Marian Devotion is hard for a lot of people, both Catholics and Protestants. This usually stems from the Protestant tendency to denounce the Blessed Virgin as a way to take a swipe at Catholicism. The poison that is usually introduced comes in the form of fear of idolatry, fear of elevating Mary too high, thus detracting from the honor and devotion due to the Trinity alone. But the greatest of Catholic saints, those who were very close to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, got that way through their closeness to and high esteem of Mary (and Joseph, but that's for another time). This post is intended to break through that fear, and come out on the other side as madly in love with Mary as your actual mother and not fearing to use very flowery language in honor of Her. I want to keep this post short and hopefully follow it up with other reflections as I am able.
To get the ball rolling, I want to begin with a profound insight I heard in a homily by Fr Ryan Erlenbush (I highly recommend following his blog and hearing all his sermons). I will summarize what he said and add my own thoughts: Jesus famously said of Himself that "He who sees me sees the Father" (John 12:25). This is one of the most astonishing claims ever made. You can hardly take it in. There's something so beautiful and simple about it, yet so mysterious and mind-blowing. You really have to be a spiritual master to even begin to break this down into digestible pieces for the rest of us. One such profound insight on this is that there is a real sense in which we can say the same thing of the Blessed Virgin Mary: he who sees Mary sees the Father. This is so outrageous sounding that you should be uncomfortable at first just hearing it, and yet it's so eye-opening once you see it that you can never unsee it.
Probably the most unique and thus most special "characteristics" of God the Father is that of begetting the Son. Throughout history, throughout creation, and even within the Trinity, nobody else mirrors this "characteristic" except Mary. She is the only other person who begets the Son of God. Jesus from all eternity had a Father, and now for all eternity Jesus also has a Mother. There is so much reflection necessary to take all this in, including during Adoration and the Rosary, that I cannot begin to write down all my thoughts. It is sufficient to realize that the amazing property of begetting, the act of giving birth to a person, is something very mysterious as it relates to God the Father, so much so that we don't really know what it means. And yet this giving birth is in some way mirrored in a mysterious way with Mary. Begetting is such a huge topic in our Faith, because not only does the Trinity and Incarnation hinge on this idea, but even salvation itself, as the whole goal of "getting saved" is really about becoming children of God (more on this in other posts).
The most fascinating Scriptural text I came across on this issue was from Psalm 110:3 (LXX), which many Church Fathers quoted in defense of the Trinity. It says: "Before the dawn, from the womb I have begotten you." Notice the term "womb" here! Commenting on this text, St Augustine says it has a double meaning: first, the Father from deep within himself mysteriously begets the Son, and this takes place before the dawn of creation; second, it takes place in Bethlehem when Mary begets Jesus, before the dawn on Christmas night. Simply amazing. As I see it, Mary begetting the Son lays the foundation for all Marian Devotion.
In closing, I want to add another significant detail relating to this, the Dogma of Mary's virginity remaining while giving birth to Jesus. Most of us when we think of Mary being "Perpetually Virgin" think this means She never had marital relations with Joseph before or after Jesus was born, but the Dogma includes Mary's Virginity remaining in tact even during the Birth itself. When a woman normally gives birth, there's a lot of pain and physical damage to her body where the baby comes out, but with Mary there was no pain and no physical harm. Instead, the Church teaches that Jesus miraculous came out without harming Her physically at all. Examples the Church theologians have used are the way light passes through glass without harming the glass and how Jesus passed through the empty tomb and how Jesus passed through the locked doors of the Upper Room. Aquinas points out that not only is this Dogma fitting for the dignity of Jesus, but he points out it is plainly taught in the famous text of Isaiah 7:14, which says, "A virgin shall conceive and bear a son." Notice how Isaiah says the Virgin not only conceives but the Virgin also births a son, proving Virginity during the birthing. Recognizing this not only makes the begetting that much more miraculous, it also gives strong indication that Mary wasn't ever to have relations with Joseph because Her physical body intentionally remained unharmed during giving birth and thus it wasn't going to be left for Joseph to change that.
Hopefully this short post generated some interest in your heart to begin (or increase) your Devotion to Mary. If you don't know where to start, just start with simple prayers from your heart and a single Decade of the Rosary whenever you're able. With more posts hopefully upcoming, you can increase this Devotion. And for those who have had hardened hearts on this matter, pray that God will take away that "fear of idolatry" and use the above two verses of Scripture to breakthrough, even just a little bit. Oftentimes these things need time to sink in, so while you're waiting, short prayers whenever you feel prompted to are the best.