The Gaze of a Mother

It was a cold, gray afternoon when a woman we are serving, Diana, brought over her newborn baby girl.  We talked over some tea and cookies for a bit then Diana handed little Isabella to one of the sisters to hold. As we continued to chat, Isabella began to squirm. Diana looked over and took her baby in her arms, gazed at her and said, “She’s still hungry”.  I was struck by the way Diana knew what her child needed right away, but more so at the way she gazed at her daughter.  I could not help but think of the Blessed Mother in that moment.

We begin this year with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. How great is that title: Mother of God! She is the “Theotokos” which means “God bearer”.  She comes bearing God to us. She brings the God who was made Man for us, who loves us, who desires to heal us, comfort us, who sees His image in each of us, who desires to raise our humanity to his divinity. She was not only God’s mother, but she is our mother too! On Calvary Christ said, “Behold, your Mother” (Jn 19:27).

In the famous Russian and Greek icons of the Mother of God like Our Lady of Vladimir, we find the gaze of a mother who sees each one of us as her own. She knows what we need. She is our spiritual mother who continually stands before God interceding for us. Her prayer is the prayer of a mother’s love. “Find out for yourself by personal experience the meaning of Mary’s maternal love. It is not enough just to know that she is our Mother, and to think and talk about her as such. She is your Mother and you are her child. She loves you as if you were her only child in this world. Treat her accordingly. Tell her about everything that happens to you; honor her and love her. No one will do it for you or as well as you” (St. Josemaria Escriva).

When we look closely at an icon, we realize Mary is also inviting us to look at Her Son – She is often pointing at Him. Christ is usually seated in her arms and clothed with gold garments, clinging to her veil with one hand. She shows us the way to Christ and reminds us that we are made for more, we are made for eternity, to be in communion with the Trinity and to be divinized like Her Son.

In this New Year, it is Christ who says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5 ). “The power to be made new…not simply beginning again, dragging along with the old scars, the old crippling wounds, the old weaknesses dragging at the will; limping with the weariness of yesterday, sore with the heartsickness of the last defeat, bitter with the still smarting grievance against one another. A new will, new heart, new vision, new love – indeed new life” (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God).  Christ makes us new through the Sacraments and through the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation Jesus washes away our sins. We are given a new heart to love with His love.

The Christ Child teaches us to be little and to cling to our Mother. We can ask ourselves: What are the ways God wants to make me new? What new graces does He have in store for me? What are the new ways He desires me to love? In what new way is He asking me to follow Him?

It is the power of being made new and the power of being that builds a culture of life – we become more like Christ and “only Christ-bearers can restore the world to life and give humanity back the vitality of love” (Caryll Houselander).

We can ask our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede for us in this New Year, to help us recognize all the new ways we can follow Jesus to build a culture of life and love.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.