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Our Lady, Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary (1)

Called in the Gospels ‘the Mother of Jesus’, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her Son, as “the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 495)

The mother of the Messiah has been called many things in the last 2000 years – the Virgin Mary, Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, the  Mother of God, ‘Theotokos’ meaning God-bearer or mother of God. The latter name being used by the early Church Fathers.

In 431, the Council of Ephesus met, under Cyril’s leadership, and solemnly proclaimed that Mary is indeed rightly to be honoured as the Theotokos, the Mother of God.  It proclaimed that from the moment of His conception, God truly became man.  Of course Mary is a creature and could never be the origin of the eternal Trinity, God without beginning or end.  But the second person of the blessed Trinity chose to truly become man.  He did not just come and borrow a human body and drive it around for a while, ascend back to heaven, and discard it like an old car.  No, at the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary, an amazing thing happened.  God the Son united Himself with a human nature forever.

Mother of God icon.

Mother of God icon
Photo by: Klášter Pražského Jezulátka

The Council of Ephesus, once confirmed by the Pope, became the third ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, and its teaching in this matter is dogma, truth revealed by God which all are bound to accept.

So why does the Roman liturgy celebrate the Octave of Christmas as the Feast of Mary the Mother of God?  Because this paradoxical phrase strikes at the very heart of Christmas.  The songs we sing and the cards we write extol the babe of Bethlehem as Emmanuel, God-with-us.  He is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect woman — hand-picked and created by God to be His mother. She is the ‘highly favoured one’. She knows the fullness of God’s love and passes this beautiful blessing onto to us. For, she is not only God’s mother, but our mother, too. She is the gentle, concerned mother who watches over us day and night, and cares for our every need. Every pain, every worry, every joy we feel she wants us to share it all with her. The love that God manifests toward her, she shares abundantly with us. The Holy Spirit dwells within her heart, and she is a conduit of love, grace, and tender mercy for us. She also serves as a wonderful model of love to emulate.

Just as Christmas honours Jesus as the Prince of Peace, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God honours Mary as the Queen of Peace. Like the holy Infant, we are forever safe within her arms.

Mary is worth honouring and emulating because she is the ideal example of perfect obedience to God. Knowing that she could be stoned to death for carrying a baby conceived out of wedlock, she still said ‘yes’ to God: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). When she said ‘yes’ to God she demonstrated perfect courage, perfect obedience and perfect faith.

Mary is a pillar of strength. She stands, not faints, at the base of the cross as her son’s life is taken from her. Mary understands human suffering. Her own life was full of suffering: a problem pregnancy, a difficult delivery in a faraway land. Mary bore her suffering with strength, dignity and perfect faith.

Our Lady’s birthday.

A modern picture of Our Lady

Mary was born to be the mother of the Saviour of the world, the spiritual mother of all men, and the holiest of God’s creatures. Because of her Son’s infinite merits, she was conceived and born immaculate and full of grace. Through her, Queen of heaven and of earth, all grace is given to men. Through her, by the will of the Trinity, the unbelieving receive the gift of faith; the afflicted are tendered the works of mercy; and the members of Christ grow in likeness of their Head. In Mary all human nature is exalted. We rejoice in her birthday, as the Church has done from the earliest times. This is one of the three birthdays in the Church Calendar — the Birth of Jesus (December 25), the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the Birthday of Mary. All three were born without original sin, although Mary and Jesus were conceived without sin, and St. John was cleansed of original sin while in the womb at the Visitation of Mary. (Catholic Culture)

The girl, Mary.

Mary is born.

 

 

Humanae Vitae: Day 8

8.  Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” (cf. 1 John 4:8) the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (Eph 3:15)

Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.

The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.

In order to correctly understand conjugal love, we need to first understand marriage itself.   Marriage is not a product of chance but a part of God’s plan for humanity.  In the sacrament of marriage, man and woman become an image of God and His love of the Church to the world.  In married love, we see God because He is its origin.  And so much like the Trinity is a “communion of love”, marriage when it is exclusive, permanent, and open to life is a “union of two persons in which they perfect one another”.  The communion of love in the Trinity is the communion of love meant to be expressed in the indissoluble marriage.

(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)

The Measure of the World (By John Henry Newman)

”A great number of men live and die without reflecting at all upon the state of things in which they find themselves. They take things as they come, and follow their inclinations as far as they have the opportunity. They are guided mainly by pleasure and pain, not by reason, principle, or conscience; and they do not attempt to interpret this world, to determine what it means, or to reduce what they see and feel to system. But when persons, either from thoughtfulness of mind, or from intellectual activity, begin to contemplate the visible state of things into which they are born, then forthwith they find it a maze and a perplexity. . . .Why it is, and what it is to issue in, and how it is what it is, and how we come to be introduced into it, and what is our destiny, are all mysteries.

In this difficulty, some have formed one philosophy of life, and others another. Men have thought they had found the key, by means of which they might read what is so obscure. Ten thousand things come before us one after another in the course of life, and what are we to think of them? what colour are we to give them? Are we to look at all things in a gay and mirthful way? or in a melancholy way? in a desponding or a hopeful way? Are we to make light of life altogether, or to treat the whole subject seriously? Are we to make greatest things of little consequence, or least things of great consequence? Are we to keep in mind what is past and gone, or are we to look on to the future, or are we to be absorbed in what is present? How are we to look at things? . . .Such is the need felt by reflective minds. Now, let me ask, what is the real key, what is the Christian interpretation of this world? What is given us by revelation to estimate and measure this world by? The event of this season – the Crucifixion of the Son of God. . . .

But it will be said, that the view which the Cross of Christ imparts to us of human life and of the world, is not that which we should take, if left to ourselves; that it is not an obvious view; that if we look at things on their surface, they are far more bright and sunny than they appear when viewed in the light which this season casts upon them.

But again; it is but a superficial view of things to say that this life is made for pleasure and happiness. To those who look under the surface, it tells a very different tale. The doctrine of the Cross does but teach, though infinitely more forcibly, still after all it does but teach the very same lesson which this world teaches to those who live long in it, who have much experience in it, who know it. The world is sweet to the lips, but bitter to the taste. . . .Therefore the doctrine of the Cross of Christ does but anticipate for us our experience of the world.

            

John Henry Newman by Jane Fortescue Seymour, c. 1875

This being the case, the great and awful doctrine of the Cross of Christ, which we now commemorate, may fitly be called, in the language of figure, the heart of religion. The heart may be considered as the seat of life; it is the principle of motion, heat, and activity; from it the blood goes to and fro to the extreme parts of the body. It sustains the man in his powers and faculties; it enables the brain to think; and when it is touched, man dies. And in like manner the sacred doctrine of Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice is the vital principle on which the Christian lives, and without which Christianity is not. Without it no other doctrine is held profitably; to believe in Christ’s divinity, or in His manhood, or in the Holy Trinity, or in a judgment to come, or in the resurrection of the dead, is an untrue belief, not Christian faith, unless we receive also the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice. . . .

One more remark I shall make, and then conclude. It must not be supposed, because the doctrine of the Cross makes us sad, that therefore the Gospel is a sad religion. The Psalmist says, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy;” and our Lord says, “They that mourn shall be comforted.” Let no one go away with the impression that the Gospel makes us take a gloomy view of the world and of life. It hinders us indeed from taking a superficial view, and finding a vain transitory joy in what we see; but it forbids our immediate  enjoyment, only to grant enjoyment in truth and fulness afterwards. It only forbids us tobegin with enjoyment. . . .

And thus, too, all that is bright and beautiful, even on the surface of this world, though it has no substance, and may not suitably be enjoyed for its own sake, yet is a figure and promise of that true joy which issues out of the Atonement. It is a promise beforehand of what is to be: it is a shadow, raising hope because the substance is to follow, but not to be rashly taken instead of the substance. And it is God’s usual mode of dealing with us, in mercy to send the shadow before the substance, that we may take comfort in what is to be, before it comes. Thus our Lord before His Passion rode into Jerusalem in triumph, with the multitudes crying Hosanna, and strewing His road with palm branches and their garments. This was but a vain and hollow pageant, nor did our Lord take pleasure in it. It was a shadow which stayed not, but flitted away. It could not be more than a shadow, for the Passion had not been undergone by which His true triumph was wrought out. . . .

They alone are able truly to enjoy this world, who begin with the world unseen. They alone enjoy it, who have first abstained from it. They alone can truly feast, who have first fasted; they alone are able to use the world, who have learned not to abuse it; they alone inherit it, who take it as a shadow of the world to come, and who for that world to come relinquish it.”

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was made a cardinal by Leo XIII in 1879 and beatified by Benedict XVI in 2010. He was among the most important Catholic writers of the last several centuriesThese are excerpts from Cardinal Newman’s sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Lent, “The Cross of Christ: The Measure of the World. The full sermon may be read here.


A holy man.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa Preacher of the Pontifical Household Images from capuchinfranciscans.blogspot.com

I was fortunate to hear the preaching of  Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household (Image from capuchinfranciscans.blogspot.com), when he preached at the Holy Trinity Anglican church in Brompton, London.

I was invited to the church by a fellow Catholic who had heard the preaching of Fr. Cantalamessa at the same church years before.

I was absolutely bowled over by the humility of this wonderful priest. His manner of preaching is direct and so full of love for God. He is obviously a servant of the Lord , going about his business of bringing others to the feet of Jesus.

If you are able to hear this man preach the Word of God, make every effort to be there to listen!

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