The Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary

Sixth Virtue: Obedience

How Mary's Example Teaches Us to Trust

by Felix Carroll

While we were growing up, our refrigerator door always had the typical revolving display of glitter-and-glue artwork and test papers. But part of the permanent collection was a copy, front and center, of the Ten Commandments.

My mother was shrewd that way.

Feeling outnumbered, she finally put it up there as a means of stifling the increasingly clamorous, enthusiastic, and cleverly crafted arguments made each Sunday morning by my brothers, sister, and me for why we shouldn't go to church.

"Keep holy the Sabbath Day," my mother would say, tapping on the copy of the Ten Commandments. She'd say it with a shrug as if to declare, "Don't blame me. It's not my decision to make."

Even at an early age we knew there was no comeback to a commandment from God. We went to church, and that was that. Little did we know we'd grow to understand the true essence of obedience to God — that it's a virtue done out of love, not drudgery.

As adults, it's a lesson we wouldn't want to live without.

Obedience means to be submissive to the will of God. Through Mary, who is called "most obedient," we learn how we are called to glorify Him with our lives by being His obedient servant. Moreover, we learn that such submissiveness can come easily when we truly love and trust Him like Mary did.

In regards to Mary's obedience, the Rule of the Ten Evangelical Virtues states, "The Virgin Mary was always most obedient not only to God, but for God's sake, also to men."

At the Annunciation, her obedience begins with a choice — her choice to cooperate in God's plan. In obedience, she conceived God's only Son, forsaking her own plans for her life. And indeed, for the sake of God, she remained obedient to the laws and customs of the day.

For instance, by undertaking the long journey to Bethlehem in obedience to the decree of the Emperor Caesar Augustus, she gave birth to the Lord in the City of David. And though born without sin, Mary remained obedient to the practices at the time by offering a turtledove and a pigeon as a purification and expiation of sin when she presented Jesus in the Temple.

Mary also invites us all to obey Jesus without hesitation when, at the Wedding Feast of Cana, she says, "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5). Still, the most courageous example of her obedience was exhibited when, in conformity with God's will, she offered her Son to be crucified.

But how are we to live up to Mary's example?

The Rule states: "According to the example and in imitation of the Virgin, devoted souls, in order to please Christ, must obey God by following the Ten Commandments, must offer turtledoves by making confession of their sins, and must offer pigeons by loving God with their whole heart. At completion of the day, before going to bed, they must present their work to God, rendering Him an account of it."

The Gospels solidify God's requirements of us. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments," Jesus tells His disciples (Jn 14:15). Later, he tells them, "You are My friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15:14).

God couldn't make his expectation of us any clearer. The Bible tells us to obey God because He knows what He's doing (Is 55:8,9). It tells us to obey God because it is He alone who knows what's best for us — "for we are His handiwork" (Eph 2:10).

We also know why we should be obedient since we know full well the consequence of disobedience. Adam and Eve's disobedience to God brought sin, suffering, and death into the world. The Bible, in fact, is rife with consequences of disobedience. Remember Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back?

Still, Mary's example makes it clear that obedience is not a virtue done out of fear — or drudgery. Because she trusted and loved God, she was able to obey Him resolutely. Through her, we learn the loving consequence of obedience since her obedience brought the Savior of mankind into the world!

As young children, we thought nothing could bring us greater joy than to break the chain of Church commitments. Now we know our mother was right all along. By trusting, loving, and obeying God — by offering ourselves wholeheartedly to His divine plan like Mary did — only then can we experience the greatest, most lasting joy imaginable: the joy of God in our lives.