Life of Jesus, as Contemplated by Mary

By Drs Renu Rita Silvano OCV and Fiorello Mascarenhas SJ

Pauline Publications, pp 144, Rs 199

Christianity exists to bring more and more people to Jesus Christ. For this, the Scriptures (rightly interpreted), the Sacraments (received with active faith), and Marian Devotion (when authentic) are the Spirit-inspired means by which people can become true disciples of Jesus Christ. The daily Rosary too is an important means for Catholic Christians, bringing consolation and comfort to many.

However, it happens that the commemoration of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which are meant to be a contemplation of the whole Life of Christ, slowly becomes a mere recitation of their titles. Millions of well-meaning Catholics around the world recite the Rosary by rote, mechanically, and so are not sufficiently touched by the deeper significance of each Mystery (as lived personally by Jesus Himself).

This book, by two scholars of impeccable credentials and commanding much respect in the Church, will be of great help to those who, by praying the Rosary more meaningfully, wish to "meet" Jesus Himself. The book's language is simple, yet it unveils a compelling story of JESUS' life, as seen through the eyes of His Mother Mary. The characters in every scene come wonderfully alive, and the book succeeds in its attempt to "put flesh on the bare bones" of the familiar words hastily recited.

The book is novel in many ways. For example, the character of Joseph and his role in salvation history is something on which the scriptures are often silent. Now that devotion to Joseph is slowly becoming more prominent in the Church, this book gives us a heart-warming picture of a just man, a man of integrity, rooted in God and a nurturer of Jesus, who many of us took for granted.

The four Parts of the book trace the feelings, doubts, commitment and faithfulness of Mary, who is the model disciple of Jesus. Thus, it illustrates the motto, "Through Mary, to Jesus." Mary's reactions at significant times (the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Jesus) are recalled in a very human way.

In Part 2, the authors contemplate the events of Jesus' life that were foretold by the Old Testament, by using apt scriptural quotations to underpin how and why Jesus was first acclaimed as a prophet, later accepted by some as the Son of God, but eventually aroused the fury of the scribes and Pharisees. In these Luminous Mysteries, the book dwells first on the role of John the Baptist, and the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It contemplates the wedding in Cana, where Jesus performed His first "sign" of turning water into wine at the behest of Mary, who was confident that Jesus would save the situation for the wedding hosts. The mystery of the Proclamation of the Good News, as contemplated by Mary, describes her pain at having Jesus leave home and step into His public ministry. Jesus' Transfiguration, as well as His Institution of the Holy Eucharist, though events where Mary was perhaps not physically present, are treated very creatively to show that she was, nevertheless, one with Jesus in spirit.

Part 3 contemplates the Sorrowful Mysteries and the pain and anguish of Jesus, as shared personally by Mary who accompanied Him on the way to Calvary. When her eyes for a moment met with those of her Son, she surely became a source of strength and courage for Jesus to continue carrying the Cross. The book also poignantly describes the faithful disciple John, and how Jesus entrusted His mother's care to Him. The tragic end of Jesus' life dramatically describes how Mary felt when His lifeless body was laid near her after Jesus was taken down from the Cross.

In Part 4, Mary's faith in her son's promise of His Resurrection "on the third day" proved the singular role of a unique human being who wholly believed in God's promises, even as the rest of His disciples and followers remained dismayed, desolate and without hope. She then joined them in the Upper Room, where she led them in prayer, reciting the Psalms and incantations. Similarly, her Assumption and Coronation in heaven is described in colourful language (supported by the Scriptures), and give us a taste of her glory to come.

Mary is revered all over the world, and has equal attraction for both Catholics and people of other faiths! Her many Apparitions throughout the centuries, making known Jesus' love for humanity, make her the universal mother of all. So this very interesting and novel "contemplative" LIFE OF JESUS, composed by a senior consecrated woman and a senior Jesuit priest, enables us to truly meet Jesus through the eyes and heart of Mary. It is a significant addition to Christian literature. I am sure it will be a great help for the prayer-life of religious, clergy, and lay people alike, stimulating helpful reflections to 'pray' rather than 'say' the Rosary, and thus to grow in holy discipleship of Jesus Christ.