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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 Aug 15, 2012

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

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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Posted by on Aug 15, 2008

Visited by an Angel – The Annunciation

Marian Theology: The Feast of the Assumption – August 15

The Assumption by Murillo

The Assumption by Murillo

August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, dates to the 6th and 7th centuries. The official proclamation of the Assumption by Pope Pius XII in Munificentisimus Deus as an article of faith for Catholics occurred recently, on November 1, 1950. Objections to this teaching cite the absence of support for it in Scripture and in the Fathers of the Church. These same arguments are also made against the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which states that Mary received the benefit of the redemption in advance from the moment of her conception. However, since the theological significance of Mary is intertwined with that of Christ, as mother and son, much of what we say about Mary (Mariology) derives from what we say about the identity and meaning of Christ (Christology).

For most Catholics, Orthodox, Coptics, and Anglicans, images and veneration of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, are part of the very fabric of their faith. This emotional and doctrinal emphasis on Miriam of Nazareth gives many in the Anabaptist and Calvinist traditions emotional and doctrinal heartburn. Some evangelicals are strident in their belief that Marian devotion – at best – detracts from the key act of salvation, which they formulate as “accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.”

The notion of salvation in the apostolic churches is centered on the church community. Christ’s death and resurrection has saved all and we enter into this paschal mystery embodied in the church. Our salvation is entering the faith community, the Body of Christ. From the earliest days, the Fathers of the Church identified Mary as the model of the Church. The following excerpt, taken from Wikipedia’s article on Roman Catholic Mariology, summarizes the position and importance of the Blessed Mother. Please note that the words in parentheses are my own.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses the issue, why Mariology is related to ecclesiology (the theology of the Church). On first sight, he argues, it may seem accidental, that the (Second Vatican) Council moved Mariology into ecclesiology. This relation helps to understand what “Church” really is. The theologian Hugo Rahner showed that Mariology was originally ecclesiology. The Church is like Mary.[96]

The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learns, that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary on the other hand is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She is carrying the mystery of the Church.[97]

Pope Benedict XVI lamented that this unity of Church and Mary was overshadowed in later centuries, which overburdened Mary with privileges and removed her into a far away distance. Both Mariology and ecclesiology suffered under this. A Marian view of the Church and an ecclesiological view of Mary in salvation history lead directly to Christ. It brings to light what is meant by holiness and by God being human.[98]

It is interesting to note that Pope Benedict XVI laments the removal of Mary “overburdened … with privileges.” This is also the image of Mary lamented by the reformation. However, the close identification of Mary with the Church, in the sense that “Mary is carrying the mystery of the Church,” represents a notion of church that many of the reformers rejected. Consequently, they rejected the image and role of Mary, and with it, the redemptive grace and power of the feminine.

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