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Mary of Nazareth, daughter of Joachim and Anna; her name was common enough, that other women of the same name in the gospels had to be distinguished by their relatives or their place of origin - such as Mary Magdalen, Mary of Bethany, &c.

Mary grew up as a young Jewish girl in a small place in rebellious Galilee.

Her education as a girl included listening to readings from the Torah and the Prophets in the synagogue. She would have learned the prayers and listened attentively to the readings from the Scriptures.

Mary of Nazareth,

Mary of the Magnificat,

Mary, who heard the stirring words of Scripture in synagogue,

which spoke of prophecy, justice and Messianic hope.

Until the completion of her eleventh year a Jewish girl was a minor,

and from her twelfth birthday she was considered to be "of age".

From then on, Mary was expected to keep those parts of the Torah

which were binding on women.

She became eligible for marriage at about fourteen; her parents promised her to Joseph, who was many years her elder, but at least had a worthwhile job as a carpenter. She had no choice in the matter, and had to accept their decision. Joseph was kind, a man of faith, and demonstrated that he was an honourable man who, when Mary was found to be pregnant, “put her away privily”for her own protection, and proved to be a perfect husband

and perfect Father to Jesus.

We read of Jesus being circumcised eight days after birth,

in line with Jewish tradition to this day.

We hear too of Joseph and Mary taking Jesus as the firstborn child

thirty-three days after His birth, to the Temple,

to present Him to the Lord in accordance with the Torah.

During their marriage, and in Jesus’s earlier years,

Mary and Jesus went with Joseph each year to the Jerusalem Temple

to the pilgrim feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles

It is during such a pilgrimage that the twelve-year-old Jesus was lost for three days.

Luke's Gospel (chapter 2) recalls the anxiety of a mother

who thought her son was lost and who on finding him,

reproached him.

Luke points out that Jesus was twelve years of age, demonstrating to the reader that Jesus was on the cusp of leaving His minority.

This raises the question – did Jesus become “Bar Mitzvah”, Son of the Law?

The ceremony surrounding the occasion of becoming a Bar Mitzvah

wasn’t a thing in Judaism until the thirteenth century AD, so no –

the Temple experience of the twelve year old Jesus was not Bar Mitzvah.

However it turned out to be of much more significance than that.

It was here, in the Temple, that Jesus astounded the Teachers of the Law

and the Scribes with His understanding of Scripture and matters pertaining to it. On top of that, this was a boy who was yet to reach the age of majority (Jewish boys were expected to keep those parts of the Torah, which were binding on men at the age of thirteen, a year later than girls).

Throughout the years that followed, up to Jesus' public ministry,

Mary was, for Jesus, the dutiful and proud Jewish mother,

but we hear nothing more in the Gospels of those intervening years.

We meet Jesus at the age of thirty,

and three of the Gospels let us in to what was going on for Him

in coming to terms with what God wanted of Him for the next three years.

Once the Wilderness experience had passed,

there is no reason to question that Mary was present in the synagogue

when Jesus was invited to read from Scripture. The passage He chose?

It was the first few verses from Isaiah 61, where in the words of the Prophet

He was able to articulate what His mission and ministry was to be.

Would Mary not have reflected on such passages already,

wondering about their Messianic implications?

In John chapter 2, we meet Mary, Jesus and the Disciples at a family wedding at Cana in Galilee. As the Mother of Jesus, in a significant way,

she presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son’s will,

pointing out those things, which must be done so that the authority of the Messiah may be manifested.

He apparently rebukes her,

but as every good Jewish Mother knows, Mother knows best! Her faith enables His first sign not only to save the day for the wedding party, but to point to her Son as the One who has come to bring deliverance to His people..

In Mark’s Gospel we experience Mary as the worried Mother of Jesus,

fearful of the dangers He might face,

trying to dissuade Him from pursuing His dangerous mission (in her view).

She will have remembered time and time again Simeon’s words,

“A sword will pierce your own heart also”.

And that became a reality as she stood with Saint John beneath her crucified Son.

One of the biggest lessons that we can learn from Mary’s story,

is that God took an ordinary girl from an ordinary town

in an ordinary country and called her to do an extraordinary thing.

The same is true for us.

God takes us, ordinary people,

and invites us to become extraordinary

by doing extraordinary things.

Mother of sorrows,

you stood by the cross, sharing the sufferings of Jesus,

and with tender care you bore Him in your arms,

mourning and weeping.

We praise you for

your faith, your hope, and for your love

in bearing with Jesus the sorrows of His passion.

Holy Mary, may we follow your example,

and stand by all your children who need comfort and love.

Mother of God, stand by us in our trials

and care for us in our needs.

Pray for us now

and at the hour of our death.

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