Sunday, September 15, 2013

Becoming Marian--The Beloved Disciple Takes Her "Into His Reality" (εἰς τὰ ἴδια)

Michelangelo's Pietá
Today is the 24th Sunday in ordinary time, but it also is September 15, the day liturgically reserved for the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. While miss the reading cycle for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows since today is a Sunday, the month of September is nonetheless dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, uniquely meritorious because of her divine motherhood and immaculate conception in and through the merits of Christ himself. The "Seven Sorrows" are:

  1. the prophecy of Simeon
  2. the flight into Egypt
  3. the loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
  4. the meeting of Mother and Son on the way to Calvary
  5. the death of Christ
  6. the removal of Christ from the Cross (see Pietá)
  7. the entombment of Christ

In honor of Our Lady’s sufferings, I share the following excerpt from my article on Pope Benedict's Mariology in De Maria Numquam Satis (pp. 168-169). (Most of my article is capable of being previewed via the "look inside" on Amazon, so if you want to read more, you can there.)

Excerpted from “Divinely Given 'Into Our Reality': Mary’s Maternal Mediation according to Pope Benedict XVI” in De Maria Numquam Satis (UPA, 2009)

“Into Our Reality” – Mary and Her Spiritual Maternity over All Humanity

Not only does Our Lady cooperate in redemption, but that cooperation has a direct result for her – spiritual maternity.

At the Cross, through the all-powerful words of her Son, this title “woman” undergoes a transformation. As the divine Logos of God accomplishes what is said, so when he says, “behold your mother,” she takes on a new role, because God the Son declared it: “My word … shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose…” (Is 55:11). Had this been the scene of the crucifixion of “any-man,” it would appear that this dying criminal is setting his affairs in order before he passes. However, this man is also true God, the divine Logos, who “rules from the Cross” (1) – and this is a decree for the kingdom. His beloved disciple is now “everyman.”
From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross. … (2)

It is because she is on Calvary pierced by the sword of sorrow that she is the Mother of all who follow her Son. The catechesis contained in the prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan beautifully expresses the Pope’s teachings of the spiritual maternity of Mary over all humanity, which has its power in the Word of God.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (Jn 19:25-27).
Those italicized words are what I want to focus on, as they are the words the Pope points us toward. This passage appears as if Jesus is setting his affairs in order before his death, making sure that someone will look after his mother. But the original Greek conveys something more.
From the Cross, Jesus entrusted his Mother to all his disciples and at the same time entrusted all his disciples to the love of his Mother. The Evangelist John concludes the brief and evocative account with these words: “Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn19:27). This is the [English] translation of the Greek text “εἰς τὰ ἴδια,” he welcomed her into his own reality, his own existence. Thus, she is part of his life and the two lives penetrate each other. And this acceptance of her (εἰς τὰ ἴδια) in his own life is the Lord’s testament. Therefore, at the supreme moment of the fulfillment of his messianic mission, Jesus bequeaths as a precious inheritance to each one of his disciples his own Mother, the Virgin Mary (3).
Finally, in this glimpse, it is worth highlighting one more significant word: “hour.” In the Gospel of John, as was mentioned above, the hour is frequently used in reference to the hour of the Passion. In the other episode in John’s Gospel in which Mary appears, the Wedding at Cana. “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). In Cana, we see Mary inquiring about something specific to Jesus’ hour of his Passion. And in the hour, we see him giving her as Mother to the disciple as an “action” of the hour. “From that hour, the disciple received her into his own” (Jn 19:27). Giving his mother is the Savior’s will during his saving Passion. Mary is a gift from her Son to every believer, a gift from the Cross.

Pope Benedict stated in a homily on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven: “We have a mother in heaven. And the Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God, is our Mother. He himself has said so. He made her our own Mother when he said to the disciple and to all of us: ‘Behold, your mother!’” Because Christ proclaims this from the Cross, and because his words are “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (cf. Heb 4:12), this maternity of Mary over all believers is part of the “Good News” of Calvary, a truly personal gift from the Cross that abides in heaven to this day. “We have a Mother in Heaven. Heaven is open. Heaven has a heart” (4).


(1) Jesus of Nazareth, p. 338. Jesus “rules from the Cross, and does so in an entirely new way. Universality is achieved through the humility of communion in faith; this king rules by faith and love, and in no other way.” This is the King of the Jews—written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew (Jn 19:20). And this is the place where Jesus has drawn all men to himself (Jn 12:32). By implication, this is significant for Mariology: Jesus’ gift of his Mother from the Cross to an Apostle, a prince of the Church to whom a kingdom has been assigned (cf. Lk 22:29), is a regal gift for all men whom he has drawn to himself and constitutes the place of Mary in the Church and vice versa.
(2) Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan.
(3) General Audience, January 2, 2008. Cf. Homily on the anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, April 3, 2006. De la Potterie follows Charles Journet’s translation of this Greek phrase to “into his intimacy.” De la Potterie also points to the parallel of εἰς τὰ ἴδια between John’s prologue (1:11) and the scene on Calvary to argue that in neither case is the Scripture to be read in a merely materialistic way.
It is true that eis ta idia can mean at one’s house, at one’s home, in one’s country, etc.; but in this case, the expression is always used with a verb describing transfer or movement in a physical sense. One goes on a trip. Then, after a long absence, one returns to one’s home, or one’s house. Or someone sends someone else back home. There are many examples of this in the New Testament; for instance, in Acts 21:6: “… we boarded the ship. These people returned then to their homes.” But in the scene at the cross, elaben does not describe a physical transfer or movement. As we have said, this verb signals the beginning of an attitude of faith; it is a question of a “movement,” if you will, but then it is a purely spiritual movement, a first stage on the journey of faith. Of course, a physical transfer could readily go along with a journey of faith; but such a movement is totally out of perspective as to the verse and to the whole pericope, both of which find themselves on a strictly theological plane. Yet, if it is a question of spiritual attitude, there is still the eis ta idia. What, then, is the meaning of these three words? It most certainly is not a question of a house, but what belongs, “en propre” (peculiarly/to one’s own), to the disciple. This is what St. John’s repeated use of the term idios seems to suggest (e.g., Jn 10:4) … (Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, pp. 227-228).(4) Homily, Aug. 15, 2005.