We hear much of Mary's Fiat, her, "Let it be done unto me according to thy word," but this is abstract, it doesn't tell us anything particular or concrete about what it meant for her to be a mother to our Lord, Jesus. Without something concrete, saying "be like Mary" would be to say "be a good mother" without any physical import, no skin in the game, no incarnational actions to engage in. So what did Mary do that was a sign of her willing the will of God? To answer this I'll look to the readings from Mass and The Office for The Solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi (What we pray, is what we believe, is what we live.)
Mothers and Baptism as The New Circumcision
Mary had her son Circumcised:
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The Medieval title of today's Solemnity was not "Mary, Mother of God," but in days of old it was known as, "The Feast of the Holy Circumcision." In order for Christ not to abolish but to fulfill The Law (Matthew 5), Christ had to be part of the Law, he had to be "born under The Law" (Galatians 4:4). If it weren't for Mary being a good Israelite woman, she would not have had Jesus circumcised. If Jesus were not circumcised, he would not be of Abraham's Covenant. If Jesus was not part of that Covenant, then none of God's promises woudl have been fulfilled. This would be the Cross did nothing, it restored nothing, and Jesus' last words on the cross "It is fulfilled" would be a lie!
Epistle to the GalatiansWhat's the modern version of Mary getting her son circumcised? Believe it or not, it's not getting your sons circumcised at the hospital. Christians don't have to do this anymore as Paul attests to in his . This is because of Baptism. Baptism is a 'spiritual circumcision' of the heart that makes us part of Christ's New Covenant that was inaugurated at The Last Supper.
A good mother has her child baptized. Because Christ fulfilled The Law, when we become members of his body through Baptism, we participate in his fulfillment of The Law. So if people ask, "How come Christians pick which Old Testament Laws they follow? Why is it Catholics says you must follow the Ten Commandments but not the 613 Levitical Laws? Isn't this inconsistent?" The answer is, "Because Christ fulfilled The Law, and by Baptism I am a member of him. Just as a man walks, so too his leg is caught up in that activity. As a baptized person, if Christ fulfills the Law, then I don't need to." (And yet Jesus explicitly states The Decalogue is still in effect even for members of his body.) This is why we don't have to follow the 613 Laws of Leviticus but we do have to follow The Ten Commandments.
How do we know this is true? Because Paul says so:
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
All that "a person should choose to be baptized" stuff then is for the dogs. Mary had her child "baptized," to join a covenant on the eighth day. Our good Catholic mothers then ought do the same. Having your child wait to be baptized in hopes of it "being their choice" making them more about the faith is about as meaningful as having your child wait to brush their teeth until they feel like it. You do the good thing first, then have them reflect and learn about why it was good as they get older. This is why Baptism classes frequently cover The Ten Commandments for parents. We are to introduce our children to these Ten Laws. And yet we interpret with Jesu's New Commandment, "Love thy neighbour as I have loved you." Even our self love now has a clear objective image.
Mothers and The Eucharist as The New Passover
What else does Mary do for her son?
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended...
The Passover is what Jesus celebrated at The Last Supper, which we now know as "The Mass" or "The Holy Eucharist." This is the "source and summit of the Christian life" as our Catechism tells us. It is the ground of our continual growth in God, and it is the goal of unity with God that our whole lives revolve around.
So what should a mother do today then? Take their children to Mass every Sunday, every day of obligation. Notice nothing insinuates Jesus is left outside, in the parking lot, or to play with other kids. Mary brought Jesus to The Passover every year, from an early age. Even before Jesus could understand what he was seeing or hearing, Mary was exposing him to it. This is because we can only grow into what we're familiar with, what we have an image of to think about. Our forms of life come first, our thoughts and words about them occur second. We have faith seeking understanding. The degree to which we do not do the Faith because "I don't get it" is the degree to which we are unfaithful and in need of conversion to Christ in obedience. The image for this is Mary!
Now if you're thinking, "Well, Jesus is God, he already understood The Passover," consider his human nature!
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature
Mary thus is the perfect example for mothers. She had a child who learned as all other human children. Jesus' divine nature didn't override or destroy his human nature, it complimented it and was part of the same one person, Jesus Christ. (i.e. no heresies of Apollinarianism are in Luke's Gospel!)
Holy Days of Obligation, like today, The Solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God, are Marian instances to raise our children. Did we place anything higher than God on New Year's Day? Did we tell our children it was "New Years" first or that it was "Holy Mary Mother of God" day first? This tells us something about our physical and conceptual schema, of our beliefs, and what we're passing down to our children. Whatever we find important, they will find important. Mary, and Joseph for that matter found it not only obligatory but their heart's desire to take Jesus to the Passover every year. As good Israelites, they followed The Law of the Lord not out of some cold duty, but out of the warmth of converted hearts.
The Mass is the most important thing a mother can do for her child, to bring her child to, to educate her child about. Bar none, period, end of sentence. Taking your children to Sundays and Holy Days of obligation are the minimum requirements on the Ladder of Holiness. Other days are over the top, excessive, beyond justice, "my cup overfloweth." This overflowing action we call "Charity" or "Love." Duty is good, Love is better.
Mothers and Being About The Father's Business for and with their children
All too often we find ourselves anxious, busy, and about the household business, or banking business, or family business. But what was Jesus about and what did he teach Mary? Remember, Mary is holy, but this doesn't mean she didn't grow in understanding. She was faithful seeking understanding, and this is how she is able to be obedient and sinless yet dwell upon mysteries revealed to her, "pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). What this means is that Mary is sinless, but she is still growing closer to God, and in fact, this journey isn't consummated until her Assumption and Coronation as Queen of Heaven!
Mary learns to be a mother from Jesus. Here she has a fault (not a sin) when she can't find Jesus. Here she grows in knowledge of God. Let's look to the Gospel to recall the tale:
as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary is shocked. Why? Why would be shocked by this today? Probably because we think others shoudl be about our business, or completely separate from it. Jesus has deliberately stayed behind and reminded her that her vocation, and his too, is to do The Father's work. Here the family and the home must take a backseat to The Church. This is not Jesus slighting the home or family in any way, but it is a way of ordering The Church (ecclesial) and The Home (domus). The Family was created for The Church. Homes are created for The Church. Homes are the first "unit of society" (Catechism), but a home is no more a solitary unit than your heart and lungs are. A home or family stripped away from The Church is about as helpful as your heart is if it were lying in the next room. Holy Orders, Religious Life, and Holy Matrimony are all for the building up of the Common Good of The Church, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians).
This is a vital lesson to the mother too concerned about being the "manager" of a household or of procuring all the right methods or techniques for "getting through the day." This has become a quick way to make fathers and mothers not of one mind, but rather, buying into The Industrial era's rhetoric of specialization, to have only one person consider what God is asking a family to do. Both persons are responsible for this. The term usually translated as "manager" is a derivative of the New Testament Greek oikonomos, which has a sense of "House Rule" or "House Order." It's also the word we get "Economics" from. The concept entails that God has a blueprint, and we are simply workers partnered up and asked to build what He has told us. Wisdom then is not determining our ends and making them happen, that's how Secularists define "reason" in modern political philosophy. Instead, as Catholics, we say that Jesus is Reason, the Logos, or Reason-Itself, and he made us when he made us with a mission. Our job is not to create, but to "till and have dominion" over what is already created. In this sense we are co-creators, we are orderers, we are "stewards" to use a Wesleyan term, but we do not have authority to do whatever we want with what we have. We ought always to do The Good, whatever that is. And in fact, The Good always turns out to be my good.
The house nor the family are good for their own sake, they're only good for God's sake. Jesus makes it clear even his childhood is for the sake of God, not for himself or for Mary nor for Joseph. All too often we think of how our home order will be an enclosed circuit, a thing unto itself, perfectly self-sufficient, without need of input or requirement from anything outside. And this is simply moving individualism up to a slightly less imperfect order, the nuclear family. Both ways of life see humans as the center of life rather than God, and thus are forms of idolatry.
Mary and Joseph by looking for three days in all the wrong places make it all too evident that they were unaware of this theological fact. The household is ordered to The Household of God. The family is ordered to The Family of God, which is constituted by those adopted by The Father through the Holy Spirit in Baptism. By being made part of Jesus, we are also now sons of The Father, and therefore rightful heirs to his home. Without The Church, homes and families would religions unto themselves. No doubt we have a strain of this inside America.
And yet Jesus is not so wildly for The Church that he neglects his family. God forbid! Christ knows the fourth commandment that bridges Love of God and Love of Neighbour is to "honour thy father and mother." After Jesus finishes socratically arguing with the Rabbis he then returns home:
went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them
He still went home after The Passover, after Mass, but his obedience to his parents was subordinated to his obedience to God.
What we learn all in all from this story is that to aim at our "child's good" is often the quickest way to lose the good of our child. Ironically we must "come at it sideways." To do good by our child is to do good by God first. We must entrust our child to God as Mary did with Jesus. We must acknowledge that little Emma or Liam was made to adore God. Their human nature is not enclosed in upon itself, in which it's good can be achieved by any of our Proud, ridiculous scheming, plotting, managerial methods, techniques, or other forms of control which try to grasp the situation. Emma or Liam are little mirrors of God, to see their good, we must find the image they are made in, that we might know if we are helping shape them into the archetype. In other words, the less we know God, the less we'll know how to raise children, the more we know God, the better we'll be able to discern the good of our children. The discipleship of our children rests solely on our own union with God.
Mothers not as Managers but as lil Marys
We're not in control of the situation, God is. He made the kid, He knows what the kid is for, and that child was born in this year in this millennium in this year rather than another. The Lord knows where the kid goes in the puzzle. He knows what their perfect self is meant to be like. Our job is not to create nor invent them, but to discover who they are. In the same way we do not create calculus, we discover it, so too we cannot create our children, we can only discover them in the mystery of the human person.
We can co-create, but we can't force. If we try to manipulate our kid into a schedule which is against their nature, and The Lord is working upon them, we shouldn't be surprised if they break the mold and 'turn up in The Temple to be about our Father's business.' The good news is Mary's child could inform her of this, ours can't always. We will need her intercession and guidance for our mothers to be the women God made them to be. , to
After all, God gave you those children, He entrusted you with them because He made you to be the one who would be the best mother for that child, and no other. So remember, aim at doing God's will with your children, invite them into The Christian Adventure of life, bring them to "Circumcision" and to "The Passover," take them on trips to Baptisms and to Mass. You're job is not to create a private bubble for them to function in, but to introduce them into The Creation God has already made for us all. That is a great responsibility for mothers and a great joy, for it is a true and fulfilling vocation to be lived out along with the fathers.
Mary then is the Mother of mothers, our perfect exemplar given to us. She is a sign of The Church and a sign of Creation, for she is open and receptive to Creation, reasoning about what already is, what it's good is, and how to achieve it. In her great humility she neither manages nor manipulates nor controls, but always seeks the good of her son. Getting our children baptized, taking them to Mass, and ordering our homes to The Father in a way that introduces our children to that kind of Christian life is how we follow the Motherhood of Mary.