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Posted by on Apr 4, 2016

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

The Annunciation - Henry Ossaw TannerGabriel’s visit to a very young woman in the small town of Nazareth was a momentous event, though mostly unnoticed at the time. Gabriel is the archangel tasked to serve as special messenger of God. On this visit, the message was actually a request: will you consent to become my mother? It wasn’t exactly phrased this way, according to the narrative we have from St. Luke, but in essence that was the question. Gabriel told Mary that she would bear a son who would be the Son of the Most High and would sit on the throne of his father David (as in King David), rule over the house of Jacob forever and have an unending kingdom. (Lk 1:26-38)

Now this would be challenging even to a married woman, but this young woman was not married. In her culture, having a child out of wedlock could result in death by stoning. At best, she would be shunned and excluded from polite society. Yet Mary had the courage to ask for more details about how such a thing could happen and to listen with deep faith to the response. Then she answered “yes,” Jesus was conceived, and God’s plan for salvation could go forward.

Christians have celebrated the Annunciation for centuries. Typically, the feast is scheduled for March 25, exactly nine months before the celebration of Christmas. However, in the West, when March 25 falls within Holy Week or the first week of Easter, the feast is moved to Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter (now known as Divine Mercy Sunday).

As adults we celebrate many events such as the Annunciation with prayer – Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, the Angelus, etc. However, for children, these ways of celebrating are not always experienced as much fun. So, with that in mind, I’d like to suggest an alternative way to celebrate: Make Angel cookies!

To make Angel cookies, take any recipe for a cookie that allows rolling out the dough and cutting out a cookie. (Even brownies could be used for making Angel Cookies if time is short.) Use an angel shaped cookie cutter to shape the cookies before baking. Be sure to decorate them with frosting/icing or with some  kind of “sprinkles” of colored sugar to make them festive. Then share them as part of a festive meal. Light a candle, have a special drink, use nicer dishes than normal, have a food that is a treat for your family — any or all of these things will make the day special for the children and family who share them.

As you share this day, keep your ears open for the voice of angels in your life. God’s messenger still comes, though perhaps not as momentously as in the visit to Mary. What is God saying to you and me today?

Peace.

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Posted by on May 22, 2015

Why Mary is Important

Why Mary is Important

Hail Mary - F Fong

When we think or speak of Mary, the Mother of God, it is always important to keep in mind that she is best understood in the context of her relationship with her son, Jesus. Said formally, Mariology is always constructed in the context of Christology. This is so because Christ is the redeemer and the sole source of salvation. Everything in creation came to be through him. Mary, because of her role, participates in the creative and redeeming action of God in a special way.

Mary’s exceptional conception as sinless affords her the choice to live fully for God. She was not programmed to be good, but rather, Mary did not carry the deep fear of interference and resistance against God that exists in all other human beings. The rest of the human race has the grace and possibility to work with and overcome fear and anger, but we must work to limit our desire for control and instead surrender to God’s grace. We often do not choose right away to stop being resentful or angry. We often project onto others the responsibility for our own self-inflicted injuries. Mary had a clear vision of her place in life. She was born totally honest and prepared to grow. She chose to say “yes” over and over to these qualities, even when they brought suffering.

According to the Scriptures, Mary grew in her understanding of her son, herself, and the work of God in the world for salvation. We read more than once in the Gospel of Luke that she “pondered” how their lives were unfolding and what God was doing. She did not have a road map to reassure her of where they were going, but she had given her consent at the Annunciation and she trusted over and over. Her pregnancy was unexpected and controversial. The choices that Jesus made had consequences. His declaration in the synagogue that he was the Messiah brought immediate violence and ejection from the community. We find him and Mary later in the Gospel living in a completely new town, Capernaum, not a hill village like Nazareth but a fishing village.

Icon of the Wedding at Cana - Lucia 398 - CCWhen Jesus began his itinerant preaching and healing ministry we know that Mary, her sister and a group of women accompanied him as well as the crowds. This was not a normal lifestyle for first century Jewish women. Mary had to give up her reputation, village, old friends and the comforts of a house. In all of these ways she was an excellent listener of God as he called her out of the usual, the expected. She had to be quite aware of the danger that Jesus was in. In the Gospels, in village after village, the rage and jealously grew in the scribes and Pharisees. They hated his penetrating honesty, his clear perception of their air of superiority. They despised Jesus’ humility and closeness to the cast-offs of society. Mary must have constantly had to put her worries in the hands of God. She modeled an exceptional surrender to God and acceptance of His will. No one could have gone through this without being in deep prayer and interior connection to God all the time. She stood by Jesus from Cana to Golgotha and we have no reason to believe that she knew that “everything was going to be all right.”

Throughout the centuries Mary has been understood as the second Eve who reversed the willfulness and disobedience of the first Eve. Even when this story is understood metaphorically, Mary still is understood as the first human to be perfectly and happily obedient. She is also appreciated as the mother of the Church because she remained as the center of the early church community and loved them as her own. But it is her maternity of Jesus which stands out as the most important role she has because of its eschatological (future reaching) character. What is meant by this is that she is not just a person who did something unique in the past. Mary was and is “full of grace.” In the spiritual relationship which she has with her son and the whole of creation, Christ’s grace pours through her as the first disciple to all of humanity. Mary mothers us (protects and strengthens us) if we let her. Catholicism understands all of humanity, living and dead, to be in spiritual solidarity, a mystical body. Because of this solidarity or communion, Mary can help us to have a readiness to commitment, trust even in unbearable loss, and unimaginable joy when we are united to her son.

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Posted by on Aug 15, 2012

Feast of the Assumption – God’s Gift through a Special Woman

Feast of the Assumption – God’s Gift through a Special Woman

Assumption of the Virgin

The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15. This feast has ancient roots and is celebrated throughout the Christian community. Some speak of the Assumption of Mary, others of the Dormition (going to sleep), the Commemoration, or the Passing of Mary.

In the Roman Church, today’s readings begin with the vision from the Book of Revelation (11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab) of the woman clothed in the sun with the moon beneath her feet and a crown of stars on her head who appears in the sky. She is in labor and threatened by a great dragon. The woman gives birth to a boy who is caught up to Heaven to rule the nations, while the woman finds refuge in a safe place in the desert.

The second reading is from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Paul (15:20-27) speaks of Jesus as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” and notes that the last enemy of God to be conquered by Christ is death itself.

Finally, Luke’s (1:39-56) account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth treats us to Mary’s hymn to the great love of God, the Magnificat. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty…”

Through Mary, God came “to the help of his servant Israel,” remembering his promise of mercy, “the promise he made to … Abraham and his children forever.” Today we honor her for her faithful response to God’s call and pray that we too (descendants in faith of Abraham) may be faithful in our response. Please join me in praying:

Like the woman in the reading from the Book of Revelation, women around the world today and their children face many dangers. May we, like the angels who protected her and her child from the dragon, act to protect women and children from the dragons that threaten them today, including violence, hunger, lack of education, and poor access to health care.

Through the “yes” of a young woman, Jesus came into our world, becoming the one through whom death would be overcome. May we too answer “yes” when God asks us to participate in the works of the Kingdom.

Like Mary, may we receive the courage to believe that God is really in charge when it seems that the desires of the powerful will once again outweigh the needs of the poor and vulnerable — and act accordingly.

As we evaluate the many possible paths into the future that we as a nation may choose, may we listen carefully to the voice of God within our hearts, rejecting fear-based choices and instead choosing to work for the good of all.

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, currently in the Cathedral of Our Lady (Antwerp) – Public Domain

 

 

 

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Posted by on Aug 15, 2011

The Assumption of Our Lady, the Human, and Creation


This reflection is based in part on a presentation by Fr. Thomas Berry (1914 – 2009) – Philosopher, Cosmologist.


The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. – Colossians 1:15-20

 

There is a dimension to all feasts of Our Lady that highlights God’s involvement with the physical –  the material dimension. Mary’s assumption into heaven is a very tangible sign of the new creation in Christ. In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul is addressing those who do not believe that Jesus was truly human. In this type of Platonist thinking, the feminine is seen as being prototypically associated with the earth and the physical is far inferior to the spiritual, celestial, male principle. The celebration of Mary, Mother of God, in the apostolic churches, acclaims the feminine as the means by which God makes all things new. Mary is the model, the example of what we are supposed to become.

God’s redemption of all creation is the setting for our own restoration of our fallen nature. Caring for creation is today a key obligation for us because of our recently acquired ability to reshape ecological systems on a global basis.

For more on Thomas Berry please go to http://earth-community.org.


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