Always in Our Midst
This year, the feast of Pentecost takes place in May. It is a wonderful day to reflect on the place of Mary in the beginning of the life of the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke writes about a pre-ascension meeting of Jesus and his followers. “While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4–5).
After witnessing the ascension (Acts 1:6-12), the disciples enter “the city [and] went to the upper room where they were staying….All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:13–14)
May being the “month of Mary” is a long-standing tradition, and the custom of having an image of Mary in our churches goes back to St. Luke’s description of the Pentecost experience. Mary is seated in the midst of the apostles as the Holy Spirit descends upon them. The image of the Holy Spirit’s presence with Mary is depicted in a variety of liturgical works of art. These images offer a glimpse into how the early church began to fashion its understanding of Mary in relationship to Christ and the Church.
Mary becomes an example of living the life of the Spirit. In our churches, the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual help is positioned in a central location. We encounter Mary’s gaze as we gather in worship. She is with us in the midst of our assembly and presents to us the Word of God in the form of the Child she holds in her arms. She is with us just as she was present with the apostles on that first Pentecost.
What can we do to honor Mary in the month of May? We can encourage our communities to gather before the icon of Mary; sing hymns and adorn her altar with flowers; read and reflect on the various Gospel accounts of Mary. And also we can engage with our Blessed Mother simply by being present before the icon, in silence, allowing the prayers and readings from the Gospels to resonate with us. End your time of reflection by praying a Hail Mary with the invocation: “Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us,” and honor her with song. In May, the “month of Mary,” what can we do to honor Our Mother of Perpetual Help?