Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
I wish you a blessed Epiphany and Happy New Year! The month of January is dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus: let us reverently pray His Holy Name and make reparation to our good Lord for the many times that His name is spoken with irreverence! This weekend I share with you a reflection on Mary, the Mother of God. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“Mary, Mother of God and our Mother: How often have we con-templated Mary with the Child in her arms! And Christian piety has inspired the countless different works of art which represent the feast we celebrate… the (Divine) Motherhood of Mary. This fundamental fact casts a light that shines out in the life of Mary. It is the foundation of all the other privileges with which God has wished to adorn her. Today we give thanks and praise to God the Father because Mary conceived His only Son: The Holy Spirit came upon her and she conceived Your only-begotten Son. Without losing her glorious virginity, she brought forth Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is forever the Light of the world! (Preface of the Maternity of the Virgin Mary) And from our hearts we sing to her: Hail Holy Mother, you gave birth to the King (Entrance Antiphon of the Holy Mass), for truly the Mother has brought forth the King, whose name is eternal; she who has conceived has at the same time the joy of motherhood and the glory of virginity. (Divine Office, Lauds, Antiphon 3)
Mary is Our Lady, Full of Grace and virtue, conceived without sin, who is the Mother of God and our Mother, and who dwells both body and soul in Heaven. Sacred Scripture refers to her as the most exalted of all creatures, the blessed one, the most praised among women, Full of Grace (Luke 1:28), she whom all generations shall call blessed. (Luke 1:48) The Church teaches us that, after Christ, Mary occupies the place that is highest and closest to God, because of her Divine Motherhood. She, after her Son, by the grace of God, was exalted over all angels and men. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 63) Through you, O Virgin Mary, have been fulfilled all the oracles of the prophets who announced Christ: being a virgin you conceived the Son of God and, remaining a virgin, you gave birth to Him. (Magnificat, Antiphon of 27 December)
The Holy Spirit teaches us… that when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law… (Gal. 4:4) Jesus did not suddenly appear on earth out of Heaven. He became truly man, like us, taking our human nature in the most pure Womb of the Virgin Mary. Insofar as He is God, Jesus is generated, not made, by God the Father from all eternity. Insofar as He is man, He was born, was made, of Mary. I am exceedingly astounded, says St. Cyril, that there could be anyone who has any doubt as to whether the Blessed Virgin should be called the Mother of God. If Our Lord Jesus Christ is God, why should the Blessed Virgin, who gave Him birth, not be called the Mother of God? That is the Faith that Our Lord’s disciples transmitted to us, even though they did not use this exact expression. And that too is what the holy fathers have taught us. (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letter 1, 27:30) Thus it was defined by the Council of Ephesus. (Dz.-Sch., 252)
All the feasts of Our Lady are great events, because they are opportunities the church gives us to show with deeds that we love Mary. But if I had to choose one from among all her feasts, I would choose to-day’s, the Feast of the Divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin…
When the Blessed Virgin said Yes, freely, to the plans revealed to her by the Creator, the Divine Word assumed a human nature, with a rational soul and a body, formed in the most pure womb of Mary. The Divine Nature and the human were united in a single Person: Jesus Christ, true God and, thenceforth, true man: the only-begotten and eternal Son of the Father and, from that moment on, as Man, the true Son of Mary. This is why Our Lady is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the
Blessed Trinity, Who has united our human nature to Himself forever,
without any confusion of the two natures. The greatest praise we
can give to the Blessed Virgin is to address her loud and clear by the
name that expresses her highest dignity: Mother of God. (J. Escriva,
Friends of God, 274)
Our Lady will be well pleased to hear us, on her feast day, repeating many times the aspiration: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Our mother. The help she gives us: Our Blessed Mother is the loving and consoling title we often give to Mary. She is truly our Mother in that she continually gives birth to the Supernatural Life within us.
She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ, she presented Him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son’s suffering as He died on the Cross. Thus in a wholly singular way she co-operated by her obedience, Faith, Hope and burning Charity in the work of the Savior in restoring Supernatural Life to souls. For this reason she is a Mother to us in the Order of Grace. (Second Vatican Council, op. cit., 61)
This Motherhood of Mary will last forever… until the perpetual consummation of all the elect. For, having been assumed into Heaven, she has not left behind this salvific mission but, through her constant intercession, continues to obtain for us the gifts of Eternal Salvation. With her motherly love she looks after the brothers of her Son, who are still wayfarers and a prey to danger and uncertainty until they at last reach their Heavenly Home. (ibid., 62)
Jesus gave us Mary as our Mother when, after He had been nailed to the Cross, He addressed her in these words: ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your Mother.’ (John 19:26-27)
Thus, in a new way, He bequeathed His own Mother to the man: the man to whom He has transmitted the Gospel. He has bequeathed her to all men… From that day onwards the whole Church has her as Mother. And all men have her as Mother. The words pronounced upon the Cross are understood as being addressed to each one of us. (John Paul II, General A udience, 10 January 1979) Jesus looks at us one by one: Behold your Mother, He says. John took her into his home, received her lovingly and cared for her with the greatest respect. He brought Mary into his home, into his life. Spiritual writers have seen these words of the Gospel as an invitation to all Christians to bring Mary into their lives. Mary certainly wants us to invoke, to approach her confidently, to appeal to her as our Mother, asking her to‘show that you are our Mother’ (Monstra te esse Matrem. Liturgical hymn Ave Maris Stella). (J. Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 140)
In giving His Mother to be our Mother Christ gives proof of His love for His own until the end. (cf. John 13:1) And, in accepting the Apostle John as her son, the Blessed Virgin shows her motherly love for all men.
She has had a decisive influence on our lives. Each of us has his own experience. Looking back we see her intervention behind every problem, driving us forward and with the definitive push making us begin anew. W henever I get down to thinking about the numerous Graces I have received from Mary, I feel like one of those Marian Shrines on the walls of which, covered with ‘offerings’, there is inscribed only ‘Through Grace received from Mary’. In this way, it seems that I am written all over: ‘Through Grace received from Mary’. Every good thought, every good act of will, every movement of my heart: ‘Through Grace received from Mary.’ (Masserano, Life of St. Leonard of Porto Maurizzio, II, 4)
We can ask ourselves on this feast of Our Lady if we have known how
to resort to her like St. John (cf. John 19:27), if we have often said to her, Monstra te esse matrem. Show that you are our Mother, proving through our deeds that we want to be good sons to her.
Devotion to Mary is the way to Christ. Beginning the new year with Mary at our side: Our Lady, close to her Son, fulfills her mission as Mother of all men by interceding continually for them. The Church gives Mary the titles of A dvocate, Help, Perpetual Succor and Mediatrix (Second Vatican Council, op. cit., 62) and with motherly love she takes upon herself the task of obtaining both ordinary and extraordinary Graces for us and increasing our union with Christ. What is more, given that Mary must, in all justice, be considered as the way by which we are led to Christ, the person who encounters Mary cannot but equally encounter Christ. (St. Paul VI, Encyclical, Mense Maio, 29 April 1965)
Filial devotion to Mary is thus an integral part of the Christian vocation.
We are always ready to run instinctively to her who consoles us in our distress, enlivens our Faith, strengthens our Hope, gets rid of our fears and invigorates our timidity. (St. Bernard, Homily on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 7)
It is easy to approach God through Mary. The whole people of God, doubtless inspired by the Holy Spirit, have always had this Divine certainty. Christians have always seen Mary as a shortcut, a path which shortens the journey, to reach God.
O God, You made Mary’s virginity fruitful and so held out to mankind the reward of eternal salvation. Through her You gave us her Son to be the source of our life: grant that we may experience the power of her prayer for us. (Collect of the Holy Mass, Mary, Mother of God)
On the Solemnity of Our Lady we begin the New Year. Truly there could not be a better start to the year, and of all the days of our life, than being very close to Mary. With the confidence of sons we go to her, so that she may help us to live in holiness every day of the year; so that she may give us the impulse to begin again each time we fall because we are so weak; so that she may interceded with her Divine Son to lead us to interior renewal, and to strive to grow in the love of God and in the service of our neighbor. We place in Mary’s hands our desire to identify ourselves with Christ, to sanctify our professional work and to be faithful apostles.
We repeat her Name with ever more fervor whenever difficulties arise. And she, who is forever at the service of her Son, when she hears her Name on our lips, will come quickly to our rescue. She will not leave us in error or in disunion.
Today, when we are looking at one of her pictures, we can say to her, at least in our hearts without the use of words: My Mother, and feel that she is protecting us and encouraging us to begin this New Year that God has given us with the confidence of one who knows he is well looked after and is being given help from Heaven.” (From In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, St. Michael, and St. Paul, may our good Lord grant us the grace to be devoted to the Light of Christ given us through Scripture, our Blessed Mother and the Sacraments!
In Christ through Mary,