Blessed Virgin Mary: September 2008 Archives

Our Lady of Mercy

| | Comments (1)

la_merced.jpg

Marian Orders and Institutes

Our Blessed Lady is at the origin of any number of Orders, religious institutes, and monasteries. Very often she appeared, entrusting a founder or foundress with a particular mission, with a rule of life to foster that mission and, sometimes, with a distinctive habit. Among the many institutes established by an inspiration from the Mother of God, and with her help, are the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel; the Cistercians who, in the middle ages, were called the Monks of Mary; the Olivetan Benedictines; the Bridgettines; the Servites; and the Order of Our Lady of Ransom or Mercedarians. The latter keep today as their patronal feast.

Saint Peter Nolasco and the Mercedarians

It is related that, in the early thirteenth century while much of Spain lay under the domination of the Saracens, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Peter Nolasco, encouraging him to found an Order for the purpose of redeeming Christians held in brutal slavery by the infidels. The brethren of the new Order, in addition to the three vows of religion taken by other mendicants, bound themselves by a fourth vow to give themselves in pawn to the infidels, if necessary, to obtain the liberation of Christians from slavery.

Catherine McCauley and the Religious Sisters of Mercy

On September 24, 1827, Mother Mary Catherine McCauley opened her House of Mercy on Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland. The Religious Sisters of Mercy, vowed to the service of the poor, the sick, and the ignorant, placed themselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Mercy.

RSMs in Choir.jpg

In addition to the practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, Mother McCauley's Sisters of Mercy chanted the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary in choir and, on solemn occasions, donned the ample white cloak associated with the Order of Carmel, as sign of their devotion to Our Lady and of the Institute's spiritual affiliation with the Carmelite Fathers of Saint Teresa's Church in Dublin. The prior of the Carmelites in Clarendon Street was, in effect, the ecclesiastical superior of Mother McCauley's Convent of Mercy. The Religious Sisters of Mercy also keep September 24th as their patronal feast.

The Collect for today's feast is an effective prayer for deliverance from bondage to sin:

Deus, qui per gloriosissimam Filii tui Matrem,
ad liberandos Christi fideles a potestate paganorum,
nova Ecclesiam tuam prole amplificare dignatus es:
praesta, quaesumus,;
ut quam pie veneramur tanti operis institutricem,
eius pariter meritis et intercessione,
a peccatis omnibus et captivitate daemonis liberemur.

O God, who for the deliverance of Christians
from the power of the heathen,
wast pleased through the most glorious Mother of Thy Son
to enrich Thy Church with a new family,
we pray Thee grant that we,
who devoutly venerate her as the foundress of this great work,
may likewise be delivered by her merits and intercession
from all our sins and from bondage to the power of hell.

Le sourire de la Vierge

| | Comments (0)

lourdes_vierge_grotte.jpg

It will probably take us until this coming December 8th to ponder all that the Holy Father said and did during his apostolic journey to France and, especially, to Lourdes. Here is the magnificent homily he delivered at Holy Mass at September 15th, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on . . . Our Lady's smile. The subtitles in boldface are my own.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Esplanade in front of the Basilica of Notre-Dame du Rosaire, Lourdes
Monday, 15 September 2008

Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear Friends who are sick, dear carers and helpers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Transfixion of the Mother's Heart

Yesterday we celebrated the Cross of Christ, the instrument of our salvation, which reveals the mercy of our God in all its fullness. The Cross is truly the place where God's compassion for our world is perfectly manifested. Today, as we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we contemplate Mary sharing her Son's compassion for sinners. As Saint Bernard declares, the Mother of Christ entered into the Passion of her Son through her compassion (cf. Homily for Sunday in the Octave of the Assumption). At the foot of the Cross, the prophecy of Simeon is fulfilled: her mother's heart is pierced through (cf. Lk 2:35) by the torment inflicted on the Innocent One born of her flesh. Just as Jesus cried (cf. Jn 11:35), so too Mary certainly cried over the tortured body of her Son. Her self-restraint, however, prevents us from plumbing the depths of her grief; the full extent of her suffering is merely suggested by the traditional symbol of the seven swords. As in the case of her Son Jesus, one might say that she too was led to perfection through this suffering (cf. Heb 2:10), so as to make her capable of receiving the new spiritual mission that her Son entrusts to her immediately before "giving up his spirit" (cf. Jn 19:30): that of becoming the mother of Christ in his members. In that hour, through the figure of the beloved disciple, Jesus presents each of his disciples to his Mother when he says to her: Behold your Son (cf. Jn 19:26-27).

She Smiles Upon All Her Children

Today Mary dwells in the joy and the glory of the Resurrection. The tears shed at the foot of the Cross have been transformed into a smile which nothing can wipe away, even as her maternal compassion towards us remains unchanged. The intervention of the Virgin Mary in offering succour throughout history testifies to this, and does not cease to call forth, in the people of God, an unshakable confidence in her: the Memorare prayer expresses this sentiment very well. Mary loves each of her children, giving particular attention to those who, like her Son at the hour of his Passion, are prey to suffering; she loves them quite simply because they are her children, according to the will of Christ on the Cross.

Seeking the Smile of the Virgin Mary

The psalmist, seeing from afar this maternal bond which unites the Mother of Christ with the people of faith, prophesies regarding the Virgin Mary that "the richest of the people ... will seek your smile" (Ps 44:13). In this way, prompted by the inspired word of Scripture, Christians have always sought the smile of Our Lady, this smile which medieval artists were able to represent with such marvellous skill and to show to advantage. This smile of Mary is for all; but it is directed quite particularly to those who suffer, so that they can find comfort and solace therein. To seek Mary's smile is not an act of devotional or outmoded sentimentality, but rather the proper expression of the living and profoundly human relationship which binds us to her whom Christ gave us as our Mother.

Vierge sourire Abbéville.jpg

Contemplating the Smile of the Virgin

To wish to contemplate this smile of the Virgin, does not mean letting oneself be led by an uncontrolled imagination. Scripture itself discloses it to us through the lips of Mary when she sings the Magnificat: "My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour" (Lk 1:46-47). When the Virgin Mary gives thanks to the Lord, she calls us to witness. Mary shares, as if by anticipation, with us, her future children, the joy that dwells in her heart, so that it can become ours. Every time we recite the Magnificat, we become witnesses of her smile. Here in Lourdes, in the course of the apparition of Wednesday 3 March 1858, Bernadette contemplated this smile of Mary in a most particular way. It was the first response that the Beautiful Lady gave to the young visionary who wanted to know who she was. Before introducing herself, some days later, as "the Immaculate Conception", Mary first taught Bernadette to know her smile, this being the most appropriate point of entry into the revelation of her mystery.

Turn Towards Mary

In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures, looking down on us, is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity which never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God's tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope. Unfortunately we know only too well: the endurance of suffering can upset life's most stable equilibrium; it can shake the firmest foundations of confidence, and sometimes even leads people to despair of the meaning and value of life. There are struggles that we cannot sustain alone, without the help of divine grace. When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence: we seek then the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but also the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. Who could be more intimate to us than Christ and his holy Mother, the Immaculate One? More than any others, they are capable of understanding us and grasping how hard we have to fight against evil and suffering. The Letter to the Hebrews says of Christ that he "is not unable to sympathize with our weaknesses; for in every respect he has been tempted as we are" (cf. Heb 4:15). I would like to say, humbly, to those who suffer and to those who struggle and are tempted to turn their backs on life: turn towards Mary! Within the smile of the Virgin lies mysteriously hidden the strength to fight against sickness and for life. With her, equally, is found the grace to accept without fear or bitterness to leave this world at the hour chosen by God.

dom_chautard.jpg

Gaze Frequently Into the Eyes of the Virgin Mary

How true was the insight of that great French spiritual writer, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, who in L' âme de tout apostolat, proposed to the devout Christian to gaze frequently "into the eyes of the Virgin Mary"! Yes, to seek the smile of the Virgin Mary is not a pious infantilism, it is the aspiration, as Psalm 44 says, of those who are "the richest of the people" (verse 13). "The richest", that is to say, in the order of faith, those who have attained the highest degree of spiritual maturity and know precisely how to acknowledge their weakness and their poverty before God. In the very simple manifestation of tenderness that we call a smile, we grasp that our sole wealth is the love God bears us, which passes through the heart of her who became our Mother. To seek this smile, is first of all to have grasped the gratuitousness of love; it is also to be able to elicit this smile through our efforts to live according to the word of her Beloved Son, just as a child seeks to elicit its mother's smile by doing what pleases her. And we know what pleases Mary, thanks to the words she spoke to the servants at Cana: "Do whatever he tells you" (cf. Jn 2:5).

Maria, Fons Amoris

Mary's smile is a spring of living water. "He who believes in me", says Jesus, "out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn 7:38). Mary is the one who believed and, from her womb, rivers of living water have flowed forth to irrigate human history. The spring that Mary pointed out to Bernadette here in Lourdes is the humble sign of this spiritual reality. From her believing heart, from her maternal heart, flows living water which purifies and heals. By immersing themselves in the baths at Lourdes, so many people have discovered and experienced the gentle maternal love of the Virgin Mary, becoming attached to her in order to bind themselves more closely to the Lord! In the liturgical sequence of this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mary is honoured with the title of Fons amoris, "fount of love". From Mary's heart, there springs up a gratuitous love which calls forth a response of filial love, called to ever greater refinement. Like every mother, and better than every mother, Mary is the teacher of love. That is why so many sick people come here to Lourdes, to quench their thirst at the "spring of love" and to let themselves be led to the sole source of salvation, her son Jesus the Saviour.

Suffering and Self-Offering With Christ

Christ imparts his salvation by means of the sacraments, and especially in the case of those suffering from sickness or disability, by means of the grace of the sacrament of the sick. For each individual, suffering is always something alien. It can never be tamed. That is why it is hard to bear, and harder still - as certain great witnesses of Christ's holiness have done - to welcome it as a significant element in our vocation, or to accept, as Bernadette expressed it, to "suffer everything in silence in order to please Jesus". To be able to say that, it is necessary to have travelled a long way already in union with Jesus. Here and now, though, it is possible to entrust oneself to God's mercy, as manifested through the grace of the sacrament of the sick. Bernadette herself, in the course of a life that was often marked by sickness, received this sacrament four times. The grace of this sacrament consists in welcoming Christ the healer into ourselves. However, Christ is not a healer in the manner of the world. In order to heal us, he does not remain outside the suffering that is experienced; he eases it by coming to dwell within the one stricken by illness, to bear it and live it with him. Christ's presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces. Man no longer bears his burden alone: as a suffering member of Christ, he is conformed to Christ in his self-offering to the Father, and he participates, in him, in the coming to birth of the new creation.

The Sweet Yoke of Christ

Without the Lord's help, the yoke of sickness and suffering weighs down on us cruelly. By receiving the sacrament of the sick, we seek to carry no other yoke that that of Christ, strengthened through his promise to us that his yoke will be easy to carry and his burden light (cf. Mt 11:30). I invite those who are to receive the sacrament of the sick during this Mass to enter into a hope of this kind.

Arms of the Servant Church

The Second Vatican Council presented Mary as the figure in whom the entire mystery of the Church is typified (cf. Lumen Gentium, 63-65). Her personal journey outlines the profile of the Church, which is called to be just as attentive to those who suffer as she herself was. I extend an affectionate greeting to those working in the areas of public health and nursing, as well as those who, in different ways, in hospitals and other institutions, are contributing to the care of the sick with competence and generosity. Equally, I should like to say to all the hospitaliers, the brancardiers and the carers who come from every diocese in France and from further afield, and who throughout the year attend the sick who come on pilgrimage to Lourdes, how much their service is appreciated. They are the arms of the servant Church. Finally, I wish to encourage those who, in the name of their faith, receive and visit the sick, especially in hospital infirmaries, in parishes or, as here, at shrines. May you always sense in this important and delicate mission the effective and fraternal support of your communities! In this regard, I particularly greet and thank my brothers in the Episcopate, the French Bishops, Bishops and priests from afar, and all who serve the sick and suffering throughout the world. Thank you for your ministry close to our suffering Lord.

Springs of Living Water

The service of charity that you offer is a Marian service. Mary entrusts her smile to you, so that you yourselves may become, in faithfulness to her Son, springs of living water. Whatever you do, you do in the name of the Church, of which Mary is the purest image. May you carry her smile to everyone!

Invocations to Our Lady

To conclude, I wish to join in the prayer of the pilgrims and the sick, and to pray with you a passage from the prayer to Mary that has been proposed for this Jubilee celebration:

"Because you are
the smile of God,
the reflection of the light of Christ,
the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit,

Because you chose Bernadette in her lowliness,
because you are the morning star,
the gate of heaven
and the first creature to experience the resurrection,
Our Lady of Lourdes",

with our brothers and sisters whose hearts and bodies are in pain, we pray to you!

Papal Angelus from Lourdes

| | Comments (0)

1208Lourdes.jpg

I thank the Holy Father for this marvelous Angelus message. The heart of it -- or the word that resonated most strongly within me -- was this: "That which many, either because of embarrassment or modesty, do not confide to their nearest and dearest, they confide to her who is all pure, to her Immaculate Heart: with simplicity, without frills, in truth. Before Mary, by virtue of her very purity, man does not hesitate to reveal his weakness, to express his questions and his doubts, to formulate his most secret hopes and desires."

The Contemplation of Mary's Yes

Every day, praying the Angelus gives us the opportunity to meditate for a few moments, in the midst of all our activities, on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. At noon, when the first hours of the day are already beginning to weigh us down with fatigue, our availability and our generosity are renewed by the contemplation of Mary's "yes". This clear and unreserved "yes" is rooted in the mystery of Mary's freedom, a total and entire freedom before God, completely separated from any complicity with sin, thanks to the privilege of her Immaculate Conception.

Weakness Confided to the All-Pure

This privilege given to Mary, which sets her apart from our common condition, does not distance her from us, but on the contrary, it brings her closer. While sin divides, separating us from one another, Mary's purity makes her infinitely close to our hearts, attentive to each of us and desirous of our true good. You see it here in Lourdes, as in all Marian shrines; immense crowds come thronging to Mary's feet to entrust to her their most intimate thoughts, their most heartfelt wishes. That which many, either because of embarrassment or modesty, do not confide to their nearest and dearest, they confide to her who is all pure, to her Immaculate Heart: with simplicity, without frills, in truth. Before Mary, by virtue of her very purity, man does not hesitate to reveal his weakness, to express his questions and his doubts, to formulate his most secret hopes and desires. The Virgin Mary's maternal love disarms all pride; it renders man capable of seeing himself as he is, and it inspires in him the desire to be converted so as to give glory to God.

Refuge in the Embrace of God

Thus, Mary shows us the right way to come to the Lord. She teaches us to approach him in truth and simplicity. Thanks to her, we discover that the Christian faith is not a burden: it is like a wing which enables us to fly higher, so as to take refuge in God's embrace.

The Immaculate Conception: A Grace for All

The life and faith of believers make it clear that the grace of the Immaculate Conception given to Mary is not merely a personal grace, but a grace for all, a grace given to the entire people of God. In Mary, the Church can already contemplate what she is called to become. Every believer can contemplate, here and now, the perfect fulfilment of his or her own vocation.

The Graces Given to Mary for Us

May each of you always remain full of thanksgiving for what the Lord has chosen to reveal of his plan of salvation through the mystery of Mary: a mystery in which we are involved most intimately since, from the height of the Cross which we celebrate and exalt today, it is revealed to us through the words of Jesus himself that his Mother is our Mother. Inasmuch as we are sons and daughters of Mary, we can profit from all the graces given to her; the incomparable dignity that came to her through her Immaculate Conception shines brightly over us, her children.

Addolorata Mussomeli.jpg

The Mariological teachings of the Holy Father are, more often than not, enshrined in carefully crafted homilies. He delights us both by the delicacy of his sentiments and the clarity of his doctrine. The homily he gave for the feast of the Assumption in the parish church of Castelgandolfo nearly escaped my notice. I am compelled to share it. The titles in boldface and italics are my own. In the photograph we see the Addolorata of Vultus Christi reader and commenter Brendano's ancestral village of Mussomeli in Sicily.

Every Soul Hastens to You, O Mary

St Germanus, Bishop of Constantinople in the eighth century, in a homily given on the Feast of the Assumption, addressing the heavenly Mother of God said: "You are the One who through your immaculate flesh reunited the Christian people with Christ.... Just as all who thirst hasten to the fountain, so every soul hastens to you, the Fountain of love, and as every man aspires to live, to see the light that never fades, so every Christian longs to enter the light of the Most Blessed Trinity where you already are". It is these same sentiments that inspire us today as we contemplate Mary in God's glory. In fact, when she fell asleep in this world to reawaken in Heaven, she simply followed her Son Jesus for the last time, on his longest and most crucial journey, his passage "from this world to the Father" (cf. Jn 13: 1).

Mary Coredemptrix

Like him, together with him, she departed this world to return "to the Father's House" (cf. Jn 14: 2). And all this is not remote from us as it might seem at first sight, because we are all children of the Father, God; we are all brothers and sisters of Jesus and we are all also children of Mary, our Mother. And we all aspire to happiness. And the happiness to which we all aspire is God, so we are all journeying on toward this happiness we call Heaven which in reality is God. And Mary helps us, she encourages us to ensure that every moment of our life is a step forward on this exodus, on this journey toward God. May she help us in this way to make the reality of heaven, God's greatness, also present in the life of our world. Is this not basically the paschal dynamism of the human being, of every person who wants to become heavenly, perfectly happy, by virtue of Christ's Resurrection? And might this not be the beginning and anticipation of a movement that involves every human being and the entire cosmos? She, from whom God took his flesh and whose soul was pierced by a sword on Calvary, was associated first and uniquely in the mystery of this transformation for which we, also often pierced by the sword of suffering in this world, are all striving.

Associated With His Passion and With His Glory

The new Eve followed the new Adam in suffering, in the Passion, and so too in definitive joy. Christ is the first fruits but his risen flesh is inseparable from that of his earthly Mother, Mary. In Mary all humanity is involved in the Assumption to God, and together with her all creation, whose groans and sufferings, St Paul tells us, are the birth-pangs of the new humanity. Thus are born the new Heaven and the new earth in which death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more (cf. Rv 21: 1-4).

What a great mystery of love is presented to us once again today for our contemplation! Christ triumphed over death with the omnipotence of his love. Love alone is omnipotent. This love impelled Christ to die for us and thus to overcome death. Yes, love alone gives access to the Kingdom of life! And Mary entered after her Son, associated with his Glory, after being associated with his Passion. She entered it with an uncontainable force, keeping the way behind her open to us all. And for this reason we invoke her today as "Gate of Heaven", "Queen of Angels" and "Refuge of sinners".

The Mystery of Mary Approached Through Faith and the Silence of Prayer

It is certainly not reasoning that will make us understand this reality which is so sublime, but rather simple, forthright faith and the silence of prayer that puts us in touch with the Mystery that infinitely exceeds us. Prayer helps us speak with God and hear how the Lord speaks to our heart.

20060908Nascita_della_Vergine.jpg

The picture is a detail of Corrado Giaquinto's Nascita della Vergine (1732). His Maria Bambina is one of the loveliest I have ever seen. Saint Anne is shown as a healthy mamma, visibly pleased with her infant daughter. Saint Joachim looks on from the shadowy background.

On this feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, we do well to listen again to Saint Bernard, the Citharista Mariae (Mary's Harpist). Translation by the Marquess of Bute.

O thou whomsoever thou art,
that knowest thyself to be here
not so much walking upon firm ground,
as battered to and fro by the gales of this life's ocean,
if thou wouldest not be overwhelmed by the tempest,
keep thine eyes fixed upon this star's clear shining.

If the hurricanes of temptation rise against thee,
or thou art running upon the rocks of trouble,
look to the star, call on Mary.

If the waves of pride, or ambition, or slander, or envy toss thee,
look to the star, call on Mary.

If the billows of anger or avarice,
or the enticements of the flesh beat against thy soul's bark,
look to Mary.

If the enormity of thy sins trouble thee,
if the foulness of thy conscience confound thee,
if the dread of judgment appal thee,
if thou begin to slip into the deep of despondency,
into the pit of despair,
think of Mary.

In danger, in difficulty, or in doubt,
think on Mary, call on Mary.
Let her not be away from thy mouth or from thine heart,
and that thou mayest not lack the succour of her prayers,
turn not aside from the example of her conversation.

If thou follow her, thou wilt never go astray.
If thou pray to her thou wilt never have need to despair.
If thou keep her in mind, thou wilt never wander.
If she hold thee, thou wilt never fall.
If she lead thee, thou wilt never be weary.
If she help thee thou wilt reach home safe at the last,
and so thou wilt prove in thyself how meetly it is said:
"And the Virgin's name was Mary."

090806%20St.%20Anne%20%26%20BVM.jpg

For some years now, especially around the Marian feasts of September 8th, September 12th, November 21st, and December 8th, I have prayed my rosary while dwelling on five mysteries of the first part of Our Lady's life. These five mysteries of the Blessed Virgin are:

-- the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne;
-- the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
-- the Most Holy Name of Mary
-- the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple;
-- the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph;

There is a particular sweetness in dwelling on these mysteries of Maria Bambina, the Infant Mary, the Child Mary. They distill graces of purity, of childlike simplicity, and of littleness.

All five mysteries are commemorated in the Sacred Liturgy. The liturgical books are rich in texts to nourish the meditation of each one. It is enough to take an antiphon, a verse, a single phrase, and to hold it in the heart while telling one's beads. The Rosary corresponds to the meditatio and the oratio of monastic prayer; it begins necessarily in lectio divina, the hearing of the Word and then, gently, almost imperceptibly, draws the soul into contemplatio.

The Rosary is, I am convinced, the surest and easiest school of contemplative prayer. The Rosary decapitates pride, the single greatest obstacle to union with God. The repetition of the Aves, like a stream of pure water, cleanses the heart.

Maria Bambina

| | Comments (3)

20060908%20Maria%20Bambina.jpg

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Romans 8:28-30
Psalm 12:5, 6 (R. Is 61:10a)
Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23

Maria Bambina

Unto us a little girl is born; unto us a daughter is given. “The Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her” (Cf. Lk 1:35). The Word will take flesh in her virginal womb and suckle at her breast. And her name shall be called Full of Grace, Glory of Jerusalem, Joy of Israel, and Mother of God. In Italy she has another name, one that the people love to give her; she is their Maria Bambina, the little Infant Mary.

The Story of an Image

It was in Rome, many years ago, that I encountered the image of Maria Bambina for the first time. I didn’t know quite what to make of it. She looked rather like a doll, all dressed up in lace and satin, resting on her pillow. I knew only that all sorts of people, and especially children, came to pray before her. I saw that that Maria Bambina had stolen their hearts. She attracted the most extraordinary outpouring of tender devotion, and does to this day.

The image of Maria Bambina originated in Milan where the cathedral is dedicated to the Infant Mary. A Poor Clare nun fashioned the image out of wax in 1735. Maria Bambina suffered the vicissitudes of the times under Napoleon. The convent that kept the image was suppressed. Maria Bambina was passed from one “foster home” to another until, in 1885, she found a permanent home in the motherhouse of Milan’s Sisters of Charity. Beginning in 1884 various miracles were attributed to the image of the Infant Mary. She was dressed in new clothes and placed in a new crib in the chapel of the Sisters. Devotion to Maria Bambina spread throughout Italy and then elsewhere in the world.

A Child for Children

The learned and the clever, the theologically sophisticated and those who think that holiness has no need of warmth and no time for tenderness, are baffled by Maria Bambina. But children understand her. Raïssa Maritain understood the Child Mary perfectly; “The Blessed Virgin is the spoiled child of the Blessed Trinity,” she wrote. “She knows no law. Everything yields to her in heaven and on earth. The whole of heaven gazes on her with delight. She plays before the ravished eyes of God himself.”

God With Us

The birth to Joachim and Anna of a little girl “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) set in motion great rolling waves of grace that reach even to us, for she was born to be the Mother of Christ. “And from His fulness have we all received, grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16). All the joy of today’s festival is summed up in the last three words of the Gospel: “God with us” (Mt 1:23).

In the birth of the Child Mary, “those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79) see the first glimmers of the long-awaited Dayspring from on high (cf. Lk 1:78). Joachim and Anna rejoice! Abraham and Sarah rejoice! The ancestors of Jesus Christ rejoice!

Rejoicing Ahead of Time

Today, with good reason, Mother Church gives us the Genealogy of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew. The long list of patriarchs and of prophets, of kings and of warriors, of saints and of sinners is transformed by the birth of Mary. We see all the ancestors of Christ standing on tiptoe to see the joy that comes to them from afar. With the birth of Mary they begin to rejoice ahead of time.

A Virgin Shall Conceive

This is the little girl who will give her consent to the Angel -- “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38) -- “therefore the child to be born of her will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). The Mother of the Messiah has arrived. Isaiah’s prophecy is about to be fulfilled: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel” (Is 7:14).

Her Voice and Her Face

The cries of little Mary announce the arrival of the Bridegroom in the night of history. “I hear my Beloved! Behold He comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills (Ct 2:8). In the daughter of Joachim and Anna we can already see the human features of the Word made flesh. Her face announces His. Speaking at the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello two years ago on September 1st, Pope Benedict XVI called her, “Our Lady in whose face -- more than in any other creature -- we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” The face of Maria Bambina already reveals the Human Face of God.

The Voice of the Word

The sound of little Mary’s voice is jubilation to our ears because it means that the voice of the Word is very close! Soon the Beloved will lift up His voice: at Bethlehem in the cries of an infant; at Nazareth as a little boy learning His Hebrew alphabet and beginning to read the Scriptures in the synagogue; at Jerusalem in dialogue with the elders in the Temple; on the Mount of the Beatitudes; in Galilee and in Judea; in the Cenacle and in Gethsemane; on the Cross, saying: “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27); “I thirst” (Jn 19:28); “Father forgive them” (Lk 23:34); “Father, into thy hands” (Lk 23:46); “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). In the splendour of His resurrection, He will call another Mary by name, and He will ask Peter, “Do you love me?” (Jn 21:17).

The inarticulate cries of the newborn baby Myriam, daughter of Joachim and of Anna, announce all of this. And so we bend over the cradle of Maria Bambina, the Mother of God, and say to her in the words of the Canticle: “O my dove, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely (Ct 2:14).

The Heart of the Mother and the Heart of the Son

In your face, O little Mary, we already see that of Jesus; in your voice, we already hear His. Your voice, O little Mary, is sweet to our ears; your face is lovely to our eyes, for He whom the whole universe cannot contain will be enclosed in your womb. He will grow for nine months beneath your Immaculate Heart. Out of your flesh and blood the Holy Spirit will form a human Heart for the Son of God, the very Heart that, together with yours, will be pierced on Calvary.

Cause of Our Joy

You, O little Mary, Maria Bambina, are the Cause of our Joy! Your appearance in the arms of your mother announces that the Word of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, will soon appear in your arms. And you have but one desire, one joy: to give us your Son, to draw us to Him, that your joy might be ours and that our joy might be fulfilled.

As we celebrate this Holy Sacrifice, we ask Maria Bambina, the little Child Mary, to chase all sadness, all coldness, and all fear from our hearts, that we, like little children, may worthily welcome her Son, her very Flesh and Blood in the holy and life-giving Mysteries.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

Categories

Archives