Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Ettu Nomb (8-Day Lent) Special - Themes: Nativity of St. Mary, Faith
Volume 7 No. 435 September 6, 2017
I. St. Mary, The Theotokos

St. Mary - A Woman Wrapped in Silence - A Meditation

by Msgr. Charles Pope

In preparation for today's Feast, I picked up Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 3 (The Infancy Narratives), by Pope Emeritus Benedict. I was very moved by a brief reflection that he made on Mary as the Angel Gabriel left her. His remarks consider her faith in a very touching manner.

I must say that I have always been moved - and intrigued - by the faith of the Blessed Mother. She is "a woman wrapped in silence," a phrase that forms the title of an excellent book by Fr. John Lynch. The pope's words capture both her faith and her mystery:

I consider it important to focus also on the final sentence of Luke's Annunciation narrative: "And the angel departed from her" (Luke 1:38). The great hour of Mary's encounter with God's messenger - in which her whole life is changed - comes to an end, and she remains there alone, with a task that truly surpasses all human capacity. There are no angels standing around her. She must continue along the path that leads to many dark moments–from Joseph's dismay at her pregnancy, to the moment when Jesus is said to be out of his mind (cf. Mark 3:21; John 10:20) right up to the night of the cross.

How often in these situations must Mary have returned inwardly to the hour when God's angel had spoken to her, pondering afresh the greeting: "Rejoice, full of grace!" And the consoling words: "Do not be afraid!" The angel departs; her mission remains, and with it matures her inner closeness to God, a closeness that in her heart she is able to see and touch (Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives, Kindle edition (loc 488-501)).

I am moved by this image of Mary, there all alone, perhaps wondering how it would all unfold and whether what she just experienced had really happened. The angel departs and she is alone (and yet never alone).

As background, I would like to say that I have read some accounts of Mary's life that placed her in such rarefied air that I could no longer relate to her. I vaguely remember reading some accounts of visionaries saying that Mary did not even have to do housework because the angels swept the house, did the dishes, and so forth. Some other accounts spoke of how she had detailed foreknowledge of everything that would take place in her life as well as in Jesus' life. I even recall one purported visionary who wrote that Mary had extensive theological discussions with Jesus even while He was still an infant. I do not remember who these alleged visionaries were or if any of them were even approved visionaries. Yet in the early 1980s a large number of books were published containing the observations of various "visionaries."

Such accounts often left me cold and made me feel distant from our Blessed Mother. They also did not seem to comport with the Scriptures, which present Mother Mary as a woman of great faith, but one who has to walk by faith and not by perfect sight, just as all of us do. She wonders at Gabriel's greeting, is troubled, and does not understand how it will all work out (cf Luke 1:29).

Yet she presses on and we next see her having made haste to the hill country, rejoicing in ecstatic praise with her cousin: My spirit rejoices in God my savior! She still does not know how it will all work out, but in spite of that she is content to know the One who holds the future; it is enough for now.

Years later, when she finds Jesus teaching in the Temple after days of agonized searching for the "missing" boy, she does not fully understand His explanation (Luke 2:48-50), but ponders these things within her heart (Luke 2:51).

At the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus seems almost to rebuke His mother. Although the text omits many of the details, there must have been something in her look, something of the look that only a mother can give to a son. By now, Mary's understanding of her son has surely deepened; she has known Him and pondered and reflected in her heart over Him for more than thirty years. She simply looks at Him, and He at her - a look that only the two would have known. Something passed between them, a look of understanding. Whatever it was remains wrapped in silence; it's none of our business, something that only she and her Son could know. Whatever it was, it prompts her to turn and with confidence, knowing the situation will be well-handled, says to the stewards, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).

Of the three years to follow we know very little. We know that she is not far away. We see her in Mark 3:31 as she asks after Jesus, seemingly concerned that others are saying "He is beside himself!"

Now we find her gently and supportively present at the foot of the Cross. The sword that Simeon had prophesied (Lk 2:35) is thrust through her heart. More than thirty years earlier she could only wonder what Simeon meant when he said that her child was destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel and that a sword would pierce her heart (Luke 2:33). In the intervening years her faith had surely deepened; now, here she is at the foot of the Cross. It is her darkest hour, but surely all those years of pondering and reflecting on these things in her heart helps to sustain her.

Yes, Mother Mary is a woman wrapped in silence. We know so little, for she is reflective and quiet. She says little, silently standing by, silently supportive of Jesus in His public ministry. Now, again silently, she is at the foot of the Cross.

Yes, this is the Mary, this is the Mother that I know: a woman of faith but also a human being like you and me. As the Pope Benedict suggested, she is a woman who had to make a journey of faith without knowing how everything would work out, without the omniscience that some visionaries ascribe to her. She knew what the angel had said, but it seems clear that she did not know how it would all come to pass. She, like us, walked by faith and not by earthly sight.

Mary is the perfect disciple, the woman of faith, the one who presses on, not knowing all, but pondering and reflecting everything in her heart.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

എന്റെ അമ്മേ! എന്റെ ആശ്രയമേ!

by Dn Shibu Eapen

കൃപ ലഭിച്ചവളേ, നിനക്കു വന്ദനം. (ലൂക്കൊസ്‌ :1:28) എന്ന് സ്വർഗ്ഗം വന്ദനം ചെയ്തവളെ ഞങ്ങളും വന്ദനം ചെയ്യുന്നു.

കിഴക്കുനിന്നും എത്തിയ വിദ്വാന്മാർ അത്ഭുത ശിശുവിനെ അമ്മയായ മറിയയൂടുകൂടെ കണ്ടു, വീണു നമസ്കരിച്ചു.(മത്തായി:2:11) എന്നതിനാൽ ഞങ്ങൾ ആ ദൈവമാതാവിനെ ഞങ്ങളും ആദരിക്കുന്നു.

തന്റെ നാഴിക അല്ലാതിരുന്നിട്ടും അമ്മയുടെ അപേക്ഷയാൽ കാനാവിൽ ദൈവസുതൻ സമൃദ്ധി വരുത്തിയതിനാൽ ഞങ്ങൾ ആ അമ്മയുടെ മദ്ധ്യസ്ഥത യാചിക്കുന്നു.

ഇന്നു മുതൽ എല്ലാ തലമുറകളും എന്നെ ഭാഗ്യവതി എന്നു വാഴ്തും (ലൂക്കൊസ്‌.1:48) എന്ന് അവൾ പരിശുദ്ധാത്മ പ്രേരിതയായി പാടിയതാൽ ഞങ്ങൾ അവളെ ഭാഗ്യവതി എന്ന് വാഴ്തുന്നു.

ക്രൂശിന്നരികോളം അവൾ തളരാതെ ഞ്ങ്ങളുടെ നാഥനെ താങ്ങി നിർത്തിയതിനാൽ (യോഹന്നാൻ.19:27) ഞങ്ങളുടെ മൃത്യുനേരത്തിലും അവൾ കൂടെയുണ്ടാകണം എന്ന് ഞങ്ങൾ അപേക്ഷിക്കുന്നു.

അതെ, പരിശുദ്ധ അമ്മ, എന്റെ കർത്താവിന്റെ മാതാവാണു(ലൂക്കൊസ്‌.1:13)അവൾ ഞങ്ങളുടെ അമ്മയാണു, നമ്മുടെ അമ്മയാണു, ലോക രക്ഷകന്റെ അമ്മ, ലോകത്തിന്റെ അമ്മയാണു.

പരിശുദ്ധ ദൈവമാതാവിന്റെ മഹാ മദ്ധ്യസ്ഥത നമുക്ക്‌ കോട്ടയും അഭയവുമായിരിക്കട്ടെ.

Listening To Mary's Voice - Part 1: Confusion

by Gary Zimak

We have been blessed with several (Catholic) Church-approved apparitions of the Blessed Mother throughout the years. In each of these appearances, Mary has urged repentance and the importance of following Christ's commands. As we struggle to lead holy lives, wouldn't it be nice if Mary could speak to us and give us the necessary encouragement to keep on the right path? Fortunately, that is entirely possible and it can happen TODAY! By opening up our Bibles, we can hear the Blessed Mother speak directly to us and help us to grow closer to her Son, Jesus. Although Mary only spoke on four occasions in Sacred Scripture, each of her statements provides a wealth of information. By meditating on her words TO EACH OF US, we can become more like her and grow closer to the Lord. In this, the first of a seven-part series, we'll be looking at her first recorded words in Scripture…

"How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" (Luke 1:34)

After being told by the angel Gabriel that she has been chosen to be the Mother of the Savior, Mary is confused and asks a simple question. Given the fact that she (like us) is not divine, there are times when she had questions about God's will. Even though she was sinless, Mary didn't have all of the answers. We see evidence of this a few verses earlier when (upon Gabriel's arrival) she "pondered what sort of greeting this might be" (Lk 1:29). The common belief of theologians throughout the years is that Mary was confused because she had consecrated her virginity to the Lord. Although not the norm for married people, this practice was not unheard of in Mary's time. Always desiring to do what's right, the sinless virgin proceeded on the course she thought was best…and then the angel appeared with some new information.

How many times are we confused about what God wants us to do? We struggle to discern His will for our lives and we have questions. We may feel the urge to take a more fulfilling job, but don't know how we'll survive on less pay. We may feel the call to the priesthood or religious life, but are fearful of giving up the possibility of marriage and children. We get the idea that maybe we should volunteer and help people, but we don't know how. As my own life illustrates, when the Lord calls us to do something, He doesn't provide all of the details up front.

In addition to those instances requiring us to make a decision, sometimes we aren't given a choice. Rather, we are faced with an unexpected illness, devastating personal problems or financial difficulties. Although these situations occur without our consent, we still may question why they are happening. How will I survive? What will I do? Why is God letting this happen?

Mary's words to the angel remind us that it's OK to ask questions. If you feel that God is asking you to do something, but you're not sure how it's possible, go ahead and ask Him for details. Mary did. If you're carrying a heavy cross and can't understand why, ask the Lord to enlighten you. Unfortunately, I can't promise that you'll get the answer you want. Instead, the Lord's answer may be, "trust me". If that's the case, you may be asked (like Mary) to go along with His plan without knowing all of the fine details. If you have a difficult time doing that…join the club! However, don't ever forget that Mary can help you tremendously. As someone who's "been there, done that", she knows exactly what you're going through. Turn to her and ask her to share some of her faith with you. I can guarantee you that, as stated in the Memorare, "never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help, or sought her intercession was left unaided."

Next Time: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." (Luke 1:38)

Listening To Mary's Voice - Part 2: Humility

by Gary Zimak

As we continue with Part 2 of series on Mary's words in Scripture, I'll be taking a look at a powerful statement made by Mary to the angel Gabriel. Last time we focused on Mary's question to the angel after learning that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Savior. Having made a vow of virginity, Mary was confused as to how God's will could be fulfilled. She didn't doubt that it could happen (unlike Zechariah, who flat out didn't believe that his wife could become pregnant), she just wanted to know how it would happen so that she wouldn't have to break her prior vow of virginity. Mary sought to understand God's will. Gabriel answered her question by explaining that it would come about by the power of the Holy Spirit. He also informed her that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, is now sixth months pregnant. Then Gabriel gave Mary a great takeaway from their dialog when he stated that "nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37). Mary's response to all of this news?

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." (Luke 1:38)

Because many of us are very familiar with Mary's statement, we run the risk of overlooking how profound it actually is. These eight words give us a great insight into Mary's view of herself. In this statement, she is saying to God, "I am your humble servant, use me in any way that you wish". Unlike many of us, she fully understood that she was merely a creature and that the Lord was her Master. According to the dictionary, a handmaid is "a servant who serves a useful, but subordinate purpose". When Mary refers to herself as a "handmaid", she is professing her humility. Despite just having been told that she will be the vessel used to deliver the Savior to the world, Mary referred to herself as a servant. This profession gives us a glimpse into Mary's interior attitude and provides an example that is worthy of our emulation. In his book "The Glories Of Mary", St. Alphonsus Liguori stated that the first effect of humility is a lowly opinion of oneself. Even though Mary was aware of her sinlessness, she understood that it was all due to God's grace. How important is humility? St. Bernard of Clairvaux observed that "humility is the foundation and guardian of the virtues". More importantly, Jesus instructed us to "learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29).

Without humility, it is impossible for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Unfortunately, humility is also one of the most difficult virtues to acquire. As evidence, look at how many times we question events that occur in our lives. Why is God allowing this to happen to me? We pray "Thy Will be done" and, at the same time, provide the Lord with a list of acceptable answers to our prayers. Some even go as far as to disobey teachings of the Church because "they don't agree with them." These positions are all incompatible with the virtue of humility and illustrate a serious misunderstanding of who's the Creator and who's the creature! Although it can be a struggle, we can become more humble by asking for the Lord's help through Mary's intercession. After all, who better to ask then someone who viewed herself as nothing more than the Lord's servant?

"If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless." (St. Augustine)

Next Time: "May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

Listening To Mary's Voice - Part 3: Submission

by Gary Zimak

As we continue with the series on Mary's words in Scripture, I'll be taking a look at the final words of the Blessed Mother to the angel Gabriel. Last time we focused on Mary's declaration that she is the Lord's handmaid (servant). Essentially, Mary informed Gabriel that she considers herself to be the Lord's servant. Furthermore, as a sign that she fully accepts her mission to bring the Savior into the world, Mary adds the words:

"May it be done to me according to your word. " (Luke 1:38)

A recap of the facts helps to illustrate the profundity of Mary's statement. She has just been informed that:

1. She will become the mother of the Son of God while being able to retain her virginity.

2. The virgin pregnancy and birth will come about through the action of the Holy Spirit.

3. Elizabeth (her elderly relative) is now six months pregnant.

4. All of this will happen because "nothing will be impossible for God".

After hearing the details, most of us would have many more questions and would be begging the angel to stick around. Mary, on the other hand, heard all that she needed to hear. In fact, Gabriel's final statement surely wasn't news to Mary at all. To someone with a strong faith, a belief that God can do all things is implied. Contrasting Mary's faith with my own faith is painful, but enlightening. Hardly a day goes by when I don't question the Lord's ability to resolve some crisis in my life. Although the angel's words are right there in Scripture and they are etched in my memory, I need to get better at believing them. As long as I'm comparing Mary with myself, there's another really big difference. Mary didn't even flinch at the fact that her pregnancy is going to be really difficult to explain to Joseph, her family and to just about all of her other relatives and friends. That's because she loved God with all of her heart and TRULY was His servant. The fact that she was going to be inconvenienced didn't matter to her. She meant what she just said about being the Lord's handmaid. If He wanted her to do something, she would do it with no questions asked. Is anyone else feeling really inadequate right now?

Each day, you and I are given the opportunity to say "yes" to God. Like Mary, we are often asked to submit to His will without knowing all of the details. Whether it's being open to having additional children, pursuing a religious vocation or contributing more to charitable causes, the Lord often requests our consent. Are we so concerned about the details or potential difficulties that we say "no thanks"? Or, like the Blessed Mother, do we declare ourselves to be the Lord's servants, trusting in His providence?

While discerning God's will often requires prayer and meditation, sometimes it's A LOT easier to discover. By simply accepting those things that happen to us on a daily basis (at our jobs, in our families, when we become ill), we are saying "yes" to God and following His will. When asked how to determine God's will, Mother Angelica replied, "Honey, if it's happening, it's God's will; and you have to correspond with it in the present moment". When unpleasant or painful events occur in our lives, we can complain or we can echo the words of Our Blessed Mother…

"May it be done to me according to your word. "

"Mary was like a wheel which was easily turned by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Her only object in the world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to learn His will, and then to perform it." (St. Bernardine of Siena)


Malankara World J. Specials Themed, 'Nativity of St. Mary'
Malankara World Journal Specials Themed, 'Nativity of St. Mary':


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