“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or have no compassion for the child of her womb?” (Isaiah 49:15)
Can you imagine a woman who is just like any loving mother, except completely sinless? Can you imagine a woman so radiantly humble, so sweetly selfless, so perfectly pious? Is there any way for us to imitate such loveliness, despite our wretched inclination to sin? As the mother of Jesus, the daughter of the Father, and the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary was the first to learn the secret to heavenly fulfillment: Virginal emptiness.
A Catholic writer named Caryll Houselander explains Mary’s virginity in this way:
“That virginal quality which, for want of a better word, I call emptiness is … not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning. On the contrary, it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended. … It is emptiness like that of the bird’s nest, built in a round, warm ring to receive the little bird.”
When the Angel Gabriel invited Mary to be the Mother of God, she did not ask, “How can I do that?!” She already knew that she could do nothing apart from God. Rather, she accepted God’s call, and allowed the Holy Spirit to join to her so intimately that she conceived His Son.
The mystery of the feminine body is that it inherently knows how to “grow” a person within it; it doesn’t take conscious thought to produce a head, tiny hands, and functioning organs. Jesus, once accepted and conceived in the Virgin’s womb, self-directed His own growth. He drew on the organic nutrients found in His mother’s body. He benefited from what she consumed, He was guarded from what she avoided; He basked in her body. Mary had little control over Jesus’ gestation, but that does not mean that she played a “passive” role in the story of Salvation—far from it!
Mary gives us the prime example of how to love God, and how to live a Christian life. We too must empty ourselves of our pride, anxiety and vice. We too must say “yes” to God’s will by inviting Him into our bodies as we receive Him in the Eucharist. We too must allow Jesus to use our time, energy, and gifts that He may grow within us. And just as a pregnant mother avoids harsh chemicals that would harm her pre-born child, we should be mindful of the way we treat our bodies, the thoughts we entertain, and the habits we develop.
Throughout this month dedicated to mothers, let us ask the world’s greatest Mother to teach us how to nurture the Child Jesus, Who abides in each of us.