Ecce Mater Tua

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Thirty–Fourth Wednesday of the Year II

Apocalypse 15:1–4
Psalm 97:1, 2–3ab, 7–8, 9 (R. Apocalypse 15:3b)
John 19:5b–27

The Heart in Pilgrimage

Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia. Where Peter is, there is the Church. It follows then that when Peter is in pilgrimage, the Church is in pilgrimage with him. Each of us is capable of making the pilgrimage of the heart. The psalmist says, “Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the highways to Zion” (Ps 83:5).

The Domus Mariae

This morning Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Sacred Mysteries in an open space adjacent to the Domus Mariae, the Holy House of Mary near Ephesus. The Gospel at the Holy Father’s Mass was from the nineteenth chapter of Saint John: “Woman, behold thy son. . . . Behold thy mother.”

Mother of Unity

In his homily the Holy Father recalled the place of the Mother of Jesus in economy of salvation, her unique place in the household of God. “The Virgin Mary,” he said, “the Mother of Christ and of the Church, is the Mother of that mystery of unity which Christ and the Church inseparably signify and build up, in the world and throughout history.” The Virgin Mary is the Mother of Unity. After the Ascension of her Son, the unity of the infant Church was the chief concern of her maternal heart. The Mother of Christ is entirely at the service of the unity of His Mystical Body in all its manifestations. Just as a family disintegrates in the absence of the mother, so too do the children of the Church splinter into factions when Mary, the Mother of the Whole Christ, is not at the heart of their experience.

Marian Fecundity

The disintegration and sterility that we all experience at different moments can be remedied by giving to the Blessed Virgin Mary the place that is hers in the plan of God. This is especially true of the life of a monastery. Monasteries devoted to the Virgin Mother of God flourish; they participate in her supernatural fecundity. The earliest hermits of Mount Carmel honoured Mary as their Abbess; the first Cistercians called her Domina Nostra, Our Lady; and when Mother Mechthilde de Bar established the Benedictines of the Most Holy Sacrament in seventeenth century France, she decreed that the Virgin Mary would be Abbess in perpetuity of the monastery. Where the Virgin Mother is not acknowledged corporately, and where her God–given role is minimized, sterility and division gain the upper hand.

John Took Her To His Own

This is also true at a more personal level. When one feels that one’s life is falling apart, that one’s energies are divided, or that one is losing one’s focus on “the one thing necessary” (Lk 10:42), it is time to turn to Mary. It is time to obey the word of Jesus Crucified, “Behold thy mother” (Jn 19:26). How did the Beloved Disciple obey that word? Saint John himself tells us that, “from that hour, the disciple took her to his own” (Jn 19:27). He “took her to his own” — that means that he opened to Mary his home, his heart, and his humble quotidian in all its details.

The Hidden Life at Ephesus

Domus Mariae, the little stone house on a hill near Ephesus, that has become for Christians and Muslims alike a place of pilgrimage, holds a special significance for us. It is, even after two thousand years, the abiding sign of the Beloved Disciple’s obedience to the testament of Jesus Crucified. It was the will of the Father that the Blessed Virgin Mary should live the hidden life, not only with her Son Jesus in the holy house of Nazareth, but also with her adopted son John in the holy house of Ephesus. Theirs was a life of silence, of prayer, and of work. Theirs was a Eucharistic life marked by the remembrance of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus in obedience to his commandment, “Do this in commemoration of me” (Lk 22:19).

Open to Mary

One cannot claim to be “of Jesus Crucified” without taking to heart His most precious testament, the gift of His Mother. Imitate the obedience of Saint John. Open your heart, your home, and every hour of the day and night to the presence of Mary. She will take what is broken and make it whole. By her intercession she will fill every void with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Source of all fecundity. Open the door of your heart, the door of your home, the door of your inmost life to Mary. And, full of confidence, wait upon the hour of God.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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