Key References to Mary in the Bible
Mary is mentioned in the Gospel in the beginning of Jesus’s life, from his conception at the Annunciation (when Gabriel tells Mary she’s to become the mother of the Messiah) to the Nativity (Christmas Day, when Jesus is born) of Christ, and also at other key moments.
Meeting the Magi
Shortly after Jesus’s birth and before the family flees into Egypt, Mary encounters the Magi, or three wise men, who bring gifts to the Christ child (this event is called the Epiphany). One brings a gift of gold, to represent the kingship of Christ; one brings frankincense, to represent the divinity of Christ; and the third brings myrrh, to represent the human mortality of Christ (Matthew 2:1–11).
Seeing the future
On the eighth day after his birth, Jesus was to be circumcised according to Mosaic law, and Mary and Joseph take the child to the Temple in Jerusalem, where he is also presented for a blessing. While there, the family meets Simeon, an old holy man who has been promised by God that he won’t die until his eyes see the Messiah. Simeon prophesies that Mary will be pierced by a sword of sorrow as her son will be the rise and fall of many in Israel (Luke 2:22–35).
After Jesus’s death on the cross on Good Friday, a Roman soldier thrusts a spear into his heart, whereupon blood and water flow out. Mary’s maternal heart also must have been wounded, emotionally speaking, as she helplessly watches the horrible ordeal her only son endures for our salvation (John 19:34).
Fearing for a lost child
When Jesus was 12 years old he was thought to be missing for three days (Luke 2:41–52) during the Feast of Passover. It’s a mother’s nightmare: Your only child is gone, and you have no idea where he is. Mary and Joseph look frantically for three days after leaving Jerusalem, only to find Jesus among the religious teachers, not only listening to them but teaching them, as well. Confronting the adolescent Savior, Mary asks Jesus why he put his parents through all this anxiety and worry. Jesus replies, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Like the prophecy of Simeon and the gifts of the Magi, Christ’s response to his mother stays with Mary, as Scripture says she “pondered these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
After the incident in the Temple, the Bible says nothing more of Jesus until he turned 30 and began his public ministry. Most likely, Jesus lived with his mom and worked in the carpenter’s shop with Joseph, because in several places in the Bible, he’s called not only the carpenter’s son but also a carpenter himself.
Jesus’s first miracle
Jesus’s first miracle came at the request of his mother. Jesus was in the early days of his ministry after 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert. Mary comes to him as an intercessor for the Church, seeking his mediation. Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and man because he is both human and divine.
Mary and Jesus attend a wedding reception, and Mary notices that the wine has run out. Weddings then were much like weddings today: As long as the food and wine kept coming, the guests were happy. When either ran out, the guests left. So Mary tells Jesus the situation (“they have no more wine”) in John 2:3, and he replies mysteriously: “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” (John 2:4).
If the story ended there, it would be logical to conclude that Jesus rebuked his mother. When looked at more closely and in context, it’s a totally different matter. The original Greek text of John’s Gospel says: gynai, ti emoi kai soi, which literally translates to “woman, what [is] to me [is] to you,” and the Latin of St. Jerome’s Vulgate is the same (quid mihi et tibi est mulier). Immediately after he responds to his mother, she tells the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you.” Then Jesus orders them to take six stone water jars (each holding 20 to 30 gallons), fill them to the brim with water, and then pour some to the wine steward. What he tastes is not water, but the best wine he’s ever had.
Standing at the foot of the cross
After all his disciples abandon him during his Crucifixion and death at Calvary, save for St. John the Evangelist, Jesus’s mother, the Virgin Mary, stands at the foot of the cross. Her presence gives him comfort, but at the same time, it’s a cause of great suffering. It’s a comfort because, in his sacred humanity, Jesus has the same human love any son would have for his mother.
He also sees that his pain and suffering cause her emotional pain and suffering. What son wants to see his own mother in such agony? Yet it’s his physical agony that causes her emotional agony. Knowing that his death is weighing heavily on his mother, Jesus gives his only possession not stolen from him by his persecutors: his mother. He gives her to St. John when he says, “behold, your mother” (John 19:27).
Silent according to Scripture, Mary says nothing — just remains a disciple with Jesus to the very end. After his death, she takes his lifeless body when it comes off the cross and holds it lovingly in her arms (as depicted in Michelangelo’s Pieta).
Mary’s final appearance in the Bible takes place at Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Mary was present in the same Upper Room that Christ had used before on Holy Thursday, when he celebrated the Last Supper with his 12 Apostles. Now, each of those same men, along with the Mother of Jesus, will experience the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them. Her presence at what is considered the birthday of the Church convinced the bishops at Vatican II to call Mary the Mother of the Church.
Mary’s perpetual virginity (before, during, and after the birth of Christ her son) is a doctrine of the Catholic faith, as are her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption. These dogmas flow from the same central dogma that any and all privileges and honors given to Mary are based solely on her unique relationship to Christ, her son.