May: the month of Mary, the fulfilment of God’s promise

Devotion to Mary is an integral part of both the Catholic faith and the Society of Jesus. At the end of each of his talks, Father Arturo Sosa asks for the intercession of Mary, especially Our Lady of the Way, who inspired St Ignatius and his first companions. But why the association between Mary and the month of May? James Hanvey, the Secretary of the Society’s Service of Faith, offers some reflections to answer this question. (A longer version of this article was published by the Thinking Faith website under the title A Timeless Magnificat. We thank the editors for their cooperation).

‘May is Mary’s month.’ So begins the poem The May Magnificat of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the famous English Jesuit poet. As usual with Hopkins, when we think we are in the realm of popular piety, he springs a question, presents a metaphor or throws in a step-change rhythm that arrests us. In The May Magnificat, after the opening statement he asks ‘and I/Muse at that and wonder why?’ Why May? Why Mary?

Hopkins goes on to answer his question by drawing deep natural and supernatural connections between Mary, the mother of the Lord of Life and the renewal of life in spring. May is not only the month of Mary but of the Church. For Hopkins, there is an intimate and necessary connection between Mary, the Church and the Holy Spirit: indeed, the Spirit is the vital ground of all things renewed in Christ, for the Spirit is ‘the Lord and Giver of Life.’ The natural liturgy of the seasons and the liturgy of Christian worship seem to come together in directing us to the abundance of life, both in nature and in grace. [...]

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Mary shows us that to be truly a human capacity, natality is and must be a graced reality. It is not just an endlessly creative resistance to the inevitable destructions of history, matter and human corruption. ‘Natality’ springs from the divine life within us that constantly ‘mothers’ us into the new life of grace. This ‘natality’ also has a face – it is precisely the way which Christ comes alive in us without diminishing of our own uniqueness. Redeemed in Christ we are coming to our fulfilment, coming to be who we are – who God has created us to be. We become transparent to Him in this world, just like Mary: In other words, May is the month when, with Mary, we celebrate the work of grace in us and in the world. Through Mary and in her we see the truth of God’s promises fulfilled. [...]

I suggest that [we] consider the way in which the Christian faith constantly returns to contemplate Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God. In her [we can] see both the scandal and originality of the Christian life and reality. It is a vision of an incarnate God, constantly active in his loving and saving self-gift; a personal God who calls us into a free relationship with him, and only in that relationship is our freedom fully realised. Here is that reversal of the Kingdom, celebrated in Mary’s Magnificat: where the ‘yes’ is not an act of subjection or subservice, but a self-gift of loving service which lives in the transcendence of God’s own self-gift; it is the way in which we choose to live beyond ourselves, not for ourselves, ‘but for him.’ In this sense, Mary is also the stumbling block for all the atheistic secularisms and their values which can sometimes creep into even Christian life and ways of thinking. Mary, who always draws us into the life of her Son, also keeps us open to the mystery that is God’s redemption and sanctification of the human and created order. In this way we can discover the constantly new beginning, the natality of the Spirit which allows us to announce our Magnificat not only in May but in every time and season.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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