The Mother of Jesus, the treasure hidden in the Gospels


«The holy Council fervently and insistently exhorts all the faithful, especially the religious ones, to learn “the sublime science of Jesus Christ” (Fil 3,8) with frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. “Ignorance of the Scriptures, indeed, it is ignorance of Christ”. Let them willingly approach the sacred text, both through the sacred liturgy, which is imbued with divine words, both through pious reading, both through initiatives suitable for this purpose and other subsidies, that with the approval and care of the pastors of the Church, commendably today they spread everywhere".

- The Theological Pages -


Ivano Liguori, Ofm. Capp.


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In the years following the Second Vatican Council Biblical science has made important strides, offering contributions that are now essential for Theology in its various branches and for Christian life. This has been the case at least since, since the time of Pius XII, in the Catholic Church the study of the Bible has been encouraged by giving the possibility of using all those methods that are normally applied to a written text.

The Announcement – Work by Salvador Dali, 1960, Vatican museums (click on the image to open the page)

How many are aware of the enormous benefits that exegetical studies have brought to the theology that investigates the figure and role of the Virgin Mary, the so-called Mariology. What a richness to be able to say today that the story of the annunciation (LC 1, 26-38) for its literary form, while preserving within it the communication of a miraculous birth, however, it is a story of vocation: Mary's vocation. But who knows? Who noticed that in the CEI version of the Bible of 2008, the one we currently read in our liturgies, the angel's announcement to Mary is made today with: «Rejoice»; when in the previous version of the 1974 it was read: «I greet you»; due to the great influence due to the prayer ofAve Maria? It was the Jesuit Father Stanislas Lyonnet[1] the first that in 1939 he pointed out that the imperative invitation to joy («cheer up», Kayre Of LC 1,28) referred to the prophetic texts addressed to the "daughter of Zion" (Sof 3,14). Change everything, no longer a simple greeting, but Mary is given an invitation that in the past was addressed to Israel, to whom the prophets addressed themselves as to a woman. In the Middle Ages they said that due to her maternal function Mary was "Figure of the synagogue"[2], today, thanks to exegetical acquisitions we give this statement a new and more solid connotation from a scriptural point of view.

When even today we still talk about the Virgin Mary, unfortunately also among priests and even more so among the faithful, we witness the trite repetition of the usual devotional and emotional speeches; at most we go so far as to follow the delicate and discussed theme of Mary co-redemptrix. How many homilies wanting to explain the Cana episode still speak of it as a simple miracle? This word is not present in the Gospel passage. Instead we speak of a "sign" - "Jesus did this as the beginning of the signs" (GV 2,11) - which in the Fourth Gospel has a completely different theological depth and significance. And Maria was present there, who isn't even called by name, but only identified as: «Donna». Yet all we hear is about the Madonna: The Madonna who forced the miracle. Who knows how many know that Jesus' sentence to his Mother is most likely a question - «My time has not yet come?» - as a talented exegete proved decades ago[3]. The new CEI Bible does not yet report it, but at least, from the previous version, the term miracle has been changed and now we can finally read the word "sign" (GV 2,11).

Another interesting change of perspective which slowly happened, while carefully scrutinizing the figure of Mary in the Gospels, was to set aside the traditional link between Her and the figure of Eve, protagonista del protovangelo di Genesi. Because it was instead more in line with the texts and rich in theological and ecclesiological perspectives to see Mary as an image of that biblical daughter of Zion (Shall 86 [87],5, 5 LXX), the new Jerusalem which becomes the protagonist of the new Covenant with Jesus.

This emerges clearly in the Gospel stories, especially in two Johannine texts that see Mary, never called by its proper name, but identified rather as «The mother of Jesus» or more curiously as «Woman». The episode of the wedding at Cana (GV 2, 1-11) and that of the "Mother" under the cross (GV 19,25-27) together with the beloved disciple, are directly connected precisely because of the presence in both moments of this "Woman".

In the first case, a Cana, we are at the beginning of the manifestation of Jesus, in the second episode we are instead at the end of this revelation, there: «Everything was accomplished» (GV 19,28). Revelation that represents the leitmotif of the Johannine Gospel: "It gave, no one has seen him: the only Son, who is God and is at the Father, it is he who has made him known " (GV 1,18). Cana is the culmination of a week in which Jesus begins to reveal himself to his first disciples, after the first big timeless day of the prologue; the cross is the final moment, before the resurrection of course, which sees Jesus reveal himself to the Mother and the disciple, the one who never stopped following Jesus from the beginning, the great mystery of the Church which looks with faith at what has happened and bears witness to it: «He who saw it bears witness» (GV 19,35).

A Cana, Maria, the Mother of Jesus, she is that Woman who represents humanity in poverty and Judaism that lived on messianic hope. The words so apodictic - «They have no wine» (GV 2,3) - they would signify Israel's desire to see the spread of the messianic wine or the definitive revelation of the New Covenant, according to the rich symbolism of wine in biblical and Jewish tradition. She invites, therefore, the disciples to renew that purpose already expressed in the ancient alliance of Sinai: «All that Yahweh said, we will do it"; «Whatever he tells you, do it" (Is 19,8; see also 24,3.7; GV 2,5).

Saint John the Evangelist, as he often does throughout his work, for example in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (GV 4,13-14), it asks us to elevate ourselves from the human and historical level to the more spiritual and theological one. Where spiritual does not mean less faithful to the truth, rather it designates and indicates the most hidden and profound meaning hidden within a story, in line with what modern hermeneutics is also discovering. Martin Heidegger in his writings says that language is found in the "unpronounceable" and meaning in the "unsaid" of the text, while the philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas talks about going "beyond the verse", Gregory the Great, a medieval one, he even said that: «The text grows with the one who reads it».

Regarding Mary, the Gospel therefore takes us through the immediate and more evident meaning of her as the mother of Jesus because she carried him in her womb and gave birth to him, to that of a representative of an entire community that wishes to unite with Jesus who, given the context, she wants to bind herself to Him like a Bride to her Groom, for He is the One who brings salvation, the new wine symbol of the new messianic alliance. The whole passage and the use of the term "Woman" is an invitation to elevate ourselves from the historical and literal level to the most hidden and profound sense which is spiritual., theological and highly significant for believers. This is why the Cana episode takes place at the end of the first week of Jesus' manifestation to his disciples, curious to know who he is, what brings new respect to John who indicated it (GV 1,36) and where is his secret: «Where are you staying? » (GV 1,38). It is no coincidence that the evangelist comments at the end that Jesus did not perform a simple miracle at Cana, but "he manifested his glory and his disciples began to believe in him" (GV 2,11).

If the maternal role of the Woman towards the disciples, a Cana, it was sketchy or rather initial, under the cross this appears clearly. Right there Mary receives a new spiritual motherhood which is expressed in the mutual relationship between her and a disciple: «They were near the cross of Jesus his mother, his mother's sister, Mary mother of Cleopas and Mary Magdalene. Jesus then, seeing his mother and next to her the disciple he loved, He told his mother: «Donna, here is your son!». Then he said to the disciple: «Here is your mother!». And from that hour the disciple took her into his " (GV 19,25-27).

It is said that when someone is at the point of death usually pronounces important words, definitive. And these are Jesus' last words before dying, before uttering that definitive one: «On set». But once again St. John warns us that an important revelation is hidden here. He does this by using a scheme used many times in his work, or using the two verbs: see, to say; and then the adverb "here", in sequence. Scholars call this process: revelation scheme; because it indicates that the author is telling us something new is being illustrated.

In telling the passion, the crucifixion and death of Jesus, John does not contradict himself and brings together themes of great theological importance. The kingship of Jesus is universal, as the languages ​​of the title of the cross indicate: «It was written in Hebrew, in latino e in greco» (GV 19,20); all the scattered children of God are gathered together: "And I, when I am lifted up from the ground, I will attract everyone to me " (GV 12,32); his unusable tunic represents the unity of the Church, at least in patristic exegesis because of the verb sketch ("sliver") used here, hence schism: «Therefore they said among themselves: «Let's not tear it up, but let's draw lots whose turn it will be". He is the intact Passover lamb: «This in fact happened so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: Not a single bone will be broken." (GV 19,36; cf.. Is 12,46). And at the culmination of this revelation there is Jesus' handing over of "his mother" to the disciple.

In fact, we note in the verses that the Mother of Jesus which is "his" (term repeated four times), it becomes through the words of Jesus to the disciple: "Your mother"; and vice versa he for her: "Your son". This disciple is loved because he is the one who has never stopped following Jesus from the beginning, from that initial week which flows into the sign of Cana which we mentioned above; what that, instead, it was not successful for Pietro who will have to resume his following later. In this sense he represents the disciple par excellence towards whom we should all conform, it is a symbol of every true disciple of Jesus, to be able, leaning over his chest, to grasp the most intimate aspects of Him. Mother, as we saw at Cana, represents the daughter of Zion, but now in her fully revealed maternal function. She is the one who sees her children previously lost, now gather (Is 60, 4-5 LXX). Be to Cana, in the initial phase, this relationship was mentioned, here it reaches all its evidence. The "Woman" now becomes the mother of the Church, represented by the disciple.

What does this new motherhood consist of? which we call spiritual, due to the fact that the true and only Son she had was Jesus? Precisely because of his indissoluble bond with Jesus, From now on she can only be for the new child, the church, the one who leads to Jesus, which invites us to enter into an alliance that is no longer initial as in Cana, but definitive, sanctioned by the saving death of Christ on the cross. She will be the one who renews towards the disciples what she was for Jesus in the incarnation: it will be the Mother. If already in Cana the disciples were not called slaves, but serve, i «diakonoi" Of GV 2,5, even more so here they are considered as children. And this motherhood, given under the cross, it expresses itself in helping the disciple, all of us, to understand the profound meaning of what happened from the beginning and what is happening at that moment on the ordeal. This is why the disciple, says the gospel, he immediately understands the words of Jesus and takes what is now His Mother into his heart. It doesn't take possession, as if a woman passed ownership from one to another, but he welcomes it for all that it now means, thanks to the revealing word just spoken by Jesus. For this reason the evangelist comments: «And from that hour the disciple welcomed her with him» (GV 19,27).

The disciple, participant in the messianic hour of the Lord and thanks to the maternal presence of Mary he can turn the gaze of the one who has understood towards Jesus on the cross, in the broadest sense of the term, that of carrying with him and within himself the great mystery of which he is a witness. And in fact these are his words: «He who has seen bears witness to it and his testimony is true; he knows he is telling the truth, so that you too may believe" (GV 19,35).

What does the disciple testify, just after receiving this new Mother? Who heard the last words of Jesus on his finished work and the others that expressed his desire to give the Spirit: «On set» (Gv 19,28b). It will be after the death of Jesus, which John will describe precisely as a delivery of the Spirit - «He gave up his spirit» (GV 19,30 Vulgate) – with the opening of the side from which blood drains, that is, the life of Jesus given so far, and water, symbol of the gift of the Spirit as had been announced several times in the Gospel (GV 7, 37-38), that his will finally and definitively be a gaze of faith directed perennially at Jesus: «They will look at the one they have pierced». (GV 19,37). A Father of the Church writes:

«No one can reach the meaning (of the Gospel of John) if he did not recline his head on the chest of Jesus and received Mary as his mother from Jesus, E, to be another John, so that he feels designated by Jesus as if he were Jesus himself. Because… Mary has no other children than Jesus; when Jesus says to his Mother: “Here is your son” and not: “Here this man is also your son”, it's as if he were telling her: “Here is Jesus whom you gave birth to”. In fact, everyone has achieved perfection “he no longer lives but Christ lives in him” and because Christ lives in him, Christ tells Mary about him: “Here is your son, the Christ”»[4].

If today I reread these bold words of Origen we realize how much theological truth and spiritual beauty they contain, we also owe it to the fact that the study of Mary in Scripture, which has flourished again in recent decades, it allows us to reap the fruits of a work of rigorous and loving analysis of the biblical texts and to enjoy ancient affirmations with renewed awareness. And the Church recommends not only that the text be studied by specialists, but that everyone can drink from the fountain of Sacred Scripture:

«The holy Council fervently and insistently exhorts all the faithful, especially the religious ones, to learn “the sublime science of Jesus Christ” (Fil 3,8) with frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. “Ignorance of the Scriptures, indeed, it is ignorance of Christ”. Let them willingly approach the sacred text, both through the sacred liturgy, which is imbued with divine words, both through pious reading, both through initiatives suitable for this purpose and other subsidies, that with the approval and care of the pastors of the Church, commendably today they spread everywhere. However, they should remember that the reading of sacred Scripture must be accompanied by prayer, so that dialogue is established between God and man; so long as “when we pray, let's talk to him; we listen to him, when we read the divine oracles”». (God's word, 25).

Here we are now at the purpose of this small contribution. Instill in readers a desire to love and learn about Scripture in a serious way, but also passionate. We have summarized a lot here, so much, because every single aspect would have required a more widespread treatment. Let's hope it serves at least as a stimulus or as a... input as they say in jargon, especially because the topic covered referred to the Virgin Mary. This little writing can help those who read to return to that source of revelation which is the Bible which can tell us so much about Mary, more than the circulating narratives, also on social, often not of excellent quality. Because as an ancient author said and I leave it in Latin it is so easy to understand: «All the Bible is one book, and that one book is Christ»[5].

Sanluri, 6 February 2023



[1] LYONNET S., Kaire, Kejaritomene, Biblical 20 (1939)

[2] An interlinear gloss by Gv 2,1: «The mother figure of the synagogue», in the sacred care of the Bible Glossary ordinary…, V, Antwerp, 1617, 1044; SAN TOMMASO D’AQUINO, Super evang. S. of John (ed. Cai.), n. 346: «[…] bearing in this the shape of a synagogue, who is the mother of Christ".

[3] VANHOYE A., Johannine questioning and exegesis of Cana (GV 2,4), in Biblica 55 (1974).

[4] Origene, Commentary on Saint John, I,4,23; SC 120,70,72.

[5] Hugh of St. Victor, De Arca Noe, 2, 8: PL 176, 642; cf Ibid. 2, 9: PL 176, 642-643; Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 134).



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1 reply
  1. orenzo
    orenzo says:

    – Cana celebrates a marriage.
    Chi primariamente incontriamo che si comporta materialmente comesposo/aè Maria la quale si preoccupa del vino.
    Se la sposa è Maria, the “Donna”, the “figlia di Sionche rappresenta l’intero popolo di Dio, it “Sposo” and the father.
    Dalle misticheNozzetra il Padre e la Donna, per opera dello Spirito Santo è generata la natura umana del Figlio.
    Solo il Figlio, therefore, può allora trasformare l’acqua della purificazione del primo Patto nel vino della festa del nuovo Patto.
    – And when, on the cross, come dalla fuoriuscita di acqua e sangue dall’utero materno nasce l’essere umano, nasce da costato di Cristo la nuova Umanità, Egli la affida alle cure materne di Colei che Lo ha generato nella carne.

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