#57 THE HEART OF JESUS AND THE FAMILY

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Introduction

I am almost certain that you must have seen a sticker which reads, “JESUS IS THE HEAD OF THIS FAMILY”. For a Christian, this is as true as the sun shinning in the skies. Jesus is the head and at the heart of every home. He is its source of inspiration, sustenance and happy end. This is the case of the love He has for each of us.

The Catholic Church stresses devotion to Christ, especially his heart because by taking on a human nature, He chose to have a heart that beats and loves like ours. Jesus’ heart beats for each of us with unconditional love. His heart also beats for the family because it is here that we first learn what it means to love.

Image of the Sacred Heart

The image we have of the heart of Jesus symbolizes his love. The flame and cross on it underscores his desire to rule over families and nations through love. By consecrating one’s family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we declare the family home to be under the reign of the King of Love. The family is the necessary foundation and the original source of Christian and social vitality. The family should be a coven of prayer, where love of Jesus and a life of Christian perfection are of prime importance. For this to happen, members of the family must understand their role and how this can help them cooperate with the love that we are afforded through grace in the heart of Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Family and Modern Society

You don’t need to go too far to realize that the world has declared war against the family. The increased rate of marital infidelity, teenage pregnancy, abortion, child abuse, homosexuality, materialism leading to a desperate seeking for wealth and comfort, drug and sex addiction questions the relevance of marriage for modern society. This led the first promoters of adoration of the Sacred Heart to point us back to what the family was meant to be and how society cannot be the same without a healthy and spiritually stable home.

The family is the smallest unit of society. It is here that a person learns to love, respect and cherish others as gifts of God and fellow human beings. A father’s place in the family is one of Provider, Protector and Leader. If he fails in any or all of these responsibilities, his family falls apart. Since the family is also a spiritual unit, he is also a priest, and it is his duty to foster spiritual unity through the bond of family prayer. He must present the family’s intentions, needs and aspiration to God, from whom all fatherhood both in heaven and on earth takes its name (Eph 3:15). Together with his wife, he must make the home a place of prayer and communion. There is nothing better than a father who is present to his family and their needs.

The place of the mother is that of Companion, Support and Teacher. The family cannot survive the torrent of emotional, psychological, spiritual and economic pressure with which society threatens her without the woman. With her skills and personality, she seeks to run the home and make plans both for the present and future. It is her place to support the man, care for the children and correct erroneous opinions by keeping an eye on what they do, where they go and who they keep as friends. We can safely conclude that the woman guards the home. For this too she needs the grace which God so willing gives everyone who asks Him (Rom 5:5; 2Cor 12:9).

Responsibilities of Sacred Heart Families

To dispel the spirit of Secularism: Secularism refers to the absence of religion or any expression of it in the home. Through family prayer, study of the scriptures, insistence on catechesis and participation in pious societies, this influence can be banished from the home. Most parents are complacent when it comes to matter bordering on the spiritual education of their children. If they do not receive the requisite education and are not taught to treasure their faith, they will not see it as relevant to their lives as persons. This will in turn affect their view of God, the Church, the purpose of human life and the destiny of the human person in the afterlife.

To keep safe from Modern Paganism: Paganism is the adherence to any belief other than the Christian (Catholic) faith and teaching about God. Modern Paganism is the tendency to remain comfortable as nominal Catholics while giving in to other false and misleading teachings that may sometimes contravene what we already believe and hold as part of the Christian faith. An example is an appeal to other persons other than ministers of the Church in cases that require spiritual intervention. Paganism also rares its head when we teach our children to treasure things instead of people and themselves (and their ideas of life) more than God.

Conclusion

It is the collective responsibility of parents to instill a love for purity and a practice of the Christian life in the home. This is so that our hearts and homes may be God’s shrine from which Christ’s reign and triumph will spread throughout the world. It is only in this way that the salvation Christ won for the world by his passion and death will truly be a means of redemption and spiritual transformation for each of us, for our families, our country and the whole world.

BLOGATRON

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#56 CALL HER BLESSED

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“From this day all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48b)

Introduction

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation we reflected on the FIAT of the Blessed Virgin Mary: her yes to the will of the Father, her obedience to the eternal design of God. Today we reflect on her MAGNIFICAT: her song of praise for the Father who did wonderful things not only for her but also for her people, Israel. We shall focus on the words prophesying her being called blessed by all generations.

When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth declared,

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” [Luke 1:42].

Elizabeth considered it as a great honour to be visited by Mary, the mother of her Lord [v43] and told her cousin that the baby in her womb leaped upon her hearing of Mary’s voice [v44]. She also told Mary how blessed she is for having received the fulfillment of God’s promise [v45]. And what follows was Mary’s song of praise, also called the Canticle of Mary, the MAGNIFICAT, the first word of the Latin translation of the first line of the song which means GREATNESS.

Grateful for Greatness

Who would not be moved to be truly and sincerely grateful for the greatness of God? Mary’s gratitude is because she is singularly chosen to become the earthly mother of the only-begotten Son of the Father. Jesus Christ is co-eternal with God and from all eternity, He was with God and through Him, God has created everything. If Jesus is God, His mother is the Mother of God. Surely, for having been accorded with such singular honour for her simplicity, humility and obedience, she truly deserves to be called BLESSED by all generations! Bede the Venerable puts it well when he says, “Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in Him.”

So when we call Mary BLESSED, we are not only acknowledging her important role as Mother of the Saviour, who is also God and so making her the Mother of God too. We are also praising God and ultimately recognizing Him for the wonders that He did through someone like this humble young girl from Nazareth. And whenever we call Mary BLESSED, she does not keep this honour to herself. She returns the praise to God saying, MY SOUL MAGNIFIES THE LORD!

You are Blessed

Like Mary, we are all blessed, because we received God’s grace upon baptism. St Paul tells us that through the waters of Baptism, “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5). We are further blessed when we receive the other Sacraments along our pilgrimage particularly the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. We are blessed because the Holy Spirit has made our bodies His dwelling place, His temple (cf. 1Cor 6:19). We are blessed when we obey the will of God in our lives and cooperate with His grace to perform acts of charity and mercy. Like Mary proclaim the greatness of the Lord, give Him glory, and magnify Him in your life. Realise that you matter to those in your life. God’s blessings to them comes through you; through everything you do, say and think.

Our women have a lot to learn from Mary and Elizabeth about how to make the home a place where God is loved and encountered. In the simple chores you do and your faithfulness to your marriage, your home can become God’s dwelling place among His people, a true haven of sweet charity, of fruitful and faithful love.

Filled with the Spirit

Many people, within and outside the Catholic Church, abhor the practice of giving honour and praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Scripture tells us that Mary was so filled with the Holy Spirit that her greeting filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit and cause the infant in her womb to leap with joy. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, calls Mary “blessed” [vv 43, 45]. The Blessed Virgin Mary, rejoicing in God her saviour, gives praise to the Father and prophesies that all generations will call her Blessed [v48]. During the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel, delivering God’s message, calls her “full of grace” [28] and told her that she had earned God’s favour [v30]. Any objections to these passages of scripture proves the point that Saint Paul makes when he said that it is only when we are filled with the Spirit can we say that Jesus is Lord. The Spirit inspired both Elizabeth to acknowledge God’s presence in the womb of Mary. The same Spirit must reside in you to enable you see that she is exceedingly blessed among God’s creatures.

Story Time

Here’s an inspiring story about a Protestant boy who became a Catholic priest later in life because of the Hail Mary, a prayer he heard from his Catholic friends. Initially prohibited by his mother from saying the prayer, he was told that it is a superstitious prayer of Catholics. He was given the Bible to read instead. But then he found the words of the prayer in Luke 1:28 and 42.

You have to truly understand your faith in order to lead others to knowledge of the true faith, just like the friends of this Protestant boy who recited the Hail Mary. If you do not understand why the Church honours the Blessed Virgin, you cannot hope to withstand non-Catholics polemics about giving her the undue honour which detracts from the glory of Christ.

Shifted Emphasis

People who do not understand how to properly honour Mary are afraid that she might take our attention off the Lord Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man. Mary does not take us away from the Lord; instead, she leads us to Him and tells us the right thing to do which is, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Her place is beside her Son who leads us to true happiness and peace in the unity of the undivided Trinity. We who call her mother are obeying the words of Christ to behold her as our mother and model of holiness (cf. Jn 19:26,27; Rev 12:17).

#55 ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT

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“… There was a woman whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head…” (Rev. 12: 1)

Introduction

There are several interpretations to the passage of Revelation 12:1. But one that stands out is the identification of the woman with Mary. Saint John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, had identified this woman in the last verse of the preceding chapter as the “Ark of the Covenant”. We know this because the division of the scriptures into chapters and verses is a later addition to the Bible. So when John wrote, he was describing this Ark which appeared in the heavenly temple. Mary is the New Testament (NT) fulfillment to the Ark of the Old Testament (OT). Mary is the new and greater fulfillment of what was prefigured by the Ark of the OT. What follows is a step by step comparison of the OT Ark with its NT counterpart and why Mary should be honoured as sinless and pure.

Striking Resemblance

The Ark of the Old Covenant was the holiest and most powerful article on Earth outside of God Himself. It was a sacred chest which contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments among other things (Deut 10:5). The Ark also carried and represented the spiritual presence of God on Earth. When God spoke to Moses, it was from between the two cherubim which were on the Ark (Num 7:89; Ex 25:21-22). Let us now look at how the Bible identifies Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.

The Ark of the Old Covenant contained the written Word of God (Deut. 10:5). The Virgin Mary contained the Word of God made flesh, Jesus (Jn. 1:1,14). Revelation 19:13 says, “And He [Jesus] was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, the Word of God.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of God (Ex 40:34 -35). The Virgin Mary was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of the Most High (Lk 1:35).

The tabernacle was constructed to contain the holy Ark (Ex 40:2-3). When God would come down upon the tabernacle and the Ark to speak to Moses, we read in Ex 40:34 – 35 that God’s glory cloud or visible presence (called the “Shekinah”) “overshadowed” it. The rare word which is used to describe how this unique presence of God would “overshadow ” the Ark is episkiasei in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint.

Exodus 40:34-35 – “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud overshadowed it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

The very same word “episkiasei” is used in the New Testament which is written in Greek to describe how the presence of God will “overshadow” the Virgin Mary. The Scriptures uses this language only about the Ark and about Mary.

Luke 1:35 – “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

The clear implication is that the presence of God overshadows Mary and comes down upon her – since she is the New Ark – just as it overshadowed the Ark of the Old Covenant. This reveals that Mary, while just a creature and infinitely less than God, is the new Ark. She has a unique connection to God, a unique holiness, sanctification and power.

Parallel Lines that Intersect

Consider the amazing parallels that Scripture gives us between what happened to the Ark of the Old Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 and what happened to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, in chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel. 2 Samuel 6 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Ark of the Old Covenant. Luke 1 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary.

2 Samuel 6:9 – “David feared the Lord that day and said, How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”

Luke 1:43 –”[Elizabeth said]: And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ”

Elizabeth says the same thing to Mary that David said about the Ark because Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. The only difference between the two statements is literally that “mother” is used where Ark was used. The Bible is telling us that the mother of the Lord  is the Ark. This is confirmed without any doubt as we carry the story further.

David leapt Before the Ark: 2 Samuel 6:16 – “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Saul´s daughter Michal looked down through the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord…”

The Infant (John the Baptist) leapt in the presence of Mary: Luke 1:41-44 – “And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit… For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

The Ark stayed for three months: 2 Samuel 6:11 – “ The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed Obededom and his whole house.”

Mary (the Ark) remained with Elizabeth for three months: Luke 1:56-57 – “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”

David set out to fetch the Ark from Judah: 2 Samuel 6:2 – “Then David and all the people who were with him set out for Baala of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God.”

This occurred when Mary ( the Ark) went to Judah: Luke 1:39-40 – “During those days Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”

Revelation of the Ark

The Book of Revelation also indicates that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant:

Revelation 11:19,12-1 – “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. [12:1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

The Bible was not written with any chapters or verses indicated. It was not until the 12th century that chapters and verses were added to the Bible. The author of Revelation, St. John, wrote what begins chapter 12 in one continuous stream immediately after what ends chapter 11. At the end of chapter 11, we read that the Ark of Jesus’ covenant was seen in Heaven. The very next verse is Revelation 12:1. Therefore, the words which end chapter 11 flows immediately into the words which begin chapter 12 without any interruption.

That means that the appearance of the Ark of Jesus’ covenant at the very end of chapter 11 is immediately explained by the vision of “the woman” clothed with the sun which begins chapter twelve, the very next verse (Rev. 12:1). This indicates that “the woman” clothed with the sun, who bore the Divine Person in her womb (the Virgin Mary), is the Ark of the New Testament.

The Ark contained the manna from the desert: Hebrews 9:4 – “…the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna , and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.”

Mary contained the manna from Heaven, Jesus: John 6:48-51 – “I am that bread of life…This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

There can be no doubt that the manna in the desert (Exodus 16) prefigured Jesus as the Bread of Life. Jesus makes a connection between the two in John chapter 6. He makes reference to the manna in the desert, and then says that His flesh is the true manna from Heaven. Well, the manna from the desert was placed inside the Ark of the Old Covenant. That prefigures Jesus Christ Himself being contained within Mary, His Mother.

In Hebrews 9:4, we also see that the rod of Aaron was placed within the Ark of the Old Covenant. In Numbers 17, we read that this rod budded to prove the true high-priest. The rod of Aaron then signified the true high-priest. In the New Testament, Jesus is described as the true high-priest.

Hebrews 3:1 – “ Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” Also see Hebrews 6:20, 9:11, and other passages all attest that Jesus is the true high-priest. The inescapable conclusion is that Aaron’s rod being placed within the Ark prefigured Jesus Christ, the true high-priest, being contained within Mary.

SINCE MARY IS THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT, THAT MEANS THAT SHE IS THE MOST SACRED THING ON EARTH OUTSIDE OF JESUS CHRIST

Holy So Holy

The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest thing on earth outside of the presence of God Himself. The Ark was contained in the tabernacle, within the holy of holies. The Ark’s presence is what made the holy of holies so sacred.

2 Chronicles 35:3 – “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build.”

The Ark was so holy that when the people of God followed it they had to keep a respectful distance.

Joshua 3:3-5 – “When you shall see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests of the race of Levi carrying it, rise up also, and follow them as they go before: And let there be between you and the ark the space of two thousand cubits: that you may see it afar off, and know which way you must go: for you have not gone this way before: and take care not to come near the ark .”

People who unlawfully touched the Ark were killed.

2 Samuel 6:6-7 – “Azor put forth his hand to the ark of God , and took hold of it: because the oxen kicked and made it lean aside. And the indignation of the Lord was enkindled against Azor, and he struck him for his rashness: and he died there before the ark of God.”

The men of Bethshemesh were killed because they had dared to look into the Ark.

1 Samuel 6:19 – “ And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men…”

We see how sacred God considered the object which was to come into close contact with His spiritual presence.

SINCE MARY IS THE NEW ARK, SHE HAD TO BE HOLY AND CREATED FREE FROM SIN

God gave the most precise specifications for the construction of the Ark. He ordered that it be made with the most pure gold (Ex 25:10-13,24).

It’s interesting that the Ark not only had to be overlaid with gold all around, but there is a specific reference to it having a “crown of gold round about.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant had a gold crown: Exodus 25:11 – “And thou… shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.”

The Virgin Mary (the New Ark) also has a crown: Apocalypse 12:1 – “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant had to be perfect and holy because it was the seat of God’s unique spiritual presence. God’s holiness could not be tarnished by contact with that which had defects. Likewise and to a greater degree, the Virgin Mary, as the new Ark and bearer of Jesus Christ, had to be created without sin and in a state of perfection.

She did not merely contain the spiritual presence of God, but Jesus Christ (God Himself). She did not merely contain the written word of God, but the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:1). Consequently, Mary must be perfect. She had to be free from all sin, ever-virgin and untouched by man.

If the Ark of the Old Covenant, which contained the written tables of the Law and was overshadowed by the spiritual presence of God, had to be overlaid with the most pure gold and had to be constructed according to the most precise specifications of God, how much greater is God’s “construction” of Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant? The fulfillment is always greater than the type. Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, must be and is greater than the Ark of the Old Covenant.

Just like the Ark of the Old Covenant, Mary must also have tremendous power over the Devil and God’s enemies. She must have a unique power of intercession with God, in bringing down His blessings and in aiding the people of God, just as the Ark of the Old Covenant did.

The Ark of the Old Covenant had awe-striking power. When it was taken by the Philistines, extraordinary things happened to them and to their false god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-5).

The Philistines began to be destroyed for having taken the Ark. This prompted them to return the Ark to their enemies, the Israelites.

1 Samuel 5:7 – “And the men of Azotus seeing this kind of plague, said: The ark of the God of Israel shall not stay with us : for his hand is heavy upon us, and upon Dagon our god.”

The waters of the Jordan were miraculously dried up by the Ark.

Josh 3:13-14 – “ [And the Lord said to Josue ]: And when the priests, that carry the ark of the Lord the God of the whole earth, shall set the soles of their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the waters that are beneath shall run down and go off: and those that come from above, shall stand together upon a heap. So the people went out of their tents, to pass over the Jordan: and the priests that carried the ark of the covenant went on before them… ”

Mary, the New Ark, has this power and even more; for the fulfillment is greater than the type, and the New Testament is greater than the Old. We are told that the angels fought for the woman against the dragon (Rev 12:7). As we learnt from previous articles, Mary “by her fair humility and holy life conquered (the devil) and beat down his strength”. For Alphonsus Ligouri, “Jesus and His Mother have overcome Lucifer.” And for Saint Bernard, “this proud spirit (the dragon) was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. She is our Queen and our Ark of refuge as she is for her Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

#54 LIKE SON LIKE MOTHER

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“…her offspring will crush your head and you will bite her offsprings’ heel.” (Gen 3:15)

Introduction

I mentioned earlier in this series of talks that there is a literal and spiritual meaning to the text of the Scriptures. And in many instances there are connections between the Old Testament and God’s self-revelation in Christ as presented in the New Testament. And since salvation history has often presented us with both male and female characters working together to bring about God’s redeeming work, we also see that some of the women in the Old Testament were figures pointing to Mary who is to bring the promised Messiah into the world. One of these women figures is Eve, whom the Book of Genesis describes as “the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20).

Saved by the Dame

Mary’s role in history makes no sense apart from ints context in salvation history; yet it is not incidental to God’s plan. God chose to make His redemptive act inconceivable without her. The Scriptures trace a consistent pattern from Creation through the Fall, Incarnation and Redemption, with her name woven into its rich tapestry. Mary was in God’s plan from the very beginning, chosen and foretold from the moment God created man and woman. In fact, the early Christians understood Mary and Jesus to be the reprise of God’s first creation. Saint Paul spoke of Adam as a type of Jesus (Rom 5:14) and of Jesus as the new Adam, or the “last Adam” (1Cor 15:21-22,45-49).

The early Christians considered the beginning of Genesis – with its story of creation and fall and its promise of redemption – to be christological (pointing to Christ) in its implication that they called it the Protoevangelium, or “First Gospel”. While this theme is explicit in Paul and the Church Fathers, it is implied throughout the New Testament. For example, like Adam, Jesus was tested in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46, Jn 18:1). Like Adam, Jesus was led to a “tree,” where he was stripped naked (Mt 27:31). Like Adam, He fell into the deep sleep of death, so that from His side would come forth the New Eve (Jn 19:26-35; 1Jn 5:6-8), His bride, the Church.

A similar connection can be drawn between Mary and Eve as we have done with Jesus and Adam. Eve disobeyed God and brought sin and death (Gen 3:1-6), Mary chose to be God’s handmaiden and brought Christ the author of New Life (Lk 1:38). Eve spoke to, believed and obeyed a fallen angel, the Serpent (Gen 3:4-6). Mary spoke to, believed and obeyed a good angel, Gabriel (Lk 1:26-38).  Eve is the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). Mary, as the Mother of Jesus, is the mother of all the living and even of life itself (Gal 4:4; Jn 1:4, 14:6; Mt 1:16). From the earliest days of the Church, these biblical parallels were recognized as identifications of Mary as the new Eve, just as Christ is the new Adam.

From Genesis to John

The motif of the New Adam is nowhere so artfully developed as in the Gospel according to Saint John. John does not work out the ideas as a commentator would. Instead, he tells the story of Jesus Christ. Yet he begins the story by echoing the most primeval story of all: the story of creation in Genesis.

This most obvious echo comes “in the beginning.” Both books, Genesis and John’s gospel, in fact, begin with these words. The book of Genesis sets out with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). John follows closely, telling us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” (Jn 1:1). In both cases, we are talking about a fresh start, a new creation.

The next echo comes soon afterward. In Genesis 1:3-5, we see that God created the light to shine in the darkness. In John 1:4-5, we see that the Word’s “life was the light of men” and it “shines in the darkness”. Genesis shows us, in the beginning, “the Spirit of God…moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). John, in turn, shows us the Spirit hovering above the waters of baptism (Jn 1:32-33). At that point, we begin to see the source of the new creation recounted by John. Material creation came about when God breathed His Spirit above the waters. The renewal of creation would come with the divine life given in the waters of baptism.

Seven Days

In the first two chapters of John’s gospel, he correlates the seven days of creation in Genesis, with the first seven days of Christ’s ministry. After the prologue (Jn 1:1-18), John’s story continues “the next day” (1:29) with the encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist. “The next day” (1:35), again, comes the story of the calling of the first disciiples. “The next day” (1:43), yet again, we find Jesus’ call of two more disciples. So, taking John’s first discussion of the Messiah as the first day, we now find ourselves on the fourth day. After this John introduces his next episode in stunning fashion, the story of the wedding feast at Cana, with the words, “On the third day.” He could not mean the third day from the beginning, since he already proceeded past that point in his narrative. He was more specifically referring to the third day from the fourth day, which brings us to the seventh day – and then John stops counting days.

We cannot help but notice the similarity. John’s story of the new creation takes place in seven days, just as the creation story in Genesis is completed on the sixth day and sanctified on the seventh, when God rests from His labour. The seventh day has come to be known as the Sabbath, the day of rest, the sign of the covenant (cf. Ex 31:16-17). We can be sure, then, that whatever happens on the seventhh day in John’s narrative will be significant.

Why Woman?

It was on the seventh day that Jesus, his disciples and his mother Mary went to the wedding feast in Cana. When the wine ran out, Mary pointed out to her Son, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3) and He calls her “Woman”. We have shown how this appellation was not a way of putting someone down but a word of respect and deference. But it is also indicative of something else. Jesus could have easily called Mary “Mama”, “Mother” but he chose to call her “Woman”. He will call her “Woman” again when he hangs dying on the cross. Jesus’ use of the word represents yet another echo of Genesis. “Woman” is the name Adam gives to Eve (Gen 2:23). Jesus, then, is addressing Mary as Eve to the New Adam. This heightens the significance of the wedding feast they are attending. Some may ask: “How can Mary be His bride if she is His mother?” We must consider Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming salvation of Israel:  “You shall no more be termed Forsaken…but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices oover the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa 62:4-5). A lot is suggested in these two verses:  Mary’s virginal motherhood, her miraculous conception, and her mystical marriage to God, who is at once her Father, her Spouse and her Son.

“Woman” redefines Mary’s relationship not only with Jesus but also with all believers. Like Eve, whom Genesis calls “mother of all the living,” Mary is mother to all who have new life in baptism. At Cana, then, the New Eve radically reverses the fatal decision of the first Eve. It was woman who led the old Adam to his first evil act in the garden. It was woman who led the New Adam to His first glorious work.

Victory is Hers

The figure of Eve reappears later in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation. There, in chapter 12, we encounter “a woman clothed with the sun” who confronts “the ancient serpent, who is called the devil” (vv. 1,9). These images hark back to Genesis, where Eve faces the demonic serpent in the garden of Eden and where God curses the serpent, promising to “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). The images in Revelation also point to a New Eve, one who gave birth to a “male child” who would “rule all the nations” (12:5). That child could only be Jesus; and so the woman could only be His mother, Mary. In Revelation, the ancient serpent attacks the New Eve because the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 is fresh in his memory. The New Eve, however, prevails over evil, unlike her long-ago type in the garden of Eden.

God says that there will be enmity – hostility, division, opposition – between the Devil and “the woman.” In the same context we read of the seed of the woman, and the victory which will be granted through the woman and her seed. In the Bible, a man’s children and descendants are spoken of as his seed. The seed of the woman, therefore, is something unique. It refers to a child which is produced by a woman alone. This obviously refers to the virginal conception and birth from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother. The “seed” of the woman refers to Jesus Christ. The woman herein identified as having opposition or enmity with the serpent is clearly Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The woman is not Eve, who gave in to the serpent. It is Mary.

When the Saints Echo

Commenting on the passage where God foretells the defeat of the serpent, St Alphonsus Ligouri says, “Who could this woman be but Mary, who by her fair humility and holy life always conquered him and beat down his strength?” The statement “I will place enmity” and not “I place enmity…” indicates that the woman is someone else other than Eve. Some argue if the offspring referred to is the Woman (Mary) or her Son (Jesus). Ligouri adds that, “it is certain that either the Son by means of the Mother, or the Mother by means of the Son, has overcome Lucifer.” Saint Bernard remarks that “this proud spirit was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. Beaten down and trampled under the feet of Mary, he endures a wretched slavery.” Saint Bruno says, “that Eve was the cause of death” by allowing herself to be overcome by the serpent. But Mary, by conquering the devil, “restored life to us.”

These saints were following a long tradition of the Church about Mary’s role in salvation history which we also see in Saint Irenaeus, the second century bishop of Lyons. For Irenaeus, this teaching about Mary fits into what he called creation’s recapitulation in Christ. Building on Saint Paul, he wrote that when Christ “became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in Himself the long history of humanity, summing up and giving us salvation in order that we might receive again in Christ Jesus what we had lost in Adam – that is the image and likeness of God”. Mary has an important place as the New Eve in this recapitulation. “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief”. Elsewhere he stated, “If the former (Eve) disobeyed  God, the latter (Mary) was persuaded  to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. We are quick to add that whatever feat Mary achieved, she did by the power of the Trinity to whom she is always united as Daughter, Spouse and Mother. We must come to her to learn how to overcome the evil one.

The Immaculate one

God says that He will put enmity or opposition between the serpent and the woman. As a result, Mary must be completely preserved from sin . For when one sins, one does not have opposition to the Devil, but rather gives in to the Devil. The only way the woman could have complete and definitive opposition to the serpent is by preservation from sin and from the sin of Adam. The fact that Mary is this “woman,” and therefore completely free from the domination of sin and the Devil, is the reason that Jesus calls Mary “woman” throughout the New Testament.

The saints once more encourage us to call upon her. Saint Albert the Great remarks that Mary seems to say, “My children fly to me; cast your eyes on me and be of good heart; for as I am your defender, victory is assured to you.” St Bernadine of Sienna adds that She is even the Queen of hell since she tames and crushes them and brings them to submission. For this reason the sacred Canticle which we call the Catena refers to Mary as “terrible as an army set in battle array”. Only by aligning ourselves with her can we win the battle against the forces of evil.

#53 LOVING MOTHERHOOD

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“…Mother behold your son, son behold your mother.” (Jn 19:26,27)

Introduction

Motherhood is a difficult idea to grapple with. This is because mothers are by nature and definition relational. They are considered mothers only in their relationship with their children. Nature keeps mother and child so close as to be almost indistinct as individuals through the first nine or so months of life. Their bodies are made for each other. During pregnancy, they share the same food, blood and oxygen. After birth, nature places the child at the mother’s breast for nourishment. The newborn’s eyes can see only far enough to make eye contact with the mother. The newborn’s ears can clearly hear the beating of the mother’s heart and the high tones of the female voice. Nature has even made a woman’s skin smoother than her husband’s, the better to nestle with the sensitive skin of a baby. The mother, body and soul, points beyond herself, to her child. Yet as close as nature keeps us to our mothers, they remain mysterious to their children. In the words of G.K. Chesterton “A thing can sometimes be too close to be seen.”

In His Majesty’s Service

As the Mother of God, Mary is the mother par excellence. So, as all mothers are elusive, she will be more so. As all mothers give of themselves, she will give even more. As all mothers point beyond themselves, Mary will to a much greater degree. A true mother, Mary considers none of her glories her own. After all, she points out, she is only doing God’s bidding: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Even when she recognizes her superior gifts, she recognizes that they are gifts: “All generations shall call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). For her part Mary’s own soul “magnifies” not herself but “the Lord” (Lk 1:46). Since Mary always deflects attention away from herself, we must look to the One she points us to in order to understand her better.

From the Top

To understand the Mother of God, we must begin with God. All Marian devotion must begin with solid theology and a firm faith based on the Creed. All that Mary does, and all that she is, flows from her relationship with God and her cooperation with His divine plan. She is His mother. She is His spouse. She is His daughter. She is His handmaid. This is the truth as shocking as it may sound.

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reveals the name of God. He commands His disciples to baptise “in the name” of the Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Notice that Jesus speaks of these as a single name. A person’s name is equivalent to their identity. God’s name reveals who God is from all eternity. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Fatherhood and sonship are not earthly familial roles attributed to God. Rather, the earthly roles of father and son are living metaphors for something divine and eternal. God Himself is a communion of persons. Saint John Paul II expressed this well: “God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family which is love.” From eternity, God alone possesses the essential attributes of a family, and the Trinity alone possesses them in their perfection. Earthly households have these attributes but imperfectly.

Down to Earth

God’s transcendence does not leave creation completely without a clue. Creation tells us something about its creator the same way a work of art reveals something of the character of the artist. So we can learn more about God by observing what He does. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that, “God’s work reveals who He is in Himself; the mystery of His inmost being enlightens our understanding of all His works” (#236). As we pointed out in an earlier post, God reveals Himself in the pages of the New Testament (NT) but He also left “traces…in His revelation throughout the Old Testament (OT)” (CCC #237). Saint Augustine tells us that the New Testament is concealed in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New. All of history was the world’s preparation for the moment when the Word was made flesh, when God became a human child in the womb of a young virgin from Nazareth.

When we read the Scriptures, we must do so on two levels at once. We read it in a literal sense  and also in a spiritual sense as we seek what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us through the words

Read Between the Lines

When we read through Scripture, we see God revealing Himself and His will to us. The Scripture is given “for our salvation” (Dei Verbum, #11). When we read the Scriptures, we must do so on two levels at once. We read it in a literal sense  and also in a spiritual sense as we seek what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us through the words (CCC #115-19). This is the way Jesus read the scriptures. He referred to Jonah (Mt 12:39), Solomon (Mt 12:42), the temple (Jn 2:19) and the bronze serpent (Jn 3:14) as “signs that prefigured Him. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus instructed his disciples on the road to Emmaus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures” (Lk 24:27). After this spiritual reading of the OT, we are told that the disciples’ hearts burned within them. Why did this happen? It is because God had properly laid the blocks of persons and institutions in history in such a way that they would best prepare us for the coming of Christ and the glories of His kingdom.

Type, Type, Typology

What Jesus did with the personages and events he pointed out to the disciples is what we call “types”. A type is a real person, place, thing or event in the OT that foreshadows something greater in the NT. The study of Christ’s foreshadowing in the OT is what we call “typology”. Typology unveils more than the person of Christ; it also tells us about heaven, the Church, the Apostles, the Eucharist, the places of Jesus’ birth and death and the person of Jesus’ mother.

From the first Christians we learn that the Jerusalem temple foreshadowed the heavenly dwelling of the saints in glory (2 Cor 5:1-2; Rev 12:9-22); Israel prefigures the Church (Gal 6:16); the twelve OT patriarchs prefigure the twelve New Covenant Apostles (Lk 22:30); and that the ark of the covenant was a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Rev 11:19; 12:1-6, 13-17). There are other types implicitly discussed in the NT. Many are implicit and obvious. Marian types, for instance, abound in the OT. She is prefigured in Eve, the mother of all the living; in Sarah, the wife of Abraham who conceived a child miraculously; in the queen mother of Israel’s monarch who interceded with the king on behalf of the people of the land; and in many other places in other ways. So just as the events and the persons of the OT find their fulfilment in Jesus, so too other persons associated with salvation history point to Mary His mother.

From Old to New Covenant

God fulfilled His mission of saving humanity in Christ. He established a new covenant to replace the old one He made with Israel. A covenant is a sacred kinship bond based on a solemn oath that brings someone into a family relationship with another person or tribe. God made a series of covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. They all failed because these men were unfaithful and sinful. Scriptures lead us to believe that only God keeps His covenant promises (Deut 7:9; Neh 1:5). How then could humanity fulfil their end of a covenant in a way that would last forever? This would require a man to be sinless and as constant as God. God became man in Jesus Christ, and He established the covenant by which we become part of his family: the family of God.

The new covenant in Christ’s blood (Lk 22:20) is more than mere fellowship with God. “God in His deepest mystery is a family.” God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and Christians are drawn up into the life of that family. In baptism, we are identified with Christ and baptised in the Trinitarian name of God; we take on His family name, and thus become sons and daughters in the Son. We are taken up into the very life of the Trinity, where we may live in love forever.

St Alphonsus Liguori tells us that “By reconciling us with God Jesus made Himself the Father of souls in the law of grace”. And if Jesus is Father of souls, Mary is their mother, “For she, by giving us Jesus, gave us true life. And by offering the life of her Son on Mount Calvary for our salvation, she brought us forth to the life of grace.

Behold Your Mother

God’s covenant family is perfect, lacking nothing. The Church looks to God as Father, Jesus as Brother and heaven as home. What’s missing here? In truth, nothing. But every family needs a mother; only Christ could choose His own, and He chose Mary providentially for His entire covenantal family. Now everything He has He shares with us. His divine life is ours; His home is our home; His father is our Father; His brothers are our brothers; and His mother is our mother too. This is why as He hung on the cross, he looked down and saw His mother and the disciple he loved (who represents all his faithful followers) standing there. Then he gave us His parting gift, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:26,27). St Alphonsus Liguori tells us that “By reconciling us with God Jesus made Himself the Father of souls in the law of grace”. And if Jesus is Father of souls, Mary is their mother, “For she, by giving us Jesus, gave us true life. And by offering the life of her Son on Mount Calvary for our salvation, she brought us forth to the life of grace.” The familial ties that binds Jesus and Mary made them co-sufferer in the Passion. St Augustine tells us, “The cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified.” This makes sense when we reflect on the words of St Paul when he says, “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:16,17 New American Bible). Mary was the first to experience the pain of being united with Christ. Our incorporation into God’s household means that we share his glory only after we have experienced His passion. Jesus provides us with a model in His Mother when he says, “Behold your Mother”.

A House is not a Home

A family is incomplete without a loving mother. Scott Hahn says that the breakaway Christian churches that diminish Mary’s role inevitably end up feeling like a bachelor’s apartment: masculine to a fault; orderly but not homely; functional and productive – but with little sense of beauty and poetry. Yet all of scriptures, all the types, all creation and our deepest human needs tell us that no family should be that way – and certainly not the covenant family of God. The apostles knew this, and that is why they were gathered along with Mary in Jerusalem at Pentecost. The early generations of Christians knew that. That is why they painted her image in their catacombs and dedicated their churches to her. A true mother, she is usually portrayed pointing to her Son but looking out toward the viewers, her other children. She cared for her Son even as He has commended us to her care and she lovingly draws us together to Him.

 

#52 COMPASSIONATE MOTHER

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“…Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5)

Introduction

I believe that another reason we are often confused about devotion to Mary is because we have a poor understanding of Family and the role of a Mother in the household. We call God “Father”. And Christ is our brother because he taught us to pray, “Our Father” (Mt 6:9). He also calls each of us to behold our mother (Jn 19:27). If we see our relationship with God and the saints as a family affair, we will come to appreciate our faith in God more deeply and how much he wants us to be a part of his divine household.

Adventure Time

Ideas about Mary fill the pages of Scripture from the beginning of the first book through to the end of the last. She was there, in God’s plan, from the beginning of time, just as the apostles were, and the Church, and the Saviour, and she will be there at the moment everything is fulfilled. Still her motherhood is a discovery waiting to be made.

In Scripture, there are only a handful of passages referring to motherhood, matriarchy and maternity. This contrasts with the hundreds of citations about fatherhood, patriachy and paternity. What is wrong with this picture? Perhaps motherhood is so little understood and appreciated because mothers are so close to us. Infants, for example, do not even understand that Mother is a separate entity until they are several months old. Some researchers say that children don’t fully come to this realisation until they are weaned. It is admissible that we may never be able to distance ourselves psychically from our mothers, except of course, you don’t have a first hand experience of a mother. But I doubt that very much. We shall speak about motherhood in details later. For now, we must catch up on one motherly trait that we see in Mary – loving concern for the welfare of others.

Oh Woman!

The stage is set for Jesus’ first public sign. He arrives at the wedding feast with His mother and His disciples. A wedding celebration, in the Jewish culture of the time, normally lasted about a week. Yet we find, at this wedding, that the wine ran out very early. At which point, Jesus’ mother points out the obvious to her Son: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). It is a simple statement of fact. But Jesus seems to respond in a way that is far out of proportion to His mother’s simple observation. “O woman,” he says, “what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).

In order to understand Jesus’ seeming overreaction, we need to understand the phrase “what have you to do with me?” Bear in mind that after the brief chit-chat between them, Jesus fulfills the request He infers from Mary’s observation. If He intended to reproach her, he surely would not have followed His reproach by complying with her request. A commentary note in the New American Bible on this verse tells us that “Woman” is a polite and normal form of address and not a way of putting someone down.

Some people make a case about Jesus’ choice of words. “What have you to do with me?” It has two connotations. It is a Hebrew expression of denial of common interest (cf. Hosea 14:8,9; 2Kg 3:13). The expression is also used to express permissiveness. The expression was also used by a man possessed by a demon to address Jesuus and acknowledge his authority over the man and the demon. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” “I beseech you, do not torment me,” he continues, thereby affirming that he must carry out whatever Jesus commands (Lk 8:28; Mk 5:7).

At Cana Jesus defers to His mother, though she never commands Him. She, in turn, merely tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you”. Some saints and spiritual writers see in Mary’s action at the Wedding in Cana, a display of a high degree of charity. “So great was Mary’s charity when on earth,” Saint Alphonsus Ligouri says, “that she succoured the needy without even being asked; as was the case at the marriage feast of Cana when she told her Son that family’s distress: ‘They have not wine’”. Since goodness is always worthy of emulation, we should imitate Mary’s loving concern for others.

Ours for the Asking

John the Evangelist as well as the spiritual writers are pointing to the fact that this woman knows the way to her son’s heart. And we should take advantage of it. Mary for her part is not presumptuous of her Son’s kindly nature and tells us to approach him after she has alerted him to our request. Mary is clearly not our mediatrix with God the Father but she is our mediatrix with her Son. It will be presumptuous of us to think that we can ask Jesus for anything by our own strength. Jesus is God and the prayer of a sinner is an abomination before God (Prov 15:8). You stand a better chance brokering a deal with his mother, who incidentally is your mother too. Anyone who grew up in a home knows that a mother has a special key that unlocks the heart of any member of the family.

The functional home, with a Father, Mother and children (and even extended family members), is the closest analogy we have to the inner dynamism of our relationship to God and the saints (cf. Eph 2:19). God is our Father, Jesus is our Big Brother and Mary is our Mother. Her place in God’s household is undeniable.  I like to quote Scott Hahn as a way of closing this piece. He says that, “The breakaway Christian churches that diminish Mary’s role inevitably end up feeling like a bachelor’s apartment: masculine to a fault; orderly but not homey; functional and productive—but with little sense of beauty and poetry.”

#51 HONOUR MARY

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WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HONOUR THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY?

“From now on all generation will call me blessed.” (Lk 1:48)

Introduction

Throughout the centuries, the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, has certainly been a source of much discussion and controversy. I believe, however, that the failure to recognize her importance in salvation history is due, in great part, to misunderstanding and failure on the part of many to search the Scriptures and focus on some very important, inspired words as, for example, those recorded in Luke’s gospel (Lk 1:46-55). It is here that we find the “Magnificat” as spoken by Mary on the occasion of her visit to Elizabeth, her cousin. Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist, who became the forerunner or precursor of Jesus Christ Himself.

Charges or accusations have been levelled against Catholics for thinking or believing that Mary is some kind of goddess because of all the devotion or attention they direct to her. Mention is often made of all the shrines, the novenas, the Rosary and the apparitions involving the Virgin Mary. In fact, to put it even more clearly, Catholics are often accused of paying more attention to Mary than they do to Christ, her Son. The truth is that Catholic devotion to Mary, as do all the saints, points to Christ.

Communion with the Saints

An article of the Catholic faith that buttresses this point is the article in the Apostles’ Creed that says, “We believe in the Communion of Saints”. This article affirms our faith in the resurrection of Christ and the truth that all the faithful who have done the will of God while on earth are united to Him in heaven (cf. 1Jn 3:2). We also believe that since God is life and light, in Him the saints are alive and see what God sees. Psalm 36:9 tells us “in you is the source of life, by your light we see the light” (NJB). The same article also affirms that we share a special connection with them. So it is wrong to say that those in heaven are unconcerned about what happens on earth. The numerous apparitions of Mary, Angels and some of the saints to people on earth are evidences to the contrary. The saints are aware of our plights on earth. And since they know and see in their union with God, they are able to pray for us and bring heavenly messages to us. This also means that our honour of the Saints is not out of place because whatever honour we show them, we invariably show to God. We will explain this in details shortly. It is worthy of note that it is in the Scriptures that the first Christians honoured Mary as the “Mother of our Lord”.

 The Magnificat

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,

 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

 50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.

 51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,

 52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree;

 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” (Luke 1:46-55 RSV)

When we carefully study the beautiful prayer that we call the “Magnificat”, Mary’s Canitcle, we find many answers to those who object to honouring Mary. In the very first verse Mary says her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her Saviour. If Mary considers God her Saviour, that means she understood that she had to be saved, and in no way did she ever imply that she was equal to God or did not need His help.

As one continues to read, we hear her saying that “He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His Name”. She gives all the credit to God. Others who have not understood the role of Mary through the years would do well to read the closing lines of the Magnificat where she says that “henceforth, from now on all generations will call me blessed”. That is why Catholics call her the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the current generation, we understand that it is fitting that we look upon her as special because God Himself considers her special. To be selected from all women to bring the Son of God into the world certainly is a great honour.

Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that (s)he who loves God loves all that God loves. The honour we give to Mary reflects our love for God.

Mother Of God

The Church’s position on devotion to Mary is based on Scripture and on the fact that God chose her to be the mother of His Son. That, incidentally, is the answer to the problem or difficulty that some people have with Catholics calling Mary the Mother of God. Mary is not the mother of the Triune God. She is the mother of Jesus who is true God and true Man. Since Jesus is both human and divine, we ask; “who was His mother”? The answer is obvious. Hence, the title “Mother of God”. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth called Mary, “the Mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43). Interestingly, Saint Paul tells us that no one can say that Jesus is Lord unless by the power of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:3). In the same way, only the Spirit could have revealed to Elizabeth that Mary is the Mother of the Lord (Lord, “Adonai” in Hebrew is another word for “God”).

Work of Art

Picture yourself in an art gallery. When you praise a work of art as the best in a gallery filled with paintings, and the artist is standing right there. The artist is not going to be offended or jealous. Rather, he will be delighted because in praising the painting, you are actually praising him. This is simply because that painting is his creation, the result of long, hard work. We honour and love our parents or our neighbours; no one frowns at this. In doing so we are not taking anything away from God, rather, in honouring them we honour God because they are His creatures. The Prophet Isaiah uses this analogy when he says that, “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands” (Isa 64:7 New American Bible). Paul says it in even clearer terms, “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life” (Eph 2:10 New Jerusalem Bible). In the same way, when we honour Mary, we are honouring God her Creator.

To Whom Honour is Due

To honour someone is to show great respect or esteem for their person. Honour is due in different degree to different people. This is true whether we are talking about God, the Virgin Mary, the Saints, our parents or neighbours. The honour due only to God is what we call Latria in Latin. This is translated in English as “worship” or “adoration”. The honour due to the saints and people we admire, revere and respect is called Dulia in Latin. But we know that among God’s creatures none comes close to the one who gave birth to Jesus Christ who is true God and true man. The Blessed Virgin Mary herself. To her is reserved a special kind of honour that is neither latria nor dulia. The honour we show to Mary is called Hyper-dulia. The honour we show to her does not detract from the worship we offer to God. In loving her, as God’s child, we are loving God Himself (cf. Lk 9:48).

It’s all Love

You cannot claim to love of God and choose to disrespect your neighbour (1Jn 4:11). They go together just like the head and tail of a coin. The love of God and love of neighbour is the greatest of all the commandments (cf. Lk 10:27). Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that the reason for this is that he who loves God loves all that God loves. The honour we give to Mary reflects our love for God. Conversely, the disrespect we show to Mary shows our disrespect for God who first honoured her through the greeting of the angel Gabriel (Lk 1:28). The disrespect is even more grevious since Mary is the Mother of God. (We shall highlight the implications of this in the next article.)