Mary, and Mary alone, accompanies Jesus through His entire life. She conceives Jesus when the Spirit overshadows her, and she gives birth in Bethlehem. With Joseph, she escapes to the safe haven of Egypt. She cares for Jesus when they return to Nazareth.
Mary is with Jesus through His childhood, adolescence, early manhood. She knows of His ministry, and is among the family members who try to meet with Jesus (Matthew 12:46).
She goes with Jesus to the cross (John 19:25-27), waits at His tomb (the “other Mary,” Matthew 27:61), and is among the first witnesses of His resurrection (Matthew 28:1). She’s with the disciples who receive the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14).
At all the key moments, the Woman is with her Seed. Advent, Christmas, Holy Week and Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost both honor the Son and commemorate Mary. Jesus’ humanity is Mary’s, and His life is also hers.
This isn’t true of anyone else. Joseph may have been alive at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but he makes no appearance after Jesus’ infancy (Matthew 1-2). There’s a Joseph at Jesus’ tomb, but it’s not His father.
The disciples don’t accompany Jesus the whole way either. They don’t play any known role in his childhood, and, more significantly, they abandon Him in Gethsemane and don’t regroup until after the resurrection.
Mary alone is with Jesus through life, through death, into resurrection life in the Spirit. She shares His suffering and joy. Simeon’s prophecy is true: A sword pierces her soul (Luke 2:35), cutting as deep as the spear in Jesus’ side. But she knows the terrible joy of Easter when she encounters her Son in glorified flesh (Matthew 28:8-10).
From this, it’s easy to see how Catholic and Orthodox Christians come to their Mariology. Extend the biblical trajectory: If Mary shares so much with her Son, perhaps she shares His bodily resurrection and is seated with Him as Queen of heaven. If Mary suffers over her Son, perhaps her passion somehow atones. If Jesus intercedes, why not Mary?
But that’s not the trajectory of the New Testament. Mary is at Jesus’ birth, death, burial, resurrection. She’s there at Pentecost. And then . . . she disappears. The name “Mary” occurs only once after the first chapter of Acts (Romans 16:6), and it’s a different woman.
That seems weird. Mary has followed Jesus so far, why would she suddenly vanish? But the weirdness isn’t only hers. Nearly every one of the secondary heroes of the Gospels and Acts disappears. Peter leaves Luke’s story after the Jerusalem Council. Paul gets to Rome, but Luke doesn’t finish his life story.
This is partly due to the natural progression of history. Mary, Peter, and Paul come, shine, and depart, making room for a host of new leaders and evangelists. Missionaries come and go, but the Word spreads.
There’s a deeper reason, though. In vanishing from the biblical narrative, Mary, Peter, Paul, and the rest are on the trail blazed by Jesus. He’s the first to disappear, as a cloud takes Him “out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). In one last act of humility, the incarnate Son leaves the stage to others, to His Spirit and to us.
Jesus’ departure is the precondition of the church’s mission. Unless He goes, the Spirit won’t come. Unless He goes, His disciples won’t do the greater works He promises (John 14:12).
And so with us: Someday, the world will have to get along without you. One day you’ll be here; then the next you won’t. It happens to everyone, but we Christians die as we have lived, in Christ. Prepare yourself, so your life concludes with a final act of Marian discipleship – a disappearing act.
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