31 December 2016

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. New Year's Day. World Day of Peace. Sunday Reflections

Altar of Our Lady, Church of St Nicholas, Überlingen, Germany, Jörg Zurn [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The Adoration of the Name of Jesus, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

At the moment I am re-reading Finola Kennedy's Frank Duff: A Life Story published by Burns and Oates in 2011. Frank Duff founded the Legion of Mary on 7 September 1921, though for a very long time he did not consider himself the founder. The biographer relates how a friend in the Vincent de Paul Society in Dublin, Vincent Kelly, introduced him to St Louis Marie de Montfort's Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, usually referred to as True Devotion or True Devotion to Mary. Though Frank Duff was almost repelled initially by this book - it seemed to him 'to border on the absurd' -  he read it five or six times, encouraged by another friend in the Vincent de Paul Society, Tom Fallon. 

After 'the final forced reading' Frank Duff recalled, Without any process of thought leading up to it, something which I could but regard as a Divine favour was granted to me. It was the sudden realisation that the Book was true.

Fifty years later in a letter to Vincent Kelly he wrote, It was definitely that book which threw my life into the Marian channels which it has ever since followed.

Elsewhere Frank Duff wrote, Somewhere in 1919 some of us had encountered St Louis Marie de Montfort's book on True Devotion to Mary. It depicted Our Lady in a devastatingly different dimension to what we were accustomed. The catechism had never shown us anything even remotely like that. De Montfort exhibited her sharply as the Mother of the Christian life, absolutely indispensable, concerned in every grace. The vastness of the role which he attributed to her and the very vehemence of the way in which he describe it gave the initial impression of gross exaggeration. Nevertheless he gripped the mind and forced one to read and enquire. At some stage in this process the conviction was gained that the book was justified and that the common presentation of Our Lady was not.

The seriousness of this was like an electric shock. for virtually it meant that we were leaving Mary out.

Then the biographer notes that the catechism taught that it was 'lawful' to be devout to the Blessed Virgin. In relation to this statement, Duff later made the acid comment: 'In other words it was not a sin, a ludicrous description which would almost amount to placing it in the same category as backing horses or moderate drinking'.

Luke Paints the Icon of the Mother of God Hodegetria, Unknown Russian icon painter [Web Gallery of Art]

The Council of Ephesus in 431 gave the Greek title Theotokos to Mary, meaning 'Mother of God' or 'God-bearer'. Her Son Jesus is both God and Man. This teaching is part of the heritage of all Christians as the Council took place more than 600 years before the East-West Schism and 1,100 years before the Protestant Reformation.

The Collect of the Mass, also used in the Liturgy of the Hours, states clearly what Mary's role is.

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.

This prayer is directed to God the Father. It refers to our Lord Jesus Christ as the author of life. God the Father gave us the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word [who] became flesh and lived among us, through Mary. It is her mission, given by the Father, to bring his Son to us and to bring us to his Son who is Mary's Son too. Perfectly attuned to the will of the Father she cannot possibly do anything else. In the icon above St Luke is shown depicting Mary, the Mother of God, presenting her Son, God who became Man, to us.

St John of the Cross captures the meaning of this Sunday's celebration in his poem Del Verbo Divino - Concerning the Divine Word.

Del Verbo Divino
San Juan de la Cruz

Del Verbo divino
la Virgen preñada
viene de camino :
¡ si les dais posada !

Concerning the Divine Word
St John of the Cross

With the divinest Word, the Virgin
Made pregnant, down the road
Comes walking, if you'll grant her
A room in your abode 

Translation by Roy Campbell

Queen of Peace, EDSA Shrine, Metro Manila [Wikipedia]

World Day of Peace
Today is the Church's 50th World Day of Peace. Here is the conclusion of the message of Pope Francis for this day.
As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.

'All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers'. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. 'Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace'.

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