As Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace, Mary understood better the
meaning of her own motherhood and her life ‘hidden with Christ in God’
"We can conclude that the atmosphere of tranquillity and peace
in the house of Nazareth and their constant seeking to fulfil God's plan
gave an extraordinary and unique depth to the union of mother and
son", the Holy Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday, 29
January, as he reflected on Mary's role in the hidden life of Christ.
The Pope also referred to our lives, "hidden with Christ in God'.
Here is a translation of his catechesis, which was the 43rd in the
series on the Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.
1. The Gospels offer very sparse information about the years the Holy
Family spent in Nazareth. St Matthew tells of the decision taken by
Joseph, after the return from Egypt, to make Nazareth the Holy Family's
permanent home (cf. Mt 2:22-23), but then gives no further information
except that Joseph was a carpenter (Mt 13:55). For his part, St Luke
twice mentions the Holy Family's return to Nazareth (cf. Lk 2:39, 51)
and gives two brief references to the years of Jesus' childhood, before
and after the episode of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem: "The child
grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was
upon him" (Lk 2:40), and "Jesus increased in wisdom, age and
grace before God and men" (Lk 2:52).
Mary pondered these events in her heart
In relating these brief remarks about Jesus' life, Luke is probably
referring to Mary's memories of a period of profound intimacy with her
Son. The union between Jesus and the one who was "full of
grace" goes far beyond what normally exists between mother and
child, because it is rooted in a particular supernatural condition and
reinforced by the special conformity of both to the divine will.
Thus we can conclude that the atmosphere of tranquillity and peace in
the house of Nazareth and their constant seeking to fulfil God's plan
gave an extraordinary and unique depth to the union of mother and son.
2. Mary's awareness that she was carrying out a task entrusted to her
by God gave a higher meaning to her daily life. The simple, humble
chores of everyday life took on special value in her eyes, since she
performed them as a service to Christ's mission.
Mary's example enlightens and encourages the experience of so many
women who carry out their day tasks exclusively in the home. It is a
question of a humble, hidden, repetitive effort, and is often not
sufficiently appreciated. Nonetheless, the long years Mary spent in the
house of Nazareth reveal the enormous potential of genuine love and thus
of salvation. In fact, the simplicity of the lives of so many
housewives, seen as a mission of service and love, is of extraordinary
value in the Lord's eyes.
One can certainly say that for Mary life in Nazareth was not
dominated by monotony. In her contact with the growing Jesus, she strove
to penetrate the mystery of her Son through contemplation and adoration.
St Luke says: "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her
heart" (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51).
"All these things": they are the events in which she was
both participant and spectator, starting with the Annunciation; but
above all, it is the life of her Child. Every day of intimacy with him
is an invitation to know him better, to discover more deeply the meaning
of his presence and the mystery of his person.
3. Someone might think that it was easy for Mary to believe, living
as she did in daily contact with Jesus. In this regard, however, we must
remember that the unique aspects of her Son's personality were usually
hidden; even if his way of acting was exemplary, he lived a life similar
to that of his peers.
During his 30 years of life in Nazareth, Jesus did not reveal his
supernatural qualities and worked no miracles. At the first
extraordinary manifestations of his personality, associated with the
beginning of his preaching, his relatives (called "brothers"
in the Gospel), assume—according to one interpretation—responsibility
for taking him home, because they feel his behaviour is not normal (cf.
In the dignified and hard-working atmosphere of Nazareth, Mary strove
to understand the workings of Providence in her Son's mission. A subject
of particular reflection for his Mother, in this regard, was certainly
the statement Jesus made in the temple of Jerusalem when he was 12 years
old: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk
2:49). Meditating on this, Mary could better understand the meaning of
Jesus' divine sonship and her own motherhood, as she endeavoured to
discern in her Son's conduct the traits revealing his likeness to the
One he called "my Father".
Our life is hidden with Christ in God
4. Communion of life with Jesus in the house of Nazareth led Mary not
only to advance "in her pilgrimage of faith" (Lumen gentium,
n. 58), but also in hope. This virtue, cultivated and sustained by
her memory of the Annunciation and of Simeon's words, embraced the whole
span of her earthly life, but was practised especially during the 30
years of silence and hiddenness spent in Nazareth.
At home, the Blessed Virgin experiences hope in its highest form; she
knows she will not be disappointed even if she does not know the times
or the ways in which God will fulfil his promise. In the darkness of
faith and in the absence of extraordinary signs announcing the beginning
of her Son's messianic task, she hopes, beyond all evidence, awaiting
the fulfilment of God's promise.
A setting for growth in faith and hope, the house of Nazareth becomes
a place of lofty witness to charity. The love that Christ wanted to pour
forth in the world is kindled and burns first of all in his Mother's
heart: it is precisely in the home that the proclamation of the Gospel
of divine love is prepared.
Looking at Nazareth, contemplating the mystery of the hidden life of
Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, we are invited to reflect on the mystery
of our life which—St Paul recalls —"is hidden with Christ in
God" (Col 3:3).
It is often a life that seems humble and obscure in the world's eyes,
but which, following Mary's example, can reveal unexpected possibilities
of salvation, radiating the love and peace of Christ.