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Infancy Narratives

Infancy Narratives

Mary in the Infancy Narratives of the Gospels

– Reverend Matthew R. Mauriello

As the joyous Christmas season approaches, we are given the opportunity once again to reflect on one of the central mysteries of our holy faith, namely, that the Son of God became man, born of a woman like every other human being. The Sacred Scriptures are the primary sources for the accounts detailing the conception and birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the participation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in these events.

Through careful analytic study, scripture scholars generally are in agreement that the Gospel according to St. Mark is the first which was written. Mary is not mentioned until chapter six when Jesus had already begun His public ministry and the people began to ask, "Where did this man get all this? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mk.6:2-3)

St. John's Gospel, as well, begins with the public ministry of Jesus, inaugurated at the wedding feast of Cana by the prompting of Mary who told her Son of the plight of the newly-married couple with the words, "They have no wine."(Jn.2:3) Her last recorded words in St. John's Gospel follow soon thereafter when she instructs the servants to "Do whatever He tells you." (Jn.2:5) This has often been seen as Mary's valedictory or farewell words wherein she humbly bows out of the picture to let her Son take over.

The Gospel according to St. Matthew is generally believed to have been written for Jewish-Christian believers. These are those people who converted to Christianity after having led lives as devout Jews, familiar with the law and the prophets.

Madonna and Child with Open Book Sandro Botticelli

St. Matthew brings forth the Christian message of the Gospel through a profound reflection on the scriptures of the Old Testament. He does this throughout the Gospel account, but primarily in the Infancy Narratives of the Birth of Jesus found in chapters one and two.

St. Matthew's Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, beginning with Abraham, the father in faith and leading up to "Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." (Mt.1:16) Jesus is legally a descendant of King David through St. Joseph, His foster father and the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. The expression, "in order to fulfill what the Lord declared through the prophet..." is used by St. Matthew five times in the Infancy Narratives to help make the connection in the reader's mind that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament.

It is in the Gospel according to St. Luke that a fuller portrait of Mary is given. The Infancy narrative of St. Luke which begins in chapter one, verse five and ends in chapter two, verse fifty-two, and gives the reader the most descriptive account in the New Testament. Scholars believe that St. Luke wrote his gospel account for a Gentile audience and places the events of Jesus' nativity in the context of world history by beginning with the mention of the census decreed by Caesar Augustus. (Lk.2:1)

St. Luke gives the reader a sense of who Mary is as a person. Mary is seen as a dedicated, loving and sensitive individual. "She treasures the things that the shepherds told her and ponders them in her heart." (Lk.2:19) She is depicted throughout the Gospel primarily as a believer, who has been faithful to Jesus from His conception, to His birth, infancy, childhood and adulthood. Mary grew in her own discipleship as her motherhood progressed. She is the only person who had such a close relationship with Jesus throughout all the stages of his life. Even in the Acts of the Apostles, written also by St. Luke, Mary continues as a disciple and believer after the death and glorious Resurrection of Jesus, at prayer in the upper room with the infant church at Pentecost continuing to share in the Sacred Mysteries of her Son.

The above article appeared in the Fairfield County Catholic January 1996. Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher.

Image shown: Madonna and Child with Open Book, Sandro Botticelli

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