Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Jesus taught Mary when he was "lost", and then found

Tradition holds that Blessed Mary alone remained steadfast in faith, even in the midst of her grief, on the Saturday of our Savior’s rest in the tomb. She knew, by her perfect faith, that Jesus would indeed rise from the dead on the third day – perhaps this is why she did not go with the other women to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, she knew that she must not seek the living among the dead.

How is it that Mary knew that Jesus would rise from the dead? What event, if any, can be singled out as the moment when she first began to understand that her beloved Son would die and rise again?

Many years earlier, when Jesus was only twelve, he began to instruct his Mother in the paschal mystery.

[In this busy time of year, this is a re-presentation of an earlier article from 7 April 2012 ... however, it fits quite well with the Sunday Gospel]

Mary lost her Jesus once before

And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch, And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.  And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. (Luke 2:41-45)

Notice that a) The event occurs in Jerusalem, b) at the time of the Passover. The Holy Family had travelled from Nazareth to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the yearly paschal feast.

Now, we know that Mary committed no sin and, of course, neither could Jesus have committed any sin whatsoever. Thus, it should be clear that there was no sin involved (nor even any true imperfection) in the loss of the Christ Child.

Mary did nothing wrong. Jesus did nothing wrong. And even Joseph did nothing wrong. Yet there is sorrow and confusion – for although Mary never erred, she (unlike the Christ) did not know all things. Mary, together with Joseph, yet had to be instructed in the great mysteries of the faith, and it was to this purpose that Christ remained behind in the Temple.

The Lord allowed himself to be lost for a moment, so that Joseph and his Mother might understand the plan of salvation which was to be accomplished in him.

After three days, she found her Child

And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. (Luke 2:46-50)

Mary and Joseph search for Jesus, and find him on the third day. This is no mere coincidence or useless detail – the Divine Providence provided for that the Child Jesus should only be found after the third day. And that he should be found in his Father’s house and accomplishing his Father’s work.

After three days, this phrase should immediately draw our hearts and minds to the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. For three days, Christ would be lost to the whole world. For three days, the Savior would be dead. But, after three days, he would rise and be found.

St. Ambrose (quoted in the Catena Aurea) speaks to this mystery saying, “After three days He is found in the temple, that it might be for a sign, that after three days of victorious suffering, He who was believed to be dead should rise again anti manifest Himself to our faith, seated in heaven with divine glory.”

This is what Jesus was teaching to Mary and also to Joseph – that he would die and rise again on the third day. It was a difficult and painful teaching. And so, there is anguish and sorrow in Mary’s heart as she questions her divine Son: Son, [she speaks in all tenderness] why hast thou done so to us?

Our Blessed Lady does not doubt, and she certainly does not accuse. Rather, she questions, she asks – “teach me, my Son; reveal to me the mystery.” And he begins to teach her.

Mary grew in her understanding of these mysteries

And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. (Luke 2:51)

We can be certain that our Lady had long before already come to something of an understanding that the Christ would suffer and die, and so rise again. She had read of the Suffering Servant and the Lamentations. She knew that Isaac had been offered by Abraham, and had been received back alive. And so, she certainly knew something of the paschal mysteries.

However, this knowledge was not always clear – for faith is believing in that which is not seen. And even that which is seen is as through a glass in a dark manner (1 Corinthians 13:12). And so, Mary came, step by step, to an understanding of that which she believed.

St. Theophylus tells us (in the Catena Aurea), “The Virgin, whether she understood or whether she could not yet understand, equally laid up all things in her heart for reflection and diligent examination. Hence it follows, And, his mother laid up all these things, etc. Mark the wisest of mothers, Mary the mother of true wisdom, becomes the scholar or disciple of the Child. For she yielded to Him not as to a boy, nor as to a man, but as unto God. Further, she pondered upon both His divine words and works, so that nothing that was said or done by Him was lost upon her, but as the Word itself was before in her womb, so now she conceived the ways and words of the same, and in a manner nursed them in her heart. And while indeed she thought upon one thing at the time, another she wanted to be more clearly revealed to her; and this was her constant rule and law through her whole life.”

Pondering on these things in her Immaculate Heart, the Blessed Mother came to understand that, even when it seemed as though her Son was ultimately lost to her through his death, he would indeed be returned to her and to all on the third day through his resurrection from the dead.

She had lost her Child once before, in Jerusalem, at the feast of Passover; but she had come to understand that he was doing his Father’s will, and she saw that he was returned to her safely. It was the memory of the finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple which stayed Mary’s faith through the sorrows of the first Holy Saturday.

Mary, model of all believers, Pray for us who have recourse to thee!


Anonymous said...

And, perhaps, it was a "dry run" to demonstrate the reality that Jesus's life on earth was to be directed toward the Will of God the Father, more directly now or soon by God the Father rather than by Mary and Joseph. After all, Jesus was now 12 years old - he had nearly achieved bar mitzvah, true? But Mary, in a special way, "knowing" the Will of the Father as if a facsimile in her own being remaining as a result of the conception and Incarnation of the Jesus and the Word in her, still remained close to Jesus, even in his adulthood, to encourage Him in God's Will even though her own human motherliness remained concerned for His total safety and security.

It's from between 150 miles to 170 miles distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem. In that time, it would have been a major trip with several overnight stops along the way. If many Jews were devout and obedient, there would have been enough demand for special caravans to move large numbers of people to and fro I suppose. If not, there would have been opportunity to move with carriers who moved merchandise and goods to and fro. Else, it may have been a lonely and dangerous trip.

Anonymous said...

When meditating on the fifth joyful mystery, I could never understand the context in which Mary seemed to be scolding her Son, nor could I understand the context of Jesus remaining behind without informing his earthly parents. Nor did I ever understand what Jesus meant by saying, "...I must be about my father's business...". You have made these things abundantly clear to me. Thank you very much for these insights.

Howard said...

Well, Jesus was also quite explicit in telling the Apostles what would happen. I don't think anyone will deny that prior to Pentecost, the Apostles were as dense as any of us, so they forgot or doubted. Maybe it is simply that their eyes had not yet been opened. The Virgin Mary was also travelling with them, though -- frequently, if not continuously. Surely she heard and understood this prophecy; it seems likely that she may have been the only one (other than Jesus, of course) to fully understand. Of course, this knowledge did not make it much easier for her to witness the Crucifixion.

Anonymous said...

Father Ryan,
One of your paragraphs includes the words, "..she (unlike the Christ) did not know all things."
One mystery (to me) of the Incarnation is how the Second Person of the blessed Trinity walls Himself off from His divine attributes in becoming human (ref. Phil. 2: 6-7).
In Gethsemane, Jesus prays to the Father to let "this cup" of suffering pass by, if it is possible; nevertheless, Thy will, not Mine, be done." If He knows all things, He knows how that prayer will be answered; so why pray?
Having to take things on faith is part of being fully human. I do not pretend to understand how Jesus can be both fully human and fully divine, in part because of the limits on human nature; but I accept the teaching of the Church that He is. But during His time - 33 years - on Earth, did He have constant access to all divine traits? In his post-Resurrection status, this is of course no longer a problem.
I suspect that your statement that Christ knows all things is maybe an oversimplification.

Tonitrus said...

The passage has a trinitarian dimension: the Son of God about His Father's business in the Temple where (Catena Aurea, Theophylact on Mark 15:38-41) the Holy Spirit dwelled until the His Crucifixion.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Here is a quote you will find interesting -- The following proposition is rejected: “The opinion cannot be declared certain, which holds that the soul of Christ was ignorant of nothing but from the beginning knew in the Word everything, past, present and future, that is to say everything which God knows with the ‘knowledge of vision’.” (Pope Benedict XV, Decree of the Holy Office of 1918)

As far as the perfection of our Savior's human knowledge, let me point you to several earlier articles:

And you can find more by searching this blog (upper left) for "human knowledge of Jesus"...

As to your particular question ... you indicate that, if our Savior did know everything and did not have to "take things on faith" that he would not really be fully human ... however, you have no problem with him having perfect knowledge after the resurrection.
Setting aside a number of ways I could respond ... let me ask you one question: Was Jesus no longer fully human after the resurrection? Are the saints in heaven no longer fully human?
Of course he is, and of course they are. Thus, if perfect knowledge did not make him less human after the resurrection, it certainly did not make him less human before the resurrection.

The real "oversimplification" is to make Jesus a wholly different person after the resurrection.

Do you become less human the more that you know? Then why would he be less human for knowing everything?

Stefanie said...

Hi, Father -- I really learned alot from this. Thank you. In following up, though, is the quote you used about the Virgin really from St. Theophylus in the Catena Aurea? It seems to be from St. Bede instead -- or at least it seems that way in my reading of the Catena Aurea of Luke's gospel. Or is the ordering of the quotes in the Catena Aurea jumbled? Anyway, when I was researching this for my RCIA class today, I couldn't find evidence of Theophylus writing specifically about Mary -- and only one of his complete works has survived. Just need the clarification. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response, Fr. Ryan.

Flambeaux said...

Thank you, Father.
This is a salutary antidote to the pablum that was fed to us at Mass yesterday.

Unknown said...

Hi, Father. I know this an old Post, so I'm not sure you'll get this message. If you did, I'd like to ask a few questions about specifics here that have often bothered me.

How, though as you said Mary was not omniscient, could Mary and Joseph misplace Jesus? Did the men and women travel in separate caravans, and each though He was with the other?

And how would Mary, intellecthe not clouded by sin, the most brilliant woman to ever live, not think to check the temple first?

Did Jesus will she not think of it so we couldon't later meditate on it?

Thank you in advance.

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