clearly, if James the Just "the brother of Jesus" was the "son of Alphaeus" then either "son" or "brother" must have a non standard meaning, unless Jesus was also the son of Alphaeus, which notion is repugnant to all sense!

The main argument that James the Just was the son of Alphaus is that he is regularly presented as having authority on a par with or even in excess of the Apostles. This is not a convincing argument. If he was appointed by the Apostles to be resident Patriarch of Jerusalem while they travelled abroad to found Churches in Egypt; Italy; Asia Minor; Greece and Mesopotamia, then in his own territory - that of the Mother Church of Christendom: Jerusalem - he would have jurisdictional precidence, even over the Apostles. It is also notable that the authors of the letters of James and Jude both refer to themselves as "slaves of  Jesus" rather than "Apostles of Christ", signifying that they do not claim this title for themselves. Moreover, the title Apostle isn't as definitive as it might seem. St Mark is often honoured with the title, yet he was not one of the Twelve: he is reputed to have founded the Egyptian Church. Later on a whole class of missionary preachers was known as "apostles", in the sense that the Church still talks about "the lay apostolate", so it is possible that St Mark and St James the Just - being no more than Archbishops (one speaks in terms that evolved later) - were commonly known as Apostles, though strictly speaking they were not so.
On the other hand, if James the Just "the brother of Jesus" was not the "son of Alphaeus", then - assuming that the James and Joseph of [Mat 27:56; Mk 15:40, Lk 24:10] are the same as the James and Joseph of [Mat 13:55, Mk 6:3] - we know that his mother was called Mary. Now, it might seem that this Mary should be identified with the Mother of Jesus, and James the Just be revealed as the sibling of Our Lord. This is logically possible, though it beggars belief why the mother of Jesus should have been described as the mother of James and Joseph in the context of the burial of her own son! However, it is much more plausible that "Mary, the mother of James and John" was "Mary, the wife of Clopas" [Jn 19:25].

Incidentally, John also explicitly tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary had a "sister" that was also called Mary. At first sight this is quite remarkable. How many parents give two of their children the same principle name? However, as we are arguing that "brother" and "sister" doesn't necessarily mean "sibling", but only a close blood relation, this is not so strange as at first it seems.

Hence, it is pretty clearly established that James the Just was not the sibling of Jesus, but at the closest a cousin. This is based on the assumptions that:

  1. The James and Joseph of [Mat 27:56; Mk 15:40, Lk 24:10] and [Mat 13:55, Mk 6:3] are the same individuals.
  2. Joseph, the adoptive-father of Jesus, was not also called Alphaeus.
  3. The "mother of James and Joseph" of [Mat 27:56; Mk 15:40, Lk 24:10] is not the Mother of Jesus.
I consider that the alternative view, that "brothers" and "sisters" should always be taken to mean sibling to do violence to the scriptural text, especially in view of [Jn 19:25].


It is important not to distort or inflate the Tradition regarding the Blessed Virgin so as to distance Mary either from Her Son or from ordinary human beings. Jesus was a real man, with aspirations, desires, emotions, temptations and disappointments. In the same way, Mary was a real woman. Neither were cold, remote figures: set on pedestals for adulation and acclaim. The doctrine and spirituality surrounding the Sacred Humanity of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Holy Family makes it clear that the authentic attitude of the christian soul towards Jesus, Mary and Joseph is that of casual intimacy: not formality. Jesus may be King-Messiah, but he is not an austere Emperor: He is the Good Shepherd, the Hound of Heaven and Friend of the Friendless. Similarly, Mary may be the exalted Queen of the Cherubim, but she is still the sweet, understanding, compassionate and kind mother of all the Children of God.

But scornful men have coldly said
Thy love was leading me from God;
And yet in this I did but tread
The very path my Saviour trod.
They know but little of thy worth
Who speak these heartless words to me;
for what did Jesus love on Earth
One half so tenderly as thee?
Jesus, when His three hours were run,
Bequeathed thee from the Cross to me;
And oh! how can I love the Son,
Sweet Mother, if I love not thee?

Fr Frederick Faber, of the London Oratory.

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