The Catholic Defender: The Woman Cried Out In Her Pangs Of Birth
"And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery." Revelation 12:1-2
What pain did the Virgin Mary suffer as a result of giving birth to Jesus? Was it physical, spiritual, or both? To any mother this question might be obvious, but really it is a great question to ponder.
Genesis 3:16 God told Eve, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband..."
The Virgin Mary would not be included in this word because she was not bound of the wages of sin. Mother Mary was conceived immaculate from sin as a singular grace. Of the Virgin Mary, Isaiah makes this prophecy:
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel. He shall be living on curds and honey by the time he learns to reject the bad and choose the good..." (Isaiah 7:14).
Micah gives this prophecy, "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel." Micah 5:2-3
Micah refers to Mary giving birth to Jesus as being "travail" meaning it was painful or a laborious effort apparently agreeing with Revelation 12:2.
Isaiah gives a very interesting word about this event:
"Hark, an uproar from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to his enemies! Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son. Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her son's." Isaiah 66:6-8
From this perspective, Mary did not have the normal pains of childbirth that was given to Eve and all women as a result of the fall. There are many who see the woman of Revelation 12 to be symbolic for Israel, for Zion, and for the Church. It is no accident that the Virgin Mary would be identified as "Mother of the Church" so close is her association with the body of Christ.
Certainly, within the boundaries of Israel, Zion, and the Church there have been the many examples of birth pangs the people of God has endured. This can be summed up by Jeremiah, "For I heard a cry as of a woman in travail, anguish as of one bringing forth her first child, the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, "Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers." Jeremiah 4:31
Still, the Woman of Revelation 12 is closely identified with the Blessed Virgin Mary and since she was not conceived in Original Sin, she was not bound by what God spoke to Eve and painful childbirth.
So much of the events in the Virgin Mary's life she pondered when it concerned Jesus:
"And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:16-19
Mother Mary's suffering, her particular pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery were for her Child whom she understood would suffer for all mankind. The Prophet Simeon give a word on this saying, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2:34-35
Mary's pain would encompass the future cross of Christ and the battle taking place of good and evil, something similar to what Jesus Himself felt from the cross. Jesus knew that his suffering would be rejected by many:
"After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), "I thirst." A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."
Did Mother Mary have a keen insight to this as she pondered the life of Christ that began within her womb? Even on that first Christmas morning? It stands to reason that she certainly had a keen insight, that she did have an understanding given her by God.
With that being the case, Mary's pain bringing the Child Jesus into the world could be expressed through the Love that Mother Mary has for her Divine Son because of His love for the world.
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."
A popular Christmas song, "Mary Did You Know", could be answered with a most definite yes! Merry Christmas everyone, and may Jesus and Mary give you great joy this Christmas Season.