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Friends, today we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And our Gospel declares that she will be the Mother of Jesus, who would be “God with us.”

Mary is a rich and multivalent symbolic figure in all of the Gospels. In Luke’s infancy narrative, she emerges as the spokesperson for ancient Israel, speaking, in her Magnificat, in the words and cadences of Hannah.

In Matthew’s Christmas account, she is compelled to go into exile in Egypt and is then called back to her home, recapitulating thereby the journey of Israel from slavery to freedom. She is thus the symbolic embodiment of faithful and patient Israel, longing for deliverance. 

In John’s Gospel, she is, above all, mother—the physical mother of Jesus and, through him, the mother of all who would come to new life in him. As mother of the Lord, she is, once again, Israel, that entire series of events and system of ideas from which Jesus emerged and in terms of which he alone becomes intelligible. Hans Urs von Balthasar commented in the same vein that Mary effectively awakened the messianic consciousness of Jesus through her recounting of the story of Israel to her son.