"As a result, she is our Mother in the order of grace." With these few words Vatican II (On the Church # 61) gave us a brilliant theology of the Motherhood of Our Lady, and a marvelous help to understand the motherhood of all Mothers. To follow it, we need to read the two sentences that come before it: "The Blessed Virgin, predestined from eternity along with the Incarnation of the Divine Word, as the Mother of God, on this earth was the gracious Mother of the Divine Redeemer, His associate more than others, in a singular way, and the humble maid-servant of the Lord. In conceiving Christ, in bringing Him forth, in nourishing Him, in presenting Him to the Father in the Temple, in suffering with her Son as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result, she is our Mother in the order of grace."
"As a result, she is our Mother in the order of grace." An ordinary Mother does two things to gain that glorious title: she shares in bringing a new life into being, she takes care of that life so long as she is needed, as long as she is willing and able.
Mary gives us supernatural life
We have seen in our discussion of Mary's cooperation in the redemption how she shares in bringing new life into being. And what a life that is! Compared to it mere mortal life is as nothing. The Second Epistle of St. Peter (1:4) says that in it we are made "sharers in the divine nature." And, we have seen in our discussion of Mary's continuing mediation how she takes care of our supernatural life.
Let us try to explore this mystery a bit. St. Paul says that in heaven we will see God "face to face". Now of course, God does not have a face. Nor do souls have mortal eyes. But the solid reality is far beyond what the words can readily convey. When I look at another person in this life, I do not take that one into my mind--no, I take in an image. The person is finite, limited, and so a finite image can let me know about that one.
But God is infinite. No image could begin to convey what He is like. So the next, the inevitable step is staggering: it must be that the divinity will join itself to the created human soul immediately, without even an image in between, so that the soul can know Him even as His Son knows Him, as He knows His Son. Within that divinity there as it were flow infinite streams of knowledge and of love. For the first chapter of John's Gospel tells us that in the beginning the Father spoke the Word. That Word is not a ripple in the air as our words are. No, it is substantial, it is the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Between Father and Son there arises love--again, not the feeble reality we know, but it too is substantial, it is another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, proceeding by way of infinite love.
Only a being at least partly divine could as it were plug into these infinite streams of knowledge and of love. Yet that is what it means to be "sharers in the divine nature", which we are by the life of grace, which she shared in gaining for us, at a cost so great that, as we said, only God can comprehend it. So she really is our Mother in the order of grace.
A Mother's Care
But a Mother has a second role to fulfill: to take care of the new life, so long as she is willing, able, and needed. In ordinary human affairs, there comes a time when the Mother is not really much needed, for the child grows to adult stature. But in the spiritual life ,we remain children - for unless we become as little children we shall not inherit the kingdom. Or, to put it more clearly, we always stand in the need of grace as long as we have not yet entered the mansions of our Father. That grace, every grace, comes to us through her, for, as Vatican II taught (62), she is the Mediatrix.
We said an ordinary Mother should give care as long as she is willing and able. Sadly, some human mothers stop being willing. Not so our Heavenly Mother. The children she brought into life by such tremendous pain she will never forget. She is always willing. Moreover, an ordinary mother may come to points at which she is unable to help, howsoever pathetically she way wish to do so. Not so our Mother in Heaven: Pope Benedict XV called her "suppliant omnipotence". That is, all that God can do by His very inherent power, she, with and through her Son, can obtain by asking Him for it. And that she does.
From what we have said, we see that she brought us forth on Calvary. Yet there is an a sense in which we can correctly say that she became our Mother even before that day. On June 19, 1947, Pope Pius XII sent a message to the Marian Congress of Ottawa, Canada. He said: "When the little maid of Nazareth uttered her fiat to the message of the angel...she became not only the Mother of God in the physical order of nature, but also in the supernatural order of grace she became the Mother of all who...would be made one under the Headship of her divine Son. The Mother of the Head would be the Mother of the members. The Mother of the vine would be the Mother of the branches."
The thought is obvious. Her Son is the Head of the Mystical Body, of which we are members. She really could not become the Mother of the Head without automatically, as it were, becoming the Mother of the Members of Her Son. Of course, that was only begun at the Annunciation. It was to be brought to light, with immense pain, only on the hill of Calvary.
Ordinary mothers cannot of course be both virgin and mother. But they can imitate, at a distance, her devotion to the Word of God, her fidelity to His will, her carrying out of the role designed for her by our Father's plan. Even when the need for physical care of their sons dims, the sons still need spiritual care--and that the Mothers should provide, even as she did.
St. Luke tells us that when young, Jesus went down to Nazareth and was subject to his parents. He, in His strictly divine humility, allowed Himself to be formed, humanly, by His Mother and St. Joseph. Ordinary mothers can imitate this and should realize that to form a new life in the likeness of Jesus or His Mother is far higher than to be a business executive, a policewoman, a tram operator, or whatever--it is far higher and nobler than the masterpieces of Michaelangelo, who carved in marble--Mothers carve in human souls!