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James Spruell, Ph.D.


Mary, the Mother of Christ

Mary, the mother of Christ is unique among all women in her divine role in giving birth to the Messiah. Her story is fascinating, regardless of whether we are Catholic, Muslim, or LDS. And yet, for the countless pages that have been written about her, we still know so little about Mary, the person, & Mary, the Mother of God.

Here is Part IV of story:

The Joys & Sorrows

Mosaic Law required the first-born son to be presented to the Lord and a sacrifice made, typically a pair of turtle doves. When the days of Mary's purification were accomplished, Jesus was brought to Jerusalem to be presented in the temple. A pair of turtle doves (or pigeons) was sacrificed, and the law fulfilled.

While in Jerusalem, the Holy Ghost fell upon Simeon, a just and devout man, who was promised that death would not visit him until he had seen the Savior. The spirit led Simeon to the temple where Mary & Joseph presented the tiny infant to him.

His heart rejoiced in seeing the child and immediately prophesized many wonderful things concerning Jesus' role as Messiah. After concluding his prophesies of Jesus, he turned to Mary and warned her that "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.

The words were accurate, and although greatly blessed among women, Mary's life was filled with both joy and sorrow -- the joys of sainthood, of receiving the Messiah as a son, and many others. In time these would also include the death of Joseph and Jesus.

In this section, Part IV, we explore some of the joys and sorrows that defined Mary's life.

The Joys of Mary

The joys of Mary as a mortal and mother of the Messiah were celebrated in medieval times as the 'Five Joys of Mary." 1 Later medieval writings expanded the list on several occasions to even record the 'Fifteen Joys of Mary.'

After a little reflection upon Mary's time on earth, my list came to include thirteen 'joys' that stood out. The first eight directly related to her role as mother of the Messiah. The next two are more personal, including her travels with the Savior and her association with some of the most valiant that ever lived. Lastly, we are reminded that she too was a mother in Israel and experienced both the joys (and sorrows) that come with family:

Mother to the Son of God

* Table links are short video clips of these important events.

The first eight joys are celebrated throughout the Christian world, and most of us are familiar with them. The part that we can only speculate on is the depth of humility and gratitude that she felt in the events surrounding the Savior's birth.

The personal

The gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates that Jesus almost always traveled with Mary, his mother, and Mary Magdalene. Whether accurate or not we do know, but we do know that Mary did travel with him to Cana.  She was also present during the Lord's last mortal days, including his crucifixion, and in the upper chamber afterwards.

She was a personal witness -- perhaps the only witness -- from pre-birth to his ascension. Of all those on earth, her view alone saw Jesus the infant, toddler, young man, Savior, & resurrected being.

Mary was a witness of the true, unique person that the Savior was, watched over him as he grew line upon line, and surely appreciated his comfort and compassion after Joseph's death. She saw in him Godhood, but also knew and understood his love of children -- after all he had 6 or more brothers and sisters whom he helped care for after Joseph passed away. She knew why he shared the story of the widow and her 2 mites ...for she was a widow, and he would understand the sacrifice of faith.

Her life was also surrounded by many of Heavenly Father's most valiant children. And according to tradition, when she died she was surrounded by all the apostles.

She walked the earth with Jesus the infant, toddler, and adult. She was carried for by John the beloved in Ephesus. Cephas she knew along with John the Baptist who was the son of her cousin Elizabeth.

The Joys of Family

Mary was a mother in Israel, and surely loved her children as each grew up, married, and started their own families. She also learned to deal with both the sorrow of sons who did not believe, and then rejoiced in their conversation later in life.

I'm sure that she enjoyed all the simple things in life, even that part about how good a thumb feels after it quits hurting ...after hitting it with a hammer. Mortality can be a great blessing, and I suspect that in her quiet dignity that she appreciated all those things that we call life.

The Sorrows of Mary

Mary's knowledge of the gospel was keen, e.g., her discussion with Gabriel demonstrated both faith and knowledge. Unfortunately with great understanding can come great sorrow from the sins that she would witness, e.g., the sorrow in seeing Israel, including Herod, again turn away from their God. The King of Kings was to be born, and instead of Herod/Israel rejoicing, she and Joseph were forced to flee to Egypt.

Her life as a woman was difficult -- in that period women were often treated as chattel or servants. She lived in her own home at the time of Gabriel's announcement suggesting that perhaps her parents had died. We also know that she  went  to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, to share the good news, but no mention is made of  her parents. We don't know what role they played in her life.

Her sorrows definitely included the trials, crucifixion, and death of her son, both according to his mission, but also the loss of her first-born. I suspect that her love grew even greater for Jesus as  assisted his mortal family after Joseph's death. The lies, betrayal, and all that surrounded those events must have been exceedingly difficult.

In Herod's world, AKA Rome, children of a 'King' were quite at risk, a point that must have concerned her greatly. The safety of her children under his son Archelaus would have also been a keen concern.

From Simeon's prophesy that "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also", the flight into Egypt, to the eventual loss of her son  (including the trial, crucifixion, and burial) ...she paid a heavy price at times for her faithfulness and obedience.


Her sorrows and joys were great, and on balance I believe that she did as well as any, man or woman, in her earthly ministry and mission.

Lessons Learned:

  1. What traits did Mary possess that helped her persevere through her many trials?

  2. What of her joys? Do you see any similarities to your/our own life? (Hint: children)

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