Tag Archives: Annunciation

First Witnesses of the Resurrection

Monday within the Octave of Easter

Matthew 28:8-15 

“Do not be afraid!” commanded the lightning white angel at the empty tomb. 

A squadron of at least four guards, among the toughest and most indomitable warriors of Rome, “were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4). 

In contrast, the women were “fearful yet overjoyed” by the encounter, for their love of Jesus filled them with unearthly courage to stand fast and receive the good news of the resurrection from the heavenly messenger.

Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” (probably the mother of James and Joseph, as mentioned previously) were charged with the monumental task of witnessing to the apostles. In an age and culture in which women’s roles were strictly confined, placing the weight of such a (literally) earthshaking testimony on their shoulders was groundbreaking on Jesus’ part. Nothing will be impossible for God, said the angel Gabriel to the Woman who set the world on a new axis (Luke 1:37).

The gentleness and receptivity of the women who followed Jesus became their strength in his greatest hours of agony. Possessing this quality of receptivity, the beloved disciple John, the only apostle at the foot of the Cross, received Jesus’ beloved mother into his care (John 19:26-27).

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Matthew 28:10

Addressing his runaway disciples affectionately as brothers, Jesus hastened to reunite the disillusioned band in the imperishable joy of the risen Lord.

Meanwhile, the guards chose to suppress what they saw with their own eyes, accepting a bribe in spiritual blindness. As in the case of Pontius Pilate, truth is not just a matter of the intellect, but of the will. Truth is a matter of the heart, a personal “yes” to God.

-GMC

The Immaculate Conception and the Trinity

St. Bernadette Soubirous and Our Lady of Lourdes

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

John 14:9

Jesus’ response to Philip’s request at the Last Supper, “Show us the Father,” is packed with infinite mystery and depth. To know Christ Jesus is to enter into the presence of God the Father in whom the monad of divinity and the triad of hypostasity (unique personhood) are simultaneous and interpenetrating.

As the unique God-man and mediator Jesus Christ, the Son also ushers us into the heart of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who revealed the secret of her identity to St. Bernadette Soubirous, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This took place on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1858, at the Lourdes grotto in France.

The Son received his divinity from his Father and his humanity from his mother—Immaculate Son from Immaculate Virgin. The Father is the Virgin unbegotten and unconceived; Mary is the Virgin begotten and conceived in the mind of the Father from “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). The Incarnate Logos in the Father’s eternal plan is inseparable from the Theotokos, for the God-man has no existence as God-man apart from the Virgin Mother. Jesus Christ is the Son of God subsisting in two natures, divine and human.

The Son of God assumed humanity anew at the Annunciation, for without Mary’s consent, the Incarnation would not have taken place. Human nature had to be received, for “the holy Body of Christ” was not “brought from heaven” but bestowed by the generosity of the Virgin Mother, wrote St. Cyril of Alexandria in a letter that was read at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.1

Mary’s role is not “necessary” in the way that the Son is essentially begotten of the Father primordially, but she was conceived from before all ages to play a pivotal role in salvation history.

The Father shaped the Son in the Mother and the Mother in the Son as one Immaculate Conception by the Holy Spirit who “proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). Ultimately, the Immaculate Conception returns to the Father as Source and Fountainhead of persons.

Mary Immaculata and her Son, Emmanuel, are the staircase and ladder of Jacob ascending and descending between heaven and earth (Genesis 28:10-19). The Theotokos is the door and gate for the earthly missions of the Son and Spirit from the Father, from whose womb poured forth the deifying grace of the Most Holy Trinity. 

“The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.”2 Our return to the Womb of the Immaculate Virgin Father passes through the womb of the Immaculate Virgin Mother: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 

-GMC

1 Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451).

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church 260.

The Solemnity of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ

Today, March 25th, is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the beginning of Jesus’ life in the womb of Mary. The Angel Gabriel came to Nazareth and invited Mary to become the mother of Jesus, who would “save his people from their sins.””Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word,” Mary answered. On this day we celebrate the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. (John 1)

Today’s an important holy day that’s celebrated by all the ancient Christian churches from earliest times. It has links to other feast days. Today we celebrate Jesus conceived in Mary’s womb. Nine months from now, December 25, her pregnancy will end; we will celebrate the birth of Jesus on the feast of Christmas. 

Some ancient church calendars also saw today, March 25th. as the day Jesus was crucified. The day, then, marks the beginning and the end of Jesus’ earthly life. 

I remember a PBS special “What Darwin Never Knew” produced awhile ago by Nova. I don’t remember or understand a lot of the scientific material it contained, but its description of DNAs and embryonic development caught my attention.

According to scientists, embryos from different living beings–humans, animals, birds, fish– appear remarkably alike at an early stage of development, as if they were from the same source. Then, something triggers a different development in each species. Humans sprout arms and legs and begin human development.  Other species develop in their own way.

It’s a complex, fascinating path all living things take in their embryonic development. All creatures are on the same journey of life. All creation is on a journey to life.

“The Word was made flesh.” The Word of God became flesh in Mary’s womb. Early theologians, like St. Irenaeus, said the Word became truly human. He went through the same process of development within the womb as we do. After his birth he continued to develop “in wisdom and age and grace” as humans do. He faithfully followed the path of human development. 

The early theologians also said Jesus Christ assumed all that he would redeem. He took on himself human nature, but he also became “flesh” and took on himself the created world.  In his early embryonic journey Jesus Christ brought all creation to himself to redeem it.

“Blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth says to Mary.(Luke 1,42) The time Jesus was in her womb was blessed. Even then, the Word of God  promised redemption to another infant in the womb, Elizabeth’s son John, who leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb.  

The Feast of the Annunciation is a time to renew our respect for life, from its beginning to its end. It’s a time to remember Mary, the Mother of Jesus and her acceptance and her respect for the life in her womb. We pray for the grace she had, who said yes to bringing the Word of God into this world.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women ad blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”

December 20: The Annunciation

Annunciation 

St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation to Mary, read today at Mass,  follows the announcement of the birth of John to Zechariah in yesterday’s advent readings. An angel announces that Jesus will come as her son, but Mary receives the angel so differently than the priest Zechariah. (Luke 1, 5-25,)

In the temple, where great mysteries are celebrated, the priest won’t believe he and his wife can conceive a child. They’re too old. He doubts.

In  Nazareth, a small town in Galilee and an unlikely place for a major revelation, the angel approaches Mary with a message far more difficult to grasp. “ The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Mary believes and does not doubt, and so by God’s power she conceives a Son who will be born in Bethlehem. “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word,”

The Annunciation scene pictured above was placed at the beginning of a medieval prayer book with the words beneath it in latin: “Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.” Most medieval artists assumed that Mary was at home in prayer when the angel came and so they put this scene at the beginning of an hour of prayer. Prayer enables Mary to believe and accept what would come.

Isn’t that true for us all? As with Mary, prayer helps us discern and say yes to what God wills. “Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.”

My community, the Passionists, still begins the prayers of the liturgy of the hours by reciting the Angelus, a prayer that repeats this gospel story. “The angel of the Lord declared to Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit….”

Prayer opens the way to mysteries beyond us. As a woman of faith, Mary knew that, and we learn from her.

At Mass today we pray:  “O God, grant that by Mary’s example, we may in humility hold fast to your will.” Open our eyes to see and our lips to say yes.

Readings www.usccb.org

4th Sunday of Advent: Mary, Woman of Faith

King David wonders, in our first reading today of the 4th Sunday of Advent, what he can do for God after all God has done for him. David had built himself a palace of cedar wood in Jerusalem, while the ark of the covenant, the sign of God’s presence, is in a tent. Should I build God a temple, a place of beauty where God would dwell and be honored,” the king asks?
The prophet Nathan tells the king: instead a building, God wants to dwell with you and your people.

In today’s gospel, God goes further. God will dwell in Mary’s womb, to take flesh from her and be cared by her. 
Our gospel begins:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.

This gospel says so much about Mary. God showered graces upon her: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Just a young girl of 15 or 16, Mary answers: “Be it done to me according to your word. She accepts God’ s call, but she has her questions: “How can this be?”
The power of God will overshadow you, the angel tells her. The only sign she’s given is that her cousin, Elizabeth, “has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
“Nothing will be impossible for God.”

Then, the angel leaves, and never returns, as far as we know. Mary meets the days as they come with faith, gathering her experiences and treasuring them in her heart.
At Christmas, we’ll see Mary in Bethlehem, humbly, silently holding the Infant, her Child, God with us. At Easter, we’ll see her standing beneath the cross of Jesus.
She’s his mother, a woman of faith. We learn from her and ask her to pray for us: “Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worth of the promises of Christ. 

Wednesday, 3rd week of Advent

 

Sacred Heart Church

 

The angel came to Mary in Nazareth, the last place we might expect an angel’s message. In this little known place, Jesus became flesh. In this young unknown woman, he came to dwell among us.

It wasn’t in Jerusalem, in the temple where God’s Presence was proclaimed. It was in Nazareth, in the quiet hills of Galilee, on a routine day, that He came.

We celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation and pray, “Pray for us, O holy mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

Tuesday, 4th Week of Advent

Annunciation

“In the days of King Herod,” six months after Elizabeth conceived, the “Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

One of St. Bernard’s most beautiful sermons reflects on this great moment:

“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

“The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

“Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

“Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

” Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator.

“See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

The World Waits Mary’s Reply

Here’s the wonderful  reading from St. Bernard in today’s Office of Readings, which you can get online here:

“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

“The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
“Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
“Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word…
“And Mary says, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.'”