Mary as Mother-in-Law
Mary is often spoken of as our mother, and this is an apt and beautiful description. I posit, though, that an equally apt (and beautiful, at least if your experiences are like mine) description, if you can momentarily set aside the other, is of Mary as our mother-in-law. The initial argument goes like this: the Church is the bride of Christ. Mary is the mother of Christ. The Bridegroom’s mother is the bride’s mother-in-law. By substitution, Mary is our mother-in-law.
Some people might be tempted to get up in arms over this, what with the general opinion of “mothers-in-law” in our society being quite low. I think, however, that this analogy is a very useful tool for explaining/defending devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
As a way of illustrating*, let me talk about myself, Paul, and his mom: If I want to know something about Paul, I can certainly spend time with and talk to him or read the things he’s written to me. This is, obviously, the best way to build our relationship. But why limit myself to only that way, even if it is the best, if there are other good ways? Paul’s mom, by virtue of being his mother, knows things about him that he might not ever think to tell me or I might not even think to ask. She has a bond with him that I’m not able fully to understand (and likely won't be until I have children of my own). By spending time with and cultivating a relationship with her, I can strengthen my relationship with her son. He’s also pleased when she and I get along well. He loves us both, so he wants us to be friends. Finally, if ever there were something that I really wanted or needed him to do and I needed help in asking him for it, whose help could be better to enlist? He can’t possibly say no to both of us.
What would make one think that it could be any different with Jesus and His mother? Wouldn’t He be just as pleased for the Christian—whom He takes as His bride—to love and honor His mother as Paul is? Of course He is. Doesn’t He feel as compelled to do as she asks Him? From the Wedding at Cana, we know that He does.
It seems obvious that any person’s mother is the first to love him. Just like my future mother-in-law was the first to love Paul, Mary was the first person to love the Incarnate God. One must recognize that her mother-in-law has much to teach her about loving her husband, and in the same way, we must see that Mary has much to teach us about loving Jesus.
*Bear in mind, this is meant only to be an illustration—a picture to help us grasp larger and deeper ideas. I don’t want anyone to think I’m equating Paul and his mom with Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, or anything like that.