The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

[Scripture Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21]Fr. Brendan

As we heard at Vigils this morning, today’s feast of Mary the Mother of God was inserted into the Roman calendar in 1969. It replaces the feasts of the Circumcision and the Holy Name of Jesus. “Mother of God” — Theotokos — is an ancient title for Mary going back to Sacred Scripture and the Council of Ephesus in 431. But why was it established in the liturgical year only in 1969?

I would venture a guess that it was the Church’s way of trying to answer the challenge of the role of women in the world. After all, men have a lot to answer for in the way women have been treated in our society over the centuries. Women today carry an historical memory that goes back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. There is a great need for all of us to purify this historical memory.

Now I am not the type to go out on a limb in a homily and I don’t believe a homily is the place to bring up controversial issues, so I might as well tell you where I am getting some of this material. It is from Loreto magazine, not usually considered very radical, in an article entitled “The Crucifix and the A.D. 2000 Jubilee.” The article refers to the seven mea culpas read out in St. Peter’s Square last March 12th, the first Sunday of Lent. The sixth mea culpa was “repentance towards women too often humiliated and marginalized.” The mea culpa is not restricted to the Church. The marginalization of women has been part of our culture. By presenting Mary to us in a new way, the Church is trying to reverse, or at least re-direct, a cultural trend.

Marian Window at Holy Spirit Abbey, Conyers, Georgia, USAIn today’s Gospel there is an aspect of Mary’s motherhood that is important for all of us. Hearing those things the shepherds had to say, Mary’s response was to hold them in her heart or, as another translation has it, she treasured these things and pondered them in her heart. In doing this Mary gives truth a space to unfold. The mystery of what is unfolding needs time to disclose itself. By holding these things in her heart, Mary allows the mystery of Jesus to grow in her heart. The truth of what is happening will be revealed.

Truth is not always easy to see. The truth about slavery in our country took many generations to be recognized. The seven mea culpas are cultural sins that go back centuries. There could be seven things we are doing now that future generations will repent. Only prophets have eyes for the present. Prophets see things as God sees them. Mary is a great prophet, not so much for what she says but from the various ways she comes to us in the Gospels. “Treasuring and pondering in her heart” is an approach to life. St. Bernard says there is a song for every stage of growth in our life. But he says there is only one song of songs. “…It is not a melody that resounds abroad but the very music of the heart, not a trilling on the lyre, but an inward pulsing of delight, a harmony not of voices but of wills?”1

There are all kinds of theories on how we know, how we come to truth. None is better than this harmony of wills — our will and God’s will. Mary is our great model, uniting her will with God’s will. This marriage brought new life into the world, a saving life, the very life of God.

At this Eucharist we are invited to share in this life, to unite our will to God’s will. And on this feast day we are invited to place the unfolding of this new year in Mary’s arms, that we too may find there the “music of the heart.”

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

[Scripture Readings: Num 6:22-27, Gal 4:4-7, Luke 2:16-21]

Fr. BrendanWhat is your answer? If someone came up and said to you, “What is your answer?”, no doubt you would say, “What is your question?” It doesn’t make sense to start with the answer. This is only as it should be. This is logical. We are full of questions, we bring them everywhere, they are never far from our mind. We bring them into the most unlikely places, right into the presence of God in the liturgy. They rise up in our minds as we listen to the Gospel being proclaimed.

But maybe we should leave our questions at the door of the Church and enter with a clear mind, open to what we hear and see. Not judging the words and actions but letting them judge us. Let ourselves be asked, “What is your answer to what you just heard?”

The Scriptures and the Church are not political in the sense that they weigh what is said, testing the audience for acceptance ratings. The message is simply stated: Mary is the Mother of God. What is your answer? It is incomprehensible to our minds but this does not mean it is not true. It simply means it is beyond our ability to understand so we bow before it, we believe in order to understand, we give our assent in the dark.

Even though we cannot understand this mystery we can look at the context surrounding it. We pick up today’s gospel in the middle of a long story about the birth of Jesus, the events preceding it and following it. If we focus on Mary’s part in this drama a theme arises that reveals her maternal heart. Today’s gospel tells us the shepherds came in from the hills and repeated what the angels told them about the child. He is the Savior, Christ the Lord. Everyone is astonished. Everyone but Mary. She heard this before at the annunciation and when she visited Elizabeth. Luke has Jesus proclaimed Lord by angels, by shepherds, by Elizabeth. Mary’s response, her answer is always the same: belief, consent, reflection and engagement. We read today that she treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. To listen, keep, treasure and believe are all forms of being receptive to the Word. They are forms of prayer, a way of relating beyond analysis. They move into the heart, the seat of love. Mary, our Mother, is the model on how to receive the Word of God as it comes to us daily in the scriptures. May her faith be in our faith, her love in our love. After all, even in the natural order our parents live on in us.

The Symbol of the Fish
God came to Mary with the answer to all our questions in the ultimate question, “What must I do to be saved?” Mary did not approach God with her question, however. God broke into her life, just as he does with us. Each day the gospel is proclaimed to us and we must give our answer. Each day we are addressed by the scriptures and by world events. St. Benedict says, “What is more delightful than the voice of the Lord calling to us?”

This is true, but the spiritual guide, Jean Pierre de Caussade, reminds us of another side: “The written word of God is full of mysteries and equally so is his word expressed in world events. These two books are truly sealed and it can be said of both of them that the letter kills” (Abandonment to Divine Providence, p. 40).

Mary expressly said she did not understand how everything told her could happen but she gave her assent She believed and became the Mother of God.

We have passed through a difficult year. We struggle to understand the word of God expressed in world events. Mary knows all about that. She is not astonished, she keeps them in her heart as she waits to bring forth the source of life.

In the coming year it is less important for our faith to question the changes in the world than it is to let the changes call forth our faith. There is a hidden current of mercy flowing through the river of world events. We bow, humbled before this mercy and pray in words we do not understand, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen”

Thanks to Hermanoleon Clipart

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

[Scripture Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21]

Fr. BrendanSt. Anselm has a beautiful meditation that we used during Advent that
expresses sentiments that we have all experienced-sentiments of desire and
unfulfilled longing. He says to God, “Lord . . . what shall your servant do,
tormented by love of you and cast so far from your face. (We) yearn to see
you and your face is far from us. We desire to approach you and your dwelling
is unapproachable . . .
Friday 1st week of Advent, Breviary

That was the Advent season, the season of longing and desire that runs
through our life. Now is the Christmas season the time of fulfillment and
completion. Paul says it best, ” . . . when the completion of time came, God
sent his Son born of a woman, born subject to the Law, to redeem the subjects
of the law, so that we could receive adoption.
2nd reading Gal 4:4-5

The wall of separation has been torn down. God has spoken to us in a language
we can understand. We know the love of a mother, the tenderness of a child.
We feel drawn to adore with the shepherds and worship with the Magi and above
all to ponder with Mary the mystery of God’s love.

Mary, Mother of GodWe begin this New Year in the season of fulfillment and completion. We begin
with the Motherhood of Mary. Her time of waiting and longing is over. Her
child is born. The answer has been given. Jesus is our Savior, come to redeem
us. So even though the year ahead is new and uncharted, the answer is always
the same. Jesus is our Savior.

It is one thing to say this, and indeed we should say it in every situation,
we should pronounce the sacred name over the entire year, but we also must
live it. Blessed are those who ponder the Word with Mary and put it into
practice.

Each of us must shelter the Word and mother unity. Yesterday, in a reading at
Lauds, St. Leo the Great gives us very practical advice. He says the way to
respond to God is to give back to God what He has given us. The supreme way
we do this, of course, is by joining in the offering of Jesus at the
Eucharist each day. But there are many ways to offer God what He has given
us. The gift of peace, for example, which is so much a part of this Christmas
proclamation can be returned to God by our being in harmony with each other.
Our every attempt then becomes a prayer, an offering.

St.Leo says, “The hearts and minds of those who have been reformed . . .
should be in harmony with one another
Dec 31 Office of Readings.

Pope John Paul III cannot think of a better way to bring the answer we have received at
Christmas into the new year. After all our country is on the verge of war. A
war the Pope spoke against, a war our Bishops condemned and yet we are
powerless to stop it if it happens. What can we do? We can strive to live in
harmony with one another. We can try to eliminate hate and violence from our
own hearts. Indifference can be a form of violence. We can care for each
other more in 2003.

Mary is the center of today’s feast, Mary our mother. Mothers care about their
family. They are at the center, totally involved. We can be mothers of peace
by caring for our community, deeply involved in what is good for it,
participating fully and living in harmony with each other.

Thanks to Hermanoleon Clipart.