Mary the Mother of Life

In John 19:26, Jesus dying on the cross sees together Mary, his mother, and John, His beloved disciple.   Jesus addresses Mary, his mother (Greek: metera, metri), with the words, “Woman (Gr: gunai), behold your son” (referring to John).  He then says to John, “Behold your mother (Greek:  meter).”

It is interesting to consider whether Jesus had in mind (or perhaps John the Evangelist understood the event) as bestowing a particular status on Mary and the Church.

Mary is contemplating her son, Jesus, dying on the cross.  Jesus tells her John is her son. Was Jesus “transferring” sonship to His disciple(s)?  Did He want Mary to grow in her understanding that He, Jesus, was being exalted as her Lord, and that now her sons would be those born of His death on the cross?   Did Jesus want John to understand that a new relationship was emerging from His death in which the disciples would have a new mother – Mary, now the symbol of the church?

The Greek word Jesus uses to refer to His mother – gunai – might well harken our attention back to the Book of Genesis and the creation/formation of Eve.  Adam calls the woman God made “gune” (Genesis 2:23) when God introduces her to him.  Then in Genesis 3:21 when Adam speaks her name, Eve, for the first time, this woman (gunaikos)   – Adam’s wife (!) – is declared to be the mother (meter) of all those who live.

Mary’s role at the crucifixion is changing from mere mother of Jesus, to symbolically becoming the bride/wife of the Crucified Lord and so she is being born, as is the Church from the side of Christ, as mother of all of God’s children, namely all Christians/disciples.  (Just as Eve came into being from Adam’s side).   Perhaps John has in mind (since themes from the Genesis creation story seem to pervade his Gospel) that Mary as the new Eve is the mother of all living.

For in Christ, life is given to all, and so Mary the Theotokos is called rightfully the mother of life.

“Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not only present at the cross in the Johannine narrative, she is addressed by Jesus.  She is called ‘woman’ only here (John 19:26-27) and in John’s account of the wedding feast at Cana (2:4).  This is the name given to Eve in Genesis when she is designated ‘the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20).”  (Roland Faley, “The Paschal Mystery: Reflections on John and Paul,”  THE BIBLE TODAY, March/April 2012, p 108).

Great and Holy Friday

“At the Passover the Jews escaped the bondage of Pharaoh while we on the day of the crucifixion are delivered from the bondage of Satan. They sacrificed a lamb and were saved by its blood from the avenger, while we are delivered from evil deeds which we have done through the blood of the well-beloved Son. They had Moses for their leader; we have Jesus for our Head and Saviour. Moses diverted the sea for them and made them pass through it; our Saviour opens hell and shatters its portals when he went down into it and opened and marked out the way for all those who were to believe in him.” [Aphraaates the Syrian (4th C) in From Shadows to Reality: Studies in the Biblical Typology of the Fathers  by Jean Danielou,  pg. 184]