We Christians have a different way of seeing things, of setting values, and that leads us to honor different heroes than those who see things more conventionally. We value God’s blessed creation, for example, so we honor those who make the great discoveries. But we don’t value it as an arbitrary, pointless thing that simply shows the depth of our brilliance by revealing its secrets to us. We value it as a delightful stewardship, so we honor those who care for it with wisdom and fortitude. We don’t value it merely as a tool by which we can reach our autonomous objectives (the love of money is the root of every sort of evil). We value it as a good in itself, the beauty and integrity of which must be preserved. So we honor those who reveal that beauty to us and call us back to an adoring stewardship not altogether unlike that which a father bears for his daughter.
Somewhere at the top of our list of values is the long-forgotten human soul, that which we continually request God to save. As a result, we honor those who effectively care for the soul even more than those who care for the body. Apart from our Lord Himself, we honor his virgin mother above all humans. The angel himself declared that all generations would call her blessed, and we are certainly among those generations.
In Mary we see a model of sexual purity, a virgin, let it never be forgotten. She was chosen precisely (though not only) because she was a virgin. In her virginity she exalts sexual purity to a pinnacle of honor. In her purity she becomes the model for every little girl to imitate and every little boy to honor. She becomes an image, a heroine, who lays the poetic foundation for what is now so crassly called “sex ed.”
Consider, sex cannot be understood apart from its purpose and its purpose cannot be understood apart from its Creator. Sexuality is not shameful; rather, it is good. But it is constrained. It is fulfilled only when it is offered up to God and one’s spouse is a covenental relationship that lifts it from the level of the animal to that of the spirit.
All of us are called to sexual purity. The blessed and sainted virgin, by offering hers up to God, became the mother of God. As we have forgotten her, we have lost ourselves.
And in Mary we see a model of pure motherhood. Our greatest hero is not the acquisitive, the power hungry, or the conqeror. We do not exalt the so-called manly virtues to an unmerited height. Our greatest hero is the one who turned the other cheek and went to His execution as a lamb to the slaughter. Second only to Him in our hearts is the one who was willing to be shamed before men, to risk her marriage and her sacred honor, and to have her heart pierced with a sword for the salvation of sinful men. The highest, most honored human being who is not God is honored by us for being a mother at tremendous cost to herself. She became the mother of sorrows for our sake.
This is the “slave morality” of Nietszche and his reader, Dewey. This is what the last century has flung into the cesspool and has mocked heartlessly, replacing it with a culture of greed, vindictiveness, and nihilistic education and politics.
My hero was born like a slave. Maybe a little lower. His mother was treated like a slave. Maybe a little lower. They were chased into Egypt. They were dishonored and questioned everywhere they went. But they quietly worked diligently and faithfully. He took on the “lowly” trade of a carpenter, thus sanctifying and blessing the work of our hands. She raised Him, and prayed, and pondered what she heard about Him in her heart, thus sanctifying the most exalted role of motherhood.
As we celebrate the feast of the birth of our Lord over the next few weeks, let us not forget who our heroes are. Let us remember that she who was driven out of the inn and even out of Bethlehem is accustomed to flight. She is not surprised that she has been driven out of our state schools or out of the public places. She is accustomed to flight because of her devotion to her Son. Let us fly with her. Let us worship with her.
And where she is welcome, let us attend to her. Let us honor her to honor her Son, to whom she continually points. Let us hear her words, when she says, “Do whatever He says.”
Let us present her honorably to our children. Let us not be ashamed to call our daughters to imitate her, which they will be much more likely to do when we honor her. Let us call our sons to honor her, which they will be much more likely to do when we do. And let us remember that, all Hallmark sentimentality aside, there can be no higher role for a human being than that of mother, the highest qualification for which is a pure heart, soul, and body.
My heroes are a virgin, a mother, a carpenter, and an accused criminal. Those “slaves” who have been exalted above the Cherubim and the Seraphim, the mother in her Son.