It is hard to see Mary clearly, beneath the conflicting identities she has borne over the centuries. To one era she is the flower of femininity, and to another the champion of feminism; in one age she is the paragon of obedience, and in another the advocate of liberation. Some enthusiasts have been tempted to pile her status so high that it rivals that of her Son. Others, aware that excessive adulation can be dangerous, do their best to ignore her entirely.
Behind all that there is a woman nursing a baby. The child in her arms looks into her eyes. Years later he will look at her from the cross, through a haze of blood and sweat. We do not know, could not comprehend, what went through his mind during those hours of cosmic warfare. But from a moment in the St. John’s account of the Crucifixion we know that, whatever else he thought, he thought about her. He asked his good friend John to take care of her. He wanted John to become a son to her—to love her the way he did. . .
In the course of Jesus’ busy ministry, the glimpses of Mary are few and brief. In the third chapter of Mark, we see her accompanying (perhaps reluctantly) a group of Jesus’ brothers who have heard a rumor that he is insane, and have come to cart him away.
Who can comprehend what must have been in her heart in those days, or how severely her faith was tried? Surely she always loved and obeyed God, and always loved her son. But she would have had reason enough to feel confused and dismayed. Perhaps she wondered if she had misunderstood God all along, or if he was not really the kind of God she thought she knew.
It is this same woman, so holy and God-loving, so real and human, who is lauded with extravagant praise. She is held up as the example for all Christians to imitate. She is honored for one particular moment in her holy life: she said yes to God.—Frederica Matthewes-Green, excerpted from Mary as the Early Christians Knew Her