Mary is the Immaculate.
Her way of being, shone concretely in her obedience to God which she lived as a spontaneous and indefectible dimension of her love. She saw herself fully as a daughter. In her adherence to the traditions of the Hebrew people, there weren’t any traces of servitude, just as the prescribed justice of the Law was being totally fulfilled in her: “immaculate”, as a matter of fact, means without sin. Mary accomplished in herself for the first time in a completed way, the covenant with her ancestors. “Immaculate” also means full of grace, that is, full of the Holy Spirit. No one before her, in the manner like hers ever understood the profound intention of the Spirit in obeying the letters of the Scripture. Mary welcomed with gladness the prescriptions that were the concrete signs of the covenant made to her people by God, but she saw the Law, more than anyone, to be a gift of love – as a display of His personal nearness to the people. Her obedience was being fulfilled as a genuine gesture of grateful riconoscenza [in English, “acknowledgement”].
This is a beautiful word, riconoscenza. It is synonymous with “gratitude”, and has a sense of gladness and freedom within it, which is also linked to the sense of being loved. It contains at its root the word reconoscere [in English, “recognize”], which brings us to the area of judgment and faith. Mary, who meditates everything in her heart, recognizes the initiative of God’s love in the tradition of her ancestors, and freely responds. Thus, Mary is perfectly free and perfectly herself in her unconstrained gratitude with which she adheres to the will of God.
Mary is the mother of God made man.
She is called mother, not only because she conceived and bore Jesus, but she is rightly called mother also and especially because she was the first educator of the Son of God. Mary was the authority for her Son: she had the duty to introduce Jesus, as a child and as a boy, to the piety of her people, the spiritual tradition of the forefathers. She did this by passing on her personal experience of acknowledgment [in Italian, “riconoscenza”] in a completely natural way.
Child Jesus therefore begins to obey the Father through the obedience to his Mother. Obviously, this is true only because the opposite direction of obedience is true: the Son of God obeys the human authority because his being as man accomplishes the act of original obedience directly addressed to the heavenly Father – that sublime bowing that Andrej Rublëv depicted in his icon of the Trinity.
Mary is our mother.
John the Apostle tells in the Gospel that from the day of the crucifixion, Mary’s vocation of motherhood was broadened to embrace all men. Mary is thus, also our mother and the mother of contemporary men who flee from every fatherhood for fear. They see in words such as “authority”, “law”, “tradition”, “obedience” – that are all summed up in the word “father” – as “constraint”, “enslavement”, “prescription” that annuls or limits one’s experience of freedom in which one believes to find his happiness.
These men of our society need to find a way to return to God the Father. Mary presents herself in front of these men of today who are overwhelmingly burdened. Through her apprehension, she opens the door once again to obedience founded on love. Mary is the maternal countenance that welcomes sinners, sees in them the suffering hearts, desperate and disoriented. Her sweetness becomes a new beginning, and her tenderness dissolves the contradiction which separates the need for happiness and the precepts of the Church. With her smile and her tears of apprehension, with her heartfelt welcome open to meet everyone, Mary, once again, unleashes the fount of gratitude [riconoscenza] found at the depth of man’s hardened heart. Mary helps us to recognise our nature of being children, and through this experience, helps to open our relationship with the Father and to rediscover Him as the source of freedom and happiness. Mary, the Immaculate mother, becomes the intermediary who begins to re-present the obedience of men to the Father and to the Church.
It is possible that the word “apprehension” is not so apt for the Madonna; and yet, she embodies the experience of motherhood par excellence who expresses the love of every mother in a concrete and beautiful way, even though every human experience is marked by Original Sin that closes in oneself. In the Mother Immaculate, the experience of apprehension is redeemed, and thus apprehension itself becomes the instrument of redemption. Mary’s concern for the salvation of her children becomes an irresistible call for those who are attentive. It is enough to recall numerous places and time in which Mary appeared in the last 200 years, drawing multitude of people to herself every time, and directing them to God.
For wounded men of today, the main returning road to the Father is precisely the path of tenderness and meekness of the Mother. The current historical and cultural circumstances render this road almost unavoidable, but after all, it reveals itself as the dimension of the same fatherhood.