As Christians observe Mother’s Day, their thoughts appropriately turn to an archetypal mother: to the mother within whose flesh Divinity became flesh. Ever since the Reformation, Protestants have tended, in their scorn for Madonna-worship, to ignore what all Christians can learn from her. Mary’s experiences were unparalleled in human history; yet at significant points they can provide a pattern for all Christians.

First, we note the total submission to God’s will for her personal life expressed in Luke 1:38: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Our attention tends to glide too smoothly over the surface of those familiar words. What must have whirled within her consciousness on that annunciation day and in succeeding days? Surely there was uncertainty, fear of misunderstanding, fear of opprobrium, fear of unknown unknowns. Which of us, facing a decision to accept Christ initially or to accept any new yielding to him, has not experienced similar emotions? But how often is our response so wholly affirmative, so accepting?

In the instant of the angelic greeting, did Mary have any prophetic awareness that her acceptance and submission would mean an arduous trip over interminable hills during the final stages of pregnancy? (To see Mary more intelligently and more humanly, one who has never been pregnant might ask any pregnant woman, any mother, what it would have been like to walk or ride a donkey across all those hills between Nazareth and Bethlehem.) Did Mary have any inkling that “be it unto me” would mean an exile in Egypt, and the sword-piercings that would come to her own heart when His was pierced by a Roman blade?

Perhaps she did. One would think, however, that she did not yet know what she ...

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