The Passionists' Compassion

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Her Strong Faith

The people of Nazareth had a strong Jewish faith. As God's chosen people, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jews believed this land was theirs, given to their ancestors whom Moses led out of Egypt. They knew by heart the deeds of kings like David and Solomon and the words of prophets like Isaiah and Elijah. Even though the Romans, with Herod's family as their puppets, now occupied Palestine, the Jews of Galilee believed God would someday send a Messiah who would free Israel from her enemies.

roman armyThey lived in a war-torn land. For centuries before the Roman occupation, conquering armies of Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians and Greeks fought over Palestine. Despite their wars, revolts and riots, the Jews remained a subject people -- taxed, bullied and despised by succeeding rulers. Like their compatriots, the Jews of Nazareth were never far from the dangers of political violence. During the Jewish uprisings in Galilee around 6 A.D. -- when Jesus was a child -- Roman legions captured the city of Sepphoris, sold all its inhabitants into slavery and burned the city to the ground.

For some Jews, foreign domination only fanned the fires of revolution more brightly in their hearts. Others, like the Pharisees, became more strictly conservative and exclusive in their religious practices. Still others, like Mary and many ordinary people of the land, became more and more aware that they were powerless themselves, but God, the all powerful, could raise up the lowly. Their faith was of the deepest kind:

"The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Blessed be the Lord.
The Lord our God, the Lord alone!
Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart, and with all your soul
and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:4-5)

Roman coinMary's faith was strong. Yet, in fervently religious Nazareth with its high moral standards, she hardly stood out at all, even in the eyes of those who knew her best. Besides, as a woman living in a society where men counted most, she would be little noticed except as a mother and a wife.

When she was 15 or so, Mary's parents made plans for her to be married, as was customary in those days. They chose Joseph of Nazareth, a carpenter, for her husband. The engagement took place and Mary returned home to wait about a year before she would go to live with her husband as his wife. But then, something happened...

The Annunciation

Sign of the Passion

Mary, the Mother of JesusMary in Christian Tradition
The Presence of Mary in the Life of St. Paul of the Cross
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