Saint Brigid Religious Education
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What We Know About The Life of Mary
really know very little about the life of Mary. The New Testament is the main
source of information. Since the New Testament was written by Jesus' early
followers to spread the good news about Jesus, Mary is mentioned only in
relationship to Him. It is for this reason that the New Testament tells us
nothing about Mary's parents, birth or childhood.
We first meet Mary as a young woman, living in the village of Nazareth and
engaged to a man named Joseph, a carpenter. We cannot, of course, say for
certain what her age was, but a likely conjecture is between 14 and 17 years
old. We meet her at the most crucial juncture of her life. The angel Gabriel
appears to her, addresses her as one favored by God, and asks her if she is
willing to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary agrees and Jesus is conceived
through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary becomes mother and remains a virgin.
Her "yes" determined the course of the rest of her life and altered the course
of human history. It also shows Mary to be an obedient handmaid of the Lord. Mary
first felt the effects of this "yes" when Joseph decided to end their
relationship when he found out that she was expecting a child. After he had made
up his mind to do this, an angel of God appeared to him in a dream. The angel
told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child was
conceived by the Holy Spirit and "would save the people from their sins." When
Joseph woke up he did what the angel told him and took Mary to be his wife.
her pregnancy Mary traveled to a town in Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth who
was soon to give birth to John the Baptist. Elizabeth addressed Mary as "the
Mother of my Lord" and declared her blessed because of what God had done for
gave birth to Jesus far from home, in Bethlehem, where she had traveled with
Joseph for the Roman census. The town was crowded and the couple could not find
lodgings so they took shelter in a stable and that is where, according to the
Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born.
Shortly after Jesus' birth, Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee.
According the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told
him that King Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus because he had heard from
visiting astrologers that the child would grow up to be a king. The angel told
Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and flee into Egypt. Joseph got up and the family
left that night for Egypt. Herod ordered his soldiers to slaughter all baby boys
under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts. Jesus, Mary and
Joseph stayed in Egypt until they heard that Herod was dead. Then they returned
Again, because the gospels are about Jesus, we know very little about Mary's
life in Nazareth during Jesus' boyhood and adult life. In all probability her
life was quite ordinary. She cleaned her house, went to the village well for
water, prepared meals and made
clothes for her family. We know
involved in the life of Jesus throughout His ministry. She cared for Him as an
infant (Matt 1:18 - 2:23); she looked for Him in the Temple when she thought He
was lost (Luke 2:41-49); she cared for Him through adolescence (Luke 2:51-52);
she interceded with Him at the wedding at Cana (John 2:2-5); she worried about
Him as He began His ministry (Matt 13:46); she was at His cross when He was
crucified (John 19:25-26); and she prayed with the other followers of Jesus
after His ascension (Acts 1:14).
Jesus began his ministry when he was about thirty years old. Mary didn't always
understand what Jesus was doing or why he was doing it. Like any mother, she
worried about her son., but she never lost faith in him. She obediently heard
the Word of God and kept it.
Mary's role at Cana illustrates the importance in which she is held by her Son.
Mary, God's humble servant, noticed that the wedding no longer had any wine and
brought this to the attention of her Son. He responded to her admonition, "They
have no wine." (John 2:3) by willingly doing something miraculous. Her last
recorded words in the Bible, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5) signify her
full expectation that her Son would do the miraculous by causing nature to bend
to His will. She was and is full of faith in Him; she was His first disciple.
The most devastating hours of Mary's life were spent beneath the cross of her
Son. "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he
said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son." Then he said to the disciple,
"Behold, your mother." (John 19:26). By giving His mother to the disciple at the
Cross, she becomes the Mother of all Jesus' followers and the Mother to His
Church. It is in this role that she has occasionally appeared to the pious
Mary was present with the disciples in the upper room and received the Holy
Spirit at Pentecost. It is clear that Mary shared the faith of the early church
and was, from the first, a member of the post -resurrection community.
Mary is honored by the Church as its mother, as a model of faith, as a sign
of the Church's hope in the coming of the Kingdom, and as the Queen of Saints.
We are very fond of Our Lady because She is our refuge and our help. This humble woman who marked the transition between
the Old Testament and the New Testament is
We call Mary "Our Lady" , a title that next to "Our Lord" means a great deal of
respect, and She deserves all the honors that can be given, because She is the
Mother of Our Savior, the cause of our Joy and because She is our Heavenly
Popular Christian stories about Christ, Mary and the apostles originating in
Syria, Palestine and Egypt from the mid-2nd century, greatly influenced the way
imagined Mary's life. By the 5th century, a church honoring
Mary's birthplace and home, was built close by the Temple site in Jerusalem. The
Church of St. Ann, the mother of Mary, stands on that place today. These
stories, attempting to supply details omitted in the Gospels, have inspired art,
liturgy and Christian devotion to Mary over the centuries. These stories written
about 150 A.D., portray the childhood of Mary.
Stories from the 5th century (or perhaps earlier) recount Mary's later life, her
death and assumption into heaven, events unreported by the four Gospels. The
legends describe Jesus appearing to Mary in the house on Mount Sion in Jerusalem
where she lived after Pentecost. Her Son tells her she is soon to die. From all
parts of the world the apostles gather to bid her farewell. "Stretching out his
hands, the Lord received her holy soul. And when her soul departed, the place
was filled with a sweet smell and bright light. "And a voice from heaven
proclaimed: "Blessed are you among women." "Peter and John, Paul and
Thomas, ran to embrace her feet and receive her holiness; and the twelve
apostles laid her holy body on a bier and bore it forth. (Ps. John: The Dormition of Mary, 4th century).
Instructed by Jesus, Peter and the other apostles took her body to be buried in
a new tomb near Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, where miracles of healing
accompanied her burial. Three days later, angels took her body to
heaven. By the year 600, a feast called the Dormition of Mary, honoring
her death and assumption into heaven, was celebrated in Jerusalem and in the
churches of the East. Some centuries later it would pass into the Western
churches known as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. One of the first
churches in Christendom dedicated to Mary was built over her tomb near
Gethsemane around 400 A.D. Today, a church still marks this site in Jerusalem.