The Fifth Glorious Mystery: Celebrating Mary's Glory

Anthony Zimmerman
August 14, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

The fifth glorious mystery invites us to celebrate Mary's glory with her and to ask her help in all things that we have in mind and heart, for the Church, for others, for ourselves. Everybody prays to Mary for so many things, and frequently parishes and even nations join to ask her to go to the Lord with special petitions. As I write, (March 6, 2003) Pope John Paul is asking the Catholic world to pray for peace in the Iraq situation. A proof that Mary listens to our prayers for her intercession with the Lord is the very fact that we have learned to trust her and to depend upon her. During the past 2000 years the Church has learned to always pray to her daily because she is our own dear Mother, and to heighten our communications with her during special times of need.

But there is one thing that I do not favor, and that is pray as though Mary were running the Church by herself. A person of great Marian devotion once gave me a book that left me cold. The author had claimed that what he wrote was dictated by Mary, who actually moved his fingers as he wrote. The contents built up an impression that she was more or less in charge of the Church and that Jesus was still a boy and that Mary could not trust Him with the job to do it right. I returned the book to him and said that I do not need it.

It is good to remind ourselves that at Cana, Mary asked for Christ's favor; she asked and did not command. Oh yes, she did use her position and charm to full advantage. She refused to be put off by Christ's apparent refusal. Putting Jesus on the spot, she said to the servants: "Do what He tells you." Then she stood aside and waited for Him to act. And so it is today, and so it must be. She is not God who can herself give us grace, but she is a Mother who can read our hearts and minds well, and can turn to her Son to tell Him about our needs and wishes. When He again hears her prayer, she sings once more the verse of the Magnificat: "For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."

The Fathers of Vatican II marveled at her awesome dignity by reason of God's choice, by reason of the missions that He entrusted to her to become the Mother of God, and by reason of the present tasks now assigned to her: to be the Mother of the Church and the Mother of each of us individually. This is spelt out in Lumen Gentium, No. 53:

53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer. Redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. But, being of the race of Adam, she is at the same time also united to all those who are to be saved; indeed, "she is clearly the mother of the members of Christ . . . since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.

Wherefore she is hailed as pre-eminent and as a wholly unique member of the Church, and as its type and outstanding model in faith and charity. The Catholic Church taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and devotion as a most beloved mother."

Like Mother, like daughter. The Church will always resemble her Mother who is life-giving, who re-creates in the Church in heaven and on earth, and in Purgatory, a living replica of herself. Did Mary believe Gabriel after being assured of God's desire? She did so without further question: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." Does the Church do that also? She does the same because Mary lives so powerfully in the Church, in the Pope, in the bishops and priests, in all believers. We are alive as Mary's children in the Church. With her the Church attends weddings as she did at Cana, asks for Christ's miracles upon occasion, charms the "brothers of Christ" to believe in Him, searches for Him when the Church appears to have lost Him, follows Him to Jerusalem, meets Him on the way to Calvary, stands with Him under the cross until the end, mourns Him at the tomb, rises to rejoice with Him on Easter, and shows herself to the world at Pentecost.

Mary is a living image of the Church, who is pictured as the cosmic woman in the Apocalypse: "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Apocalypse 12:1-2). She imprinted a unique picture of herself as the queen of the cosmos upon the garb of a peasant, Saint Juan Diego. Millions gaze on it each year and are warmed with love for "Our Lady of Guadalupe." The Indians of Mexico who saw it forgot their feud with the Conquistadores and flocked into the Church to be her children.

The Bishops of Vatican II explained how the Fathers of the Church had named her as the New Eve:

For, as St Irenaeus says, she "being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race." Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert with him in their preaching: "the knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith." Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her "Mother of the living," and frequently claim: "death through Eve, life through Mary" (Lumen Gentium 56).

The Church, then, will always be like Mary: faithful to God, loving to all the people, especially the poor, the sick, those in special need. Children obey their mothers and grow in culture and adulthood most of all because they want their mother's approval. The Church becomes always like Mary most of all because the Church wants to be like her Mother.

But Christ gave Mary to John not only to be the Mother of the Church, but also to be John's special and loving Mother. Perhaps it was she who inspired him to write the great words of John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Legend says that Mary lived in a house near Ephesus, where John also spent much of his time. Perhaps Paul also stopped at her house upon occasion, and she helped him to moderate his fierce zeal, to also reconcile him with Mark who had rankled Paul's rough spirit by parting his company during the first missionary journey. Mary has yet to reconcile the Orthodox Church and the Protestants with Rome, so that we give up our foolish posturing and worship the Lord together again.

Mary accompanies in a special way the 400,000 priests in the world, remembering how Jesus nodded to her and to John from the cross. Priests bring Jesus down upon the altar at Mass, and Mary inspires them to love Him as their One and Only. She accompanies seminarians in their training course. They strive to be chaste, they learn to love the Church, not to be rebellious and dissenting. In the Gospels we read no where that Mary interfered with the way Peter governed the Church after Pentecost. Where she is in charge of the seminary, there is love for the Church, beauty of the Liturgy, faithfulness to duty.

Mary lives again in the hearts of devoted religious who teach her children in school, who care for her sick, who clothe the naked, who visit those in prison, who are mothers to orphans, who nurse the dejected victims of AIDS. The Christian world is lovely because Mary lives in this world.

Mother to John, Mother to Paul, Mary is also the personal Mother to each of us. She was at our Baptism, she rejoiced with us at our First Holy Communion, educated us in the innocence of life and faith during childhood, rode the roller coaster of our meanderings and ambitions during our teenage years, blessed our marriage, our parenthood, our children, assisted us who pronounced vows and those of us who received the anointing of the priesthood. We remember that never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help, and sought her intercession was left unaided.

The daily cultivation of contacts with Mary enriches our lives and smooths our way, but Mary may charge a price. She wants us to live chastely, to do as Paul commends to the Galatians:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would (Galatians 5:16-17).

Mary is Queen of the Angels, who guard us, who also perform the Sacred Liturgy in heaven and lead the Alleluia chorus. She is our Queen because Her Majesty expects that we live in a royal manner, as Paul instructs us. But she is patient. She is also the Refuge of Sinners. If Judas had come to her instead of to the chief priests and the elders, she would surely have helped him through the crisis successfully. She is also Queen of Apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins, of all of us. She has her work to do to help us through life, to assist us at the hour of death, and she will be the first to meet us at the Gate of Heaven. For as Vatican II states about her:

Finally the Immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords, (cf. Apoc. 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death" (Lumen Gentium 59).