#56 CALL HER BLESSED

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“From this day all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48b)

Introduction

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation we reflected on the FIAT of the Blessed Virgin Mary: her yes to the will of the Father, her obedience to the eternal design of God. Today we reflect on her MAGNIFICAT: her song of praise for the Father who did wonderful things not only for her but also for her people, Israel. We shall focus on the words prophesying her being called blessed by all generations.

When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth declared,

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” [Luke 1:42].

Elizabeth considered it as a great honour to be visited by Mary, the mother of her Lord [v43] and told her cousin that the baby in her womb leaped upon her hearing of Mary’s voice [v44]. She also told Mary how blessed she is for having received the fulfillment of God’s promise [v45]. And what follows was Mary’s song of praise, also called the Canticle of Mary, the MAGNIFICAT, the first word of the Latin translation of the first line of the song which means GREATNESS.

Grateful for Greatness

Who would not be moved to be truly and sincerely grateful for the greatness of God? Mary’s gratitude is because she is singularly chosen to become the earthly mother of the only-begotten Son of the Father. Jesus Christ is co-eternal with God and from all eternity, He was with God and through Him, God has created everything. If Jesus is God, His mother is the Mother of God. Surely, for having been accorded with such singular honour for her simplicity, humility and obedience, she truly deserves to be called BLESSED by all generations! Bede the Venerable puts it well when he says, “Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in Him.”

So when we call Mary BLESSED, we are not only acknowledging her important role as Mother of the Saviour, who is also God and so making her the Mother of God too. We are also praising God and ultimately recognizing Him for the wonders that He did through someone like this humble young girl from Nazareth. And whenever we call Mary BLESSED, she does not keep this honour to herself. She returns the praise to God saying, MY SOUL MAGNIFIES THE LORD!

You are Blessed

Like Mary, we are all blessed, because we received God’s grace upon baptism. St Paul tells us that through the waters of Baptism, “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5). We are further blessed when we receive the other Sacraments along our pilgrimage particularly the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. We are blessed because the Holy Spirit has made our bodies His dwelling place, His temple (cf. 1Cor 6:19). We are blessed when we obey the will of God in our lives and cooperate with His grace to perform acts of charity and mercy. Like Mary proclaim the greatness of the Lord, give Him glory, and magnify Him in your life. Realise that you matter to those in your life. God’s blessings to them comes through you; through everything you do, say and think.

Our women have a lot to learn from Mary and Elizabeth about how to make the home a place where God is loved and encountered. In the simple chores you do and your faithfulness to your marriage, your home can become God’s dwelling place among His people, a true haven of sweet charity, of fruitful and faithful love.

Filled with the Spirit

Many people, within and outside the Catholic Church, abhor the practice of giving honour and praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Scripture tells us that Mary was so filled with the Holy Spirit that her greeting filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit and cause the infant in her womb to leap with joy. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, calls Mary “blessed” [vv 43, 45]. The Blessed Virgin Mary, rejoicing in God her saviour, gives praise to the Father and prophesies that all generations will call her Blessed [v48]. During the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel, delivering God’s message, calls her “full of grace” [28] and told her that she had earned God’s favour [v30]. Any objections to these passages of scripture proves the point that Saint Paul makes when he said that it is only when we are filled with the Spirit can we say that Jesus is Lord. The Spirit inspired both Elizabeth to acknowledge God’s presence in the womb of Mary. The same Spirit must reside in you to enable you see that she is exceedingly blessed among God’s creatures.

Story Time

Here’s an inspiring story about a Protestant boy who became a Catholic priest later in life because of the Hail Mary, a prayer he heard from his Catholic friends. Initially prohibited by his mother from saying the prayer, he was told that it is a superstitious prayer of Catholics. He was given the Bible to read instead. But then he found the words of the prayer in Luke 1:28 and 42.

You have to truly understand your faith in order to lead others to knowledge of the true faith, just like the friends of this Protestant boy who recited the Hail Mary. If you do not understand why the Church honours the Blessed Virgin, you cannot hope to withstand non-Catholics polemics about giving her the undue honour which detracts from the glory of Christ.

Shifted Emphasis

People who do not understand how to properly honour Mary are afraid that she might take our attention off the Lord Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man. Mary does not take us away from the Lord; instead, she leads us to Him and tells us the right thing to do which is, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Her place is beside her Son who leads us to true happiness and peace in the unity of the undivided Trinity. We who call her mother are obeying the words of Christ to behold her as our mother and model of holiness (cf. Jn 19:26,27; Rev 12:17).

#51 HONOUR MARY

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WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HONOUR THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY?

“From now on all generation will call me blessed.” (Lk 1:48)

Introduction

Throughout the centuries, the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, has certainly been a source of much discussion and controversy. I believe, however, that the failure to recognize her importance in salvation history is due, in great part, to misunderstanding and failure on the part of many to search the Scriptures and focus on some very important, inspired words as, for example, those recorded in Luke’s gospel (Lk 1:46-55). It is here that we find the “Magnificat” as spoken by Mary on the occasion of her visit to Elizabeth, her cousin. Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist, who became the forerunner or precursor of Jesus Christ Himself.

Charges or accusations have been levelled against Catholics for thinking or believing that Mary is some kind of goddess because of all the devotion or attention they direct to her. Mention is often made of all the shrines, the novenas, the Rosary and the apparitions involving the Virgin Mary. In fact, to put it even more clearly, Catholics are often accused of paying more attention to Mary than they do to Christ, her Son. The truth is that Catholic devotion to Mary, as do all the saints, points to Christ.

Communion with the Saints

An article of the Catholic faith that buttresses this point is the article in the Apostles’ Creed that says, “We believe in the Communion of Saints”. This article affirms our faith in the resurrection of Christ and the truth that all the faithful who have done the will of God while on earth are united to Him in heaven (cf. 1Jn 3:2). We also believe that since God is life and light, in Him the saints are alive and see what God sees. Psalm 36:9 tells us “in you is the source of life, by your light we see the light” (NJB). The same article also affirms that we share a special connection with them. So it is wrong to say that those in heaven are unconcerned about what happens on earth. The numerous apparitions of Mary, Angels and some of the saints to people on earth are evidences to the contrary. The saints are aware of our plights on earth. And since they know and see in their union with God, they are able to pray for us and bring heavenly messages to us. This also means that our honour of the Saints is not out of place because whatever honour we show them, we invariably show to God. We will explain this in details shortly. It is worthy of note that it is in the Scriptures that the first Christians honoured Mary as the “Mother of our Lord”.

 The Magnificat

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,

 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

 50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.

 51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,

 52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree;

 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” (Luke 1:46-55 RSV)

When we carefully study the beautiful prayer that we call the “Magnificat”, Mary’s Canitcle, we find many answers to those who object to honouring Mary. In the very first verse Mary says her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her Saviour. If Mary considers God her Saviour, that means she understood that she had to be saved, and in no way did she ever imply that she was equal to God or did not need His help.

As one continues to read, we hear her saying that “He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His Name”. She gives all the credit to God. Others who have not understood the role of Mary through the years would do well to read the closing lines of the Magnificat where she says that “henceforth, from now on all generations will call me blessed”. That is why Catholics call her the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the current generation, we understand that it is fitting that we look upon her as special because God Himself considers her special. To be selected from all women to bring the Son of God into the world certainly is a great honour.

Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that (s)he who loves God loves all that God loves. The honour we give to Mary reflects our love for God.

Mother Of God

The Church’s position on devotion to Mary is based on Scripture and on the fact that God chose her to be the mother of His Son. That, incidentally, is the answer to the problem or difficulty that some people have with Catholics calling Mary the Mother of God. Mary is not the mother of the Triune God. She is the mother of Jesus who is true God and true Man. Since Jesus is both human and divine, we ask; “who was His mother”? The answer is obvious. Hence, the title “Mother of God”. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth called Mary, “the Mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43). Interestingly, Saint Paul tells us that no one can say that Jesus is Lord unless by the power of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:3). In the same way, only the Spirit could have revealed to Elizabeth that Mary is the Mother of the Lord (Lord, “Adonai” in Hebrew is another word for “God”).

Work of Art

Picture yourself in an art gallery. When you praise a work of art as the best in a gallery filled with paintings, and the artist is standing right there. The artist is not going to be offended or jealous. Rather, he will be delighted because in praising the painting, you are actually praising him. This is simply because that painting is his creation, the result of long, hard work. We honour and love our parents or our neighbours; no one frowns at this. In doing so we are not taking anything away from God, rather, in honouring them we honour God because they are His creatures. The Prophet Isaiah uses this analogy when he says that, “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands” (Isa 64:7 New American Bible). Paul says it in even clearer terms, “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life” (Eph 2:10 New Jerusalem Bible). In the same way, when we honour Mary, we are honouring God her Creator.

To Whom Honour is Due

To honour someone is to show great respect or esteem for their person. Honour is due in different degree to different people. This is true whether we are talking about God, the Virgin Mary, the Saints, our parents or neighbours. The honour due only to God is what we call Latria in Latin. This is translated in English as “worship” or “adoration”. The honour due to the saints and people we admire, revere and respect is called Dulia in Latin. But we know that among God’s creatures none comes close to the one who gave birth to Jesus Christ who is true God and true man. The Blessed Virgin Mary herself. To her is reserved a special kind of honour that is neither latria nor dulia. The honour we show to Mary is called Hyper-dulia. The honour we show to her does not detract from the worship we offer to God. In loving her, as God’s child, we are loving God Himself (cf. Lk 9:48).

It’s all Love

You cannot claim to love of God and choose to disrespect your neighbour (1Jn 4:11). They go together just like the head and tail of a coin. The love of God and love of neighbour is the greatest of all the commandments (cf. Lk 10:27). Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that the reason for this is that he who loves God loves all that God loves. The honour we give to Mary reflects our love for God. Conversely, the disrespect we show to Mary shows our disrespect for God who first honoured her through the greeting of the angel Gabriel (Lk 1:28). The disrespect is even more grevious since Mary is the Mother of God. (We shall highlight the implications of this in the next article.)