Tag Archives: Mary

Monday of Holy Week

Lent 1


Readings

As Holy Week begins, today’s gospel brings us to  a meal in Bethany  honoring Jesus following the resurrection of Lazarus. Raising Lazarus from the dead is the great sign John’s Gospel gives for understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus we remember this week. Jesus came to bring life through his own death and resurrection. (John 12,1-11) This is his last meal before the Passover supper, his arrest, death and resurrection.

Faithful Martha serves the meal; Lazarus newly alive, is at the table. But the one drawing most of our attention is Mary, their sister who, grateful for the life of her brother and sensing what’s coming, kneels before Jesus to anoint his feet with precious oil and dry them with her hair. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”

The precious oil, an effusive sign of her love and gratitude, also anoints Jesus for his burial. There’s only a passing reference to evil in our gospel reading.  Judas, “the one who would betray him,” complains that the anointing is a waste, but his voice is silenced. This is a time for believers to honor the one they love. Lazarus is the brother of us all who “sit in the shadow of death.” Mary represents us all.

An artist friend of mine painted this picture of Mary anointing Jesus. How fitting that Holy Week begins with this gospel when, like Mary, we’re called to kneel and pour out the precious oil of our love on him whose precious life is poured out for us.

The Anointing. Duk Soon Fwang

“May the holy cross of our good Jesus be ever planted in our hearts so that our souls may be grafted onto this tree of life and by the infinite merits of the death of the Author of life we may produce worthwhile fruits of penance.” (St. Paul of the Cross,Letter 11)

Let my prayer rise up before you like incense,
The raising of my hands like an evening offering. Ps 141
With Mary of Bethany we thank you for your love and your promise of life. May we love you in return and believe in your promise.

Morning and Evening Prayer here.

Children’s Prayers here.

Wine, Woman and Wakening

Wedding Feast at Cana

Fourth Week of Lent, Monday

John 4:43-54 

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.

John 4:46

The Gospel of John calls special attention to Cana, the location of the first and second “signs” (sémeion) revealing Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the wedding feast at Cana (first sign), and the healing of the royal official’s son (second sign) are all connected in the Gospel.

In the light of the protological account of Genesis, the three episodes can be seen as the renewal of the primordial waters of creation, the transformation and divinization of all flesh in Christ (water into wine), and the restoration of a son to a father (Abel to Adam). 

Cana and Cain are etymologically related, and it is in this town that Jesus revealed his glory at the instigation of “Woman.” Jesus and Mary, the new Adam and new Eve, are the archetypes of Man and Woman (Ish and Ishshah in Hebrew) at the dawn of creation. 

Jesus addresses Mary as “Woman” twice in John’s Gospel—at the wedding feast at Cana and at the foot of the Cross (John 2:4; John 19:26). The appellation recalls Adam’s acclamation when presented with Eve: 

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”

Genesis 2:23

In the recreation of the world, Ish is taken out of Ishshah in the Virgin birth of Christ. Jesus and Mary redeemed the world as “one flesh,” the former as God, and the latter as the Mother of God, chosen by grace. 

The following poem expresses these ideas. 

The First Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 2:1-11

Water churning and bubbling 
In the beginning of time… 
Hovering was the Spirit 
Over dark and oozing slime.1

Speaking, breathing and molding
In six days of creation…
Ish and Ishshah God made flesh—
A wedding celebration!2

Churning and bubbling water
Of the Jordan near Cana…
Ish from heaven purified
For the wedding fiesta.3

On the third day his mother
Came to the marriage banquet.
Mercy moved her heart to solve
A problem unexpected. 

“They have no wine,” Mary said.
“What is that to us, Ishshah?”4
“Do whatever he tells you.”5
The servants obeyed Ima.6

Bubbling and churning water
In six ceremonial jars…
Hovering was the Spirit,
Making yayin for the bars.7

“You saved the best wine for last!”
Cheered the master of the feast.
Thus the Bridegroom was revealed:
King of glory, the High Priest.

The Second Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 4:43-54

The first father mourned his son,
The first victim of the curse;
Christ’s second sign at Cana
Cain’s calamity reversed.

Like Adam, the little king8
Ached to have his son restored.
Seeking Jesus with faint faith,
A home visit he implored.

“Your son lives,” said Christ, “Go home!”
“Yes, he lives!” servants confirmed.
At the seventh hour he revived,9
In the instant Christ affirmed.

God changed water into wine,
And gave life back to a son,
Infused flesh with breath divine—
Signs of earth’s recreation.

-GMC

1 Genesis 1:1-2; 2:1-7.

2 Ish and Ishshah are man and woman in Hebrew, from Genesis 2:23. The two are “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Click phonetics for the pronunciation of ish and ishshah

3 Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan: Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34. In Middle Eastern culture, the bride and bridegroom prepare for the wedding with a special bath.

4 John 2:4 in Greek: “What [is that] to me and to you, Woman?”

5 John 2:5.

6 Ima is mom in Aramaic/Hebrew. Click here for the pronunciation of Ima.

7 Yayin is wine in Hebrew. Click phonetics for the pronunciation of yayin

8 The “royal official” (basilikos) in John 4:46, literally translated from the Greek, is “little king.” In the story of Genesis, Adam (a type of Christ) is also a little king. 

9 The Gospel writer specifies the “seventh” hour as the time when the fever left the boy (John 4:52). According to HELPS Word-studies, hébdomos (seventh) is a figure of God’s perfect, finished work. The New American Bible (Revised Edition) loses the religious significance by translating it, “one in the afternoon.”

The Sleep of Adam and Abram

“The Sleep of Adam and Abram”
A reflection on Genesis 2:21-24 and 15:1-18
Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang

Read more of this post at the link below:

The Sleep of Adam and Abram – Shalom Snail

The Cross of Confusion

Mark’s Gospel describes growing numbers following Jesus in Galilee as he begins his ministry, but growing numbers also find him hard to understand, the gospel says.

VATICANCRUC

Scribes come from Jerusalem and say he has a demon, the Pharisees begin to plot with the Herodians, the followers of Herod Antipas about putting him to death. When they hear about him in Nazareth, his relatives say, “No, he doesn’t have a demon. He may be out of his mind,” and they come to bring him home.

Besides the leading elite and people from his hometown, ordinary people begin to distance themselves too. They may be the people in Mark’s Gospel today who question him “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (Mark 2, 18-22) Not only Jewish leaders and scholars, not only his own family and his hometown, but ordinary people of Galilee find him too much for them.

Jesus brought change, radical change, and change can be hard to accept. Many who heard him weren’t ready for new wine, they preferred the old.

Commentators describe Mark’s gospel as a Passion Narrative with a prelude. In other words, Mark’s early stories announce the story of his Passion and Death and Resurrection. Jesus dies alone, forsaken by many ordinary people who flocked to him at first.

Commentators also see Mark’s gospel written to help the Christians of Rome facing a surprising brutal persecution by Nero in the mid 60s. Rome usually singled out Christian leaders in times of persecution, but this persecution seemed to strike at ordinary Christians as well. The senseless, arbitrary persecution left Rome’s Christians confused and wondering what this all meant. Mark’s account reminds his followers they must follow him without always understanding.

Confusion and lack of understanding are part of our world today, aren’t they? We are living in a time of rapid changes. For many, the old wine, the “old days” are better.

The Cross of Jesus may not come as hard wood and nails. As in Mark’s Gospel, it can come in confusion and lack of understanding. A Cross hard to bear.

Mary, the Mother of God

Virgin and Child

The Feast of Mary, the Mother of God (January 1) is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church as the Christmas celebrations end and a new year begins. Eastern Christian churches have a similar feast honoring the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God at this time.

“Marvelous is the mystery proclaimed today
Our nature is made new as God becomes man;
He remains what he was and becomes what he was not,
Yet each nature stays distinct and undivided.” Canticle, Morning Prayer

Mary’s Son who came “in the fullness of time” blesses all time:
“The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Numbers 6, 22-27)

This January feast honoring Mary begins a month named for the Roman god Janus, the two faced god who looks ahead and looks back. Mary connects us to the world ahead as well as the world of the past, and so we pray to her “that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

On this feast of Mary, the Mother of God, I think of a PBS special “What Darwin Never Knew” produced awhile ago on Nova. I don’t remember or understand a lot of the program’s scientific material, but its description of DNAs and embryos 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. The other species develop in their own way.

Recently, I visited an exhibit called “Deep Time” at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington which described the development of the earth through 4.5 billion years. One section described our development from 4.5 billion years ago. We come from that development; we belong to this world.

In Mary’s womb, the Word became flesh, connecting with the world of the past and the world of the future. Early theologians, like St. Irenaeus, say the Word became truly human. He went through the same process of development as we do. They also say he had to assume all that he would redeem. In his early embryonic journey Jesus Christ assumed the creation he would renew.

“Blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth says to Mary before Jesus’ birth. (Luke 1,42) At that moment, the Word of God gave the promise of redemption to another infant– Elizabeth’s son John. The same promise was communicated to the rest of creation too. Jesus Christ is the maker and Savior of all.

December 22: The Magnificat and the Benedictus

Mary concludes her visit to Elizabeth today praising God, who is “mighty and has done great things to me.” Her Magnificat is part of St. Luke’s beautifully crafted narrative of the infancy of Jesus Christ in the first two chapters of his gospel, which we read preparing for the Christmas feast.

After John the Baptist’s birth, his father Zechariah also praises God. “Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel. He has come to his people and set them free.”–his Benedictus. (Luke, 1:67-79)

In the church’s evening prayers each day we pray Mary’s “Magnificat” thanking God for the blessings of the day. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.God has come to the help of his servant Israel, remembering his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” Like Mary, we rejoice in God’s promises and wait for their fulfillment.

In the church’s morning prayers each day we pray Zechariah’s Benedictus, which ends the silence and darkness of night and welcomes a blessed day.  “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.”

It’s interesting the way the gospel mysteries become our mysteries. No matter what the day, we end it singing God’s praises with Mary. No matter what the day, the Dawn which is Jesus Christ brings God’s blessings to our world and guidance for our steps. Like Zechariah, who came slowly to belief, we pray his song each morning.

Commentators on Luke’s gospel say that Luke probably uses Jewish Christian prayers, applying them to Zechariah and Mary. The New American Bible says: “ Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.”

The Magnificat and the Benedictus, attributed appropriately to Mary and Zechariah, are our prayers too. Daily prayers.

Gracious God,

Let me not doubt your promises, your tender mercies, but let me rejoice in them as Mary and Zechariah did, and look for their fulfillment, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

December 21: The Visitation

Visitation

We’re fortunate these last days of Advent to read St. Luke’s entire Infancy Narrative richly describing the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus.

Today  Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth after the angel’s great announcement. She travels to the hill country, to a town of Judah “in haste,” Luke says. She goes “in haste” not in panic or fear.  She visits Elizabeth to share the mysterious gift of God, hastening for joy.  The Visitation is one of the joyful mysteries of the rosary.

In the first reading for Mass today Mary speaks to the Child in her womb in words from the Song of Songs:

“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,

in the secret recesses of the cliff,

Let me see you,

let me hear your voice,

For your voice is sweet,

and you are lovely.”

As they come together to share what they have been given, Mary and Elizabeth are believers, rejoicing.  “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” Elizabeth says to Mary.

The two women tell us about faith in their simple meeting. Faith is something to rejoice in. It’s meant to be shared and shared eagerly. The two women are pregnant and don’t yet see the life they carry within them. Like faith, the life within them is hidden from their eyes. And so it is with us.

Their meeting is a communion of saints. They share gifts of God not yet seen. 

“The women speak of the grace they received,” St. Ambrose says, “ while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love…”  As the women speak to each other, another meeting goes on within them as the infants in their wombs meet.

Is that true with us too? God works within us, beyond our understanding, as we live by faith.   “Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith,” St. Ambrose says, “You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God… Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.”

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The World Waits for Mary’s Reply

The world waited for Mary’s reply, St. Bernard says:

“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.'”

The Gospel of St. Matthew and the Virgin Birth

holy family

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about,” today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel begins. He describes it through the experience of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Matthew’s account is summarized in the creed. “I believe in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…who by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”

Is this true? Here’s Pope Benedict XVI:

“The answer is an unequivocal yes. Karl Barth pointed out that there are two moments in the story of Jesus when God intervenes directly in the material world: the virgin birth and the resurrection from the tomb, in which Jesus did not remain, nor see corruption.

“These two moments are a scandal to the modern spirit. God is “allowed” to act in ideas and thoughts, in the spiritual domain–but not in the material. That is shocking. He does not belong there. But that is precisely the point. God is God and he does not operate merely on the level of ideas. In that sense, what is at stake in both of these moments is God’s very godhead. The question that they raise is: does matter also belong to him?

“Naturally we may not ascribe to God anything nonsensical or irrational, or anything that contradicts his creation. But here we are not dealing with the irrational or contradictory, but precisely with God’s creative power, embracing the whole of being. In that sense, these two moments – the virgin birth and the real resurrection from the tomb–are the cornerstones of faith.

“If God does not have the power over matter then he is simply not God. But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation. So as the Creator he is also our Redeemer. Hence the conception and birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary is a fundamental element of our faith and a radiant sign of hope.”

(The Infancy Narratives: Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, pp 56-57 )

Artists early on pictured Joseph with his head in his hands, listening in sleep to the angel’s message. In a dream later he heard the angel telling him to take the child and his mother to Egypt to escape Herod, the king. He was a man of great faith.

The medieval artist who painted the picture below has Mary pointing to Joseph as a witness to whose Child this is who’s’ born in a stable. They are the first to believe and they will care for Jesus with all the love and care they can give him.

Joseph has his hand on his head, as he does in so many portrayals of him. The angel spoke to him in dreams. Faith is like a dream where God speaks to us in another way.

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

The gospels for the days until Christmas are from St. Luke, recalling the angel’s visit to Mary and her relative Zechariah. Matthew’s gospel will be read again after the birth of the Child, when Joseph will warned of danger and takes the Child and Mary to Egypt and then to Nazareth..

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Feast of The Immaculate Conception

Some question why Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has such a big place in the faith of  our church. The words of the angel in Luke’s gospel, words we often repeat in prayer, offer an answer: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Mary is full of grace, gifted by God with unique spiritual gifts from her conception, because she was to be the mother of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

She would be the “resting place of the Trinity,” and would give birth to, nourish, guide and accompany Jesus in his life and mission in this world. To fulfill that unique role she needed a unique gift. She would be free from original sin that clouds human understanding and slows the way we believe in God and his plan for us.

“How slow you are to believe” Jesus said to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus made that complaint repeatedly as he preached the coming of God’s kingdom. “How slow you are to believe!” “What little faith you have!” “Do you still not understand!” That human slowness to believe didn’t end in gospel times. We have it too.

Mary was freed from that slowness to believe. “Be it done to me according to your word,” she immediately says to the angel. Yet, her acceptance of God’s will does not mean she understood everything that happened to her. “How can this be?” she asks the angel about the conception of the child. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”  But the angel’s answer seems so incomplete, so mysterious.

Surely, Mary would have liked to know more when the angel leaves her, never to return. There’s no daily message, no new briefing or renewed assurance by heavenly messengers. The years go by in Nazareth as the Child grows in wisdom and age and grace, but they’re years of silence. Like the rest of us, Mary waits and wonders and keeps these things in her heart.

That’s why we welcome her as a believer walking with us. She is an assuring presence. She calls us to believe as she did, without knowing all. She does not pretend to be an expert with all the answers. She has no special secrets known to her alone. “Do whatever he tells you,” is her likely advice as we ponder the mysteries of her Son.