Saint Paul wrote, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Romans 12:4-5). We often hear priests and bishops tell us, the laity, to be the hands and feet of Christ. The analogy of the many parts making up a whole body makes sense to me. Everyone has an individual role based on your gifts and state in life.
What I never thought about until recently was the specific role Mary plays (using this analogy of the Body of Christ). The Mother of God connects the faithful to her Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. In this post, I will share a few more reasons why Mary is the neck of the Body of Christ.
Her Humble Role in Salvation History
There’s nothing flashy about the neck. It’s a humble muscle whose primary focus is to link the head to the rest of the human body. Likewise, Mary is the connector of the Body of Christ with Christ the Head. Saint Bernard said, “It is not hard to be humble in a hidden life, but to remain so in the midst of honors is a truly rare and beautiful virtue.”
No other person in the history of Christianity (except for Christ) has as many titles or honor given as Mary. The angel Gabriel declared, “Hail, Mary full of grace” (Luke 1:28). To the average person this type of praise could lead to the sin of pride. Verse 29 referred to Mary as being “troubled” by the angel’s claim. According to St. Alphonsus’, “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.”
The humble neck is an appropriate analogy to speak of the Blessed Virgin’s humility.
Testifies to Jesus’ Full Humanity
In the fourth century, there arose a heresy, or false teaching, that denied that Mary was the mother of Jesus. Named after the bishop Nestorius who promoted this belief, the heresy formally became known as Nestorianism.
The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 declared that Mary is theotokos (the God-bearer). Led by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the council fathers, wrote about Mary:
“Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.” (DS 251).
Catholics honor Mary as mother, and celebrate her motherhood on January 1st because:
Jesus entrusted us into the care of Mary as our spiritual mother (see John 19:26-27).
Honoring the motherhood of Mary reminds us of the humanity of Jesus
Mary as Mother of God protects against heresies claiming Jesus wasn’t fully man
Necks and Nourishment
Saint Bernard of Clairvoux fittingly wrote about Mary, “‘channel’ or, even, the neck, through which the body is joined to the head, and likewise through which the head exerts its power and strength on the body. For she is the neck of our Head, by which all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Mystical Body.” Saint Pope Pius X echoed the same sentiment in his encyclical Ad diem illum.
Food enters the mouth of the body and is carried down the neck (more precisely the esophagus) into the digestive system. In an analogous manner, Christ’s nourishing grace is channeled through Mary to the rest of the Church’s members.
During my first Marian consecration, I experienced a closer relationship to Jesus. Saint Louis de Montfort said,
[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.
Notice how the saint didn’t say Mary was the ONLY pathway to Christ. You can still pray directly to Jesus. It is in my experience that anytime I reflect on the life of Mary or ask her for help I always end with only thinking about her Son.
All analogies fall short of the reality they try to explain. But analogies help us understand things beyond our full comprehension. Mary is like the neck of the Body of Christ. Jesus entrusted the Church to his Mother (John 19:26-27). Examples from Church Tradition (Saints Bernard and Pope Pius X) and Scripture display how Mary’s primary role in salvation history is to give birth to Jesus and connect us with Him.
❗️Fear causes paralysis of the mind, body and soul.
❗️You have to work toward slaying fear daily. Ask God for the grace to move away from fear.
❗️Fear leads to doubt. Doubt leads to distrust. And distrust can have negative or unexpected consequences.
❗️ Moses doubt in God’s Providence to quench the peoples’ thirst in the desert when he impatiently struck the rock twice instead of once (Numbers 20) resulted in him losing the chance to enter the Promised Land.
❗️Peter’s fear for his Lord’s safety caused Jesus to publicly chastise him, “Get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23).
❗️Past achievements or your pedigree don’t give you a free pass to give into doubt and fear.
Questions for discernment
🔰 How have you overcome fear in your life?
🔰 Sometimes fear is a good (like aversion to a fire stove or being cautious in situations with warning signs.
🔰 How can these different types of fear be distinguished?
Look forward to any thoughts in the comments below 👇
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 13, 2019.
May 13th, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. I participated in a 33-day Marian consecration that culminated on the Feast of Fatima. Because of the honor Catholics bestow towards Mary, it is important to dispel common misunderstandings non-Catholics may have about the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
According to 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself.” It seems clear-cut that any reaching out to Mary for help and mediation is to be frowned upon to prevent falling into heresy!
Honor NOT Worship
This article outlines a few explanations from both Scripture and Tradition to describe the Catholic approach to Mary. Catholics HONOR, but NOT WORSHIP Mary! First, we will look at biblical evidence. Next, we look at the Second Vatican II document on the Church [Lumen Gentium]. Lastly, we will analyze some thoughts about Mary from the St. Pope John Paul II.
Biblical background on Mary’s Mediation
Before I mention the key passage about Mary’s intercessory action I want to highlight her vow of total obedience to God first. In Luke the angel greeted Mary with these words, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). The original Greek is Chaire, Kecharitomene which translated to “Hail, full of grace”. Catholics interpret the phrase full of grace to refer to Mary being conceived without sin. Having this preliminary understanding of Mary, let us look at a strong example regarding her mediation to help humankind.
The wedding at Cana in the beginning of John’s gospel is Jesus’ first public miracle. Here Mary displays her role as a mediator and advocate when she urges Jesus to perform the miracle of changing the water into wine. According to the fourth gospel. “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine” (John 2:3). Catholics honor towards Mary is not because she is a god but because of her close connection to God! John 2:5 is evidence that Mary’s end purpose is obedience and submission to God when she expresses to the wedding servers, “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you.”
Testimony of Tradition
Along with the evidence from the New Testament, we will look briefly at what the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium and Pope John Paul II tells us about Mary as a mediator. According to Lumen Gentium 60,
There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, “for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all”.(298) The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.
It is also appropriate to mention that it is not a coincidence that the content of the final chapter of this council document being relating to Mary. The last major section of the chapter mentions Mary as the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God. Mary is not the end. Rather, she is a signpost pointing Christians to Christ! (Lumen Gentium 68).
Witness of JPII
Finally, I want us to examine St. John Paul II’s Marian devotion. The polish pope focuses on the maternal mediation of Mary in his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater. To start off, John Paul II acknowledges hat there is only one mediator Jesus. In union with Tradition the pope states, “The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself (Redemptoris Mater 38). Mary is the first and greatest apostle of God. God entrusted Himself to her before anyone else (Redemptoris Mater 39).
John Paul II also says, “After her Son’s departure, her motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother cooperates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world (Redemptoris Mater 40). The key word in this quote is cooperates. Mary is not equal to God, but she does COOPERATE with God and in the mediation of Jesus Christ!