Sacraments with Mary
Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L.
Director, Associate Director
Institute for Pastoral Theology Ave Maria University
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that there is
a dialogical structure to the sacraments. "A sacramental celebration
is a meeting of Godís children with their Father, in Christ and the
Holy Spirit; this meeting takes the form of a dialogue, through
actions and words" (1153). The sacraments are dialogical because God
has such high regard for our dignity, that is, our free will, our
capacity to move ourselves to the good. A great sign of this dignity
is the resistance of martyrs to exterior coercion.
Freedom requires knowledge of the truth. We are not ourselves the
source of truth. So, while our freedom is genuinely our own, it
requires another gift that comes from outside of us, from God, Who
is the source of all truth. "The truth will set you free." Since
Jesus is the truth, He sets us free. This is the foundation for
sacramental dialogue. In the signs and gestures of the liturgy, God
makes known to us the truth that He is love and that He desires to
love us, here and now, in the sacramental rite. He wants us to know
this truth so that we can will what He wills. In the sacraments God
says, "I am Love and I desire to love you (give you grace)," and we
say, "Amen. Fiat. Let it be done to me according to your word. I
want to be loved."
Maryís faith at the Annunciation is the model of our role in
liturgical dialogue. We make our own her response of faith to Godís
approach of love. The Church Fathers emphasized Godís desire that
Mary freely cooperate in the fulfillment of His plan, saying that
she conceived the Word of God in her mind by faith before
conceiving Him in her womb. God wanted Mary to know what she was
consenting to. He made His will known and awaited her response. He
wanted to fulfill His promises to save His people through Mary, but
He also wanted Mary to be freely united with Him in this purpose.
In Latin Maryís response to Gabriel at the Annunciation is, "Fiat
mihi secundum verbum tuum" ("Let it be done to me according to your
word"). It seems natural that a human being should respond in this
way to what God proposes. This makes it all the more striking to
read the words of Jesus to the Centurion (Matt 8:13) and the
Canaanite woman (Matt 15:28): "Sicut credidisti fiat tibi," and
"Fiat tibi sicut vis," ("As you have believed, let it be for you,"
and, "Be it done for you as you will"). This shows just how much God
desires that we will what He wills, that our desire be one with His
desire, that our freedom be aligned with His freedom.
In the liturgy God wants to love us, to overshadow us with His
grace, as He did the Virgin Mary. He proposes to us, He invites us,
He makes known His desire to love us, waiting for us to say: "Lord,
I desire Your love. I need Your love. I want to be loved." At that
moment we are one
with Him in this desire, and Jesus can say to us: "As you
believe, let it be done according to your will." Thus, in the
sacraments, the dialogue begins with Godís initiative of love as He
makes known His desire to give Himself to us, and our freedom is
informed by this Good News. Then, with Mary, we make our response of
faith and ask that what is being signified be done for us. Seeing
that our will now conforms to His own, Jesus seems to say in every
sacrament: "Let it be done, now, according to your will, too."
Pope John Paul II had in mind Maryís faith at the Annunciation
when he wrote that "faith, in its deepest essence, is the openness
of the human heart to the gift: to Godís self- communication in the
Holy Spirit." Faith receives the truth about Godís love, fully
revealed in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. But if God is love,
then He desires to give Himself, to share His life with us, and
consequently faith cannot just be an intellectual assent to this
truth. It must also be acquiescence to this love, a knowing and
deliberate consent actually to be loved. In the sacraments, God both
makes known His love and offers it and we, with Mary, assent to the
truth that He is love and consent to be loved by Him. As a result of
this unity of wills, both God and man can say to one another: "Fiat.
Let it be done according to your will."
© Douglas Bushman, S.T.L., used with permission.