188 Powerful Words of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“Jesus’ mother then told the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” (John 2:5)

Unknown, “The Virgin Mary Among the Angels,” 19th century
Unknown, “The Virgin Mary Among the Angels,” 19th century (photo: Shutterstock)

I recall a priest friend of mine who pointed out that the Virgin Mary was the second-most-often-quoted person in the Gospels. It’s not that I didn’t believe him but it just didn’t seem likely considering that Zacharias has a very long and beautiful soliloquy upon seeing the pregnant Virgin Mary (Luke 1:68-79).

I decided to count the words so as to be sure once and for all and found that Sacred Scripture records seven instances in which Mary spoke in the Gospel narrative. They are:

  • Luke 1:34. At the Annunciation, Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (9 words)
  • Luke 1:38. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” said Mary, again at the Annunciation. “Let it be to me according to your word” And the angel left her. (17 words)
  • Luke 1:40. At the Visitation, Mary greeted her cousin St. Elizabeth but her words aren’t recorded. (0 words)
  • Luke 1:46. The Magnificat: “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.” (135 words)
  • Luke 2:48. Our Lord’s parents were astonished when they saw him at the Temple, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” (18 words)
  • John 2:3. When the wine had given out at Cana, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine.” (4 words)
  • John 2:5. Again at Cana, Jesus’ mother then told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (5 words)


Grand Total: 188 words

Apparently, Zacharias speaks more words in the Bible than does the Blessed Virgin Mary, but quantity doesn’t always win over quality. We can learn a great deal from all of Scriptures but the Virgin’s words are uniquely profound. Mary is our exemplar. If one definition of “Christian” means someone who brings Christ into the world, then there can be no better Christian than the Virgin herself, for it’s literally what she did. And in the 30 years of Christ’s life prior to his ministry and the three years of his public ministry, Mary must have recorded much of his wisdom in her heart (Luke 2:19).

At the Annunciation, Mary admits and rejoices in her creaturehood. She is the Lord’s, as we must recognize. She was perfectly open to God’s will — the opposite of what the First Eve wanted. (Luke 1:38). Eve desired to be as God (Genesis 3:4-6). Mary wanted to be his servant (Luke 1:38). Mary’s Fiat irrevocably cancels Eve’s selfishness. The world is finally renewed.

At the Visitation, when Mary visited Elizabeth, John the Baptist leaps in utero at the sound of her voice. Mary’s mere presence in our lives exhilarates and enlivens us. She bears within her the Incarnate Word of God. She is the Second Ark of the Covenant and like the first one, she bears within herself the Word of God and is eager to share him with the world (Luke 1:38-45). Mary bears what Paul calls the “New Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:47). I pray the Magnificat every evening at Vespers. It’s one of the beautiful prayers in the Bible and I look forward to praying it. It’s the spontaneous expression of the outrageous joy Mary felt upon being recognized by her cousin as carrying God’s Son. “My soul magnifies the Lord …” Beautiful. All of our souls should likewise magnify the Lord, for he has done great things for us. If these words weren’t recorded in the Scriptures I would be suspicious, but their inclusion erases any doubt. I recognize God my Savior because Mary did it for us already. Her words are the fullest expression of what Paul will later write about the power of God’s love in our lives (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

Upon finding the Child Jesus who had been lost for three days in the Temple, Mary was relieved. It’s the passage in which I feel the most sympathy for Mary — she was separated from him for that time (Luke 2:48). If you’ve ever lost a child in a crowd, it’s gut-wrenching. Her reaction is typical for any mother: “Why have you done this to us?” I doubt Mary was all that gentle in her questioning. How often do we ask God the same question?

In Cana, Mary approached her Son over the predicament of the newly-married couple at Cana whose wedding they were there to celebrate. At her plea, Jesus consents to begin his public ministry by turning water into wine despite the fact that he tells his mother that he is not yet prepared. I’m glad she’s on our side.

In Mary’s final recorded words in Scriptures, we find an important lesson. I can image that everyone who reads or hears her words must be struck as silent as Zacharias had been. Mary’s words at the Wedding at Cana are the most succinct prayer imaginable (John 2:3). It puts Creator and creature in their proper perspective: man proposes, God disposes. Mary offers us her example of petition as a model for us all. At the wedding feast, Mary admonishes the servants in the same way she admonishes us — “Do whatever he tells you.” How much better advice can we ask for? With these words, Mary invites all of humanity to share in the grace with which she was given and reminds us to always follow her Son.