Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy; hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope…
Mother of Mercy is one of the titles that the Church gives to the Virgin Mary, a title that has a particular resonance for us during this Holy Year, the Jubilee of Mercy, and especially now as we enter the month of May, traditionally devoted to Our Lady. But why is Mary so lovingly titled as the Mother of Mercy by the Church?
Perhaps, firstly, it can be said that as the Mother of the Son of God, Mary participated in and revealed the mercy of God by sharing most intimately in his becoming man in the Incarnation. She is the Mother of mercy because she bore in her womb the very Face of Divine Mercy, Jesus, Emmanuel. As Pope Francis proclaimed in his Homily on opening the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on 1st January this year, ‘chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her’. Mary’s ‘fiat’ opens her up to receive, to participate in, and to share God’s mercy with the world.
Secondly, Mary through her life dedicated herself to the mercy of God. In her visitation to Elizabeth, in the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds and the Magi, in the presentation of the Lord at the temple, at Cana, and most especially at the cross, Mary proclaims the mercy of God by her life and by her words, as she expresses her joy in praise of God and prophesying the promise extended to us: ‘His mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him’ (Luke 1:50).
And ultimately, Mary’s union with the mercy of God continues through into Jesus’ Paschal Mystery, the gift of his very life, in which he reveals and pours out upon us a saving mercy beyond anything we could ask or imagine. At the foot of the Cross, Mary, together with John, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception, and more than this, she receives and responds to a call to be a mother of mercy to us all: ‘Woman, behold your son! …Behold your mother!’ (John 19:26-27). In essence, Mary abandons herself to the mercy of God always: ‘the Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of His love’ (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 24).
Jesus, the Son of God, made incarnate for our salvation, has given us his Mother, who joins us on our pilgrimage through this life, so that we may never be left alone, especially at times of trouble and uncertainty. As her children, especially in this Holy Year and in this month of May, we turn to our beloved Mother of Mercy, ‘so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes upon us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus’ (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 24).
-Father Peter Vellacott, Parish Priest, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Loughborough