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Amazement of Mary

Amazement of Mary

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Why was Mary amazed and astonished about Jesus when she knew who he was?

A: The passages in the Bible regarding surprise and astonishment (see Luke 1,39-44; 2,33-35; 2,48- 52) do not all refer to Mary; only the Presentation and the Temple scenes do. In the Visitation scene it is Elizabeth who expresses surprise, amazement and awe. Mary's reaction of astonishment (Temple scene) and amazement (Presentation) confirm what Vatican II and John Paul II tell us about Mary. She was in many ways similar to us, specifically, she was, like us, a pilgrim in faith (Lumen Gentium, 58).

Pope John Paul II uses an expression coined by John of the Cross to describe Mary's pilgrimage in faith. He says that Mary had to undergo, in a certain way, the experience of the "night of faith" (Redemptoris Mater, 17). This may come as a surprise but does not contradict the fact that she was blessed by the Holy Spirit and that the child born from her was announced as "holy, the Son of God." This revelation was a very personal and private one. Mary knew in her heart and acquiesced with her whole being to the announcement made by the angel. This led to her Fiat (Yes). She did not say: "I know that this prophecy would come true," but "May it be done to me according to your word." (Lk 1,38) What she knew in her heart had to evolve and be ratified in a day to day and progressive way. Her conviction, supported by the grace of the Spirit, had to be confirmed in and through the events and facts of Jesus' life. Presentation and Temple scenes are among those events. They corroborate what Mary knew in her heart. They are like pieces of a puzzle that fall into place. Amazement and astonishment are normal reactions of people who are witnessing some surprising event. Mary's amazement and wonderment need to be assimilated and related to that first promise telling her that Jesus will be "called holy, Son of God." And so Mary's knowledge grows all along Christ's life in the sense of a growing and ever more explicit confirmation of what was given her to understand at the moment of the Annunciation. Her knowledge is not a knowledge that knows in sovereign or God-like fashion; it is a knowledge that understands — thanks to amazement, astonishment, surprise and pondering — whenever God speaks to her in and through the various events of her Son's life.

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