Why is Mary Important?

As today, August 15th, is the traditional feast day of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, it seems appropriate to dip look at a recent question posted by a friend and fellow religious professional who asks “What is the role of the Virgin Mary in the tradition? Why do we celebrate her?”
Whether you think of her as our sister, our mother, the mother of God, the God barer, the Blessed Virgin, the Ever-Virgin or just plain Mary – the mother of Jesus, not the other Mary, nor the other one either – there is no denying that she plays a special role in at least the Story of Jesus. Moreover, in the history of our doctrine and tradition, few characters from the Gospel narrative have developed such an ardent following. Some have even called it a cult.
As you can see, conversations about the Mother of Jesus could take up pages and pages of Blog. And they just might. Mary, like Peter, Paul, and the Story of the Transfiguration gets several spots in the annual calendar of church celebrations. But, for the moment and as an introduction to the general topic of Mary, I want to focus on one important, but rarely used title for Mary that I think gives us all the reason in the world to think fondly of her, “First Christian.”
In subtle but profound ways, Mary is the first person in history to do many of the things that we now believe make someone a Christian. She is the first to hear and receive the Good News of God’s messiah (or Christ) coming into the world. When the Angel tells her that she is pregnant with the Son of the Most High God, the one who will save his people, Mary is skeptical of her own role but fully ready to believe that this could be possible with God. Moreover, she is the first to evangelize, when she shares this good news Joseph, her betrothed, and later Elizabeth, her cousin. Mary follows Jesus, literally, showing up in several scenes in the Gospels including being one of the only followers to remain at the foot of his cross when all others have abandoned. And although it is a little cloudy in the Gospels (SO MANY MARYS) it is conceivable she was in the company of the faithful that received the risen Lord after his resurrection.
So, lets take time today to remember Mary, the first Christian. For a myriad of reasons and more besides, she is worthy of our study and recollection.

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