She conceived and birthed Jesus Christ, and her words to the angel Gabriel who brought her news that she would be pregnant with a Holy Child, have remained on the lips of many centuries after: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word”.
Here are some important – and interesting – things you should know about this extraordinary woman.
1. Mary is acknowledged in two religions as the only virgin to have ever conceived a child: Luke 1:26-35 details this, as do the other two synoptic gospels. This distinctive privilege is hers and hers alone. Islam also acknowledges this, and a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her.
2. The Immaculate Conception is erroneously thought to refer to the conception of Jesus Christ, but actually refers to the conception of Mary: Roman Catholics believe that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb free of original sin – by virtue of and in preparation for her role as the mother of the Messiah and co-mediatrix with him. There’s no Biblical reference for this doctrine, but it is a pillar of the Catholic Church’s tradition, and for Catholics, Church tradition is as important as the Bible. The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, and it is a public holiday in some countries.
3. The first public miracle Jesus ever performed was at Mary’s instance: Jesus was at a wedding in Cana, Galilee and his mother Mary was also in attendance. When they ran out of wine, she said to him, “They have no more wine.” Obviously as his mother, she knew what he was capable of and had probably been doing at home, but he wasn’t ready to perform a miracle publicly yet – he told her his hour had not yet come. However, for his sweet mother, he acquiesced. She didn’t even push, she just said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” And he honoured her request and turned water to wine. There is no Biblical reference for praying to her for these kinds of favours, but it’s not surprising that many seek her intercession to this day. Come on, look what she did here!
4. She had a sister who was also named Mary (John 19:25): Strange that the parents would give their daughters the same name, right? Some are of the view that they were actually cousins and that there was no word for “cousin” in Aramaic hence the “sister”. The Bible does say that Elizabeth was Mary’s “relative” though, clearly distinguishing between that and “sister”. Ah, well.
5. She is believed by some Christians to be “ever virgin:” That is to say, her husband Joseph never had sex with her. If you think this is a strictly Catholic doctrine, you’re mistaken. Although largely abandoned by reformed teaching, foremost protestant reformer Martin Luther, founding fathers of Anglicanism Hugh Latimer and John Cramer, amongst others, supported the doctrine inherited from the Roman Catholic Church. Even John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, is said to have affirmed Mary’s perpetual virginity in his statement of faith. What does the Bible say? “When Joseph got up from his sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary as his wife. He did not have marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24, 25). To non-adherents, it appears clear what “until” means, even without considering Biblical references to Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Mark 6:23, Galatians 1:19), but adherents of this doctrine say that “until” does not mean it ever happened, and that those brothers and sisters were either cousins or Joseph’s children from a previous marriage.
6. After Jesus died, Mary went to live with John, the Beloved: As Jesus hung dying on the Cross, he saw John, “the disciple whom he loved” standing there, and in tender provision for his mother, handed her over to him: “So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, look, here is your son!’ He then said to his disciple, ‘Look, here is your mother!’ From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.” (John 19:26, 27)
7. Some Christians believe that Mary was assumed into Heaven: Among those who believe this, there remains disagreement. Some say at some time soon after her death, her incorrupt body was taken directly into Heaven, while others say she, like Enoch and Elijah, never died at all. The Bible is silent on this. In fact in the Bible, after the day of Pentecost in Acts 1, Mary the mother of Jesus is not mentioned again in interactions between the believers whether in worship, doctrine, or in the epistles written to the various assemblies.
Regardless of what we all agree and disagree on, we all know this for sure: Mary totally submitted to the Will of God, and so should we!