#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).

#55 ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT

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“… There was a woman whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head…” (Rev. 12: 1)

Introduction

There are several interpretations to the passage of Revelation 12:1. But one that stands out is the identification of the woman with Mary. Saint John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, had identified this woman in the last verse of the preceding chapter as the “Ark of the Covenant”. We know this because the division of the scriptures into chapters and verses is a later addition to the Bible. So when John wrote, he was describing this Ark which appeared in the heavenly temple. Mary is the New Testament (NT) fulfillment to the Ark of the Old Testament (OT). Mary is the new and greater fulfillment of what was prefigured by the Ark of the OT. What follows is a step by step comparison of the OT Ark with its NT counterpart and why Mary should be honoured as sinless and pure.

Striking Resemblance

The Ark of the Old Covenant was the holiest and most powerful article on Earth outside of God Himself. It was a sacred chest which contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments among other things (Deut 10:5). The Ark also carried and represented the spiritual presence of God on Earth. When God spoke to Moses, it was from between the two cherubim which were on the Ark (Num 7:89; Ex 25:21-22). Let us now look at how the Bible identifies Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.

The Ark of the Old Covenant contained the written Word of God (Deut. 10:5). The Virgin Mary contained the Word of God made flesh, Jesus (Jn. 1:1,14). Revelation 19:13 says, “And He [Jesus] was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, the Word of God.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of God (Ex 40:34 -35). The Virgin Mary was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of the Most High (Lk 1:35).

The tabernacle was constructed to contain the holy Ark (Ex 40:2-3). When God would come down upon the tabernacle and the Ark to speak to Moses, we read in Ex 40:34 – 35 that God’s glory cloud or visible presence (called the “Shekinah”) “overshadowed” it. The rare word which is used to describe how this unique presence of God would “overshadow ” the Ark is episkiasei in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint.

Exodus 40:34-35 – “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud overshadowed it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

The very same word “episkiasei” is used in the New Testament which is written in Greek to describe how the presence of God will “overshadow” the Virgin Mary. The Scriptures uses this language only about the Ark and about Mary.

Luke 1:35 – “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

The clear implication is that the presence of God overshadows Mary and comes down upon her – since she is the New Ark – just as it overshadowed the Ark of the Old Covenant. This reveals that Mary, while just a creature and infinitely less than God, is the new Ark. She has a unique connection to God, a unique holiness, sanctification and power.

Parallel Lines that Intersect

Consider the amazing parallels that Scripture gives us between what happened to the Ark of the Old Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 and what happened to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, in chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel. 2 Samuel 6 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Ark of the Old Covenant. Luke 1 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary.

2 Samuel 6:9 – “David feared the Lord that day and said, How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”

Luke 1:43 –”[Elizabeth said]: And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ”

Elizabeth says the same thing to Mary that David said about the Ark because Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. The only difference between the two statements is literally that “mother” is used where Ark was used. The Bible is telling us that the mother of the Lord  is the Ark. This is confirmed without any doubt as we carry the story further.

David leapt Before the Ark: 2 Samuel 6:16 – “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Saul´s daughter Michal looked down through the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord…”

The Infant (John the Baptist) leapt in the presence of Mary: Luke 1:41-44 – “And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit… For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

The Ark stayed for three months: 2 Samuel 6:11 – “ The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed Obededom and his whole house.”

Mary (the Ark) remained with Elizabeth for three months: Luke 1:56-57 – “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”

David set out to fetch the Ark from Judah: 2 Samuel 6:2 – “Then David and all the people who were with him set out for Baala of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God.”

This occurred when Mary ( the Ark) went to Judah: Luke 1:39-40 – “During those days Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”

Revelation of the Ark

The Book of Revelation also indicates that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant:

Revelation 11:19,12-1 – “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. [12:1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

The Bible was not written with any chapters or verses indicated. It was not until the 12th century that chapters and verses were added to the Bible. The author of Revelation, St. John, wrote what begins chapter 12 in one continuous stream immediately after what ends chapter 11. At the end of chapter 11, we read that the Ark of Jesus’ covenant was seen in Heaven. The very next verse is Revelation 12:1. Therefore, the words which end chapter 11 flows immediately into the words which begin chapter 12 without any interruption.

That means that the appearance of the Ark of Jesus’ covenant at the very end of chapter 11 is immediately explained by the vision of “the woman” clothed with the sun which begins chapter twelve, the very next verse (Rev. 12:1). This indicates that “the woman” clothed with the sun, who bore the Divine Person in her womb (the Virgin Mary), is the Ark of the New Testament.

The Ark contained the manna from the desert: Hebrews 9:4 – “…the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna , and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.”

Mary contained the manna from Heaven, Jesus: John 6:48-51 – “I am that bread of life…This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

There can be no doubt that the manna in the desert (Exodus 16) prefigured Jesus as the Bread of Life. Jesus makes a connection between the two in John chapter 6. He makes reference to the manna in the desert, and then says that His flesh is the true manna from Heaven. Well, the manna from the desert was placed inside the Ark of the Old Covenant. That prefigures Jesus Christ Himself being contained within Mary, His Mother.

In Hebrews 9:4, we also see that the rod of Aaron was placed within the Ark of the Old Covenant. In Numbers 17, we read that this rod budded to prove the true high-priest. The rod of Aaron then signified the true high-priest. In the New Testament, Jesus is described as the true high-priest.

Hebrews 3:1 – “ Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” Also see Hebrews 6:20, 9:11, and other passages all attest that Jesus is the true high-priest. The inescapable conclusion is that Aaron’s rod being placed within the Ark prefigured Jesus Christ, the true high-priest, being contained within Mary.

SINCE MARY IS THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT, THAT MEANS THAT SHE IS THE MOST SACRED THING ON EARTH OUTSIDE OF JESUS CHRIST

Holy So Holy

The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest thing on earth outside of the presence of God Himself. The Ark was contained in the tabernacle, within the holy of holies. The Ark’s presence is what made the holy of holies so sacred.

2 Chronicles 35:3 – “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build.”

The Ark was so holy that when the people of God followed it they had to keep a respectful distance.

Joshua 3:3-5 – “When you shall see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests of the race of Levi carrying it, rise up also, and follow them as they go before: And let there be between you and the ark the space of two thousand cubits: that you may see it afar off, and know which way you must go: for you have not gone this way before: and take care not to come near the ark .”

People who unlawfully touched the Ark were killed.

2 Samuel 6:6-7 – “Azor put forth his hand to the ark of God , and took hold of it: because the oxen kicked and made it lean aside. And the indignation of the Lord was enkindled against Azor, and he struck him for his rashness: and he died there before the ark of God.”

The men of Bethshemesh were killed because they had dared to look into the Ark.

1 Samuel 6:19 – “ And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men…”

We see how sacred God considered the object which was to come into close contact with His spiritual presence.

SINCE MARY IS THE NEW ARK, SHE HAD TO BE HOLY AND CREATED FREE FROM SIN

God gave the most precise specifications for the construction of the Ark. He ordered that it be made with the most pure gold (Ex 25:10-13,24).

It’s interesting that the Ark not only had to be overlaid with gold all around, but there is a specific reference to it having a “crown of gold round about.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant had a gold crown: Exodus 25:11 – “And thou… shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.”

The Virgin Mary (the New Ark) also has a crown: Apocalypse 12:1 – “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant had to be perfect and holy because it was the seat of God’s unique spiritual presence. God’s holiness could not be tarnished by contact with that which had defects. Likewise and to a greater degree, the Virgin Mary, as the new Ark and bearer of Jesus Christ, had to be created without sin and in a state of perfection.

She did not merely contain the spiritual presence of God, but Jesus Christ (God Himself). She did not merely contain the written word of God, but the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:1). Consequently, Mary must be perfect. She had to be free from all sin, ever-virgin and untouched by man.

If the Ark of the Old Covenant, which contained the written tables of the Law and was overshadowed by the spiritual presence of God, had to be overlaid with the most pure gold and had to be constructed according to the most precise specifications of God, how much greater is God’s “construction” of Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant? The fulfillment is always greater than the type. Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, must be and is greater than the Ark of the Old Covenant.

Just like the Ark of the Old Covenant, Mary must also have tremendous power over the Devil and God’s enemies. She must have a unique power of intercession with God, in bringing down His blessings and in aiding the people of God, just as the Ark of the Old Covenant did.

The Ark of the Old Covenant had awe-striking power. When it was taken by the Philistines, extraordinary things happened to them and to their false god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-5).

The Philistines began to be destroyed for having taken the Ark. This prompted them to return the Ark to their enemies, the Israelites.

1 Samuel 5:7 – “And the men of Azotus seeing this kind of plague, said: The ark of the God of Israel shall not stay with us : for his hand is heavy upon us, and upon Dagon our god.”

The waters of the Jordan were miraculously dried up by the Ark.

Josh 3:13-14 – “ [And the Lord said to Josue ]: And when the priests, that carry the ark of the Lord the God of the whole earth, shall set the soles of their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the waters that are beneath shall run down and go off: and those that come from above, shall stand together upon a heap. So the people went out of their tents, to pass over the Jordan: and the priests that carried the ark of the covenant went on before them… ”

Mary, the New Ark, has this power and even more; for the fulfillment is greater than the type, and the New Testament is greater than the Old. We are told that the angels fought for the woman against the dragon (Rev 12:7). As we learnt from previous articles, Mary “by her fair humility and holy life conquered (the devil) and beat down his strength”. For Alphonsus Ligouri, “Jesus and His Mother have overcome Lucifer.” And for Saint Bernard, “this proud spirit (the dragon) was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. She is our Queen and our Ark of refuge as she is for her Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

#52 COMPASSIONATE MOTHER

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“…Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5)

Introduction

I believe that another reason we are often confused about devotion to Mary is because we have a poor understanding of Family and the role of a Mother in the household. We call God “Father”. And Christ is our brother because he taught us to pray, “Our Father” (Mt 6:9). He also calls each of us to behold our mother (Jn 19:27). If we see our relationship with God and the saints as a family affair, we will come to appreciate our faith in God more deeply and how much he wants us to be a part of his divine household.

Adventure Time

Ideas about Mary fill the pages of Scripture from the beginning of the first book through to the end of the last. She was there, in God’s plan, from the beginning of time, just as the apostles were, and the Church, and the Saviour, and she will be there at the moment everything is fulfilled. Still her motherhood is a discovery waiting to be made.

In Scripture, there are only a handful of passages referring to motherhood, matriarchy and maternity. This contrasts with the hundreds of citations about fatherhood, patriachy and paternity. What is wrong with this picture? Perhaps motherhood is so little understood and appreciated because mothers are so close to us. Infants, for example, do not even understand that Mother is a separate entity until they are several months old. Some researchers say that children don’t fully come to this realisation until they are weaned. It is admissible that we may never be able to distance ourselves psychically from our mothers, except of course, you don’t have a first hand experience of a mother. But I doubt that very much. We shall speak about motherhood in details later. For now, we must catch up on one motherly trait that we see in Mary – loving concern for the welfare of others.

Oh Woman!

The stage is set for Jesus’ first public sign. He arrives at the wedding feast with His mother and His disciples. A wedding celebration, in the Jewish culture of the time, normally lasted about a week. Yet we find, at this wedding, that the wine ran out very early. At which point, Jesus’ mother points out the obvious to her Son: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). It is a simple statement of fact. But Jesus seems to respond in a way that is far out of proportion to His mother’s simple observation. “O woman,” he says, “what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).

In order to understand Jesus’ seeming overreaction, we need to understand the phrase “what have you to do with me?” Bear in mind that after the brief chit-chat between them, Jesus fulfills the request He infers from Mary’s observation. If He intended to reproach her, he surely would not have followed His reproach by complying with her request. A commentary note in the New American Bible on this verse tells us that “Woman” is a polite and normal form of address and not a way of putting someone down.

Some people make a case about Jesus’ choice of words. “What have you to do with me?” It has two connotations. It is a Hebrew expression of denial of common interest (cf. Hosea 14:8,9; 2Kg 3:13). The expression is also used to express permissiveness. The expression was also used by a man possessed by a demon to address Jesuus and acknowledge his authority over the man and the demon. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” “I beseech you, do not torment me,” he continues, thereby affirming that he must carry out whatever Jesus commands (Lk 8:28; Mk 5:7).

At Cana Jesus defers to His mother, though she never commands Him. She, in turn, merely tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you”. Some saints and spiritual writers see in Mary’s action at the Wedding in Cana, a display of a high degree of charity. “So great was Mary’s charity when on earth,” Saint Alphonsus Ligouri says, “that she succoured the needy without even being asked; as was the case at the marriage feast of Cana when she told her Son that family’s distress: ‘They have not wine’”. Since goodness is always worthy of emulation, we should imitate Mary’s loving concern for others.

Ours for the Asking

John the Evangelist as well as the spiritual writers are pointing to the fact that this woman knows the way to her son’s heart. And we should take advantage of it. Mary for her part is not presumptuous of her Son’s kindly nature and tells us to approach him after she has alerted him to our request. Mary is clearly not our mediatrix with God the Father but she is our mediatrix with her Son. It will be presumptuous of us to think that we can ask Jesus for anything by our own strength. Jesus is God and the prayer of a sinner is an abomination before God (Prov 15:8). You stand a better chance brokering a deal with his mother, who incidentally is your mother too. Anyone who grew up in a home knows that a mother has a special key that unlocks the heart of any member of the family.

The functional home, with a Father, Mother and children (and even extended family members), is the closest analogy we have to the inner dynamism of our relationship to God and the saints (cf. Eph 2:19). God is our Father, Jesus is our Big Brother and Mary is our Mother. Her place in God’s household is undeniable.  I like to quote Scott Hahn as a way of closing this piece. He says that, “The breakaway Christian churches that diminish Mary’s role inevitably end up feeling like a bachelor’s apartment: masculine to a fault; orderly but not homey; functional and productive—but with little sense of beauty and poetry.”

#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.)

#50 COPYRIGHT OF THE SPIRIT

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Lk 4:16 “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.”

The Word of God is the most powerful force on the face of the earth. Look around. Everything you see and perceive, even your very self, is a product of the Divine Word. Today, we are reminded not to get too familiar with it that we take it for granted. We must listen to it, reverence it and put it to practice.

LITURGY

The word “Liturgy” means “public worship”. The Church at worship is the home of the Scriptures. Before the advent of the print media, the Word of God was almost only heard in Church at Mass. It was purely a liturgical book. It is in the Church that it is read and explained. From the Word, we find courage to approach the Eucharist where we draw strength to live a life of love.

REVERENCE

You can never be the same after listening attentively to God’s Word. The Israelites realised how far they were from God’s law because they were ignorant of His Word. Listen to the readings attentively. Reverence it in the way that is custom in your faith community and take the preacher’s word to heart. Do not be saddened by what you hear. Thank God that you have the opportunity of a fresh start.

INSPIRATION

St Luke tells us something unique about the Gospels. He says that there were so many in his time. Many of these have resurfaced in our time fuelling curiosity and suspicion. He tells us that his is “an ordered account” of the events of Christ’s life. There are four criteria by which a writing is considered “inspired”:

Apostolic origin; its author should be an apostle of Christ or one of their disciple to establish their authenticity.

Rule of faith; the work must tell the truth about the person and mission of Christ. Works which betray the true identity of Christ were ruled out and considered purely works of fiction.

Addressed community; the Christian community to which it is address had the duty of promoting it and proving that it is genuine and a work which promotes the Christian faith.

Church intuition: Some works, even when they did not meet the above requirements, got approval because of a sense that they teach the true Christian faith.

POWERED BY THE SPIRIT

Jesus is God and the second person of the Holy Trinity. But He wasn’t just doing his own thing. The ministry of Christ is the action of the whole Trinity (Totas trinitas). Jesus was prompted by the Holy Spirit and the approval of the Father who called Him “my beloved Son” (Lk 9:35).

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SCRIPTURE ACCOMPLISHED

The words of Isaiah 61:1-2 is accomplished through Christ. Through the Word, He brings good news, liberty, sight, freedom and favour to all. What is your disposition to the words you read and hear?

LISTEN

Listening is the first step in the renewing process of the Word. You should realise that God’s Word is addressed to you in your situation. Never be indifferent to its demands. Always ask, “What must I do?” and follow through with action.

BAPTISM

We receive the power of audition by our reception of the Sacrament of Initiation. In the waters of baptism we are made heirs to the Father’s kingdom (Jn 1:12), sons (and daughters) with the Son (Gal 4:6) and the same Spirit has been given to us all (1Cor 12:13).

PARTS OF A WHOLE

The power of God’s Word is seen in the powerful witness of the lives of every member of the Church. Our witness is a life love and genuine concern for others, of compassion and tolerance, forgiveness and meaningful collaboration. The Word of God can be a binding factor leading us to genuine personal conversion and global evangelisation. This is only possible when we truly consider each other parts of one body.

The power of the Holy Spirit is manifest in each of us for different purposes (apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healing, helpers, leaders and polyglots among others). It has also made us dependent on each other (weak and strong) so that we can partake equally of hurt and honour.

THE WORD 

Psalm 19 reveals the secret power of God’s word; it Revives the soul, gives Wisdom, Gladdens the heart, gives Light to the eyes and is True and Just.

The Word of God is so important in our day. But its power is revealed only to those who seek it sincerely and diligently.

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Prayer: Lord, let your Word dwell richly in me. Let it melt away my indifference and mould me and use me to bring glory to you.

Keepsake: God’s Word has the power to transform you into a Vessel of God’s glory. Listen to it.

Today’s Readings: Neh 8:2-6,8-10; Ps 19:8-10,15; 1Cor 12:12-30; Lk 1:1-4,4:14-21

#28 MARY: THE ESSENCE OF WOMANHOOD

Dear Doctimus Prime,

I wrote a fairly lengthy reflection this morning and wanted it to be for those who have the patience to read. So here it goes:

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Lk 1:38 “I am the handmaid off the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me.”

Reflection: Although Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Church wants us to reflect on the Lady whose consent made it possible. From the Gospel reading we can identify some traits that reveal Mary’s personality and these should guide you too.

FULL OF GRACE: Mary was filled with God’s grace because God favoured her and also because she disposed herself to receive it. Are you open to receive God’s grace and to be His channel of grace or are you more concerned about being acceptable to others?

HUMILITY: By acknowledging that she is God’s handmaid, she chose to do God’s will and not hers. Mary’s awareness of her place as God’s handmaid tells us that she is aware of her relationship with God. Is relationship with God something important to you? When she says “let your will be done”, she considers God’s plan to be bigger than hers. Do you make your plans bigger than that which God makes for you or do you trust him to plan for you?

SELFLESS: She always thinks of others first. She valued humanity’s salvation over her need to secure her marriage or virginal purity. She chose to become the means by which God’s promise to assure the perpetual reign of David’s line is fulfilled (2Sam 7:16). We see a similar gesture at the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus performs his first miracle at her request (cf. Jn 2:3).

VIRGIN AND MOTHER: Virginity and Motherhood co-existed in Mary because God means to show us that humans are the only ones God created for themselves. Humans are also created to give the gift of themselves in marriage. Are you doing all in your power to develop all your gift, intellectual, moral, human, social and spiritual, so that you can bless the world with the gift of yourself? Mary gave herself to God and God gave the gift of himself through her; this without disdain to her virginity. You should enjoy your virginity by discovering the gift which you are before giving yourself to another person.

Prayer: God dispose my heart to love you and my soul to receive you. Make me a gift to the world.

Today’s Readings: 2Sam 7:1-5,8—11,16; Ps 89:2-5,27,29; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38

Yours,

BLOGATRON

#20 Wave Your Palms!

Dear Doctimus Prime,
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and I am excited. I am excited because I have another opportunity to join others in waving those green branches to acclaim Jesus, “King of the world”! I am also excited because the 40 days of Lent is coming to its dramatic close with the Holy Week, the week in which Christ redeems us from sin, Satan and death.

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PALM SUNDAY is the Sunday before Easter Sunday. On this day, Jesus enters Jerusalem as foretold in the Old Testament and its account is given in the four Gospels (Mk 11:1-10; Mt 21:1-11; Lk 19:28-38; Jn 12:12-16). The subject of Palm Sunday is the account of Jesus openly entering Jerusalem. The people rushed to meet Him because of His miracles and fame. He entered riding a donkey, and the people spread palm branches before Him as a sign of welcome and honour. The principal ceremonies of the day are the blessing of the palms, the procession, the Mass, and during it the singing of the Passion.

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Symbolism of Palm Branches

On the altar, branches of palms are placed between the candlesticks instead of flowers ordinarily used. Palm branches have been used by many nations as an emblem of joy and victory over enemies. In Christianity (and Catholicism especially), it is used as a sign of victory over the flesh and the world according to Psalm 91:13. We learn on this day that anyone can turn against Jesus at any moment in spite of their devotion to Him.

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The Drama of the Passion

The drama of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem introduces us into a paradox and an irony. The paradox is that this same crowd that spreads palm branches and clothes on the floor chanting and dancing “Hossana to the Son of David” (Ps 118:26; Mk 11:9-10) will in five days’ time cry, “Crucify him!!!” The irony, however, is that although they demand his life, Jesus freely offers it for their sake. The name given to him in mockery is his actual name; He is the “King of the Jews” and the King of kings. They, like us, were quick to profess their admiration and love for Him, yet little did they know that most of them would be crying for His death on Good Friday, that very week!

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More Than Words

The event of Palm Sunday shows us that faith is not just a matter of words. Your life should be an eloquent testimony to what you believe. You have to do more than simply believe in Jesus; you have to understand how that affects your whole life. Jesus has to be at the centre of your thought, words and deeds. You need to take the word of God seriously; the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist should be your steady companion. The people you meet each day and the things you do are opportunities for you to GIVE GLORY AND PRAISE TO GOD. Faith is a verb and not just a noun. Only then will you truly wave the palm branch of your soul, a holy and acceptable sign to Jesus, the true King of the World and the King of your soul.

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All Hail the King!

Jesus is a king who destroys the weapons of war, a king of peace and a king of simplicity, a king of the poor. Palm Sunday reminds us of the new world-encompassing kingdom of Jesus that extends from sea to sea in the communities of the breaking of the bread in communion with Jesus Christ, as the kingdom of his peace … Jesus is not building on violence like corrupt politicians; he is not instigating a military revolt against Rome. His power is of another kind: it is in God’s poverty and peace that he identifies the only power that can redeem. Pledge allegiance to Him and to others as long as they follow Him.

Yours

BLOGATRON