To begin, make the sign of the cross and pray the Sh’ma, a prayer the little Mary would have grown up reciting every day with her Jewish family and community:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)
Little Mary’s pure and open heart is the reflection of our beautiful Christian life of union with God; a reflection of sacrificial love for Him and all humanity, on fire with the Holy Spirit, flowering with every grace, blessing and virtue.
“Draw us after you in the fragrance of your holiness.” * Following in her heart beats, we are to be directed by the the love of God: wholly pure, wholly given, fully human. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God,” because when we are pure of heart, all we see is God.
Her heart is utterly pure beyond our comprehension, pure as Eve’s before the fall; then made even more beautiful by Mary’s heroic merits, her sacrifices, her complete alliance with God, her total love, and her compliance with His will and plan.
How can we imitate the child Mary by heart? We are so often unlike her inside. Sometimes we seem hopelessly off track. Mary’s heart’s simplicity and hidden life in God are hard to cultivate, but this is what true holiness is, loving God as she did; in stark faith, hope, and love, in simplicity of heart. We walk with young Mary in simple faith and learn Christ from her. We listen, we let go and let God, trusting in His grace that He will complete the good work He has begun in us.
Her dedication at the Temple, running up the steps of her own accord, is a symbolic for-shadowing of her whole hearted cooperation with God years later when she said, “I am the littlest of the servants of God. Let it be done to me as you have said.” This is what our own hearts echo in the spiritual life if we allow God to work with us, and Mary to teach us. We become more and more attentive to His Word in our lives. We learn to be in silent communion with Him in the quiet of our hearts and we become more and more aware of His indwelling. It takes training ourselves to be quiet and commitment to spend time with God every day in whatever way we are capable of. We can entrust our formation to Mary.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary is an icon of the heart of prayer in its perfection.
*An antiphon from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God.
Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you. Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.
Then pray, “Hail Mary…”