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.
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
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.
Jesus among the Doctors – Duccio di Buoninsegna
When Jesus was 12 years old he and His parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. When they began their return trip to Nazareth Jesus and His parents became separated. Finally Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple; “they were astonished; and his mother said to him…”
1st Conversation (Luke 2.48-51)
Mary: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
Jesus: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary was distraught. But Jesus had the last word in this brief exchange. Then they left together; “And he went down with them…” Apparently they both took the conversation to heart: Jesus “was obedient to them”, and “his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
Wedding at Cana – Duccio di Buoninsegna
About 18 years later at the outset of our Lord’s public ministry they had another conversation in Cana at a wedding feast. The account starts out; “On the third day….” This is interesting because the prior conversation considered above was introduced as follows: “After three days they found him…” The wedding feast becomes remarkable because they ran out of wine, and the conversation is initiated out of concern for the newly married couple.
2nd Conversation (John 2.3-8)
Mary: “They have no wine.”
Jesus: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Did Mary learn a lesson from the last conversation? She now limits herself to a mere four words. Jesus calls her “woman”; the same title that Eve was given by Adam (Gen 2.23). And again Jesus gets the last word. Or does He? They now both turn away from each other and address the servants (who represent the Church)….
Mary: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus: “Fill the jars with water…..Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.”
Remember those later miracles when Jesus instructs individuals to go to the Priest so that the healing can be officially ‘verified’? Similarly, Jesus sends the servants to the steward, and as John points out, this was “the first of his signs”. Apparently, His hour had arrived – it coincided with a marriage ceremony and prefigured His own relationship to His Bride, the Church. With four words Mary becomes a match-maker. And once again, mother and son leave together; “After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and…..” He is going out on His own, with His disciples, but we see Mary and Jesus in sync, working together, in unison.
All three conversations are associated with a feast day celebration; the first and third with Passover. When Jesus is on the cross, He sees His mother and ‘the disciple whom he loved’ standing near. This time, Mary – who is again distraught – is actually silent, but we might say that figuratively – or rather mystically – she “speaks” to her son from her heart….. perhaps through her eyes…. The scene unfolds with our Lord’s eyes, or gaze; “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother……”
3rd Conversation (Jn 19.26-27)
Jesus: “Woman, behold, your son!”
Jesus again calls her “woman”; this time it certainly seems to be like a title, because it takes on the semblance of a “last will and testament”. And Jesus has the last word. From the cross, now close to death, He draws the Church into His personal conversation with His mother. “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” In their ‘2nd conversation’ it was Mary who drew the Church into the conversation with her son. This time Jesus draws the Church into the conversation. The account ends with these words: “And from that hour the disciple took her (Mary) to his own home.” So Mary (“woman”) becomes Mother to the Church, as Eve (“woman”) was “the mother of all living” (Gen 3.20).
Jesus dies, and according to tradition, He is placed in His mother’s arms, so once again they ‘leave’ together at the conclusion of the conversation. Unlike the prior two conversations, that were preceded by ‘three days’, this conversation signals the beginning of the ‘three days’ until His resurrection.
But in a way, Christ’s entire life was like an intimate conversation with humanity: “And the Word became flesh…” within Mary’s womb. As the Word of God, Jesus Christ had been conversing with His Mother from that very first day, and their conversation continues even now, and as the Church, we too are invited to join in – through prayer and love – as servants, as beloved disciples. We are especially invited to join in the ‘dialogue of the Church with her Lord’ in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass which recalls Passover, and in all the other sacraments such as Holy Matrimony.
For me personally, The Queenship of Mary is one of my favorite feast days of the 365 day Liturgical Year. I also like watching the Olympics. Let me explain.
Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics. Their origins go back before the time of Christ, and St. Paul, an educated Roman citizen knew that. So when Paul was writing to the Greek Christians in Corinth about the challenge of Christian living he felt it appropriate to speak about athletic competition:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly… (I Cor 9.24-26)
Years later, near the end of his life in a letter to Timothy, he stays with his athletic analogy, but the wreath is now a crown, and there is no longer just one winner:
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules…… I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” ( II Tim 2.5, 4.7-8) Who loved the Lord’s “appearing” more than his mother? Like Paul she “fought the good fight…finished the race…kept the faith”!
The early Church knew very well that the Christian faith was demanding:
“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” (Heb 12.1)
“Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1.12)
“And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.” (I Pet 5.4)
The crown awaiting each Christian is “imperishable”, a “crown of righteousness”, a “crown of life”, an “unfading crown of glory”. Mary’s crown is all this and more: “a crown of twelve stars…” (Rev 12.1). A tradition of Saints and scholars (including John Paul II; The Gospel of Life, #104) tells us it is Mary who is crowned in Revelations 12.
But every Christian crown will be gained by virtue of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” the three wise men asked? What charge did Pilate bring against Jesus and have inscribed on the cross? “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” The archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary about the kingship of her son. In the Book of Revelations we find references to Christ as King, and to His reign. Many Christians mistakenly think that Jesus is a king only in a symbolic sense, since he is not a political figure and we have evolved beyond monarchies. The Kingship of Jesus Christ is a spiritual truth which enlightens, a wonderful reality which we will enjoy in heaven.
We know a Queen through her ancestry and relationships, and we recognize her by her crown. As the Mother of Jesus Christ, Mary comes to her queenship supernaturally by the Will of God; as Mother. The “race” she ran is unparalleled in all human experience, and she excelled in every respect. For a succinct biblical presentation of her life see; Litany in Honor of Mary the First Christian.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Papal Quotes, Pope Benedict XVI, The Incarnation
The 3 wise men honored Unborn Jesus from afar by seeking Him and searching for Him, passionately and diligently, and by rejoicing in anticipation (Mt 2:1-10).
“Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the “star” which they saw “in the East” and which they recognized as the star of the “King of the Jews”, that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (cf. Mt 2: 2).” Pope Benedict XVI, Friday, 19 August 2005
“What amazes us each time when we listen to these words of the Magi is that they prostrated themselves before a simple baby in his mother’s arms, not in the setting of a royal palace but, on the contrary, in the poverty of a stable in Bethlehem (cf. Mt 2: 11).” Pope Benedict XVI, Saturday, 6 January 2007
Like the Magi, let us recognize that Christ came into the world as an unborn baby and a child. The Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes points out “For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man”. We honor our unborn and child King when we teach respect for each unborn child and pregnant mother by our example. As they fell down and worshipped – we should approach these little ones and their mothers with awe and respect no matter where we find them. As they offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child, we should offer our love, support, and financial assistance as needed.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Pro-life, The Incarnation
Elizabeth honored Unborn Jesus by recognizing Him and then blessing Him and His mother (Lk 1:42-43,45). Zechariah honored Unborn Jesus by blessing Him, testifying to Him and rejoicing in His mission of Salvation (Lk 1:67-79). Elizabeth & Zechariah together honored Unborn Jesus by welcoming Him and His mother into their home for three months (Lk 1:56).
“…And we must not forget the head of the household, Zachary. He, at any rate after the birth of his son, knew the secret too, for he spoke in his song of praise of the “Orient from on High (which) hath visited us.” (St Luke i. 78.) He had been ‘unable to speak,’ but Mary with her Son had been sojourning in his house, with the result that his doubts had all disappeared, and that he under stood already something of the ‘joy and gladness’ which Gabriel had promised should be his…”
We like Elizabeth and Zechariah should welcome Unborn Jesus with joy and faith – opening our hearts to the graces he wishes to give us. Our attitude towards all mothers and their unborn babies should also be open and joyous – we should welcome them into our lives and help them in their needs.