The Annunciation and Visitation of Mary
- HAVE YOU GIVEN YOUR HEART TO JESUS?
- HAVE YOU ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR?
Many Christians consider these to be important questions concerning one’s relationship withGod. Baptism – according to the instruction of Jesus and the practice of both the early and contemporary Church –establishes a solid relationship with God. But when Mary first encountered Jesus Christ, there was no Christian baptism. Also, the Church’s teaching about Mary’s Immaculate Conception, while perhaps implied in the Gospel is not explicitly demonstrated there. So let’s look simply at the Gospel and what it tells us about Mary and these 2 questions.
- Have you given your heart to Jesus?
According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary had a wonderful deep relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary he stated that she was “full of grace”, that “the Lord is with you” and that she had “found favor with God” (Lk 1:28,30). A threefold acknowledgement of Mary’s profound and faithful relationship to God. Gabriel then outlines for her the role Almighty God wants her to accept in the great Incarnation Mission of His Son. Her fiat – “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) – invites God into human history; immediately thereafter Christ is conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. The early Church Fathers were so impressed by this definitive openness of Mary to the will of God that they would say that Mary conceived Christ in her mind and heart before she conceived Him in her womb. Hence, going back to the above question – Mary was the First person to give her heart to Jesus
2. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
Mary answers this question at the event we call The Visitation (celebrated on May 31st), where she visits her cousin Elizabeth (and unborn John the Baptist….and Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah). First, we see that Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and blesses Mary for her great faith. Then Mary responds with her famous Magnificat, which begins with the words:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (KJV translation)
Note the two words; Lord & Savior! Mary had already accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior – according to Scripture – about a week after Unborn Jesus had been conceived in her womb (if not earlier)! Again, Mary is the First person to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior!
Of course this wondrous relationship between Mary and her Son would continue to unfold and strengthen. She gave birth to Him (Lk 2:1-20), she flees to Egypt to protect Him from persecution (Mt 2:13-15), she raises Him with tender love, she encourages Him to perform His first miracle sign (Jn 2:1-12), she even stands at the foot of the cross as our Lord and Savior dies for us (Jn 19:25), Her Son entrusts His disciples to her maternal care from the Cross Jn 19:26-27), and she is with the early Church – praying – on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:12-15).
No wonder then, that Mary is recognized not only as the First Believer to believe in Jesus, but also as the First Christian to love Jesus.
“Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, ‘every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual’.
Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Culture of LIfe, John Paul II, Quotes from Great Christians, Saints, Unborn Jesus
VIRGIN MARY “OF THE SIGN”, 15TH CENTURY, MEZQUITA CATHEDRAL, ANDALUSIA CORDOBA, SPAIN
In his Apostolic Exhortaion entitled Vita Consecrata (March 25, 1996) John Paul II has a thought provoking quote from St. Augustine:
“Beautiful is God, the Word with God … He is beautiful in heaven, beautiful on earth; beautiful in the womb, beautiful in his parents’ arms, beautiful in his miracles, beautiful in his sufferings; beautiful in inviting to life, beautiful in not worrying about death, beautiful in giving up his life and beautiful in taking it up again; he is beautiful on the Cross, beautiful in the tomb, beautiful in heaven. Listen to the song with understanding, and let not the weakness of the flesh distract your eyes from the splendour of his beauty.” #24
May 31, 2013 is the Feast of the Visitation. About one week after conceiving Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, and at the conclusion of a 4 day journey, Mary arrives at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah. We present two reflections: 1. Theological, 2. Poetical.
“John (the Baptist) was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb’ by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.” Catechism of the Catholic Church #717
The Quickening of St. John the Baptist – Written in 1949
On the Contemplative Vocation
Why do you fly from the drowned shores of Galilee,
From the sands and the lavender water?
Why do you leave the ordinary world, Virgin of Nazareth,
The yellow fishing boats, the farms,
The winesmelling yards and low cellars
Or the oilpress, and the women by the well?
Why do you fly those markets,
Those suburban gardens,
The trumpets of the jealous lilies,
Leaving them all, lovely among the lemon trees?
You have trusted no town
With the news behind your eyes.
You have drowned Gabriel’s word in thoughts like seas
And turned toward the stone mountain
To the treeless places.
Virgin of God, why are your clothes like sails?
The day Our Lady, full of Christ,
Entered the dooryard of her relative
Did not her steps, light steps, lay on the paving leaves
Did not her eyes as grey as doves
Alight like the peace of a new world upon that house, upon
Sings in the stone valley like a Charterhouse bell:
And the unborn saint John
Wakes in his mother’s body,
Bounds with the echoes of discovery.
Sing in your cell, small anchorite!
How did you see her in the eyeless dark?
What secret syllable
Woke your young faith to the mad truth
That an unborn baby could be washed in the Spirit of God?
Oh burning joy!
What seas of life were planted by that voice!
With what new sense
Did your wise heart receive her Sacrament,
And know her cloistered Christ?
You need no eloquence, wild bairn,
Exulting in your hermitage.
Your ecstasy is your apostolate,
For whom to kick is contemplata tradere.
Your joy is the vocation of Mother Church’s hidden children –
Those who by vow lie buried in the cloister or the hermitage;
The speechless Trappist, or the grey, granite Carthusian,
The quiet Carmelite, the barefoot Clare, Planted in the night of
contemplation, Sealed in the dark and waiting to be born.
Night is our diocese and silence is our ministry
Poverty our charity and helplessness our tongue-tied
Beyond the scope of sight or sound we dwell upon the air
Seeking the world’s gain in an unthinkable experience.
We are exiles in the far end of solitude, living as listeners
With hearts attending to the skies we cannot understand:
Waiting upon the first far drums of Christ the Conqueror,
Planted like sentinels upon the world’s frontier.
But in the days, rare days, when our Theotokos
Flying the prosperous world
Appears upon our mountain with her clothes like sails,
Then, like the wise, wild baby,
The unborn John who could not see a thing
We wake and know the Virgin Presence
Receive her Christ into our night
With stabs of an intelligence as white as lightning.
Cooled in the flame of God’s dark fire
Washed in His gladness like a vesture of new flame
We burn like eagles in His invincible awareness
And bound and bounce with happiness,
Leap in the womb, our cloud, our faith, our element,
Our contemplation, our anticipated heaven
Till Mother Church sings like an Evangelist.
Filed under: Culture of LIfe, John Paul II, Mother of the Lord, The Incarnation, Unborn Jesus
Annunciation by Bradi Barth
This year, because March 25th fell in Holy Week, the great feast day of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary has been moved to Monday April 8, 2013. This feast day also marks the Incarnation of Christ our Lord. Due to this date change, Divine Mercy Sunday (the 7th) and the Annunciation (the 8th) are back-to-back.
This fact draws our attention to the incredible testimony to the Mercy of God contained within the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of his 1980 encyclical letter Dives in Misericordia, On the Mercy of God, John Paul II recounts the understanding of God’s mercy found in the Old Testament, then he comments:
“Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God’s mercy a definitive meaning. Not only does He speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He Himself, in a certain sense, is mercy.” (#2)
Later in this same encyclical John Paul II speaks of Christ’s messianic program as a program of mercy, relying upon the prophet Isaiah to help define it as “the revelation of merciful love for the poor, the suffering and prisoners, for the blind, the oppressed and sinners”. (#8)
Mercy is etched upon the life of Christ from Incarnation to Ascension. We are all daily beneficiaries of His program of Mercy. But John Paul II goes a step further: “Christ’s messianic program, the program of mercy, becomes the program of His people, the program of the Church.” (#8)
The worldwide Pro-Life community has always identified itself with the Mercy and forgiveness of God and must continue to emphasize this Program of Mercy. In the unborn and newborn Christ Child we see that God’s mercy is humble, vulnerable and therefore open to misinterpretation as mere weakness. But the Christ child’s humility and vulnerability, like Mercy and forgiveness are expressions of the redemptive power of God. The Pro – Life movement must continue to reflect mercy and forgiveness, in order to reach out to those most invested in so-called “abortion rights” and the destruction of humble, vulnerable human life.
Memory is a faculty of the soul. The human memory has a great dignity about it, as part of our intellect – but it is driven, in a sense by the will, by the human heart. St Paul reminded his Christian friends in Philippi; “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4.8) So too, I am sure Paul would agree; remember these things!
A few years ago UnbornWordoftheday.com did a series of 6 posts reflecting on Mary’s memory of the early events of our Lord’s life; His unborn life within her initially, and then during His newborn period. [Links provided below.] As John Paul II said, “Mary is the memory of the Church.”
Similarly, each Pro-Life person is the memory of an enduring Culture of Life, that is born of the human soul first of all, but that is inspired and lifted up by revealed Christian faith as well. The eight point list St Paul gives us in Philippians is a superb guide to understanding – and recalling to mind – the wonderful Culture of Life that each Pro-Life person has witnessed and experienced. Our Respect-for-Life memory is in essence holy, going back long before the Roe vs. Wade decision of forty years ago. Likewise, the Pro-Life memory is sustained not only by human dignity, history and personal experience but, because it is holy in many respects, it is sustained too by Almighty God.
As Mary carried a germinating Credo of Christian faith within her heart – while carrying the Christ within her womb – so too each Pro-Life person carries within his/her heart a Culture of Life memory. Or rather you have been entrusted with this Gospel of Life, to carry it forward as a light; first as a light of memory to strengthen you in your own faith life, and secondly as a light to the nations to guide them back from the shipwrecked shoals of their culture of death, back to the Way that is: True, Honorable, Just, Pure, Lovely, Gracious, Excellent and Worthy of Praise.
Because human life is a gift from God and sacred, our Culture of Life memory is stronger than death and holy.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Mother of the Lord, Prayer
In the second chapter of Luke we are told on four different occasions how Mary (and Joseph) react and feel about words and events surrounding the birth, infancy and childhood of Jesus. Luke thus introduces us to the overlapping and harmonizing psychology and spirituality of Mary (and Joseph). This is instructive for the modern everyday Christian.
The angels appear to poor uneducated shepherds and entrust to them a proclamation for the entire world, for all time. The shepherds go down the hill and find the manger, and start recounting the words spoken to them about this Child; “all who heard it wondered”. Then the next verse, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2.19).
Eight days later, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple. The holy man Simeon is inspired by the Holy Spirit to go to the Temple and speak to them about the Child. Luke specifically tells us that Joseph and Mary “marveled at what was said about him (the Child)” (Lk 2.33).
About twelve years later, Mary and Joseph bring the boy Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Jesus becomes separated from them, and His parents seek “anxiously” for Him. After three days they find Him in the Temple and He was questioning and listening to the teachers. “All who heard him were amazed”. Luke then specifically says about Joseph and Mary; “And when they saw him they were astonished…” (Lk 2.48).
Luke continues to recount this story about the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple, advises that they all returned to Nazareth and Jesus was obedient to His parents, then this; “…and Mary kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2.51).
In the 2nd chapter of Luke’s Gospel we are given a glimpse into the spiritual and devotional life of Mary. (This follows up on the 1st chapter presentation of Mary’s Magnificat, which similarly offers a window into the soul of Mary.)
In the Manger and in Nazareth Mary ponders, contemplates in the depths of her heart. In the Temple Mary is awestruck; marveling with astonishment. Mary interiorizes the remarkable truths and teachings about Jesus Christ, she will learn from them, grow in them, mature through them.
Mary lives the Gospel events as no other could, as no other did. As John Paul II says of her, she is the “memory” of the Church, and indeed she will share these events and meanings with the Church in due course.
The Litany in Honor of Mary the First Christian summarizes the scriptural recounting of the numerous Gospel events lived and uniquely experienced by Mary in her lifelong relationship with her most beloved Son Jesus Christ.
Click here to order a free copy of Litany.