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: Evangelium Vitae
AROUND THE WORLD AND THROUGH THE CENTURIES WITH THE UNBORN CHRIST CHILD
Mezquita Cathedral (Interior)
Virgin Mary “of the Sign”
Fresco of Virgin Mary “of the Sign”: she is carrying Jesus in her womb. This mural is found in The Mezquita Cathedral of Cordoba, a Roman Catholic cathedral and former mosque, situated in the Andalusian city of Córdoba, Spain. Under the rule of Islam, it was built as the second-largest mosque in the world, and is perhaps the most accomplished monument of the Umayyad dynasty of Cordoba. After the Spanish Reconquista, it was transformed into a church, and some of the Islamic columns and arches were replaced by a basilica in early Baroque style. Today it houses the main church of the diocese of Cordoba in Spain.
“He, in her, carried on the blessed converse with His Father; there was never any separation between Mary and the Blessed Fruit of her womb, Jesus. She would come back to Him with all the more joy, and tell Him what she had been doing and saying…… When we think of Jesus praying for nine months to His Father, when we think of Mary’s nine months’ colloquy with Jesus, we begin to think that there is something wrong about our methods of prayer, that they need remodeling. Let us try to understand something of what His prayer was.” Mother St. Paul, Ortus Christi (London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., 1921), 90 91.
Filed under: Evangelium Vitae
AROUND THE WORLD AND THROUGH THE CENTURIES WITH THE UNBORN CHRIST CHILD
Swiss National Museum – Zurich,Switzerland
Schwangere Maria – Pregnant Mary (Fragment of Altar wing)
Unborn Jesus (detail)
Fragment of an altar wing. Pregnant Mary in a blue dress with a white cape in front of a red background. In the body of Mary the unborn child Jesus is visible. Anonymous painter. Tempera on wood frame: pine wood. 1505. Origin: Cham (ZG), Field Chapel. Dimensions: height 81 cm, width 17.7 cm.
“This divine touch within from within – one can almost envision a Sistine Chapel-like ceiling painting of God, not the Father but the little unborn Son, straining forward and reaching out His tiny finger towards the inner heart of Mary – His mother can almost give shape to God’s way of touching each human heart from deep within.” Unborn Jesus Our Hope
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.
“Christmas is the feast of man. A human being is born. He is one of the millions and millions of people who have been born, are being born and will be born on earth. A human being, one item in the vast range of statistics. It as not without reason that Jesus came into the world when a census ‘was being held, when a Roman emperor wanted to know the number of subjects in his territory. A human being is an object to be counted, something considered under the aspect of quantity, one of many millions. Yet at the same time he is a single being, unique and unrepeatable. If we celebrate with such solemnity the birth of Jesus, it is to bear witness that every human being (is) somebody unique and unrepeatable.” Urbi et Orbi Message of His Holiness John Paul II Christmas 1978
A MORNING OFFERING
O my Jesus, thank you for coming into this world as a man, for choosing to belong to the human race. Thank you for showing us the true worth of each person. As we celebrate your birth, may our respect for each human life increase.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Evangelium Vitae, Incarnation, The Incarnation, Unborn Jesus
Sometimes words such as ‘gift’ and ‘giving’ – like the word ‘love’ – seem over-used, employed too often and too superficially, thus inclined to have their true meaning and intent eroded. But to call the Incarnation a ‘gift from God’ is not only appropriate, it is almost understatement. Consider this observation by John Paul II:
“The conception and birth of Jesus Christ are in fact the greatest work accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the history of creation and salvation: the supreme grace – “the grace of union,” source of every other grace, as St. Thomas explains.” (# 50 The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World)
Here is a very rough paraphrase: The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is the supreme gift – given by God to humanity.
John Paul goes on to say of the Incarnation that it is the “source of every other grace” – and every other Divine gift. Later in the same document, John Paul elaborates on this concept further:
“Creation is thus completed by the Incarnation and since that moment is permeated by the powers of the Redemption, powers which fill humanity and all creation.” #52
As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we know that it is a day to thank God for His plenteous and overflowing gifts. What better place to begin our thanksgiving recollection than in Nazareth?
In the time of Christ there was a rather dismissive popular expression: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46)
“Yes” we might respond, “All Good – ‘the supreme grace’ of God, the true ‘powers of the Redemption’ filling humanity to overflowing, ‘grace upon grace’, and enduring hope!”
Meister des Marienlebens Annunciation (Detail with Unborn Jesus)
This Sunday at Mass we heard a deep teaching of Jesus about forgiveness; Mt 18: 21-35. But look at how it all starts: “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
This is a great question! Sure, some sophisticated know-it-alls may choose to dismiss Peter’s question and demean him, but to me this was a real and legitimate question to pose to the Lord. And of course, the answer was even better, much better!!
So today, Peter’s successor the Pope, and the Bishops as well, ask God many questions and listen attentively for His wonderful guiding responses. And the laity of course prays for our Pope and Bishops, to support them in their prayers and listening before God.
A few years ago I was quite surprised when I re-read the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, issued by Vatican Council II. There was a reference that appeared several times which was at once surprising but very profound and beautiful:
“Guiding the Church in the way of all truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and unifying her in communion and in the works of ministry, he bestows upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her; and he adorns her with his fruits (cf. Eph 4:11-12; I Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22).” LG #4 Hierarchic gifts – given to the apostles and their successors for the good of the Church!
Which brings us back to Peter. It is critical to ask God the right questions, to persevere in prayer seeking the truth. Our Popes and Bishops do this. (No they haven’t been perfect – just human, but generally with wonderful results.) A great testimony to this reality of the Church’s life is the solid defense given by the Church on behalf of unborn children.
From the 1st century A.D., when the Didache states: “You shall not put a child to death by abortion nor kill it once it is born…”, to Vatican II (Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, #51), to The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, written by John Paul II), the Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit to teach soundly on respect for human life, right from the moment of conception.
But this guidance came through prayer, asking God the right questions, like Peter did 2,000 years ago, and like Benedict XVI and his fellow Bishops do today. Last Advent, 2010, Pope Benedict introduced a profound new tradition on the eve of the first Sunday of Advent; he celebrated a Vigil for the Unborn, linking it to Advent when we contemplate Christ in the womb, about to born. Surely this too was the fruit of prayer, of seeking God’s inspiration and guidance. Thanks be to God!