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“Ask a Priest: Why does Jesus address his Mother as ‘woman’ in Scripture?”
Q: At least twice in Scripture Christ calls his own mother “woman”: once at the wedding at Cana and again at the foot of the cross. That would normally be noted as being rude, disrespectful, and I wonder how that made Mary feel. Never in Scripture does he call her “mom.” -C.L.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Indeed, to modern ears Jesus’ addressing Mary as “woman” sounds a bit cold. But in Aramaic, the language in which Our Lord spoke, it was actually a term of respect — a normal, polite form of address, as the New American Bible observes in a footnote to John 2:4.
Jesus refers to his Mother in the same way from the cross (“Woman, behold, your son” — John 19:26). That context certainly shows the Jesus meant no disrespect for his beloved Mother, since he wanted to make sure that his beloved disciple would look after Mary after Our Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.
The use of “woman” also recalls the language of Genesis 2:22-23 and the first woman in the world. Christian tradition refers to Mary as the new Eve, the mother of all the living. That recalls Mary’s exalted status in the Church and in the history of salvation as the Mother of the Redeemer. Thanks for your question and the opportunity to clarify a key Marian point. God bless.