What was Mary doing when she pondered everything in her heart?
I recently read a profound article on the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. It does a great job of explaining the connection between the prophecy of Simeon, Mary’s sorrow and role in our redemption, and Jesus’s redemption of us. This quote sums it up:
“The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord should remind us that we do not belong to ourselves. Even Jesus Christ the son of God was “redeemed” by the Prophet Simeon in the temple that day by two young pigeons. All this fight about “I’ll do with my body what I want” is the most unacceptable, unchristian attitude you can possibly have. We are NOT our own. Our bodies and our souls are NOT ours. Did you make yourself? Are you going to judge yourself at the end of time? Are you just going to answer to yourself? I think not. And this idea can bother us if we are independent thinkers and doers, but it can also give us some liberation. It can also give us an explanation of why we should be doing the Lord’s will above our own–because I am not my own. My breath is not mine and my soul is not my own creation. I belong to my master who made me and REDEEMED me from the power of death, and so I OWE him, don’t I? Ultimately we LOVE our master and we serve him because we love him rather than simply out of a sense of duty–but if a sense of duty is all that we can muster right now, God will accept that. Pray for the grace to feel his love”.
I had the following thoughts after reading this article:
What was the sword that pierced Mary’s heart? It was symbolized by the lance that pierced Jesus’s heart on the Cross, but I think more than anything, it’s God’s love. Isn’t that the ultimate cause of all the good in the world? Isn’t it true that Jesus’s death on the Cross was the greatest possible good He could have done for mankind, and that He gave Himself up to be crucified out of love for us? If all that is true, then it must also be true that Mary was spiritually crucified as she stood at the foot of the Cross, and she too sacrificed herself for this crucifixion willingly. This was her co-redemption, her act of sacrificing her soul along with Jesus for our redemption. As St Alphonsus says, she didn’t die physically, but only because God gave her enough grace to keep her alive. Yet she experienced a martyrdom of the soul because she suffered enough to cause death, and the amount of sorrow she experienced there would’ve been enough to kill any other human. She underwent a sort of spiritual death without the effects of spiritual death that all other humans who die spiritually receive, which are the flames of hell.
If Jesus’s heart was pierced with a lance on the Cross and blood and water came out, then that means Mary’s heart was spiritually pierced with a lance through her sorrow, and spiritual blood and water came out. If Mary’s heart was perfectly united with Jesus’s, then the blood and water in His heart, which represents grace and mercy, was shared with Mary’s heart. That means at that moment, Mary’s heart was torn wide open so that she could share the vast reservoir of grace and mercy that she had accumulated from being perfectly united to Jesus. That’s why we call her the Mother of Mercy and the Mediatrix of all graces. She was connected to the source of all grace and mercy, and when He emptied Himself out completely in order to save and redeem us, Mary emptied herself out too, and that process will continue from that point until the end of time since she has a limitless amount of grace and mercy to share with her spiritual children.
This brings us to this question: What did Luke mean when he wrote that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart” when she found Jesus in the temple after searching for Him for three days? I think this video does a good job of answering that question, but I want to expand on Dr Miravale’s answer. As Pope St John Paul the Great said, Mary was the memory for the early Church. She spent the most time with Jesus out of anyone, including His apostles, and it wasn’t even close. He spent the first thirty years of His life with her, not the apostles. I’m sure God blessed her with a great intellect and memory, and so she remembered everything Jesus did and said in those thirty years together with her, and even more so in the three years of His public ministry, including His passion and death. Then she passed these memories and her understanding of them on to the apostles and early Church. In order to have faith, one must have a memory of the experiences, events, and people that have formed that faith. Memories are also necessary for hope, because when things become dark in our lives, and we feel hopeless, we can rely on our memories to remind us that God helped us in times of darkness before, and is still with us now.
As this author writes, summarizing Romano Guardini’s writing on the connection between the apostles’ memories of Jesus and their relationships with Him,
“All that has been remains in eternal form. Every word he spoke, every event during his lifetime is fixed in unchanging reality, then and now and forever.
The humble world of the Jewish fishermen from Galilee was irradiated by love incarnate and the memory of his sojourn neither faded with the era nor disappeared into another world. Guardini is right — each memory is confirmed and “released and carried over into the spacious serenity of eternal life.
To be a Christian is to be a man or woman of memory. Our memory is the memory of the sons of Zebedee and the memory of Peter and Andrew. Is this why our Lord chose two sets of brothers to be his witnesses? They are brothers because they share memory! And it is also the memory of the “colleagues” at Emmaus, it is the memory of the little flock at Bethany, it is the memory of the apostles in the upper room, it is the memory of Mary our mother (“Son, behold your mother”). The memory of the Lord fills and overflows the shared lives and memories of the communities of Christ. One brief word conjures it up; one shared meal fuels its love.
And our memories generate hope. Hope lies before us in the dawn of the resurrection. In that gray of the dawn after the Resurrection we discern the figure of the Risen Lord, poised between time and eternity and through love our memory turns to anticipation, so we must call out “Teacher!” “Lord!”
I think of our memory as a storage container for the love we share with God and our loved ones. Every time something weakens the bond between us and God or a loved one, we can tap into that reservoir of love and let that love flow out into minds and then our hearts so that we can share it with God and our loved ones and strengthen the bonds between us. I also see our memory as a vehicle of hope, because our memories of the love we shared with loved ones rekindles that love in us and gives us hope that we’ll receive more of it from them and from God in the future. It’s that love which is the lifeblood of our souls, and when it flows through us we’re filled with peace, joy, and hope for God’s promises to us to be fulfilled. As Romano Guardini said, “A memory is a passion relived”. Using that definition of a memory, that means our collective memory is the collection of all of the passions we’ve relived. When Mary pondered everything in her heart, she was reflecting on Jesus’s words and actions and memorizing them so that she could relive them later, and for all of eternity. You can’t reflect on something, remember it, and relive it in the future if you don’t pay attention to it at the moment it’s happening and put it in your memory. This requires a perfect attentiveness to every detail about a person and what they’re doing, and this is the attentiveness Mary had with Jesus and everyone she interacted with.
It was born out of love, because when you love someone, you don’t want to miss a single thing they do or say, and you don’t want to forget a single thing they do or say either. It was that perfect love of God that was the fuel for the consolidation of Mary’s memories into her mind and heart, and those memories were the foundation of the Tradition of the Church that was passed on from her to the apostles, and from them to their successors, all the way through time until the present day. Therefore, we have Jesus to thank for the creation of the Church, but we have the Blessed Virgin Mary to thank for its formation. It was just a baby while she was still on the Earth, and just as she nursed Jesus and taught Him about the scriptures and everything else a Jewish boy would need to learn, she also nursed the early Church and taught the apostles everything she knew about Jesus. This shaped the Church, since they were the pillars of the Church, with Jesus being the cornerstone and Peter being the central pillar.
That’s why Mary is the Mother of the Church, and we can take comfort in the fact that we have a mother who doesn’t forget a single thing we do or experience, and is eager to reward us for all the good we do in our lives, as well as all of the suffering we willingly offer up as a sacrifice to her Son. She remembers everything for us so we don’t have to remember everything. As long as we try to know her and love her with all of our hearts, the things we learn about her and the Holy Trinity will be imprinted on our minds and hearts. Even if we forget the knowledge and memories we’ve received from God’s grace flowing through Mary and the Holy Spirit, Mary will retrieve them for us exactly when we need to use them to do God’s will.