“And Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart.”
Hail, Holy Queen
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
O God, who through the fruitful virginity
of Blessed Mary
bestowed on the human race
the grace of eternal salvation,
grant, we pray,
that we may experience the intercession of her,
through whom we were found worthy
to receive the author of life,
our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
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!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.”
All God’s dealings with the Chosen People of the Old Testament, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the liturgy, this special blessing were part of God’s plan of preparation for his greatest act of infinite blessing which was to come in the Incarnation. God’s Son was to take our human nature in order to unite us with God. All God’s promises, all God’s fatherly care for the Chosen People, down through the centuries, all his blessings had their perfect fulfillment and culmination in the coming of Christ on earth.
And the one human being who received the fullness of these promises and blessings was the Virgin Mary when she said. ” Be it done unto me according to thy word,” for at that very moment she conceived the Christ, the Son of God in her womb. As proof of this we have the Angel Gabriel’s words on the occasion of the Annunciation. He salutes her as “full of grace,” that is, she has the full friendship of God. He is truly gracious to her, his “face shines on her,” he is actually with her as the closest of friends: “the Lord is with thee.” He adds: “blessed art thou among women” to show that no woman (or man either) ever received the fullness of God’s blessing until now.
The title the Church has always given her, a title confirmed by the Council of Ephesus (431): “Mother of God,” aptly expresses all this. She became the Mother of Christ who was the Messiah and the Son of God, an honor and a dignity which no human imagination could have thought possible. But nothing is impossible to God. As she says herself in her Magnificat : “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” And let us not forget it: in honoring Mary, one of us, he has honored us all. Through that act of divine love and condescension which brought about the Incarnation, we, the whole human race, with Mary as the most perfect example, have been raised up to a new status, a supernatural condition–we have been made children of God, brothers of Christ and heirs of heaven.
Let us thank God today for all the graces conferred upon Mary, graces through which we all profit. Being the Mother of Christ, she is our Mother too. She will not forget us–she has a greater interest in our true welfare than any earthly mother could have–she will help us on the road to heaven if we place ourselves under her motherly care.
Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
May God bless us in his mercy.
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
May God bless us in his mercy.
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
May God bless us in his mercy.\
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
May God bless us in his mercy.
Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 422 ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’1 This is ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’:’2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation – he has sent his own ‘beloved Son’.3
CCC 484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates “the fullness of time”,4 the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the “whole fullness of deity” would dwell “bodily”.5 The divine response to her question, “How can this be, since I know not man?”, was given by the power of the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”6
CCC 488 “God sent forth his Son”, but to prepare a body for him,7 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary”:8
The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.9
CCC 527 Jesus’ circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth,10 is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham’s descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law11 and his deputation to Israel’s worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign prefigures that “circumcision of Christ” which is Baptism.12
CCC 531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God,13 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to his parents and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”14
CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.15 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.16 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.17
CCC 683 “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”18 “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”’19 This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.
Baptism gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. For those who bear God’s Spirit are led to the Word, that is, to the Son, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father confers incorruptibility on them. And it is impossible to see God’s Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son, for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of God’s Son is obtained through the Holy Spirit.20
CCC 689 The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God.21 Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. In adoring the Holy Trinity, life-giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church’s faith also professes the distinction of persons. When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.
CCC 693 Besides the proper name of “Holy Spirit,” which is most frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise,22 the Spirit of adoption,23 the Spirit of Christ,24 the Spirit of the Lord,25 and the Spirit of God26 – and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.27
CCC 702 From the beginning until “the fullness of time,”28 the joint mission of the Father’s Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work. God’s Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah. Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation. So, for this reason, when the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches there for what the Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets,” wants to tell us about Christ.29
By “prophets” the faith of the Church here understands all whom the Holy Spirit inspired in the composition of the sacred books, both of the Old and the New Testaments. Jewish tradition distinguishes first the Law (the five first books or Pentateuch), then the Prophets (our historical and prophetic books) and finally the Writings (especially the wisdom literature, in particular the Psalms).30
CCC 1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,”31 member of Christ and co-heir with him,32 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.33
CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”34 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”35 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.36 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father37 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”38 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.39 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”40
CCC 1972 The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who “does not know what his master is doing” to that of a friend of Christ – “For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” – or even to the status of son and heir.41
CCC 2766 But Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically.42 As in every vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father. Jesus not only gives us the words of our filial prayer; at the same time he gives us the Spirit by whom these words become in us “spirit and life.”43 Even more, the proof and possibility of our filial prayer is that the Father “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”44 Since our prayer sets forth our desires before God, it is again the Father, “he who searches the hearts of men,” who “knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”45 The prayer to Our Father is inserted into the mysterious mission of the Son and of the Spirit.
CCC 2777 In the Roman liturgy, the Eucharistic assembly is invited to pray to our heavenly Father with filial boldness; the Eastern liturgies develop and use similar expressions: “dare in all confidence,” “make us worthy of. .. ” From the burning bush Moses heard a voice saying to him, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”46 Only Jesus could cross that threshold of the divine holiness, for “when he had made purification for sins,” he brought us into the Father’s presence: “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”47
Our awareness of our status as slaves would make us sink into the ground and our earthly condition would dissolve into dust, if the authority of our Father himself and the Spirit of his Son had not impelled us to this cry. .. ‘Abba, Father!’. .. When would a mortal dare call God ‘Father,’ if man’s innermost being were not animated by power from on high?48
1 Gal 4:4-5.
2 Mk 1:1.
3 Mk 1:11; cf. Lk 1:5, 68.
4 Gal 4:4.
5 Col 2:9.
6 Lk 1:34-35 (Greek).
7 Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5.
8 Lk 1:26-27.
9 LG 56; cf. LG 61.
10 Cf. Lk 2:21.
11 Cf. Gal 4:4.
12 Cf. Col 2:11-13.
13 Cf. Gal 4:4.
14 Lk 2:51-52.
15 Cf. Gal 4:4.
16 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.
17 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.
18 1 Cor 12:3.
19 Gal 4:6.
20 St. Irenaeus, Dem. ap. 7: SCh 62, 41-42.
21 Cf. Gal 4:6.
22 Cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13.
23 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6.
24 Rom 8:9.
25 2 Cor 3:17.
26 Rom 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Cor 6:11; 7:40.
27 1 Pet 4:14.
28 Gal 4:4.
29 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14; Jn 5:39, 46.
30 Cf. Lk 24:44.
31 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4; cf. Gal 4:5-7.
32 Cf. l Cor 6:15; 12:27; Rom 8:17.
33 Cf. l Cor 6:19.
34 2 Cor 6:11.
35 1 Cor 1:2.
36 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.
37 Cf. Gal 4:6.
38 Gal 5:22, 25.
39 Cf. Eph 4:23.
40 Eph 5:8, 9.
41 Jn 15:15; cf. Jas 1:25; 2:12; Gal 4:1-7.21-31; Rom 8:15.
42 Cf. Mt 6:7; 1 Kings 18:26-29.
43 Jn 6:63.
44 Gal 4:6.
45 Rom 8:27.
46 Ex 3:5.
47 Heb 1:3; 2:13.
48 St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 71, 3: PL 52, 401 CD; cf. Gal 4:6.
The Galatians–pagans recently converted to Christianity by Paul–were being disturbed in their faith by Judaizers, that is, by Jews who pretended to be Christians but were not. These were telling the new converts that Christianity was not something really new, but only a new form of Judaism, and therefore the converts must accept circumcision and other practices of the old law. Paul in his letter reacts strongly to this falsehood. Christianity is not a reform of Judaism, he states, but is its replacement. Judaism was only a preparation, Christianity is the fulfillment; the old law was but a shadow of things to come, Christianity is the reality.
The “fullness of time has come,” the period of preparation and promise has ended. Men are no longer slaves of the law or slaves of their past pagan polytheism and its practices. They are now free men and new men, sons of God. They can now truly call God “Abba Father,” “for God sent his Son born
of a woman.” The Incarnation has taken place, men are no longer mere human beings, they have a new life given them in Baptism. They now share in the divine life because Christ has shared their human life with them.
Do we Christians of today really appreciate the privileges the Incarnation has brought to us? Do we really realize what our Christianity means to us? When we say the “Our Father who art in heaven” do we understand even vaguely what we are saying? If we were allowed to salute God as our Creator it would be a reminder of all we owe him, and our duty, but to have the right to call him our Father, the Father who loves us so much, that he has made us his sons, and is gladly ready to share his eternal happiness with us, is so great a privilege that we almost find it hard to believe it.
Yet this is the result and consequence of that great mystery of God’s love–the Incarnation, the basic tenet of our Christianity. Today’s feast-day–the feast of Mary, Mother of God–recalls to our minds this fundamental truth of our faith. “God sent his son born of a woman “– the woman was Mary “our tainted nature’s solitary boast” as Wordsworth describes her. She, among all the daughters and sons of men, was the most closely connected with God’s gift of the Incarnation to us. She conceived Christ in his human nature, in her womb. She bore him within her for nine months, she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, she fed him at her breast in his infancy–she provided and cared for him in his boyhood and youth. She finally offered him for us on Calvary. And this son of hers was the Son of God from all eternity.
We Christians are privileged to have been made sons of God by the Incarnation. But how much greater was and is the privilege of the one who was made the Mother of God, and his nearest and dearest human assistant in this mystery of his love for us! God loves us, of that we can have no doubt; Mary too loves us, for we are brothers of the Son of God whom she loves so dearly. She wants us to reap the reward of the Incarnation, in which she played such a privileged part, which reward is to share in the happiness of God for all eternity. This reward she will obtain for us when our moment of judgement comes, if we have tried to love and respect her in life. If we say devoutly, thoughtfully and frequently that simple prayer the Church has taught us’: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now” we can face “the hour of our death” with confidence. Amen.
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:
– “through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts”;1 it is in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth”.2
– “from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience”,3 the sacred Scriptures “grow with the one who reads them.”3
– “from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.5
CCC 527 Jesus’ circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth,6 is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham’s descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law7 and his deputation to Israel’s worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign prefigures that “circumcision of Christ” which is Baptism.8
CCC 2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin also learned to pray according to his human heart. He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother, who kept in her heart and meditated upon all the “great things” done by the Almighty.9 He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: “I must be in my Father’s house.”10 Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.
1 DV 8 § 2; cf. Lk 2:19,51.
2 GS 62 § 7; cf. GS 44 § 2; DV 23; 24; UR 4.
3 DV 8 § 2.
4 DV 8 § 2.
5 St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez. 1,7,8:PL 76,843D.
6 Cf. Lk 2:21.
7 Cf. Gal 4:4.
8 Cf. Col 2:11-13.
9 Cf. Lk 1:49; 2:19; 2:51.
10 Lk 2:49.
This story of the humble shepherds of Bethlehem coming to find Jesus “in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes” already read at the Dawn Mass on Christmas Day, is repeated today because of the feast we are celebrating, the Divine Motherhood of Mary. It is the feast of Christmas again, the feast of the Incarnation and birth of our Savior, but it is Mary’s part in this wonderful mystery of God’s love for men that the Church is stressing today.
There have been Christians who could see no importance in the part played by Mary in our redemption, yet it was God himself who chose her from all eternity for this role and it was God’s messenger at the Annunciation who proclaimed she was “full of grace” and that she was God’s special friend –“The Lord was with her.” The humble shepherds searching for the Savior whose birth “God had made known to them” found Mary first, then Joseph (the one after Mary who had a very important part in God’s plan) and then “the babe lying in the manger.”
In following the inspired words of the gospels of Matthew and Luke who stress the importance of Mary’s role in the Incarnation, and the constant teaching of the Catholic Church ever since, we need have no fear of taking anything from the honor, glory and gratitude we owe to God, when we honor, as our Mother, the Virgin he first honored by making her the Mother of his Son. Furthermore the last act of our Savior, before dying on the cross, was to make his Mother our Mother, through our representative St. John, to whom he said: “behold thy Mother” (Jn. 1: 27). It would be disloyalty to Christ not to accept her as our Mother, and it would be disloyalty to the revealed word of God if we denied her divine maternity. God made her Mother of the Messiah, the Savior, who was his divine Son.
Mary was, and is, a human creature, a mere human creature but a human creature selected by God to be the mother of the Savior’s human nature, the human nature his divine sonship assumed in order to redeem man and raise him up. It was through no merit of her own that Mary earned this dignity–this honor given her was a sheer gift of God. She was the first to realize and declare this when she said God had “regarded the lowliness of his handmaid” (Lk. 1 : 48). When we honor her therefore we are in fact and in intention honoring and thanking God for the marvelous gifts and privileges he conferred on one of us.
God could have sent his Son on earth without the help of a human mother. He could have created directly for him a human nature in the prime of manhood. He chose instead to make the Son “like unto us in all things except sin” and as man he was born of a human mother, “born of a woman,” as St. Paul puts it. That woman was Mary ever-Virgin, she was God’s privileged handmaid. And when we honor that privilege of hers we are honoring the loving condescension of God who not only deigned to send us his Son to be our Savior, but deigned that he should be born of one of our own weak human nature to whom he had given and continued to give the necessary graces.
Thank you God, for the Incarnation, thank you God, for the honorable part you gave to “one of us” to play in that drama of divine love. May we ever be worthy of your gifts of infinite love to us!
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
Mother of God
If Mary is really the one giving birth to God, if she bears him who is the death of death and is life in the full sense of the word, this being the Mother of God is really a “new birth” (nova nativitas): a new way of giving birth inserted into the old way, just as Mary is the New Covenant in the midst of the Old Covenant, even as a member of the Old Covenant. This birth is no dying, but only a becoming, a bursting forth of life that casts off dying and leaves it behind once and for all. The title “Mother of God” points, on the one hand, back to the Virgin: this life is not received through the everyday dying and becoming but is pure beginning. On the other hand, the title points to the Assumption: from this birth comes only life, no death. This new “generation” does not demand the surrender of the old self as its sine qua non, rather it effects the ultimate validation of the whole.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Prayer to Our Lady
Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone
who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, we turn to you,
O Virgin of virgins, our Mother.
To you we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, do not despise our petitions, but in your mercy hear us and answer us.